Confessions Of A Wayward Spirit

Wayward, yep, that’s me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It ends, today.

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

Self condemnation is a terrible place to live.

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

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

Join me?

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

 

Endless Days

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It’s been months now.

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

Heartbreaking.

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

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

No.

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

None.

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

God says that love never fails.

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

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

How come, God?

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

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

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

Let’s keep it simple.

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

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

Love yourself.

 

You fight – we wait

waiting_for_dog_by_cathleentarawhiti-d64g7uz Every single day, you fight. You fight to hold onto what was, clawing your way to what could be, regretting what should have been. You ache for days that fill themselves with family, with loved ones, with hope. You wait, oh how you wait – for relief, for a cure, for some hope.

But it doesn’t come.

Grasping at every opportunity looking to find peace, you search with all your heart. For the next medical treatment, the newest doctor, some glimmer of hope. Oh how you fight, climbing up out of the pit of pain and suffering, you search becomes desperate. Hope flew away with the wind as you heard the word, hospice.

You want positive motion, energy, life. But hospice? No, no, not hospice. That would mean giving up. That would mean no longer fighting. That would mean defeat. Right? Well, no.  The battle has been fought and fought so hard.  With each breath you have struggled to take –  you find yourself moving closer to the unknown. Staring it down, it reaches into your core forcing you to face something so unfamiliar. You fight with all your might to keep yourself together, to not let go and to maintain control.

Yes, control.

The days run along, one after another – like the ones before. Filled with appointments, expectations and responsibilities that weigh you down. You move about your life and embrace times of hope filled healing. hard work and satisfaction that comes from the toil of your hands, your mind, your strength.Yes, your strength.

Relying upon yourself you face your fear and when doing so, you often fail. It’s not the power of your words or your actions that speak. It’s not the power of your mind or body that revel you. Oh no, it’s the power of your spirit. Of the strength of who you are as a person that radiates throughout your hospital room. This strength rises high above any expectation. Your goals and your hopes are high, your desire, strong. Your will, unshakeable.

You will beat this.

Yet the words ring in your ears. Hospice, hospice, hospice. Death looms on the horizon and you hesitate to make any decision – for in doing so it may stop your light from leaving this world – peering down at your impending death. You ache to remain here in this world,  while we begin to prepare our minds and hearts for the world without you. Meditating on life with the gaping hole you will leave behind.

Oh how we want you here. Oh yes! But even moreso, we want you in peace. We need you in peace. You hold on and we ache to hold onto you. Experiencing these moments of true joy and authenticity drizzle sweet mercy upon our wounded hearts. We embrace times of grace, love and forgiveness. For maybe the first time, we live, you live.

Live!

In these moments I know it’s true, you will  live on. Hospice or no hospice. Cancer of no cancer. Life or death. You will live. You will remain. You will stretch beyond this world that you know and challenge us, challenge me. We will grow, because of you. We will love, because of you. We can find hope, because of you. We can fight, because of how you taught us to. You will always be with us and in our hearts. Loving us from afar, nudging us to take another step and reminding us that love comes in many forms. Perhaps not with the words we want to hear, but the life we want to live. Each moment with deep passion, and with you – God. Yes, God.

The time for control is over. You are preparing to leave us behind. We are embracing the total measure of your life. It’s not found in money, nor career or material things. Hardly! The peace we find, is resting in the arms of Jesus Christ and letting Him care for you. Embrace you. Love you. Yes, you.

From this life into the next.

Which stage are you?


Helping-hands

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

Oh, we grieve.

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

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

We die, as we have lived.

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

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

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

So, why are we?

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

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

Live.

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

We must choose.

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

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

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

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

Where have you laid his body?

Come and see, Lord.

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

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

We all will die – but how will we live?

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

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

For we die, as we have lived.

Out Of The Shadows

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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.

God is… love

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God is love.

It’s just that simple – and that complicated.

Love. It is this deep need we have within ourselves. We desire to be loved. We yearn for it. We seek it out and perhaps get a bit desperate sometimes. We search for it, looking all over, as it we lost it somehow. Love – we fall into it, out of it, we give it, receive it, refuse to offer it sometimes and can even give way too much of it.

