A New Year?

norway-julie-13-of-1

2017.

Just like that, the clock ticks, the bell chimes and the new year slips right in. Not with loud fan fair, or much celebration – but another moment in time. Another hour, another day, another year. Just when I was sweeping up the memories, both happy and sad, of 2016 – 2017 just waltzed right in.

How did that happen?

You might be ready to be rid of 2016. Perhaps it included loss, pain and  unfulfilled dreams – for you that door can’t close fast enough on the year, can it? I know. I know that sense of closure needed to move forward and beyond what was, hoping for what’s to come. I’ve had many years where I slammed that door shut myself.

So, here we stand, on the cusp of a year not yet lived. What do you long for in this year? I know what I do. I can speak it faster than you process your own thoughts. I’ve been kicking around stones on a new path, following it, even as it’s windy roads keep me in circles sometimes. I am ready. So ready – for 2017.

How about you?

Are ready to breathe in new life into your own? Are you ready to lay aside your pain, your anxiety and sense of hopelessness? Taking a hard look at who you are and how you live your life. Knowing with strength and certainty that you are worth each moment that this year will bring you.

If there is one truth to grab ahold of as you start this new year, it’s that you are worth every moment you give to yourself. Don’t doubt it. Don’t deny it. Don’t hesitate. Love. Love yourself. As you love yourself, or perhaps learn to love yourself, love springs from within you to share with others. If it seems trite to you, don’t take my word for it.

Jesus Christ was asked once,

“Which is most important of all the commandments?”

Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” (Mark 12:28b – 31  The Message)

Did you ever stop to realize that loving God means loving yourself?

Jesus asks us to love God with all our passion, prayer, intelligence and energy. Then He proceeds to instruct us to do the same to our very hearts. How often do you love yourself passionately? Really? Me neither.

It takes great effort to think about myself. I spend so much of my time thinking of others, of what needs have to be met, of what things have to be done – that somewhere along the way, I get lost. It’s not a new phenomenon, it’s a raw reality of my life. I’ve allowed myself to be loved less, and in the process, believed I am unlovable.

The greatest gift I hope to give myself in 2017, is love.

Loving myself. Accepting the desires that are within me as gifts from the Heavenly Father and live them in my daily life.  Some may profess that’s not a Christian attitude, well.. I use to believe that myself. God has had to teach me through years of suffering that loving myself is how I honor and love Him. It’s not what I do that makes me a follower of Jesus. It’s who I am, and who lives in me. God’s Spirit resides in me.

Read that again.

God’s Spirit lives in me! If you are a Christian reading this, then He lives in you too. Have I spent my time, wasting time, putting myself in a position I was never meant to be in? Am I putting down the Almighty God Himself when I reject His life within me? When I repeat long held negatively tucked deep away in my spirit. When I insist on focusing on what I do, rather than who He created me to be – I am choking the Spirit’s ability to reign fully in my heart and lead.

We must let go, and love, ourself.

So, as you kick off this New Year, I ask you to join me. Stand in the front of the mirror of your heart and listen to your soul and hear it’s cries. Listen. Don’t turn away. Don’t get busy. Be still. Get quiet. When the thoughts come of what you really love, find a way to use that passion for good, and for God. Allow the Holy Spirit to open your mind and your heart into a new direction, His. Don’t quench the Spirit of God, let Him love you. And in doing so, you love yourself.

2017, bring it on.

Wearing our weariness

wearySometimes, we just need time -time to feel, to process and to heal.

Not quick platitudes of prayer and offers to listen, but some real, deep, one on one time. Sigh. Can you feel that tension where intimacy calls you name? This past year my personal life has not afforded me much time to truly let down and recover . To take some time and let the calming peace wash over me. Oh no, not at all.

So, rather than wait for it to somehow magically appear. I made a decision that perhaps years ago I wouldn’t have. I took the time myself. I disconnected from life, from the blog, from Facebook and really tried to being a season of listening. My heart was calling me to focus and to make time for myself.

You can’t listen if you don’t slow down to hear.

