Make Me

Sticky

It’s no secret to my family and friends that 2016 was a painful year for me and my family. Lots of loss and uncertainty. I half-heartedly began 2017 with the idea that January 1st was a new beginning of sorts and that this new year was going to bring prosperity, healing, and happiness.

It hasn’t. 

I’ve always been leery of making New Year’s Resolutions. Not because I thought I couldn’t keep them, but because I know there are things in my life I don’t have control over.

Like loss.

Health crises.

Broken relationships.

Heartache.

We’re not immune to them, as much as we might think we are. We don’t always have control over what happens in our lives. Maybe we can control our reactions to them at times, but the overall events experienced are often times just thrown at us without warning.

I know I’ve mentioned the quote that we’re not always afraid of the future but of the past repeating itself. In my life that deems true, although there always seems to be something “new” brought to me, too. Sometimes I can “deal” with it…sometimes I don’t feel I can. It depends on the severity and the timing.

I recently heard a message about a Christian song by Sidewalk Prophets. They said something I had heard before, but was reminded of at just the right time.

It was about the “scary prayers”. The ones where we ask God to use us. To break us. To make us more like Him.

“I think the key to it all is praying those scary prayers and living life on the edge. Allowing God to make us uncomfortable so that we might do great things for him. If we’re made lonely, then we’ll know what its like when we truly find love. If we’re broken we’ll know what its like to heal. If you change your life and set it towards his grace, I promise you it will be an awesome journey and you will see the world change around you.” – Dave (Sidewalk Prophets)

Once we pray those words, we’re open to seeing just how much God wants to use us for His glory. He will break us, refine us, mold us, and do whatever He needs to do for us to surrender our lives to Him. Whatever it takes for us to take up our cross and follow Him. Fully and wholly. Asking Him to do what He wants in our lives is a risk on our part. But what follows, sometimes right away…sometimes not…is always worth it.

“Keep Making Me”

“Make me broken so I can be healed; ‘cuz I’m so calloused and now I can’t feel. I want to run to You with heart wide open…make me broken.

Make me empty so I can be filled; ‘cuz I’m still holding onto my will. And I’m completed when You are with me….make me empty.

‘Til You are my One desire…’til You are my One True Love…’til You are My Breath, my Everything…Lord, please keep making me.

Make me lonely so I can be whole; ’til I want no one more than You, Lord; ‘cuz in the darkness I know You will hold me….make me lonely.

‘Til You are my One desire…’til You are my One True Love…’til You are My Breath, my Everything…Lord, please keep making me.

‘Til You are my One Desire…’til You are my One True Love…’til You are My Breath, my Everything…Lord, please keep me making…I know You’ll keep making…Lord, please keep making me.”

I have been broken. Down on my knees overwhelmed with pain and heartbreak. Prostrate on the floor.

I have been emptied…and emptied…and emptied again.

The loneliness can become debilitating at times.

Humanly, I have sometimes wondered why, when I couldn’t see what good could possibly come out of the situation.

But then God shows me. He wants me. He wants all of me. He will go to the extreme for me to willingly hand over my heart and life to Him. I’ve seen it, experienced it, lived it. And guess what? He follows through on His promise to heal us, fill us, and make us whole again.

He’s the refiner who is burning off the dross.

He’s the potter and we are the clay.

He’s the Father and we are His children.

Just as earthly parents want their children to surrender any arrogance, over-confidence, trust that’s only in themselves, Jesus wants to rid us of those harmful characteristics, too.

When we look for only earthly healing…we miss the opportunity for God’s miraculous works.

When we look to everything and everyone else to fill our needs…we miss the incredible fullness God can give us. The only way we will ever feel complete is through Him. Nothing in this world, besides Christ, will fulfill our every longing.

Nothing.

When we feel so alone because everyone in our lives has disappointed us, yet we still look to them for our deepest relationships, we will remain lonely. Only God can fill the deepest parts of us…the areas where no human could possibly fill.

If we allow Him to.

This has happened to me too many times to count: I’m having a rough time and reach out to someone. And the phone keeps ringing. The texts go unanswered. I go to the next person, who also is unavailable. Then the next…and the next…until I realize I am sitting alone without anyone to talk to. Then it dawns on me. Perhaps God is taking away every possible “human” interaction I am longing for…so that I will come to Him.

I’m not proud to say that at times I look to others to fulfill my need before I go to Jesus. But I have and sometimes I still do. However, in the end, it’s still Christ Who is My One True Love. He is the Only One Who can be my One Desire, my Breath. My sinfulness takes me down paths not meant for fulfillment…until I realize I need to turn around and lift my eyes up to Him.

The horizontal outlook on life will never fill us the way our vertical one can. We can look at all that the world provides and always, always, always come up short. But the moment we turn our focus vertical…on the One Who created this world, we can be filled like never before.

Even though 2017 isn’t going the way I magically hoped. Even though the “break” I was hoping for hasn’t come, I know He’s just continuing to “make” me. He’s continuing to break me, mold me, and draw me closer to Him. Yes, it hurts and yes, I continue to make the mistake of not always going to Him first. But I’m a work in progress. I’m not finished yet….He’s not finished with me yet. I trust when He is, I will be exactly Who He created me to be.

Until then, I will continue to ask the “scary prayers”. I’ll ask Him to use me. To use my life. To use my circumstances. I will expect pain and heartbreak, knowing He’s still in control.

How about you? Do you feel like you are in the Refiner’s fire right now? Can you think of a time when you were? If so, what do you think the result will be for you? Or what was the result, if that time is in the past?

