How to Grow In Grace

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Last year was a hard year but a good year.  And by the great grace of God, I have come out a better person because of it.  “Better?”, you ask?  Yes, not just better as a survivor of some horrible event, but thriving as a “growing in grace” kind of person and better because of what I experienced.  Here are few lessons I’ve gained:

1.  Acceptance:  Often we think that we are in control of our lives.  I’ve found that we can certainly own our lives to an extent but then there are some things, events, or occurrences like death, cancer, or accidents that you wrestle with but in the end have to accept.  No one likes to submit to what can’t be controlled.  However, one of the hard truths about life and death is that every person alive needs to accept what life hands them.  For instance, death has a place in everyday living.   Get used to it because death insinuates itself at the most inconvenient moment.

2.  Trust:  Since we are talking about death, along with dying comes the mourning and grieving process.  My friend once texted me (after I made a “faith” move) with a three-worded message:  “Trust the process”.  These words are sound advice.  The process of trusting is hard in itself and requires a deep faith but to accept what you can’t control and use self-control for what you can’t accept is truly the essence of living by faith.

There’s a process to learn faith in the deeper parts of life, like trying to understand life and death itself.  I believe death is one of life processes where understanding only comes in the grieving and you have to give space for mourning.

3.  Agreement:  One of my close missionary associates once said to our team, “How about we just agree with the Lord!”  My eyes met another team members’ confirmation to understand that the Lord was definitely opening our eyes and unstopping our ears in one accord (agreement) in a power-filled lunch.  Whoa, what an impartation!

Jesus actually said to do this, to agree with his teaching in John 8:31-32  “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Agreeing with the Lord means holding to the teaching of Jesus for the purpose of true freedom.  There’s no going your own way AND the way of culture.  You can own your life by being accountable for your actions but you have to trust the leadership of spiritual mentors in your life to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  It’s when you hold to righteous teaching then you will make progress and experience freedom on a whole new level.

4.  Leadership:  To grow in the knowledge of God by faith you have to live within the teachings of Jesus.  He started with a small group of willing people who were seeking some direction in their lives.  At the end of his ministry, Jesus had a band of brothers who were well-versed in the disciplines of learning, teaching and evangelizing.  Believers often skip the fact that this training was difficult, or intense, or challenging.  In all actuality, they were with Jesus as He walked, taught, and touched lives.  We have been given the same opportunity to be among those who are looking for a relationship with Jesus and we can easily lead them by the way we live our lives.  We can lead with what we know about Jesus and how He has touched our life.  Share that…it will take you far in leadership.

5.  Influence:  To be under the influence doesn’t mean the same anymore.  I’m not talking about drinking alcohol or smoking pot.  I’m speaking of the spiritual influence of total submission to the Holy Spirit.  The fact is once you examine the life Jesus lived he was led by the same Holy Spirit that we have access to.  He was all man and all divine.  You might say, “A perfect life was easy for Jesus!”  Yes, He lived a perfect life.  He butted up against sin many times but never did; was tempted by Satan himself, and He was tormented as He took a confident stand for all mankind!  For the entire time Jesus walked the earth, he was walking in his own humanity but totally submitted to the influence of the Holy Spirit.  We, as believers weren’t given a junior version of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit that empowered Jesus is the same Helper that believers submit to.  Want to live a sinless life?  Go ALL IN unto the power of the Holy Spirit and be a person of influence under the Influencer.

What I’ve learned has been gained by applying the Biblical teaching into my everyday life.  Life is a good teacher and we have the choice to respond to every occurrence or situation.  But when it comes down to the end of the day, we all have to reconcile our responses and experiences under the lens of faith.  This is living the Christian life as a disciple of Christ.  It’s full of power, disciplines, and experiences that will help you Home.  There’s nothing like an encounter with God that will meet you where your history has left you.  There’s more beyond what we know, I am grateful and am all in the growing in grace.

Resting Joy

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I often wonder about a lot of things and I find myself coming to the same conclusion each time. Now I’m not talking about the cure for cancer, or the national deficit, or the latest bargain price for broccoli.  This isn’t a post to tell you my vote for President.

The two words “I’m busy” make me wonder and create a contradiction in my soul. I also wonder how many busy signals God hears. I’m busy blogging, writing, editing a book or two, writing another book or two, recording some radio stuff, cleaning, eating sleeping, and exercising. I get it. Me too.

I run to God constantly but sometimes I am distracted with problem solving on my own. Then when this happens…it’s as if there’s a tap on my little shoulder.

“Please rest in Me.”

