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

 

It’s the most depressing time of the year….

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“It’s the most wonderful depressing time of the year….”

When the song comes on,  I do sing of the wonders of this season – and yet – this is the raw truth. It is the most depressing time of year. In this season that is filled with joy and celebration, with love and thanksgiving as families gather together. It is an undeniable fact, and research concludes, that this is the most discouraging time of the year.

Where is your heart today?

Are you filled with gratitude as your family begins to gather? Are you happy about the time you will share together? Do you feel hopeful as you face another holiday season together? Do you have joy? Do you have peace? Are you emboldened with patience to accept whatever your holiday season holds for you? Frankly – are you ready for these moments you are blessed with?

Where is your heart today?

It’s getting so close to that time when your family with  gather,  gifts will be shared and presents are opened. Things you had hoped for may already be sitting under your tree. Ways you desired to bless others with time spent together is coming into focus. Whatever it may be, it’s the week of Christmas and the holiday season, and I will share with you where my heart is today.

Oh, it hurts….

It aches for those who battle pain – whose bodies are hard and stiff and struggle to make it through the days spent shopping, wrapping, cooking and preparing for the holiday. My heart grieves for those who have lost loved ones and spend this season full of anguish and pain as they are separate from those whom they love and miss so. My heart aches for those whose illnesses and disease makes the Christmas season so much more precious than another holiday, as it very well could be their last. There are so many hurting people in this world who need so much more than present wrapped under a tree.

My heart hurts.

So many people face Christmas living in broken relationships, facing painful memories, and shattered by dashed hopes of what a family is. How soon we forget as we revel in the joy of our family and the love that we have been given, we forget those who don’t have the same opportunities. We forget.

There are so many children, adults, elderly people – people – who are lonely, depressed, discouraged and feeling hopeless who ache, yes ache for love. Who long to be in a home where their needs are met. Who crave to be surrounded by their family experiencing love in new, healthy way.  Who yearn for love they may have never known.  Revealing deep, dark wounds of their hearts that long for tenderness, affection and love.  Lives that are crushed with pain that no gift, no present can soothe their soul. Whose greatest gift this year you cannot wrap and put under a tree.

The gift of unconditional love.

Love that has no strings attached. Love that bears all things. Love that believes all things. Love that hopes, trusts and perseveres. Just love my friends – what is a more precious gift than that? When at the end of the day, no matter what you have done or haven’t done, said or haven’t said – you are loved for who you are – who you are.

In life, we tend to look at other people and their circumstances based on what we know and what we experience, often comparing how we would handle a situation and use this as a framework to place upon others.  It’s human nature and I know I fall prey to it. Yet, today in light of the most depressing time of the year, I beg you and encourage you. Stand back, let go of your judgement and begin to feel with others, empathizing with them and truly love them.

Love them.

Christmas is centered on the fact of the birth of Jesus the Christ. That is the reason for the season. Not just a catchy phrase, but the reality that we celebrate and remember a man born in manger in the village of Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. There are many people who believe in this man as not just a man, but the Savior of the world. I am one of them. Because I have this faith, I offer this to you now.

If you don’t know how to love, let Jesus guide you. If you yearn for love, let Jesus give it to you. If you are wounded and need healing, let Jesus heal you. Jesus is the answer. It sounds so cliche, I know. Like some quick fix that we have a problem and rattle off some mantra and find that Jesus is the way out of all our problems. This is not the Jesus I know – He doesn’t offer false hope. He is hope and He wants a relationship with me, with you. Yes, you.

He will show how to love unconditionally. He will teach you if you don’t know how.  No one else can do this, although some might try. I hear friends and family talk about how your focus in your life is everything. That by shifting your gaze from your emptiness, from your pain, from the sadness that plagues your soul –  if would just think differently, choose differently, act differently – you will be different. Like some formula we place before us, negating the fact that our Creator Himself designed us with these tendencies, placed us in these families and relationships. Is not pain part of God’s plan for us?

Yes, pain.

Don’t run from it. Don’t pretend it’s not there. Don’t let the pain veil   the truth that you are loved. I know depression. There is no shame in who you are. Rather than making pat assurances that all will be okay – allow the frailty of your heart to be tender and to feel. To love, and be loved, in very difficult, sad and depressed places. Open your hurting, depressed, sad heart.

One thing about Christmas that saps joy from the season is the lack of empathy I see and experience. We celebrate with those we love while neglecting the needy, the poor and those who need Jesus the most. We give, we offer prayer, we place change in the red bucket as we walk into the stores to buy things. All the while, the emptiness I hear in the human heart cries out. I make no pretensions today – I don’t follow a name and claim it Jesus. There are no quick fixes in life. It’s time we accept that who we are is by His grand design and plan for us. Let’s no longer believe that depression is something we think our way out of.  Loving Jesus reveals itself first in loving and accepting ourselves – and being who He created us to be.