Do you ever, like me, wonder when it will all end? When the storms of life will stop seeming so unbearable? Be assured, my friend, that even through all of the trials and tribulation you face, He is there. He is always there just waiting for us to surrender and fall into His arms. He is our Healer and our Deliverer. Let Him in.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Remove the dross from the silver,
and a silversmith can produce a vessel. Proverbs 25:4

Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8

We’re in this week of gratitude amidst the messiness of our lives. So today I am thankful for heartache and pain because it draws me closer in relationship to Jesus. #livingalifeofthankyou

(I have one request….as I know many of you click “like” on the Facebook page or elsewhere. It would be great if you could click “like” on this page…the real blog post. It would be GREATLY appreciated! 🙂 I’m not positive if a difference will be made, but thought I would try it being I am a bit newer to this. Thank you!)

Unanswered Prayers?

Sticky

Do you remember the song, “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks? Part of the lyrics go like this:

“Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers. Remember when you’re talking to the Man upstairs…that just because He may not answer, doesn’t mean He don’t care. Some of God’s greatest gifts…are unanswered prayers.”

I don’t listen to Country radio much anymore, but this song came to mind when thinking about “thankfulness”.

You see, even as much as I love this song (and music, in general), I have been taught that God DOES hear every prayer and He DOES answer. It just might not be the answer I want.

God hears our pleas, our cries, and our lamentations. Every single one of them.

And He answers. Every single one of them.

Some of His answers could be “yes”, “no”, or “not right now…trust My timing”. It might seem like He isn’t answering, but perhaps He is, just in ways we choose not to see. He might be silent for the moment, but be assured He will answer.

Of course we want the “yeses”.

We want the “answered prayer” to be the solution we have desired…whether it be healing, comfort, strength, courage, etc.

But what happens when His answer is “no”? Do you/we lose faith in him? Do we demand a better answer? Do we accept what He has said?

Sometimes when His answer is “no” or “not right now”, I can get frustrated. With my life seemingly out of control at times, I sometimes wonder, “Why, God? Why can’t You just allow this to happen? I don’t understand.”

It’s not always our privilege to understand. We’re not always given the immediate answer.

But does that mean He doesn’t care? Absolutely not!

There have my been many, many, many prayers I have prayed over the years that God has answered with a “no” or “not yet” or “be a little more patient….My plan is unfolding.” I admit I don’t always understand. Or even like it. But I have to believe He knows what’s best. I struggle with it sometimes, because when I don’t surrender…it’s because I believe I know what’s best.

Over time I have learned to be thankful for what seemed to be “unanswered prayers”. I’m so thankful He didn’t (and doesn’t) give me everything I want and believe I need. If was in complete control of my life, it would not go well.

His ways are ALWAYS higher than ours.

His understanding is beyond what our finite minds can comprehend.

He is all-knowing, all-powerful and always present. Because of that, we can be assured He hears us all.

As I’m writing this, I’m thanking Him for not allowing me everything that is comfortable; that I believe would make me “happy”; and that really wouldn’t be good for me. I’m so thankful for answered prayers, even when He’s leading me down a path I’m unfamiliar with. I need to continue working on trusting Him completely, and without a doubt and quickly.

Can I ask you…have there been times you have felt God isn’t hearing your prayers, or answering them?

Are there times when you wonder, “How many times do I actually have to ask for this particular thing”?

My friend, sometimes we won’t get a direct answer…a direct lead…something tangible and as clear as the nose on my face.

But during those frustrating, waiting times, offer Him a thank you. Tell Him you trust Him and are thankful He can see the whole picture, even when we can’t. Thank Him for being all-knowing and all-powerful and always present. Simply continue with the thankful heart you can have, no matter if you’re particular dream seems to be put aside.

One night, many years ago, I experienced one of the most excruciating and painful times in my life. When I laid my head on my pillow that night, I thanked God. I told Him that I didn’t understand how that event would ever work itself out for good, but until I did see the fruit coming from it, I would thank Him for the experience and all that came with it.

I was used to thanking God in all circumstances already, so that night didn’t seem so difficult. I do see some good coming from that experience and I truly am grateful. Not for “unanswered prayers”, but simply thankful for God’s sovereignty over all areas of my life.

Precious Lord, I ask You to help me live with a thankful heart…and a thankful soul…and a thankful attitude. Sometimes it’s not easy and I need Your help. I know You will equip me with the tools I need and for that, I thank You. Father, help anyone reading this prayer, to become thankful in all aspects of their lives, knowing You are in control. Thank You for being the only God I need and forgive me for wanting to have control over certain situations. Thank You for loving us enough to say “no” or “not yet”. Thank You for the trials and triumphs in my life and in other people’s’ lives, because those times can bring us to our knees in prayer, love, adoration, and faithfulness, as well as repentance. Train us to be thankful to You and for You. Amen.

    Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 (NIV)

So…What IS Love?

Sticky

Some people are just hard to love. Perhaps they’ve hurt you or they continue to hurt you and your heart is broken. Shattered in pieces, laying on the floor…impossible to put back together.

How does God call us to love these people? What are we really supposed to do in these situations?

Our theme this month is loving in action. Perhaps for those who celebrate Valentine’s Day, love comes easy for you. Loving in action might just be second nature. But it might not be easy for everyone.

Excuses come:

“My parents didn’t show me love, so why should I show others love.” (Bitterness?)

