bald tires

A friend of mine is a skeptic. His common response is, “Yeah, right, ok,” when a situation might turn around.  When news comes his comment is often, “That doesn’t surprise me.” How can a person live in this world and not see it with eyes of wonder and awe? Recently, my friend started to see a counselor for some other issues in his life. I find myself praying that the counselor will help my friend break down the old, unhealthy ways and open his eyes to Hope.

Bald tires are worn down from over use, misuse, and they can no longer do the very thing they were made to do; move the vehicle safely from one place to the other. The thing is, you can’t get traction to get out of the mud and mire when you have bald tires. Too many people in my circle are hitting the gas and spinning their tires without getting anywhere. In the end, they are just spraying the people around them with mud and wasting gas. No true progress is made.

When we buy the lies of the enemy, when we believe the negative press of others (all of which contradict what God says of us) we become worn down, brittle, easily broken. We’ve all see the remnants of tires on highways, the driver of the car is unable to continue on his or her journey until the tires are replaced. We must bring it to Christ. Only He can restore us and rebuild us.

When we accepted Christ we were given new tires, a new heart, overall a new body (2 Corinthians 5:17). It’s funny, I know that verse so well and yet, I forget that it is true about me, too. I am not the broken young woman who believed the lies told about me and to me. I am now a woman who knows the Truth, the healing, the grace and forgiveness that only comes from Jesus. If I were a car, I would be fully overhauled with new everything- including tires.

Dear Ones, how are your tires? Be honest. Is it time to replace them? Is it time to come to Christ and ask for Him to overhaul your heart and your life with His resurrection power? There is so much more to your story, so much more to explore. So many miles left in your journey with God, but in order to travel, you’ll have to change your tires. O Best Beloved, don’t let another day go by. Let’s move with God and leave the enemy behind us.

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grace when I grumble

I was thinking about all the next few weeks have in store for my dear little family. I realized that my life was going to be changing drastically and our dynamic would never be the same. College bound freshman and high school senior are the two titles my sons hold now. My husband and I will celebrate our twentieth anniversary. How can that be? It’s a whole new season for me, for us all.

And then God reminds me, “I have been preparing you for this since before you even knew it would happen. You aren’t alone and I’m walking with you through it. Let’s celebrate what has happened here and how we have been busy training up these babies into men. Let’s celebrate how your marriage has survived more than you two thought you would. Where else would I have been but by your side as you stumbled and fell? Or stood proud and cheered? I am so happy for you my daughter. You are not the woman you were, you are becoming so much more.”

I remember to breathe and to pray and to praise Him for the grace He has given me when I grumble and for the blessing He has given when I stumble. I am under construction through the power and blessing of the Holy Spirit. I know there are days I want to fuss and complain, it’s natural to dislike what you cannot control. But I don’t have to grumble. I could stop and count the ways God has shown He is beside us the whole time.

I have kept a journal for over twenty-five years, throughout my faith journey. During my pregnancies and throughout the boys’ childhood I have written letters to them about their accomplishments, their growing experiences, and other precious times during their lives. I have not always written in my journals on a daily basis, but with enough frequency that God’s hand can be seen throughout it all.

I can choose to grumble that life isn’t what I want or I can embrace what life is now. I can hold onto God as He continues to lead me forward, my husband forward, and our sons forward. Forward to the lives He has been preparing for us since before time began.

Thank you Father, for the ways you have met our needs when we had no way out. Thank you for the ways you’ve watched over us, since our very conceptions, keeping my husband and me safely growing inside. Our sons, as they grew inside of me. Thank you for the ways that you restored our hearts when they were broken and tattered. Jesus, only you can go forward with our sons in these next months. Our parenting has come to this, standing on the sidelines, cheering still, but no longer running alongside. Protect these young men, may they never lose sight of your Amazing Grace for them. I pray for these next steps, taken alone, yet never alone. May they know You go with them, wherever they may go. 

May Your grace always be sufficient and my grumbling cease (2 Corinthians 12:9).

 

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I have seen the enemy

In the past few days I have watched the enemy slip into the boundaries I had forgotten to check.  He has slithered into the hearts of those who have grown dull to his touch and now he sits coiled, ready to strike. Strike relationships as the people involved struggle with difficulties. He strikes the fears of young men and women headed off to college, swelling small worries into huge anxieties. He injects his venom into the lives of those who are striving to break free of the past. It feels like we are caught in a pit of vipers and yet, it is just one. The enemy of Heaven.

I find my heart growing hard as I watch those who are in the dark make the same mistakes again and again. Choosing to follow the lost in the dark instead of turning to the Light and letting go of the broken things. Instead of asking for healing, restoration, and wholeness. They choose the dark (Ephesians 5:8-10).

