building permits

Sometimes I imagine the world is covered with loose bricks, similar to a child’s playroom with interlocking blocks scattered on the floor. As we accept Christ, God picks us up and looks us over, to see where we would best fit to help “build” the Kingdom. Much like an Architect would decide the placement of supports and beams in a blueprint. After He assesses our gifts, He places us exactly where we will best support those around us (v. 18, 20).

In Ephesians 2 Paul tells us that we were all strangers and aliens before Christ (v. 12) – scattered bricks. Then when we are placed on the walls to build the Kingdom, Peace holds us together like mortar (v.14-16) because of Christ’s sacrifice for us. Not the peace that is fleeting, but the eternal Peace that comes from knowing we belong to God for eternity. The Holy Spirit is like the Foreman of the project (v. 18) bring together God and us giving us access to the very tools we need to grow and flourish.

The more the image of the blocks stays with me, the more the picture evolves. Jesus is the Financier of the entire project, for through Him all debts were paid (v. 13, 16, 17). It is the ultimate image of what God wanted to do since the beginning of time. We become the construction workers, participating in the continual growth of the God’s plan. We reach out to those who want to hear about God and Christ.  We become a part of the eternity of those who love God and just as it says in verse 19-22.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Can you imagine if we all participated in the plan of God? Dear Ones, what would it look like if we put down our own purposes and ideas to fully embrace God’s “Master Plan” and allowed ourselves to be used according to the ways He knows are best? Or if we allowed our souls to fully nestle into the Peace of Heaven and rest there, knowing we can be content in Him?

O Best Beloved, why do constantly fight against each other, when we were made to support each other, build each other up, to help each other stand firm- interlocked together? Paul continues with this idea in Ephesians 3:14-19, describing his prayer for believers. My prayer is that we will hold true to these words for each other as well.

 For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Precious Child of God, I pray we will not doubt what can be done through Christ, but instead hold firm to these words and to the whole idea of what God is doing through us and in us every time we obey Him and honor Him. He can do so much more than our finite minds can grasp (v. 20-21).

Can I get an amen, brothers and sisters? 

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the things we leave behind

When we choose a life with Christ, we are choosing a life without things as well. The more candles that are added to my cake, the more I tend to look back and see where God has moved in me and through me. I realize that when I reach the end of my journey I want to see the way God was a part of each adventure, struggle, and celebration.

When it comes to my day to stand in front of Jesus, I pray the things I will leave behind will be positive character traits, decisions, and stories that reflect God’s work in my life. During the times when I have been a shrew- even if it was just in my heart, I pray I can point to the Holy Spirit and how He helped me break through the wrong thinking and create a spirit that supported and uplifted my husband.

I pray for my sons to know that following Jesus hasn’t always made sense. That there were times when decisions would have seemed absurd on paper, but from Heaven’s perspective it was the right choice. I pray those I meet will know that they were important, not an afterthought. My heart aches to focus on the second half of my life with new eyes and a renewed spirit to honor God by what grows inside of me and the fruit that matures in me.

It sounds noble and “spiritual” to say I want to seek God and honor Him. But I don’t want this to be any kind of lip service. My entire being needs God- the way our bodies need blood and oxygen to function. I want to leave behind the broken ways, the worn-out, foolish ways, and the frustration and anger that comes from trying to do things my way. I long to wake in the morning and reach for Bible, not my phone and Facebook or Instagram.

If I claim to follow God, then the things I leave behind would reflect that obedience. It would be the fruit of the Spirit that I leave behind. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, and Gentleness, and finally, Self-Control. If I am not moving to add to the Fruit in my life, then I am nothing more than stagnant, stinky water; wretched to smell and harmful to drink.

O Best Beloved, can you hear my heart? Does your heart cry for the same things? Join me in this pursuit. The pursuit of Philippians 4:8,  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. The pursuit of picking up my Cross and laying down the things that are temporal. The pursuit to keep my soul and let the whole world go.

Let it be true for you. Let it be true for me.