Love. God is love.

When I think of God, I don’t think of an emotional being, not at all. I think of a spiritual, transformational, powerful, all knowing and ever present being.  I rarely think or contemplate this nature of God, yet the Bible tells us that God is love. One of the shortest verses in Scripture is packed with such profound truth.

He is love and because He is love, we too, can love. God is the author of love Himself. The provider of strength to those seeking it. The giver of hope when you can’t seem to find the way to express it. God is love and it’s His love that can mold us into being love to others. His love works in us and through us.

The greatest story ever told, is the story of love itself.

God loves you, yes YOU –  so very much that He choose to send His very own son, Jesus, to bring us back into relationship with Him. God chose to love us, even when we did nothing to receive that love. God chose to love us  even when we didn’t deserve it. It’s this amazing picture of selfless, sacrificial and devotional love.

God chose to send His son. God chose to sacrifice Him. God chose for Him to be resurrected. God chose to send His Spirit. God chose this plan for your salvation. God chose. God chose. God chose.

Love my friends, it’s not just a emotional feeling or response – it’s a choice. Sometimes we just don’t feel loved. When we don’t feel it, it’s so much harder to choose love, isn’t it?

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:16-19)

God not only loves us, but wants us to grasp how wide, how long, how high and how deep is the love of Christ! This love is so huge! It’s so hard for our finite minds to grasp and yet He calls us to it, Paul said it’s his prayer. The Spirit of the Living God can strengthen your inner being. You can be filled to the measure of the fullness of God. How amazing this love is!

God is love.

Why do we complicate something so beautiful?

Chose Him.

Standing on the Word

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The waves of doubt come crashing in, surrounding me and encasing me in fear. Yes, fear. That thing we dread and we pretend doesn’t happen to us – the uncertainty we can battle each and every moment. Yearning to answer the question – do we really believe? No, let’s get real.

Do I really believe?

Jesus, the Eternal One, the Most High God, my Savior – do I believe, in You? Not just your words, your story, the parables, the miracles and the victory. But YOU. If you asked me to share a Scripture, I could probably quote it. If you asked me to serve on a committee, I may just be able to lead it. But if you asked me to trust you – I would doubt. Oh, I would doubt.

Doubt your love, doubt your care – doubt the truth that you are really there. I look for signs scattered about, of your love and your compassion. It’s like a treasure I seek, a yearning to be filled – that shall never satisfy me.

Ah.

The water rises higher, I gasp to get my breath but I sense the truth you want to eradicate from the depths of my being. You see – it’s me. Me. I am the one who sinks into doubt. No. One. But. Me. No pointing fingers for the reasons for my doubt, only the realization that fear starts – with me.

Will my soul ever be comforted? My heart cease it’s taunting? I crave intimacy I can only find – in You. I have searched for it in relationships – with family and friends, expected it from people who just couldn’t give it, desired it in ways I regret. Yet, with each failed hope and lost opportunity – the waters rose and waves began to lap at my very soul. Experiences became etched together like a tapestry in my mind. My lack of faith kept me still. Not a stillness as in being still with God, oh no. Still – in not knowing what to do – where to turn or how to go. That stillness that immobilizes you, is fear.

My doubt was drowning out His voice.

“Don’t panic. I’m with you.
There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” – Isaiah 41:10

It’s Him I need to fill me.

To complete me. To hold me steady. To keep a firm grip on me. It’s Jesus. Him. He wants to redirect the waves and let them gently drift over me. He can allow them to rise, and to fall – cascading and flowing, yet never drowning. You see these waves, they redirect our focus. Sometimes we get overwhelmed by their pull and fight the undercurrent. Other times we are crushed to the ground as the waves pound our backs. As we tread water to survive, we look for places to rest our feet.

On His Word.

Trust. I must trust. I must engulf myself with His presence, His love, His Spirit and His truth. To trust you more Jesus, I need to love me – less. I need to let go of my fear, my doubt and the voices which assail me. That tapestry in my mind may be unwoven, yet it does not have to suffocate me.

