Monday, October 5, 2009
I don’t put much stock in age; to me it’s the counting of the years of your life. I don’t believe it’s a status symbol or a sign of how mature you are. To me, it’s the number of years I have lived on this earth; it marks the passing of time. What I think matters more is not the number of years spent living, but rather, the manner in which those years have been spent. This past weekend during worship at church, I had the chance to reflect on where I have been—the disaster of a life I came from and where I am now—a life living solely for Jesus. I even took a glimpse of the future—an eternity that Jesus put in my heart on the day He formed it.
As my heart stepped into that special time with Him, I was once again crying out for all of the glory of my life to be to Him alone for He is the one that saved me. I still remember when I first cried out and begged for Him to take my life and let it be all for Him and for His glory, for it to be His life not mine. I knew from that moment that I was made to worship Him. I knew that the reason He gave me breath was to praise His name all of my days. I offered my life that I may continually shout and sing the praises of my King. This weekend as I pondered my life I remembered how lost I had been before He sought me. I was unhappy, unsatisfied, and unfulfilled. I was living for all of the wrong things and couldn’t figure out why nothing ever seemed to fill the void in my life. As those memories came back, I raised my hands and praised God for His faithful and long suffering love that waited for me. I praised God that I am different than I used to be, because He made me different. Christ’s love and sacrifice was able to change this sinner’s path from one of damnation to one of eternity.
I realized that no matter how far I had come I would always need Him, every day, every hour, sometimes, every minute. We all do. There is not a time that we can live without His guidance. The minute we think we can, we are doomed to failure. I cried out to Him to never leave me, because if I took my gaze off of Him, just as Peter did on the sea, I would sink (Matthew 14:29-31). As worship came to an end, I was once again reassured that His amazing grace is such a sweet sound, His amazing love will always flow down. I know that His hands and feet that had been nailed to a tree had allowed His grace to pour down and cover me and my sins.
It was the best birthday present I could have asked for; a sacred moment between the Creator and His creation where He assured me that I had a purpose and it was a big one. Any pains, trials, frustrations, I have felt have had a purpose, to draw me closer to Him. The heartache this life sometimes brings is to assure me that in the midst of those times, I always have arms to run to that are secure and loving because they made me, they know me, and they love me.
So, today I turn thirty-two and I’m great with that. I don’t feel thirty-two, I’m often told I don’t look like I’m thirty-two and I certainly know that I don’t act like I am thirty-two. But what matters to me about this day is that God in His infinite wisdom knit me together fearfully and wonderfully while still in my mother’s womb(Psalm 139:13-14). More important than that is that Christ in His passion and love came to this earth to die for me, because He knew I needed a Savior. The sum of my years doesn’t equal much, but the sum of the desires of my heart to love and follow God equal eternity with Him and that is a gift like no other.
Thank You Lord for special moments where You call my attention towards heaven and towards You. Thank You for making this life that belongs to You, this heart that loves You, and this soul that You call Your own.
Monday, August 24, 2009
As a believer, forgiveness often seems the hardest thing in our daily walk. I struggle with it continually, but the Lord took me on a journey of forgiveness and revealed that it is one of the easiest things, both asking for it and granting it. Often times, the pride of life stumbles us and we abandon humbleness, which separates us from God (1 John 2:16). Christ came to make us free and in Him we are free indeed (John 8:36), but we must accept it. Sin chains us to a wall like a prisoner, holding us captive, but the work of the cross removes those chains. By His stripes we are healed (Isa. 53:5) and the chains should fall free, but in unforgiveness, it’s as if we grab the chains and hold onto them; in essence holding onto our sin and imprisoning ourselves. 1 John 1:9 tells us that “if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” but notice the words “if we confess.” We have to confess them in order to be made clean; and I can speak from experience that it does make us free indeed.
