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.

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!

A Wandering Sheep

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A sheep, that’s all I am.

My needs? To be fed, to be tended to, cleaned up once in a while.  Just like any other animal, that’s all there is. Basic necessities of life. If I am hurt, care for me. If I am wandering, find me. If I am broken, let me heal.

A sheep, that’s me.

“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me.” John 10:14

Jesus Christ calls Himself the Good Shepard. Not just the shepard, but the good shepard. The One who tends to the sheep, the One who looks after the flock and the One who searches for scattered sheep.

Jesus promises to provide these basic necessities of life. If you are hurting, the shepard cares for you. If you are wandering, the shepard will come find you. If you are broken, he helps heal you and waits patiently as you do.

Sometimes, I scatter.

I run. I turn my back on the shepard, on the flock I am foraging with and the insistent nudges of the staff guiding my way. I just go. I get scared. I feel overwhelmed. I don’t understand the road I am traveling on. It doesn’t make any sense to this sheep. So, I run.

What does a shepard do with a sheep that has once again left the fold? How does Jesus, my Shepard respond? He searches for them. He leaves the flock and looks high and low, to reclaim that sheep. Not giving up until it’s found. I love that part. Jesus searches, looks, and doesn’t stop, until I am found.

Ah, comforting, isn’t it?

How does a shepard get the sheep back to the flock? He lifts them up from right where they are, no matter what condition they are in, He wraps His arms around them and carries them. Yes, Jesus accepts you just as you are, and lifts you up and carries you! It’s here, in this moment, I abandon myself to His arms and let Him carry me. I allow Jesus access to my heart to take my hurts, my brokenness and care for me. Heal me.

Do you want to be healed?

It’s a curious thing about how the shepard brings that sheep home, lifted high upon his shoulders with a firm grip on their feet. See that? Jesus Christ, our good shepard,  carries us and then He makes sure we stay right there on His capable shoulders. I suspect the shepard needs to keep that sheep in it’s place, secure and safe. Otherwise it might try to scurry off. I know I would.

You see, the closer I get to the destination that the Shepard is bringing me towards, the more I fight Him and want to run. I seek His comfort, yes. But I may not like where we are walking. Do you know what I mean? Walking down the road, not liking the sights you see, but knowing you have to take another step, move through one more thing, to get where He’s bringing you.

You ask yourself, do I really want to go?

Jesus is the Good Shepard, He knows me. He is leading me along the way, He is nudging me forward, He is picking me up helping me walk and going after me when I run. How blessed am I to have such a shepard?

You may not like the road you are walking down, or the ways in which you get there. But fear not, you have a Good Shepard leading you, guiding you, protecting you, carrying you and healing you. All you have to do, is walk.

Trust the Good Shepard of your soul. Abandon yourself to Him today. Release yourself from figuring out the journey. Let Him fight for you.

Just take one more step.

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.

Encaged…

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It’s just some sticks, some wood. Nothing, really.  I pick them up and use them to make a fence, a wall.

Piece by piece.

Sometimes we encircle our hearts thinking we are protecting ourselves. We try to ease our pain and calm our fears. We build these walls stick by stick, tying them together with fishing line, or rubber bands that snap, as we desperately piece them together. We do it as quick as we can – thinking perhaps the faster they go up, the less pain we might feel.

Uh huh.

We erect them to keep out painful memories, hurtful times, difficult moments. All the while we build thinking we are helping ourselves, when we are in fact encaging our very own heart. It’s not a fence or a wall, it’s a cage. Isn’t that what it feels like?

It does to me.

We sit inside these boundary walls which are meant to help as we peer out at the world. We gaze across meadows, pastures, see the sun rise and fall, squirreled away in our nests along the fence. For a while we look inside and tend to the garden of our hearts. We weed what’s inside, we plant new seed, we till the soil. Yet, we remain, trapped inside. The very thing that was meant to protect us, made us a prisoner.

It’s time we choose to set ourselves free.

See, we can point the finger and talk about what others have done to us. We can examine our circumstances and ignite sympathy and compassion. We can seek comfort in the arms of those we love. But the only one who can release us from the cage, is us. We built it, we must demolish it. Funny thing is, as we try to do so, we find the cage  door has rusted shut, the key has been lost, the way out isn’t the way you thought was out. See, you don’t have control after all.