Do not panic. Do. Not. Panic. Do not.

I’m with you.

It’s time, He’s calling me and perhaps He’s calling you too. To trust Him and only Him. To let go. Let. Go. GO.  Knowing that He will help. He will give strength. He will hold me and hold you steady. Steady. Not tossed back and forth like the waves. Steady. Firm. Constant.

Stand on the Word and it will lift you above the water. Gasp for breath as you need to. Dive into the waters when you slip. When you are ready, let Him guide you back up to stand with Him. Right back on His Word and into a deeper relationship with Him.

Keep your eyes above the waves. and focus.

On Him.

Living in truth?

Denial

While all this was going on, Peter was down in the courtyard. One of the Chief Priest’s servant girls came in and, seeing Peter warming himself there, looked hard at him and said, “You were with the Nazarene, Jesus.”

He denied it: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He went out on the porch. A rooster crowed.

 The girl spotted him and began telling the people standing around, “He’s one of them.” He denied it again.

After a little while, the bystanders brought it up again. “You’ve got to be one of them. You’ve got ‘Galilean’ written all over you.”

Now Peter got really nervous and swore, “I never laid eyes on this man you’re talking about.” Just then the rooster crowed a second time. Peter remembered how Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows twice, you’ll deny me three times.” He collapsed in tears.” Mark 14:66-72

Denial.

Flat out, straight from our heart – nope, I didn’t know it, didn’t do it, didn’t say it and even didn’t think it! Denial, refusal, rejection – ways in which we deflect ourselves from dealing with the reality of the situation before us.

In this story from Scripture, Peter was faced with the ongoing questions about his relationship and his commitment to Jesus the Nazarene., “I never laid eyes on this man you’re talking about.” Here Peter denied knowing Jesus, the Christ, three times before the rooster crowed. His denial was not a one time occurrence, oh no! He refused, again and again, to acknowledge his relationship, his experience and his love for Jesus.

Wow.

Just drink it in. The man Peter who did so much for His Lord Jesus, had this moment where he couldn’t accept the truth that knowing Jesus would hurt. Admitting He knew Jesus at the moment left him open for accusation, shame, distrust and mockery. Peter didn’t want to feel it, experience it or go through this public disapproval. I believe he feared it. Jesus was before the Sanhedrin that very moment, standing silent against their false testimony about Him. (Mark 14:61) And Peter, in his denial of His Lord, spoke volumes.

Denial, it does that.

It starts with one refusal of the truth  and next thing you know it is planting and growing seeds of mistrust and disunity wherever it lands. We all could confess to some denial in our lives, don’t you think?  We often refuse to admit the truth of who we are in our very inner being. We share part of ourselves with the world, to the communities and even to our families. Perhaps our marriages are a mess, or maybe we harbor an addiction we try to keep under wraps. It could be we just don’t want to face the pain of our past so we just keep looking forward thinking that will “fix” it. We focus everywhere we can, pointing fingers of blame elsewhere, rather to face the truth we find in the mirror.

We are afraid.

Fear is the bedrock of denial. We fear what others think. We fear what might happen to us. We fear our reputations to be amiss, our family life to be torn asunder and our belief in who we are, rejected. Rather than speak truth and shine authenticity into the world around us, we deny the power of truth.

It is when we choose to speak the truth that invites transforming power and hope of God to a life filled with denial. Fingers may continue to point your way, self rejection and shame may consume you and make you want to flee. You do have a choice.

Choose truth.

Let the warped sense of reality that denial brings fall away.  Invite Jesus into this place and let the power of God’s Spirit  speak into a dark, dry place. This place in our hearts which yearns for hope, craves acceptance and desires freedom. I encourage you today, from someone who is a Peter. I’ve lived in denial and shown only part of who I am to those around me. There is freedom in being you. Don’t deny being the person God intended you to be.

Face your fear, and live!

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message. Bible Gateway. Web. 15 Jan. 2014.

Reclaim The Captive

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What do you see when you look at me?