Here I am in a season of busy activity and it seems super unproductive to take a siesta or halt to a stop with all this activity around me. I’m used to doing for myself, producing, and meeting deadlines. I’m used to feeding and dressing myself, but one idea I’m not good at is resting. So why would I need to rest now?

I found myself saying, “I’m too busy to rest.”  And the conflict comes down in my soul.

Then….I came to my senses through the help of the Holy Spirit. Needless to say, I repented of my wrong thinking, refocused my mind and put my thoughts back on Him. And now I can see more clearly, I’ve learned that rest is more than a season. Rest is an attitude I am adopting into my life permanently.

I don’t know if you have thought about rest in this way, perhaps you have been too busy. I believe God planned rest from the beginning of time and created a whole day intentionally for rest. I know you’ve read this over and over in Genesis, but I realized it was the very component I needed. To help you be more productive, more focused, and more intentional with your time, you might need rest to be more than just a season.

So I ask you, what would it take for you to stop the whirling world you live in and give yourself a long soaking rest in God? I get it…I thought I was too busy also take a long time to rest. Then once I experienced true rest, it’s now a part of my life I can’t live without. Try it, even if you think you are too busy.

God is trying to reach you in your busyness. And this just in…He wants to be MORE than a crisis manager to you. He specializes in perfecting the very details which seemed to go unchecked when you are busy. I let him manage my task list, my clock, and my seasons from now on. It’s important to Him, and I can rest on Him knowing He knows more about my needs than I know myself.

“Who you spend time with is what you value the most.”  – John Gray

I get it. I know. I see. Rest isn’t just a suggestion from our Creator. Rest is a place to center your will back where it belongs, in His rest. He gets it, He sees you, and He knows you need it.

Take my word for it, it’s worth it.  I dare you to try God in this too.  It’s better FOR you than you know.

Finding Joy in the Pruning

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I have two rose bushes growing outside my front door.  Often, I take a little time to cut back the dead blooms.  Last week I cut them so thoroughly that not one bloom remained.  I took a step back to see if the bushes were evenly shaped.  Accomplishing my task and without another thought about them, I turned to enjoy the sunset.

It’s the process of pruning that is needed in the caring of the rose bushes.  If I didn’t cut back the spent blooms, the bushes would only bloom occassionally.  The more you cut the bush, the more the blooms.  It’s hard to cut back a perfectly green stem however, but it’s needed to help the bush thrive.

I’m learning how to abide in this season of resting and learning to have joy in the pruning. The fruit of the Spirit grows us best through the pruning process.  God wants to cut away our inflated view of self and expand the view of Him and protect us from falling into a blown up view of our own importance.  We are so easilty distracted with self-focus instead of releasing what God has put inside our souls.

Even the Holy Spirit does not glory Himself – Only Christ.  It says in John 16:14 “However, when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, and He will declare to you what is to come. He will glorify Me by taking from what is Mine and disclosing it to you.”

Pruning is part of the rest process and achieves what only God sees.  And this the part of the post where I tell you that it’s easy, and doesn’t hurt and you’re going to be okay, right?  What I can tell you is that you are going to be okay and there is joy found in pruning and letting go, to let the Holy Spirit bear His fruit in you.

From my experience with pruning is our Gardner knows best which branches need to go, which will bear the best fruit or blooms, and what He has designed for each of us.  And just like my cutting back the rose bushes, our Father prunes so that there will be even MORE fruit bearing.  When you are pruined you have an over-arching purpose which matches the vision God has for you.   John 15 digs into this truth down nicely.

Don’t forget the Gardner has a plan in the pruning – to give Him glory and to grow you into His good work and perfect you in the process.  Something we know about pruning is it cuts away the dead branches, and we are good with getting rid of the dead parts but what about the branches that are still thriving?  Sometimes it’s in the best interest of the plant to cut branches that aren’t dead) for the overall good of the plant.

And so it goes, there’s nothing easy about being cut or pruned.  And it hurts to experience a loss of a growing branch.  As His children, we grow in holiness.  Holiness means living set apart for God.  It’s the perfection process of our faith that sets us apart for Him.  Consider it like a spiritual exercise where God stretches you to the potential He sees in you.  Remember the focus isn’t on what we are losing or letting go of but instead for the real reason of our growth in Christ.  What I know about life so far is that we grow the most in adversity and difficulties.

It’s in the adversity, the calamities, the cancer, and the chaos where we seek God the most.  When we have to let go of our own strength and cling to His, that’s sharing His glory.  When we prosper and become the masterpiece He designed, that’s bearing fruit in our lives.

Colossians 1:10 “so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.”