I’ve spent my life working in many fashions. Caring for people, teaching, organizing events, managing blogs to grow community and being focused on pathways to inner growth. Moving in and out of life with some renewal and hope of lessons learned tucked away – growing older but hopefully just a tiny bit wiser. Regardless of what I have learned,  I continued to stumble about in my own sin and shame filled insecurities which has extended for a lifetime.

Man, am I tired.

Emotional growth and healing take time and energy. Focus. Purpose. I am confident caring for my father in law was pivotal in helping me see things my heart had been saying for some time.  I needed to slow down, find some balance of where moments of time stood still – and cherish them. It was time to sacrifice the perfectionist tendencies of my heart and accept the reality of the life I have been given. Treasuring time together for the gift it is. Becoming a caregiver I found that I  had been given a precious gift as well.

I learned to listen. I learned to hear. I learned to really be in a moment. I thought I knew how to do this before, but I was kidding myself. This was transformational! Each and every day with Basil I needed to ride the waves of whatever happened that particular day and just be  Now that the experience  is gone as he has passed on, I find myself looking for the focused life I was living when Basil was alive. Walking in those days where nothing else mattered except loving those around you.

This was paramount!

I learned to really love and experience unconditional love. Walking in pure love grounds you. I learned to accept people exactly where they were at and love them irregardless of their circumstances. I realized I could love more than I ever thought possible. How my life begin to change!

I found it wasn’t my own strength that carried me through the days, oh certainly not! It was the presence of something stronger and mightier than myself. God soaked me in moments of quiet everyday that revealed His presence in the pain. He was real. He was alive. He was with me. I understood that my ability to love was in direct correlation with my understanding that I wasn’t alone.

Oh goodness, I am not alone.

Neither are you, my friend. He’s with you too! No matter what you are facing. No matter what you are dealing with. No matter what your life story is at this very moment. God is present.  He wants to make His Presence known to you. Let me say that again, God is present and He wants to make His Presence known to you. Perhaps, you don’t know Him – or maybe, you want to know Him more, experience Him deeply in your life. God’s invitation to you, as well as to me, rings out from the heart of Jesus –

“Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).”

Oh, how I want rest!

I am weary. Aren’t you? Don’t you tire of the daily demands that are placed upon you? Don’t you tire of expectations you place upon yourself? Don’t you ever just want to let it all go? It can’t be only me! It’s a dry and weary land when the demands of life overwhelm you my friends. But, there is hope. You don’t have to handle it alone today, tomorrow or  anymore.

For a long time I lived in denial. I thought I had given my heart to God and followed Him, yet I clung to things I had learned long ago. Thinking that those were the things that would bring me rest and relief. I worked harder. I gave more. I sacrificed precious time that I will never have again. Don’t be me. The regrets can consume you. The fear can paralyze you. The anxiety can stop you.

Come to Jesus. Come to know Him . Come to rest in His love. Accept His invitation. Today you can walk a different life, right now. I don’t mean your life will be perfect, but I do know the provider of peace Himself, Jesus, will walk with you.  There is hope and calm assurance in knowing you aren’t alone. Because you aren’t, my friend. There is nowhere where His Presence can’t be. There is nothing outside His reach. There is no one that His love can’t fill.

He is God! The Almighty Father cares for you. He sent His only son because His love is beyond anything you have ever experienced. God loves you and wants to give you rest in your everyday life.

Come.

Who Can You Trust?

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 5.29.41 PM

Isn’t this the question for all ages?

Who can you trust? This tender belief that the person, the situation you find yourself in, the emotions you are feeling, the circumstances – whatever it may be – that it can be reliable, dependable – true. Trust is the bedrock of any relationship – with spouses, with parents, with siblings,  friends and those you love. Relationships grow and are built with trust, without it, we crumble.

Yes, crumble.

Like tiny pieces of rock, pebbles which grind into your feet. Like rocks you stumble over, tripping along the way to your destination. Like huge boulders you try to carry, throwing them on your shoulder acting like you can handle it all. These rocks of many shapes and sizes all crumble in some ways. Perhaps it’s a large gouge taken out of that rock or a crushed pebble under the weight of your boot. Whatever it may be, there is tiny tender evidence of what a lack of trust can do as it becomes dust under your feet. Crumbling trust that scatters the ash of the rubble into your life.

