Anxiety, Control, Faith, Insecurity, Life, Obedience, Patience, Pride, Trust, Worry

Waiting

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation;

for you I wait all the day long.”  

Psalm 25:4-5

 

Although waiting is defined as “The act of remaining inactive or stationary it seems it takes more energy to wait upon the Lord than it does to jump ahead of Him and do what we think He wants us to do.  Right now, my husband and I are experiencing a time of waiting and it’s hard. At times I feel like a little kid holding my breath, about to burst with anticipation. It isn’t a matter of doubting God’s goodness or faithfulness but it is a matter of not trusting His timing. As we wait I feel restless and sometimes anxiety rises as I think about the options before us, including all the possible outcomes. I find myself wanting to do something, anything to make me feel like there is progress being made. But, the Bible says to wait upon the Lord. The problem comes when I focus on the next step rather than on the relationship. In all things God draws us to Himself. In waiting He is asking for us to trust His love. He is asking us, as our Heavenly Father, to believe His plans are for our good.

However, right now I feel like I’m warming a bench at a bus stop. I’m not sure of the bus schedule but know it will come eventually because my father told me it would. But it’s been awhile and I’m starting to wonder if I heard correctly, so I call Him.

“Hey, Dad, it’s me.”

“Hi sweetie! How are you?”

“I’m ok. Just sitting here waiting for the bus. It’s been twenty minutes. I was just wondering if I’m at the right stop.”

“Are you where I sent you?”

“Yessss!”

“Then you’re at the right stop. Is there anything else? You seem stressed.”

“No. I just think it’s taking too long. I was thinking of walking.”

“Just wait there. I’ll talk with you until the bus comes.”

“Ok. I’m kind of anxious about the trip anyway. I’ve never been there before. How do I know I’ll like it?”

“I understand. Doing something new is hard, but I wouldn’t send you someplace that wasn’t going to be good for you. And you can talk to me anytime. Just trust me.”

“I do. It’s just I don’t always feel good about it.”

“Just remember I love you. That’s it. I love you.”

“Okay Dad. I know. I love you too.”

Do you believe God is there, talking to you in the waiting? Many times, instead of talking to God I look for the next step. Something to “do” instead of spending time with Him in intimate conversation. Of course, sometimes it’s hard discerning between the vision and the timing. Like Abraham, God showed us a picture of what would glorify Him–what He wanted us to do by faith, and yet we do not have the green light. Instead of peacefully waiting on the bench God has provided, I feel like walking or hitch-hiking or maybe taking a scooter. I want to be set free to do what I want (for God of course) without any restraints. But God is not incompetent, nor does He procrastinate. The waiting period is a time of molding and testing and a time to cultivate intimacy with Him. Just like a wild horse is mastered in the coral, God pens us in for the refining process, keeping us close to Him as he works out the willful pride and self-reliance that I am so easily bent toward. I don’t like it–AT ALL! But, because of His love, I am willing.

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”

Habakkuk 2:3.

Faith, Trust, Victory

That You May Know

“My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence, freely asking according to his will, sure that he’s listening.  And if we’re confident that he’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours.” 1 John 5:13-15 The Message

Is there someone in your life with whom you can be “bold and free” in their presence? Imagine that someone trying to put you at ease by saying, “Trust me, it’s going to be okay.” What would your response be?  Mine would probably be, “Oh yeah? We’ll see about that.”  But, it would honestly depend upon the level of trust I had in the person reassuring me.  That’s why, when it comes to salvation, eternity and Heaven I believe God wholeheartedly.  No, I don’t just believe, I KNOW without a doubt that it is really going to be okay.  The unity I have with Christ is secure, not because I say so but because I have experienced what God’s Word calls being “born again” (John 3).

