Confessions Of A Wayward Spirit

Wayward, yep, that’s me.

If you could sum me up with one word, it’s wayward. Synonyms for wayward are willful, headstrong, stubborn. Okay – that’s enough. Ouch. I don’t really want to sit and consider this truth recently revealed to me. It is too uncomfortable and too raw for me to see clearly right now. But there it is, just the same.

Don’t even try to tell me you don’t see it in me. Don’t try to talk me out of it. I know it’s true. The conviction of this truth was spoken by someone I trust and it’s rocked me to core. They didn’t quite say it like this, but man, God did. He hit me across the head and said, “Shelly, what are you doing?”

I have disguised this reality of who I am with acts of selfless service or moments of deep pain shared with intimate friends. My safety stayed in the story of who I am, but it also kept others at bay – at arms length. I don’t think I was trying to be manipulative or intending to lead others astray, but one’s heart does determine the actions that we choose, doesn’t it? Justify, wrestle and debate all you want – but there it is.

"But the bad things people say with their mouth come from the way they think. And that’s what can make people wrong. All these bad things begin in the mind: evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual sins, stealing, lying, and insulting people. These are the things that make people wrong. Eating without washing their hands will never make people unacceptable to God." Matthew 15:18-20 (ERV)

It’s not what we do that determines our acceptance to God, it’s what we think. What we meditate on. How we handle situations. The ways in which we really love one another. I can’t say it any other way, I need help.

I need help to love when my mind tells me not to. I need help to forgive when my heart tells me no. I need help to trust in the plan of God, rather than relying upon myself. My wayward, stubborn, forceful self.

I’ve tried for most of my life to control the pain that lies deeply in the recess of my heart and mind. I have done lots of inner work to grow. I have become more and more vulnerable and transparent about life. I yearn for intimacy and because I do, I am wayward. I lust, I long, I linger on thoughts that get in the way of my faithfulness to God.

I have found freedom but I haven’t found forgiveness.

I am still trying to earn my way. Working to change my thoughts. Change my behavior. Change my life. Change, change, change. I, I, I. Ugh! There’s my wayward self striving so hard to fix things that were never mine to fix in the first place. Rather than accepting the powerful truth to let go and have God handle the situation, I hold tightly with these hands so bound they choke my spirit.

God is the only one who knows someone else’s heart. It doesn’t matter what I see, my perception is skewed. God is the only one who can work in all things to bring about healing and hope. Not any new idea or thought I have. God is the one one who loves me more than I love myself. Yeah, love myself.

I see through my own brokenness – don’t you?

Do you find it difficult to love when you hurt so? Do you consider blaming others rather than looking in the mirror to your soul?  Do you think you can handle it all yourself and that you don’t need anyone?

Don’t believe that lie – not for one minute. I need you, and friends, you need me. We are a people who need. Who want. Who long. Who desire. It’s the human condition. The question is, are you a kindred wayward soul like me, or are you a faithful and faith filled overcomer?

I admit there are times I am a faith filled overcomer. But not today, not tomorrow and not in the future. Not while I keep lying to myself. Self deception is the worst of all. We believe things about ourselves that are not true. Then we act upon them, digging ourselves deeper in layers of fear. Before we know it, we fool ourselves and life an unauthentic, unproductive and joyless life.

It ends, today.

Right now I admit, for all to see, read and hear, that I am a wayward, stubborn and self serving soul. My life has been upside down for so long, I don’t even recognize  the right way up very often. I admit, I need help. My heart is so full of pain and insecurity, it’s difficult for me to hear positive, loving and kind words. I have turned from the rejection I fear will come – and try to nip it in the bud.

Self condemnation is a terrible place to live.

Don’t live there my friends – I know it well. It’s a lonely place to be. Give flight to your words and let them come. Speak the truth of where you are at. Confess whatever you might need to and walk this journey with me.

Let’s move into the direction of God’s love. Let’s ask Him to change our hearts and our minds. I don’t know how He will, but certainly know He can. He’s done it for me before, it’s time this wayward woman asked Him again.

Join me?

"Your word is like a lamp that guides my steps, a light that shows the path I should take." Psalm 119:105

 

The unspoken, broken.

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When words won’t come.

The searing pain that cuts so deep, bores into wounds laid bare long ago. Your tender heart is raw and exposed.. With each effort to speak the words of pain and prayer to the only One who can heal them – you find yourself – unspoken. Without a word. Without a way. Without a wandering moment of hope.

You ache to put into words the pain that torments your soul. You long to find solace in the strength of letting go. You  keep looking for the clearing up ahead – grasping for words to alleviate this pain.. For you know when you begin speaking words of truth, you often find light, you find grace, you find peace.

Time stands still.

At eternity seems to hold you as the quietness echoes in the caverns of your soul. Your broken, weary, grace starved soul. You wrestle to discern the longings that are buried there. The broken places of insecurity. The abandoned places aching to belong. The desperate cries of a wounded heart for the deepest need of all, love. Thoughts erupt from the darkness that you try to keep at bay. You find yourself asking the question that plagues a desperate soul – to speak, the unspoken, broken, “how long?”