 

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wild child

As a young child, my babysitter nicknamed me “wild child.” She was my next door neighbor’s oldest daughter, Debbie. I thought she hung the moon, she was fun and always made the separation from my parents less traumatic. I was not wild in the sense that I was disrespectful or dangerous, more that I was free-spirited and willing to take on an adventure with Debbie by my side.

The older I grew the farther I grew away from the “wild child” status. I became timid, fearful, and submissive to those around me. But deep inside, there was a make believe world where I would go on brave adventures, rescuing people in need, and facing dangers without fear. These adventures were always kept inside, hidden from those who would scold or criticize me for thinking of them.

In my late teens I began three years of rebellion against my parents and the ways they had taught me to live. During those three years, I thought I was being wild and that it was new and wonderful and that I was so independent. But I really wasn’t. I was just creating new ways to look at my homemade prison. I was stuck inside and would never be released without Christ.

In 1990, after I accepted Christ, I began the journey of healing, release, finding and understanding wholeness, being able to let go of hurt I caused others. I started to understand that to be a “wild child” did not mean a lack of boundaries, but a solid boundary inside which I could be fully free.

Now, after over twenty-five years, I am able to see the hints of what this could look like for me. It is a life that does not bind me to stereotypes, expectations, and a definite checklist. I am free to celebrate the joy of God in my heart. Free to stand in church with my hands held high, head tipped back, a wide smile on my face. I am also free to kneel at my chair in reverence to the Holy Spirit moving in me during our musical worship–even if everyone else is standing up.

Dear Ones, what about you? Are you the wild child held captive in the prison of your own making? Or are you the wild child, freed through the precious blood of Christ, running through the fields, hands held up, embraced by the sun and the wind- acknowledging all of the ways God has shown His everlasting love for you?

Being a wild child in Christ allows me to celebrate who He made me to become. Who He sees me to be right now. I am celebrated because I am His precious daughter. His dear, sweet love, the beautiful woman made for Heaven’s purposes.

This is who I am. I am God’s wild child and I am truly free.

 

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digging in, digging out

Facing what you have been ignoring all along is one of the hardest parts of healing. It could be an addiction, a broken way of thinking, a broken way of relating to others. Whatever it is, just as it is during the 12-step process, we need to admit we cannot fix it on our own and we need God to remove this brokenness (see step 1 and step 6 of Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step process).

It is time to put on the work clothes, roll up the sleeves, and dig in to remove the things that aren’t working and are beyond duct tape repair. Talk with any serious gardener and they will tell you that all of the weeds need to be removed and the soil prepared for the best growth. The same is with our hearts. It is time to be freed from the pains and hurts we have carried for too long.

I watch people I love so much continuing to do the same things again and again while expecting those around them to change their ways to meet their brokenness. O Best Beloved, we cannot remain in a broken car and expect others to come and push us, just because we don’t want to get it fixed.

Precious Ones, let us speak honestly. These broken cars, toys, and lives we have aren’t working. There is no amount of duct tape and glue that will put them back together. And why would we want to try, when they were the wrong fit in the first place? It is time to dig out of the holes we have dug by trying to find ways to “make it work.” It is time to fess up; we are broken. Our ways aren’t working.

Getting angry, spouting on social media, using brutal words that shut down those who love you– these are the broken things that need to be removed. Instead, it’s time to be still. To be honest. To call out to God and ask for His holiness to fill you and light the way out of the holes. It’s time to dig in deeply to God’s word and allow Him to dig you out of the mess.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand (Psalm 40:2).

When we allow God to come into the mess, He will be able to turn it into something beautiful. So many stories are told of when God was allowed in to dig us out and how He turned them into something beautiful and something good.

Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare (Psalm 40:5)
.

As a young child I learned a song that has echoed in my heart for over four decades. I pray it will give you courage to put down the duct tape and hold up your hands to your Heavenly Father. He is waiting to lift you out and give you a firm place to stand.

Something beautiful, something good
All my confusion He understood
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
But he made something beautiful of my life

If there ever were dreams
That were lofty and noble
They were my dreams at the start
And hope for life’s best were the hopes
That I harbor down deep in my heart
But my dreams turned to ashes
And my castles all crumbled, my fortune turned to loss
So I wrapped it all in the rags of life
And laid it at the cross. 