Depression is real.

This is the most depressing time of year. No matter what gift you  do receive, or don’t receive, this year. In your broken heart of loved ones lost. In the hard truth of disease ridden bodies. In the reality of this annual celebration being your last. There is no greater time to know Jesus, than now.

He knows you. He knows your pain. He knows your fears. Your loneliness. Your lack of love. Your insecurities. Your final days. He knows – and He wants you to know Him. Just Him. A mere babe that came to earth to love. Let Him love you today. Let Him ease your heart. Let Him soothe your soul.

Come see the new born King.

“This is how you will recognize him: You will find an infant wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

See the babe with new eyes today. In this season which may seem so dark,  allow Him to show you the majesty of His story. Come and invite Him into your life and seek Him like the wise men of old.  Look up in quiet moments, under a star lit sky, and find the infant wrapped in strips of cloth lying in a manger.

Let Him change your world.

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.

I am not who you think

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I am a survivor.

Many things have happened in my life which shaped and molded who I am. How I see the world, approach it and engage with it. It’s a fact that circumstances and life experiences shape you. Yet,  how you respond, how you react – is all a choice. It may not feel like a choice when your emotions get ahold of you.  When sorrow and grief grip your soul – it doest feel like a choice does it?

I’m here to confess my own immaturity and lack of trust. My own fear strained life that nips at my heels. The harder I seem to run from it, the quicker it tends to ensnare me.  I mean really, who wants to admit they can’t do it all?

Oh wait, that’d be me.

You see, I am a fighter – it’s how I became a survivor. I rarely take “no” for an answer. I figure out a way. I press on. I rearrange my goals and chart a new course.

Survivors look to take the next step, scurry to climb the next knoll and take the next valley. It’s a fear filled reaction to the current situation – or to that which haunts you. Grief, shame, fear – feelings of insecurity and uncertainty can plague you.  These are not feelings which empower and encourage you.

They entrap you.

I am the first to tell you it’s true – for I’ve been entrapped for years. Bound to the thoughts of what others think of me. Enslaved to the fears that gripped my soul protesting that I am not good enough. Caught in the crossfire of my deep lack of faith in who I truly am and who I was created to be.

Our identity and self concept can get twisted at such a young age, defining who we think we are based on the circumstances we find ourselves in. Our family units, our relationships and our experiences define and shape us. This is a psychological and sociological fact. Yet is it a spiritual fact?

Who am I?

The most basic question we find plaguing our souls. Countless books, sermons, blog posts beg to answer this question. Who am I? It’s the ageless and timeless question of humanity looking to uncover our soul. Maybe we are asking an uncertain question.  Perhaps we should be asking who I am not.

I am not unworthy.

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out, you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God – you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made!” Psalm 139:13-14

I am not a product of my past.

“Therefore, if anyone is united with the Anointed One, that person is a new creation. The old life is gone—and see—a new life has begun!” 2 Cor 5:17

I am not living under law.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

You seeRather than being consumed by what I think, it’s beyond time I entrusted the deepest parts of me to the only One who can help redefine my spirit.

God.

Because of who God is, I can then be worthy. Because of who God is I no longer have to be enslaved to my past. Because of who God is I am now under grace. Grace.

There is this thing about grace in my life. I might offer it to others. Share it with those in need. Profess it to the multitudes. Yet deny it to my own very soul. Rather than give myself grace, I heap upon my shoulders more than I can bare. Repeating the pattern that’s I’ve been running from all my life. I am truly my own worst enemy!

Sigh.

I am sitting here right along with you and confessing this truth. Not because of anything I am able to. Oh no. Frankly it’s because it’s who I am not.

I am not going to deny my sinful side. I am not going to refuse to confess the darkness inside. I am not going it allow it to control my heart.

I am not who you think I am.

And that’s okay -because I am His. I will never live up to the expectations that others place upon me, nor the ones I place upon myself. I am just whom God desires me to be – a woman seeking Him and embracing His presence.

His.

So no matter what you might be facing today. What fear is enslaving you. What hope has been dashed from your soul. Rather than being consumed with who you are, grab ahold of who you are not. Flip your thoughts around. Do whatever you must. Feel the breaking shame on your back and expose it to the light of Jesus in His word.

“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.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

You are loved – that my friends, is always enough.

 

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Scripture taken from:

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

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002.