It’s in the process that we grow.  Sometimes the pruning hurts, and we suffer setbacks but it’s for the overall beauty of the plant and the sweetness of the fruit.

 

Do you need to be held?

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My friend reassured me there was no need to worry.  “You’re going to LOVE it!” she promised.  I bought into her zip-lining adventure as an exciting one until my fear of heights rose up into my throat.  In a moment I realized it was too late to back out and it felt my heart was going to beat right out of my chest.  Then I remembered, that day, I had left my big girl pants at home!  I became doubly afraid.  Anxiety had secretly gripped my heart.

Not sure if you have ever experienced zip-lining before but it’s an adventure all on its own level.  Don’t even think about it if you are even a teensy-weensy squeamish about heights.  At least you’ve been warned.

My friend kept saying how much fun it was again and again.  Fear of falling gripped my mind.  Seriously, how could a person survive a 5-second ride tethered by a skimpy harness, and hooked to a thin wire which stretched tight over so many trees?  I gulped hard, and put on a brave face for her.

I stepped up to the platform.  I listened to each word of our guide.  I took in his advice and with all the gumption I could muster, I clenched the cord.  I’m pretty sure my knuckles were white.  I said a quick prayer, “God, hold me tight.”

In the woods, atop the trees, where the monkeys go to hide from humans, is where fear is heard.  Echos of the wild and free ricocheted off of the tree tops.  (It resembled a blood-curdling scream.)  If you’ve been, you know what I’m talking about and I bet you screamed like a 5 year old girl too!

Next, something wonderful happened I didn’t expect.

I was held by the harness, secure and firm, with no threat to my personal security.  I was safe and sound at the next platform.  I did come away with one piece of advice:  “You will love this, it’s more fun than you can imagine.”  Now this makes for a nice girl adventure and all, but there’s more.

God spoke the moment I started to let go of my fear and anxiety with His reassurance, “Trust me to hold you!” 

There are some days you just need to be held.  On those days when you feel insecure, unsteady or just flat out fearful of how things are going to work out or what will happen next, there’s power in praying these simple words, “God, hold me tight.”

Trust in His hold and let go of your fears.  In our spiritual journey, there are many circumstances which bring tons of opportunities to trust God.  Recently faced with the unknown, I asked God to increase my faith but quickly realized I was asking for what I already had.  The situation before me was an opportunity for God to lead me into a new level of trust.

Trust always involves making room for an active faith.  To let the perfecting work of faith complete its action, you must push fears out of your mind.  God’s faithfulness and security holds you close and guards against sneak fear attacks which tend to creep into your mind.

God is on your side, and is giving you daily opportunities to put your faith into action.  He’s got you!  Just like a harness, safe and securely tethered by His heart for you.  His love never fails to hold you when life is uncertain.  When you speak or scream, “God, hold on to me!”, feel His strong arms wrap around you.  Close your eyes to silence your anxiety, release your fears, and the place your trust and dependence in His hands.  He is the only One who says, “I am with you until the very end of the age.”  He never lets go of you!

Fears are overcome by faith alone.  As you let go, you’re held by His mercy, strength, and you are kept safe and secure.  You can trust God to keep you where He leads you!  Are you feeling shaky or fearful, afraid to look down?  LOOK UP to the One who holds you tight!  You can trust His hold on you!

When You Need a Reminder

names of God

I quickly wrote a note in my little notebook for thoughts, the one I carry with me at all times just in case, as not to forget something important.  Earlier I had been talking to God about a turnaround in my life.  It occured to me God never turns around.

He doesn’t need to, but we do.  (Turnaround wasn’t what I wrote down however) 

The Bible is full of stories and reminders of who God is.  It lists many names of God as He is known by those who walk in relationship with Him.  Some names are hard to pronounce and many we don’t talk about.  I found a list of them in my Bible and it reminded me I don’t use them all near enough.

So I was praying for a turnaround in my perspective to see God in a new way.  Often don’t we view God from our own limited perspective?  I will go first and say I do.  I forget He’s got the panoramic view set on our lives.  I forget He holds all the details in our lives safe and secure in such a timely and orderly manner.

Recently, I boarded the Atlantis simulator at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida.  I remembered how God keeps my world on it’s axis. There’s a God who cares when my world goes off kilter and wants to set things back into a right perspective.

We have a God who cares and I don’t want to forget.

He holds panaramic view my world, and I stood back (well actually strapped back at high G-forces) and remembered His amazing creativity and endless pursuit in my own life.  But then it hit me once again, He hadn’t moved and I’ve been the one who been on the run.  So why is this such an “aha” moment?

