During my high school years the way I handled stress at home or any stress for that matter was to run away. I didn't know what to do with my anger. I would just leave. The last time I ran away was when I was a Senior. I look back now and see I had an emotional break. For a year or so I either had a place to live or I didn't. I didn't always have food to eat or clean clothes to wear. I was essentially homeless on and off. Eventually I ended up at my Grandmother's home. She and my Grandpa took me in, gave me a place to stay, food to eat, clean clothes, and sleep...glorious sleep. I had been running, and now I could stop.
After talking to my friend over email during Thanksgiving I likened my relationship with God to my runaway experience. I come to God homeless, dirty, broken, and in need of rest. The world will tell you if you do that, if you come to God like this, you will find judgement and fury. It's simply not true, when you hand God your broken life you will find peace, rest, unconditional love, and joy. It's part of letting go and trusting God that he will heal you.
When my middle child was about 3 or 4 I went to a ladies luncheon at church. I had a particularly bad morning of parenting and left her with her father, both of us in tears. During the luncheon I didn't talk much but when the time came to share, I just started crying. I remember saying, "she brings me to the end of myself!" I look back on that morning now, knowing that God was trying to show me that I had to be brought to the end of myself to come to Him. He was using this to draw me near.
Nothing is lost on our Heavenly Father. He is using everything to bring you closer to Him. He wants to show you this truth: Romans 8:28 - The Voice (VOICE)
28 We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.
As I look back on these two memories, I realize that I had so many regrets surrounding both situations. I had regrets about the luncheon as a friend of mine, was newly married and trying to have children, and here I was crying about how hard parenting is and how I just couldn't get through it. I have lived with regret regarding running away, there were so many people I hurt, including myself. But, God in his infinite and abounding mercy redeems those situations as I see His hand in my life. I no longer live with these painful memories as blights on my life, instead I rejoice. Why? Because God has covered any decision, everything I have done with His love.
He has brought me to the end of myself, and that is where I find Him, smiling over me, loving me, accepting me, and giving me rest.
As I sat with God regarding these things, this song came across my spotify, and I thought I would share it. It's perfect. Take a few minutes to sit with Jesus and let Him speak sweet truths into your heart:
It's all to easy, to live life with the expectation that a better life is just around the corner. I'm guilty of the striving and leaning into the belief that my work will bring me success. Success measured by money and accolades. Yet, God has been showing me a different way.
I thought by the time I reached this age, I would have a meaningful career, excess money in the bank, and living a resemblance of the "American Dream". I've spent the past 11 years working to further my fundraising skills, and build a secure life for me and my family. I honed a skill in writing and I thought I had arrived when I became a Grant Writer, or so I thought, When I accepted an offer to work at a well-known nonprofit I believed, "This is it! This is the career I've always wanted." But you know, and I know, that when people are involved even the best situation can become untenable. So here I was, the dream job, we were starting to build something, and I was completely miserable! I started to pray for deliverance and took a job in the corporate world as a Technical Writer. Now stay with me because this is where I'm at, in the middle of a struggling economy, moved from my writing position into a department that I have no background or training. Yet, I'm closer to home, working with my husband, making the same salary, but not writing.
I began to think, where is God sending me? Where could we possibly be going with this? I felt ashamed and I wondered, why God would choose this path for me? Then I read this:Isaiah 56:7-8
The Message (MSG)
6-8 “And as for the outsiders who now follow me,
working for me, loving my name,
and wanting to be my servants--
All who keep Sabbath and don’t defile it,
holding fast to my covenant--I’ll bring them to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
They’ll be welcome to worship the same as the ‘insiders,’
to bring burnt offerings and sacrifices to my altar.
Oh yes, my house of worship
will be known as a house of prayer for all people.”
The Decree of the Master, God himself,
who gathers in the exiles of Israel:
“I will gather others also,
gather them in with those already gathered.