Scripture taken from The Voice™. Copyright © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Everything is a choice

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Sometimes – we think we have control.

That somehow we can control our future and our present. Believing that  the choices we make right now determine our future. Right? I hear it all the time, “everything is a choice.” We choose our happiness, we choose to love and be loved. We choose.  I’ve told many people myself that same thing. But here I am, pondering it a bit deeper for a moment.

Straight from pop psychology and self help books – you grab ahold that you do have the power to choose and you walk forward ready to conquer the world. With dreams intact you look to scale mountains and climb up to heights you dream about. You stand ready and are excited for what’s in store. You choose to move on. But ask yourself just this one question.

Is everything  a choice?

Ask the person in a hospital bed fighting for their life from a car accident not their fault. Ask the person abused and neglected in their family unit constantly living in fear. Ask the person who lost their job and hence their home due to cutbacks at work. Over and over again things happen beyond our control in our society and in our own lives.

When it seems that all your choices have shriveled up. When the cards are stacked against you and the circumstances handed down your way don’t play out like a royal flush. The hope you once saw before you now appears like a glimmer of reality.

What do you do when you think you have no choice?

Is it really your fault that you’re lying in that hospital bed? Is it really your fault that you are victimized in your own home? Is it really your fault you lost your job? Think. Isn’t that what we are saying when we imply that “everything is a choice?”

This type of logic promotes avenues of doubt, self blame and insecurity to fester and grow. Surely we don’t mean to say that the victim is at fault. Whether you were victimized by a family member, a friend or someone you don’t even know. No matter the circumstance or the situation – accident, abuse, neglect. You are a victim – and….

You are so much more than your choices.

Often a victim looks and sees themselves through the eyes of their circumstances. How did I get myself into this hospital bed? What did I do to deserve to have this person abuse me so? Why was it me who was cut from my job and not someone else? We question ourselves and our circumstances fighting a battle to not allow ourselves to be defined by them.

I am not measured for my worth by what’s happened to me. Oh no. I am so much more than the situations around me right now – and so my friend, are you. Yes – YOU.

I don’t know the situations you face. I don’t know your story. I just know mine. I have nothing to offer you, no cure, no quick fix, no lie that its going to be easy. But there is one thing I can share that is so true that you just might find a bit of hope, a tiny nugget of light in dark moments of doubt.

Jesus is the way, the truth, the life. (John 14:6)

He is the answer. He is the hope. He is the reason I can share with you this very moment. He will show you the path to peace in your doubt. He will guide you along the way to find hope. He is the only one who can calm you, heal you, and bring you deep and lasting hope.

We are people created for love, for oneness and for community. We crave relationships, intimacy and depth to how we live. We want more. We strive for more. We yearn for more. Yet we want peace. So consider this, the path we walk, the choices we make along the way, have a great impact of those we love.

We do have choices, but not everything is a choice.

It’s time to no longer live as a victim. Learning to balance our lives and find the ways we can choose life, love, forgiveness and I’d add, God so we can find peace. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He promises us to guide us, but we must let Him.

Consider making that your very next choice.

Jesus.

 

 

Letting go

 

Letting Go

I have nothing left. Not an ounce within me.

Seems that all strength and fortitude that’s kept me going has sapped me dry. I stand on the edge of a new change in my life and I can’t begin to even see the horizon, never mind the pebbles at my feet.

It takes all my effort to stand.

I just returned from saying goodbye to both of my children, who are now young adults – embracing their own lives. It’s the true test of letting go in my life. My family can attest that I am not very good at this. I hover like a helicopter parent at times looking to observe and reflect on things heard or said. Analyzing and overanalyzing things already in the past. Letting go means I truly had to do just that – let go.

I had to believe. I had to rely on the ground I had laid. I had to let go of what I had hoped to accomplish and accept the gift of the moment. It was time for me to truly trust – someone.

Rather than myself.

It’s at this point that I could quote a few scriptures and tell you that trusting God and believing Him is the essence of your faith, of my faith – verses like Proverbs 3:5-7 come to mind.

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.”  (The Message)

But it’s not that type of blog post today. I’m not here to tell you what to do. In fact, I can’t even begin to think what I will do next. Who am I to suggest to you where you are headed? Who am I to think I have any wisdom to share? I am just a fellow traveller and sojourner. Nothing more.

See my hand raised over here? It’s me admitting that I try to figure it all out. I find one more thing to do. One more way to try to control. One more way to keep myself so busy.  In doing so, I am not still enough to hear His voice. Oh how I want to hear God’s voice! I seek Him. I study, I pray, I meditate. I, I, I. See – it’s all about me.

Enough.