“I was never taught how to love.” (Ignorance?)

“Oh, they know how much I love them..there’s no need to take the time to show them.” (Pride?)

“I’ve been hurt before and so my heart just can’t love anyone anymore.” (Unresolved pain?)

Can you add any to that list? Is there anything holding you back from loving others…loving in action?

I know for myself, I have become stubborn. Maybe I always was stubborn, I don’t know. But I see it more clearly now. And when I’m hurt…and my stubbornness comes out…I fail miserably at loving others the way I am called to love them. My intentions change and I don’t like it! Does this resonate with anyone else? Or am I alone in this?

Then we introduce judgement. When our hearts aren’t in a healthy place, it is so easy to fall into that trap of judgement. We might be stuck on harshly judging ourselves or we might be hurt, angry, or jealous when we see someone else who is happy and who radiates love.

know there are groups of friends who sit and put others down. It’s their habit…their past-time…the way they connect. But let me ask you this: do they ever sit and ponder what that other person might be feeling? Or going through? Could their judgement, snickers, looks of irritation, be causing this person to feel even worse? To feel even more unloved?

A lot has happened to me in my life. Some is private, but most things I have put out there and I know the feeling of being judged. I’ve been judged on how I parent our children, what kind of wife I am to my husband, what kind of daughter I am to my dad (and my late mom), what kind of sister and sister-in-law I have been. I’ve been judged for my friendships, my honesty, my “rawness” when I reveal the pain I’ve encountered…the pain that is so real. And believe it or not, I’m still being judged for how I grieve.

People dislike me simply for who I am. I’m gossiped about, I’m judged for following my faith and for my faith being the center point in my life. I am called names–sometimes to my face, sometimes behind my back. There are people who don’t like what I stand up for….for my convictions. So, what do I do with all of that?

For many years, I learned to wear masks. I learned that my heart was safer if I didn’t let anyone know how hurt I was about these particular things that were happening to me. I kept a safe distance from my heart and my feelings, because if they ever came out, it was like Niagara Falls…and why would I want to add that to the list of judgements I already receive? So, it was hidden…even from myself…even when I didn’t know it.

Now? I can’t dig up a mask if my life depended on it! Sometimes I want them back–if only for the ability to please others so they would accept me…maybe even love me again. Maybe I want them back so I can pretend to forget all that has happened in my past. Then again, that is what has molded me into who I am today. Perhaps I just want to go back to being “unseen”, not the topic of gossip or finger-pointing or judgement. Back to be being the extrovert I always believed I was.

But you know what? That’s not real. If I have to pretend to be someone I’m not? If I have to push aside my hurt because my other people are sick of it? If I can’t be honest, true, and raw (in a loving and kind way), then that’s not living loved. As much as I want a break from the criticism, I’ve come too far to go back to where I used to be…hidden, approval addicted, my happiness being based on other people’s views me.

Is that really love?

As I sit here I think of the sins I have committed. I think of the ways I haven’t shown love to others–either out of fear or busyness or maybe out of anger. And I’m ashamed of that! How can I claim to love the Lord God with all of my heart, soul and mind, yet harbor anger or ill feelings towards one of his creations? I’m guilty. I deserve God’s wrath and punishment and it amazes me that He loves me so much, that HE took the wrath and punishment. Now that is love….

So this is the “month of love”. (Yes, I know every month is a month to love each other…I’m just speaking in terms of Valentine’s Day…and capitalizing on that “holiday”, if you’d like to call it that.) This is the time people want to show loved ones just how much they mean to them. How they appreciate them and how thankful they are to have them in their lives…how they “couldn’t imagine their lives without them”.

But there’s way more to it than that. There are people, strangers, acquaintances, fellow children of God, who need and long to be loved. Loved by us.

Do you ever walk into a store or a building and the person ahead of you holds the door for you?

Have you been in a bind at the checkout and someone behind you lends you or gives you some change for you to finish your transaction?

Or have you had the pleasure of the “pay it forward” movement, where someone in the fast-food drive-thru has paid for your coffee or lunch?

Maybe you’ve been blessed with a group of young teens who have come to rake your yard in the fall…just because.

Those are just small, simple ways we can show love to one another.

We aren’t called to judge, even though so many of us are guilty of doing it. We aren’t called to be a thorn in someone’s side. We aren’t called to question the way they are handling a particular situation. Do you know why?

Because we are not them.

We have no idea what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes or know the battles they struggle with daily, seen or unseen. We don’t know how they grew up or what they were taught…maybe it was to be abusive for all we know. We don’t know their brain chemistry and how they process information, such as a death of a friend or family member. We just don’t know…because we are not them.

So here’s an idea: how about we give each other a break? How about we treat people with empathy, because we don’t know the battle they’re facing? How about we search out ways to show love to others–strangers, friends, or family members? Anyone.

Instead of judgement, condemnation, gossip, pointing fingers (even if the fingers aren’t actually seen…), questioning their judgement of their own lives, can we please offer grace and mercy? Can we offer them love?

Now, of course there has to be a disclaimer: if you are being abused…if you are in a seriously dangerous situation, please seek help. Yes you can love your abuser, but you are not being asked to stay in that abusive situation and enable it to continue. Please hear me when I say that.

Previously I was talking about the petty things. The clothes people wear. The way they style their hair. The friends they have that you don’t “approve” of. Those are the things we can release and let go of.

As I said before, I am not pointing fingers at anyone because I have been just as guilty. I know it and God knows it. But I’m working on it! I’m a work in progress and for that, I ask for grace and patience. Truth be told, I think we’re all a work in progress and we have been since the day we were born into sin.

