The Day I Touched the Sky

A photo by Eli DeFaria. unsplash.com/photos/qKXnwCIaULI

The other day I spent some time on some much needed “knee mail.” I confessed my broken heart to the Lord. It was messy and let’s just say I could’ve invested some money in Kleenex stock. Yes, the tears came way too easy and I was overwhelmed. What could possibly cause such a deep emotional response from within?

I let my heart touch the sky and released my pain.

In the last four months I lost both my mom, 91, and dad, 94, to Alzheimer’s disease. We were personally involved in their care for almost three years. I don’t know if you’ve been down this road but it’s hard, specific and each parent required different care.

The details were love-driven but the sentiments were often lost in the details and mostly confusing to my parents. What we experienced as a family was challenging and difficult. But I sit here today to encourage you, if you are looking at a similar situation, there’s peace available to you by the measure of God’s grace that goes before you.

I have many stories I’m collecting in a book which will someday help someone, I just feel it. Role reversal in families is often hard, isolating and intense. However, I learned the most about peace of God who offers this peace by going through it. There are seasons in life only experienced by going through it.

“We do what we have to do.” says every mom.

With any big decisions, and we all face them, wouldn’t it be helpful to have a manual of knowledge with all the answers? You know it would. Wouldn’t it be comforting to know you could just “tube it” to get the answers you needed? The world as we know it is asking “Dr. Google” for everything. I am reminded we do have such a resource to help us figure things out what life sets before us.

We do what we have to do because the Holy Spirit helps us.

Jesus said (in His last few hours on earth) it was best and good for Him to leave so the Helper could come and be our advocate. It is good for man to release what he can’t do and find the Help to cover what man can’t do. That’s not to say you don’t have a part in God’s business, you do. You simply trust God has you covered and He is working out things according to His best plan for you and you do the next thing as He leads. God peace protects you from making wrong decisions. I am grateful today HE is my Shepherd and knows what I need, even before I have need of it.

Yes, He’s so good at being God and our good, good Father.  He anticipates needs before you have any needs. Think about this: God who has NO needs meets ALL of yours. And He knows every one of your needs and is at the ready to meet you and show you. So let us fix our eyes, look to the hills, look up and live a vertical life. Let’s reflect His countenance, and meet Him in the morning and again remind ourselves in the evening. Could it be said if we simply live with God, we won’t be fighting the will of God?

Life is a great teacher and I’m taking many notes. (By the way, I heard a preacher say once there’s a special gate in Heaven for us note takers!) With God’s help, He makes the ways of faith known to you and for you. It’s His grace goes before you and secures your mind. It’s His peace assures you when everything isn’t going okay. There’s comfort in sharing with friends and receiving godly counsel. Encouragement can come in many ways, and God loves to use you to help people too. Hard times teach you to lean upon Him and look to Him to help point the way for others in healing and keeping peace.

Keeping our head up is the challenge, as well as fighting discouragement plus trudging through life on our own strength. There are other times when God loves to grow us through situations which cause us to trust in Him in no uncertain terms, with the eyes of faith. When we believe He leads through adversity by His character, then we see the wonder of who God really is. Only God can give this kind of holy assurance to help us let go of the things we can’t control. And nothing can replace such kind of peaceful assurance!

How have you seen God’s peace in your life?

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Living a life of stillness in this busy world

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Friends, let’s be honest on this day, today.  My  heart is heavy with stuff.  Yeah, I try to put it all together out there for others to see, flawless and whole.  But that’s not me.  I’ve been honest with myself and have taken a long look at what my life what it is about.  In this busy life we call ours, it’s really becoming a management of one urgent crisis or another.

My shoulders are heavy and tired and weak.

“Lord, I lift my burdens to You alone and I lay them down at your feet.  Will you give me some simplicity today?”  I prayed those words the other day.  I simply put it all out there for God to hear.  Liberation came in just in the confessing and I realized that I was trying to do things on my own.