However, I have experienced trust issues with people (mostly men) all of my life.   Because of abandonment and betrayal early in life I learned to question the intentions of others and protect my heart.  It is no fun assuming the worst of people, even nice people.  More than that, it is exhausting.  Fortunately, God has given me relationships that have redeemed the past and I am slowly learning to trust again.  Not long ago my husband helped with this process by wearing a name tag that read, “Your Godly husband who loves you,”  during a time when I was struggling with trust in our marriage.  Most of our life together my husband was not a believer but a few years prior to the name tag incident he had given his life to Christ and truly was a different person.  Our relationship had changed but I refused to relate to him as a Godly husband who would “never leave me or forsake me.”  Fortunately, one day my counselor said, “You are not secure in your own reality,”  and it struck me that I was not believing truth.  You see, even though it was true that Marty and I were married and he was loving I still responded to him the same as before.  Self-protection was a comforting habit that created a barrier in our relationship.  I was not free to approach my loving husband because I refused to believe it was true.  What more could he do to convince me? Nothing.  It was obviously true that there was nothing I could do to lose his love.  It was all in my mind.  I needed to step out of the looking glass by faith, into reality and relate to him based on the truth.  This was scary trust.  This is what God calls us to do with Him as well…trust.

In the same way, we can offend God by acting like He’s not trustworthy.  However, God would not give the free gift of eternal life and then take it back.  He  would not adopt a child and then disown him.  That does not line up with Scripture and it is not the heart of God to leave us in a state of uncertainty.  Now, there are those who may believe they are born again but have never confessed with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believed in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9).  These people would rightly question whether they were truly saved.  This is not, however, an indication of loss of salvation, rather it is an awareness of your separateness from the Spirit of God who is prompting you to respond to Christ’s invitation to believe on him.   If you do not experience intimacy with God in your Spirit then you can ask God to give you the faith you need to believe in Jesus, inviting Him to come into your life and take over as Savior and LORD.

But, for true believers, a consequence of uncertainty is insecurity.  John wrote 1 John 5 to ensure those who are God’s children that they have eternal life so their relationship with God would be one of freedom and trust.  Look closely at 1 John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”  If we doubt our adoption into God’s family,  unsure where we stand, then we will not be so bold as to approach Him in prayer, asking anything in His name.  A very effective tactic of the enemy is to distract and deceive, convincing us that it is no use praying, relieving us of a very powerful offensive weapon in a very real spiritual battle.  For this reason, God desires a knowing deep in our hearts that we are His.  Only then will we be “bold and free” in his presence.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

Romans 10:9-10

Further reading: John 10:27-29; Romans 8:35, 38-39; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:4-5; Hebrews 6:4-6

Control, Faith, grace, Hope, Humility, Life, Submission, Surrender

Boxing Out

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

Boxing God out has been a common occurrence throughout my Christian walk.  Viewing Him as an opponent, with elbows out and my backside pushing against Him, I try desperately to keep him from getting the ball.  This is what happened on a Southwest flight in the summer of 2017 when my husband and I were sitting together in the aisle and middle seats.  Knowing the flight was not full I laid my jacket on the window seat next to me hoping no one would sit there.  (Yes, I did that.)  “Why is your jacket on the seat?” My husband asked, noticing the subliminal “Do not sit here” message I was sending.

“I really don’t want anyone sitting next to me so I put my jacket there hoping they wouldn’t ask.”

He replied, gently, “Uh, you should take that off the seat.”

So, while grudgingly removing my coat and sliding it under the seat in front of me, a young lady stopped and asked, “Is that seat taken?”

“No.” I whispered, letting her slide by.

Plopping in the seat next to me she promptly put her earphones in so she could listen to her music.  As she did my husband noticed the album cover on her phone.  “I love that band,” he said smiling.

Looking over at her phone I saw she was playing Christian music.  From that moment on Avie and I were flight friends.  In fact, we didn’t stop talking until we got off the plane.  As it turns out she was going into her Senior year of high school and in a dilemma regarding College.  She didn’t know if she should go to college or, if she did, where to attend or how she would pay for it.  Her parents were divorced and focused on their new families and spouses with little to offer for advice or money for education.   Avie had a heart for missions so I told her about Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and other options she hadn’t thought about.  At the end of our time together she said, “Thank you so much for talking with me.  I really needed to hear from someone other than my parents or my guidance counselor.”

Wow!  I almost missed it.  My comfort was the only thing I considered at the time and, in my narrow mindedness, forgot that God is so BIG that He could orchestrate a conversation to give a high school girl hope for her future.  He loves that much.  All I can think about at this moment is the waterfall of grace He has for His children.  Instead of calling “foul” He rolled around me and stole the ball.  I realize we are on the same team and all is forgiven, however, this encounter gives me pause for the future.  I resolve not to knowingly box Him out again and asked God to make Avie an Ebenezer stone for me; a reminder that God works in subtle, loving ways, running the plays of life through His children.