I don't always get it but, right now I see clearly God's work in my life. Because that job, it doesn't define me. Instead I want to follow him, worship him, live among those who are gathered in by Him. Nothing is going to give me the joy my heart longs for. I will only find joy at His holy mountain and in His house of prayer. Living in his holy and protective presence, while going through this life will bring me closer to my Savior and mold me into something that I'm hoping sometimes resembles Him. So here I am, free to write whatever the Lord leads me, without the confines of a job dictating exactly what I must say. Following Him, is my freedom.
We were made for a purpose, and the world will lie to you and tell you that purpose is riches, fame, and exaltation. We fall into the trap that our worth is simply measured by the amount of money we have in our bank account. I know this, because I fall into that same trap, the ensnaring nature of this world wants you focused solely on you, and it will use you and spit you out.
But, we can trust in the Infinite, we can trust in a Creator that made the heavens and the earth. We see a vast world and universe and feel so small and sometimes friends, we feel worthless. I am here to tell you, God created you for a purpose, it is for his pleasure. He adores and loves you.
Let this be the cry of our heart as we set out to serve the Lord this week: Psalm 8
1 O Eternal, our Lord,
Your majestic name is heard throughout the earth;
Your magnificent glory shines far above the skies.
2 From the mouths and souls of infants and toddlers, the most innocent,
You have decreed power to stop Your adversaries
and quash those who seek revenge.
3 When I gaze to the skies and meditate on Your creation--
on the moon, stars, and all You have made,
4 I can’t help but wonder why You care about mortals--
sons and daughters of men--
specks of dust floating about the cosmos.
5 But You placed the son of man just beneath God
and honored him like royalty, crowning him with glory and honor.
6 You ordained him to govern the works of Your hands,
to nurture the offspring of Your divine imagination;
You placed everything on earth beneath his feet:
7 All kinds of domesticated animals,
even the wild animals in the fields and forests,
8 The birds of the sky and the fish of the sea,
all the multitudes of living things that travel the currents of the oceans.9 O Eternal, our Lord, Your majestic name is heard throughout the earth.
God's been speaking to my heart lately about His love. During my alone time with Him, in my Pursuit group, and at church, He's speaking to me about how much he loves me!
I'll be the first to admit that intimacy is not something that comes easy for me. Avoiding deep feelings that can come when you are loved unconditionally is a much more comfortable space for me, than allowing that truth to sink into my soul. I become afraid of being let down, hurt, or rejected so I build a wall, and sit in the comfy spot and guarding my heart carefully. But, my perfect Father in heaven will not allow me to stay there. He calls me gently to Him.
Yesterday my son ran into the house with a bowl full of persimmons. He was so excited to harvest this mysterious fruit. We've never tasted them, and I even had to research how to use them. They are beautiful fruit, and are blooming during a time when everything around them is dying. These pretty orange ornaments, look lovely sitting on our kitchen table, and after they ripen some more I hope we can enjoy them. While thinking about this fun harvest we had, a verse came to mind:Galatians 5:22-23
: The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
The Holy Spirit produces a DIFFERENT kind of fruit. This means that the fruit I had prior to surrendering my life to God was not the kind that produces the fruits of the spirit. I must have the Holy Spirit in order to receive and give unconditional love. This is not a natural thing or something I'm born with, it is God's work in me, in us, in you. I open my heart to God, and in turn I'm loved so perfectly and sweetly, that it flows from me and into those around me.
I've never tasted a love so sweet nor did I know what to do with this love for a long time. I still don't think I have a complete understanding of God's love, in its entirety. However I feel that wall crumbling, as I hand over pieces of my broken life. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says. "But now faith, hope, and love remain; these three virtues must characterize our lives. The greatest of these is love." Our Father does not care how many people you've served, or songs you've sung, or money you have given to charity, if it is done without love, it means nothing. Because He cares about one thing, do you know his love?
No greater love will you ever experience than this: the love of the Father. It was so important that we live, He sent his son to die on the cross. While we are among the scoffers He still loves us. While we were sinners, He still died for us.