Immediately, I was convicted of some false insecurities that continue to rise up (in my soul and spirit) and drag, weigh, and bear down upon my mind.  My problems, my cares, my duties, my hopes, my dreams were anchored in my own efforts.  “Wait…I thought to myself…I have freedom in those areas.”  Or at least I thought I did.

In the confessing, I realized I was trying to create a comfortable life for myself and my feelings.  On top of that, I also realized that I was covering my life with right “to-do’s” or tasks and such but I was forgetting about the one important thing needed.  Can we just be honest today?  Aren’t there those days we all face, where it takes this kind of realization to see where you need to grow in your simplicity of managing life?

What I heard back from God, (yes, I know it was His voice) was “Will you just walk with Me?”.  

There were a lot of tears involved in the process.  Then I remembered a season in my life that I used to cry often everyday and all day.  My life was full of regret of a list of things that I never accomplished.  My next thought became one of rejoicing because of a major shift and many changes that have occured in the recent years of  my life.  I don’t live a life of regret-filled days anymore.

I rejoiced in the fact that those days of regret are over and now I can choose to adopt the pace of God, my Father, in the life of my today.  If I could let you into my brain for a moment, there’s a stillness that needs to happen inside of your thoughts that causes you to choose your best life in considerations of what you have around you, the blessings in life instead of the regrets of life.  (I am realizing this lifestyle goes deeper than your task list or the things you think about any morning like…”I’m behind on so many things!” kind of thinking.)

Now I’m getting stuck in the multiple list of thoughts that come rising up in a woman’s mind especially when she feels behind, unfulfilled and a list of unmet needs are left open in her life.  Okay, now back to the choosing.

There has to be season that as you are emptying your life of what it isn’t, and there is a choice to rejoice in what it is.  In the choosing to accept the rejoicing, the living, the owning your life, the doing of life, you must celebrate with what you have, and begin believing that anything is possible with God in the middle of it all.

There I said it, not simply said, because life isn’t like that.  At all.  It’s complicated, full of tensions, stresses, and problems.  But when we confess that we can’t do life without God, then that’s when the miracles start happening.  In that way of thinking, you have to admit there is more than what God has intended FOR you and designed you for and you MUST surrender the controls over to HIM.  He knows what is best and right and good FOR you.  He knows how big your tiny shoulders are.  He knows your capacity for loads and He hasn’t forgotten your to-do list.  He put the passions inside of you to accomplish what He has designed you for.

He hasn’t forgotten where He has put those things.  Have you forgotten where your strength comes from?  I did.  I honestly thought…”okay God, I can do this (believing that I had to do what He has called me to do on my own.)  That’s not right honestly, because I need God to accomplish what HE has put inside of me to do and what HE wants to purpose in my life.

Simply said, I need Jesus every hour of the day to live.  Honestly, this IS the life I am in (and I don’t know how it is with you).  I need Him to carry me, to help me choose what I need to be doing, to carry out what He wants me to do, and most days I am overwhelmed simply by His goodness in my life.  I am complicated, full of tensions, and stresses just like you.  Challenges come and go, but I can’t live or exist as His much loved child without Him.

These are the things that are on my mind today.  What’s on yours?

 

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?

Why are there so many haters?

“Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body,sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.  All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:5-8

What could have possibly been in his finished messages that caused such rejection?  Or was it that his true compassionate motives fell flat on the dead hearts of his friends?  Could it be that they couldn’t agree with what he was saying completely and rejected him instead of accepting him?  Maybe this pastor was way off base the normal customs or culture of his day.  Or perhaps, just maybe someone was jealous of him and just mishandled the situation.

In any case, they just didn’t know him.

I found out a fact about Vincent Van Gogh recently, you know the one, the well known artist that created many masterpieces that now hang in famous world art galleries.  I knew he was a troubled man and fought a long battle of depression.  But what I wasn’t aware of was that painting canvases wasn’t his first choice in careers.

