straight up

I passed a garbage truck the other day. The truck was moving from one place to another taking with it the junk, the refuse, the useless items from each house and removing them forever.

My mind started to wander and I thought of hoarders, their houses filling with items that had lived out their usefulness, items that held emotional connection. Their houses filling more and more until there was only a path to walk. A path that went back and forth, never changing, never altered.

When we accept Christ, He comes in like the garbage truck, taking away all the junk, all the remnants of our old lives, removing them forever. But some of us still live like hoarders. We haven’t realized that our houses are clean: the refuse, the sorrow, the broken things are gone now. Christ has come in, clean us up and set everything right.

Just like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress losing his burdens at the Cross, we too, no longer have to live bent over by the weight of what we used to be. We are free. Free to let go, to never pick it up again.

Free to dance, free to smile, free to sing, free to love, free to forgive. Free. Just like the woman in Luke 13:10-13, when we are released from our burdens we stand up straight. The weight and oppression of our past is gone.

As my counseling continues I am finding myself standing straighter. My old junk, my old worries, sorrows, sadness, and feelings of failure are being carried away. Being thrown away. Jesus has carried my junk away.

Straight up. That is the way I pray you will stand. Not straight up in defiance, but straight up in freedom. Celebrating the amazing gift of grace given to us by Jesus.

When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”  Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. (Luke 13:12-13 bold mine).

Amen and amen.

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leave it alone

In the past couple weeks I managed to come in contact with poison ivy. I don’t know where it was, but I can tell you where it is. On my face, my arms, my waist, my legs, my feet. There isn’t a place that doesn’t itch mercilessly. I have used tubes of anti-itch cream, had steroid shots, ice packs, you name it to try to stop the itching.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I received was, “Do not scratch with your nails.” I understand the reasoning, but sometimes nothing else will take the itch away except a scratch.

Every time I begin to scratch I hear, Leave it alone. Don’t scratch, you’ll make it worse. Yet, I succumb.

When it comes to the things that are nailed to the Cross; the junk we carried, the regrets, the shame, sometimes we go back and take it off the Cross and hold it. We turn it around in our hands, maybe hold it close because it’s so familiar. When we do this, it begins to fill our minds again with the pre-Grace life we led.

We need to learn to leave it alone. It is nailed to the Cross for a reason. It was meant to stay there. Not be taken down again and again, leave it alone.

Tell a child to leave alone the shiny toy, the chocolate cake, and what does the child hear? Play with the shiny toy, eat the chocolate cake.

We have a broken sense of listening when it comes to things we want to do versus what we are told not to do. Adam and Eve had the same problem. God told them to not touch the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and what was one of the first things they did? Touch the tree.

We need to remember to leave alone that which God has dealt with through Christ. Colossians 2:13-15 (bold mine) says it best,  When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

So let us remind ourselves daily to leave it alone. What God has nailed to the Cross stays on the Cross. We bear it no more, Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O’ my soul*. 

*It is Well With My Soul- hymn by Horatio Spafford

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Who do you think you are?

Many songs on the radio are about how we perceive ourselves. Are we guilty? Are we flawless? Are we without hope? Are we victors? Do we see our worth based on the magazines, television shows, movies? The words of others? Do we know who we are?

As I continue through my counseling, I am seeing things about myself that I don’t like, but I am also seeing things I never ever, ever, imagined about myself. I am seeing what my husband has said all along, that I have value and worth. That I matter.

I know that God is not a merciless judge waiting to declare my sentence. I know that in my head and I know that in my heart. The difference is that there is a whisper in my ear that sounds much like my own voice, telling me I am broken, unworthy, a failure. It is the voice of my past being drudged up by the enemy. Only he would bring up the past that Jesus has erased.

Contrast those distorted thoughts with these verses:

I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10 bold mine).

God has clothed me in His righteousness. I am not the disaster I used to be- Jesus took those things to the Cross and then to grave. When He rose victorious over death, He left my sins in the grave. They are dead and I am alive in Christ.

Who do I think I am? I am a perfected work-in-progress. I am perfected because of Christ, I am a work-in-progress because I am on this side of Heaven.

God has an incredible love for me, I am learning to accept that love for me as the reality of who I am. I am priceless, precious, valued, and treasured by God. My task is to embrace this in my life. It’s the Truth of who I am.

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thrown away

In the past two weeks I have watched families hold newborns and let go of loved ones. I have read loving tributes and wondered how the survivors were going to continue without their parents’ wisdom to guide them. I have wondered how the new parents were going get enough sleep and if they ever knew they could love a tiny person so deeply.

