A few weeks ago, after a long morning at the hospital with my mom and sister, I came home to take a shower, wash my hair and get my second wind.
As I picked up the blow dryer I stared into the mirror. For one split second the reflection I saw was that of my mother. It was weird. I squeezed my eyes shut and opened them again and then shook the event off as simple exhaustion. Turning back to the mirror I pulled up a strand of hair and proceeded to go off on a ridiculous tirade about frizz and gray and such. And that’s when it me.
Oh my gosh, I look like my mother and sound like my sister!
I. AM. THEM.
Was I caught up in some twisted episode of the Twilight Zone?
Click here to read more and to #RaRalinkup on Christy’s blog…
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Lately, I have been pondering maybe the most important question of Christian faith: How do you successfully guard your heart?
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you doflows from it. Prov. 4:23
Above all else = the most important thing. Everything you do = every single small and solitary thing Flows from it = it is the blood supply to our spiritual existence
The heart is the command center to your life.
An unguarded heart is a compromised life.
Using this line of reasoning, we can figure: If we are straying from God, we’ve been displaying our heart open for attack.
So how do we truly guard it?
Guard it in a way where bad thoughts bounce off?
Guard it in a way where lockdown is secure?
Guard it in a way where attackers don’t even give it a passing glance?
This is what my heart has been sitting on lately. Wondering. Strategizing. And sure didn’t want a quick-fix answer of “try better”, “work harder” or “just do it”; these are the type of answers that always keep me failing.
So, while I considered not failing, I watched the snow falling on morning news – until one image nearly sent me falling right out of my chair. It was the answer to my wonderings.
21 steps forward. 21 steps back. Guarding. Protecting. The presence of who was. No sleep. No rest. Back. Forth. Diligence. Perseverance. Dedication.
The sentinel. He moved with purpose as the high winds of cold hit his face. He moved with discipline as snow ravaged around him. He moved with confidence next to the most important cause in his life. He moved to guard the presence of one unknown by so many; just as our Savior was and is today.
He moves, then another one moves, and then another, on 24 hour shifts, but, make no mistake, someone is always moving at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. It is never left unmanned, untouched and unprotected.
During storms – armed.
When everything seems shut down – manned.
When things are quiet – protected.
When the place gets hectic – watched.
When the face gets frostbitten – defended.
Do we guard our hearts in such a way?
Do we see it of such value that we keep 24-hour vigilance
on what takes aim around it?
Guns blazing, gloves moistened, to aide in grip,
are we protecting with discipline, dedication and decisiveness?
Back and forth, do we run over our mind to see
if there is any way unpleasing to the Lord?
21 steps forward, 21 steps back,
do we give pause for prayer to ensure we are effective?
The Sentinel does not do an about face when reaching the end of 21 steps, he turns and looks at the tomb.
Do we? Do we turn to look at the tomb consistently and continually throughout our day? The tomb of Jesus that is empty? The one that reminds us of who we are fighting for? The one that tells us to keep on 21-stepping?
When stop to look at Jesus’ tomb, we see the tomb of emptiness found in anything
and everything else put above him.
Lives that pace on his goodness, dance with his freedom. Feet that walk back and forth on righteousness, find life. Soldiers who see guarding their hearts as paramount, mount up on wings like eagles. They find hope, flight and new might, for enemies flee at the sight of real duty.
Guard your heart like nothing else matters.
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I poked at the fire, frustrated that it wouldn’t stay aflame. This girl was no scout. The temperatures outside had reached single digits, and our furnace was having a hard time keeping up.
After spending an hour trying different techniques, adding wood, scraps of paper, and using more fire starters than any person should, the flame blazed hot enough for the wood stove’s fan to cut on, circulating the heat throughout the house. My mouth spread into a victorious smile.
The problem was, I didn’t know what I’d done right.
Later, after my husband returned from a business trip, he explained the basics of fire building to this city girl. I listened intently, determined not to have the predicament repeat itself.
Even my son, the cub scout, knew the basics of fire 101. I guess I should have asked him, right?
As any seasoned camper may know, fires need three basic components: heat, fuel, and oxygen.
It turns out, I had given my fire plenty of heat and fuel, but I’d neglected oxygen almost altogether. Instead of giving my flame room to breath by spreading the wood in a triangular shape, I’d smothered it.
