Let us begin

Lately, there are a number of songs that talk about going back in time to tell yourself what you know now. A chance to tell yourself to walk away from a toxic relationship or to take the job you turned down. While this perspective seems appealing, I am not sure I would take it if given the opportunity.

Yes, there are decisions I made in my past that I regret. People I hurt because of my selfishness or insecurity. I made some pretty foolish decisions when I was eighteen, some that continue to impact me thirty years later. It has become part of who I am and who I am not.

I know as a believer, that God has had a plan for my life since before I was born. I know there were times in my life that the very prayers of someone kept me from danger. I also know that there were times when I chose to do something that was not God-honoring, sometimes I chose to do that deliberately. While I cannot go back and fix it, I know that I can learn from it.

Psalm 18:30-32 says, As for God, his way is perfect; The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure (NIV).

Of the regrets that I can name, the ones that cause the most sadness to me are the ones I knew better than to do, but I did it anyway. In a way, I think that is the definition of regret, I knew better that to do it, but I did it anyway. My poor decisions, my failures, even the losses I experienced, were part of the path that led me to Christ.

When I came to see that all these choices I had made were never going to bring me the happiness, the contentment, the grace, mercy, or forgiveness I needed– that is when I cried out to God. And that is when He answered me. Not with fire, thunder, or lightning but with tenderness. With the very grace and love I needed.

Child, I have been waiting for you to call my name. I have wanted to pick you up, dust you off, mend your brokenness, and wipe your tears. But you never called out to me until now.

God is not a belligerent dictator, He is a gentleman. He will not come where He is not invited. But oh, Best Beloved, when God is invited into your life and heart. Wow. I learned that day, that He has the power to take my regrets and turn them into blessings. He did that day, He still does today.

Mother Teresa once said, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We only have today. Let us begin.” That was the lesson I learned from God the day He came into my life. I would not be able to go back and change the life I had lived before that day. I would not be able to tell the future, to know fully what would happen tomorrow. But while it was still called today, I could experience His grace. His mercy and learn the lesson that the past is in the past for a reason.

Now, the enemy is going to try and attack any way and any chance he can, to stop me from growing in Christ, to keep my story from being used to encourage others. It is what he does. He wants to bring up the regrets and the failures and tell me that I cannot possibly be used by God for God’s purposes and glory. But that is a lie.

God is in the business of taking people’s messes and turning them into messages. Scripture is full of story after story that show His redemptive power. Some of my favorite stories include the woman at the well in John 4 and the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Each time Jesus met the woman, their story was anything but a fairytale. But instead of taking them to task and in one case stoning her for her sins, Jesus turned the story on its head. He told the woman at the well that there was a way to get Living Water, to never thirst again. She had made a mess of thirsting for love from men who would never satisfy her thirst for eternal healing,

The woman in John 8 was seeking love in the wrong places and had made a complete mess of things. Jesus, who by all authority had the right to cast the first stone, as the only person there who was without sin, did nothing. He gave the woman another chance. A chance to change her mess into a message of grace. Of mercy and forgiveness.

Best Beloved, let us leave the past where it belongs- behind us. The future is somewhere on the horizon. Today is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:4).

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Squares, triangles, and icosahedrons

Geometry was not my favorite class in high school. I have often said the reason I had good grades in geometry was because my boyfriend at the time tutored me. I may not have known the equations that created a shape, but I still found myself drawn to them.

A triangle can be two dimensional or it can be multidimensional, like a pyramid. The shape becomes more than the simple design from preschool. It has depth, it has space within to hold something or cover and protect a person or an item (think classic tent shapes).

Squares become cubes like the Rubik’s cube, the Borg cube in Star Trek, the simple shape of a house when drawn by a small child. Again, so many options to hold, contain, or protect items within.

As for the icosahedron; it is a polyhedron with 20 faces. The name comes from Ancient Greek εἴκοσι, meaning ‘twenty’, and ἕδρα, meaning ‘seat’.