These events have made me think. It’s time to clean. I am getting rid of the things that I have carried for too long. Hurts, pain, sadness, strife, regrets, shame, guilt, and anger.

It’s time to throw away the feigned injuries that are really just an inconvenience.  It’s time to be receptive to the words that correct our behavior and adjust our paths.

When we are brutally honest, we are only inconvenienced from time to time, but the people in our lives, they are precious. With us for only a moment and then gone, we can choose to allow the small things be seen through the fun-house mirrors as something big. Or we can throw away the drama of hurt and let go of what doesn’t matter and hold on to what does.

Words spoken in hurt, fear, or anger must be seen through eyes of Grace. I can either be the victim of imaginary injuries or the victor of real relationships. I can choose to hold grudges, or choose to throw them away so that my arms are open to hold close those who matter.

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 4:31-32).

It’s up to me. And it’s up to you. How will you respond? What will you throw away?

 

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missing

On Sunday morning we all gather together singing hymns, choruses, and echoing amens to the message given. We claim the God we ran to as prodigal sons and daughters. We celebrate His Love and Grace and nod our heads to what we hear.

Then comes Monday morning. The alarm clock didn’t go off, the dog didn’t wait to get outside, kids are whining after a big weekend and not enough sleep. You put on your game face, suck it up and suck it in, to push forward looking toward Friday evening already.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are more of the same battles. By Friday morning you are exhausted, willing yourself to just make it to the end of your work day.

Your thoughts wander to the whirlwind week and you try to find God. Where was He? Why didn’t He step into the chaos and calm it like He did the storm?

It’s as if God were missing from your week. How did you miss that? How could you miss the God of the Universe being absent from the events of the past days?

Our reality is simple. When we are intentional in asking God into our day-to-day we will find wisdom, clarity, peace, deeper joy and sweeter grace for those we love and work with in our lives.

When we don’t invite God in, when we decide to be self-sufficient, we immediately chose finite strength, finite knowledge, and put borders on places God has given us unlimited access through His Son.

Our foolishness in believing we can “do it all by ourselves” is what always pushes us over the edges we were never meant to go near. God in our day-to-day lives means we have an anchor, a hope, a direction, a clear guide to our lives.

The lie of self-sufficiency is what got Eve and Adam in trouble. Not just them, Moses, David, Samson, and me.

Seeking God first daily is not mean to be pious, it’s the point that I recognize I am not capable of doing this life on my own.

Missing God in my life is like missing my breath. I cannot live without Him. I may fake it, but at some point I need to draw Him in to survive. I am continuing to battle to seek Him daily, I know too well that I cannot live without Him.

 

 

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do be do be do

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1:22).

The book of James is full of in-your-face verses. James wasn’t going to waste time with fluff as he wrote to believers, not during the first century when the Church was being persecuted, and believers were being put to death for their faith.

In chapter 1 James dives in deep to remind us that it isn’t enough to just say what we believe, we need to put our hands and feet into it.  Our words are great, but as my husband would say, “Show me– don’t tell me.”

As believers, we are called to act, to love, to tell yes, but to show, to live-out-loud the Love and Grace offered by the God of the Universe.

We accept Christ into our own lives, then we listen to His direction to know where we are to go out into the world (Matthew 28:19-20). Then we act on that direction- love and serving others the way He did (Philippians 2:4-7). Then we listen some more for clarity and potential new opportunities to love and act in the lives others (1 Peter 4:10).

So, to paraphrase Sinatra, we do (act)-be (listen)-do (act)-be (listen)-do (act).”  Our relationship with God may be heard by our words, but it will always be remembered by our actions.

 

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the end result

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12).

As battles come and go in this life it is easy to fall apart and be overwhelmed by all that surrounds us.  The cacophony of voices telling us to stop or that we will fail so why continue, can block out the one quiet voice telling us to keep moving.

When we chose to believe there is more than our circumstances tell us, we choose to hope. Out of this hope comes a sense of joy, of possibility for more. This joy helps us dig deeper into our patience.

Patience is one of those “vegetable virtues.” The kind that are good for you, but still hard to swallow. When we are being afflicted by trials and tests we will find that we are actually stretching and growing our patience and endurance. Anyone who has trained for a sport event understands this experience. Training and building muscles means strain, struggle, and the decision to not give up. It’s the decision to endure for a better person.