Fires need room to breathe. And much like the flame I’d suffocated with its own fuel, I often adapt the same pattern in my spiritual life.
I know my heat comes from the Holy Spirit living inside me. I feed the flame with his Word and plenty of good reading material, podcasts and worship.
I gather with other believers. I lead and serve.
But often, I don’t allow space to breathe. To digest what he’s teaching me. To sit in his presence and be still with no agenda, no checklist or index of requests I need to present.
While we fixate on the lines of our life story, God often speaks in the margins.
In the spaces in-between the carpools, the play dates and the prayer meetings. In the moments where we slow down, we sit and we wait. Because the voice of God is always worth waiting for.
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10 NIV
So instead of piling more stuff onto my never-ending to-do list, I’m carving out time to listen. Even if it starts with fifteen minutes before my kids roll out of bed, it will be worth it.
I’m creating a space to not simply read the Word, but hear from the Word.
Have you stacked too many scraps on your fire, suffocating it so it has no room to breathe? Have you placed a list of chores on the altar of life, forgetting what God wants most is our hearts?
I have. I am guilty. But thanks be to God, his mercies are new every morning.
It is never to late to realign our priorities, to make a change or create a new beginning. Today is the day.
Fan the flame.
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Abby McDonald is a writer who can’t contain the lavish love of a God who relentlessly pursues her, 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.
I probably would be the girl that you’d least like to walk behind on a busy street. I might even be the one that you’d silently curse under your breath (although not too loudly or discernibly because you are Christian, after all), but all the same I wouldn’t be surprised if you did. You might even step on my heels a little to give me a quick signal I am being slow, rude and indignant.
Heck, I may even deserve it.
But, would I stop doing it? No way. Would I stop listening to the small voice that speaks about 2 feet below me. I don’t think so.
You see, I think that little voice of immaturity is on to something all the rest of us have been missing. He is on to something that in our pursuit of destination we miss. He is on to the small meaning of life, the beauty in the cracks of a sidewalk and the peculiarities in a bird with a beak of an different variety.
He is mesmerized by creation and affirmed
in God’s determination to show love.
We call it a sidewalk. He calls it a God-walk.
We call it a place where you move from one place to another. He calls it a place you see one glory to another.
We call it a stroll, he calls it God being on a roll.
“Stop mommy, you gotta see those birds over there. Take a picture!”
“Stop mommy, do you see that little flower sticking out of the wall? Take a picture!”
“Stop mommy, do you see the way the sun is coming out of the clouds? Take a picture!”
Snap that shot mommy and don’t let me ever forget about this little slice of moment where what God showed is greater than the crazy, mundane and forced things in this world. Capture the moment of greatness that only those who have the small eye seeking beauty can find. Get that and let me hold on to it so I can remember how God wanted me to see him above the scary, freaky and dark things of world.
Snap. A moment that will last forever.
How often do I look at the world like one waiting to be mesmerized?
How often do you?
I always thought I could see, but now I see, I was always becoming blind.
Maybe it happens to others like me. The ones who pull “drive” out of their back pocket and put on the glasses of determination to try to get themselves somewhere. Ones who believe they’ll end up seeing peace, joy and life from goals, plans and agendas. These types, they run a fast race; they move like a panther in hot pursuit of prey (work, spouses, cleanliness, promotions, money, vacations, internal value (fill in blank), yet tired and panting, huffing and puffing they always land in the same place – in the alley called dead end, dead life and dead weight.
I should know, busted my head in that alley. I told myself I needed to be best in my class (fail.). I told myself I needed to get the best job ever out of college (I went bust at the job after a year). I told myself I needed to press through an abusive situation (nightmares plagued me).
Dead-locked vision left me for dead and on lock down with discouragement.
Tunnel vision drive, driving towards anything but God’s goals leaves you driving into a head-on collision where you feel like you can’t breathe and you are not sure if you can return to normal life.
I thought those who try hard – win big. Where did I go wrong?
Blind folk start to see again, when they aren’t afraid to see themselves as dirty.