I realized once again of God, that He doesn’t have “aha” moments.

It took a jolt like a g-force to remember God’s power, or rather to remind me of a powerful and effective way to live is to remember who God is over the things I tend to forget.  You see, often when growing in our faith we forget where we have come from or how much we have grown, and tend to just think of ourselves as one who needs a TON more positive changes.

God reminded me my walk with Him was just where He wanted me to be.  (Confession: I want to jump ahead to the mountain top moments full of “aha” moments and skip the valleys where the real reminders are learned).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve not arrived but still have overcome a lot of strongholds in my life.  Those hindrences used to hold me back and keep me at a distance from God’s best.  So what’s the big deal about “Aha” moments with God or what catches us by surprise?

The note I wrote was “What if I remembered who God is instead of what I’ve forgotten.” I often find myself remembering what I have forgotten, instead of all He has delivered me from.  When I am grateful for the freedom He has brought into my life I am reminded of God’s providence.  When I affirm God’s over arching good character, He has a way of affirming His good character in my lifeline.

Remembering the goodness of God is definitely a good thing.  He keeps my world spinning right.  I must forget the wrong things which tend to lead me astray.  I want to remember His good words to me over the lies I tend to believe about me.  I want to remember how He’s changed me and my life for the better, not what I have lost in the overcoming.

Someone once said, “You learn by doing.”  I think I’ll remember the doing of God in my life over my “undoing” to get to where I am.  When you focus on your wrongs, it tends to have a negative affect on your life.  When you focus on the positives, it builds up your self-esteem and character.  Not in a puffed up kind of way but in an honorable way.  The benefits of His becoming real and evident in life helps you walk taller, be kinder, live intentionally and love, the most positive way.

When you remember the good, it helps.  When I remember God, I’m reminded I must increase my perspective and I must decrease my small thinking.  When I remember who God is then I am reminded who I am.  When I know who I am, then I know how to live.  When I live with focus on the positives I can help others remember who God is and what He has done for all of us.

Let’s all remember God more, and forget the former things to make more space for Him to set our worlds back in line with Him, renew our perspective on what life is all about, define our purpose and add some g-force to our minds to see Him more clearly.  The most important thing to remember is:  because of Jesus, remember God is a matter of enjoyment. May our relationship with Him not be settled around issues of conflict, pain, sin and sacrifice but around freedom, celebration and delight.

Yes, God is our deliverer and saves us from trouble. But before all those wonderful things, He is our friend, our Father, our good, good Pappa. This connection is rooted in pleasure of intimacy through a one on one relationship. He is a wonder to behold, a power to be feared, a mystery to be explored but chiefly He is a person to be loved.  I want to remember how to love Him like He loves me.

Yes, let’s all remember God.  And don’t forget to strap in, it’s a wild ride!

In each and every season

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“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”  –Corrie ten Boom

Ever found your soul just down right parched?

Three years ago I was in spiritually dry place that I couldn’t quite speak about. It was a particularly difficult time in such a personal way.  God dealt with some issues that left me looking upon Him and the faithfulness that only He is.

I sensed God’s comfort in the stillness and knew that He was good even though it was hard to see forward into all that season held.  God comforted in one of the lowest places of faith and where His encouragement helped beyond words.  I remember everyday my heart was breaking…open.

God’s faithfulness is a quality that endures in every season.

I found comfort in speaking only a few words during prayer time but I had assurance and a sign from heaven that my cries were heard with His open and listening heart.  I was unaware of the preparation that God was working in my life.  Even though I was seeking Him in many ways, I had my moments where I wanted to give up and give into weakness.

But yet my trust in His faithfulness endured through a hopeless season.

When you seek, believe, trust and obey in each season, God’s faithfulness will lead you.  I’ve been thinking about David’s faith and I am so amazed at his endurance through all those up and down years of rule and reign as king.  From the outside, its looks like just a few hard years to develop such a strong, rich faith legacy that is captured on a few pages of Biblical history.  It took all of his life to seek, believe, trust and obey God’s ways and walk in the way of faithfulness and devotion to the Lord.

To live in God’s ways I’ve found no other way than to depend on His faithfulness throughout every season.  You know it’s easy to say that God is faithful when you aren’t staring into the face of cancer, house fires, and death.  It’s easy then, but when life brings uncertainties, trials and afflictions, you have to gather up the memories of faithfulness to bolster the hope and faith to get through.

I believe life is full of opportunities to develop deeper ways to know God.  What would happen if we asked God to reveal Himself in everyday and in every season?  Would it remove us from having problems all together?  Would each and every season be smooth sailing or as clear as glass in regards to decisions we make?