He grew up with a passion for preaching, giving of himself and showing Christ to his world.  He aspired to be a minister.

“For  three years van Gogh single mindedly pursued his calling to the ministry, first as a student of theology and then as a missionary to the coal miners in the Belgian Borinage. Deeply moved by the poverty surrounding him, Van Gogh gave all his possessions, including most of his clothing, to the miners. Van Gogh admired Christ’s humility as a common laborer and “man of sorrows” whose life he tried to imitate. “Jesus Christ is the Master who can comfort and strengthen a man,” he wrote.”  (www.davidpaulkirkpatrick.com/2013)

Vincent van Gogh, 18

A member from his evangelical church council made an assessment about his actions and determined that his behavior was outrageous, borderline scandalous, and turned him into the higher church authorities.  In other words in today’s Francis Chan lingo, he had Crazy Love for those who had needs and went all David Platt Radical by giving it all away.  The mishandling of his actions and the incorrect assessments of his motivations literally changed his trajectory for a lack of support and encouragement from the church.  “Although van Gogh was successful in his ministry, the hierarchy of the Dutch Reformed Church rejected him, and at the end of 1879 he left the church, embittered and impoverished. “I wish they would only take me as I am, he confessed in a letter to his brother.”  (www.davidpaulkirkpatrick.com/2013)

I don’t know why this story is so shocking to me.  I’ve seen plenty of good Christians wounded by their own.  I have two words for you…“Stop it!”  While Van Gogh grew embittered with the lack of compassion by organized religion, he did not abandon God as the church had abandoned him. He wrote,” I think it a splendid saying of Victor Hugo’s, ‘Religions pass away, but God remains’.

Van Gogh left his occupation and went on to develop his talent as an artist.  But I dare to think this rejection had to deeply affect his future.  Rejection by comrades in the your circle of influence can do damage in more ways than you think.  And the long term affect if not dealt with properly is depression.

Honestly friends, aren’t we all looking for our place in this world?  Of all places that needs the most open of doors is that of the organized religious church.  With the public headlines today, my heart hurts at how many stones are hurled for speaking out for righteousness and truth.  And how unforgiving actions are fueled by anger and propelled by wounding words.

I dare say I am embarrassed when I hear about it.

Perhaps because I know that if we realized how much power our words have, we would use them wisely and think about what we say first and then decide if they should be spoken.  Perhaps, a bit of encouragement and getting to know the heart behind Van Gogh would have changed his ideas about religion.  Perhaps, he wouldn’t have sunk into a pit of depression that lead to an early suicidal death at the age of 37.  Perhaps, if we knew and accepted him for the brilliant talent that was inside of him, he could have changed us.

Perhaps.

Perhaps if we only loved people where they were, we would show people the love that covers a multitude of our own sins and casts out all our fears.  Perhaps, if we didn’t judge people so harshly and then cast them off as trash or used goods, this world would have more art.  Perhaps if we just loved people who are unlovable 24/7 and those hard to love abusers, well, perhaps if we saw them through the eyes of Jesus, and if we saw our own sin, perhaps we would be more forgiving.

Perhaps Van Gogh could have made a longer difference alive than giving into a depressing death.  Perhaps if we love like Jesus and lead with a heart of love instead of ugly pride we could influence more lives for the kingdom.

Where in the Bible does it say you have to be cleaned up before you come to Jesus?  Perhaps we should take a tip from the One who knows us better than we can know ourselves, AND died while we were yet sinners, to sort out the sin tally stuff.  Perhaps Jesus, my Savior is a better sorter of sin.

Perhaps we should use our freedom of speech for noticing the good instead of noticing the no-good in others.

Even when the message of Christ is rejected, and in a world where we are “disheartened by our religious institutions” we shouldn’t give up on the holiness and love found in God.  He never rejects and always reflects a pure love that has room for everyone.