Perfection. It has no place in our lives. There is no such thing. Acting like it, pretending it exists, is just a way to fool our brains into thinking we have it altogether on our own. We simply cannot be perfect. The only perfect being is Jesus Christ and the way He loved while on earth…and the way He continues to love is what we should be aiming for. We won’t achieve it until we’re in heaven, but we can sure try here on earth.

No more judgment. No more pride. No more pointing fingers.

Let’s just work on loving.

Here are a few scripture passages to ponder…

“We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God”, yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:19-21

“Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgement on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you-who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:11-12

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14

God wants us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as those who don’t know Jesus. Is there anyone you feel led to talk to about Him? Is there someone whom you have been feeling led to share the gospel with? If so, follow His lead and speak to them in love. No judgment of them or their past or their present circumstances; simply honest love. Show them what that truly looks like. Show them the love Christ gives us.

 

 

Let’s Talk About Love

Sticky

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (ESV)

Such a well-known verse, huh? Did you learn it as a child, like I did? Like my children are?

Or maybe you’re new with your faith and this is a verse you have yet to learn. That’s okay, let me introduce you to it!

“but God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”       Romans 5:8 (ESV)

Have you heard that one before?

Here’s one more:

“Let all you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14 (ESV)

There are many scripture verses I could share about love…these are just a few. Do you see a common thread among them?

I’ll give you a hint…it has to do with the verbs.

Okay, not everyone wants an english lesson but I have to point them out.

“gave”, “shows”, “do”

What is He telling us? Any guesses?

He’s telling us that love is an action. 

I know we talk about being in love, speaking words of love to each other, telling those important to us how much we love them. But God doesn’t only want us using our words to show our love…he’s wants us to act on it.

God gave His only Son…to show just how much he loves each one of us.

God shows His love for us…by sending His Son to die on a cross, so we don’t have to endure that horrifying agony.

God tells us that all we do…should be done in love.

We need to follow His example, as hard as it may be at times. We’ve all heard (and probably said) “Actions speak louder than words.” Are loving words important? Of course. Should we still say them? Absolutely. But let’s not forget to show others our love.

I’m guilty of it….maybe someone reading this is, too. Sometimes I can say it, but my actions don’t match it. I’m not proud of that. I want to make excuses for it, but it’s the truth. Something I personally need to work on.

However, I can’t do it alone. I can’t rely on my own strength to show love to those I might struggle with.

Thankfully God’s love isn’t based on emotions, like mine can be at times. When anger or frustration or (heaven forbid) pride rears their ugly heads, it’s hard to show love. That’s when I need God to speak through me…move through me. I need to surrender those feelings to Him and allow Him to take over.

His love is unconditional and I need mine to be, too. Even when it’s hard…and the pain is all too real.

Like when you’re hurt by a friend’s words. Or you get into an argument with a spouse…over and over and over again. Or a family member has hurt you in a way you never thought family could. Or your support system wains and all but disappears. Or nasty words are spoken in the heat of the moment…words that replay in your head. Or when…

Can you finish that last one on your own? Do you have specific hurts that make it hard for you to show love towards someone? Bitterness, resentment, anger, or that nasty word I used before…pride?

Oh, there’s so much that can tear us all apart. If we let it.

Did you get that? If we let it.

Can you join with me and fight that urge? We can work to overcome the negative emotions, or maybe just acknowledge them but then release them…so we can open ourselves up to love again?

I know I can’t do it alone…without God. I don’t think any of us can.

So, let’s do it together…and give each other grace as we try to obey God’s words spoken in this final verse.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” Matthew 22:36-39 (ESV)

A few questions to ponder….

What does “loving in action” look like in your life? Is there someone you can show love to today? Is there a new way you can show love towards others? Is there anything standing in your way that you need to surrender? 

Spend some time asking God for direction and answers to those questions. Listen for His whisper…and follow His lead. It will be worth it!

Where’s Yours?

Sticky

 

We’re in this country called the United States of America, but it really doesn’t feel all that “united”. I have to admit that during my particular lifetime, this is the most divided I’ve felt this country has ever been.

We live in a “free” country.

“The land of the free and the home of the brave.”

If you watch any news channel recently (or even for the past couple of years), you can see our freedoms changing. Rules and laws being changed…it seems a lot of people aren’t even following the Constitution of the United States. Or they twist it so they can use it to their advantage.

Does that remind you of anything else that gets twisted to be used incorrectly?

Twisted so it can be used to someone’s advantage?

Maybe support their idea of how life SHOULD be?

We had our presidential election and Donald Trump was just sworn in as our president last Friday, January 20th, 2017. I believe neither “side” would’ve been happy in this particular election.

During campaigns, words get twisted…mistakes are brought to light, as if that candidate was the only one who ever made mistakes…names are called out…protests are held…for what? Unity? In the “United” States of America?

The theme for this week’s blog posts is “faith”. Here’s what I found when I researched the word “faith”:

faith

noun

  1.  complete trust or confidence in someone or something

2.  strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

synonyms: trust, belief, confidence, conviction, religion, church, sect, denomination, ideology, creed, teaching, doctrine

Let’s look at these definitions a little closer. They say “COMPLETE” trust or confidence. A “STRONG” belief. The synonym, “CONVICTION” stands out to me.