Really, how long oh God?  How long will this pain endure? How long must I wait for your answer? How long until the days of liberation and deliverance? I know that your Mighty Hand can choose to deliver me in one breath, yet, here I am.

How long. Oh God? 

I can hear some of you whom are reading this now. “Don’t ask that question. Accept God’s provision for you. Don’t doubt the Lord. Keep your thoughts to yourself. Just pray and you will feel better. Crucify those doubts that keep you from growing.”Before you decide that I am asking a question that should not ever be asked – speaking of the unspoken, broken that lives within each of us. I’d ask you to open your Bibles to Psalm 13 and read along with me:

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.”

Friends, it is precisely our unspoken, broken that brings us into a deeper and authentic relationship with God. The Psalmist queries the LORD asking Him how long, well then, so can I and so can you. Don’t question whether you can doubt. Allow yourself to be in the moments that the LORD provides. Sit in the spaces where even the Lord is quiet. Go ahead, ask.

How long?

In your personal darkness it’s okay to ask God to look on you and answer you . Bring all your thoughts to God, every one. Your doubts, Your fears. Your insecurities. Let your heart be exposed and vulnerable. Choose to dig inside the scary places. Engage the painful waiting. Believe in the One who can save you.

Sometimes in our walks of faith and community, we see pain and struggle as weakness. We look for quick fixes. Easy answers. Familiar prayers. We celebrate victory while those who linger in darkness among us, remain on the outside. Let’s set aside the lie that we don’t suffer. Go ahead, ask – “how long?”

When I gaze upon Jesus hanging on the cross, I realize that God’s plan was never easy. Remember what the LORD did to sacrifice Himself for you. So -when the words don’t come for you, as they often don’t for me. When you find yourself weighed down by the old battles you once had victory over. When your unspoken, broken shackles your feet and you feel all hope is lost.

Look at Psalm 13 again, and know you aren’t alone.

Read that again. You are not alone. Do not fear the questions that you have within your soul. Let them out. Give them voice. Let the LORD answer them for you. Don’t give them power over you anymore. Be real, be authentic, be broken.

And speak it.

Trust in God’s unfailing love for you (Psa 13:5). Read that again, trust in God’s unfailing love for you. His love is for you. Not just me, or anyone else in your life. but you. YOU. It is God’s love that we trust in. Not how well you observe His laws, quote His Scripture or even how you might be serving others.

Gods love is His gift to you which can carry you forward. His love can lead you out. His love can empower you. His love can give you the words to speak your unspoken, broken. Don’t hide any longer my friends. Don’t let yourself be complacent anymore. It’s going to hurt, deeply, to rattle your comfort zone. It’s going to frighten to share those things you’ve been holding onto. Don’t let yourself miss out on the power of God.

You can keep on asking how long oh God – and He looks right back at you and ask, “how long, my child?” How long will you remain silent? Speak your unspoken, broken and let your God lead you to salvation.

How long?

Endless Days

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It’s been months now.

Days after day, turning into month upon month. Incessant needs swirling all around seemingly never-ending . Moments of nonstop activity. Times of restless energy. Interrupted by deep suffering. Yes suffering. Mourning. Grieving. Hurting. Moving through the darkness of a life left with unfulfilled dreams, unspoken love and sadness – knowing they were about to leave this world as they struggled to feel loved.

Heartbreaking.

So heartbreaking to realize that people go through this life feeling unloved. Not experiencing, not knowing, not accepting love in it’s purest form. Letting it sink down deeply into the recesses of one’s heart – a precious gift from one to another. Compassion. Forgiveness. Mercy – love.

Perhaps the love you experienced in your life, or are experiencing now, is not something you want to emulate, not something you want to give or even not what you want to receive. Maybe it’s not the reality you desire … yet here you are. Yearning for love, but your understanding of it, and perhaps your lack of experience in knowing what real love is, skews your perception, effects your ability to give and certainly to receive love. It’s like reaching for something you deeply desire – to find it falls between your grasp. Hoping that the next time you reach for it, you’ll snag it with your hands. So simple, huh?

No.

Loving and being loved is learned through the social framework and family structures in which we were born, how we were raised and to this point, how we have chosen to live our lives. Some of these things we have encountered may not be a personal choice. You didn’t chose to be the son or the daughter of an alcoholic, of an addict or of an abuser. There are things in your life that you have had absolutely no control over. None. You can’t change the beliefs, the choices or the addictions that others in your life wrestled with. The insecurities, the frailities or the demons that they faced. That was not your choice -you had no say in the matter.

None.

It shaped your reality. Helped form your identity. It can haunt you for eternity. You see my friend, love is. In it’s purest nature, love fills hearts, fills minds and fills souls like nothing else can. It breeds empathy, mercy and compassion. Allowing relationships to grow, to expand and go into places that were once guarded. Love heals. Love gives. Love hopes. This pure love is not something often familiar to many of us – or part of our daily interactions with those we care for. If you grew up in an alcoholic, an addictive or an abusive home, love is not always pure. Love is interpreted by the pain of the past, often difficult to break free from and facing daily struggles to find hope. To feel loved.

