Control, Faith, Insecurity, Life, Obedience, Overwhelmed, Perseverance, Rebellion, Repentance, Trust

Soda Can Heels

“I will walk in freedom,
    for I have devoted myself to your commandments.”

Psalm 119:45 NLV

When I was a little girl living in Okinawa on Kadena Air Base, my sister and I would slip soda cans onto our heels and walk, clinking and clanking, down the hill. Pretending to be “grown-up” we endured hot asphalt on our toes, just so we could know the boost of adulthood.  We also felt free, even while the pinch of sharp aluminum pressed against our heels. Though we had fun pretending to be autonomous at the time, now I know that freedom is a powerful motivator, especially when it concerns parting from oppression.

Of course, war is proof of this.  As a child I was unaware of history and could not comprehend the horrors the Okinawan people witnessed during the occupation period, nor did I understand their fear of being pushed into the Vietnam War.  During one trip to the fish market we had to bring our German Shepherd, Bo, for protection. And, like fish in a bowl looking out on the world, we drove through a crowd of anti-war/anti-American protestors in our station wagon. They yelled; Bo barked; I stared. Hate and fear stared back. On the other side of their experience, I could not appreciate how they felt. They wanted their independence—their soda-can heels—so they could feel safe from China. But, what they needed was a freedom that only comes through surrender.  They needed God.

This reminds me that I need God too.  My freedom doesn’t come from something I do (like squish soda cans on my heels) but from who I am. Anger and protest will not bring me peace and no dog can protect me from the world. It is Christ’s blood on the doorpost of my heart and His Word applied by the Spirit that causes me to walk in freedom. That brings me to a confession.  Lately, as we are in a time of transition, I have found myself neglecting the fact that I need God. The time spent with the Lord has been microscopic compared to my “normal” and I have paid a steep price. Ironically, studying for Christian Ministry has been one of the main distractions along with moving, travel, serving and working out. Forgetting that blood was shed for my freedom, I have neglected God’s Word. Now, instead of walking in freedom I find myself taken by apathy and anxiety, fearful of the future and reaching for my soda cans.

Fortunately, God has a way of reminding me of the basics. “I will walk in freedom for I have devoted myself to your commandments” (Psalm 119:45, NLV). In other words, I will live a life free from spiritual oppression because I have spent time with the Lord and have been in His Word. Recently, Charles Stanley set me straight by challenging me (through the radio) to confess and repent the sin of neglect. He talked about how easy it is to drift away from God right into a prison of hard-heartedness and confusion. In a way I felt like that little girl in the back of the station wagon looking out on the ugly world as I clung to my dog who was not entirely safe at the time.

Oh, how I love our Father who speaks so tenderly to us, even when we run off. Perhaps He is not so safe either. He may still ask us to go to the fish market during war-time in a hostile setting.  But we will never be alone.  From now on leave your soda cans at home and walk with Him.

“My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Proverbs 4:20-23 (NIV)

Confession, Faith, Grief, Overwhelmed, Pride, Rebellion, Repentance, Restoration, Sanctification, Surrender

Messy Me

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV

Anyone who knows me (by this I mean anyone who has seen my closet) would tell you that I am not tidy.  Ok, they would tell you I’m pretty messy.  For some reason I am unable to work on a project unless all the inner workings of the project are exposed.  For example, when I’m writing I have hand written notes and several books surrounding my computer; when I cook I have everything out on the counter; when I get ready in the morning my bathroom counter is cluttered with makeup, lotion, hair product and jewelry and my bedroom is usually littered with clothes I am “in the process” of  cleaning, putting away or deciding whether or not to keep.

