Nothing to Fear

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“And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” ~ Genesis 3:8-10

It only takes three chapters in the Bible to get to a place where fear is a prevalent emotion. Adam and Eve disobeyed God. This was the first time they had ever done something against God’s design and intent. God specifically warned them that if they ate fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would die. But they both ate the fruit, and they were still alive. Adam and Eve began experiencing many things at the moment of disobedience, but not immediate physical death.

In the cool of the evening, God walked with them in the garden. They had an intimate relationship with the Lord. Their evening strolls were the highlight of each day. They knew the place and time to meet, this was a routine, the most important part of their calendar. But yet, when they sinned, they were afraid. So afraid that they hid from God. Was God going to be the cause of their death? How could they know?

I have a friend who grew up in a strict Catholic family. When she left the house she left Catholicism. Many years later, now married for sometime and with a child, she became attracted to Christianity and now attends church. As she and I talked about faith, she shared with me that growing up she was afraid of God. Her view of God as a child was incredibly far from a loving Savior. She freely shared that, as a child, she was so fearful that if she did something bad her family would die.

So does God have anger management issues and is He just waiting to pounce on the next disobedient person? Not in the least. There is a healthy form of fear I’ll discuss in next week’s post but God’s desire for our relationship with Him is far from cowering in fear.

Genesis is a beautiful book in the Bible, and the beginning really sets the tone for all of our lives. God knows all, so He knew the moment when Adam and Eve disobeyed Him. But God did not pounce. He showed up at the time and place where they met every single day. He showed up and was ready to have a conversation, not a lecture, not an immediate death sentence. In His grace, although they would now experience physical death, they (and we) would have eternal life with Him as it was meant to be at the beginning of creation, if they trusted in Him.

little-boy-3332111_1920God’s reply to their disobedience was two questions. “Where are you?” as we already said, implying that He did not move. It was Adam and Eve that moved away from Him. And, “Who told you that you were naked?” meaning, those are not My words. You are listening to someone besides Me. Who told you that you were anything LESS than who I created you to be?

I could write pages just about the richness and beauty in spite of horrific pain in Genesis chapter three. But I’ll try to remain brief.

After Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God provided for them, and protected them. The first sacrifice was made so that they could have clothes. But this sacrifice points to the sacrifice of Jesus, so that we can have clothes of righteousness. God sent them out from the garden so that we would be able to live with God forever. Sending them from the garden was protecting them from being able to eat of the tree of life or eternal damnation.

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You see, when God tells us “no” it is always for our very own protection. And, quite possibly, for the benefit of generations to come. And when we disobey God, we do have to be responsible for our own choices, and we do have consequences. But God is an incredibly merciful and loving God. In fact, when we do mess up, God does not want us cowering in our own dark corners of fear, waiting and wondering what He’s going to do. We are told to come to Him. We are invited to come to Him, and told that we can go with confidence to our “meetings in the garden” with Him.

When I read the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, my favorite part is when the curtain of the temple was torn into two from top to bottom. God literally invites and entreats us to go directly to Him. Anytime, any way.

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Being a Christian does NOT mean we need to clean ourselves up before we go to God. (True change is not even possible without God.) Being a Christian means that we have access, and that we are not to be afraid of approaching God. We are to be fearless, and come as we are.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” ~ Hebrews 4:14-16

I Never Outgrew Fear

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“After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ ~ Genesis 15:1

I really had a hard time coming up with October’s blog theme. Nothing stuck, until a single word hit me square between the eyes. And it’s perfect for this month. Whether you acknowledge Halloween, or go to Fall Festivals or not, the concept of scary and fearful things are everywhere right now. So, for October, we’re going to talk about fear.

child-1311854_1920As a child I distinctly remember waking up from bad dreams, but being too fearful to run across the house to my parent’s bedroom. Who knew what was waiting for me in my house’s shadows from here to there. I also remember as a child looking forward to “when I grew up” thinking that I would then not be afraid of things anymore.

I wish that were true. But friend, let me just be real, and reveal a piece of myself to you. I am a very fearful person. Ashamedly so, but I am. I have phobias such as afraid of spiders (I do scream no matter their size). I have irrational fears too (probably because my brain works on over-drive all the time) and I have true, real fears. Fear comes in all different shapes and sizes.

This past week I struggled with fear over dreams not yet coming true. Realizing that dreams are not panning out the way I “planned”, and so I all too easily gave/give into the fear that those dreams may not even happen all-together.

I don’t know if you’re like me at all. Maybe fear isn’t something you struggle with. But I bet someone you know does. God says, “do not fear” 365 times in the Bible. To me, that’s no mistake that we need a reminder to not fear every single day.