Go ahead, rattle them off, say what you think, what you believe, I won’t stop you. In fact, I can’t hear a word you will say, so go ahead – speak. Utter the words that you see as true, in me.  And you know what? I can’t change one thing you think or believe. Not one bit. But man, have I spent years trying!

I’ve invested time into trying to change, rebuild, transform something deep within me. Something I can’t even put my finger on. Yet it’s something I continue to hide, to run from and to fight with every ounce of my being.

I’ve been held captive to the expectations and the thoughts of what others think of me for way too long. Thoughts of how I look, how I act, what I choose, what I don’t choose – on and on the list goes – endless, it seems. Sometimes it’s the list others expect of me, but often it’s the list I churn out for myself. Constantly seeing just one more thing, adding to the stack already piled all over my heart and my mind.

Well I ever measure up?

The very first moment Jesus stood up to read from the Scriptures to announce His ministry, He spoke these words as the bedrock and foundation.

 The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me
because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
pardon all prisoners.” Isa 61: 1-2

You see, what you might see in me or not see in me – will never be  what I see. I look in the mirror and what is reflected back to me are the thoughts that swirl hidden beneath the surface of my reality. The doubts that creep in, the fears which begin to assail me and I wonder -how did I get here? With all my God has done for me, why do I choose to live here?

I am a captive.

I have bound my head and my heart by living to the expectations that I place upon myself and accepting what others think as a truth to be lived by. You don’t need to tie up my hands, or clasp my feet, I did so for you. I’ve made it so simple to live a defeated life. I never saw a way out, even as I fought and rebelled against the oppression, I quietly and sometimes not so quietly, yielded, and lived a self defeated life. A lie.

When Jesus says in Isaiah 61 that He came to release the captives, the Hebrews most often rendition of being a captive means to be “carried off.” While engaged in battle, the Hebrews often carried off their plunder. As they raged war on the land, they surveyed the things of value and sought out the most precious things of all and captured them. To be a captive, a slave, was not considered a good, or a healthy thing. Often you had no choice, it was life – or death.

Isn’t that the way it goes? Sometimes in your life you have no choice.

Things happen that are out of your control. And in an instant, you are taken captive to the experience, the situation and the fear that often surrounds it. Trauma takes center stage, abuse, neglect, an accident, a sudden loss of a loved one, an illness, financial ruin. Whatever the situation, you move from being a victim – to be bound and captive to it in your life.

Your experiences shape who you are, who you see yourself to be and somewhere along the way you give them permission to define you. And it’s in those moments, the shackles go on. You clamp them around your wrists and your feet. You may not hear it at the time, yet their grip is secure.

We give control away.

There we are – a captive. Being led from the land you once knew – to a new place filled with fear, questions and uncertainties.

Long ago, I accepted that one’s life is constrained and defined not only by personal experiences, but by the power of the living God. It was here I began, in the pages of Isaiah 61 to meet Jesus, the Christ. Who came to announce the freedom in which we already stand because of who Jesus is and release those who are held captive.

Announce and release – just like that. So simple, so divine, such good news!

Yet, as a fellow captive to another, not so easy, is it? Perhaps you are not captive yourself, that’s okay. I admit I am personally bound up so tightly in the grips of the past and my own experiences, that I am not fully free and released to live in the freedom in which I now firmly stand. Somehow I throw the shackles back on, I pick them up, I revert to what seems the easiest at the time.

You see, what we know, how we have always handled things in the past – is often easy, comfortable and “normal”. However, is it always best for us?

The way of Jesus is hard.

There is a cost in following Jesus – forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration come through His sacrifice and life. He’s done this for us on the cross at Calvary and He wants us to do the same for others. To forgive, reconcile and restore relationships in our lives. It’s hard, but not impossible!

You see, we do have a choice – we can let go and release the shackles we place upon ourselves. Release ourselves from the expectations that we place upon ourselves and the ones others try to impose upon us. We can let go.

We might have been carried off in battle and held captive, but Jesus Christ can carry you now as you release yourself to Him and rest. Give yourself over, to rest. Rest in the arms of Jesus and be free.

Reclaim the captive!

Uncovered

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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.