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.

 

As The Storm Closes In…

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How long will it last – the storm that is?

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

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

Just like life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compassion.

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

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

Right there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Come,” he said.

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

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

Jesus walked on water – absolutely amazing.

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

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

As the storm bears down, where is your focus ?

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

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

Through the storm.

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.

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.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

 

My Performance

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Confession time.

I’ve spent most of my life measuring out ways in which I can find my place into God’s graces. I’ve sought Him out for relief, for hope, for answers, for direction – for so many things. But there is nothing, just nothing, I can ever do, to place one more note on the scale in His score. No matter how hard I try, or what I do, my place in the symphony of saints is secure. Because I am His.

His.

Sometimes, if you are like me, you might fall into this trap. We strive to perform. We search to find moments where we will be good “enough”, strong “enough” or faithful “enough”. We search and scour our thinking, contemplating “if we only had ______” that note might finally land on the page of the Great Composer.
Enough.

Until I accept He is enough, I will lie to myself into thinking that God’s majestic symphony will somehow exclude me. God conducts a marvelous tune and I must yield to Him and dance along. Sometimes I shout out in a chorus of praise and song and sometimes I just close my eyes and listen to the music He’s orchestrating.

God’s love is not dependent on my performance.

Or yours.

In the most unlikely place

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I was sitting in a courthouse of all places –  a courthouse.

The place were laws are made, upheld and enforced. Peering into the reality that what I was about to face -well – it’s wasn’t going to be pretty. I owed a debt. Not a large debt, but one that had gone unpaid. Questions surfaced and attacked my sense of reality – just how had this debt accumulated that I was unaware of?  Why hadn’t this been handled earlier? I had always been a responsible person. Exactly how did I get here?

Perhaps that story is for another day, for what came from this experience is so much richer than how I got here. This story needs to be told, why else would I admit such hard things?

My arrival on the courthouse steps wasn’t this scene from Law & Order or anything significant. When I walked in, not one person recognized me or was there to fight on my behalf. I walked in – alone. As I opened the doors to the crowded courtroom I could hear the judge as he read off the names of people waiting in the gallery for their turn to speak and be heard.  When my case was called, I somehow needed to find my feet and rise up to stand. All eyes from that sea of faces were upon me, gulp, yes me. I knew in that moment, I was no longer alone. I was a part of this plethora of people who hurt, who are broken and have fallen and just might need a new contract on life.

Make no mistake I was there to take ownership and  be responsible for the things that transpired. Yet somehow I realized this debt that accumulated over time, had brought doubt and shame to my own sense of who I am as a person. Who had I become that I let a small amount of money determine  my sense of self and purpose? This is what I truly had to face – not the debt.

Myself.

As the judge dismissed us, more waiting began outside in the lobby of the courthouse. The benches filled up with souls awaiting their turn to speak their story, to tell their tale – and to be heard. I sat among them and as I looked out at the morning sun, I smiled at the beauty of another day, even the hard ones. The benches filled and chatter ensued. Yet I stay enclosed in my thoughts, sitting on my bench all alone, just me. Until.

Until she sat down.

We both looked more alike than the rest of the crowd, our clothes were a bit cleaner, our hair a bit neater and our conversation much quieter. I don’t remember how it happened, but somehow we talked, sharing our stories with one another. I found this such a gift to prepare myself to speak to the lawyer when it was my turn. As our stories unfolded I found our lives intersected in so many ways, our dreams similar and our hopes just as dashed. At one point she leans over to me quietly and says, “you know, you should really talk to the free legal team here, they have really helped me.” As I awaited justice, judgement and punishment, I heard the first whisper of mercy.

Mercy.

I thought for a moment, could this be? My questions were answered as quickly as I posed them to myself. The free legal team was searching me out, they called my name. We met and discussed my case. In fact, I didn’t have to discuss much at all. I walked in alone to the courtroom but now I had someone to defend me, someone who heard my story. Next thing I know I am filling out paperwork and they meet with the judge.

Case dismissed.

Just like that. The wheels of justice turned and once set in motion, they blew right past me. Not only was my case dismissed, it will now be expunged from my record. My name, my good name, is back intact.  My years of hard work and reliability, of consistent payment of debts, restored.   Erased. Redeemed. Forgiven. Like it never even happened.

Mercy.

Mercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone when it is within one’s power to punish. This is what I experienced today, awe inspiring mercy. It was within the courts rights to hold me to this debt, yet I was freed. I can’t ever express what this has done for me. Not for my bottom line financially, but for my spirit. I tasted mercy and forgiveness and now I am  called to offer the same. Freely I have received and freely I must give.

Parable of unmerciful servant.

“At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”

Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Mercy.

I was now walking within this very parable, in God’s story for my own life. Like the man forgiven of his debts, I too had been forgiven. Okay, so I didn’t owe 10,000 bags of gold, but I had a debt, one I couldn’t pay. What would I do? Would I return home from the courthouse, renewed with hope, and show mercy? Or would I be like the unmerciful servant who demands from others more then he himself could give? Could I truly grasp the gift of mercy God had bestowed upon me? I. Couldn’t. Breathe. I needed to stop and take it all in –  and weep.

This wasn’t about money, oh no. It was about me.

About me loving, trusting and believing in God  – and receiving mercy. The most precious gift of all, compassion touching my heart in places that laid bare before Him. Places I didn’t even know existed, but He did.  Remember, I had let money define and determine my value. Money is a currency – but not one of the heart. There is no price tag on our value, no balance sheet that can hold all our debts. No. We are valuable because of His love. We are valuable because of His mercy. We are valuable because we are His.

His.

I don’t know what debts you owe. . What situation you have in your life that might throw you into your debtors court. This I do know, it’s humiliating. But if I had never walked up those courthouse steps, I wouldn’t have been able to experience the incredible mercy of the Living God. YWHW. Perhaps your debt isn’t financial – but you feel it. There is forgiveness that needs to be offered, hope that needs to be restored and hearts to love and encourage to turn to Him.

Just take one step. Let mercy win.

 New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986 

 

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.

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

created2fly take thoughts captive 11 2013

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!