However, this way of living has consequences.  Sometimes when I come home I am overwhelmed by all the “little” messes I’ve made during the week.  Dishes, crumbs, papers, books, clothes, oh my!  How did this house get so messy?  Answer: A little at a time.  Similarly, when we find ourselves in a spiritual mess of our own making, suffering the consequences of a mountain of small rebellions, we too are overwhelmed.  How did my heart get so hard?  Answer: A little at a time.  Surprisingly, the solution to both problems (messy house and messy heart) are the same.  How is my house going to get clean?  By repentance, or turning 180° away from the direction I was going (bigger mess) and into the opposite direction (putting things in order).  How is my heart going to be cleansed?  You guessed it — Repentance!

Of course, some people may object to this observation because they know they have been fully forgiven when they accepted Christ as their Savior, which is true.  However, in the same way I fail to clean my messes until I recognize the chaos all around me, we do not bring all our heart messes to God until we recognize they exist and are overwhelmed with grief and Godly sorrow that leads to repentance.  Because of the blood of Jesus we are already forgiven but not restored.  David understood this to be true.  His little messes turned into a mountain of rebellion when each decision David made in opposition to God caused chaos in his life and the lives of those around him.  Because of this, his heart was hard and his attitude harsh until Nathan, God’s messenger, confronted David. Only then did he recognize the overwhelming mess.  David’s 180° turn away from his sin led him straight into the arms of God where David appropriated God’s gift of forgiveness. Through it all his relationship with the LORD was strengthened and his heart forever changed, which is testimony to God’s faithfulness and redemptive heart toward His children.

Psalm 51 was birthed from David’s repentant heart.  I’ll leave you with the beautiful reality of our gracious God who longs for intimacy with every one of His “Messy Me’s” as He turns our messes into milestones of His grace and intimate love for you and me.

Psalm 51 

A psalm of David.

When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
    to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
    in burnt offerings offered whole;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

(Psalm 51, New International Version)
Anxiety, Faith, grace, Hope, Love, Overwhelmed, Rest

Crazy Grace

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”  James 1:19-20

Christmas is a time to reflect on what’s important and express gratitude for the precious gift of God’s Son.  “Peace on Earth, goodwill to men…”  If this is true, why are we so angry and impatient?  Between traffic and long lines to “prickly” relatives, Christmas seems to bring out the worst in people.  Why is it that we all seem to be somewhere on the spectrum of insanity during the “most wonderful time of the year?”  Could there be a dark spiritual campaign that ramps up every Black Friday to blur the vision of the grace God bestowed on humanity by becoming a man for the sake of our eternal salvation?

Personally, I have to admit that my focus is not on the coming Messiah during Christmas, rather, the coming company or Christmas meal that needs preparing or the gifts that need buying and wrapping and sending.  Insanity is the only word for it.  We all go a little crazy during the Christmas season.  It is fitting, then, in our culture of out-of-control “doing,”  that Christmas is followed so closely by the New Year.  Around the corner it comes with optimistic newness, forgiveness, if you will, for our December sins.

Because of this, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is my favorite week of the year.  Everything stops (except for basketball which is one more reason empty nesting is awesome).  There is time to rest, reflect and look ahead to a brand new year, God willing.  Instead of angry and impatient we feel optimistic and hopeful.  This is crazy grace.  The fact is, God not only sees us through our imbalanced, imperfect celebration of His Son’s birth, but also showers us with forgiveness and hope.  His love keeps us from being consumed by our fears, insecurities, failures and, yes, insanity.

In short, Lamentations 3:23 says, “His compassions never fail.”  His compassions (plural) never (that means never, ever) fail.  The word “compassions” reflects God’s heart for us in a powerful way.  It means God has the same affection for you and me that a pregnant mother has for the baby in her womb, “as cherishing the fetus.”  Regardless of our insanity level His grace is crazier still.  We can’t out-give God and we certainly can’t out “crazy” Him.  But for the grace of God we would all perish.

“Yet this I call to mind, therefore I have hope:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,

for His compassions never fail. 

They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:21-23

 

Gospel, Grief, Hope, Life, Overwhelmed, Trust, Uncategorized, Victory

O Death!