Lord, please give me a heart for those you wish to lavish with your love through this earthen vessel of mine.  Help me to remember.  I long to be compelled by your love and to live for Christ and not myself, keeping the Passion at the forefront of my mind.

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.”  Psalm 37:23

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

Obedience, Sanctification, Submission, Surrender, Trust, Uncategorized, Victory

Do Not, But Be

be-transformed

Romans 12:2

Obedience.  It’s what loving parents teach their children, to be obedient for their own good. In fact, we tell our children what to do and what not to do ALL THE TIME because children, left to their own devices, are foolish.  Likewise, in Romans 12:2 our Heavenly Father gives us two imperatives; Do not, but be.

The first command, “Do not be conformed to this world,” is a powerful statement.  It implies danger and choice.  I remember when, as a toddler, my youngest son, Ryan,  was trying to see what was on top of the stove while I was cooking.  “Don’t touch the stove,” I warned,  “It’s hot.”  But, instead of backing away he plopped his hand on top of the stove and burned himself.  I didn’t tell him he would get hurt but I did tell him not to touch the stove.  Yes, his disobedience led to pain but he never did it again.  Ryan tells us today that he knew right from wrong growing up.  “You were good parents,” he told us.   “I chose to do things I knew were wrong at times because I wanted to do them.”

Isn’t that like all of us?  We are not ignorant of God’s Word, we just want to do what we want to do regardless of the consequences.  So, when God says, “do not be conformed to this world,” what does that mean?  What is it that we are not supposed to do?  Well, I believe the answer is in a previous chapter of Romans.  Romans 1 lays out a blueprint for what not to do as a child of God.  It’s a “how to” manual for rejecting God, the One who loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for you.   It says, basically, don’t do whatever you want to do, acting like God doesn’t exist, or if He does He isn’t Holy or loving or even The Righteous Judge.  Don’t be deceived, don’t be sexually immoral, a drunkard, etc. But more importantly, don’t turn your back on God and worship the created (yourself or anything else) rather than the Creator.  In short, don’t try to be satisfied with anything other than Me.

The second imperative in Romans 12:2, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,”  is mysterious until you dig into the statement.  “But be transformed” means  “to change into another form, to transform, to transfigure,” from the Greek word metamorphoō (Strong’s G3339).  Think butterfly.  How are we to change into another form?  By the renewing of our minds!  This is our sanctifying cocoon.  Instead of being someone who is pulled toward the world, wants our own way no matter what the consequences, desires to be fulfilled at the expense of other people, indulgent and disobedient to God,  we can be transformed into an other-centered person who loves God and is compelled by His great love to a life of obedience, denying fleshly desires, and following Him even when we don’t fully understand.

This happens when we allow ourselves to be exposed to God’s promises and choose to believe Him over our impulses and feelings.  Even though, as Christians, we are no longer caterpillars we can choose to stay in the cocoon even after God has given us wings.  Or, we can choose to press in and allow God to do the painful work of sanctification in order that we may burst out by faith, trusting that He has given us new life and the ability to “fly” by His power.  We no longer have to let the world pull us down, keeping us grounded in defeat.   We can live in the reality of our new life in christ.  The story of the Ugly Duckling is a perfect illustration.  In the end the “duck” realizes he is a swan.  He has been a swan.  He belongs to a beautiful family of swans and no longer has to try to be a duck or feel ashamed that he is not accepted by the ducks because he doesn’t belong to the duck family anymore.  He is something new altogether.  So are you if you have received the gift God has given us in Jesus.