It’s time I look in the mirror. It’s time I face the truth. As long as my life is about me. As long as I focus on what I want to do. As long as the center of my world is me. Will I ever be able to let go?

I am tired of the judgmental spirit that has lurked in my heart. I am convicted the moment I think I have it all figured out and impose that on others, it’s judgement. It doesn’t appear that way at first does it? We think our knowledge and wisdom comes to us through life experiences and it’s our responsibility to teach those around us so that they can learn.  But is it?

Our responsibility is to love.

“The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.

Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”

 “No one, Master.”

“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.” (John 8:3-11, The Message)

Jesus loved.

He came to seek and save the lost (Lk 19:10). He came to open the eyes of the blind (Lk 4:18). He came to offer forgiveness for people’s sins (Lk 7:48). He came – to love. He could have judged that woman caught in adultery. He could have abided by the law of Moses and stoned her. He could have condemned her- but he chose love.

Love.

When you let go, it’s not about the training you did as a parent, or the mistakes along the way – or even the accomplishments your son or daughter has now or in the future. No. It seems to me to be about boundaries. It’s not my life to share their stories, or to judge them  and tell them what to do. It’s their life now.

Entrust them to God.

Yes, trust. Give them over to Him. Whether your empty nesting like me, or just put them on the school bus for the first time. God has this. Don’t try to figure it all out. Live in moments where faith becomes real and love is alive, embrace it and live in grace. Be a father, a mother,  a sister, a brother – a child of grace. Trust that God has a greater plan than you can ever imagine.

Believe.

 

 

 

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

Freedom

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The 4th of July has just passed us by. It’s a time in the United States where we often set aside our political beliefs, our arguments and celebrate the freedom that we all share. It’s a novel idea really – focusing on that which we have in common rather than that which we don’t.

Flags wave in the breeze and we salute the sacrifices of so many to pay the price for this freedom. We honor families, friends, neighbors with BBQ’s and a feast to delight our palates. Parade’s march, parties gather and fireworks light up the sky,  reminding us – we have much to be thankful for. Freedom

Is it free?

I’d be hard pressed to tell you that we possess freedom here in this country without acknowledging the many who died to wrestle us from the tyranny of the government we wanted freedom from. It would be very unwise to suggest we have kept this freedom without recognizing the sacrifices of so many who have gone before us. In countless wars and in peace time, lives were forever changed-freedom is by no means, free.

Lately, I’ve been listening to some lessons on freedom at my local church. Freedom in a spiritual sense. Freedom from laws, from rules, from expectations that I have tended to impose upon myself for most of my life.  This too gives me pause, for freedom is surely not free, even spiritually.

“So stand strong for our freedom! The Anointed One freed us so we wouldn’t spend one more day under the yoke of slavery, trapped under the law.” (Galatians 5:1)

The freedom we have in Jesus Christ has freed us so that we wouldn’t spend even one more day under the yoke of law! We are free from the  law and it’s burdens. Free from the traditions and moral obligations we impose on one another. In Christ, we are free. Free!

Our freedom was paid with a hefty price, just like the many soldiers before us who paved the way for the freedom in which we now stand on this soil. Jesus Christ paid one price, for all, for eternity for our souls. Nothing more was needed. Done.

As Jesus hung on the cross He cried out, “It is finished! In that moment, His head fell; and He gave up the spirit.” (John 19:30)

You see, as much as we’d like to, or try to – we can’t can’t earn love.  We strive to earn and redeem it ourselves. We wrestle to earn our salvation. My goodness we do anything we can to earn what we think we need for salvation – because surely nothing is free!

Is it?

 “For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift,  pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Why do we work so hard to gather something that God freely gave? Why do we refuse the gift of God and instead sacrifice our soul? Why do we think we have to have it all figured out before we can love.

Just love.

“Love comes straight from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and truly knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. Because of this, the love of God is a reality among us: God sent His only Son into the world so that we could find true life through Him. This is the embodiment of true love: not that we have loved God first, but that He loved us and sent His unique Son on a special mission to become an atoning sacrifice for our sins. ” (1John 4:7-10)

God is love. He is. Love. He loved you so much, loved me so much, that He sent His Son Jesus to hang upon that cross and suffer. When He cried out it is finished, it was once for all mankind. There is nothing, just nothing you can do to earn your salvation.

Stop trying.

Love. Just love! Receive it.  Open your heart and believe it. Welcome Jesus in – unfurl your own heart, let His banner over you be secure. Rest in His love. For in doing so, you become love and let His light shine and freedom ring within you.

You.

You are free. Embrace your freedom, stand firm and don’t let yourselves be yoked again. It’s time to celebrate!