My journey started with me in chains, but I thought it was due to another person’s sin and God revealed that it was mine. My husband made a choice that devastated me and our marriage. He later asked for forgiveness, and I forgave him so we moved on. The problem was things weren’t getting easier, they were getting harder. My heart still hurt, my pride still hurt, and I didn’t know how to get past it. Without any knowledge of my circumstance a friend stopped to see me one day and said that in a marriage the man has to be the leader and in essence “he is the king”. He wasn’t being sarcastic; he meant the Lord establishes the husband as the leader and head of the family. Like we all do, he said, husbands make mistakes and if they do so against their wife, or if the king falls off his throne, the queen is the only one who can restore him. My heart screamed in protest, because I felt like someone needed to restore me. I felt that I was the one wronged so how could I be the one restoring?
For weeks I struggled, I counseled with friends, I prayed, and in the end I was arguing with God because in my mind I objected “But God, what about me! HE needs to restore ME”. It was then that I felt the Lord saying that I was seeking restoration from the wrong person. It wasn’t my husband’s job to restore me, it was God’s. It wasn’t clear to me until another conversation weeks later when I told a friend about my conflict and waited for her to agree with me. She looked at me and said “this might sound trite, but I think your answer is fairly simple, you have to confess your sin to your husband and ask for forgiveness for the entire span of your relationship.” I was stunned, thinking it was impossible, but it was right. Throughout our relationship I had never truly let my husband lead, I had hammered him into decisions I thought were best, I had criticized him for not leading, criticized him when he tried to lead and made him feel like he was inadequate to lead. Though he was responsible for his choices, I had also made some of my own that had not made it easy for him to become the husband that God was trying to make him. All along I thought it was about him and his sin, when it turned out that it was about me and mine.
I prayed for hours for the courage to repent. As I approached my husband with a humble heart and spirit, I spent what seemed like 10 minutes asking forgiveness for anything I could think of that I had done wrong, thoughts, actions, behavior, all came pouring out and it was like a purging of my soul. In the end, I felt freer than I had in years, and without realizing it, somewhere in the middle, I was restored. All along I thought I had to be restored in order to give forgiveness and I came to realize that I had to be forgiven in order to be restored. Forgiveness came easily, my transgressions were removed as far as the east is to the west, and because of that night, my heart is set on forgiveness.
God tells us we must keep short accounts and seek forgiveness before going into His presence in worship. Inasmuch as we must quickly seek forgiveness, we must also quickly grant it, even if it is not asked for. When someone sins against us, the only way to remain free from the burden of hurt, anger, and bitterness is to free the other person from it and restore them, which in turns frees us and restores us to God.
To me, Psalm 139:23-24 is truly the heart of confession. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties, and see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” We must ask God to truly search us and see where there is wickedness in our hearts and then ask Him to lead us in His everlasting way, the way that was made by the cross. It’s not about what other people do, it never will be. It’s about us and our relationship with God and what He finds in our hearts when He searches it.
They say that confession is good for the soul, and it is, because it’s the only way to restoration with the King.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
As a new believer I would ask, “why me?” I didn’t understand trials, but as I grew in my faith I realized that after I came through it, often within a short time, I would cross paths with someone in a similar circumstance. I was able to say, “I understand, I have been there.” Those are the most powerful words to be able to tell someone in the midst of an ordeal.
As I continued to grow in my walk with the Lord, I realized that often I needed to step back and understand that there were times the trial had nothing to do with me; I was the tool the Lord chose. I was happy when God was working in my life to move me, but when He was working in another’s life to move them, with me on the chopping block, that was hard. I felt like I got the heartaches but none of the rewards. As my trust deepened, I came to see that though difficult, it was often more of a blessing to be used by God for someone else. It is sacrifice which He says shows no greater love (John 15:13).
Growing up as a contractor’s daughter, my dad had tools. From framing squares to hammers, from nails to saws, I saw all of them as these fantastic things I wanted to touch. But they were tools, not toys, I was reminded. I was not allowed to play with them because they had a purpose. Most of them were tools he had accumulated over the years; a few were passed on from my grandfather and great grandfather. The older ones were weathered and old, the wood faded, the blades dull and rusty. A few of them had scratches and chips; others had gouges deep in the metal. I always knew these were not tools that were for display only; these tools had been used hard and often. They had been used to create something wonderful, whether it was a dollhouse for me or a house to be lived in. They had served their purpose well in the hands of the crafter who knew exactly how to use them.