 

Why do we still choose to walk around on our little caterpillar legs eating milkweed when we have wings and can drink the nectar of fruits and flowers?   God has given us His Word so we can live in freedom today.  Not in Heaven only but right now.   I can hear God saying, “I love you so much I chose to take all the pain and suffering of disobedience.  I want you to live in reality.  I want you to fly and glorify Me as the sunlight bounces off your wings.”  You are free if you have believed that God exists and Jesus has died for your sins and rose again from the dead, proving He is the Son of God.  If you don’t believe it then you are thinking like the world thinks and God is calling you to renew your mind with His Word.  Sit at His feet.  Meditate on His promises.  Read the Gospels, shedding tears of joy because, “If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed!”  John 8:36

Commitment, Covenant, Love, Righteousness, Uncategorized

His Banner Over Me is Love

 

“He has brought me to his banquet hall,  And his banner over me is love.” Song of Solomon 2:4

When I married my husband twenty-four years ago I had no idea what a covenant was nor did I understand love as defined by God.  My motive for marriage was completely selfish.  I wanted someone to love me and take care of me.  I wanted to have children.  I desired a “savior” who would love me unconditionally and fill the void in my life.  The sad truth is that I never considered my husband, nor did it cross my mind that he would have insecurities and needs.  The reality was that he was coming into the marriage just as empty as me.  We had nothing to offer one another.  It wasn’t too many years before we felt completely discouraged and even betrayed by one another.  Fortunately, God used this very desperate circumstance to introduce me to Himself.  Jesus found me wallowing in the shame puddle of loneliness and imminent divorce and said,

“I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice,
In lovingkindness and in compassion,
And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.
Then you will know the Lord.”  

Hosea 2:19-20

Yes, He has brought me to His banquet hall,  And His banner over me is love.  In the Song of Solomon the “banner of love” can refer to a man’s limited, romantic love for a woman, but the deeper meaning points to God’s intimate, extreme love for Jesus’ bride, the Church.  To understand where I got this idea let’s break down Song of Solomon 2:4 using the Hebrew definitions:

  1. “He has brought” =  bow’: to enter, come in

  2. “me to His banquet” = yayinwine (A symbol of the Holy Spirit)
  3. “hall” = bayith’: house; temple; home (We are the Temple of God)
  4. “and His banner” = degel: banner; standard  (Covering)
  5. “over” = al: over (in excess)
  6. “me is love” =  ‘ahabah: God’s love to His people

https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb/sng/2/4/t_conc_673004

Do you see it?  A personal application would be that God has made me a new creation by entering my spirit with His life giving Holy Spirit just like sperm enters an egg, creating new life.  I am the temple of the living God (1 Corinthians 3:16).  He dwells in me and I in Him (John 6:56), and He covers me with His excessive love (Psalm 36:7).  We are one.

 

There is now a shadow of this tender affection in my own marriage; it is something holy and set apart.   God not only forgave me but taught me to forgive.  He also restored our marriage and eventually brought my husband into the banquet hall as well.  He is so gracious!  So, after meditating on Song of Solomon 2:4, it is easy to understand why God takes marriage and sexual intimacy so seriously.  It is meant to be a picture of His glorious, single-minded love for His church.  Mark 10:7-9 gives us an understanding of the forever-covenant God intended for marriage, serving as a reflection of His forever-love for you and me,  “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”    It’s God’s love that enables Marty and me to remain in love, unseparated.

As we reflect on our position of security based on God’s faithfulness, remember that Jesus is our rock.  He is the faithful husband that gave Himself up for us.  We are covered by His blood and have entered into a forever-covenant with Him.  God loves us with a lavish love demonstrated by the death and resurrection of His Son.  We are adopted into His family and, as Jesus’ forever Bride, can boldly enter the banquet hall wrapped in Heaven’s wedding gown.  Amen and Amen!

 

“I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,  As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”  Isaiah 61:10

 

Love, Obedience, Trust, Victory

Living in Victory

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” Romans 8:35-37 NLT

Living in New England, surrounded by avid sports fans and successful profession teams, it’s easy to live in victory when it comes to our regional identity.  But, I have to confess, most of the time I don’t care who wins or loses a sporting event. (Don’t hate me Patriot’s fans.) However, when one of my sons is playing I really want their team to win.  So, knowing that we are ALL on God’s Son’s team and that the victory is certain, I can also rest in my identity in Christ.  Jesus secured the victory and we now get to join Him by taking our place on the field day by day.  There is no condemnation if you drop the ball or strike out.  In the end, we are all going to celebrate.