When Jesus Christ first stood up in the Temple and read from the scrolls of God’s Word, these are the words he spoke.

“The Spirit of the Lord, the Eternal, is on me.
The Lord has appointed me for a special purpose.
He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to repair broken hearts,
And to declare to those who are held captive and bound in prison,
“Be free from your imprisonment!”” Isa 61:1 The Voice

As much as I try to pry open the door, it is Christ I need. As often as I think I can handle it myself, it is Christ I need. As I pound on the doors of my cage trying to rip it open, it is Christ I need. He says to me, “be still.” For He is the gatekeeper. He’s been appointed for a special purpose, for just this time. He’s here to release you, release me, and declare freedom for those enslaved. He’s been doing it since the very 1st century, and He wants to do it now, today, for you.

So those sticks you picked up and thought you could master. Those walls you built to protect your precious heart. That cage you now sit in. Stop rattling the walls, stop pounding on the door, stop fighting it, stop – just stop. For there is good news! Jesus has the key.

Let Him open the door of your heart and release you.

Change = Life

Fall Leaf (1 of 1)

Sometimes we are meant, to stand out.

Just recently I was driving along enjoying a beautiful Fall day when down dropped this red leaf onto my rain soaked windshield. Amongst a sea of yellow, ambers and greens this small little leaf, shone. The contrast of colors is what made me stop the car and take notice, and in fact – take this photo. As the bright sun lit it up there was no mistaking the beauty of this leaf.

This dead leaf falling to the ground can bring joy.

Cast off from it’s home, from it’s perch and connection to all it knew, at just the right time and season – it let go. Releasing itself to the wind, the sun, the elements all around it. It could have fallen by the road, into the piles and piles in my yard, but for that one moment, we met. Beauty on my windshield and a gentle reminder from the Heavenly Father to my heart. Sometimes we are just meant to stand out, let go and be who we were destined to be.

How do we do that?

Being real, authentic and true to the design of our very souls and inner beings means to have an awareness of who we are. Dare I say, we must learn to love ourselves. Loving ourselves challenges us to first look.  Gazing around and seeing the beauty of the leaves is one thing, but to sit, ponder and examine the sinews of that very leaf and understand it’s process, this is work. So too, with our delicate and precious souls, minds, hearts. If we want to believe differently, feel differently, respond differently – we must stop and meditate, examine ourselves and submit to be transformed.

This is work. Hard work.

That red leaf, you see, it wasn’t always that red color. It was a green leaf just like all the others leaves on the tree. It was the same, it was no different, it just was – a leaf. But time had taken it’s toll on it, the available light cycle had changed and so it began to change it’s color and it’s luster – it transformed. So too with our hearts. They undergo change through trials, through pain, suffering and the choices we make. Some things we have no control over and we are victims of circumstance and the sin of others. Yet, it still hurts, doesn’t it?  Nevertheless, we have a choice in how we respond, how we love and how we handle the gifts bestowed upon us.

“Brothers and sisters, in light of all I have shared with you about God’s mercies, I urge you to offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God, a sacred offering that brings Him pleasure; this is your reasonable, essential worship.  Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.” (Romans 12:1-2 The Voice)

God clearly tells us in Romans 12:1-2, that in view of His magnificent mercies, His compassion and His love that we are to offer our bodies as living and holy sacrifices. Our very bodies and lives can be offered up to the Eternal God of Heaven – um, what? Can you grasp how important becoming a living sacrifice is to our God?  Like Jesus offered Himself on the cross, so we too offer our own bodies as we walk.

How so?

Scripture says we do this with our minds – our thoughts, our fears, our hurts, our pain. Those things which we often push away, God says, ‘be still.’ Sit and ponder the sinews and depths of our hearts, our pain, our suffering. We no longer deny that it’s there – we look, we feel and we let go. The tentacles of suffering may be far reaching, and digging in these places will be painful.

Don’t let it stop you.

God asks us to be transformed from the inside out. This is not something that can be done to us, that we inflict upon our bodies  – rather it is the mercy, love and grace of God moving in our very hearts and minds – transforming how we think, feel and believe. We choose, we must choose, to love. It starts right there, in your very own heart, in mine.  Love yourself, give yourself permission to be loved and to be seen for who you really are. It’s time.