What all of these shapes cannot do is contain a person; their personality, likes, dislikes, skills, talents, and dreams. The human body and soul are both mortal and immortal. One will eventually stop functioning and the other will continue living for eternity. How can anyone fully understand this truth and still want to force a person to conform to a particular shape, ultimately trying to control him or her?

As my husband continues to learn how to bring both aspects of his life together, we have encountered people who believe that as a gay man he should divorce me and embrace his “gayness.” Then, there are those who state our faith forbids him to have these feelings and that he should repent and beg forgiveness from God and me, living contrite for the rest of his life.

Nothing is that simple. I wish it was, believe me. I would like nothing better than to have a delete button on all the things that don’t “fit” the way life is supposed to be. War, famine, human trafficking, they are all terrible. I would love to delete these things from our world. But God gave us all free will and that means that there are things we will choose to do or not do, that are contrary to Him.

Being gay or straight for that matter, should not be the way we see a person. A person is created in the image of God. Trying to cubby-hole the people in our lives diminishes this fact. While watching a recent episode of Mixish I heard these words being confirmed.

The main character, Rainbow, who is the daughter of a white father and a black mother, is struggling with stereotypes. One of the things she said in the episode was that by stereotyping a person, it allows them to become less of who they are, a person who is less than human can then become a thing instead of a person. From my viewpoint as a believer, that kind of thinking is dangerous. It’s the gasoline poured on division. It is the kind of thinking the enemy relishes.

After all, he has been causing division since God made Adam and Eve.

In my life I have friends and family who lean to the left, lean to the right, or sit in the middle politically. While I may not agree with everything they post to social media, I still value them. They have been a part of my life’s journey and they are treasured.

Trying to put anyone of them into a shape, whether its a triangle, square, or icosahedron would be a mistake. It would take away parts of who they are and who they maybe become. My husband has a statement online os his social media feeds that says, “I am a gay man happily living a straight life.” No cubby-holes can make this fit.

Just like my last post, I don’t have a ribbon of Scripture with which to tie this up. I do not want a theological, sociological, or any other ogical debate. Just pray. Pray with your whole heart, honestly, and ask God to open your eyes to see people as He sees them. Made in His image, with an ever-living-never-dying-soul, and ask Him to lead you in the next steps. It could be introducing yourself, paying for their cup of coffee, it could be learning about who they are and their journey.

The enemy has been winning a lot of skirmishes and battles lately using division. Let us remind him, that God is about multiplication (wherever two or more are gathered in my Name, I am there among them, Matthew 18:20).

Best Beloved, shapes are great for geometry. The only shape we as believers should be using when we meet people is the shape of the human heart and the shape of the Cross. From the view of eternity, nothing else after.

Blessings,

oxoxo

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On mountaintops, valleys, and closets

When I became engaged, it was nothing like the Hallmark movie proposal. My hubby and I were on the telephone. He was in his apartment in Denver, Colorado and I was in my bedroom in my folks’ house in the Chicago suburbs. After the initial realization that we were finally getting married, we began compiling a list of the things we had to make our household one. You know, things like; I have these items for the kitchen, I have these items for the bathroom. We both had twin beds, little to no money in savings, and complete faith that God had brought us together.

Fast forward twenty years. I did not become the 1950’s era housewife and homemaker I had imagined I would become. We have two sons, both of whom have grown into amazing, talented, young men. We have lived in three different states, apartments, townhouses, small houses, the average suburban home, and farmhouses. We have each worked multiple types of jobs over the years and dealt with unemployment during certain seasons.

We have fought loudly at times, broken dishes, left marks on walls, and scarred each other’s hearts in our pain and anger. We have battled against our anxieties and depression. We have seen counselors, we began taking medication, and when that was not enough, one of us has been hospitalized for 24 hours to protect from self harm and eighteen months later, a 72 hour period for the same thing.