Although the concept of fear and being afraid is mentioned from Genesis 3 on, the very first time the actual word “fear” is used in context of people being afraid, is in Genesis 15, the verse above. It’s doubly powerful for me right now, because God was addressing Abram’s dream that he thought would not come true. Isn’t the verse so beautiful? God is SO loving and SO comforting. He doesn’t just tell Abram “Do not fear” period. God said fear not, but then He reminded Abram of truth, of who God is to him, and that comfort is packaged with a promise of reassurance.lantern-827784_1920

I know in my head that I should not fear. I know in my heart that my fear ultimately points to my lack of trust in God, and His good plan for me. But frankly, the head knowledge and the guilt trip of not trusting have never gotten rid of my fears. Looking at this verse, the first time there is f-e-a-r spelled out so clearly, I don’t think the head knowledge and guilt trip are the ways we can get rid of our fear. After years of trying, I know I cannot get rid of my fears on my own. God tells us not to fear, of course. But God is so absolutely loving, that He just doesn’t end with that. He reassures us, and He gives us a promise.

God is with us. God will never leave us or forsake us. He is our peace, and He is our comfort. He is our shield. We are promised that we are heirs with Christ. We are promised that He will wipe away every tear. We are promised that at our final destination, we will live with Him forever.

God didn’t leave us to tackle our fears on our own. That was never His plan, and I am so grateful. He doesn’t condemn us for not trusting Him enough as to get rid of our fear entirely. God lovingly tells us not to fear because God’s got this…whatever your “this” may be. He is sovereign. But in the meantime, as we go through the journey from our fear to His arms…like me as a little girl from my room to my parent’s security…He is there holding out to us our comfort – Himself and His Word. He is with us in the midst of our fears. Thanks be to God.

When Will It End?

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John 16:33, “I [Jesus] have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

I find it ironic how my last blog post was about a storm. I live in North Carolina, and we are recovering from the recent Hurricane Florence. SO. MUCH. RAIN. We are very fortunate that there was no damage to where we live and no flooding. The power was out for about three days, but that was all. Still, after Hurricane Irma last year (I was in Florida at the time and the eye went over my hometown) I was not about this hurricane. During the basically week-long storm, the most common phrase that flashed through my mind and my grumbles (yes, I was not a happy camper!) was, “When will it end?”. The week prior Florence, due to my chronic pain issue, the pain in my legs and hips began intensifying as the air pressure began to change. I was very, very uncomfortable and just could not wait for the storm to come so that it would be over.

But then Florence did show up, and Florence just decided to hang out for awhile as it turned from a hurricane into a tropical storm, into a thunderstorm, into grey and showers, into clear skies. (Again, about a week-long storm process.) The seemingly constant rain, and intensity of my pain, made me into a less than pleasant camper. Mumbling under my breath again and again, “When will it end?”.

Maybe that’s you too. Maybe it’s not a hurricane, but maybe it’s a sickness, a job loss, the death of a family member… fill in your blank. Maybe it’s just one thing piled onto another, and you feel like if one more thing goes wrong, you’re gonna break. “When will it end?”

I know I’ve been there – a lot, actually. I have had the one thing after another, after another happen to the point where I just want to be done. I’ve known the exhaustion and the long, long tunnel where I didn’t know the end. I’ve had well meaning people give me a hug and say “tomorrow will be a better day” or “things will get better soon”, and I look at them, and it takes every ounce of my being to stay calm, cool and collected. Because they don’t know what will happen. How could they? So, as a writer, I will never promise you that things will get better. I will never promise you that you’ve already had enough trouble, so you’re going to have a break from suffering. Because I can’t do that. That would be lying. But what I can tell you is better than that.

What can be better?

At the beginning of this post, I shared a verse from John 16. Jesus clearly doesn’t tell us hope-1804595_1920that after one or two bad things, everything will smooth out. No! He basically promises us that we will have tribulation. We WILL have trials, hardships, suffering, pain…. But that’s not the highlight of the verse. Like an Oreo, the tribulation is sandwiched between Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and Jesus the Overcomer of the whole entire world!

Friend, please hear me. Do not loose heart, because the Savior of the world is on your side. Abiding in Christ means we have all the peace we could possibly ask for, because Jesus Himself is our peace. Drawing near to Jesus is trusting that because He has overcome the world, He is capable of handling anything that gets thrown our way. In fact, He already has. He did that at the cross….