I don't know about you, but I need to sit with Jesus and let his love song speak to my heart. Will you?
I wanted to take a moment and tell you a little bit about the new logo for this little blog. A few years ago God placed it on my heart to abide in Him. Just like in John 15:5 where Jesus says, "I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you abide in Me and I in you, you will bear great fruit. Without Me, you will accomplish nothing." He was asking me to enter into a deeper relationship.
Now that I look back, on this call I realize that God was grasping at my fingertips and reaching for the hem of my dress as I ran from Him. Now that I can see clearer, of course He knew I was about to turn from Him. But, because He is faithful, He was giving me an opportunity, another way to live. He was saying, "Remain in Me, without Me there is NOTHING!" I was stubborn, and didn't.
Like the prodigal daughter I was, I quickly realized my great need for a Father. He was merciful and good to forgive. Now that I'm learning to be more intimate with God, my journey has begun. It's a journey that leads to God the vine, and he has grafted us in as the branches so that if we remain in Him we will bare His fruit. Sweeter than anything we can produce on our own. So my prayer is that I will abide deeply, that you will abide deeply, in our Father's love.
Sometimes it comes over me like a wave. This weekend, that's exactly what happened. I was laying in bed watching a movie, and I felt it cover me like an old won blanket. It works to block out the light in my heart. It covers the flame, that has just been burning bright. I feel the tears trickle down my face and I wonder, "will I ever be a happy person?"
Depression, it's a tricky business because you never know when it's going to hit you. I know the triggers: bad diet, not enough sleep, too much activities, and so on. However, I'm not always aware that I've triggered this thing inside me and I'm almost always taken by surprise. I don't allow myself to linger too long on the mountains edge, I'm always aware that emotions can take me to places I don't want to go. So instead I turn around and I look for water.
It goes something like this: I'm covered by this blanket, this heavy, worn and tattered blanket. Then I hear untruth, like the one I expressed earlier, about not ever being a happy person, and then I realize just how thirsty I've become. It's a thirst I can not quench, it can only come from the Living Water, my Savior. I know I can come to the water, drink as often as I like, and never be thirsty again.
I've come to not fear these dark times. You see, God's light shines brightest in the darkest places. It's there I often see God's hand even more clearly. He meets me under that blanket of sadness, reaches out his hand, leads me by still waters, and refreshes my soul.
Then when I do see the light of day again, because I always have, it's so much more sweeter. We have struggled together through the valley, climbed out, and he has lifted me up so that I the light of the Father can shine on my face. It is good.
John 4:13-14 The Voice (VOICE)
Jesus: Drink this water, and your thirst is quenched only for a moment. You must return to this well again and again. I offer water that will become a wellspring within you that gives life throughout eternity. You will never be thirsty again.
Psalm 23:4 The Voice (VOICE)
Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness,
I am not overcome by fear.
Because You are with me in those dark moments,
near with Your protection and guidance,
I am comforted.