Through all of this, there was an unspoken subject that continued to grow like a vine, something we thought we had cut back again and again. Yet it still grew, until it was out of control. It nearly choked us both in the process, until my husband pulled it out by the roots and was honest with himself and with me.

We had talked about his attraction to men when we became engaged, but I didn’t understand the depth and breadth of it. Honestly, I am not sure he did either. My husband officially “came out” in December of 2018. We had a long conversation between each other, he spoke with both of our sons about it as well. Then with my blessing, he went public.

We were unsure how people would respond. We are both professed believers, saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). We knew what churches had taught about homosexuality and we were ready for whatever ripple effect it caused. Many coworkers were supportive, writing him notes and letters to let him know he was loved and accepted. Many in our circle shared their love for us as well.

It sounds like we should be one of those very evolved marriages. We are still married, I am the only woman he has ever loved, I love him with all that am and have, that has not changed. What has changed is that we are honest in ways we never were before. We discuss his attraction to men, what that means to him, how it interplays with his day-to-day life.

We share the difficult, uncomfortable, and complex things that are unique to our marriage. So many of the people who are unfamiliar with our entire story, think that since he is “out” we should get divorced so he can fully embrace his gay life. Divorce has never been on the table in this situation. The vows we spoke two decades ago are still valid. We aren’t any less committed to each other because of this aspect of him.

He still flirts with me, shows affection toward me, physically our marriage is still intact and emotionally, I think we are more healthy than we’ve been, since we began this journey a year ago. Yes, irrational fears try to creep in and manifest themselves into full blown lies about how he will leave me, but I am swift to pray them away. Our faith is crucial to keeping us together and that has become an even bigger part of my life, although it may not always be evident.

So here’s the deal, the nitty-gritty if you will.

I am married to a man who loves me dearly, is devoted to me and to our boys. He is also gay. We do not claim to have answers to everything and in fact, we have more questions than answers. Like, how to develop healthy relationships with other men, gay and straight, without misconstruing the purpose of the friendship. How to answer those who ask questions about what happens next for our marriage. I don’t know the answers. My sweet hubby doesn’t either. We don’t have to know them.

We are where we are. Who we are. Whose we are. That’s all we can be or do. I don’t have a perfect Bible verse to fit this part of my life. I am well aware of all the verses that condemn homosexuality and I will not debate them with anyone. I am certain there are those who think this should never be made public and are shocked and appalled that I would even put this out there on the internet. With respect to those who feel that way, I will take your concerns under advisement.

This is who I am- a woman in her 50’s, a wife of over 20 years, mother to two, daughter, sister, friend, hobby-farmer, and novice writer. Most of all, I am a daughter of the King of kings and I have been bought by the power of the blood of Christ and nothing can separate me from the love of God ( Romans 8:38-39). I have been walking with Christ for nearly thirty years and I pray I will for the next thirty and beyond.

The rest is just a part of the scenery.

Best Beloved, I do not share this for sensationalistic reasons. I am being honest with myself and you because the enemy has been pulling the strings for too long. Any thing I allow to stay in the dark allows him to gain power and a foothold in my life and heart. I don’t have time for that. I long to be a part of the light shining in Matthew 5:16.

Whether I am celebrating on the mountaintop or battling through the valley, I am no longer hiding and neither is my hubby.

Blessings now and always,

oxoxoxox

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Fires within, fires without

We have two wood stoves in our house that help heat the basement and our bedroom. There is something about the smell of the burning wood as it swirls in the air outside that whispers, Welcome home. Come and find comfort and rest within these walls. It’s one of the sweetest parts of living in our home. We have two gas-fed stoves which help heat the rest of the house. while their warmth is crucial and appreciated, it isn’t the same as putting logs in the stove and watching them catch the flames and ignite.