Rather than the bedrock that trust provides, erecting strong ledges to plant your feet upon. You see insecurity, you find hopelessness, you become distrustful and once down that road, it’s very hard to turn yourself around. Life becomes a burden.

You know what I mean?

You can shake your head in agreement or scoff at my probing, it’s okay. Trust is like that. Once it’s broken, it’s incredibly hard to fix again. We can spend a life time trying to rebuild and access the damage this lack of trust has meted out upon our life. Then within brief moments you can find yourself starting it in the face again. The question reverberates within you, “who can I trust?”

Jesus.

Yes, Jesus. In John chapter 14, the context shows that Jesus has finished the Last Supper with his disciples. Reclining at the table, they surround him and are left trying to comprehend His claims. He had washed their feet and asked them to do the same (John 13:1-17). He predicated his betrayal by Judas Iscariot  (John 13:18-30). He prophesied that Peter  would deny Him (John 13:31-38). It’s at this very moment that He chooses to say these words to his beloved disciples, “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.(John 14:1)”

You see, those disciples began to feel the impact of his words, ponder the painful thoughts of living without Jesus on this earth. Questioning who would deny him, “will it be me?” Casting their doubts and insecurities freely on the table before the Lord. He affirms them, “don’t get lost in despair.”

Have you been there?

Lost in despair and clamoring for hope? Wondering when the pain will end? Questioning how the story unfolds? Angry at life for how it’s transpired? The time, gone. The energy, sapped. The trust, broken.

Jesus says, “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.” Jesus says believe God. Believe what He says. Believe He knows what is best. Believe that he loves you. Believe. Even moreso  He goes on to say, “believe in God, and keep on believing in me.”

Remember now, He is talking to the disciples who had been with Him in His ministry from the beginning. He encourages them to keep on believing, keep on trusting. A belief in God means a belief in His Son Jesus too. Jesus looks at his brothers and implores them to keep on believing, don’t get lost in despair.

Believing is trusting.

I admit I can get lost in despair. I wander around like it’s some well worn coat that I slip on. It’s comfortable, it’s predictable and frankly it’s mistrustful. Every moment I look at my circumstances clamoring for peace, I am believing in myself to fix it. Trusting in what I know and what I experience to be true. That’s not what Jesus calls me to do. He wants me to trust Him. Yes, Him.

I have a distrusting heart. There are pieces of it that won’t trust one word of what Jesus says. Or honestly, what you say. I am full of doubt and there is no bedrock here, no place to position myself to stand firm. Finding a ledge somewhere to grab ahold of to keep me standing is a mystery. I have searched, oh have I! I trip over those rocks along the way, I grind pebbles into the soles of my feet and I continue to carry that boulder of burden on my back – weighing me down.

That is my confession – I am not good at trusting, I lack the faith to believe.

Just ask those closest to me, my spouse, my family – dear friends. I will let you in, I will trust you but there comes a time when my wall I erected years ago stops you in your tracks. Don’t try to pound on the wall, I won’t answer. Don’t try to climb it, I will probably knock you down, Don’t try to take off the bricks aligned high in the sky, as I will start building the wall in other places. Just don’t try.

Hard truth, but real honesty. I don’t trust Jesus well. Oh I have in different ways and in various places, but in this place – the darkest of all, the wall is there – end of discussion. Harsh, yes. Raw, totally. More than you wanted to know, probably. Yet, I think of these words. “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.”

Keep on believing in Jesus.

In your doubt, ache to believe. In your sadness and despair, reach out the One who can fill you. In your pain, let Jesus heal you. He does this as you keep on believing. No matter what your mind tells you. No matter what your experiences continue to tell you. No matter the thoughts that drift in. Find that bedrock and belief in God, anchor yourself to it and keep on believing in Jesus.

If you have a wall erected like a citadel, admit the truth and let Jesus in. He’s the King anyway, let Him be in your heart, in your mind and in your own citadel. Circle up around His throne and keep on believing.

Trust the only one who is trustworthy.

Jesus.

The first week ~ 2015

960

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.

 

Everything is a choice

alone-beach-walls-833540

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.