What the definitions and synonyms show me is that faith is something big. When a person “has faith”, it means something to them…it means a lot. It’s putting your complete trust into something or someone. It’s having a strong belief, even if you can’t see the proof with your own eyes.

This might be a tough question, but it might not.

Where, or in whom, does your faith lie?

Is it Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?

Is it the Constitution of the United States of America?

Is it in our law enforcement officers? The protesters? The ability to protect yourself with your own firearms? The control you have in your life? In your job? Your family? YOU?

Does your faith lie in any of these things or people?

If it doesn’t…should it?

If it does…should it?

I believe we do need to have some kind of faith in all of these things, praying and hoping and trusting that the best can come from all of them. Our officers, our constitution, our families…we have hope that they were created for a reason and are in our lives for a reason.

But our deep faith…our true faith needs to lie in Jesus Christ. It is only He Who can ultimately save us and protect us and it is a precious gift He wants to give every single human being on earth.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result a result of works, so that people may boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9

This gift he wants us to grab hold of and accept will only help us in this world where there are protests, shootings, changing laws, corruption, doubt, mistrust and so much more.

Our eyes are glued to news channels. How about we glue them to The Word?

Our Facebook posts are about the trouble in the world. How about we post more about the perfection of the next world…the one we really belong in?

Our conversations about the constitution and laws changing…the orders this president and previous presidents have signed show the unpredictability of humans. How about we share His never-changing Word with each other? Something we can go back to over and over and over again, knowing God will never change no matter how many protests or laws are created?

Can we truly trust man? One hundred percent? All of the time?

Can we truly put our faith in any man or woman on this earth? One hundred percent? All of the time?

We are but mere mortals, who will sin. And then sin again.

We will hurt each other. And then hurt each other again.

We cannot put our true faith in man. It must go to Jesus. We have to trust that He is still in control of all that happens. We don’t understand the “why’s” or the “how’s”, but we can have true faith that He will work it all out for good. Every single thing.

Just like the constitution, people might twist His Word to match their agenda…to match their beliefs, to satisfy and explain their sin. Just watch for it. Watch out for the plans of “man”, but have faith in God.

Ask Him daily to show you the truth, the way and the life.

Ask Him daily how He wants you to respond to the chaos in division in our country.

He will show you. Listen for His answers.

Have faith in the One person Who will never change.

Jesus.

“Follow Me”

Sticky

I was heartbroken when we walked out those back doors. It seemed surreal at the moment, as if I couldn’t believe it was truly happening. Slowly, reality sunk in.

We had left our church for the last time. The church where my husband, our sons, and I were all baptized. Where my husband and I first participated in communion, confirmed our faith, and where we were married.

This was our home.

Our community of believers.

This was our history.

But it wouldn’t be from that moment forward.

Even though we had tough times before…extreme losses…hurt…pain and forgiveness, this felt completely different.

For the first time in my life, I had no idea where God wanted us to be.

I had no idea where He was going to lead us.

I took time away that afternoon to be alone….digest what had happened. I asked God for direction. I asked Him for the purpose in this. I asked “What next?” All I could see in front of me was darkness…the abyss…absolutely nothing.

I didn’t know where we were going. I didn’t know where our children would attend Sunday School or church services. I didn’t know who our new church family would be. It was a blank slate, but one I wasn’t excited about.

I was at a loss.

I grieved.

I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore.

I felt abandoned and alone that afternoon. Like I had been deceived my entire life and all that I had believed to be true, was a lie. It was an awful feeling and one I never want to relive.

So many questions…with no answers. So much hurt…but not sure where to turn. So much to think about…but I still didn’t know what to think.

Our synod had made some changes that my husband and I, along with others, didn’t believe were biblical. This led to more research, more questions, more unveiling of beliefs I didn’t know our church/synod believed. No one had come out and told us these things. It was as if they were “unspoken”, in a way.

Many fellow congregants didn’t have problems with any of the issues we were feeling convicted of. There were many who were angry we brought these issues to light. But the studying and praying and utter conviction on our hearts wasn’t something we felt we could ignore. We couldn’t stay in a church we knew didn’t believe the bible was the infallible, inerrant Word of our Almighty God.

It was ironic timing, as my husband and family had recently had the biggest growth in our faith to date. We were diving into scripture, relying on His promises and truths to get us through the hardest times of our lives. And when we were solidified and grounded deeply in our faith, this happens.

I don’t believe in coincidences…I believe God chose that moment to reveal that information after our roots had been so established in His Word and in Him. That was a time when we didn’t doubt God at all.

So, we felt we God wanted us to leave and follow Him. The only problem was we didn’t know where we were going. Where was He going to lead us? That church? Or that church? Or maybe that one? Which church? The only thing we were certain of was that God was still on the throne.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

That’s what we were ultimately being called to do. Have faith…be sure and certain…even though we could not see our hands being held right in front of our faces.

Blind faith.

Complete and utter surrender to His will for our lives.

Yes, we had a choice…but we chose to follow Him and His lead, wherever that might be.

At times I admit I was a little scared. Probably because I was out of control and couldn’t see the future. But most of the time, I felt peace knowing we followed our hearts…we followed the Word…we followed what we believed God was telling us to do. I knew at some point, He would bring us to the church that would feel like home again.

And He did. Not right away…and not after some tears and sweat and frustration and a lot of discussions….but with time, patience and faith, I believe we have found where we belong. At least I hope so.

There’s been so much uncertainty in my life, especially this past year. So much I could bring up…so much I don’t understand. Yet, this story was the one that kept coming to mind.