~Bill Gaither “Something Beautiful, Something Good”

 

 

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Missing lessons

I've managed to read two books this week- it's been quite some time since I was able to read like this. The second book I read was Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. It is gritty, powerful, and insightful to read her story and I find myself relating in places I didn't expect.

As she battles against the hurts and the pains she has felt there comes a point when she asks, "What if in skipping the pain, I was missing my lessons," (p. 201)?

I started to recall how a dear person in my life has deflected the difficult things, blaming others, shaming them, even disowning them, instead of facing the deeper reality that these things are difficult because he/she jumped to the conclusion that it had to be someone else's fault. It couldn't be the fault of this dear person- it must be the other person.

By choosing to ignore the hurt being felt inside because something or someone failed it was easier to push them/it away and cut it out entirely. Never realizing that by cutting it out my dear one was missing out on the lessons God wanted to teach.

It's like a student taking scissors to a textbook and cutting out the parts he or she doesn't want to learn. How can we truly learn in life if we only approach the lessons like a buffet-picking some things and avoiding others?

When God came to Abraham and Sarah and told them they would have a son, they didn't think about what other lessons God needed them to learn. They just celebrated their son. Then came the journey when Issac and Abraham went up Mt. Moriah to give an offering to God. Abraham knew God told him to sacrifice his son- but he didn't want to focus on that part. He just reveled in time with his son. Finally, the moment came when Issac was tied and put on the altar. Abraham couldn't ignore the lesson any longer (see Genesis 22).

My heart hurts as I watch my dear one put so many things, relationships, and opportunities on the altar to sacrifice. These are are unnecessary losses and I wonder how much pain will be felt when he/she sees what has been left behind.

Some of the hardest lessons to learn in life include the biggest one- we cannot pick and choose which lessons we want to miss if we want to grow up and truly follow Christ. He asked for the cup to be passed from Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. When the answer given was no, Jesus understood and He picked it up and drank from it every last bitter drop.

Dear Ones, we cannot choose Christ and then skip the lessons we don't like. If we choose Him, then we choose all of Him. Even the hard things, the painful things, the wake-me-when-it's-over things. This is how we walk worthy of the One who called us (Colossians 1:10). Let us put away our scissors and pick up our pencils and paper so we can learn the lessons we are called to understand.

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Self surgery

My husband and I have taken our oldest to college for freshmen orientation. It is a weird experience to be without our other son, who is working at a camp this summer, away from all of us for the first time.  I guess that is what this summer is, a summer of firsts. As I watch those I love dearly and fiercely step into experiences of their own, I find myself wondering if they are aware how to do these very “firsts” in the first place.  Does my youngest son, at seventeen, know how to do laundry, without me being by his side? My oldest flew for the first time on his own last month, I wondered if he knew what he had to do to find his gate, make it through the security points, all on his own. 

I am continuing to find new places to put my feet as a mom whose roles are changing. Even though I have been out of counseling for almost six months, I find myself assessing what I am doing. Am I doing things the right way? Am I remembering the tools and techniques I learned to keep from backsliding into the broken, destructive habits? Am I remembering that there comes a time, when I am the only surgeon capable of removing the foreign object inside of me? My husband has told me for a long time that there are things that are inside of me that he cannot remove. That he is not supposed to remove. It is my job and he is right.  

I am reminded of the movie, Master and Commander: Far Side of the World that came out years ago. During a harrowing moment, the doctor must perform surgery on himself. His surgical assistant was not able to do more than hand him the tools and hold the mirror steady so he could see the wound to remove the musket ball from his abdomen.  It was difficult to focus on the task and manage the pain, but in the end, the doctor was successful. His knowledge of himself, his skills and abilities, plus the support of those around him, allowed him to do the near impossible and survive. 