God says that love never fails.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Often when I read this I find myself questioning the reality and truth in these words. If love is truly all these things, then where exactly does the love I give or experience come from? In what form or fashion do I find myself defining love and how come it’s so much more different than how God defines it?

How come, God?

I’ve been asking this question for ages. Why? Maybe you have asked it a time or two yourself?  Depending on your life circumstances and personal experiences – you could be asking it often. A daily grind of combatting the deep truth that you really are loved and you are worth loving. I have news for you, you ARE. You are loved and your are worth loving! Don’t take my word for it.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

God loves you. He loves you so very, very much. He wants a relationship with you, so that you can begin to understand His love for you through His Son, Jesus Christ. The story of His love is true, and it’s so incredibly deep. We will talk more about the divine love of God, but not today.

Let’s keep it simple.

Not long debates about what you need to do, or not do. No exegesis of the Bible and every word where love is spoken. No. Simply put – the love of God. The love that combats all doubt. The love that confronts your fears. The love that has been poured out for you so that you might walk away from the pain and the brokenness of what you know and walk into the holiness of what is true. That deep love you yearn for is real and you can grasp it within your hands. It’s real. It’s true. It’s full of hope.

You are loved. No circumstance. No situation. No person can tell that you are not worth loving. Do not give them that power. Find rest in the assurance that you are loved. Drink a small drop of living water that recognizes that you are worthy. Cling to the truth that you matter. Don’t let go of who you are – God sent His Son for you because He loves you so – don’t give up. Feeling loved begins now.

Love yourself.

 

Which stage are you?


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About 6 months ago, we learned of a very close family member diagnosed with cancer. Not just any cancer, but a rare form of incurable cancer, stage 4. After a recent hospital stay and surgical procedures – the rays of hope dwindled as we learned that there is no surgery nor even one clinical trial that is available to try to help with this disease as it advances. In essence, we wait, we watch, we strive to comfort – and we grieve.

Oh, we grieve.

The life we have lived, the moments we missed, the time we cannot reclaim. We deeply grieve and we learn. What a process this is! You cannot force someone to deal with their own mortality. Whether they accept their fate or not, it effects all in the family unit. The ripples of denial of the current reality leak out – crushing  hopes and dreams of reconciliation and forgiveness.

How do we  face a prognosis you aren’t allowed to discuss? In what ways do you deal with loss in an environment that says over and over again, “this is not happening.” I’m sorry, so sorry, but it is happening. It’s happening all around us as we all grapple to cope with the days ahead. The cancer keeps moving along whether we accept it or not, changing lives and generations to come with how we choose to handle our final days.

We die, as we have lived.

Not facing the reality that stares us in the face. Refusing to admit the days to come, avoiding any discussion of what lies ahead. Denial has deep, deep roots entrenched in familial relationships that will forever be touched by it’s tentacles. In denial, we move through life, often feeling alone, desiring deep relationships but not knowing how to have one. Afraid to ask questions, for when we do, it rocks the boat and puts the truth out there for all to see. It’s a hard way to live, and evenmoreso, a terrifying way to die.

I remember heading back and forth to the hospital, over and over again. Problems needing hospitalization and care. Getting you settled in and pray with you, over you – trusting God in His provision for you.  You’d heal from that setback, but the disease continued to raise havoc in your body. Accepting the truth or not, here we are.

I don’t want to see you go. I don’t look forward to that day. No. NO. Not at all. I do however, yearn to be able to talk about what’s happening, to be able to walk together and forward in this journey. We don’t need to walk alone, we really don’t.

So, why are we?

Refusing to accept our terminal illness touches all those effected by this disease. When denial continues to be the way we handle difficulties then it’s highly likely we will walk alone. Be alone, grieve alone and perhaps die, alone. Alone. Oh my heart just aches, who wants to be alone? Ever.

How will we choose to live our days? If we think we have many years ahead of us or even a few weeks remaining – how will we choose to live it? We all have 24 hours in a day and every single day we choose how we will spend the precious time we will never get back. The harder we fight against the truth, the less we get to live in it.

Live.

Yes, live! Even in our dying, we are still living. Even in our moments of fear and great loss, we live. In moments of deep pain and hard realities, ripping at the core of who we are, we continue to live. Regardless of the stage of life we are living, or the stage that cancer has advanced to. We have choices. We can live out our days towards eternity, growing, healing, hoping and deeply present in love. We can!

We must choose.

Today I offer you no solution, no quick answer to this eternal question. I humbly point to Jesus Christ and offer His live as the way to live. Emulating His love, His grace, His mercy and His patience with one another, as we grieve, as we mourn and as we live. Jesus did not live in denial. He did not hide behind misunderstanding about what was going in the world or in the lives of those He loved. Jesus was present – He was authentic. He was real. He loved. I remember when Jesus’s close friend Larazus  died.

