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

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More than I could ask or imagine!

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

Have you ever been so blessed you just cant stand it? Like the sun on a hot summer day when its brightness is too much to take in, abundant blessings can be hard to absorb. This past Wednesday was a day like that for our family.

On Tuesday, June 9th, the Baltimore Orioles chose our youngest son, Ryan, in the fourth round of the MLB draft. The following day we celebrated his graduation and new baseball career with friends and family, including many of Ryan’s youth baseball All-star teammates and their families. The joy was palpable. It wasn’t just the excitement of the moment but the delight of the Lord that was apparent everywhere you looked; sacrificial love, abundant grace, pure joy and warm fellowship that all reflected the heart of God.

Initially, I saw sacrificial love in Sean, our oldest son, as he played Can Jam with his cousin. Sean stayed home an extra week, postponing his internship, because he wanted to be with his brother to celebrate this special time. Then, God’s abundant grace was evident in the sunshine and warmth, the surprisingly beautiful and delicious food the caterers prepared and the extra games brought by our nephew, which everyone enjoyed immensely.

Moreover, the decorations which were a gift from a friend created such an atmosphere of joy you couldn’t help but smile when looking at the six centerpieces full of baseballs, American flags, Big League Chew, peanuts and Cracker Jacks, not to mention the “home plate” paper cut outs which handsomely anchored each display. Best of all, the warm fellowship we experienced with our friends was such a gift. The whole community was cheering for Ryan and showered their love on him and our family that day. We felt God’s pleasure.

In retrospect, I can hardly absorb the brightness of the blessing, especially against the backdrop of our failings.  God met the needs of our children, filling in the cracks left by imperfect parents, and led them to an abundant life in Him. There were many rough roads, struggles and doubts but to quote Beth Moore, “You cannot amputate your history from your destiny, because that is redemption.” (Esther Study). Boy did we experience redemption this past week! God is able to do far more than we could ever ask or imagine and He longs to give good gifts to His children.

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Absolute Love

“And He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.’” Mark 5:34

Recently God convicted me of having an unclean flow of criticism. He also showed me a dark corner of my heart where unbelief was feeding off my fear of joy and my need for conditional love.   This perverse need is based on pride and rooted in the lie that no one can be trusted, not even God, and I have to earn love and acceptance. If I could only stay hidden and touch Jesus surreptitiously so no one has to know my secret shame then I’ll be okay. What I found was that I am much harder on others and on myself than God would ever be. Jesus performed the only deed that could win my freedom. He is the only One that can make me clean, cutting off the flow of words that cut off fellowship from the very people I love so dearly.

However, we live in a cynical world where we are all susceptible to skepticism, suspicion and fear. The story in Mark 5 reveals the hearts of many women who suffer in shame. They are afraid to speak out loud about their sin for fear of further rejection, not believing that anyone would love them as they are. When this woman reached out to Jesus He asked, “Who touched me?” giving her an opportunity to confess out loud in front of others for the purpose of healing and restoration. In verse 33 she is finally compelled to fall at His feet and tell Him everything. His answer astounds me. He calls her “daughter” and blesses her, not only with healing but also with affection, validation and encouragement. There is not one ounce of criticism in the interaction.

Similar to criticism, people pleasing is a form of manipulation. This past weekend I tried to please others at every turn to earn approval but ended up hurting the ones closest to me with impatience and anger, which caused friction in my marriage. Fortunately, I asked for forgiveness and told my husband that I needed his support and love even more when I was struggling. Then, I released the whole thing to the Lord, stepping out in faith to trust God’s love for me. God forgive me for stealing their joy!

This cycle of criticism and people pleasing is seeded by insecurity and watered by unbelief. In her book, So Long Insecurity, Beth Moore encourages the reader to remember that their security is in Jesus Christ and no one can take it away from them. She actually coaches you to say it out loud. So, taking her advice I said, “Jesus, You are my Rock and my salvation! No one can take me out of Your hands. I will not give my security to any man or woman. It belongs to You and I choose to stand securely in You.”

If you are also touching Jesus in secret I want to encourage you to share with your spouse, a trusted friend or a pastor what Jesus did for you, bringing out into the light for His glory. The only way we can walk in the light is to be transparent. Then we are free to tell our story of healing victory to anyone without shame. Yes, I am a recovering people pleaser with an insatiable appetite for approval whom God has freed. You may be too but we can all fall at His feet and tell him everything in front of everyone without fear of rejection because the truth is He adores you and always will.

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Deceitful Dust Devils

As a result [of spiritual maturity], we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;” Ephesians 4:14

 Dust devils look like mini tornados. They appear in hot, arid climates and form when a dusty surface is heated up causing the air to rise and start to swirl. These funnel-like forms move quickly, picking up the dirt and debris in their path, leaving a mess in their wake. Much like dust devils the effects of believing lies are quick, messy and destructive. When you allow yourself to be deceived, and open the windows of your mind to the debris of condemnation and doubt, it feels like a dirt devil ran over your heart.

For me the whirling thoughts start soon after my button gets pushed and I am blinded by the dust and debris of the day. For example, when I hear things like, “This is the right way to do it.” My internal thought translator says, “You’ll never do it well so don’t even try.” This thought battles the truth that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Also, when I feel dismissed, used, unloved, or powerless, whether real or imagined, the winds start whirling and anger rises up in me like hot air on dry ground.  Whatever triggers the chain reactions incites only because I believe it’s true. What power I give to others by not believing God!

However, through Christ we have a way of escaping the wreckage. First, remember that God is sovereign and allows the whirlwinds that stir up the garbage. Why? Because only when we recognize the garbage as sin will we release it to Him. Second, we are very precious to God and He is the only One who should define us. Christ paid a high price for us, and value is based on what someone is willing to pay. The truth is I don’t have to be the best, or the smartest, or the most creative. What joy that brings to my heart when I live in the freedom Christ died for me to experience! I want to live, moment by moment, in the reality of Christ’s love for me and avoid the deceitful dust devils that come with doubting God.

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Son-Shine

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Snow fell once again this second week of April, blanketing the exposed patches of grass that gave New Englander’s hope for spring. It feels discouraging even though just a few months ago we were excited about the first snowfall. (Not so excited about the power outage Thanksgiving Day.)

The late snow flurry reminded me of the manna that appeared to the Israelites, day in and day out for forty years. How excited they must have been the first day! Exodus 16:31 says, “The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey.” Oh Joy! Free food that we don’t have to sew or harvest! Hallelujah! However, after years of eating the same thing they desired something different. Numbers 11:6 says, “…but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” Their thankfulness disappeared and they began to grumble against the LORD.

I too have experienced a grumbling in my soul, unsatisfied with God’s provision of abundant snow.  Through this hard winter God has shown me that I lack thankfulness. His Word says I can have a warm disposition that is independent of the outside temperature. Well, not exactly in those terms but it does say, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:5. How soon we forget God’s provisions. How soon I forget that His grace is sufficient, no matter the circumstance (or temperature). Today I am choosing to be warm. I pray that every interaction is pleasing to the Lord and He is able to warm the hearts and lift the spirits of those who are down hearted by shining His Son through me as I choose to be a vessel of His Son-shine today.