When we come home from work, I immediately check the stoves and stoke the coals and embers to be ready to catch the new logs I add. I could wait until the animals are fed or I have eaten dinner, but it can be difficult trying to relight a fire that has gone out allowing the embers to become cold gray ash.

I check the fires during the night, sometimes just watching the flames take hold of each log and claim it as its own. The flames dance and sway to silent music, the colors turn from yellow, to orange, to red, to violet, and finally white. Even after the log has succumbed to the flame, reduced to fiery coals, the heat still dances within.

Building these fires each evening and morning, I have been thinking about the Scripture references to God, as the all consuming fire and the Pillar of Fire that led the Israelites through the wilderness. It s very difficult to interact with fire and not be changed. Logs become embers and eventually ash, forests become spent matchsticks, metals release the dross within to become pure. Food unsafe for eating becomes a savory meal to sustain the family.

It is the human heart that seems to only respond in a few ways when it comes in contact with the Holy Spirit. Our hearts can become hardened, even brittle as it tries to withstand the power of God. Or our hearts can release the dross, like the precious metals, and become purified.

We can turn away from the warmth and comfort of God’s presence, curling up tighter and tighter inside until our heart is diminished. Then there is the choice of turning to the flames, allowing the heat to penetrate and expand inside us. It is up to me, how I will respond to God’s offer.

Best Beloved, the imagery of a fire’s devastation is all over our screens , as millions of acres burn in Australia. I have been praying for rain daily, for healing and comfort, and a sense of hope for those impacted by the fires there. It is something still that brings wonder to my mind, how out of such devastation can come new life. Images of the new growth just weeks after the fires came through some of the forests in Australia reminds me that there is always fresh hope. If only we might withstand the flames.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo in Daniel 3, can testify to this truth. Verses 14 through 28 tell that these three young men would not bow to the idols, they would only worship the One, True God. When threatened with being thrown into the fiery furnace, they didn’t back down.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up,” (verses 17-18).

Nebuchadnezzar didn’t say, “Well gee golly fellas, if you feel that way about it. . . ” He threw them into the furnace. In fact he had the furnace heated up to such temperatures that the men who threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace died from exposure to the heat (verse 22).

Through the flames, King Nebuchadnezzar realized that not only did these men not die, God sent another “man” into the fire (verses 25, 26). Out of the flames came men who were changed for their faith in God and the King grew in faith because of their faithfulness.

Best Beloved, we may never be thrown into a furnace, but our faith cannot grow deeper and stronger if we do not experience trials. I pray we will embrace the fires as an opportunity to get rid of the dross and shine brighter in Christ.

Blessings,

oxoxox

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What is it about anger anyway?

Over the years I have had a number of coworkers who grew angry about something had done to them. I can understand being upset, yes, even angry when I am hurt by someone else. The level of anger I am speaking of however, is the kind where it becomes like another article of clothing the person wears every day. The glaring eyes, pursed lips, cold cordiality, and whatever non-verbal means are necessary to express their anger and disapproval. The angry person even going to extreme lengths to show how happy and kind they are with others, just to try to drill home the contrast.

How exhausting.

Married couples are often told to, “Not let the sun go down on their anger.” It isn’t just husbands and wives who should be reminded of this, it is a life lesson that everyone needs to learn.

 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold . . . Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you, (Ephesians 4:26-27, 29, 30-31, NIV).

Paul certainly knew the importance of not allowing anger to take root. Resolving issues that cause pain and misunderstanding between people; husbands and wives, siblings, friends, and even coworkers, allows for problems to not fester. Anger grows into bitterness and when bitterness takes hold, it’s very difficult to pull it out and get the whole root system.

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “Holding a grudge against someone is like taking rat poison and waiting for the other guy to die.” If someone is angry with me, but doesn’t come to me and seek to restore the relationship, then I cannot address the issue. The anger is only going to continue to make the other person more upset, more cranky, and less likely to forgive. I will sleep fine, enjoy my day, and not be the worse for the situation. Not because I am dismissing the problem, but most likely because I don’t know what it is to fix it.