That’s how it is when we are used by the Lord; at times we take a beating and there are pieces of us gouged out. The marks remain unable to be repaired, unable to be smoothed away. However, once the trial is over the outcome is always something beautiful. We see a life finally surrendered to the Lord, or a heart that had walked away from Him returned to His throne. We witness a relationship mended, a life restored, or a future given hope.
At times we’re sure that the trials are far more than we can bear, but can you visualize Meshach, Shadrach, and Abed-Nego, in the middle of a fiery furnace to get the attention of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3)? Or Job, covered in boils and losing everything to show Satan that he truly was a servant of God (Job 1:22)? Maybe our trials are not as dramatic, but they cut us the same. Our comfort is to know that our lives rest in the hands of a skillful God, who shapes us and molds us as His creation, His masterpiece. Whether the trial is for us or for someone else, we walk away forever changed, closer than before to His image, closer to His heart, and closer to His throne.
Thank You God, for the trials, whether they are about us or not. Thank You for using me in Your master plan, and for taking care of me not only as Your creation, but as one of Your tools. I give my life to the work of Your hands.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Joseph had multiple prisons and sometimes we know how that feels. It’s not just one thing that holds us captive, its multiple things threatening to tear us down and drag us under. Joseph was imprisoned by his dreams that no one else believed, he was imprisoned physically, sold as a slave to Egyptians into Potiphar’s house. He was imprisoned by lies from Potiphar’s wife and then confined to an actual prison cell. I can’t help but think that I would also have felt emotionally incarcerated being hated by all my brothers, being kicked at every turn, and never being able to direct my own path. But Joseph didn’t have that baggage because he knew that though his path was not his own, it was being directed by a God who is faithful and who always remembers His promises to His children.
Sometimes when we are in prison, we can feel like God has forgotten us, like we are there alone in the pit of darkness. But God reminds us that He hasn’t forgotten us, He never would. Heaven reaches down to us and He is there, just as He was in Acts 23:11 with Paul, “But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul…” Nothing can keep us apart from Jesus Christ, as it says in Romans 8:35, 38-39 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?.......For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing can separate us from Christ’s love and protection or from God’s plan for our life.
Joseph prospered, and repeatedly throughout his story we read “the Lord was with Joseph”. God is always with us and even when we feel like we are perishing and begging God for release, He gently reminds us “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). God’s grace washes over us and can sustain us in any season of life. It can raise us from the dark pits of despair and carry us on wings like eagles. It is the rock on which we can stand and not waiver, because truly He is our God who never waivers.
I think Joseph knew this in His heart and that’s why he was able to succeed, even when there seemed no deliverance in sight. Joseph not only bloomed in the desert as his father’s favorite, he bloomed in the depths of a dark prison cell, surrounded by lies and by people who wanted to keep him there. He bloomed because when we truly realize that God’s grace is enough and that we are covered in His love, it’s like the prison door swings wide open and we are free.
Jesus, thank You that even when I feel alone and imprisoned, You are there with me. Your grace is sufficient for me, and Your love is so strong that it can swing wide even the heaviest and threatening prison door, and I am free.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
As I headed back to work the song that came onto was Third Day, “When The Rain Comes”. I sent a text with the lyrics to my brother, “I can’t stop the rain from falling down on you again, I can’t stop the rain but I will hold you ‘till it goes away.” That’s how I have felt with all of those around me going through struggles. I can’t stop the rain from coming down, but I can be there holding your hand until they are gone. I noticed it said, “I can’t stop the rain from falling down on you AGAIN.” Inevitably, the rain will come, again and again, but if we are there for each other bearing one another’s burdens as it says in Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” then we find the way to persevere.