This is the same task that is before me. I have loved ones who will stand by me, hold the instruments, and give them to me as I need them, but in the end, I must remove the very things that can cause irreparable damage. Some may ask, why must it be me? Why can’t it be someone else? Someone who can take the responsibility, instead of me? The starkest truth is, it must be me. I am the one who went through those experiences, the one who felt the pain, the hurt, the loss, the rejection, who inflicted pain on others and myself. Therefore, I am the one who will remove the musket ball. 

Please understand, I am not stating I don’t need my Heavenly Father to be my Ultimate Healer. Instead, just as the woman who was caught in adultery was not stoned by Jesus, who had all authority to do so, I am to turn from the things that broke me and “sin no more.” Which in my case, means recognize the triggers I mentioned yesterday, and remove them forcibly as needed. 

My God has healed me. Made me new (2 Corinthians 5:17). And now, as one made whole and new, I am to be as Paul described, someone who clings to the Grace, not returns to the sin because I have the Grace. It is a strange place to be, both the patient and the surgeon. In my case though, God stands next to me, holding the instruments, the mirror, and my hand all at the same time. He knows I must be willing to perform the surgery in order to have a successful recovery.

God has never and will never force us to go under the knife so-to-speak, O Best Beloved. He will only stand by us until we are ready to get on the operating table and ask for the scalpel. Then He will guide us through the process and by His grace, we will be healed. 

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The deeper yes

After counseling I thought I would be “better”- better at recognizing my emotions, recognizing my triggers, and better at knowing when I was falling into old habits and routines. Now most days, I believe I am “better.” I have a more even step, comfortable and confident after years of tiptoeing around difficult situations and people. But there are days when I don’t focus on being intentional in my decisions and responses. I wake up in a hurry and scurry to get to work, or prepare for a task, and I forget to think first and then act. 

One of my favorite authors wrote a book called Present over Perfect. It’s her story about how she slowly changed her hectic pace to one of purpose and deeper meaning. In a chapter called  “Heart and Yes” she described her new view for life. 

“Saying yes means not hiding. It means being seen in all your imperfections and insecurities. Saying yes is doing scary things without a guarantee that they’ll go perfectly. Saying yes is jumping in anyway” (p. 207). 

It was at that point that I realized what the deeper yes was all about. It wasn’t the crazy, busy schedule that made everyone wonder how you did it all. It wasn’t saying no to everyone and everything to become a hermit. It was the deeper yes that allowed you to say yes to what God had planned for you. The yes that allowed you to let go of other’s expectations and embrace who you really were inside. The yes that gave you the courage to trust and to let go. 

This is where I am now. A person’s opinion is just that, their opinion. I can take it under advisement or I can thank them for their input and do what needs to be done anyway. I can say no when it is something that doesn’t fit my season in life or even my lifetime. It isn’t about meeting the ever-changing standards of society. It’s about the truth that comes from Scripture and the reality of who I am because of Christ and in Christ. 

My deeper yes is my new yes. My real yes. And there is no turning back to who I was before- she is my past. I am saying yes to my future. 

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Gardening

This morning I weeded in my garden. It’s been a couple weeks and we’ve had some rain so my weeds were very tall. I pulled, hoed, and cultivated the soil around the plants so that my vegetables will get water and sunshine without competition. 

Every time I am in the garden my thoughts turn to the Gardens in the Bible; Eden and Gethsemene. As I pulled the weeds, I thought of how sins can seem so inconsequential when they are small and how much more difficult it can be to remove them when they go unchecked. 

When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden I wondered how long they were there, enjoying the creation of God, enjoying His company in the cool of the day. How long were they there before the enemy made Eve doubt God’s plan. Were they there for months, weeks, or days? If Adam and Eve had truly been spending time with God each day, building their relationship with Him they would have known more about His heart for them and mankind. 

I figure it was just long enough to get a taste, but not to enjoy it all in depth. How else could the enemy get Eve to doubt God’s goodness?  I often wonder what this world would be like it she had trusted God instead of doubting Him. We won’t know the answer on this side of Heaven. 

As to my weeds, I started looking at them as plants of doubt. Every time I couldn’t see what God was doing in the middle of my struggles, every time I allowed my frustrations to replace His peace, I had cast the seeds of discontent into the garden. 