After saying this, (Jesus) spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. Jo. 9:6
Yet, I don’t think it is only this. It is not just saying, “Hey God, go ahead, put that stinking muck on me. I am okay with it. I am okay with seeing myself as tarnished, hurt, powerless and needing the reality of myself to cleanse me.”
Nope. I think it transcends this.
“Go,” (Jesus) told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. Jo. 9:7
Be willing to wear the grime of your self, your past, your wrongs, and your traumas – and then allow yourself to be sent out. See those things in a way where they earned your masters degree of life learning.
You let the dirt sit afresh on your eyes, you feel the muck and the yuck, and then you let the word “sent” compel your whole being to move to greater insight, vision and power; you move with them and beyond them all at the same time.
Then you start to see. As the grime of what you really are, the disgust of what you have been and the pain of shame wash off, you finally get somewhere.
“I went and washed, and then I could see.” Jo. 9:11
I could see innocence.
I could see through eyes untarnished.
I could see roads untainted.
I could see the slow movement of ordinary things.
I could see worry dissipate and fears calm.
I could see people – pained people.
I could see glory – in sunrises, sunsets, grime and grit.
I could see beauty – in grace extended.
I could see growth – by offering space.
I could see life – budding in the small forging of patience.
I could see flowers – protrude from the cracks of pain. I could see longing, desire and hope.
It is a picture that even words fall short of explaining. So, you just stop, drop your jaw at what you see, then you look for someone that doesn’t have their head stuck in automated zombie-zone, and together, you snap a picture. Usually with the child, the innocent one who gets the greatness of God. And, then, you go about carrying on in the mayhem called planet earth until God staggers yet again with all he has stored up in the unseen places of the world.
I am delighted to have Mary Carver join us today for this #RaRalinkup post!
Last night I messaged two friends. I asked them if I was a bad person for getting upset to see other people get attention and accolades for something I had also done (but for which I certainly wasn’t receiving that attention).
Honestly I wanted them to yell and point fingers and join me in my indignation at being left out and overlooked. Instead, they did what good friends do and reminded me that I wasn’t in this business or this life for either attention or accolades.
They also admitted that my feelings didn’t make me a bad person, simply human – but they were right about my focus. I had forgotten that my ministry and work and life are about obeying God and serving Him the best I can. Not pats on the backs and plastic trophies, not awards and atta-girls. But trust and obedience, love and service.
We can easily get distracted from our mission, can’t we? One minute we’re all about following God, no matter where He leads us, loving Him and loving others, doing whatever it takes to help people see Him. And then…bam! Before we even know what’s happening, we’ve heard about someone else’s mission – and all the perks that come with it, and we’re simmering with envy, wishing our call looked like theirs.
My friend and co-author, Sara Frankl, knew something about that. The call on her life was one that was full of beauty and joy – but it was also full of pain and loss. Trusting God and loving what He had given her was a challenge, but she managed to do it with a grace and wisdom that encourages me and teaches me every day.
I remember the first time I really understood the parable of the vineyard workers. I had heard this Bible story all my life, but it finally clicked in college.
In Matthew 20, Jesus is recorded telling the story of a man who needed help with his harvest. He hired some men for the day, telling them the day’s wage, which they accepted and began working. Throughout the day, he realized he needed more help to get the work completed, so he went out multiple times and hired more workers. Each time he offered the wage to his new workers, they accepted and set out to work.
At the end of the day, he called all the workers together and paid them the same day’s wage. It was the wage he had offered to them, the one they had all accepted. But the men who had worked all day laboring in the fields were angry. They said they were cheated because they worked harder and longer than the others, and should be paid more than those who had worked only the last few hours.
In reality, the problem wasn’t the amount they were paid for the work they did. He gave the workers what was promised to them. The problem was in the worker who only felt cheated when he compared his life to someone else’s. The problem arose when the worker took his eyes off of his own mission, the one he agreed to gladly – and decided he wanted the easier task that was promised to someone else.
I have to remind myself of this story because it’s hard for me not to feel cheated. It’s hard for me to be thankful on a holiday weekend when I have to be alone in this condo. When there is no bustle of family or friends, when I can’t enjoy a turkey dinner, when I have no one to talk with and laugh with and reminisce with and grieve with. It’s hard when I compare my isolated existence with what I know is happening everywhere else.