As someone once told me, ‘life is not for the faint of heart’. Basically, at some point, things will be hard. For people like me who live in chronic pain, we automatically have something that is always hard. Friend, I am sorry. I am sorry for the storms happening right now in your life. I wish life was easier. Oh, how wonderful that sounds! But while it is not, we have to cling to the promises of God and that He IS GOOD, no matter if our circumstances do not appear that way. God is for you, His son, His daughter. He loves you with an everlasting love.

light-1551386_1920One day, Jesus will return and claim the victory, and death and pain will be no more. But as I recently heard in a sermon (shout out, Tim Rice!) ‘during this window of time where we have God’s mercy of bringing people to Himself, there is room for evil and destruction.’ (I’m paraphrasing.) But as believers, we know there IS an END, and we know that the end is when Jesus will take his rightful reign.

Oh, my friend. As believers, we have SO MUCH HOPE, because our life rests in the hands of Jesus, not in the pain, the trials, the storms.

Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!”

 

Rocks & Sand

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“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” ~ Matthew 7:24-27

Last weekend Jarrett and I went hiking. The trails we took were relatively easy (I can’t do hard-core hiking with my legs) but one of them lead to a really pretty waterfall. I LOVE waterfalls. I love them so much that I’ve always said that when I get to Heaven, I really hope there will be waterfalls so that I can slide down them. Anyway, enough about my odd obsession with falling water…. We walked through some woods on a dirt path to the beautiful sight of the falls. Once arrived we walked a little further out onto some of the more slippery rocks to take a picture. (Don’t worry, friend, we were in no harm!) After snapping a couple pics, we turned around and headed back onto the path from which we came. Going back would be easier, right? Hahaha, nope.

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Holding Jarrett’s hand, on we our merry way we went. He’s super good at hiking and doesn’t even have to look down to see where he’s going. He just hikes flawlessly. So, here I am, a klutz with leg problems, hanging tightly to his hand. Holding Jarrett’s hand gave me a false confidence that the hike would be easier and that his tight grasp would keep me from falling. On I hiked, hand in hand, looking towards my leader – and not at the rocks, and roots at my feet. So, what happened? I fell. Hard. It hurt pretty bad plus I was embarrassed because I was accompanied by an “expert hiker”.

After I got up and was able to continue down the path, I immediately thought of the analogy above that Jesus shares. Because of the fallen world we are in, the rains will fall, the floods will come, and the winds will blow against us – our faith. Throughout my life, I have seen many great people wonder from their faith, or turn away from it all-together. The interesting thing is, these people attended church, sat under pastors and even studied in school under doctors in theology. They were immersed in the Bible, they heard the words of Jesus over and over again. Every story is different, and I’m not about to make a blanket-statement for everyone, just FYI. But an observation is that many times people who are raised in the church have their parents, pastors or teachers’ faith to hold onto. Therefore, they go through life as long as possible hanging onto something that is not actually theirs. The betrayal, the sickness, the injustice does come. Then what?

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On our hike I was holding onto something for my foundation and my guidance that was not actually mine. And I fell, badly. I was so distracted by this false sense of security that I forgot to look down at the path I was on, and plant my feet on firm rocks. Oh, friend, the same is all too easily true with our spiritual orientation. Learning from parents, pastors and teachers is a wonderful thing. But are we really taking the lessons and hiding them in our hearts, and applying them in our daily lives? Or are we listening and learning just enough to get by, but forgetting to continually look down the path God has set before us, and placing our feet firmly on our Rock?

Oh, friend, my prayer is that you will take the words of Jesus as building blocks to create an ever deepening faith in order to stay strong in this stormy world of ours. Non of us will be able to 100% stay firmly planted because no one is perfect. The temptations to look for our way apart from God’s plans are very, very real. You will fall, and so will I – I know I have already. But even when we fall and we miss an opportunity to firmly plant our feet, our God is a God of second, third, fourth etc, etc, etc chances. His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness!

The BEST Good

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Hey friends, I realize it’s been forever since I’ve written on here. I just wanted to acknowledge that, and say it feels good to be back. 🙂 I actually just wrote this piece below for a devotional writing challenge, but thought it would be an appropriate piece to jump back into blogging with!

I am an Army wife, but have yet to write anything military related…until now. I never planned on writing a devotional based on my experiences from August 2, 2017. Frankly, there’s only a few people in my life who I talked to regarding that day. But when I sat down to write a devotional, the words really just fell onto the page. As I’ve been reflecting on the events of last August, I’ve been reflecting on all that God taught me during that time, and how Psalm 16 became one of my rocks I clung to. So, friend, whether you are an Army wife or not, I hope this encourages and inspires you.

Psalm 16:1-2: “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’”

“Your Paratrooper is safe.” My clenched heart relaxed, but only for a moment. The voice on the other end identified herself as a Key Caller from Alpha Company. The reason for her call drastically changed the tone of our first deployment. Two other soldiers who were serving in the Army overseas with my husband were killed, and several were severely wounded. Two A-Company wives would not be reunited with their husbands eight months later like the rest of us.