As the days count down to Jesus’ return I find myself shaking my head and wondering when the lost will realize they are lost. I wonder and pray- but not often enough- for those whose time is running out. The friends and family I love dearly, who I pray will know the amazing grace we’ve all experienced.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:11-14).

I have seen the enemy manipulate those who are lost to appear lost forever, without hope, without the promise or opportunity for salvation. To have their chains broken, to be freed from the prisons they are in, to see beauty where ashes have been in the past. The enemy wants me to focus on the hopelessness of the scene in front of me. To forget that the family I love and the friends dear to me, who have not accepted Christ are still in need of Christ (no matter what their actions or words say about them).

But the enemy has forgotten-is hoping I have forgotten- that I have seen the glory of God.

I have seen the glory of God.

 I have seen the glory of God. 

I have seen the glory of God in the lives around me that have been changed, especially mine because of God’s amazing, ridiculous grace. I have seen the hand of God restore marriages, restore children to the parents. I have watched God move in the hardest hearts until they are softened and washed in the baptismal waters. I have seen the glory of God heal those who were certain to see the face of God soon. I have seen the glory of God at the graveside of loved ones who have been healed for all eternity by Heaven itself.

When I remember that I have seen the glory of God moving in my life and the lives of those around me, I remember that the enemy is exactly that. The enemy of Truth. The enemy of Healing. Of Light. He is the enemy of Freedom.

So I call out. I call out in the name of Jesus, praising His power, glory, dominion, and authority which were given to Him by Heaven itself. I sing the songs that remind me of who God is, what God can do. The songs that celebrate the gift that came to all mankind through the Cross. Jesus is victor over all, through all, and in all because of God’s plan to rescue us, redeem us, and restore us.

I have seen the glory of God and I will never be the same. O Best Beloved, where are you focusing your eyes? Are you looking at the enemy? Are you allowing your boundaries to weaken, to let in all of the sadness and hopelessness? Or are you throwing open your arms to Heaven and singing, Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me? I once was lost, but now I am found, I once was lost, but now I see.*

When we focus our eyes on Heaven, we are given the eyes of Christ to see the lost around us. To recognize the broken and lead them to healing. To gather the lost, the broken, the lonely, and bring them into the Truth of Christ (Isaiah 61:1-4). This is where I will set my eyes.

*John Newton (1725-1807) Amazing Grace 

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how dangerous are you?

As believers we are often told that we have the Power of God inside of us (greater is He that is in me, etc). We hear these words from the pulpit on Sunday and shout, “Amen” and nod our heads in agreement. But then, when we face difficulty and trials we forget what we just agreed; we forget the power we possess.

A wonderful friend of mine has always seemed to have the ear of God. When Maggie would pray, you knew God was listening. I found it both encouraging and frustrating. I knew if I really wanted to have God answer the prayer I would mention my request to Maggie. The frustration came when I felt like my prayers were bouncing off the ceiling. I believed my faith wasn’t dangerous or powerful enough to be heard.

In Acts 19:13-16 seven Jewish brothers were trying to cast out demons in the name of Jesus. The problem was, the demons weren’t afraid of the Jesus they claimed.  The brothers were trying to use a power they had heard of, not a power they knew personally. In the end, the brothers and ran screaming and naked from the place after being attacked by a demon-possessed man. Their faith was anything but dangerous.

Brothers and sisters, are we seeking to have a faith looks good on Sunday when we say, “Amen” and pass the offering plate? Or are we seeking the nitty gritty truth of the Gospel which includes reaching outside of our “approved” circles?

When the seven brothers of Sceva were attacked in Acts 19 the demon was clear, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you” (v. 15)? The brothers had been casting out demons by calling on the Jesus that Paul preached about, not the Jesus they knew. Where is the power? Where is the authority? Where is the command that comes from Heaven itself to leave and never return? It’s just a safe faith, one that can be picked up and put down as a person pleases. It is not a dangerous faith – capable of changing hearts, lives, and eternities.

Dear Ones, I admit that my faith is not always as strong as it can be, but I don’t ever want to have a faith that makes the demons scoff. I want the kind of faith and authority that comes from truly knowing and believing that God is moving in me and through me.

I want to be dangerous because my God is victorious. When we live this way we are living in the power of the Resurrection (Philippians 3:10). We have the ability to pray and have the devil flee (James 4:7). We are dangerous to the enemy and he is trying to make us think we can only have a safe faith.

O Best Beloved, let us remember the God we have placed our faith in- He is wild, He is strong, He can do more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)– and we need to start living and praying like it is true.

Who’s with me?

 

 

 

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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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