“Mary approached Jesus, saw Him, and fell at His feet.

Lord, if only You had been here, my brother would still be alive.

When Jesus saw Mary’s profound grief and the moaning and weeping of her companions, He was deeply moved by their pain in His spirit and was intensely troubled.

Where have you laid his body?

Come and see, Lord.

As they walked, Jesus wept; and everyone noticed how much Jesus must have loved Lazarus. ” John 11:32-36

Even Jesus, the One who raised Himself from the dead, mourned and cried at the death of someone He loved. Just like we too, mourn the loss of those we love as well. Jesus loved, loves and continues to love by His Presence in our present moments, even those filled with grief and denial.

We all will die – but how will we live?

I encourage you today, if you are living in denial, face it. If you are filled with remorse over time lost together, make time. If you are grieving the loss of relationships and yearn for something more, reach for it. It’s not the time to lose hope, but rather to gain hope.

No matter what stage of life you are in, or stage of cancer you face. Whatever  serious disease you battle. No matter the prognosis. Regardless of the difficulties. Free yourself from denial and learn to live.

For we die, as we have lived.

As The Storm Closes In…

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How long will it last – the storm that is?

The weatherman says it will be the largest blizzard in over one hundred years to hit New England. A place where snow is a plenty and each flake is as welcome as the sands that scatter the shoreline. It is part of our culture and who we are. Storms come, we hunker down – press in and watch with scattered enthusiasm as the snow falls and witness anew the beauty of creation which casts it’s shadows among us on frigid winter days.

Whether it is a Nor’easter, a blizzard or just plain ‘ol snow granting us a few inches – we find ourselves like a child filled with wonder for a moment as we gaze at the white washed blanket that has settled over our landscape. It sure is pretty, isn’t it?  We pull ourselves away from the dreamlike state and remind ourselves of the reality that storms bring. Shoveling, losing power for hours on end and being house bound to remain safe on the roads we most often travel.

Just like life.

When faced with our own personal, individual storms. We have a choice in how we handle them – how we face them. Do we gaze upon our lives in reflection with realistic eyes of the work that lies ahead or do we remain in a  dreamlike state, unmoving – accepting the snow even as it falls?

Along with any storm or trial in our life, there comes a point where we can no longer deny the reality of how much snow will be dumped upon us. We have little control over the storms that come our way, but we do have control over how we respond to them. One lesson I needed to learn oh so long ago.

Sometimes, I just wander around in the storm. Overcome by the beauty as I walk about. Gazing at the places where the fresh snow lights up and glitters all around me. Digging perhaps into new places and finding new adventures along the way. Yet, often when you shake that tree limb as you climb on up – snow just pummels you down.

You just don’t always expect what comes your way.

How long will you wander about in your storm? At what point do you admit that you may need to bundle up, chart a new course as you walk about. I suggest, the only way to handle a storm is to get through them. There might be white outs as the wind howls and throws things to distract you as we walk. Sometimes we must settle in, hunker down and keep on walking.

Don’t believe me, that’s okay, you don’t need to. Let’s follow the example of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew chapter 14, we find some stories of storms and trials in the life of Jesus and his disciples. It began with the beheading of John the Baptist.  Matthew 14:13 says, “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” Why would Jesus remove himself in private to find a solitary place? Could He perhaps be upset with this news? Jesus recognized His need to be alone and allowed himself the grace to find such a place for Him. This is how He chose to handle this personal storm – alone with His Father.

Yet, what does Scripture tell us? Verse 13b-14 says, “…. the crowds followed him on foot …. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Do you see? Jesus hears the sad news of the beheading of the man who baptized him and helped start His ministry. In grief, I suppose, he left privately in a boat to be alone. Yet as He landed on the shore, a crowd of people gathered. They sought Jesus out and He had compassion on them.

Compassion.

How many times when faced with your own moments of pain and strife, does compassion well up within you? Do you find yourself able to pull away and be alone with God to bring strength and comfort to you? In what ways do you seek to soothe your soul? Could I learn from Jesus who tried to carve out time for Himself with God? 

Are you looking for healing? This crowd gathered and waiting for Jesus was seeking just that – healing. Jesus went on to perform a miracle here and feeds the people, 5000 men – along with the women and children too. This my friends, is a lot of people. Many travelled to seek healing in their own storms of life. Whatever their situation upon the mountainside that day, Jesus met them there. He took care of their needs and loved them right where they were.

Right there.

With a compassionate heart, He set aside His own needs and gave. Although Jesus craved intimacy and oneness in the midst of His personal storm, He remained true to who He was, and gave love. I have to ask myself, would I do the same thing? When I am caught in my whitewashed way, do I deeply love from my heart? Am I seeking to calm the storm of my own life, rather than loves others in their’s?

The story continues in Matthew chapter 14 as Jesus continues to teach about compassion and love during storms. Even His disciples who had walked with Him needed teaching, just like me.