I don’t know what tomorrow might bring, but I know Who holds tomorrow.

I don’t know where our lives are taking us at this moment, but I know Who already has it planned out.

I don’t know how I’m going to get through this winter, but I know Who will help me.

I can’t see the future. I can’t see the answers to the many, many questions I have about life right now. But God has proven faithful over and over and over again, so how can I doubt He has the answers and is just waiting to reveal them to me? That He is telling me to be patient, yet again?

I did finally figure a bit of this out. It took me awhile (I’m blonde)…but I know all of these uncertainties…all of these black holes in my life…are only meant to bring me closer to God.

They’re meant to bring me closer to my husband and children, who I hope will turn to God along with me.

They’re meant to help my marriage thrive with God in the center, as long as we obey.

You see, walking with blind faith is actually a gift. A precious gift our Jesus gives us. He gives us moment after moment to draw close to Him…to come to Him with our questions and desires…our impatience…our dreams and desires…our fears.  Everything.

How can that be bad? A closer relationship with Jesus?

My study bible says, “When we believe that God will fulfill his promises even though we don’t see those promises materializing yet, we demonstrate true faith.” (regarding Hebrews 11:1)

Is God asking you to have blind faith? Are you resisting? It can be a scary step and I can’t promise all roses without the thorns. But I do know that God wants us to follow Him more than ever.

It can be a very good thing. The places He can take you (and me) are limitless. The gifts He can bestow on us are priceless. The life He offers us can be all we could hope for…and more.

Take His out-stretched hand and accept His invitation with blind faith…take the risk and revel in what He does with your life.

I can’t wait to hear what happens!

Why Did You Doubt?

Sticky

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

Oh, how I can relate with Peter in this story. It’s the story of when Jesus walked on water. When the disciples saw someone coming to them at night…walking on top of water, they were afraid. They thought He was a ghost and they cried out in fear.

And here was Jesus. Once again, doing the impossible.

Isn’t that just like Him?

Just when we think something could never be accomplished, Jesus does it.

Like when the scans come back and the cancer is gone…yet no doctor can explain it.

Or when we don’t know where the money will come from for groceries this week…and somehow a check arrives in the mail.

Or when we don’t think a pregnancy is ever going to happen…and it does when we least expect it.

I can see Jesus all over my impossible situations.

However, like Peter, I still doubt.

I think I can control my life, my situations, my dreams. There a ton of books out there, as well as speakers, who will tell you that all of your dreams will come true. Your life will be full of happiness, if you just believe. Or maybe you’ve heard that this will be your best year yet!

And then the unexpected arrives. The floor falls out from beneath you when the diagnosis comes. You get the phone call in the middle of the night. Your family is falling apart. You sink deeper into depression, or anxiety, or worse yet…both.

Where is Jesus in these situations?

He’s all over them. He’s in control. He’s waiting to do the impossible. With you, your life, your marriage, your illness, your worries. Everything.

But…there’s a secret I want to share with you, just in case you don’t know it already.

Fix your eyes on Jesus. Don’t lose sight of Him. Don’t take your eyes off of Him, because He is the way.

Not because then all of your dreams will come true, or only good will come your way, but because He is Jesus.  He’s the One Who can do the impossible. However, when we doubt…when we take our eyes off of Him…it’s so much easier to fall, or to fear, or to panic.

Jesus asks Peter to step out of the boat and come to Him on the water. So, Peter does. But the second Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus, he begins to sink.

Like us sinking to the pit of despair or discouragement when our eyes aren’t on Jesus, but are on our situations, our problems, our fears.

Peter cries out, “Lord, save me!”

If that would only be our daily cry to Him. “Jesus, save me!”

We don’t see His work behind the scenes. We don’t always see how He will work things out for good to bring Him glory. Sometimes…all we see are the pain and trials. For me, in this season of life, it’s hard not to constantly stare in wonder at the pain and hurt. I don’t understand how God could possibly be using all of these things in my life right now…for His glory.

But if I claim to believe the Word, then I have to believe He will work it out.

I need to stop doubting and resume trusting.

I do want people to one day look at the rollercoaster of my life and see Jesus’ hands all over it. Just as the disciples watched what unfolded and worshiped Him saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God”, I want others to see the Son of God in my life.

I want everyone to see how He has held me up, even when I doubt, even when I falter, even when I fail.

In this hard season of life, I am a faltering sinner saved by grace.

Where are you in all of this? Just hearing the story for the first time? Just learning to look to and trust Jesus? Maybe you’ve been a believer all of your life, but at this moment you’re doubting God can bring good to your situation.

Whatever the case may be, He is with you. He is with me. Our Savior can help us stay above our circumstances and not fall into despair.

But we need to keep our eyes fixed on Him. I’m trying…I hope you are, too.

Narrow Is The Path

Sticky

This year has been a horrible one for me and my family. Mostly losses, but also strained relationships, heartaches, broken dreams, health issues, and on and on. It’s like I could list a “record of wrongs”, but in a different way than 1 Corinthians 13 speaks of.

As I sit and think about Thursday’s theme, Walking Into My New Adventure, I’m not all that thrilled. There’s a quote I heard awhile back that keeps coming to mind.

We’re not afraid of the future, but of the past repeating itself.

Yep. Right on. Hit the nail on the head. I am afraid of reliving the nightmares that have come this past year (and years before).

Who will be diagnosed with cancer this year?

What dreams will fail this year?

What will I do wrong to make someone block my calls this year?