Our hearts, they are this ugly and beautiful thing. We have darkness there, let Him transform it. You don’t want it to hurt anymore? Bring it into His light. You don’t want to respond in anger anymore? Nail it to the cross.  You might need a friend to carry the light for you at times. God will provide. Walk. Trust. Let Go – and let God transform you, change you to be who you were destined to be- and live.

Like that red leaf I met one Fall day shone in the beauty of the sun. Let God meet your deepest longing in your heart and begin to transform you, change you, love you – free you. So you too, amongst a sea of people – shine.

For sometimes we were meant to stand out.

Mountains to climb

Faith move moutains.

Repeat after me –

Our faith can move mountains. Our faith can move mountains. Our faith can move mountains.

Whew, that’s a mouthful. But here’s the question, do you believe it? I mean really, really, believe that faith can move mountains?

Hmmm, me either.

I want to believe it, I yearn to believe, I intellectualize it, I ponder it. But I do I believe it?

Like placing one foot in front of another as we walk along the mountain terrain is the dance of these words as they carve themselves into our hearts. We can lay them out, reading in succession and focus on their flow. Our. Faith. Can. Move. Mountains. Repeating the mantra over and over again and somehow it becomes true, right?

Riiiiiight………..

So often I have found myself, stuck in my circumstances thinking, why? Why do I have to deal with so many physical problems? Why do I have this constant pain in my body?  Why don’t I have the energy to live life the way I desire to? Why do all these medical tests cost so much?  Why do I live so far from devoted friends and family?  Why did this happen? Why? Why? Why?

You see, the questions linger on the tongue, waiting to be asked, but the moment the words are uttered we stare directly into that faith, the one that moves mountains. Yeah, that one.

Somehow the messiness of the trail we are walking on obscures the view. Branches of doubt creep in, thorns of insecurity poke and prod and the rotten fruit of promises broken litter the trail. We focus our eyes are what we see, ponder what could have been and desire dreams that were lost.

We can’t even see the mountain, let alone make it move!

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. Luke 17:5-6                                                       

Faith. That which we believe in, trust, hope for, live in. It can define us, chart our course, change our minds, strengthen our hearts and propel us.

But first, we must find it, and focus it.

No, not grabbing ahold of the newest positive quote to get you through the day. No, not focusing on all the good and letting go of all the bad. No, not journaling all your experiences and processing your thoughts. Oh no! See, these are all good and powerful tools. Wonderful ways that prepare your heart, move within your mind and bring you focus.

Focus.

Ah! The focal point of our vision is not what we do,  but whom we believe. Jesus, the Christ. We gaze squarely on who He is, who He says He is and what He says He will do. This shifts our focus. Our eyes no longer linger on the fallen fruit of the trail. Our newly defined eyesight shakes the doubts right off those branches and takes the thorns out of our vision. Keeping our thoughts totally focused on Jesus Christ allows faith to grow in our hearts and our minds.

When our hearts and mind collide in agreement, well then, we just might envision the trail. That rock we thought was a boulder really was just a pebble after all- just walk on by. That tree smack in the middle of the trail is merely a root upcropping that you just don’t want to trip over -just step on over. You see? Oh how much easier when the vision clears and you focus.

When the road seems long, the trail gets steep, the walk seems endless and the questions emerge. Know this. There’s someone just up ahead, bidding you to come. He was blazing that trail for you to walk long before you were born! Just keep on walking. When the road gets hard, call out to Him. When you can’t see His face, feel His Presence. When the inclines come as you venture higher on up, follow Him.

First He reveals Himself so you see, then He calls you to see the unseen. This is not a game. This is your faith walk.  As you learn more about Him, see more of Him, hear Him more, feel Him. You find that gem of belief, that nugget of truth hidden in your heart. Holding onto you faith, your belief, just WALK.

That mountain you wanted to move?

You turn around in the trail to claim victory over it and it’s then that you realize. You are just about to grab the cusp   of a ledge, so you settle yourself upon it and rest. Wait as you catch your breath. Enjoy the view! Then get back up, and walk. The summit awaits!

There will be more mountains to climb, valleys to bridge, and victories to be had.  And you one you wanted to move will be overcome, and another will take it’s place.The climb is your victory, your belief, that with each step you can claim the truth.

Faith. Can. Move. Mountains.