But that’s not the deal I made with God. I promised Him my whole life, and He promised He would love me, never leave me, and take me home to have eternal life in Heaven someday. It was the wage He promised me, the wage I accepted – and it’s only when I take my eyes off of that promise that I feel cheated. God is honoring His deal. It’s me who looks at life and says, “I’ll have what she’s having, please.”
Does going back to that Bible story make all the hard-to-deal-with feelings disappear? Of course not. It’s still brutal. But it reminds me of what I believe. I believe that God has a purpose for me, and that my job is to be faithful to whatever comes with my life. I will do my daily task and honor Him as I believe He is honoring me.
I believe it. Even when it doesn’t feel good. Even when it hurts and is lonely and feels unfair and requires me to grieve a life I was never promised.
The truth is that my life is no better or worse than I wanted. It’s just completely and utterly different. The wisdom comes in knowing that it is exactly as it should be. The joy comes in learning to love it, not despite all I’ve lost, but because of all that it has brought to me.
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Excerpt, Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts by Sara Frankl & Mary Carver
Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She writes about her imperfect life with humor and honesty, encouraging women to give up on perfect and get on with life, at www.givinguponperfect.com. Mary is the co-author of a new book called,Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. Released by the Hachette Book Group in 2016, CHOOSE JOY is a must-have for those searching for meaning and beauty in a world full of tragedy. Sara’s words breathe with vitality and life, and her stories will inspire smiles, tears, and the desire to choose joy. To learn more about CHOOSE JOY.
This sneaky sin. . . let me just tell you something. It’s under the radar, it’s pulling the covers over your eyes and it’s having a field day in your life – and, likely, you don’t even realize it.
For many of you, you actually think it helps you. You actually think you are better off, smarter, more capable and resourceful for pulling this little trick out of your bag of hats.
Do you know what I am talking about yet? (Clue: it is man’s greatest downfall)
Here’s how it looks in my life:
It makes me a super-speed, crazed, mess cleaner.
It transforms me into a female Dyson; I develop routes and measures to ensure every crevice is “handled.”
It levies the weight of the world on my shoulder and tells me, “You can handle it.”
It shuns advice, instruction and wisdom.
It tells people you better get on my highway, turn left and then arrive on time, or else.
It pushes me towards ambition and drive, without concern for the little guys.
It places one hand over God’s mouth, so I can speak just a little big louder than him.
It passes along the unsaid message, “Stay back God, I’ve got this.”
When I consider why I do it, much of it boils down to this:
If I am not controlling the world, it seems the world is controlling me. If I don’t use my ammo, I become the target. If I am just standing there, I risk getting run over.
Add that to the fact that the world hands out a bunch of cliched garbage (like this), and you can see how one can start acting like a maniacal lunatic:
“If you don’t make a way, you’ll have no way.” “Fend for yourself.” “Eat or be eaten.” “Get ahead.” “Get a leg up.” “Work harder.” “Reach for the stars.” “Figure it out.” “Watch your back.” “Don’t give up.”
Self-sufficiency, otherwise known as pride, is gangrene to a body of Christ. It takes his blood, oxygen and flow and blocks it in a way where his mighty providence is dead. We flow by our own accord, our own merits and our own will. So, naturally, our limbs of love, of reliance and of hope, they die. They wither away. For, we have no need for them. We don’t use them. You see, we exchanged God’s sufficiency, for our self-sufficiency and then, we lose.
If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. Jo. 15:6
Limbless, lifeless and loveless we stand, duped. We stand as tall temples of places where hope is not required, where need is useless and where one bows down only to self. The incense of stink rises and fills the air near those around us.
What we can produce by self,
is nothing in comparison to light scent of love
that is always ours to inhale.
It is not a mantra, a self-help phrase or a lift-me-up status that says, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” -A.A. Milne from Winnie the Pooh
It’s nothing like this. Because that kind of statement is a lie – it is poo from Pooh. The truth is, we are worse off than we think we are. We are weaker than we admit and we are a whole lot less wise than we walk around pretending to be.
Even more, we are wasteful without his purpose and lacking without his cause. Apart from Christ we can do nothing (Jo. 15:5).
But, here is the thing: with him, we can do everything.