Nevertheless, the empirical force unbelief sometimes has on me is crippling.  My fist holds tight to what I’ve experienced in the past when my heart longs to be free from the pain of living in a pool of insecurity.  Negative self talk from the enemy chokes creativity and convinces me not to try. “Why bother?  Nothing will come of it,” he hisses quietly.  “You aren’t that good so why would God use you?” or “You certainly don’t know what you’re doing.”  Then, to cinch paralysis, “You will be rejected, it will be painful and it’s not worth it.”  There it is, the crippling lie that “I’m unloveable” lurking under the feeling of inadequacy.

Having said this, I know, from experience, that my experiences do not define me.  Even still, I expect rejection and defeat because, growing up, that’s what I learned from  human relationships.  Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”  Because of this truth, the best weapon the enemy of our souls is armed with is the ability to convince us that we are not loved by God and He will not use us.  He first thrusts us to the edge of doubt before pushing us over the cliff of unbelief.  If we take the bait then we are taken captive by the enemy, bound by a fortress of lies.  The lies are effective because, in reality, we have blown it, experienced hardship and suffered rejection. The seen reality has told us we are unloved, worthless or unlovable.

But, God tells us clearly in His Word that He loves us so much He died for us.  He also tells us that He will never leave us, has good plans for us, has given us Himself and we have the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit within us to do whatever God calls us to do.  We shrug our saved shoulders and say, “Uh, okay?” This unbelief becomes a nagging injury that can only be healed by God’s truth.  God really will NEVER leave you or forsake you.  He really does, at all times and in all circumstances, whether you are cranky or having a bad hair day, deeply love you inside and out.  You are gifted and have a role to play, not on your merit but because Christ is in you and you were chosen.  If we could all live in the reality of the victory we have in Christ we would have complete freedom to love and be loved!  So, let’s believe in the unseen reality that we will never be cut from the team and play with confidence because our uniforms are red and white, a picture of the victory Christ secured for us all.

Uncategorized

Pliable People

“Like clay in the hands of a potter so are you in My hands.” Joel 18:6

Playing with Play-Do was a “Yay!” activity in our house when my kids were little.  We had all kinds of tools, forms and presses to make things with the colorful putty.  When we were done (yes, I mean we) the Picasso-esque artifacts were set on a shelf but it didn’t take long for them to harden, crack and eventually fall apart.

I imagine we are like that too.  God’s hands are pressing and molding us, sometimes adding and other times taking away.  All the while He is delighted in His creation and, as long as we remain pliable, He is able to shape us as He wills.  However, if we withdraw from Him, become hard or bitter, or even apathetic, we will not be workable.  No change can occur without first adding water.

In John 4:14 water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, “…the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” As a believer we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and cannot be unsealed.  However, we can quench and grieve the Holy Spirit and have dry, powerless lives.  Ephesians 4:30-31 says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

Therefore, God will continue molding us into the likeness of His Son.  Our part is to remain pliable. Abiding in Christ, sitting at His feet, meditating on His love and forgiveness and prayerfully reading His Word are all ways to remain soft-hearted.  Another is confession.  When Jesus washed Peter’s feet He said, “Unless I do this you can have no part in Me.” John 13:8b.  This intimate exchange is a picture of confession.  We give Jesus the dirt that clings to our feet because we are living in this fallen world.  He gladly takes our sin upon Himself and makes us clean.  After Jesus finished washing the disciples feet He told them that they were (we are) to do this for one another.  Hence, James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”  Here the “Confess your sins to one another” is born.  This does not mean that we have to confess our sins to another person to be forgiven.  We are already forgiven!  Rather, that we reflect Christ in the lives of our brothers and sisters by showing unconditional love and forgiveness as we share our burdens and sin with each other by living out this command.  This is humble submission.  This is being pliable and soft, teachable and available for His Kingdom and for His glory.

Unfortunately, oftentimes we are hesitant to confess our sins to another believer.  We are compelled to hide our defects and pretend to have it all together when we are actually dying inside.  We were not meant to walk alone.  We were meant to be shaped by God through relationship. His Holy Spirit is the press Who shapes us through relationships that chisel off the rough edges.  We are being sanctified, made perfect for His Kingdom and I can’t wait to go home.

Finally, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  May we be pliable in the hands of a loving God and choose to be used by Him to comfort others with the Good News of forgiveness so they too can drink deeply of the Living Water and be forever changed.

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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.