Anger, when allowed to grow unchecked becomes a dam holding back the grace and mercy that could be flowing freely between them. This is not the way that Christ calls us to be toward each other. We are to resolve our issues quickly, let go of the desire to cause the other person pain, and instead restore and rebuilt the community that was lost.

Best Beloved, I do not know what is in your heart today. I do know carrying over things from last week, last year, and even the last fifteen years, is only breaking your spirit. Release it. Forgiving the other person isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It’s knowing that in the long run, God is in charge, He will take care of you. He will take care of the other person, too.

Clear out the bitterness that is rotting in your soul and allow the sweetness of mercy and grace to flow in you again. It’s time.

Blessings to you in 2020,

oxoxoxo

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Do you see what I see

One of my favorite pictures of my hubby and sons was taken in the middle of a silly moment. They were all watching something on the laptop, huddled together on the couch. I was warmed by the ease and comfort they felt just being together. They were laughing and enjoying each other’s company. No pretense, just acceptance and genuine love for one another.

So I grabbed my phone to take a picture, to capture the moment. Without a second thought, they each looked at me and stuck out their tongues. No coordinated effort, just sheer silliness and response. It’s one picture I will always love because of all that it captured that day.

Sure, the picture I took of my hubby and sons isn’t proper by Emily Post’s etiquette, but it is perfect for showing a precious, priceless moment of full love and joy in my family. That is what matters most to me.

My hubby and I agreed to make sure our sons would know they were accepted, loved, and welcomed- no matter the time or situation. That our sons would know they were more important than the screen in front of us. The book I might be reading or the tasks we might be doing. They were a priority. They had value.

I’ve watched parents over the years waste so much energy and time trying to force their children into being or behaving in a certain way. That somehow the children’s actions were going to cause trouble in society or maybe cause the light to shine too brightly on the parent(s) and their parenting skills would be a disappointment.

My family knew how to behave in polite society; please, thank you, etc are common practice when needed. Yet we didn’t want to make conformity the priority, when knowing and being known by our closest family was most important.

I have seen parents break bridges with their children (adults and minors) because the child didn’t meet a predetermined idea of acceptable. Damage that caused years of unnecessary pain – on both sides- all because one person wasn’t going to keep dancing to the same old tune.

I understand better and better why Jesus scolded the disciples in Mark 10:13-16. The kids came with their parents for a blessing. I can see them climbing around, squealing and laughing; just being kids. Now maybe the disciples were tired, who knows. But they were annoyed and tried to turn away the kids from Jesus. In a culture that didn’t value the kids as much more than a continuation of the family name, Jesus said they were important.

“When Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me. Don’t stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it, ” (Mark‬ ‭10:14-15‬ ‭HCSB‬‬).

It was the exuberance, hearts open and full of joy, taking it all in and accepting it as it was, that’s what was missing from the disciples that day. That’s what I see missing in the actions of parents today.

It breaks my heart and I have to believe that it breaks God’s heart too.

Best Beloved, don’t miss out on sharing joy with your children (adult or minor) because they are not conforming to some notion of acceptable and unacceptable. Don’t miss out – our kids will reach a point where our relationship is not as important as the one where they are taken in as they are, who they are, where they are.

Mend the bridges, make the phone call, write the letter. Knock on the door. Don’t let another day go by.

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Framework

Walking through the Hobby Lobby frame section I am often taken in by the choices. There are so many options to choose from, some frames are ornate, some are simple and some look rustic. The right frame can make a picture look amazing or it can look awful.

This past week: I have over slept, fought insomnia, I lost my phone, I have been late to work, my phone charger died. I felt my anxiety rushing like water over a dam. Unexpected messes seemed to spring up all around me and there was never enough whatever this week.

It’s all about the frame.

This past week has been full of unexpected things but, at most it’s been inconvenient. And a bit self-inflicted by my lack of planning and that’s all. My choices to relax on one day mean I have to double up other days.