“Send me.” This was the simple prayer I offered up to my Heavenly Father before my life took some twists and turns this week. In an instant He made it clear it was time for us to leave our church. The next day, I was moved to a different department at work, away from my writing job. Then Biblegateway.com offered me a new ministry opportunity. While I was being sent in directions I hadn't planned on going, I had to stop and breathe, “Could this really be happening?” On the surface these seem like everyday life changes. As my heart started to stir, I remembered my prayer. Being in God’s presence will sometimes turn your life around, so that it is pointed solely towards Him. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah details an experience he has with God. He enters into God’s holy place, sees Him on the throne and witnesses angels. In vs. 5 Isaiah says this in response to seeing such a great sight: “I am in so much trouble! I’m ruined! I’m just a human being—fallible and stammering. My lips are encrusted with filth; and I live among people just like me. But here I am, and I’ve seen with my very own eyes none other than the King, the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies.” Isaiah sees his own humanity, his sin, and his unworthiness. Being close to God’s light allows Isaiah to see himself for who he really is. It’s not a comfortable situation to be in. It makes me think about some of my quiet times with God. As I drew near, I saw my sin. Like Isaiah, there were times that I was able to confess my failings and God was faithful. In vs. 6-7 the passage goes on by saying: Then one of the flaming creatures flew to me holding a red-hot ember which it had taken from God’s table, the temple altar, with a pair of tongs. The creature held it to my lips. Flaming Creature: Look! With the touch of this burning ember on your lips, your guilt is turned away; All your faults and wrongdoings are forgiven. The only thing Isaiah had to do was acknowledge his sin to God and He was healed. This is what being in God’s presence does in your life. It is in those quiet times with Jesus that you are able to gain clarity, become aware, and receive healing grace that can only come from Him. But, God doesn't stop there: Vs. 8 Then I heard the Lord’s voice. Eternal One: Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us? Do you see the big picture? He draws you near. You enter into God’s presence, you see your sin, you confess it, and HE heals you, prepares you, and then sends you. Isaiah’s response is simple, “Here I am! Send me.” This meek yet powerful answer to God’s request was full of bravery and a heart for the fallen, just like Isaiah. You see, when we experience God’s grace and mercy, we can’t just keep it for ourselves. God wants us to pour out that grace and mercy on a land of sinful people, like us. So when God sent me out of my church, out of my job, out of my comfort zone, I could do only one thing, trust Him. Why? Because friends, He’s been so faithful and just in my life. This life with the Lord is not just for me, it’s for you too. When you experience God in any way, you are changed. My heart for you, dear one, is that you enter into to His holy presence and stay there. See your sin, confess it…be healed. Then, be like salve to hurting people. Let Him send you. Spend a few minutes listening to this song, written about Isaiah’s experience and the Holy God we serve:
I want to preface this post by saying that I am writing this with the permission and consent of my husband.
Let me tell you about who I was three years ago. I was a church-going, non-profit working, wife and mom. I lead worship, I had a powerful testimony, and I worked hard to do everything right, there was a lot of striving. I was lost.
I look back now and I'm in wonder of how easy it was to be deceived. It didn't take much to draw me away. I turned my back on my husband and my children. I accepted a proposition that could cause me lose everything. I could drive myself crazy wondering why I did such a thing. It's even hard to admit it now, but I had an affair. While I feel specifics are unnecessary, I can tell you this, I had allowed another man to speak to me in a way that only my husband should, and I returned that attention in kind, when I should have turned my back.
I eventually broke it off with him, but the Holy Spirit had other plans, and my husband decided to look through my email history one day. The day my husband found out, was the worst day of my life. All I remember was him asking what was going on, I told him everything, and then I started treading water. I knew my job was to be humble, to keep my head above water, and try not to break. I went to bed and stayed there for days. I was scared and alone.
As hard as this was for me, it was exponentially harder for my husband. I had fractured our marriage and He was hurt so badly I almost couldn't bear it. I confessed to our church leadership, I resigned my position on the worship team, and I told the wife of the man I had an affair with everything. Those were some hard and dark days, my friends. I grieve it even now as I write this. It was so unnecessary!
Because I had married a good man, and even more -God was pursuing me, my husband forgave me. I'm not sure how, I'm not sure I would have been so giving. We moved away from our hometown, to get distance, and I went into the wilderness. On the other side of all this was a real and powerful relationship with the Lord. Excepting God's redemption was a huge step in healing this fractured life of mine.
In Exodus 15:13 it says "In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling." Getting to a better place, took some work. My husband fought through distrust, anger, and hurt. I fought to forgive myself, to find God again, to learn to live with this mistake I had made. There were lots of tears, lots of talks, but above it all, it took honesty. Sometimes that honesty was brutal, but we had to start being honest. But through it all God's love full of mercy and grace was woven through hard discussions and weary traveled paths. He saw who I was and loved me.
