Walls and Bridges

Growing up, there was an older couple I used to know who treated each other with compassion and kindness. Each time they spoke to each other, their words would build up their other person. Words like, thank you, I appreciate you, I love you, I forgive you,  and so on, would continue to instill value and worth into their spouse. By using these words they not only encouraged and established a strong marriage, they built a beautiful legacy for their children and grandchildren. 

Another couple of roughly the same age, were in a strained relationship. They did not choose to resolve conflict, but instead the wife would remember every slight, every time she felt hurt by her husband. When they had a disagreement, it would often turn into a full-fledged yelling match. She would pull out all of the past pain she felt and let it fly like arrows at his heart to try to inflict as much pain on him as she could. Their legacy was such a tale of woe and caution that many times their grandchildren would not visit because of the battlefield their house had become. 

I have watched people be taken apart by critical words spoken by those who were supposed to love the other person. Words that cut deeply, were spoken out of ignorance, and a lack of caring nearly destroyed the receiver of those criticisms. Due to these continued assaults on the heart, relationships that should have lasted a lifetime were torn down and all but destroyed. Because of words.

The words we speak can do one of two things, they can build walls that cause us to protect our hearts at all cost. These walls are high and thick, never letting in another, never allowing pain in, but also never allowing in trust, love, or faith. 

Or we can speak words that build bridges. Words that unite, drawing together two people, maybe two families, to find common ground, mercy, understanding, forgiveness, and grace to share throughout their lives. 

During the trials of Job, Job cried out, How long will you torment me and crush me with words (Job 19:2)? Job understood that while words may be mere wind, they have the ability to cut someone deeply. Look at the canyons of the west. Many were carved with water, but the marks of the wind are unmistakable. They whittle away at the rock until pieces are missing and the rock is changed forever. 

It is easy to know who the people are that have been whittled away by negative words. When they hear positive words, even if they are spoken by someone who truly loves them, they cannot be received, the previous damage has been too great. 

But oh, the precious sweetness of kind words. Proverbs 16:24 says it well, Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the taste and health to the body.  Hopefully, we’ve all experienced words like these. Words that warm the heart, encouraging the hearer, and instill a sense of blessing on them. Sadly these can be rare in a person’s life. So rare in fact, that when they are heard they are treated like lies and dismissed. 

When I was growing up, my mom would remind me to use my words with care. She knew that the childhood chant of sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me was not true. Words made a difference to everyone who heard them. When I became a believer, I found my mom’s wisdom backed by Scripture. Matthew 12:36 says, I tell you that on that day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. 

Ouch. 

The words to a popular song have been echoing in my head the last few days. The chorus says, Words can build us up, words can tear us down, build a fire in our hearts or put it out. So let my words be life, let my words be true, I don’t want to say a word unless it points the world back to You. (Hawk Nelson- Words). 

O Best Beloved, what things have you said when you were angry, hurt, tired, even hungry, that should be repented? What are you doing in your relationships ? Are you helping to build walls? Or bridges? Are you trying to leave a legacy that encourages others to do the same, or are you going to be held up as an example of caution as how not to treat others? 

Before you speak another word today, pray. Ask God to season your words with kindness, mercy, Grace, and compassion. To help you weed out the words that damage our ever-living-never-dying souls. God has given you tools in your words, it’s up to you to decide how to use them. 

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happy days

Today started out like Oscar’s can was kicked; grouchy, irritable, and not very likely to improve.

Then I had the chance to visit with a couple friends and learn some good news about life decisions being made. My heart started to sing. Gratitude can make all the difference. I began to hum and sing and smile much more. It’s amazing the way gratitude can lighten the heart and the spirit.

I felt much like David did, I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; before the “gods” I will sing your praise. I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness, for you have so exalted your solemn decree that it surpasses your fame. When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me. …(Psalm 138). 

This sense of being emboldened fills my spirit, helps me square my shoulders, and prepare for the rest of my day. My joy begins to bubble over and I begin to sing O Happy Day, Happy Day . . .I’ll never be the same. 

How is your heart today, O Best Beloved? Are you troubled or joy-filled?  Can you sing with Joy for the day of your salvation? It may just hit your reset button in your soul.

Blessings.