Every time I pull a weed out of the soil, I am allowing my soul to become uncluttered and uncrowded, so I can hear my Father calling my name in the cool of the day to come and walk with Him and build my relationship with Him. 

Dear Ones, what are you cultivating in your gardens? Discontent and doubt? Faith and peace? Maybe we need to all go back into our gardens and start pulling some weeds. 

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alumni

My graduating class just celebrated our thirtieth anniversary with a class reunion. I was unable to attend due to distance and scheduling, but I laughed and smiled at the pictures of people with whom I spent my high school years. The other day I saw a bottle of pop with the word Alumni on it.  I realized that not only am I an alumni of my high school and college, but I am also an alumni of certain life events. It made me wonder, what would an alumni gathering look like from a Biblical perspective?

Throughout the pages of Scripture we read of men, prophets, and leaders being thrown into pits (Joseph, Jeremiah, Daniel), being thrown into jail (Peter, Paul, Silas), being pursued by kings and queens (David, Elijah), men who wandered in the wilderness (Abraham, Moses). The list could go on and on.

As I think of these men of faith who sought the face of God above all else, I can only imagine their conversation in Heaven comparing stories. Each one of them would share their experiences, but in the end, it would come back to the simple truth, God was bigger than the fears they faced. 

The passage of Hebrews 11 records even more, And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword;whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies (v. 32-34). 

Each time I read of the “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) I find myself wanting to stand a little straighter, hold my head a little higher, and tighten my shoelaces to keep going forward on my Faith Journey. The men and women who have loved God even in the face of death, who did not turn away from Him when offered life for denying Him; they are the ones that I look to for encouragement.

Serving God here in America is pretty benign compared to the experiences mentioned above. I don’t have pits, lion dens, or stonings to worry about. But, I think the benign life I live is actually equal to the lions den. We are in great danger of becoming complacent, forgetful, and indifferent to the Heavenly Power that resides in our souls.

O Best Beloved, we are going to be the cloud of witnesses for the next generation, the alumni of Faith they will look to for encouragement, stories, and reminders that following Jesus is worth it all. If we aren’t taking our faith seriously, calling out to God to guide our steps, being afraid to step out and doing it anyway. If we aren’t making this our Faith Journey what will we leave behind as our legacy?

Let us follow the instructions left for us in Hebrews 12; let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (v. 1b-3).

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).

May we choose to be consumed every day.

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Living by

Every culture has a set of standards they use to measure success, failure, and acceptance. What is allowed in the Western cultures may not be allowed in the Eastern cultures and visa versa. However, no matter where a person is, there will be rules, processes and consequences for their actions. The same is true of those who claim to follow Christ.

When we were “of the world,” living as the world’s standards dictated, we knew that if we wanted to be called successful we would need to wear a certain type of clothes, drive a particular model of car/truck, and it goes on and on. The vacations, the schools attended, the activities on the weekends, all of it is measured by what society says is acceptable. Which also means the standards can change.

As Christians however, the standards by which we live are simple, resolute, and clear. We are to live as Christ did, with grace, compassion, honesty, and humility. His way is never changing, always certain, albeit impossible to accomplish on our own. Gratefully, we have Scripture to remind, encourage, and correct us as we journey in life. Galatians is full of verses about how to live and the standards by which we should live.

For example, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20 NIV). 

We are no longer in charge of our lives when we accept Christ. His presence fills us, the Holy Spirit leads us to live with evidence of His presence in us (John 14:26).  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25 NIV). 

Therefore, when we interact with others, it will be evident Who we follow because of what we leave behind. If we claim Christ leads us, then the standards we use will be His standards (Philippians 2:5-11). Selflessness and humility, putting others first, remembering that what we do is a direct reflection of the God we claim to obey.

 You took off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires; you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; you put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth (Ephesians 4:22-24 HCSB).

I realize there are a number of verses in this post, but I have found surrounding myself with verses will help me keep my focus on what and Who matters most. Best Beloved, my prayer is that when you look forward in your life, you will remember the standards you are living by and seek to follow the God Who loves you most.

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