I was recently listening to the Village Church (of Flower Mound, Texas) and the Pastor said this phrase that I realized was exactly what God wanted to etch on my heart through all of this:
"So expensive are you before the King of Glory that Christ died on the cross in your stay."
I'll be honest, I've not always felt valuable. Years of giving my heart to unworthy men caused me to miss this truth, that I am expensive and purchased by the blood of the lamb. I'm worthy of the love my husband has for me. He values me, the person I am, my thoughts, my heart, my failings, just me...he values me. Just like God's unfailing love for me. There is nothing more sweet, more kind, more lovely than this love we now share. I won't trade it for anything.
I've learned to turn to God because without him I'm unable to be honest, set boundaries, feel loved, and more than any of that to get up when I fall. Because I will fall, I will hurt people with my sin, I am imperfect. In 1 Peter 4:8 it says "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." Oh, friends, it does.
Dear friends, if there is anything from my story that I hope you take with you is that you are worthy. Worthy of a pure love, worthy of God's love, worthy of forgiveness. You are his and purchased to live a life free of the bindings of sin. If you are in sin, turn away from it. Confess it now so that you can be healed. Then, lean on God, because you can't do it alone, trust me. He is for you!
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.
Isaiah 5:20 O how terrible for those who confuse good with evil, right with wrong, light with dark, sweet with bitter.
I want to start with a confession, I'm writing this blog post from a time of exhaustion. My daughter has been running a fever and throwing up. I only slept for three hours last night. My kids have all been sick, as have my husband and I. I'm tired. People around us are going through hardships, my church is struggling, and I have to admit to you something, I've traded sweet for bitter.
But in this moment, as I type and pour out my heart to you, I turn to Jesus. Oh it's been easy to be grumpy, stressed, uneasy, sad...light has been overshadowed. In those times, I forget how near my savior is. Isn't it easy to confuse good and evil when we are tired? I know this is why God has asked to take a Sabbath, to rest in him, to lean back and know who he is.
I'm was reading the verse above and it made me think about sugar substitutes. Sure, they look like sugar, smell like sugar, and even taste like sugar. But, often they are filled with chemicals that can harm your body, and have a bitter aftertaste. That is the way it is with sin.
For example, something as simple as telling a lie to not hurt someone's feelings can often look like kindness and mercy yet, it's sinful and will often riddle your relationship. Or a situation could arise where you are juggling your schedule to much and decide not to follow through with a commitment. Your sweet intentions have become bitter as someone now much arrange for someone else to help. See how easy it can be?
Brothers and sisters, lets pray that God shows us His ways so that we may know the sweetness that comes from the Lord. The real and only place we can go for a good dose of reality in who we are. We are his friends, and loved by him greatly.
My heart would be this, that I as a changed person in Christ, know who I am in Him so that the subtle ways I may choose darkness over light will be few and far between. What are you substituting for a life rich of the blessings of the Lord? I pray He shows you and you can experience redemption that can only come for Him.
I'm in the midst of a journey through Isaiah with my Savior. It's going to be a great one I can tell. We're in Chapter 2 and already I'm coming away with a new sense of who God is and all that He has for me. We've been talking about what the center of my life is and what it should be. We've been talking about letting go, and what I may be hanging on to that keeps me from him. It's been intense.
I've never been the type of woman who hung on too tightly to things. I never have really had to have the best house, nice cars, cool clothes, or the latest technology. I'm usually pretty content with what I have. Yet, just like anyone else I have desires. I often yearn for better. When the economy crashed a couple of years ago, what little we had amassed for ourselves was stripped away. I've talked about this before, how God has used that to show me, the need for Him in my life. It had to be done, it was because He is good. So, when I got to these verses I was surprised at how far I still am from where God is:
Isaiah 2: 17. On that day, human kind's false pride will be shattered and pulled down. Then the Eternal, no one and nothing else, will be the center of attention, Lifted up in high esteem. 18.As for all the idols, they will vanish...20. When that day arrives, people will leave behind the idols they made to worship, even those made of silver and gold. The things they felt were so important - to the moles and bats.