The greatest day in history, death is beaten
You have rescued me
Sing it out, Jesus is alive
The empty cross, the empty grave
Life eternal, You have won the day
Shout it all, Jesus is alive
He’s alive

[Chorus:]
Oh happy day, happy day
You washed my sin away
Oh happy day, happy day
I’ll never be the same
Oh happy day, happy day
You washed my sin away
Oh happy day, happy day
I’ll never be the same
Forever I am changed

When I stand, in that place
Free at last, meeting face to face
I am Yours, Jesus You are mine
Endless joy and perfect peace
Earthly pain finally will cease
Celebrate Jesus is alive
He’s alive

[Bridge:]
Oh what a glorious day
What a glorious way
That You have saved me
Oh what a glorious day
What a glorious name
Jesus!

Lyrics by Tim Hughes

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rest and delivery

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength,
    but you would have none of it.
 You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’
    Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses’ (Isaiah 30:15-16). 

Our salvation/delivery comes from resting, leaning into Jesus for restoration of our souls, minds, and bodies. Yet we choose not to be delivered- we’d rather rush around.  Verse 16 says we’ll escape on fast horses, but even the horse tires and needs rest.

Resting means trusting someone else with the events and activities around us–that they will be able to handle it, instead of us trying to hurry, hurry and do more than we should be doing. Twenty-four hour businesses feed this kind of “constant” busyness. Our previous generations recognized their time for work and rest with defined hours of work and rest, of boundaries and balances.

Our generation has bought the lie that we need more, when God keeps saying, “Trust Me, I am enough.” Will we hear Him?

O Best Beloved,  we cannot be at peace if we are not also at rest from time to time.

So stop. Put it down, put it aside, turn off the TV which promotes the “more” mentality.

Be still (Psalm 46:10) and rest. If it means taking a nap, do it. If it means taking a leisurely walk, go ahead.  Just exhale and trust that God is enough. His ways are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4). Release your to-do list and put it in God’s hands. He is big enough to handle it.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;

    therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all who wait for him!

 People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. . . Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it”  (Isaiah 30:18, 19, 21). 

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The letter A

During the first century A.D. when crafters and builders were creating new buildings they would mark the stones they were going to use with the word dokimos which meant “approved.” In other words, it was a good stone to use for building. If it was not to be used the builders would mark a the letter A on it, meaning adokimos or “rejected.”

One person could mark the stone with the letter A and it would no longer be worth anything, the value would be lost. All because of a letter.

Hester Prynne, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, also wore the letter A, to show that she was cast aside because of her sins. She was marked by that letter A all her life, devalued, even with much to offer, all because she wore the letter A.

Jesus was called the Cornerstone of the Church, First Peter 2:2-8 states that Jesus is the cornerstone that the builders rejected (verse 7).  But while the world marked Jesus with the letter A, Scripture says that He is “a chosen and precious cornerstone” (verse 6).  Jesus was perfect, without blemish, He didn’t have to keep the status the world gave Him. 

We can wear the A society gives us for being too tall, fat, short, skinny, plain, pretty, smart, or foolish. OR we can embrace who God made us to be- on purpose, for a purpose. God is the Master Builder, His purposes and plans are perfect.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).

We will always be told that we don’t measure up by the world, but God’s “yard stick” uses Heavenly measurements, made perfect through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.

O Best Beloved,  let us cast off the letter A and embrace the life God has called us to live.  Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created (James 1:16-18).

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seekers

One of the games my sons loved to play was Hide-and-Seek. In the beginning their hiding places were pretty basic; behind a chair, under a blanket, often with a bit of giggling while trying to keep quiet.

As time went on, their hiding places became more elaborate. I’d find them in the trees, in the laundry hamper, places I wouldn’t normally think of looking. As young men, they don’t hide physically, but they do hide emotionally and spiritually.

When our insides are tender and worn from the battering of the world we tend to tuck our hearts deeper inside. We are less likely to allow someone to get close, we don’t want to risk further damage to our hearts. But when we tuck our hearts away, we miss out on the healing God offers to us.

We know God will seek us (Genesis 3:8-9), at the same time God longs to be sought out too. When we are weary from battle we can come to Him and seek His wisdom and His healing.

God designed our hearts, He knows what is going on inside of them, even when we don’t understand it. Just like He knew where Adam and Eve were when they were hiding, God also knows where we are hiding our hearts and why.  We aren’t really hiding anything.