I can do all things through Christ[a] who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13
When we get to the end of self, we get to the start of life. It is an exchange.
We hand over our ways. He gives us his. In the empty, he fills. In the wanting, he restores. In the empty, he sits. In the cant’s, he can. The dreams, he makes. For the low, he lifts. The unseen, he sees. The marginal, he magnifies. The insecure, he holds. The offering, he transforms.
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Mt. 16:24-25
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Hey, little child of God, I have something to tell you, so listen up.
Happiness is over there. Do you see it? Go ahead, suck in what it could be. Feel it. Relish in it. Why not? Don’t you deserve it – for all you have suffered?Aren’t you tired of being stuck?
I mean, look at you! You idiot!
You marginal fool, why aren’t you doing anything, something, to change everything?
You are stuck in a church that is not ideal.
You are stuck in a house you don’t want to be in.
You are stuck with a family who doesn’t get you.
You are stuck with a job that is horrible.
You are stuck with friends that don’t really care.
You are stuck in a life that constrains.
You are stuck with kids who are unruly and disobedient.
You are stuck with a spouse who irritates.
You are stuck with a body that is ugly.
You are stuck with health issues that you can’t beat.
You are stuck with pressures and problems.
You are stuck being overweight.
Look at you, your life is horrible. I think, I really think, you should have so much more.
Psst…did you know? It doesn’t have to stay this way…you can do things about it. Now listen up before your whole life is ruined, before all the marbles are dumped on your head and before you find yourself in a burnt heap of ashes, here is my charge for you:
1. Take control.What God hasn’t stepped in to do, you can do. Those he hasn’t changed, force them to change. Drive your power in.
2. Seek happy at all costs.If something doesn’t make you happy, flee from it to find frolicking fun elsewhere. You only live once, you don’t want to sit around missing out. Fulfill your desires and feel good.
3. Remind yourself of all you don’t have.
“You dumb idiot. While everyone else is getting ahead, you are falling backwards. Do something about it. It’s not like you are that good of a Christian anyway; you always mess up. You failure. Give up.”
Speak like this to yourself and you will be bound to get somewhere.
4. If you can’t get what you want, find another way to make yourself feel good.
Drugs, sex, alcohol, shopping, porn, controlling, demoralizing, taunting, instigating, stealing, worry, abusing – it doesn’t really matter – just fill your deep need to numb the real belief you are unloved, uncared for and shipwrecked. The moment of controlled power will feel intoxicating.
5. Put yourself first. You are the only one who can fulfill your deep needs. You have to fight hard to get what you want. Defend yourself, arm yourself, distance yourself and put up an armored stronghold around your body. You are a walking fortress; keep it that way or you will be ruined. Shoot, if necessary.
Other quick tips:
– Keep your eyes on what you see before you; make a snap judgement and abide by feelings.
– Don’t let the word “patience” fool; God really isn’t working for you.
– Don’t serve anything, or anyone, that doesn’t lead to success.
– There’s no one who can come through – like you can.
– You’ll miss out if you don’t grab the world’s cup tightly – and suck it up.
– Put yourself first, no one else will take care of you.
– Get super wise and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
– Mock those who are poor in spirit, “Weaklings!”
– Doubt “hope” and stick with “despair” and you’ll fill up with indulgences of the world, for sure.
– Embrace shades of grey and blurred lines between good and evil – you can rationalize things that way.
With this, applause to you! Cheers for you! Great glory to your work! Great progress to your name! Great power to your charge! Great impact to your step! You will do it; you will find pleasure in all you ever wanted, in the enticements and in the lure of your eye.
You know you want it.
So, step in, grab it and bite –
it is the best apple you will ever eat, even it it makes your blood run cold, even if 10 minutes after you feel nauseated, even if the shame adds thirty layers of chains to your hide, even if you trap yourself into a box you can’t seem to claw your chained way out of, at least you will have joy for a moment, ecstasy for a minute and rule for an hour.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. Jo. 10:10
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Until it breaks down at it’s core and the serial killer of joy, (aka your trial) comes back to haunt you again.
Ever noticed that what hit you yesterday,
still threatens to come after you today?
Same vein, different day, but all the same pain.
It threatens to hurt you like it did.
It threatens to arrive when you least expect.