Christmas season is over-commercialized as it is and when we are stressed our anxiety kicks I to overdrive. We start comparing our lives to those on social media, the crafting site with the perfect bows and ribbons, or the holiday movie that always ends with a couple under the mistletoe and an engagement ring.

My life isn’t like that and it’s not supposed to be. If I try to put the commercial frame around my life, it will be ill-fitting and make everything I love look awkward.

If I put the frame that is supposed to be around my life where it belongs, then I can see things clearly.

So many times I have caught myself believing that my inconvenience could be a catastrophe. It is at those moments when I step back and check which frame is hanging up. If it’s the commercial frame, I take it down. If it’s the correct frame, I stop and remind myself that I am so very blessed.

Scripture tells us that we as believers are to be salt and light, a city on a hill, bearing the image of Christ. I cannot do this if my framework is out of kilter.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven, (Matthew 5:13-16, NIV).

My attitude, perspective, and remembering my purpose, matters. How I act matters.

Best Beloved, the honest question to ask is, how I am I framing things? Whose view is most important? Let us both adjust our frame and shine bright for Christ.

Blessings to you and yours,

oxoxox

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Izzy and me

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock (Isaiah 26:3-4, ESV).

It’s been almost ten years since I was involved in Bible Study Fellowship, affectionately known as BSF. I was unemployed, hungry for Scripture study, and the opportunity to grow with a small group of women; BSF fit all of the niches I needed during that season. We studied Isaiah in depth, a “precept-upon-precept” kind of study.

I am still in contact with a number of the women I met during that season. I have cheered them on during their journeys and celebrated their milestones. My favorite part of those days included the richness of the fellowship, but above all, it was the time in the Bible that meant the most.

Strength comes from the Lord

The chapters in Isaiah were like having a muscle-building protein shake. I was building my spiritual muscles and learning how to stand strong in the midst of troubles. Each word and verse brought power to my soul.

The Message by Eugene Peterson says it this way, But you, Israel, are my servant. You’re Jacob, my first choice, descendants of my good friend Abraham. I pulled you in from all over the world, called you in from every dark corner of the earth. Telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side. I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’ Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you (Isaiah 41:8-10 MSG).

Stamina

As I continued to study Isaiah, I found that my strength in the Lord allowed me to continue when I didn’t know I could. I found the stamina described in Isaiah 40, Have you not known? Hav you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV).

God gave me what I needed, when I needed it, He still does. A lesson I had to learn daily, when I studied Isaiah this truth washed over me, again and again. He meets me with the exact portion my soul needs to stay on the path He has prepared for me.

Struggle and Despair

As I battled my then-undiagnosed anxiety, I found that the more I read and reflected on Isaiah, the less I felt alone in my battle. I drew courage from Isaiah 42:16-17, And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them (ESV).

I was reminded that there was more than struggle and desperation in front of me. In my battles I was reminded there was also hope.

Hope and Joy

Each week as I went farther and father into the book of Isaiah, I found verses I had heard before, but never truly understood. I found encouragement that I was not alone in my situation. The Israelites had also forgotten Whose they were and the victory they could claim through Him.

But now listen, Jacob, my servant, Israel, whom I have chosen. This is what the Lord says—he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you. Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.

Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’; others will call themselves by the name of Jacob; still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and will take the name Israel. “This is what the Lord says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.

 Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come— yes, let them foretell what will come. Do not tremble, do not be afraid.  Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one,” (Isaiah 44:1-8, NIV).

Can you feel the momentum from these verses? It’s like the best half time speech a coach could give His players. God is saying, “Did you forget? I am in charge. I can do things no one else can do. You’re going to be so glad to have been a part of My team. You’re going to want to change your name, tattoo my Name on your hands. No one else can claim the victory I know is coming. No one else can tell the future but Me. So whose team are you going to join? The world’s team or Mine?”