 

 

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

5aa_11

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!

 

Sit

storm (2of 1)

We sit.

Isn’t that what benches are for? We find them in parks, on busy street corners and in places where you are encouraged to take a moment and sit. Taking in the beauty that’s around you – in the people that walk by and in the vistas laid out before you. Places which speak to you and take your breath away, a sunset, a waterfall – a mountainside oasis.

Sometimes we are perched beside the ocean, and witness the storm rolling in – we recognize the darkened sky, we feel the wind whip up and we see the rain along the horizon. There we are, present and watching as the approaching storm tumbles in and we continue to  sit – and wait.

Wait?

I don’t know about you, but I sure have a few storms in my life. Storms I expected to head on out to sea, blow over,  move on and dwindle off into a small rain cloud rather than an ongoing monsoon. But here they are, dodging me, not letting me go and becoming a source of constant pain. Why would I want to wait for that? Seems to me I’d want to run!

Yet, here I am.

I know the signs. Like when I sit on that bench and see the rain clouds moving in, I sense a storm brewing.  So too, I witness the relational dynamics that toggle my horizon askew as I see a storm rising within.  The question is – am I ready?

Am I ready to face the storm?

Am I ready to fight the battle? Am I ready to stand firm and undergo whatever the storm clouds bring? Am I ready to be still and ride out the storm?  Perhaps your storm doesn’t come with pouring rain and thunder, but with subtle words and inaction. Maybe it’s not the beating rain upon your back but the constant subtle drip of an unsatisfied life. Regardless of what’s on your horizon, and what you see, there is one truth that anchors your soul.

Jesus knows.

He knows what you struggle with, knows where you fall and how you do. He knows how tired you can be, how worn out you can become and loves you anyway.  No matter how you have acted. No matter what you have done. No matter what you will do. Jesus loves you. YOU. Yes, you.

So sit with Him.

See those storm clouds coming and call out in the only way you know how. Holler to Him. Cry out to Him. Whisper to Him. In whatever way you speak – speak. Just go to Him. Him. Jesus Christ who offers hope in a darkened world. Jesus Christ who promises to love you even as the storm blows.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30

Sometimes as we sit – we see.

The longer I sit in a storm the clearer my vision can become – eventually. Rather than wishing for the storm to pass we need to keep company with Jesus. He asks me to get away with Him and in doing so I will recover my life. Getting away with Jesus is as simple, and as difficult – as being still with Him and waiting on His timing.

Waiting might be what we are called to do. As we sit by the sea andsee the storm rage on, it can call us to drink in the creation that affirms one thing – our Creator. We are not alone in our storm. We are invited to sit with Him and learn the unforced rhythms of grace. So grab a bench, a chair, any perch will do.

And sit.

 

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

Out Of The Shadows

Picture 11

I can’t seem to find my way.

I see the light, it’s inviting me to step up, out and go onward.  And yet, my feet, they just can’t grab ahold. I take a step, the rocks they shift and scatter as my weight bears down on them. My foot, it slips. Sometimes I fall. I try to move, just move – my feet, yet when my feet fail me, what do I do? I could just sit there, gazing up and thinking how beautiful that light is. But, no! I stretch out my hands to grab ahold and feel for the rock under my grip. Maybe between my arms and legs I pull myself up and can climb out – and be free.

So why am I still here?

Sitting in my cavern of doubt, this place I know so well – questions rise to the surface faster than any sense of peace. I look up and see the light shining and I want to go to it, climb out and sit it’s in warmth. I want – the light. The warmth it brings, the comfort I find, the hope of being able to see in the darkness. That’s the thing about light, it shines like a beacon. Calling us to it’s presence.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” It is just that simple. Jesus is the light. He is the source of warmth, of comfort and of the hope that I seek. He is the every glowing, nonstop energy source we can cling to, we can hold onto, yes – we can trust. Trust.  As you sit in your own cavern surrounded by doubt and fears, you have a choice. You do! Take one more step- just one. Who cares if you are standing on the rubble of a battered life, of broken promises and shattered dreams?

Jesus does.