Faithfulness to me brings to mind a rugby player in the midst of the game. Bloody, dirty, sweaty, tired, but never giving up. Still fighting to support his or her team members until the final whistle is blown.

When we engage in our faith we will find the end result is a stronger believer. We have battled through the trials and are still standing. We have believed God is bigger than what we faced and found it to be true.

 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5:1-5).

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what difference does it make?

During my Faith journey I have been challenged by people about why I have chosen to live my life as a Christian.

Why do you want to live like that?

You don’t get to do anything?

I bet you hate… (such and such) or (so and so) for doing (whatever).

I couldn’t live like that.

Or — how stupid are you to believe in that?

I haven’t always had great responses to the comments, some I have chosen to leave unanswered. But, here is my reality- my Faith in Christ is my bedrock, my comfort, my hope, and my blessing.

Jesus is the difference in my life between death and life, hopelessness and hope, shame and forgiveness, fear and freedom. Believing in a God who loved me enough to send His Son to die for me, this gives me such a sense of peace. Not foolish peace, but deep, rich peace.

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus matters because it changed the world. He offered what no one else did, a new life, a new hope. No hoops to go through, no tasks to accomplish, no sense of worrying if I was “good enough” to get in to Heaven. Instead, I am free to let go of my past, knowing that Jesus paid that debt.

Through Christ I experience the comfort that comes after deepest pains. Only through Christ will we fully understand Love, Grace, and Mercy.

First John chapter 5 describes it best:

 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.  This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,  for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.  For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

So what difference does believing Christ make in a person’s life?  It can be an eternal difference.

Being a believer includes serving people, great and small, in secret and in public. It’s the difference between a spouse holding a grudge and choosing to forgive angry words. It’s giving of ourselves, in the same ways that Jesus gave of Himself. For others, in humility, not for glory, honor, attention, and fame. For the sake of the lost, the broken, the hurting, and the lonely.

He gave and so I give. That’s the difference. It’s everything to me.

 

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absolute knowledge

One of the things about my Faith journey I love is the Truth I stand on every day. I don’t have to worry that my salvation will be lost if I make a mistake, fail, or don’t complete something . there are no steps to complete, no tasks to fulfill. I am a Child of God and that will not be taken away. Scripture is clear, 2 Timothy 2:13 says, if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. Hebrews 13:5 saysbecause God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

I can stand sure in my salvation because it is IT is sure. Jesus’ death and resurrection and my acceptance of Him into my life is what makes it sure. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:30). The phrase “It is finished” was the same language given to bills of sale that were paid in full. Jesus declared “Once for all” that His death would pay our debts.

This Faith I claim is one that stands strong, no matter the storm because the One I believe in is real, alive, and on the Throne of Heaven. I can face the struggles, embrace the triumphs, and reach out in Faith when I am weak because I have absolute knowledge that My Savior will be there for me. He loves me.

Best Beloved, He loves you, too.

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth (Job 19:25).

 

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paid

Recently, a radio station I listen to took a call from a woman who was trying to contact her utility company. The woman was surprised to get the radio personalities, not the bill paying system she was trying to contact.

During the conversation the woman disclosed that her utilities were about to be turned off due to her delinquent bill. The radio personalities decided to pool their resources and pay the woman’s past due amount. When they called her back and gave her the news that her bill had been paid in full she began to sing out praises to God for His goodness. She thanked the radio personalities and told them she wanted to hang up the phone so she could keep praising God.

The joy she felt bubbled over fully and you could feel how light she felt with the burden of debt gone from her shoulders and spirit. You could fairly hear her dancing around her kitchen at the news.

When we embrace the Grace offered by Christ through His death and resurrection we too, can feel the lightness of being, the joy bubbling over and the freedom that comes from putting that burden down. We are no longer bent over by the weight and shame.  We can stand tall, dance freely and sing our praises to the God who paid our debt in full.

I remember clearly that moment I accepted Christ’s gift of Grace. I could not stand still, I wanted to run, I started to sing and praise God with words that tumbled over one another so quickly I could hardly register what I was saying.

What about you?  Can you recall the day you heard God tell you your debt was paid in full? Do you remember the joy you felt? The Freedom?

If you haven’t experienced that kind of joy what is stopping you?  If you have questions contact 1-800-NEED-HIM or message me.

Blessings fellow sojourner! 

(for a fun song about that kind of freedom check out the Newsboys song “I Am Free” — it covers the emotions so completely.)

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