Matthew 6:33 was one of the first verses I learned in Sunday School.The words have floated in and out of my mind so many times in the last 40 years. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Seeking God first, knowing He has the best for me in mind, means that I can trust Him with my heart, my mind, myself, and know that He will care for me.

It’s when I try to keep things from Him that I become a target for the other seeker, the enemy. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). This seeker is looking to destroy me, while God is seeking to heal me.

My heart may be tender, but that tenderness is because I am growing more like Jesus each time I embrace what God is doing in my life. When I try to hide I miss the opportunity to grow.

 

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surrounded

I recently took a new position at work. One of the perks of this position is I have a desk I don’t have to share with other co-workers. As I settled into my new place, I found my name card and posted it on my cube along with other items of encouragement.

Seeing words of Scripture and quotes that cause me to pause, has already brought me to a deeper place today. The words remind me Whose I am (Romans 15:13), my purposes (Matthew 6:33), and my desires. I find myself centered and settled when I see these notes.

The words around me reminded me of the passage in Deuteronomy 6 called the Shema. The words are a calling to us, as we live our lives, to weave God into our daily experiences.

 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

These words are repeated again in Deuteronomy 11:13-21: 

So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul—  then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them.  Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you.  Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

Why else would God remind His people again and again to do these things? Because we are forgetful people. We need to be surrounded by His words, His promises, His answers to prayer.

We need to be surrounded by God to continue to walk in the manner He has called us to (Ephesians 2:10). When we are around things that bring our mind to God, we are reminded that we belong to God. We are His children.

Praise His name for the blessing of His written Word.

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bleakly beautiful

I have been reading through Bleak House by Charles Dickens for a while, slowly taking in the story. It is full of characters, sub-characters, walk on extras, and a clear commentary of the judicial system in England during that time.

One character had really caught my eye and heart. Lady Dedlock is a woman who has married into a family of history, social standing, and reverential respect from the community. Her name fits her situation though. She is dead-locked by her past. She cannot suppress her history, though she speaks very seldom, almost in fear that her pain will come tumbling out of her mouth if she speaks freely.

I have spent a lot of time trying to figure her out. Trying to decide is she so regal that she is above everyone else? Or is she so dead in her heart that she cannot engage with others in a true relationship? When her past becomes known, she flees not wanting to bring disgrace to her husband. Finally she is found by Inspector Bucket and her illegitimate daughter, Esther, but it is too late. Lady Dedlock has died outside the cemetery where her former lover, Esther’s father, has been buried.

She died just moments before she learned that she was forgiven. She died believing she was unforgivable, when the law was actually coming to offer her grace.

We are living our lives like Lady Dedlock. We may appear to be above it all, but really we are dead and locked away inside. We believe we are without hope, all is bleak. When really, God is offering His amazing love and grace to us, if we would just turn toward Him.

That sweet, sweet moment when we turn to receive the free, incredible gift of forgiveness is breathtaking and beautiful. We can finally lift our heads, breathe deeply, and see the world as God intended, through His Heavenly eyes. We are blessed, encouraged, loved, free.

O Best Beloved, what is your heart like right now? Is it dead, broken, burdened, and bleak? Just turn around. Face God, be honest, He already knows what you have done. It doesn’t have to be dramatic, just speak your heart (1 John 1:9). God, I blew it. I have made a mess of my life, and I admit now that I need You. Please forgive me, come into my life and into my heart. 

At that moment your heart will turn from bleak to beautiful.

“…because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
 to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

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Eve, Proverbs 31, and me

As Christian wives we all know that to be like Eve is not a compliment. We see her as part of The Fall and the reason we have child-birth pains. It was through her sin that God’s redemption would come through Christ’s death. Nope. Being like Eve is not a compliment.

Proverbs 31. Whew, that chapter has brought more grief and frustration to women than probably any other. We compare ourselves to this amazing woman, wife, and mother who tirelessly serves her family and community, all while running her own business. Yeah, she is the unattainable woman.

And then there is me. I am a sinful person covered by the blood of Christ and given a new life all because of His sacrifice for me. I want to be an amazing woman, wife, and mother, but I can blow any chance of that within ten minutes of getting out of bed in the morning.