It threatens you with the same feelings of yesterday.
It threatens you into fearing like you once did.
It threatens to pop right out of your bushes, saying “Now is the time to hit!”
Then you hear the smallest rustle of the bushes makes you think, “I am doomed.”
A resemblance to his tactics of yesterday make you cower, “I can’t.”
The scars of past cut deep, making you say, “Why me?”
Why does God allow our beaten evil to return?
Why doesn’t he annihilate them and say, “You can never touch my child again”?
Paul said, Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 2 Cor. 12:7
7 Likely Reasons Why God is Allowing your Trial
1. To keep you humble.
Pride goes before the fall (Prov. 16:8). If Paul had fallen, Christianity would not have risen. If Christianity did not rise, it easily could have meant our demise.
2. To keep you in training.
Olympic runners aren’t built without sprinting through walls, forging through exhaustion and getting up again when they want to quit. It is in the pain that we find our greatest spiritual gains – to become more and more like Christ.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Ja. 1:2-3
3. To gift you with the grace of God.
It often takes the face of crisis to see the smile of God’s grace over you. It is here you learn to stop saying things like, “I oughta”, “Why can’t I?” and “I should have”. Instead a quiet and gentle prodding arises within; it is one that begins to know “with God, all is possible”, “no weapon forged against me shall prosper” and “I am a work in progress and I will get there”.
4. To make you start thinking spiritually, not carnally.
When you have nothing left, you start to see all that is left – and all that matters – God. Sometimes the stripping, is much more about clothing you with Spirit things than it is about hurting your earthly things and body.
Strip yourselves of your former nature.… And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude]. Eph. 4:22-23 (AMP)
5. To show you growth.
When you hit bad, you can start to see the forming of your good. Meaning, you see how less anxious you are, how less worried you feel and how much more you know God will take care of you. It becomes a cause for praise.
6. To change things in your unseen.
We forget that while we are living our song, God is conducting a blaring orchestra with moving instruments around us. All rise up to sing, “Glory to God on the highest and peace to his people on earth”! Our sound may play odd, but in the grand scheme of his leading, all things are working together just as he wants them to. Things are being accomplished. People are being reached. Lives are changing. We just don’t know what he knows.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. Is. 55:8
7. To develop you into eternal gold, not rotting dollar bills.
When delivered, what emerges from the rot of a once selfish body? Praise. Glory. Honor. Things that are worthy, valuable and eternal.
These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Pet. 1:7
God uses what is coming to get you, not to ruin you, but to make you.
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You kind of figure, because of you,
because of all your bad actions,
he’s going to open the heavens,
rain down lightening like pocket knives
and land one straight on your head.
Maybe it is already happening. All is plummeting and God is: hitting you with health issues, cutting into finances, shredding a marriage, stabbing emotional well-being, hurting your kids, slicing out pain at work and dicing up trials for your course du jour.
And, it has to be you, right? All you have done, you deserve it. All you keep doing, it makes sense. All of your past, you get it. You are a degenerate in so many ways.
You may not hear his words from his mouth, but you certainly hear them in your head:
“Get your bad self to your room. Don’t return until you act better.” “Get yourself together.” “What is wrong with you?” “You can’t do anything right.”
Exasperated, you wait to hear from him, expecting a whole lotta words on how you are a royal mess-up and a giant loser. You expect to hear a list of practial law and rules and insights and plans that you need to stick to.
Instead, a whole different picture rises – a picture that puts God’s truth first.
It is painted. Not in muted shades of pained grey, but with the spectrum of new life. It beckons you to step in and to feel the warmth, to participate in growth and to enjoy the ride, so you listen and hear things like:
1. You see all you do wrong, I see so much that you do right.
2. You’re my first love. I don’t want to hurt you, I want to prosper, grow and see my glory shine through you.
3. You see your mistakes, I see how your mistakes are the starting of new.
4. You get discouraged and defeated by relational hiccups, but I see the pauses as space for me to work.
5. You’re the child I created, I love you exactly the way you are – strengths with weaknesses, weaknesses with strengths.