During deployment I faced a very scary but very real question. If there was another vehicular suicide bomb, and my husband was the soldier killed, would the Lord be enough for me? Would I really, in my heart of hearts be able to say that I have absolutely no good apart from my Maker?

It’s not likely that your husband is an Army Paratrooper and recently spent nine months in a combat zone. But that’s ok. Facing the question “is the Lord truly enough for me?” can be asked by anyone facing any kind of difficult situation unexpectedly thrown our way. Even if we have been walking with the Lord for a long time, often we reflect on His blessings and joyful experiences as being good more than we reflect on God being good. I know that God delights in giving us good gifts because we are His children. I believe that when we smile over His blessings, God’s heart is glad. However, what happens when those gifts are wrapped in the package of a hazardous nine month deployment? What felt like living on the edge of my seat deeply grew my trust in God and His plan for my life. So what does delighting in the Lord look like?

Psalm 16:8 “I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”

Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

I love how the author explains setting the Lord before you, and how in the Lord’s presence we find joy. But those things cannot happen unless, with humble hearts, we keenly focus upon the majesty of our God, and are awed by Him. That’s when we realize that He far exceeds everything and everyone else on this whole earth. That profound realization of “wow”…God is good, and there is truly absolutely nothing good that is apart from Him.

In March 2018, my husband did return from deployment – thank you, God! But for the past eight months, Psalm 16 became my daily “check-in-verse” as I desired to abide in Christ more, and fall in love with Christ more. As I prepared for my husband’s homecoming with jitters of anticipation, I thought about the ultimate homecoming when I leave to go meet my Maker. If this homecoming of a bride reuniting with her groom caused this much anticipation and joy, how much far greater will that homecoming be of the Bride the church being united with Christ the Bridegroom? Let us all, as daughters of the King, live abiding in Him so deeply that we can proclaim ALL of our good is found in the Lord.

I Don’t Know How To Love

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It’s 20 days into February and I haven’t posted a single blog this month. Yes, I have been busy, but the truth is, I’ve been scared.

As I said in the month of February I’d talk about love. (Fitting, I know.) But this month I have become so discouraged as I look at the world around me. Who loves anymore? It’ll only take you thirty seconds on social media to understand what I’m saying….

A few nights ago I lay awake tossing and turning. I was thinking about my friends who are turning away from God thinking that they’ll find love in what seems enticing in our world right now only to be left continually searching for love. I was thinking about Disney and the fun but very inaccurate love stories it shares. I was thinking about the past year and the times when I felt unloved. I was thinking about you, my friend, whoever you may be that stumbles upon my blog. Feeling so overwhelmed about this four letter word, (l.o.v.e) I asked God what I should write about. It was not an audible voice of course, but it was very clear that God’s answer was: “Write what you know.”

So this, my friend, this is what I know:

I know that this month I have been so convicted. As I overhear conversations or scroll through social media, I’ve been so quick to point out the people who are not loving. But God has taken my gaze from out there to in here, my heart. He’s brought to mind several opportunities that I overlooked or brushed aside that could have easily been an opportunity for me to love someone. I’ve thought of my needs far more than I’ve thought of other people’s, and that is not love. My heart is heavy because I realized that I always thought of myself as a loving person, and that was my danger.

October was a super rough month for me and my “love tank” was running dry. Since then, it’s begun filling back up again, but as that’s happened, I’ve realized my own insecurities. I’ve hid them well and I don’t want anyone to see them because I am a loving person and that’s what I want people to think.

But am I?

I surround myself with people who I think will make me happy and will make me feel included. My “love tank” begins to fill which makes me feel great, and then in turn I can pour out upon others. But how sturdy is my foundation of love because people will disappoint, people will hurt me and then my “lovey” feelings will get crushed. How loving am I if I pepper people with compliments and smiles, but cheat them out of sharing the reason for my smiles – the joy found in Christ? How loving am I if I heart someone’s Facebook status but don’t take the time to call up this friend, hear her heart, and begin paving the way for a Gospel conversation?

What I do know, has hit me hard, square in the face. I don’t know how to love.

  • I don’t know how to love as well as I should.
  • I don’t know how to love as well as I want.
  • I don’t know how to love in the way that people deserve to be loved.

Why? Because I’m so quick to look at this unloving world around me and think that I’m better. I’m so quick to let a compliment boost my pride that makes me feel good, so that I feel like loving. I’m so quick to be distracted by anyone and everything expect the One who is the very definition of love.