Are you grieving? Then grieve my friend. Feel the pressure of the rocks under your feet. Let the wounds they inflict bleed. As you reach for another cleft in the rock looking to climb out – know this. Remaining in that cavern may be the place that you need to be. The step you want to take to climb out, in fact may be the one you need to take to step out of the shadows you are hiding in and place yourself into the beam of His presence.

Step my friend, into the light.

His light. You may be wrestling to climb out when He is inviting you to sit with Him. The light Jesus can shine, it can move into every crevice in that cavern, every place of darkness can be aflame with His truth. But first you must step out of the shadows of the doubt and into it. Let it cast it’s beam right into your personal pit of pain and insecurity. He’s there, with you, now. No matter what you face, no matter how much you feel overcome or are discouraged. His light shines forth.

Its an invitation!

He is the light of the world. That word light in Matthew 5:16 means, “the light by which true life is gained.” Jesus is proclaiming that He is the way in which true life is gained. LIFE. Oh, Jesus is the way. It reminds me of this verse in John 14:6 when Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is calling out like a lighthouse beam on the oceans shore – shouting out His Majesty that He is the Savior of the world, and through Him you can have eternal life. It’s a ray of hope revealing the goodness and the mercy of God’s favor, His delight. His love can reach us into the darkened places of our hearts, reveal our doubts and is present in moments of weakness.

Can you see Him shining through?

Sometimes you might have to be in the process and grieve. Feel the pain – endure suffering. Your dreams you had, they may not be what has played out before you. You may find the walls of your cavern scribbled with words of despair and loneliness. You might be keeping yourself cloaked in regrets of the past. You may be blinded by fears of the future and of the unknown. Whatever your situation is, regardless of the circumstances – it doesn’t matter – we all have our own caverns and pits -our places where we are more comfortable in the shadows than in the light.

I encourage, my friend, His light can shine through that hole in your heart, my heart, and cast a beam of hope. Don’t get comfortable in the darkness, place yourself in His care. Trust Him. Let Him shine into your heart. Invite hope to rise.

Maybe the way out isn’t up, but through.

Follow the Light.

Uncovered

Screen shot 2013-11-25 at 3.51.09 PM

Walking along the beach I often am overcome by the beauty of it all. The sound of the surf as it gently moves in and out, the ocean that stretches out as far as the eye can see and the soft sand under my feet. There is just so much to be captivated by at the beach, I get caught up in the mystery and wonder of it all.

Do you do that too?

Walk along gazing out upon the grand schemes of your life and find yourself, overcome? Perhaps it’s not an overcome with the beauty of it all feeling, oh no, maybe you just feel overcome by moments of regret – dreams unfulfilled, longings unmet and hopes dashed.

You mean it’s not just me?

Often the sand of my life that I walk upon, it’s not so soft upon my feet. It’s full of broken shells, rocks and bits of sand that just irritate me as I go. I need to stop and shake the dust off, perhaps grab a pebble or two and remove the things which stop me from taking another step.

Regrets.

That’s what stops me from taking another step. We do need to keep on walking, taking another step, so that we can marvel at the beauty around us. Sometimes the ocean that stretches out for miles might look like a river to us rather than the grand expanse that it truly is. Or the sound of the surf and the oceans roar might deafen our ears to the gentle lap of the waves on our feet. We have to force ourselves – to see.

Take a moment and think right now. What is scattered across the beach in your heart? Broken relationships. Health problems. Jobs denied. Uncertainty, instability, insecurity. It’s not a very pretty sight, is it? We want to run from it, deny it – we fear it.

“There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment.” 1John 4:18 Good News Translation

Fear. Regrets. They go hand in hand. Interlocking their fingers and holding us captive to the worries and doubts of life. If we fear, we don’t fully grasp love. God says there is no fear in love. None! When we live in love, experience love, focus on love – we see. Love can uncover the fears nestled in the sandbars of our heart and release them. Deep within our hearts are the things which we regret – the relationships we mourn, the innocence lost, the hopes left unfulfilled – hidden.

We must be brave. Let God uncover you.

Face your fears, search your heart- these are not acts of defeat or a life of regret. No – far from it! These are ways in which we love ourselves and  love our God.  Don’t remain buried any longer. Live your life.

Uncovered.