Being a southern woman, I have so much pride, I take pride in my pride! I take pride in taking care of my family, my abilities at work, my writing in this blog, my singing...it goes on and on and on and on. But, that pride is rather meaningless in the light of these words from the Lord. All this pride sends God out of the center and into the peripheral. What replaces Him is often this false pride, and ourselves. Once again here we are in front of ourselves built up so great we can't see Him.
Idols...isn't this a world of Idols? Every reality show is peppered with people we wish we were. The news is filled with gossip, we want to be who we aren't. We want the things other people have. It's an extreme example I know but what about, losing weight? We idolize those around us who look better than us. How about nice houses and new furniture? Oh there's nothing really wrong with have nice things, but is it taking your focus off of God. Is He your center? Is He mine? I worry a lot about finances. It often will dictate how happy I am on a given day. Isn't that silly? It's true though. It's often my center, not God.
But, then friends, He's coming back. and in that moment all of that is going to be gone. It's meaningless. It's dirt. It's nothing. Come! Let's go to the Eternal's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, so that we might learn from Him how best to be, to go along in life as he would have us go. (vs. 3) Let's spend time on what matters, what is eternal.
What do we need to let go? Pride? Idols? Money? Children? Hopes? Dreams? Beauty? Let's go to the Eternal's mountain. Let's lay down all of these things at his feet and lift him high. We will have to do this every day, every moment...assessing if what we are doing, thinking and saying mean anything in the light of eternity. We won't be able to do it on our own WE need Jesus. We must spend time in his word, mulling over his heart, listening to his whispers, crying out to him in repentance...because friends, we are desperate. We need better. Better than what the world has for us. Better than the lie that the enemy tells us, that we are worthless.
Let's go to the mountain, the Eternal's mountain. Let's learn how best to be. How to live this life. Make Him our center. There's no other way.
Everything we do in service to the Lord usually starts with the best intentions. And so it goes with many things, like leading worship. One Sunday, I had planned a beautiful, acoustic hymn-filled worship set. It all culminated to the last song, the Doxology. We had decided that I would start the song and then the band would come in. I asked everyone to stand and sing in faith. As the words, "Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow"; fell from my lip, the band came in. I was in the wrong key. Not one to give up, I pressed on, painfully. Finally I had to stop and have everyone start over. My plans for a triumphant and dramatic end to worship was whisked away by my human failings.
I was embarrassed, sad, and generally I felt defeated. I didn't want to lead worship again, face my church family, or even talk about it. However, God called me to his side and asked me to talk to Him about it, I'm glad I obeyed. All I could say is this: "Lord, the best I could give you this morning was a song in the wrong key." And He replied, "That's all I wanted. I wanted you to give me your everything."
As I remember this precious conversation, tears are falling from my eyes. I am humbled by the great and powerful love of the Father. Friends, life is really hard. We are tired. We are weary. We long for heaven. Jesus desires nothing more than for you to hand over to him all you have, if it's in the wrong key. Don't wait until you think you have a perfect gift for him. Give him everything.
This reminds me of a David Crowder song, "All I Can Say
". In the song he talks about how tired he is and how he wishes God would remember who he is and his promises to him. Towards the end of the song he realizes what, I hope, we all will come to know, God was there all the time. Washing our feet. Being our friend. Loving us, little, imperfect us.
All we have to give him is ourselves, it is enough. What can you give to him today? Your time? Your money? Your talent? Why not give him everything and see how uses those things, as imperfect as they are, for his Glory. My off-key song was not the last song I gave to my Savior, but it ended up being the most meaningful sacrifice I can recall. Why? Because he showed me his loving hands. That is something I will never forget.
I love you, let me know how I can pray for you. Give him your everything.