I don’t want the kind of love this world has to offer. I don’t want love from my fair-weather friends. I’m tired of my own feeble and insecure heart that tries to grasp onto something to sustain me. It will last for a little while, but will always go away.

But I know the One who is love and created love. The One who is love died for me. Jesus didn’t even want to do it, but He did, because that was the ultimate act of love. Maybe the greatest part is that the love of God is not just some historical event…it’s the active work of God in my life. It’s the love of conviction when my heart begins to stray. It’s the love of a hen protecting her chicks by her wings. It’s the love of the greatest friend because He will never, ever leave me. It’s the love of Jesus actively working in my heart and daily renewing me. It’s the strongest love there ever is, and ever will be. It’s the love of God.

I will fail. That’s not my Uno skip card giving me permission to make a mistake. It’s me being honest with you, because I’ve already done it this year and will do it again. But when I fail, I want to go back to the basics and look at the immense love of God. And to help me prevent from failing, every day, I want to go back to the basics and saturate myself in the truth of God’s love for me, and for all people.

I’m not the best loving person, but I know the One who is. So on good days, or on bad days, I want to snatch the opportunity to remind those I interact with, or maybe introduce for the first time, people to the One who I know will always truly love.

I’m generally not a “one size fits all kind of person” but with this, I am. We can’t know what love is on our own. Even if you don’t believe in God, you have your own idea of what is loving and what is not. So my question for you is, how did you come up with that? Where is your foundation? I wonder, oh, I just wonder what would happen if people started looking for love outside of themselves and the people around them. I bet they would realize that things are empty and there’s a missing piece. I wonder what would happen if they allowed themselves to encounter the love of God and take a leap of faith, to test Him and see if this love is real.

The reality is, I don’t know how to love outside of allowing God to work in my life. I don’t know how to love apart from seeing Him, and wanting to be closer and closer to Him. I don’t think I’ll ever truly and fully love the way I hope to, but I love itself (God) is on my side, so in that there is hope.

How can you grow in your love today?

1 John 4:7-12 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

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

John 13:34-35 “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

1 John 4:18-19 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  We love because He first loved us.”

1 Corinthians 13:13 “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 

Romans 12:9-10 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

Ephesians 4:2 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” 

Luke 6:35 “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great…”

Keep Looking Up

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The page is about to close on January. I mean, pink and red heart decorations are EVERYWHERE so it’s practically Valentine’s Day already. But before we talk about love (Surprise! February’s theme) let’s look at our resolutions one last time on here, and focus on the year ahead of us.

As I shared in my last blog post “And Then I Broke My Toe,” I shared how my heart usually is not in the right place when it comes to something not going my way, or going as originally planned. But that will likely happen A LOT in 2018 because that’s life, at least, my life. (Sorry if I bursted any bubbles there….) 2018 is still mostly an open, unwritten in book, waiting for our stories and our lives to blossom and develop on the pages within. The reality is, it’s possible for many of us that 2018 could be the best year of our lives so far. There is also that possibility that 2018 could be the worst year of our lives so far. I mean, I hope not, but I’m also a realist. So as 2018 continues marching on, is it possible for it to be a bad year, but also a good year? Yes. I’m not talking about having good moments and bad moments in the same year, because, duh, that happens every year.  I’m talking about can we, no matter what happens, believe that this will be a good year? Yes.

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It’s all about perspective. What are we looking to or looking for this year? Are we looking at our resolutions, or to the things we believe will bring us satisfaction? Or are we looking to Jesus and keeping our eyes and our hearts fixed on Him? Do we believe He is for me or against me? Do we believe that He is good?

The goodness of God is something that I have struggled with a lot in my life. I’ve experienced a lot of pain in my life physically and emotionally, as well as seen loved ones go through situations that I could never fathom. So I am not taking this “goodness” lightly. I know first hand how bad things can get, and I’m sure you do too. Knowing that God is on my side is also something that I’ve fought against because so often when life doesn’t go “my way” it honestly doesn’t feel like He’s cheering for me. But He is. Oh, friend, He is. god is good all the time

 Romans 8:28-32, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” 

Psalm 118:6, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Psalm 56:9-13, “Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.”

1 Chronicles 16:34, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”

As Christians we say we believe that God is on our side and we say that He is good. But do we live this out in our daily lives? Do we especially live this out when the going gets tough? This year, I’m certain I will have plenty of opportunities to pick my perspective. There will be opportunities to cower in fear, or to trust God. Opportunities to complain or to give thanks to God. Opportunities to see the pain in my life, or opportunities to see how good He is, and even how He uses my weaknesses, pain and insecurities for an ultimate good and for His glory. Calendar

No matter what this year may bring to you, 2018 has the potential to be an incredible year. Because no matter what happens, God is good and God is on our side – if only we choose to trust Him.