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:22-31

Jesus walked on water – absolutely amazing.

I’ve seen the waves pounding the disciples boat. Felt the spray on my face as the water sprinkled through the sky. Heard the winds howl bemoaning their course. What a storm, one for the record books! Envision Jesus walking, Peter focusing, Jesus reaching. In those quick moments, Jesus saves, saves. No matter what storm is going on in your life, Jesus….He’s got this!

Storms often cause us to focus on the waves, the tossing, turning of the boats. Drawing our attention away from that which centers us and casts us adrift, setting our minds to those things which may incite fear in us. Reminding us of past failures, hidden mistakes and defeat. Do not listen!

As the storm bears down, where is your focus ?

Are you making time to get away and be alone? Are you loving yourself, and others, right where they are at? Do you have your bearings set for a course straight on through that momentary storm?

Gather up moments my friends, seek out peace, focus on the good and no matter what interruptions comes your way – make the time for oneness with God.

Through the storm.

The first week ~ 2015

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Well it’s the start of a new year. 2015 has come upon us and we are past the night of resolutions and promise making. Now is the real test of who we are and who we want to become. Will we make the deliberate choice to follow through on our decisions and honor ourselves by being discipled and devoted to the resolutions and goals we set forth?

Will we be the people we want to become?

This is the first year I haven’t made any specific resolution , but rather I made a grounding firm decision to continue the journey I have been engaged in these past few months. I am a woman of faith and any of my resolutions are embedded with a spiritual focus. This year – I chose to be. Yes, just be.

Not an idling, carefree, lack of purpose type of being. No. Moreso a passionate understanding of who I am and was created to be. Living authentically from that place. Engaging in activities which grow who I am and deepen my sense of worth so that I no longer live under the guise of pleasing others – I am looking to just be.

Be free.

Perhaps you’ve made resolutions to lose weight, eat healthier or focus on something specific physically. All wonderful resolutions. Yet, if  we tend to focus on just one part of who we are, we become unbalanced. So I ask you, dear friends. Do you want to be balanced? Do you want unity in purpose? Do you want freedom to be who you are no matter what the occasion or circumstance? There is a place for you, to walk in this freedom.

With Jesus.

Okay breathe, yes I just said Jesus. You see, with Jesus this is a deep awareness of who you are in light of who He says you are. You can immerse yourself in affirmations and truth of how much you are loved, how much you are worth and believe what He did to save your very soul. His love is powerful, mighty and able to redefine who you think you are. Who you have experienced life to be to this very moment. Jesus, well – he’s a transformer!

Not that robotic movie making, life saving creature. No. This transformation is not something that’s temporary like our resolutions often are. This is deep transformation into who you were created to be and learning to embrace yourself is what Jesus wants for you. Living freely from this place – with no fear.

No fear.

That’s the beauty of making resolutions in spite of who you think you are. We are free to make them and trust God to help us be faithful and devoted. I find  often that we are our deepest critic and the hardest person to please. Let go this year and just be. Find your center and allow yourself to love, yes, love you. How will you ever love Jesus if you don’t learn to love yourself?

“Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Love is most important, the greatest of all of Jesus’s teaching, it sums everything He taught, and the teachings from the Law and the Prophets hangs upon this premise. Love. Love. LOVE. Loving others comes in direct proportion in how you love yourself, Scripture says so. So I ask again, ” How will you ever love Jesus if you don’t learn to love yourself?” or  how will you love your neighbor, your spouse, your parents, your children…. if you don’t love yourself? It starts with you and how you view and love yourself.

So, love you.

In this new year of resolutions and promises, I encourage you this very first week to love yourself. Love in the way you desire and want given to you. Learn to love if you must, relearn and untangle all you have been taught. Resolve to love those who have hurt you, abandoned you, shamed you. Whatever your story is – love from that place.

With love springs forth many devoted thoughts and resolutions. Don’t worry about the end result. Just be in the present. Love yourself. Let God’s love empower you, disarm you and break through the shield of denial you’ve placed around your heart. Be in the moments of life. Be who you were created to be. Let your light shine from that most sacred place.

It’s the first week of 2015,  let’s really live in it!

Be.

 

New Day – New Year!

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Happy New Year!

There is something almost refreshing about the start of a New Year. Like a freshly cleaned blackboard (remember those?), a new white board or smart board – everything is new and ready to be written upon. It’s fresh, it has possibilities which are as endless as our minds allow.

Like pages in a new bound book, are the days of the year to write moments of grace, mercy and truth deep into your life. Often, I buy a journal at the start of a new year. I use it to craft out goals, hopes, dreams, desires for the upcoming year. Then as the days pass and the everydayness of the year settles in, I can pull out the journal and reflect on my thoughts and hopes for the year as I am walking in it. It helps bring perspective and balance to my life.

Balance.

That’s the thing about ringing in a New Year- finding balance. We start out with lofty goals and desires. We perhaps face fears and uncertainties about ourselves and our lives that we desire to face. Puling out your own “journal” and thoughts of your goals for the year to find, here you are in the same place as before.