Promise

“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior (Isaiah 43:10-11, ESV).

God gave us a purpose to share His story, His love with the world. How amazing to me, that He would want to use me, to use us, to share this Love Story with other people. By the time I had finished studying Isaiah I felt like I had taken a Ph.D level course. I was in awe, blessed, encouraged, and it was hard to describe the love I felt God had for me.

Best Beloved, how long has it been since you were fired up about your faith? What a wonderful time of year to be reminded of all God has done for us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Take some time and read a chapter in Isaiah each day. Study the verses and let them steep into your soul. The mark it can leave can change your perspective forever.

Blessings,

oxoxo

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Harmonizing

December 1st was the first Sunday of Advent. It is officially time to sing Christmas music in church, one of my favorite times on the church calendar. I memorized the melody as soon as I could sing the lyrics to the hymns.

When I was in high school I joined the choir as an alto. It was difficult at first, to let go of the melody of songs. I wanted to sing in the soprano section; it was more well known to the listener’s ear. It was also the part that got the most notice.

Mr. Myren, our choir director, was gifted with finding the perfect harmony within our choir. I used to watch him as he stood three people next to each other to have them sing, which often sounded fine. He would then switch where two of them were standing and find a stronger, clearer sound.

As an adult, I recognize the beauty of each part of the music; the clear notes of sopranos, the deep resonance of the bass section, the sweet harmony of the tenor and alto sections. I am grateful for the part I have been given to sing, the role I have to fulfill. It’s what God created for me to do.

Come, let us shout joyfully to the Lord,

shout triumphantly to the rock of our salvation!

Let us enter His presence with thanksgiving;

let us shout triumphantly to Him in song.

Come, let us worship and bow down;

let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For He is our God,

and we are the people of His pasture,

the sheep under His care (Psalm 95:1-2,6-7, HCSB).

This Christmas season I am hopeful that as I fulfill my part, I will complete the tasks He has given me with joy. Whether I am in the foreground or the background in the world’s eyes does not matter to me. I pray instead, I will know I am filling my heart and soul with the joy of Heaven because I have been obedient to the Choir Director, Jesus Himself.

Best Beloved, what part are you singing this season? Are you singing to hold the spotlight or are you singing to give praise? Has your voice joined the choir only to sing the notes in a flat key because your heart doesn’t care? What would help you find the joy this season? Is it watching the snow fall while drinking hot chocolate? Is it watching Christmas television specials or movies? Baking with your kids?

I pray you will find your joy again and sing brightly and clearly the part He has given to you.

I will praise You, Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations. For Your faithful love is higher than the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. (Psalm 108:3-4, HCSB).

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Anxious much?

It has been five years since I was diagnosed with severe anxiety. Since my diagnosis, I have had a year of counseling and been put on medication. I have worked on recognizing my triggers and countering them with ways to redirect my thinking.

This past week I have been battling old demons that I thought were long dead. The thing about anxiety is that many of the demons are like an immortal Dracula–never truly dead and always ready to suck out your very life. Some of the things that have reared their heads include:

  • Irrational thinking
  • Fear of failing
  • Wild running in my mind- like a stampede of irrational thinking
  • Insomnia
  • Severe exhaustion
  • Constantly checking to see if I have done everything on my self-created list
  • Fear of disappointing someone (spouse, friend, coworker, supervisor)
  • Fear of being left by someone

When I am in the middle of an anxiety tailspin, I become short-tempered, easily agitated, prone to not wanting to engage with anyone, and desperate for a cool, dark, quiet place. Not really the best situation as one comes into the holiday season.

Last night I went to bed at 7:15 – something I have not done in forever. When my hubby came to bed about three hours later, I was so agitated by his presence I left our room and slept in the guest room. I couldn’t explain why I was leaving, I just knew I had to leave.