6. You don’t have to have it all figured out in the today, because I have it all figured out in the tomorrow.
7. Your repentance is the start of my next best thing. You turn away and then you see me.
8. Other people acting badly, is the best chance to show holy.
9. When you turn towards me, in turn you see my kindness.
10. When you say you’re sorry (and mean it), I say, “I forgive you” (and mean it).
Staring at the image, your mind dwells on the new story:
“God’s face looks a whole lot different than mine. His love is ten times more infusive than mine. His ways are galaxies more compassionate than mine. His grace is tanks more abundant than mine.
While I look at the immediate, he sees the long-term. While I get defeated in battle, he cheers the victory over the course of the war. While I get angry, he knows that anger does not produce righteousness (Ja. 1:20)”
The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. Ps. 145:8
The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Nu. 14:8
You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Ps. 86:5
Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. Ps. 25:8
But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. Ps. 130:4
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 Jo. 4:8
God calls you in. Deeper.
God calls you out. To head towards grace.
God dares you to hear him. To listen to his true sounds.
For to know him, is to know love.
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Regular Contributor, Katie Reid, is delighted to have a memoir piece published in Tales of Our Lives: Reflection Pond by Matilda Butler. The book launches today on Amazon for only 99 cents! Don’t miss it.
She has been fighting hard, in faith—on her knees, with her time and finances, and with a broken heart.
She sacrifices beyond what she feels capable of. She doesn’t experience the noble results her heart aches for and she is weary.
She is one of the strongest women I know, and she is hanging on by a thread.
She has experienced injustice, fought corruption and been slammed up against disappointment more times than she can count.
She reaches out to others as she falls to the floor and waves the white flag.
She wants to give up and it’s understandable.
But, giving up can be bad:
It can rob us of the miracle just around the corner.
It can tempt us to walk away from the One who can do the impossible.
It can take us down a road of regret.
It can chew us up and spit us out—further from our faith than we ever dared to go.
It can trip others up, taking them down as we fall.
It can leave us depleted, like a dead man walking.
“Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
It is understandable to be in a position where you want to give up. We are human. We have limits. But, if God has clearly said He will do it and laid it out in His Word, than you can count on Him to come through.
He cannot lie. Even when the road ahead is a mangled mess of darkness and tangled roots, His Hope can be found.
O God illuminate the way!
Don’t give up hope but give up control. This kind of giving up can get us somewhere.
Because, giving up can be good:
We reach the end of ourselves and we cry out to the Creator.
We cease striving and resolve to let Him fight for us.
We trade our grasping control for His steady Sovereignty.
We pour out our hurts and He meets us in our brokenness.
We lay down and He lifts up.
We yield and He fills up with peace that passes understanding.
As we begin this new year there are destructive ways of living that we should give up—bad habits, addictions, angry tones and murderous thoughts.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Ephesians 4:31
And as the new year begins there are beautiful things that we can give up, as lavish offerings to our Lord—trusting Him even when life hurts, following Him even when we can’t see the next step, abiding in His Word even when it’s not popular or convenient.
“Give unto the LORD the glory due unto His name, bring an offering, and come before Him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.” 1 Chronicles 16:29
Giving up can be an act of defeat or an act or worship. Which one will you choose today?
You know the depths of the burdens that we bear. Yet You carried the weight of sin upon You so that we could live. Help us to lay down our cares and catastrophes at Your feet. Give us hope in dark days. Give us help to keep going. Give us strength to believe that You are who You say You are. You became a dead man so we could walk free. Now You reign at the right hand of the Father so we can be resurrected one day as well. We take a moment, on the cusp on this new year, to declare that we believe in You. You are good. You are trustworthy. You see all and are able to sustain us this day. Help us not to give up hope but to give up control and rest in Your ability to hold us, and the whole world, together. We love you and we thank you that You gave up all for us to prove you won’t give up on us!
Katie M. Reid is a tightly wound woman, of the recovering perfectionist variety, who fumbles to receive and extend grace in everyday moments. She delights in her hubby, four children (and one on the way) and their life in ministry. Through her writing, singing, speaking and photography she encourages others to find grace in the unraveling of life. Connect with Katie at katiemreid.com.
P.S. Katie is delighted to have a memoir piece published in Tales of Our Lives: Reflection Pond by Matilda Butler. The book launches tomorrow, January 8th, on Amazon for only 99 cents!