The same place.

You know, there is nothing wrong with being in the same place. Especially if it brings you comfort, allows you to grow and fills you with strength for each new day. But whom among you are the same place that you just no longer want to be in anymore? I am speaking to you. It’s that same place that aches from deep in your soul.

You know the one? Well, I do.

Here’s my word of encouragement in the New Year. Well, not mine – God’s. “…. that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!(2Cor 5:17)” This is not some quick fix, but a deep truth. New life begins with God.

Not with resolutions, or hopes – God. For it is God Himself who makes the person new. Not our own choices, but the author of life Himself. If you are in Christ, the old has truly passed away – so let it go and pass away. Stop holding onto it. Oh wait, I was talking to me!

What you did or didn’t do in 2014, what I did or didn’t do in 2014 – well it stays in 2014 and the hearts of those whom either I blessed or I wounded. Today’s not a day to talk fluff or make light of things. New Years Day can be a day of new life. So, just for today, I encourage you.

Reflect, repent and receive the blessing of new life.

Reflect about who you are, repent of any self indulgent ways and receive the gift of new life in Christ. New life that makes every day new, every moment new and marks each day like that of a new year.

New.

Let God write upon your heart like the pages of a new book and receive the gift of renewal. Find strength in moments and find hope in forgiveness. Let go of all the years past pain and living freely. Move forward. Be free. Find balance.

New life begins with God – trust  Him

 

Intimacy cries out

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She sits alone, wondering – how? How did I get here? Breathing in deeply, she bows her head – yearning for arms to envelop and wrap her up, bringing comfort to her heart that only tender moments can bring.

Nothing.

Not a word of encouragement or a plead of hope rise up within her. This is not the place of positive self talk, or deliberate choices that spur on action, listing what I need “to do.” Oh no, this is the place to just be – as you feel the insecurities and doubt swirling within you. Let them come.

Don’t deny the reality of your life, your choices – your experiences. Often it seems we want to run from the troubles that pound against our hearts, avoiding even thinking about what’s right in front of you.  Sometimes we don’t want to not face feelings of despair, sadness or abandonment. When you are knee deep in these feelings, denial is not a healthy strategy. Let them come.

Embrace who you are and how you feel in the moment.

Probably the most simple and most difficult thing is – to be. To stop looking for answers. To stop doubting the direction you are pointed in. To stop lamenting what could have been. To stop, just stop. I don’t mean stop having the feelings, we can’t contralto that. But we can control how we manage them.

When I am in this place and these feelings come, the desire to be held and comforted cries out from deep within me. Oh, how I need encouragement. Not just laughter, or fellowship, or companionship – but encouragement – deep, trusting, sharing souls walking together.

Think I am alone?

“Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

 When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.” Matthew 26:36-38

Think again.

Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God was crushed in His Spirit. He  was in agonizing sorrow. He was human – and He didn’t want to be alone in that place. He wanted His closest friends to keep watch and stay awake with Him. To just be in the moments of His deepest pain.

Jesus knew that being alone was not the ideal. It’s wiser to have the encouragement and strength of a trusted friend or friends. Not the whole crowd mind you, but a few sacred soldiers by your side. Jesus had 12 disciples and He could have invited them all into the Garden, but He didn’t. He invited 3 of His closest friends to be a source of strength in the time of His greatest, darkest, most vulnerable need.

Jesus wanted intimacy.

He craved their companionship, for why else would He have invited them into the Garden with Him? This wasn’t a moment of weakness to be easily dismissed. He was overcome with anguish. Jesus did not ignore the depths of the soul and what He needed.  He knew what lay before Him and understood His vulnerability. Our Savior was looking for compassion and comfort from His most trusted friends. He desired strength wrought from the intimacy of deep fellowship. Jesus was self – aware and had no shame in making decisions He needed to have His needs met.

Not judgement telling you to get over it. Not a lack of affirmation in who you are. Not an inconsistency in showing love based on how you act or don’t act. No. Jesus wanted unconditional love and He asked for it in the middle of the night. I suspect if we are truly honest with ourselves, and each other – we might find that we ask for the same type of love in the most difficult times. It may not be at 2 a.m., but it could be in the middle of an important business meeting, or a family get together. I don’t know – you fill in the blank. Ask yourself what is most important to you and then consider – are you willing to give it up? To sacrifice?

That’s what Jesus was asking His dear friends.

“Stay awake with me, keep watch.” Sacrifice yourself – your time, your energy, your focus on what you think is most important in your life. In this moment, love me. Follow me. Give to me. Hold onto me. Love. That’s what Jesus was asking. To love. To give. To sacrifice. To embody the very love that Jesus had been showing and giving to them all along.

He asked for their hearts.

So when your body seems weak, when you can’t stay awake, when your mind wanders and you can’t focus. Know that it’s not the body those you love need or desire, it’s your heart. When you are called to give beyond what you can normally handle or hope to provide. Know this – it’s your heart, you’re beautiful heart that intimacy craves. I  encourage you –  love.