Our lives are full of moments and seasons that encourage endurance, perseverance, and faithfulness by seeking God’s face.  Living in the problems, trials, and struggles teach us about faithfulness.  If your season is dry right now, remember these things to help you find God in them and enable you to cling to an abiding faith in your journey:

You are not alone, God is with you and knows your needs before you do.

Believe God for who He is, a God of His word.

When you can’t see His hand, trust His heart of love FOR you.

Obedience to God by faith pleases God.

Dry seasons are hard, long and sometimes lonely, but I wonder if we would learn any other way.  In knowing that I am not alone, it lifts my hope to meet my faith.  Belief in God, coupled with trust, removes fear.  Experiencing His love by way of trials brings me closer to Him over any other method.  My faith is enriched each and every time I trust in God’s ways and as I walk in obedience.

God wastes nothing in your faith-building process, there’s strength to be received every season.  So consider this, in season and out of season:

Your need to control takes a back seat to His omnipotence.  Your need to understand is protected by His peace.  Trust in Him and fully surrender to His plan as He weaves His beautiful tapestry for your life.    You too can trust in the name of the Lord our God in every season.

Garbage in, garbage out

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24    My prayer was innocent enough but God’s answer came in the most unconventional way.  It was at the edge of a dump site in Africa that God spoke and asked what I wanted.

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I was afraid to speak about it because “the answer”, the “it” was the very thing I needed to give up.  I looked down at the cows feasting on the garbage in the pit of the city dump.  I reflected how God had brought me out of my past pit and was thankful for His deliverance.

But there was still some garbage in my life that I needed to get out.

I can remember a time when I was covered in garbage.  Or at least it felt that way.  Now don’t get me wrong, I know feelings are the most fickle of things.  And my faith is not founded on my fickle feelings.  But that day I wanted God more than the garbage I had been feeding myself.

Immediately the desire to know God in a deeper way was born in a hidden place inside of me.  I also knew to get what I wanted, to live as Christ, I would have to give up something.  I finally realized that what I was doing in seeking God, wasn’t enough.  It wasn’t coming automatically, I was being pulled under by the influence and garbage of the world.

So there it was…in front of me….on the edge of a city dump in South Africa.  As tears streamed down my cheeks, I walked out of the dump of my life so it seemed and pushed past a place of denial and became the faithful follower of Jesus.  It would have seemed that I was already there, so might I just pause here to ask you to reflect on your own life?

At last I know without a doubt that to live as Christ often looks like my life is full of Him, but now I know it’s based on the consecutive decisions about the garbage I allow in.  I dumped my garbage at the edge of His Presence.  I rose on my strong feeling that I had made the right move that day and knew things would be so different, even if they felt the same.  I left it all behind at the edge of my inconvenience.

Living totally sold out to the inconvenient and the uncomfortable gets one to the point of your deliverance from your past.  Even if you have forgiven and forgotten, you have to drop all of those offenses that have come against you and let go of the right to hold on to an offense for any reason.  At least, that was what I had to do to get to the edge, to dump out some hidden garbage by taking a close look at my past with a fine tooth comb.  At the edge of the garbage dump I left years and years of shame, blame and guilt roll off that had taken a toll on my soul.

It’s not until you give up or live empty of hurt can you find more of God.

I knew in that moment that if my heart’s desire was to be like Jesus, I had to make a concentrated effort, an intentional decision to spend even MORE time with Jesus over nursing the wounds of my past.  It was the second most important decision I have ever made.

Christianity doesn’t come naturally, and living like Jesus takes a choice.  Salvation and accepting God’s work on the cross is the best decision you will ever make.  But living as Christ lived, starts with living past your past of hurts, abuse, offense and forgetting about those hurts from those who have wronged you.

To live like Christ is to love like Christ.  Like those hurts never existed and were not intended to take you out or take you down.  To live this way however costs you.  I realized that I was the one holding myself back because of my doubt and fear.  The work of God in our lives is the strength that is built through our weaknesses, insecurities and inadequacies.

We want to live like Christ but that kind of life is always found outside the realm of convenience.  God’s intimacy is always inside of the circle of going all in for Him, this doesn’t come naturally.  Christ gave it all for us, for you and for me.  Lies will always keep you in bondage, maybe today you just need to open yourself to the process of believing God again.