“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

My friend is hurting.  The sudden loss of her beloved husband of twenty-five years on May 5th, 2017 to complication from brain cancer has left a void that can only be filled by God’s grace. She and her five children are grieving his absence but know He is in the arms of Jesus.

I cannot stop the tears as I grieve with my friend and sister in Christ. We were roommates before we both got married. She made my wedding veil but now the veil of physical death separates her and her husband, David. Yet, she is not alone. She too is in the arms of Jesus.

There are no words of this world that bring comfort to those who are separated from people they love. The covenant words “till death do us part” ring in our minds because it happens…to other people. Standing at the altar we don’t believe we will be separated by death, at least not at fifty and not while raising children. But our gracious God knows the number of our days and the days of those we love.

Praise our victorious God that He has conquered sin and death!  Before it is too late, share Christ’s eternal love and plan of redemption with those God has placed in your life.

“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him so you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

I love you Julie.

Faith, Humility, Overwhelmed, Sanctification, Submission, Surrender, Trust, Uncategorized

Look Up

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:5

Imagine a well-lit stadium full of enthusiastic believers before a Casting Crown’s concert. Now imagine a “no sense of direction” me trying to find my seat in a sea of people when finally, an usher brings me to “my” seat but in the wrong section.  I was overwhelmed and confused because my husband was not there and was texting, “Where are you?” when I thought I was in the right place.

“I’m lost,” I explained to a different usher, handing him my ticket.

“You’ll need to go all the way up the stairs and around to the next section,” he said, while handing the stub back to me.  I must have looked pretty pathetic because he immediately said, “I’ll take you,” and bounded up the steep stairway.

Just then the stadium went dark and, trying to follow him with two water bottles, my purse and my phone in my hands, I tripped on the concrete steps and fell, dropping the bottles and my pride somewhere in section N.  Disoriented and embarrassed, I looked up and saw the light.  The usher was holding his iPhone with the flashlight shining down the stairs so I could find my way up to him.  Just follow the light.  Walk in the light.  Thankfully, I arrived at my seat without further incident.

A bit shaken, It took me awhile to start enjoying the concert but the genuine love, patience and grace shown by the usher moved me.  This is God’s heart.  His light is always there for us to follow.  He waits patiently for us to get up when we fall.  He doesn’t make fun of us or even chastise us for looking stupid or being late or making a mistake. When we are confused He meets us in our confusion and orders our “steps.”

In many ways this experience had a profound effect, changing my way of thinking about walking in the light as well as living in a state of humility.  In the dark we cannot see and WILL have an accident, be disoriented and lose our way.  However, if there is light, any light, and we focus on it, it serves as a calibrating force in our hearts and minds, pulling us to safety.  Humility, though, is really a sense of selflessness where you find it easy to “look up” and follow God because you are consumed with neither pride nor shame, only Jesus, the Light of the World.

So, although I was embarrassed at first, when I looked up and saw the literal light I chose to follow it instead of hide in utter humiliation.  Now, to be honest, thoughts did swirl through my head like, “Everyone must think I’m drunk, or stupid or clumsy or…” but that kind of thinking is self-focused and not even based in reality.  The fact that everyone was actually watching the concert and NOT me was evident but I felt like they were judging me! Capturing my thoughts was no less awkward then retrieving the rolling water bottles but, like living water, so worth it!  Because God’s light is there for me (both physically and spiritually) I was able to walk out of the darkness by faith one step at a time.

Compare these two Psalms:

“For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.” Psalm 40:12

“My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” Psalm 5:3

The first Psalm reveals a self-focused heart heavy with guilt and shame.  The second a God-focused heart full of love and faith.  Although my tripping may seem like a “silly” example, there are all kinds of ways we trip and fall; some more severe and painful then others.  The circumstance doesn’t really matter because the principle is the same.  God is there for you.  He is patient, kind, loving and gracious and waiting for You to… look up.

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12