Psalm 34:8 “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” 

And Then I Broke My Toe…

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? Taking a wild guess I’d say probably not well. We’re inching up to the end of January and by now many people have experienced the “New Year’s Resolution slump”.

Like probably every other girl in the world, I REALLY wanted to begin this year by getting into shape. (A.K.A get my bikini body back kind of deal.) Oh wait. I don’t wear those…ok, moving on. But still, like a bride prepping for her wedding day I have a similar motivation right now to look my absolute best. (Redeployment is coming!!!) I already walk my dog every day, but that’s not a full blown, sweating bullets kind of walk. There’s a lake that has a 3 mile trail around it not too far from my house. I had this grand plan that the next day, I would go walk the lake and maybe walk it TWICE.

Lake Hollingsworth

And then I broke my toe.

I applauded myself in the fact that this is the first broken bone I’ve had. But still, the timing was “impeccable” and I didn’t even have a heroic story to go with my poor pinkie toe turning black and blue. I’m just a klutz and that is all. But to be honest, I was way more upset that my grand work out plan had failed than the fact that my toe was in excruciating pain. Why?

Because I’m a perfectionist. And a control freak. And when something slips out of my control that I thought really was, then I don’t have the most mature attitude about it. I get an A+ at being hard on myself and then shaming myself if I don’t follow through with my plan of x y and z. But there is grace. Grace that I generally am freer at giving other people than myself.

Ok, I’m exposing my soul a lot in this post, so something you need to know is that I’m a diehard Anne of Green Gables fan. Yup, unashamedly. Besides the romance between her and Gilbert Blythe, something I really appreciate about the story is Anne’s outlook on life after she does yet another (gasp) stupid thing. Doesn’t she grow out of her mistakes? Well, yes and no. Like all of us, there (hopefully) is maturity along the way, but we will make mistakes this year. We will even have days when we do everything “right” but nothing in that day will go our way. We will ‘break our toes’ in the most inconvenient times which will tempt us to have a bad attitude for the rest of the week. We will disappoint people, and we will be disappointed. But in the midst of these, and especially as our new year resolutions begin to slide, there are two things I have recently become mindful of: GRACE and TRUST.

“Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it yet.” ~ Anne Shirley

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Anne realized things didn’t go the way she thought they would. Her grand plan was thwarted. Yes, being in the depths of despair was always a tempting option, but she wouldn’t stay there forever. One of her “mottos” became the quote above. She had the ability to pick herself up, looking to the next day as a clean slate full of opportunities instead of one being tainted by past mistakes or ‘broken toes’. She allowed herself grace – and I need to allow that too!

Lamentations 3:22-23: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

John 1:16: “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 
The reality is, having an immature attitude when something doesn’t go my way, or condemning myself instead of giving myself grace and allowing myself to receive grace is contrary to what God wants. This is not reflecting Jesus, and so I’m not doing the best job at keeping my New Year’s Resolution that I wrote about in my first January post. (And it’s not even February!)
The love of the Lord is there for us. His mercies have no end and they are NEW every morning! How incredible. God doesn’t keep a tally score when I wake up each day thinking about all the ways that I made mistakes the day before. No. He gives me a fully fresh dosage of mercy. It’s a dosage that I don’t have to share with anyone because it’s specifically given to me, and specifically given to you. And we do not run out of it!
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In Him we receive grace upon grace. Grace is what the Gospel is about. Not me, abiding perfectly by my plans and my “righteousness” and then beating myself up each time I fail. How dare I think that I am better than receiving the grace upon grace that He freely gives me. But oh, I do. God, forgive me.
One of the most powerful testimonies we have as Christians is the one of not having it all together, and not trying to, or pretending like we do. I mean, in our heart or hearts we know that we don’t, but there is no reason to hide or be ashamed. When our weaknesses are exposed it’s an opportunity for God’s power to show up and show off in our lives, and to demonstrate to us and to those around us that His GRACE is what is enough. Not what I can or cannot do. Weakness means boasting so that the glory of God can be brightly displayed in our lives. Isn’t that what this life is all about anyway?
Earlier on I shared that I’m a control freak. Similar with beating myself up instead of receiving grace, clinging to control isn’t trusting the Lord. It’s basically telling the world that I got it together and that I can do things by myself. And this, this is pride and not at all trusting in God’s plan for my life, let alone my day. So again, I ashamedly share with you that this is something I struggle with practically on a daily basis. God, forgive me.
Proverbs 16:9: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
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Even if my plans for my day – or my plans for my life – end up being completely different than I anticipated, then I need to learn that that is ok. As long as the Lord is the one establishing my steps, then how can anything really go “wrong”? Because if my life is in the will of God, then He will lead me, and guide me and fulfill His purposes in me. What a beautiful promise we have as followers of Him!
So as your New Year’s Resolutions begin to ride the slip and slide, or if you also broke your toe remember that God gives us grace upon grace. It’s there, I promise. But it’s up to us to actually receive it. And as our day turns out different than we wanted, maybe it’s a good time to relinquish some control and remember that God is the ultimate one who directs our paths, and He can and should be trusted. No matter what.
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Following Kings