You’re body may be willing but the flesh is so weak.

I submit to you that love is greater than what we do. We see. We hear. We think. Love is. Love moves. Love feels. Love compels. Love comforts. So, the next time you find yourself weary of hearing the same old stories from your friends. The struggles that they battle against. Or you want to tell them what to do, or how to handle it. I encourage you.

Choose love.

Choose to be open. Choose to sacrifice. Choose to give. Choose to comfort. Be tender. Be kind. Be merciful. Be! Give love. Give grace. Give patience. Humble yourself like Jesus humbled Himself in that Garden. For once He invited them into that place with Him, He made the most difficult decision of His very life. He chose to sacrifice it. He choose love. Love.

Now, I encourage you to be Jesus and do the same.

No matter what agony is tearing apart your soul. No matter what fears lie ahead of you. No matter what struggles you currently face. Jesus is The Way. For He’s seen it all, experienced it all and empowers us to be love. So, invite your closest friends in, let them see your fears and allow the mercy of God to permeate your entire being.

Jesus was serious about His intimate friends. Once they fell asleep, He pleaded with them to stay awake. He wanted them by His side. Don’t you want the same? Don’t you want others to comfort you? Wouldn’t you like to be held? Could you allow others into your deep and  most darkest of places? Can’t they sprinkle a seasoning of their sacrificial heart into your current struggles?

I ask you – do you really want to be alone?

Jesus didn’t want to be alone. He pleaded to not be so at this time in His life.  He is our example, shouldn’t we consider to learn from Him? Open your hearts my friends. If Jesus needed trusted friends, who are we to think we don’t? Not just good friends, but intimate, trusted friends.

Crack open the door of your heart and let the Light of Jesus shine in, bringing you an awareness of who you are. What you need in hard places. Whom you can truly trust. Follow Jesus. Let the Spirit guide you and teach you and be Jesus.

When you sit all alone and wonder how you got there, consider the choices you have made, the circumstances of your life and be like the greatest Teacher of all time, Jesus the Christ. Be Jesus. Be willing to examine yourself and invite others into the hard places. The difficult times. Become a searching soul whose greatest desire is to be like Him, Jesus.

Be intimate and imitate our Savior. Love dear ones.

Love.

The Begging Place

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So what do you do when you have nothing left?

I thought I had been here before. In this place of quiet surrender as I empty myself before His throne, pleading for help and deliverance. Yet, here I stand, no – here I lay myself down at His feet, and beg.

Beg.

Pleading with cries that cannot form into words.  With moans that catch in your throat as you ask for His help. With a heart that so heavy -I beg. I plead. I cry out. Asking for His mercy, for His grace – for His deliverance.

“Help.”

That is all I  whisper out, like what else can I do – but ask for help? I am not use to feeling alone, being isolated or dependent on others. Oh, I’ve had my fair share of being in need through the years. Physical problems which kept me still. Emotional uncertainties that can arise in times of strife. Spiritual stretching that brings me beyond what I am use to.

Like you, I’ve had times of trial and doubt – questioning all that I have known as true. Yet suffer as I have been in this season of my life – it leaves me speechless so that the only word I can say, or the only thought that comes to mind is this.

Surrender.

In the midst of the storm, in the whirlwind that’s blown in all around you. You barely have time to breathe in a breath and another wave attacks. It’s like you are caught in the midst of the hurricane, the waves licking at your boat. The waves reach up like hands wanting to capsize you and carry you off to sea. They taunt you to just climb overboard yourself. Spare yourself the grief. Why bother anyway? You know where the boat is heading anyways don’t you? Straight into the storm, so let’s just cut to the chase and save it some time.

Surrender.

Smell the salt air, hear the surf crash as the waves threaten to overtake you. What are you going to do? Do you grab a bucket and start to bail water as fast as you can? You could try. Or do you step up on that bow and surrender to defeat?

It is a choice you know.

When I talk about surrender I don’t mean giving in, or giving up, I mean letting go. Trusting. Trusting that He who knows all about your storm won’t desert you. He will walk right across those waves right to your arms – and carry you. This storm, your storm, can pass right on by. It will pass. Believe. But don’t believe me, believe God.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity” Jeremiah 29:11-13

Sometimes our storms are our captivity. We’ve been enslaved in behaviors that have chartered our whole life with pain and bondage. We could get washed away into the storms power but God says when we seek with all our heart we are found by Him.

See, the Creator who allows this storm in your life, in my life,  is right there in the center of it. He is present. He is able. He is  righteous. He’s powerful. He’s real. He reigns.

He. Reigns.

Did you know that right in the center of a hurricane, there is total peace. Calm. It’s a scientific fact. The further you move away from the center, that eye, the waves erupt from the depths of the sea and rock your boat. Rock your world –  your life. You could be standing on the edge of that boat right now teetering on whether to jump overboard or throw up the sails to catch wind – to capsize you.