“To live is Christ” means that we imitate the example of Christ. Everything that Jesus did and said from listening to Father, from giving up stuff, and walking in our identity.  That’s what that means.  Choosing to live like this is a conscious action, living outside convenience, doing what comes supernaturally and giving our full surrender at all costs, no matter what it takes to “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

What would Jesus do? That’s what we want to do.  “To live is Christ” means that we pursue Christ as we have been pursued. I want to know Christ better and better each day. Not just a set of facts about Christ, but Christ Himself and to be willing to give up anything that prevents me from having MORE Christ.

What “garbage” is in the way for you to “gain Christ and be found in him?” (Philippians 3:7-9).

When Christ is the center of our day, the point of our mind, heart, body and soul, then He is the center of who we are.  This is not convenient and the garbage of easy quickly fades our intentions.  But as we run the “race marked out for us,” we lay aside the entangling sin and worldly distractions, “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Yes, to live as Christ, outside of the garbage of this world.  I want to live like that!

When you feel insecure

Bible and journal

It’s a known fact that as humans we speak from our insecurities.  Some of you are open about those, most of you like to hide them.  We all have one or two or more of those insecure places.  We all have our stuff.

I have plenty of stuff myself.  It’s the human condition.  Let’s get real, real fast, ok?  We have that “junkie” stuff inside of us and this stuff is the human side of us we like to hide.

To name your stuff or call mine out, that step only helps when you allow God’s truth to change you inspite of your stuff.  And it should only be done and motivated by love.  It IS important to know the way we deal with insecurities can help others.

I was sharing the other night at small group how to share faith without using words.  I started out with “I love how Jesus teaches us…” I noticed the confused look on thier faces and then I related that truth to everyday life.  Jesus didn’t operate on the defense or attack people in thier insecurities.  Jesus was always on the offense side of battle because he knew who he was fighting.  He operated from his secure place of supernatural ability instead of his humanity.

It’s easy to think “Yeah, Jesus did that because he was perfect in everything he did.”  This is true as he was fully divine in his humanity. Jesus lived his live in full submission to the Holy Spirit even though he was human.  He operated from his identity, knowing in his heart, mind, and soul that he was the one and only living Son of God.  There are many stories about liers, cheaters, adulterers, deceivers, and thieves being drawn to Him for healing because of who He was.  In simple ways, lives were changed in so many to bring deliverance through a word, deed, feeding or even storms.  Most times, Jesus healed their hearts, before their physical ailments, insecurity or need in their life.

In other words, their faith (evidence of the unseen) saved them first and foremost over individual woundings.  Each time, Jesus healed or delivered because that is/was his ministry.  This is Jesus, operating from his identity.

Jesus stepped out of Heaven to deliver us from our humanity.

Recently, the Lord has reminded me of my roots.  Not just in my family’s line or hertiage, but what my identity looks like from a heavenly perspective.  Last year, was HUGE in reminding me who I am in Christ.  Daily, and most often, the Holy Spirit aligns my heart and mind with His.  My confession today is that I needed those reminders to overcome a lot of my silly insecurities.

“You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.”  Isaiah 26:3 (AMP)

Daily those reminders have come in at just the needed time and with the exact reminder of who I was in Christ.  This one exchange and action has removed so many insecurities in my heart and mind.  I can’t even begin to list them all here but the reminding of who I am in Christ, we (the Holy Spirit and I) uncovered the “identity stuff” that I wasn’t.

We all need these kind of identity reminders on a daily basis.  “I know who I am, I know who I am, I know who I am, I am Yours, I am Yours.” is a song lyric that hits repeat daily in my head (speaking about God’s ownership).

Last year my word for the year was vision.  God has given a fuller vision of who I am in Him.  To battle the daily “junkie” stuff, I need constant reminders of who I am in Christ to operate from my place of security.

Once you know who you are IN Christ, your indentity is your secure place to operate from.  Now going into 2016, my word REMAIN makes so much more sense.  It’s good to have the right weapons loaded up for battle.  It makes the Enemy not such a big threat and that dumb looming anxiety that is mixed in the unknown is removed.  Plus the bonus is I know how the battle turns out!  There’s no shrinking back, or retreating because of some silly insecurity.  There’s no hiding from the power of God at work within our lives.  There’s no room for those overpowering fears inside to grow more “stuff”.  There’s only the Light that has come.  Light overcomes darkness every time and each insecurity  has no place to hide in a house that is all lit up!

 

What does God hear?

listening to our hearts

I woke up this morning to the mayhem of getting kids ready for school, packing lunches, organizing my work homework and all the while checking emails and the latest bus stop weather forecast on my phone.  And all this by 7:30 a.m.  I said a quick prayer to God to cover my jammed packed day.  I thought I needed some extra covering to get me out the door.  Then my oldest spilled the entire bag of cat food on his way out.  And I moaned.