Jesus tells us in John 16:33 that trials are a sure thing to come in this world, but that we can have peace knowing that He has overcome the world. We have to know that the rain will always come, but that He always comes with it. Sometimes it feels like we want to run away, another part of the song says “When the rain comes/It seems that everyone has gone away/when the night falls you wonder if you shouldn’t find someplace to run and hide/escape the pain/But hiding is such a lonely thing to do.” We want to run but I have to believe this song is straight from the heart of Jesus. Though the rain will come, He is there holding on to us. He promises us “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
Jesus wants us to know that in Him, we will find rest. The song finishes “Rest awhile/ it'll be alright/No one loves you like I do/When the rain comes/I will hold you.” This is the promise of the Good Shepherd who loves us and will never leave us. No one loves us like Jesus and no one will hold us safely in their arms like He does.
Just to reassure me further, the very next song that came on was also by Third Day and started “To you, O Lord, I lift my soul/In you, O God, I place my trust/Do not let me be put to shame/Nor let my enemies triumph over me/My hope is you/Show me your ways/Guide me in Truth/In all my days.” In God our hope lies, “I will lift my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121: 1-2) I knew in my heart that God was reassuring me that though it seemed like there were no answers or solutions, He really is the answer, the solution.
That night, my brother came over for dinner and we ate, we joked, and we laughed…and it rained the whole time.
Jesus, thank You for bringing the rain and for meeting us where we are when it comes. Thank you for holding us in the midst of the storm, quieting our hearts, and reassuring us that it will pass and that you will stay with us until it does.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
People often ask me, why do you work at the church? Why did you take a pay cut to work there? Why do you work such long hours during Bible study or for an event? Why are you here when it’s your day off or you are supposed to be on vacation? Why don’t you ever leave “work” at work? The answer is simple, it’s not my job, it’s my calling. Often times I hear people who say they are not sure what they are called to do; they work at jobs that pay the bills, getting up at the same time every day to the alarm clock snapping them out of sleep. Sadly, they find that at the end of the day they are no more fulfilled than when they first began. This is not to say that anyone who doesn’t work in the ministry has a meaningless job. Often people are called to be doctors, trash man, or insurance agents, simply because that is the avenue that God has chosen to use them; they are in the ministry right where they are…they are called.
My calling is a room full of women, worshipping the Lord, hearing the Word taught, and sharing in their lives. In the past I would have nothing to do with women as friends; the many women I met in the world were catty and ruthless. When the Lord called me, I had to stop and ask Him if He was talking to the right gal; me, in the women’s ministry? In my old life that would have been my worst nightmare. Thankfully, the Lord doesn’t call the equipped, He equips those He calls. What He equipped me with was a heart for lost women, for women who feel like they don’t have a place, for women who don’t feel loved, or like they fit into God’s kingdom. Some of them even feel like they can’t possibly fit. That is my calling, for I know that everyone has a place in God’s house. No matter what skills you have, or don’t have for that matter, you still have a niche of your own in the Lord’s arms. My joy is being used by Him to reveal that; it’s nothing in my life or wisdom; it’s all His will, His timing, His calling.
Honestly, some days ministry is the hardest job I have ever had. The spiritual attacks can seem endless and daunting. The tasks at hand can sometimes seem impossible or beyond what we can comprehend. But God tells us that all things work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). And it is a high calling, as Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:1 “I beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” We have to walk worthy of the King that we serve and that is the highest calling there is. I learned early on to lay it all at His feet to begin with, admit that I can never do it without Him, and ask Him to pick it up and show me the way. People often ask me why I seem so calm in the midst of the chaos. I have found that no matter the task, no matter the event, God always shows up as long as I am walking worthy of what He has called me to do. This is the way it is whether you are in full time ministry or pumping gas at the corner station.
Every day I now ask myself, it is my alarm clock or my calling that gets me out of bed? It’s a great heart check and a way to know daily that my life belongs to the Lord. So ask yourself, are you called and if so, have you answered the call?