Who am I going to lose in my life this year?

Shall I go on? Let’s not. Rehashing it just makes it worse.

But it’s true. Just because my mom had cancer, didn’t mean my father-in-law was immune to it, because he was diagnosed, too.

Just because my brother survived a car accident, didn’t mean my cousin would…because didn’t.

Just because our business was going well, didn’t mean something would come in and wreck havoc on it all…because it did.

There’s a whole lot of grief going on in this household right now and I can only imagine how many of you are experiencing it, too.

What kept coming to mind were The Beatitudes. Our pastor had a series of sermons on these and he picked them apart for us which was a big eye opener. I now see them and read them in a whole new light.  Here’s what I mean…

Jesus didn’t say “Blessed are those who are happy all the time, because they will get everything they desire.”

No, He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus didn’t say “Blessed are those who never experience loss or sadness, because they will won’t ever need Me to comfort them.”

No, He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Just picking out another one, out of order…

Jesus didn’t say “Blessed are the ones who cause heartache and chaos, for they will be called sons of God.”

No, He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

You see…our lives aren’t supposed to be perfect. Our lives aren’t supposed to be filled with only  happiness. If they were, why would we need God?  Why would we develop a relationship with Him? What would lead us to Him?

I’d love to say that at all times, I only go to God when great things happen. I do thank Him, but sometimes it’s in the wrong order.  (Yes, I did just confess to that…)  Sometimes I thank people before Him. Sometimes I praise others before Jesus when I am blessed.  Saying this makes me cringe.  But, in all honesty, it’s true.

Oh, here’s another good one….

Jesus didn’t say “Blessed are the ones whose motives and hearts are selfish and full of vain, for they will see God.”

He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

How my heart longs to see the face of Jesus….I can’t barely stand it!  I. Cannot. Wait. But that pure in heart thing? I think I need to work on that. Every single day. Every moment of every day.

My excuse is not simply that I’m not pure in heart because I’m a sinner and was born into sin.  No, this is something to really work on.

I mourn the loss of so many loved ones right now; I am poor in spirit almost more than I have ever been; my ability to make peace at this very moment is a huge struggle….and you already know how I feel about the pure in heart piece.

I’ve got a lot of work to do.

This is me…walking into a new adventure.

The adventure might not look all that exciting. In fact, thinking of dealing with these things kinda scares me. But, this is my adventure. Is it completely new? No. But am I willing to take a try at it again? Yes. Hopefully over and over and over again, taking up my cross daily.

I don’t know how your year has been. I don’t know if you’re mourning, or hurting, or poor in spirit, but I can tell you that you aren’t alone.

Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? If so, you will be filled! That’s good news!

All of these “Beatitudes” come with a blessing–at least in my eyes. When we walk with God; when we lay it all at His feet and come boldly before the throne for help, He is there to help.

And the reward? Well, it may not be a perfect life and it may have it’s struggles like mine did this year, because our reward is in heaven. That’s when we receive the prize for taking this crazy adventure with Him!

Matthew 7:13-14 tells us in Jesus’ own words, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Take Jesus’ hand and follow Him on that narrow road. The adventure He has for us awaits. While we’re being navigated on this road, He will lead us. He won’t leave us, He won’t forsake us, He will join us in this adventure of life….the life that leads to eternal life with Him.

I hope you’ll join me. I’d love to have you there…

 

Mary, Did You Know?

Sticky

“Mary, Did You Know” by Kenny Rogers and Wynona Judd

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm the storm with His hand?

Did you know that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little Baby, you’ve kissed the face of God?

Mary did you know?

Mary did you know?

The blind will see.
The deaf will hear.
The dead will live again.
The lame will leap.
The dumb will speak
The praises of The Lamb.

Oh, Mary did you know that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will one day rule the nations?

Did you know that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, I Am.

Mary did you know?

I can only imagine the feelings this teenage girl felt when she found out she was with child–and that this child would be the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the God of all creation. Can you imagine it?

I don’t know if anyone could comprehend what was about to happen. There were prophets who foretold of the Savior’s coming and his time on earth in His human form, but what really went through Mary’s mind?

As a mother, myself, I anticipated the births of our children.  I read the books, I listened to the stories, I went to the pre-birth classes, but in all honesty, it really didn’t prepare me for what I truly felt and experienced when each of our sons was placed into my arms and I saw them for the first time.

No words can describe the unconditional love you feel                                                             when you meet your baby face-to-face.

It is truly a miraculous experience.

Yet, I wasn’t carrying and delivering the Savior of the world.  I was carrying my child…that my husband and I would raise together. (Okay, to be politically correct, our children do belong to God…I really have learned that lesson…) We are responsible to teach them the ways of the worlds vs. the ways of the bible and compare-hoping when they are old enough, they would choose to follow Jesus.  Not to take anything away from our children’s births, but Mary’s birth was quite different.

Her son came to teach HER the ways of God.

Instead of us teaching our children, He came to deliver HER from sin and death.

It’s almost incomprehensible to me…

Mary was chosen out of every single woman on earth, to carry the Messiah.  What a privilege…what an honor!  I was chosen to carry my babies…and what an honor that was.  But you and I both know that isn’t even a comparison.

Each Christmas season, it seems a new song becomes my favorite.  This year it’s “Mary, Did You Know” and as you see, I wrote the lyrics out and added the song to this post.  Ironically, Isaiah’s high school choir sang it for this year’s Christmas Choir Concert.  I bawled the whole time…(and not just the “simple tear down the cheek” cry…the all out sobbing!  Good thing it was pretty dark in there.)