Why I let things like this get to me, I asked silently.  I started a complaining moment and was ramping up to give my son a “What were you thinking?” comment in a not so gentle tone.  Then, the Lord held my tongue with this one soft reminder….”A gentle answer turns away wrath.” At His reminder I felt a little overwhelmed, just a little.  There was I time I believed that I wouldn’t be a mom at all.  We had tried several years with no results nor babies.

After a diagnosis, then God planted a dream of desire to be a mother in my heart.  And eight years later to be exact He blessed our lives with not only a son, but a daughter four years earlier.  I stopped formulating my complaints and started a list of blessings.  I silently bent down and started to sweep the cat food with my hands.  My son, bent down, dropping his homework and helped.  When we were done, I grabbed his hand and thanked him for helping.  Then I looked up and he said, “Sorry mom, I didn’t mean to.”  With tears in my eyes, I said…”softly, I know, I know.  It’s okay.  I love you to the morning sunrise and back.”

With our eyes facing east by then, we gathered up our thrown gear and then swiftly headed out the door.  All the way to school bus stop, I thanked God for the blessings that rode safely in my car.  It was a healing moment for me when I felt the “hold” on my tongue that day.  I can remember one day as a child my father not being so gentle with me.  You see, I was a “spiller” too and it seemed like every day I spilled some water or milk or some kind of drink at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.  He gave unkind comment about needing a drain in the middle of the kitchen.  I can still remember how that made me feel.

My heart was so crushed.  He never knew.  When I heard the clatter of the cat food in the utility room that morning, it reminded me of the clattering tone my dad had once that crushed my spirit.  I am so grateful that when God hears our prayers that He checks our heart’s attitude while He listens.

Ever think about what God does when we pray?  I thought it was an interesting concept to consider one day during my quiet time.  Of all the times I’ve poured my heart out to God, I realized that our words don’t fall on His empty agenda list.  No, He hears each one, but He listens to more than just our words to Him, He listens to our heart’s attitude too.

That’s why the Bible says to offer words of praise and thanksgiving continually.  God hears past our words and hears the fragrance of our hearts.  Honestly, my prayers haven’t always been as purely led by love as I would like them to be, but it’s a process where God is definitely working in me to improve and clean up my love language.

When there is an attitude of gratitude towards God I am comforted that He hears my prayers.  He hears them all, but what better way to open our hearts to hear His answers than with a pure heart of gratitude.  I remembered there many times in my life that I didn’t always express that first.  I remembered the anxiety of not knowing if I would ever bear children.  I remember the chaos I felt when I heard about the last school shooting.  I remember how it felt when I didn’t know what God could do before I accepted Him as Savior.  I remember that many still don’t know Jesus as Savior.

Remember who God is and check the attitude of your heart as you are praying.  It can really change the tone of your prayers.  When we focus on the image of a loving Father that listens to every one of our needs and works on our behalf 100% of the time, then I can’t help but praise Him.

When I remember…I’m so glad to offer praise back and have that outlet to talk to God 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.  And even though requests take longer than others, God sets to work on our prayers right away.  When I have to wait for God’s best, I know that in the waiting He is working all things out for my good.

So don’t believe that your prayers are falling on deaf ears of God who doesn’t care.  He does and he tenderly reminds us of who He is in the process.  I love that about His character.  He’s never gruff or angry, critical or accusing.  He is patient and kind, gentle and good, faithful and true, and loving all the same, no matter what spills out of our hearts.

So instead of a meltdown, I prayed and thanked God for all that He had done in my life.  I smiled and prayed for the grace to not only get through today, but thrive and enjoy the journey. And I even prayed for new opportunities to reach even more people…and I will have to remember that I got what I asked for when it happens.

Who’s Ashley Madison and why I haven’t said anything until now.

Water

I don’t know if you have been listening to the news lately but there’s a site out there on the world wide web that is specifically set up to hook up people who are hungry for affairs online.  It’s more of a sophisticated “dating” game, and I just heard about it last week.  I don’t know who to be mad at first. Should I be mad at the site itself?  The hackers who uncovered this huge moral scandal?  The people that were going to this site?  Those that knew it existed and yet turned their head to it?  Josh Duggar?

This post may kill my following but it’s time to speak out about how I feel about this.  I think I am more mad at myself because I didn’t know.  I tend to think the best of people and am not suspicious of any kind of covert activity even though this culture we live in is fueled by it.  I tend to take people for their word, over their actions.  I tend to believe the best about what people say versus what others say about them.  In other words, I don’t take much stock in liars.