Come just as you are…

The day I needed some big help

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I grew up in a Christian home. My parents were faithful to take me to church every Sunday and raise me in the Christian faith. So faithful that we were there every time the church doors were open. I grew up knowing the stories of Jesus. I never missed a day of Sunday school. I had been confirmed in the faith classes, memorized a lot of prayers and petitions. So I naturally assumed the faith of my parents. I didn’t have to question what I believed because it was what I always knew.

As a young mom, it was important to me to raise my little ones on a firm and right foundation. I was doing all the right things and repeating prayers like I was taught. I was taking my kids to church & Sunday School every Sunday. It looked like I had it all together and knew all the right answers, but in reality, I didn’t have a personal relationship with Christ. I only knew of Him. And honestly, what I knew I of Jesus, I couldn’t relate to.  He was just a holy image that I couldn’t get close to.

I had studied Him and acknowledged His existence, but there was something missing, a gap between my head’s understanding of who He was and my heart’s acceptance of His kind of love for me.  I was a good person, thought I was going to heaven, because I wasn’t horrible after all.  I was kind, giving and tried to love people.  Like everyone else around me though, I had fallen into some bad habits and behaviors. Just like any other young married mother with a couple of kids, I was trying to make the best of my life and keep my head above the stresses of every day. Little did I know, I was really running in the opposite direction…away from God.

I was going my own direction until I met Jesus.  The very place I lost my understanding of him became the very place I found new life in Jesus.

In a Good Friday service, the Holy Spirit had the details all arranged for our special meeting.  It started with a stripping away of things placed in the sanctuary.  The church committee started removing items one by one in silence.  The lights were dimmed in quiet solitude. One by one the candles were extinguished and the flowers disappeared. The room was practically empty except the few people who sang to themselves, softly in the pews.  A simple wooden cross hung over the center of the bare stone altar. I watched as the room was emptied of the familiar, leaving it practically void. My heart as tearing from an long, deep ache full of an emptiness I can’t describe. I sat alone in the cold, dark reality of my life.

I was a total mess, alone.  It was if a spotlight from heaven beamed down on my head.

In that quiet and holy moment, God bent down and touched my soul and spirit in ways that I could feel.  In those moments my confession of all life’s denials came to mind.  Heaven opened up and grace came down.  Suddenly , I felt the Spirit chip away at that hardened surface as it if were a block of ice readied for a masterpiece.

Whispers to my heart…”I sent my Son just for you, yes, He died for you. That’s how much I love you. And yes, even if you were the only one on this entire planet. I did that ….just for you.”   There were no trumpets blaring, no special lyrics, no confetti, party horns, no balloons, no compelling preacher, just Jesus bending down. 

My eyes were opened as they brimmed with tears. I received the love of my life that day 27 years ago.  My soul immediately spilled with His love and forgiveness.  I am a life that has been changed by the power of the Gospel. Jesus is my Savior, always and forever. And forever will I live with Heaven stamped on my heart. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Ephesians 2:8 – 9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God;not by works, so that no one can boast.”

God’s grace and forgiveness is a gift. You can’t earn it nor can you get it by osmosis from good people around you or raising you. Even if you have been in church all your life. Even if you think you are a good person. You have to choose to accept Christ’s death on the cross as payment for your sins. Jesus is the only connection that bridges the gap of your sin to God’s purity.
The best news is that your guilt and shame has been taken care of, no sin is too big that Jesus hasn’t died for.
The Gospel changes lives. It’s grace, it’s love, it’s forgiveness, and this Jesus changes…lives. Jesus bridges the gaps between heads and hearts, sins and righteousness, life and death. I can’t live life without Jesus, I tried that way for a while and I wasn’t headed in a good direction.  Certain death and destruction was imminent for me and my family.  Jesus offers life, love and hope.
That’s the reason I follow Jesus.  He’s got the best answer, best ideas, and best plan for me than I could ever imagine.  Best decision I will ever make that settled my today and my forever home secure.
Jesus is my Way, my Truth, and my Life.  Will you let Jesus be yours too?