What can I do? I can take down the pictures of the unattainable woman, put away the “before” pictures of who I used to be, and embrace my life where I am.

God is working in me. I am facing the sorrows, the pain I have caused, the regret of failing and striving to leave it at the foot of the Cross. I can continue to seek help through my counselor. I have had some great breakthroughs with my anxiety. It is just a shadow that occasionally shows itself and then quickly diminishes.

I am putting away the facade. I don’t have it together. I have ugly days when my soul feels like it’s wearing dirty clothes and no makeup. Other days, I feel like Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face wearing the red dress.

My marriage. Some days its amazing, some days prove we are still on this side of Heaven, where we both have work to do. My husband isn’t a saint, but neither am I. I have things I have done for years that I am owning for the first time. If I want to be free and healed, I need to recognize where I have been tied down to the wrong things, thoughts, and actions.

By God’s amazing Grace I am learning to forgive myself. But I am also learning how to hold myself accountable. I cannot be in this same place next year, let alone next month.

Eve may be in my DNA, but so is the Cross. Romans 5:17 says it best; For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

O Best Beloved, are you tired, like me, from trying to reach for a status, position, role, that you were never created to meet? Join me and stop reaching, stop straining. Put down the ladder. Put it all at the Cross. Let Jesus have it. We cannot become the women of God we were made to be when we keep trying to be the woman God made someone else to be. 

My husband once described me as A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10). While I want to be that kind of wife for him, I also want to be the daughter of God I was created to be. If I succeed at the latter, I will become the first. 

May it be so.

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locks and keys

When I was a young believer, I struggled so fiercely with the weight of all the things I had done wrong. I believed that my sins were of a different caliber, somehow worse than any sin ever committed by anyone else. Therefore my sins were unforgivable by God.

I was wrong.

My hurts were deep; both the self-inflicted hurts and the ones inflicted by others. I couldn’t imagine a kind of love, a kind of grace that would cover these terrible things. I had lived so long with the weight of these sorrows that when I finally was freed through the death and resurrection of Christ, I still kept myself in the chains.

It wasn’t until I studied Galatians and read Paul’s words that I began to recognize who I wasn’t and who I was through Christ.  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.  I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing” (Galatians 2:20-21).

Still the chains pulled at me like a phantom weight. Could I really be free? Released? Redeemed? New?

Then I turned the page to Galatians 3- I felt like Paul’s words were a “Gibbs’ smack” on the back of my head. Read these chain breaking words and see if you feel the same.

 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.  I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?  So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Galatians 3:1-6).

I was still living my life in the Law with consequences already paid in full by Christ. When Jesus had opened my cell door wide open, broken the lock, and thrown away the keys and yet I still lived bound to my small room. What was I thinking?

Over time I have caught myself trying to re-enter the jail cell by living according to the Law. Each time I realized where I was I would shake my head and leave to return to my life of Grace. The verse from John 8:36 resonating in my heart, So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (bold mine).

So Best Beloved, where do you stand today? Are you still standing in your jail cell with the door wide open? Have you forgotten your freedom?

Come with me, come with Jesus, embrace this amazing Grace and amazing Freedom we have when we receive His amazing Forgiveness.

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more

I recently received an email with the question, “Are you hungry?” as part of the hook to get me to open it. I deleted it without opening the email. Besides my internal answer of, “no,” I didn’t want to get pulled into a useless email that would try to make me feel dissatisfied with my situation.

The world is full of ways to bring a sense of dissatisfaction to us. We are encouraged to want more food, more clothes, new cars, bigger houses, new spouses, all of it is used to tempt us to think we don’t have enough. That we should not be content with all of what we have.

In the First Century Church they faced physical trauma because they chose Christ. Today, we are more apt to be attacked in subtle ways. The enemy has changed his tactics and now uses the events in our lives to keep us busy focused on the things that do not matter, to keep us from focusing on the things that do.

As believers, we need to remember that we will always long for more. That’s how God designed our hearts, to yearn for more. More of Him, more of Christ, more of our relationship with God. We need to remember that the world will try to distract our eyes and minds to focus on what will not last. We cannot continue to be conquerors through Christ if our focus is on the mortal.

No, our eyes must focus on the eternal.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:37).

 

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