Three-Kings

I decided to write a blog in honor of Three Kings Day. (Yea, I’m a little late…) But still, I wanted to write about these guys because this past Christmas season, they fascinated me. So, what does that have to do with my January theme of New Year Resolutions? Well, it actually has a lot to do with it.

The story of the Magi found in Matthew 2 is brief but powerful. It’s a story that shows the dedication of people following Jesus, people who were willing to risk their lives to worship the Promised One. People who wanted to give nothing but their best, and people of high rank bending down on a humble knee.

Lessons from the “Kings” to apply to our New Year:

  1. They sacrificed their own comfort and security in order to worship God
  2. They walked in obedience instead of fear
  3. Their immediate response to Jesus was worship
  4. They gave Jesus their best
  5. They feared God more than they feared man

Matthew 2:1-2 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

There was no airplane or Uber back then. So a group of men (we don’t know how many) packed up their camels with supplies to last them months as they journeyed across the desert, across the wilderness, to Jerusalem – a place where royalty would be found. They may have traveled with their families, and they definitely traveled with servants and caretakers of their animals. These wise guys were not the only ones who had to sacrifice their comfort and security. They set off on a journey, with the star to lead them, not a GPS. Each step they took was one of faith, not knowing where exactly their steps would take them. But this was a special moment in time – a moment that they had been waiting for. The King of the Jews had come, but His announcement was not made only to the Jews, but to people of all nations. Emmanuel, God with us, has come.

desert path

They approached King Herod, a man who many feared because he was crazy. (Killing wives and sons and people just because.) First of all, it would have taken a lot of guts to be a foreigner approaching any king. But they approached the dreaded King Herod. They were clear in their message that they journeyed a long way not to bow down to Herod, but to go and worship a different King. They were intent and unwavering in this mission. They obeyed the tug God placed on their hearts, and they listened more to Him than their fears.

Verses 10-11 “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”
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Not finding the King in a palace or in the center of society where the rich and mighty could easily be spotted, they continued steadfast on their journey. The Star stopped above a small, humble home. They walked in with full and complete confidence and the moment they saw Jesus (a toddler!) they fell down and worshiped! Can this get any more beautiful?! Men of great riches and who had spent their lives growing in wisdom and knowledge immediate responses’ were falling to the ground before a child. They saw Jesus as He was – the King of the Jews, but their King also, and the Savior of mankind. And. They. Worshiped.

How often are we overcome with awe of God that we fall to the ground in worship? My bet is not often enough…

These wise men also gave Jesus their very best. The three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh were super expensive gifts that only really kings could own. (My Young Living peeps know that Frankincense Oil is no joke!) We don’t exactly know how rich these wise men were, but somehow they were able to acquire these – not just one, but THREE ridiculously expensive presents. They put them not on display in a mighty palace where people could ooh and ah over their generosity. But they put them with the rightful owner and ultimate giver of good gifts. They put them in a tiny house (before those were cool) with a dusty dirt floor, with a young mother and a small child. These gifts giving were not about them at all. This was about giving Jesus – the King of the Jews and THEIR King – the best of the best of the BEST.

Verse 12 “And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.”

They had heard about the Messiah, they were waiting for Him to come. God chose them to be able to see this Star and have the impulse to go and follow it – no matter the cost. Once they saw Jesus, they fell down and worshiped and gave Him their everything. They saw Jesus face to face and encountered His presence. King Herod gave them specific instructions to return to him, but they did not care. They ignored him and didn’t even consider the consequences. Remember, Herod was crazy so they deliberately disobeyed not just a king, but a wacko king who could have easily tracked them down and destroyed them and their families if he wanted to. But they did not care. Jesus became their one and only King. Jesus became their everything. Once they encountered God-in-man, the fear of man was driven far from them because the fear of God had moved in.

kneeling in worship

As we’re in the first month of 2018 I’m personally facing a lot of unknowns. I have some doubts, and I have a lot of fears. But I am thankful that God shared with us the story of the wise men because I think I have a lot to learn from them. My prayer is that my heart and my attitude would mirror the wise men. My prayer is that I would be on a daily search for Jesus, that I would worship Him, that I would give Him my best, and that my fears would be overshadowed and taken away because my fear of God would move in.