I sat wondering…did she know what was in store for Jesus?  The miracles He would perform?  The way the lame would speak praises to Him after being healed…the way the blind would see again just by Jesus touching a man’s eyes. Imagine being deaf and in a split second, you can hear…all because of this man a named Jesus.  Did Mary have that mother’s intuition?  Did she know this would all happen?

When the lyrics ask if Mary knew that when she kissed her little baby, she was kissing the face of God, I cried even harder.  I thought of my baby…being kissed by God now.  I thought of my mom whose face has very recently been cradled in Jesus’ hands and how He has looked right into her eyes and smiled.  I thought of the others who have passed and how they are truly seeing the face of God.

But did Mary know all of this?  Did she have doubts?  Did she wonder if it would really all happen like it was foretold, with the child she gave birth too?

All the questions that rise up because of the birth of one little boy.  I could go on and on.  How come He had to be born in a manger?  A trough?  Well, maybe it was a way to show how humble we all should be.  A hospital bed, a barn, an ambulance…does it matter?  Once the baby is born, it really doesn’t matter if it was a gold-plated nursery bed or a manger filled with straw.

The animals that surrounded Him…that gave Him comfort and warmth.  Think of the people who surround us and can’t give us nearly as much comfort and warmth that a simple animal could give Jesus. God gave them just what they needed.

This season of celebrating Christ’s birth can get so out of hand with “worldly” things and tasks.  That’s why I love the lyrics to this song and love the way it reminds us why we are celebrating.  It’s the miracle of a new-born babe so many years ago.

A simple birth of a mighty King.  One Who wants to rock our worlds…change our lives…bring us to freedom.  Will you let Him in this Christmas?  Do you have room in your busy schedule of shopping, wrapping, hosting or going to parties, making the perfect meal–whatever it is you’re working on–to just allow time to sit and celebrate this miracle birth? To really think about what happens those years ago?

Invite Him into your celebration.  Read the story of His birth.  Pray together…and I mean, really pray together. Make room for Him this Christmas.  Make room for him in your heart.  He’s standing at the door, waiting to be a part of your life.  Will you let Him in?

 

Mistake after Mistake

Sticky

Boy, do I make mistakes.

Sometimes it feels like I make so many and will never be forgiven for them. My mind is like a movie reel that replays the mistakes over and over and over again.

“What did you do that for?”

 “Didn’t you learn last time?”

“Why do you keep screwing up?”

It’s almost as if each morning I wake up and plan to make so many mistakes even before the boys leave the house for school. Of course, I don’t plan on that, but it happens; and it happens way too often. And that movie reel just keeps playing…

“Again?  Really…again?”

Now, generally, when I make a mistake or do something unkind towards someone, I apologize and ask for their forgiveness.  Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t…at least not at that moment. And that pierces my heart. I guess I want their approval so I can forgive myself.

When I know I’ve messed up, I do try to live differently. But just like every single human on the face of this earth, I continue to screw up. Sometimes in big ways, sometimes just with myself.

I am imperfect and I am a sinner.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way justifying what I do and what I continue to do. I actually feel like Paul writing to the Romans. Starting in chapter 7 verse 15:

I do not understand what I do. For what I WANT to do, I do not do–but what I HATE, I do. (Emphasis mine)

Verse 17 says:

 As it is, it is no longer I, myself, who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18) I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19) For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

Skipping to Verse 24:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  25) Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! 

We are born into sin. We are not immune to it. We sin on purpose—we sin without knowing it—we are just plain and simple: sinners.

But the story doesn’t end there.

 Right after Paul speaks of the wretched man he is, he writes this in Romans 8:1-2:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

 Every single day, I need Jesus.

Every single moment I need His forgiveness.

I need Him to set me free from sin and death.

Not so life can be perfect; not so I can avoid trials; not so I won’t make any further mistakes; but so when I do screw up (and I will), I can repent, turn from my ways with God’s help, and be free. That’s my goal.

Repent. Turn from my sin. Change my ways. Be forgiven. Be free.

Free from eternity in hell—free from the bondage of sin—free from that movie reel that insists on playing in my mind. The list goes on…

Without Jesus, I am nothing. Absolutely nothing. But with Jesus, I am forgiven, saved, loved, accepted, and totally free.

“Utterly dependent, but totally free.”

I’m guessing many of you also struggle with your own sin and guilt. It seems easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves at times. The Good News is that Jesus died for all of us to give us freedom from sin.

He knocks at our door waiting to be invited in. He’ll never push His way into our lives. He wants us to ask Him in. His invitation is beautiful…

“28) Come to me, all who weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. 29) Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30) For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

What a precious gift! An invite to a life where we don’t have to carry the burden. We can lay it at His feet and walk away. Not to go simply go back to our sinful lifestyle, as if we’re given a license to sin; but for us to lay our burdens down, turn from them, and walk in freedom towards a better future.

Have you accepted that invitation from Him? Have you accepted the free gift of salvation and eternal life that only comes through accepting Him as your Lord and Savior? If not, I invite you to ask Him into your life today.  That is my prayer for each of you…to experience the beautiful forgiveness that comes from the sacrifice He made upon that cross.

Jesus doesn’t  want us tied up in the shackles of our sins and mistakes. He wants to give us freedom. We only need to accept it.

May you be blessed as you ponder these questions.  May you find the peace that passes all understanding…the complete peace that can only come from Him.

God bless you, my friends.