In times like these (which happen more than I want to admit), I make a simple plea to God to take the anxiety away and I push as hard as I can against the negative thoughts. I have given nearly forty years to anxiety and now that I know that i don’t have to live that way, I want to claim the next forty years to the freedom I can have through Christ.

Best Beloved, what have you been holding onto for too long? Hand it off to God, Dear Ones. And if it comes back again, hand it off again. And again. Keep handing it off until it remains in His hands.

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Labels 🏷

Conservative, Liberal, Progressive. Straight, Gay, Queer, Transgender. Vegan, Vegetarian, Meat-Eater. Atheist, Agnostic, Christian, Muslim, Jewish. Whenever we meet someone we put a label on him or her as if the person is an item in a grocery store and we need to know in which aisle they belong.

In John 4, Jesus went through Samaria on His return to Galilee. Scripture states, “He had to pass through Samaria,” a route normally avoided by Jews due to their dislike of the Samaritans. Jesus “had to go” through the region because He had a divine appointment with the woman at the well.

When Jesus met her, it was the middle of the day, the sun shone hot on the stones surrounding the well. Only the cool air coming up the well shaft made it semi-bearable. No one would dare be out doing chores at this time of day. But she was. This nameless woman who had been labeled and shamed by the people of Sychar because of her choices.

She had been married multiple times and was now living with a man. She was tired of the whispering and the glares she endured from the people, especially the women, so she came at mid-day, when no one else would be at the well. Yet, here was this Jewish man, she could only imagine the comments and ridicule she was going to receive. Squaring her shoulders for the torment, she approached the well, ready for an argument.

Jesus did not criticize her, instead he simply asked her for a drink (John 4:7). Instead of kindness, she met his request with attitude. Jesus didn’t respond to the baiting, instead He spoke in truth. If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water (John 4:10).

She criticized Him, asking if He was more important than Jacob, who was revered by the Samaritans. She again, was daring Jesus to get into a debate of whose faith was right. Again and again- Jesus did not take the bait, He just spoke the truth. He asked to speak with her husband, knowing she did not have one. Not to judge her, but to call into the light what was being hidden in the shame and darkness.

He looked past the labels society had put on her. Instead, Jesus saw a woman with a heart hungry for healing, restoration, redemption, and true community without the labels. Soon, this woman who avoided her own community within Sychar, was running into town, to tell them to come and meet this man at the well (John 4:28-30).

It wasn’t the religion the Samaritans followed that brought her into redemption. It was the community of Christ, the relationship with Christ that made her whole. Made her clean.

Only God can do that.

Best Beloved , we are all within a tomb, buried, dead. Without the transformative power of Christ through His own death, burial, and resurrection, we can never attain the freedom from society’s labels that we seek. We can never be given the most precious “label” of all REDEEMED.

We can know the forgiveness and the peace the woman knew that day in Sychar. All we have to do is ask Jesus for it and receive it. Then we will know the feeling the nameless woman knew that Glorious Day.

I was buried beneath my shame

Who could carry that kind of weight?

It was my tomb ‘Til I met You

I was breathing but not alive

All my failures I tried to hide

It was my tomb ‘Til I met You

You called my name and I ran out of that grave

Out of the darkness into Your glorious day

You called my name and I ran out of that grave

Out of the darkness into Your glorious day

Now Your mercy has saved my soul

Now Your freedom is all that I know

The old made new, Jesus, when I met You

You called my name and I ran out of that grave

Bridge

I needed rescue, my sin was heavy

But chains break at the weight of Your glory

I needed shelter, I was an orphan

Now You call me a citizen of Heaven

When I was broken, You were my healing

Now Your love is the air that I’m breathing

I have a future, my eyes are open

‘Cause when You called my name

I ran out of that grave

Out of the darkness into Your glorious day

You called my name and I ran out of that grave

Out of the darkness into Your glorious day

(Glorious Day- written by Kristian Stanfill, Jonathan Smith, Jason Ingram, Sean Curran)

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