Lord, thank You for calling me to be Your child even though I was a ruthless sinner myself. Thank You for taking this life and making it something that is worthy to be called Yours.
Monday, May 11, 2009
I’ve been living out of sanity
I’ve been splitting hairs and blurring lines
I am a house that is divided
In my heart and in my mind
I use one hand to pull closer
The other to push you away
If I had two hands doing the same thing
Lifted high, lifted high
“Two Hands” Jars of Clay
I heard this song on the radio one morning last week and after that it was in my head all day. I realized that this is often the inner turmoil we face as we try and walk with the Lord. At times it can seem like we have two separate people in us, one longing to get closer to the Lord and one trying to push Him away. We want all that He has for us, but when it gets hard we want to quit and say never mind. Some days the story of my life is Romans 7:19 “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice” There are so many days that I want to do the will of the Lord, and I simply don’t. There are so many days that I don’t want to sin, and I simply do.
When I heard the song, my husband and I were in a disagreement and the lyric kept repeating in my head “If I had two hands doing the same thing”. I realized that not only can there be an inner warring in each of us, but for those of us that are married, there can also be a warring with our spouses. God said that once we were married, we were then one flesh, one person in His eyes (Genesis 2:24). So when we fight or are at odds with our spouse, it is the same idea. We are two hands of the Lord doing different things. In my mind, it would be like trying to play the piano with one hand and crochet with the other. Each on their own would be able to be done, but doing them at the same time is counterproductive. I am sure there is someone out there who has the ability to play piano and crochet, but because you would not be giving either of the tasks individual focus you would not be doing either the best that you possibly could. If we are going one way and our spouse is going another, we will never be doing the perfect will of God. Only when we are working as one, in our hearts, our minds, and our spirits can we fully be doing the will of the Lord.
Mark 3:35 clearly says “and if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” If we are moving in two different directions we will never make any progress. Christ tells us that we are one body and that all parts are needed and should be working in sync for the same goal (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). When we don’t function as a body either in the body of Christ or even in ourselves, we are bound for doom.
And if we just keep digging,
we can reach the foundation of our souls
And if we just keep cutting all the
chains from our hearts we’ll lose control
If Christ is in us, then He is in our hearts and if we dig deep and remove the chains from our hearts, then He will reign. He takes control, and we simply follow, with two hands lifted high in praise and adoration.
Lord, help me to remember that I am never more in sync with You than when I have two hands lifted up to you. Lifted in praise, lifted waiting to see what You have for me, lifted reaching for You, always reaching for You.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Half way through the trip warmed with cocoa, I was content to sit and gaze at the lovely scenery blanketed in snow. As I looked out the window, where I knew mountains should have been, all I saw were grey snow clouds. It was an unsettling feeling, knowing there were sizable mountains there, but unable to see them because of something as simple as clouds. As I reassured myself the mountains were there even if I couldn’t see them, I realized this is very much our view of God at times. We know in our heart that God is a strong, immovable presence like a mountain, yet there are times that things get in the way, like clouds, or storms in life and the minute we can’t see Him, we get unsettled.
At times, we are content to sit and enjoy the ride not caring that we can’t see Him, knowing no matter what He is there. Other times, we get anxious and uncertain. We find ourselves searching for any glimpse we can get of Him. Hebrews tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Though we cannot see God at all times and many times we cannot see Him working, He is there, and is steadfast at work in our lives and those around us. “The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary.” (Isaiah 40:28) We are reassured that He never gets tired, never gets worn out, and never gives up. He doesn’t take time outs or quick naps, He doesn’t even sleep. He is attentive to watch His sheep and always knows where we are no matter how far we travel.