What about you?

Resolution of Reflection

Reflection-photography-tips-inspiration

“New Year, New Me” has been a common phrase this past week with the anticipation of the beginning point of 2018. New Year’s Resolutions are popping up everywhere: exercise programs, diet changes, dating and relationship goals, and social media fasts just to name a few. It’s interesting how the act of the earth fully making its journey around the sun can bring so much hope and rejuvenation to people. People line the streets of NYC to watch a ball drop so that they can begin the year fresh and new.

But I wonder. How many resolutions actually stick? How many days pass without mistakes? How many regrets will take place? How many people will await 2019 with the same anticipation of “new year, new me”, or “next year I will be better, do better, be more”. I’m not trying to make this blog negative. I’m just wanting to be real, and I think you might just be nodding your head in agreement.

Newness, anticipation and hope fills the air. As we begin our resolutions, or search for answers for our questions, longings and dreams of this year, so often these things are approached with the concept that we’re almost like a new person. Or wanting to be “new”. But at the end of the day, we realize we have goals. Maybe even good goals that we actually achieve. But 2018 will be another year that will be mixed with joy and sorrow. Peace and suffering.

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So in the midst of making our way through resolutions and as we try (and possibly fail) at them, it’s reassuring that as followers of Jesus, we don’t become a “new person” with each passing year. There’s not major pressure to have only 365 days of making ourselves new only to hit the repeat button at the turn of 2019. We became a new person once we turned toward Heaven and said “Thy will be done”.

2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Our newness already happened. We are made new because of Christ. Our past is forever behind us and everyday, not just every new year, we have the opportunity to look ahead. It’s a journey though, the journey of sanctification. Not becoming “new” all the time, but deepening our love for God and growing in our obedience and dependence upon Him.

So in this New Year, I have decided to challenge myself and I’m challenging you to begin an internal resolution before adding on all the possible external resolutions. My challenge to myself is to begin with reflection of my own heart, and to reflect Jesus in everything I say, in everything I do, and in every interaction I have with people more in 2018 than I did in 2017.

That is my resolution.

Ok. You may be thinking that sounds like a good idea, but reflecting Jesus is a pretty broad statement. Good thought. I’ll be honest and tell you that I don’t fully know what this resolution will look like. However, I am certain of three things: 1) Satan will not like it which gives me reason to stay on guard; 2) I am a selfish human and will undoubtedly fail at keeping my resolution for 365 days straight; 3) The Bible is a map for our journey, and it’s pretty clear on explaining the kinds of things that accurately reflect Christ.

Curious? Good. Let me unpack this.

One of my favorite passages is from Colossians chapter three. Like clothing that we put on every morning, Paul instructs us with what God–glorifying characteristics we should put on or adorn ourselves with. And people *generally* keep their clothes on all day. So, when he said “put on”, I think he means “stay on”. And this is my prayer for myself these next 365 days is that I will keep these on.

Colossians 3:12-15 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

So how will my New Year’s Resolution of reflecting Jesus look like?

Dear Jesus, I want to be more like you. Help me, by your grace, reflect you to all people and in all circumstances.

to do listHelp me in 2018 to:

Have a heart full of compassion instead of coldness

Be kind instead of bitter

Be humble and meek instead of proud

Be patient instead of rushed or anxious

Be there for anyone who needs me at anytime, instead of being tied to my own agenda. Help me bear with people including loving the un-lovable, without caring what others may think of me

Be forgiving instead of holding grudges

Be loving – real and genuinely loving that points people to You instead of being cheap or insincere with my love

Be peaceful instead of anxious

Be thankful instead of an ungrateful consumerist

Verses 16-17 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Keeping our hearts and minds fixed on Jesus is the only way we can apply the list above to our lives. At least, it’s the only way I can apply the list to my life. And I am ok with that. If Jesus is telling me to do everything in word and deed in His name, then I don’t know about you, but I certainly want to be as sure as I can to properly reflect Him to all those around me. And thanks be to God that the act of reflecting Him isn’t some aloof concept that we try to grasp, but that He was kind enough to give us clear characteristics of how to adorn ourselves everyday in order to best reflect Christ.

Bible heart

The hard thing for me will actually be maintaining this resolution, just like everyone else in their own New Years Resolutions. My prayer is that I will not be quick to fall off track. But even when I do – and I will because I am a selfish human –  I thank God for the grace He gives and that His map will always stay open before me. It’s just my job to decide if I am willing and ready to daily read this map and follow the directions.

 

 

Happy New Year to all! May the Lord’s richest blessings be upon you and yours.