I encourage you – stand firm. In fact, I dare say – head right back to the center of that storm. Move that rudder, steer it firm.  Don’t run from the storm, the problems which bring strife. Don’t wish them away or deny their reality. If need be, allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the weight upon your soul. Oh, it will happen. There will be times in life that you will be discouraged, dismayed and losing hope. But God – our God. Your God. My God.

He is hope.

So surrender. Not to the feelings of unworthiness that threaten your worth. Not to the negativity of life that slowly saps your dreams. No! I say surrender and lay at the feet of Jesus. Bask in the glory of His presence within you and on the throne in that storm.

Throw your fears, your anxieties, your doubts into that sea and turn around. Head right back to that center. Seek the Lord with all your heart. Go after Him with such passion – use that energy you use to keep the fear at bay and focus it on Christ.

And hear Him say. “Peace, be still.” Let the waves cease, the pounding of your heart subside. Breathe. Jesus is alive and with you. Call. Pray. Seek. He will listen. So go ahead, whisper it.

“Help.”

 

Scripture taken from: The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan House, 1984.

Regrets are real

GUilt

The guilt assails me. Shooting off like stealth missles in the dark are the thoughts of regret that drag down my soul. There is no need for your judgement upon me, I serve up plenty of my own.

That’s one place I continue to be well fed – self condemnation.

Wait, you say that’s not the life of a believer? Well then, welcome to my world. I believe in God, in Jesus Christ and who He is and what He has done — oh how I believe. Yet….. I doubt! I bring down enough judgement upon my soul for who I am and what I have or have not done  that you don’t need to share your critical thoughts.

I’ve got it covered.

Welcome to my head. Those inner thoughts that fight to control my mind. It’s a daily battle to overcome this negativity which keeps me buried in regret and the pain of the past. And here’s the thing, often in Christian circles it’s at this point we opt to quote a Scripture or impose a happy thought and think this will heal away the pain. With one quick word of encouragement all is well with our souls, our lives and our places in life. Pointing our minds into safer and certainly more calmer battle grounds. Isn’t that where hope is found?

No.

No. No. No. Hope is not found is memory verses or inspirational thoughts. Not in blog posts, Facebook status updates or tweets in cyberspace. Sure, they are wonderful ways we can be encouraged. Moments that uplift our hearts and help carry us along. But they are just that – ways we are encouraged. To find true wholeness and combat the deep pain in our hearts, you need more than a temporary fix. Sometimes even as Christians, we forget that. No, sometimes as a Christian, I forget that.

You see, I love people! I just do. I love being with them, listening to them and hearing their hearts. Yet sometimes the words that come from my heart wound more than they heal. I might intend for them to encourage as I share Scripture or offer a prayer. But honestly, am I offering up my heart? Am I sacrificing myself, my time, my focus – so my life becomes less about me and more about who is hurting? Am I willing to walk with this person, through hard times, through good times? Am I willing – to love?

Love has the power to push the guilt and wipe it clear off the memory of our hearts. Over time doses of love  gently open our hearts and help put into perspective our hurts and regrets.  There is something very powerful about regret,  it cries out to haunt you as you remember times long ago.

We simply can’t live in the past.

Life is full of changes, of transitions, of situations where we choose how we will respond. How will we cope and handle the things life has dealt us? This is not a time for deeper theology or relationships with one another – but rather a time for relationship with the Creator of intimacy Himself- Jesus Christ.

He who can heal our pain. He who hears our guilt. He who knows all our anxious thoughts. He who wants to carry the regrets we can’t seem to let go of. He who was calls out to us for a relationship. Not a quick quote to hang on a plaque on the wall to motivate us onward. But a real, deep, scary and intimate relationship.

Scary?

Sure. That’s the thing about relationships – they’re sometimes messy and dirty, sometimes loud and wild, sometimes broken and tender. Perhaps you have been in a relationship that’s broken, battered, worn, full of mistrust. Jesus still calls to you and loves you. Yes, loves you. YOU. Don’t let the reality of the relationship you currently live in define the hope of the relationship found in Jesus.

Friends, it’s time to minister to one another with authenticity and freedom. Walk with one another in dark times and in peace. It’s time to love. We all have enough self condemnation to stop us from moving the direction God is calling us to. Your choice, my choice, is to trust and take His Hand – and love.

For what speaks love more than holding a friend as they cry and loving them in their darkest hour. Cleaning hearts in the true walk of a Christian life. Cooking a meal, cleaning a bathroom, running an errand, watching the children. These are all expressions of love, but listening to the ache of a longing heart and accepting that heart.

That’s love.

Love’s power can replace unhealthy thoughts and patterns, planting hope and a future. And love can empower us to minister to one another – showering grace into our hearts, lives and homes. Exposing that guilt for what it is and letting it be washed away.

No matter what regrets grip your heart. What guilt shackles you down. You aren’t alone. With just one word you can cry out to the one who desires the relationship that matters most in your life.

Walk with Him.

“Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.” 2Cor 5:17

Contemporary English Version 
Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society