At one point, though I knew they were there, I asked Duncan, who reassured me that yes, there should be mountains there. Eventually, I realized that I couldn’t spend my entire trip worrying about not being able to see mountains that I knew were there. I simply had to let it go and trust what I knew. This is the same thing we should do when it seems we cannot see the Lord. We should never allow what we don’t know or see to overshadow what we do know about our God, and that is that He will never leave us or forsake us, His word promises that over and over. (Joshua 1:5) We cannot spend our lives debating things we already know the answer to; otherwise we miss the beautiful things the Lord has put before us. He wants us to be along for the ride, no matter what we can or can’t see. It’s the faith of things hoped for, things unseen that God uses to draw us closer to Him, and away from the worries of this world.
Lord, thank you for being my strong mountain that I know is immovable. No matter what clouds my view, I know you are always with me.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
I know who I am in Christ, and I know what He has called me to do, follow Him. Whole heartedly, unashamedly, wholly belong to Him, it's what He calls us all to do (Matthew 16:24). I am not sorry for who I am in Christ, I am not sorry for who He has made me, and I am not sorry for the life He has given me. At times I am saddened, because it feels like some of the people closest to me are sorry for the person the Lord has made me. One of the most difficult things to face is the feelings that people who are close to me have no idea who I am or what is in my heart. It may be hard to see that when I talk about the things in His Word, it is because He has put those words there and because my heart wants to see His best in those lives, just as He wants to see His best.
Sometimes as believers we are fervent in the Lord and what we know of His word and we can get overzealous and come across overbearing. But if you spend time with a true follower of Christ then you will see where their heart comes from. Our hearts are not standing in a place of judgment; our intent is not to force our faith on everyone. We do not purpose in our hearts to hurt others, it is a fervent desire to not only see people come to Christ for Salvation, but then return the love that He gives us by living FOR Him ALL of the time. God does not seek halfway Christians; He wants ALL of us ALL of the time. He doesn't want us on Sundays, or before meals, or here and there, or when it is convenient to call ourselves Christians. He wants every minute of our life to be fully, wholly dedicated to Him. If people cannot live that way for Him, then they need to reconsider SAYING they belong to Him because if in our lives He is not Lord of ALL, then He is NOT LORD AT ALL. (Revelation 3:15-16)
There was a time I walked away from the church, and there were many people praying for me to return, and it was only a matter of time before I did. When I returned I gave my life to God, laid it on His alter and told Him that whatever He thought was best, I would be obedient. He took my life with a vengeance and has spent the last several years feeding me, molding me, shaping me, and turning me into the woman that stands here today. Sometimes it seems like those around us want us to be a Christian, but not TOO Christian. They want us to walk with God, but not TOO close, they want to see us witness to others, but not to them. I often wonder if the same words I speak to someone had been told to the same person by a Pastor or an elder with more years of faith if they would be taken any different. We all stand as equals before the Lord, and really in all of our lives, the purpose is to work for His Kingdom to bring as many people to Him as possible, and to encourage those who are believers to a stronger walk with Him.
I have finally landed in a place of comfort and peace in the Lord. I cannot change who I am and I wouldn’t want to. For anyone to ask me to be any different would be like asking me to be who I am not. His words, His life, His passion is so ingrained in me that I don't know any other way to live. I am still a sinner, unclean, and any righteousness I think I have is like filthy rags before Him (Isaiah 64:6), but I can never turn away from who He has made me and who He is continuing to mold me to be. I don't know any other way to live at this point. It would be like asking me to go back to being overweight, it's not who I am, it's not who I want to be, and it's not healthy for me.
I pray for those who often feel a little misunderstood that those who misunderstand can someday truly see who we are in Christ, who He has made us to be and where our hearts lie; with Him alone.
On Good Friday, my heart was heavy, yet uplifted. There were times that I quietly wept in my office because of His love. My heart was heavy because of the fact that God had to die on a cross for me because I am so bad; uplifted because I know He chose to do it because He loves us so much. On that day, it was beautiful to stand with my fellow co-laborers in Christ knowing that I am exactly where God has called me to be. I KNOW without a doubt, no second thoughts, no looking back, that I am 100% in His will for my life, and here I will stand until He moves me.
Living for Him (because I know no other way),
- ▼ 2009 (9)