I know by doing so that puts myself into a self-appointed seat of judgement.  There is always two sides to every story.  I believe there is a truth side to every lie as well.  There’s a whole book about truth, it’s called The Holy Bible.  If you brush the dust off of a copy then you will find a great source of truth that still applies to our lives today.

Maybe I just need a reminder of who God is before I choose who to be mad at.  The same feeling came over me when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the legalization of same-sex marriages.  I didn’t know who to be mad at first.  The judges, the activists, the victims, or the victory itself.  Then I realized that I couldn’t say what I wanted to say with a tongue of love and chose to say nothing.  That doesn’t mean I don’t care, because I do.  It seemed that the world was already condemning everyone involved with judgement so I refrained from speaking a word about it.

Then I checked my motives for saying anything in the first place, and then I swallowed my pride and asked a harder question of “How would have Jesus responded to this legal court decision?”  I think I have arrived at an answer for now that passifies my hearts desire to act on what I know.

There’s a story of a woman who was sent to a place to get some water.  She had to go at a different time than everyone else because of her covert behavior, which wasn’t’ necessarily a secret to her community.  She might have forgotten that people were judging her from the outside, and never took time to listen to her story.  How and why she got to accept this lie over her life, I don’t know, but she went to get water when no one else was around.  I think it’s because she couldn’t suffer the public ridicule any more, and just accepted her life as it was feeling rejected and outcast.  She was definitely a survivor and but needed a touch of grace as we all do.

At the public well, which was on the edge of town, she met a man who showed her some grace.  This man, Jesus, was there because he was weary from his travels.  Instead of asking her why she was there alone, or why she had her head hanging low, or what she was doing there in the first place, Jesus asked her for a drink.  Then she replied, “You’re asking me? A woman of Samaria?”  “Why you don’t even have anything to draw your water with?”  Everyone knows that if you show up at a well you need something to put the water in.

What she didn’t know was who Jesus was and why he was talking about giving her “living water”, or in her case a release from the life that she was running from.  Everyday, I think she contemplated her life back and forth from the well, and every day she came to the same conclusion of that she was used up, worthless, rejected and had given into her lost or her deferred dreams of ever being accepted by society or by her family, culture, or whoever was tormenting and ridiculing her.  This is just what I am thinking she was thinking, only my opinion.

How often we speak lies over our lives and then silently agree with them and it becomes a self-fulling prophecy over us without us knowing.  We don’t know anything about her except that she came from Samaria and a lived differently than many others.  But she did listen to truth the one time it mattered.  Jesus was willing to share truth with her disregarding her background of many husbands, even though he knew beforehand her story.

So what does all this have to do with me being mad at people who make choices that I don’t choose to make?  You see, I’m not really mad at people who make different choices than me. I’m not mad at Josh Duggar because he lied and then tried to cover it up.  I’m heart broken over the now so many wrecked marriages that the Ashley Madison site has caused.  But I have to remember that people who don’t know Christ as Lord of their lives don’t realize their sin, nor the consequences of their actions.  Somewhere I wonder if Josh Duggar was just going through some life numbing pain or lost his grip on reality or couldn’t hear what the Holy Spirit was trying to tell him.

Honestly I’ve been there too.  I’ve thought I was in tune with God and found out that I had believed a lot of lies about me, myself, and I.  And I’ve believed a lot of lies that I assumed that God thought about me.  So I get the distractions, I get the misdirection, I get the going-through-the-motions kind of behavior.  I get the good little church girl syndrome.

And because I get it, I can’t judge someone else’s story.  I wouldn’t want you to do that to me.  As much grace has been given, so it’s grace that I give.  I am a free, forgiven child of the living God and His forgiveness covers a multitude of mistakes.  My mistakes are no larger or smaller than yours.  The consequences are different for all of us but sin is sin to God.  It all separates and only God knows the condition of your heart and mine.

So when someone’s life looks different than yours, when someone’s choices are not the ones you would make, it’s not my place to change you or to judge you.  That puts me into a seat that is not fitted for me.  But God’s grace is fitted for you and me.  And that’s where I will remain.  What makes me mad is that there are so many people who are buying into the lie of lifestyles, dating sites, and whatever else hits the world with a evil twist.  What provokes my anger is the havoc that the Enemy is causing in marriages and families.  What continues to happen is the the Enemy looks like he is winning this war for our souls and all God’s people can do is point a finger at those who are just coming to the well and looking for a drink of Living Water.

That’s what breaks my heart.  What about you?