Challenging Narratives

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” NASV

My husband had a conversation with someone dear to us that has inspired me to work through some thoughts I’ve kind of held on to for awhile now. I say kind of, because I’ve shared them with him but no one else.

I want to talk about grace– actually– point out a lack of the narrative of grace.

Grace is the difference between Christianity and every other religious belief.

Grace is humbling. Grace removes our efforts from the act of Salvation.

Grace should be easy to demonstrate and practice, a relaxation of criticism and fault-finding. But, in reality, grace is tough.

Grace removes blame. Grace replaces pride and self importance.

Grace removes accusations of other Christians.

We have many, many, many excuses for why it’s not first and foremost in our mindset, actions and view of others.

We look at what others do and we jump to some pretty strong conclusions about them and the condition of their soul, because of their choices that we don’t agree with.

We judge the container of their soul and think we’re in the right.

Only Jesus Saves.

Not doing the “right” “approved” things.

Not going to every church service possible and exhausting ourselves while not being ministered to or admitting what our needs are.

Not having a perfect house.

Not only reading “accepted” books or playing “accepted” games.

We don’t lose our Salvation by watching movies or shows that have garbage in them.

Our part in the Salvation process is confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and believing in our heart that He died on the cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb, rose again on the third day, and He ascended into Heaven to wait for the time to return to rule and reign on earth for 1000 years. And then– go out and share the Gospel of peace and grace.

That is our part.

Jesus makes the changes to the desires of our hearts.

He is continuously perfecting us until His return.

Allow me to clarify: I’m not talking about outright sin. Some things are not in our best interest. Some things are stumbling blocks and we know what we need to avoid in order to have the best relationship with Jesus that we can– like we should also do with others.

Before every Christian there is a measure of grace.

Christians should be so full of grace that it coats every word and deed we do.

So– why isn’t the main narrative grace?

Which narrative will you fall for? Accuser of the brethren, or grace?

I want to choose grace.

How about you?

Loved Of God, Called By God

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 NASV

As a child until young adulthood, I didn’t expect anything good to happen for me. When it did, I would brace myself for it to be ripped away from me, because then I wouldn’t feel disappointment– because I just “knew” *I* didn’t deserve good things like everyone else did.

I carried that belief with me until I made the decision to stop just letting things happen *to* me.

I had been rejected, abused, trash-talked and the butt of family member’s and some “friendsjokes my whole life. I was convinced I was stupid, good for nothing– worthless– because I was told I was by people I thought knew me best. I thought I had to believe them.

Someone even told me they wished I had never been born. Everyday it was confirmed that I “was just in the way.”

Inner wounds and scars are tricky things. People react with compassion and understanding to outer wounds and scars, but fail to recognize that some behaviors are more than likely the evidence of inner wounds, of deep scars only God Himself can see and heal.

And He does heal them.

This is what Romans 8:28 reminds me everytime I hear it. For me, it’s deeply personal.

It’s evidence of God reaching out for me– to me– because I’m not in the way of His plans and purposes– I am a part of them.

He took my life, and He repurposed it. He refashioned it, reshaped it into something He can use. He has taken all of my bads and made them into part of His continuous story within my life.

He takes all of the bad, and uses it to help others know that He is Jehovah Rapha– The Lord Who heals.

I used to worry that people said things to me because that was how God saw me, but the more I learn His Word, the more I can see He has always had compassion for me, has always accepted me. He carefully made me, and where abuse and rejection had trounced and marred me– He picked me up, reshaped me around all of those circumstances, and He reminds me that if those bad things hadn’t happened, I could never understand the depth of His love for me, and His forgiveness towards me. He helped me forgive those who have acted with selfish ambitions– with little or no concern for how it has affected me.

I still have “people trust” issues.

What I no longer have is God trust issues. He has proven Himself reliable.

My Shoes

Nobody says, “I wonder what it would be like to walk in their shoes?” about abused children.

No one daydreams about being yelled at, called names– or worse.

No one envies the child with the broken spirit, no one celebrates their choice to fight to survive.

One of the strongest memories of my dad was the time I walked into our living room and he just started yelling at me about how much he hated me, how I was just in the way– how he wished I were dead and had never been born.

I reacted to that, at first, by contemplating ways to take myself out of the way. Then– I called my best friend.

She helped me realize the best way to help myself would be to remove myself from the situation. So– I planned a vacation, where I could strengthen my will to continue to live.

I was in high school at the time. I planned for a two week vacation from my life. I took time off from my job, I arranged for a place to stay, and I told no one except the person I stayed with where I would be.

That saved my life.

It was inconvenient for others, I know. Some worried– and they should have. They should have been worried more about my state of mind before I took my time-out, than the fact that I left.

I only used a week of that planned two weeks.

I was introduced to a life I had never known before that, but it was just enough to realize– that also was not the kind of life I wanted to live.

I woke up to some harsh realities, and I walked away from some permanent options that would have become permanent mistakes– had I chosen to take them.

I had always had a secret life of envying others who had dads that were loving, kind, and healthy. Dads who’s hugs were not dangerous, where insults were not the “norm”– ones that cherished their daughters.

My dad, he had a rough childhood. He probably had a secret envy life, as well.

I forgave my dad for his failings, years ago.

I made sure my own children had what I envied of others (God made sure too) because I knew what I had missed. I don’t blame my mom for my dad’s issues. It’s never been her fault.

I love my friends who have had wonderful, nurturing and healthy relationships with their fathers. But, it’s like bumping an unseen bruise to know that that’s something I will never get to know firsthand.

I’m old enough that I’ve forgotten many things I’ve experienced. That ache at what I was robbed of is always there, though, silently throbbing under the surface.

I’m so very happy for others, but my heart silently envies and daydreams about what their lives must have been like.

I’ve attempted to try on their shoes, but my callouses and bruises keep them from fitting comfortably, I’ve never been able to walk in them.

I’ve heard more often than I can count, that God is my Father. True– He is. He is a good father.

As awesome as God is, I still have a lack in my heart for a loving, mentally healthy, earthly dad. That’s my reality. Acceptance from God has been more healing than anything anyone could offer. This is why more mentally healthy, accountable-to-others, Christian men need to step up inside the church. There are people of all ages missing healthy relationships. We are so quick to just expect God to mysteriously fill every void and heal every affliction, when God gave us to one another.

Jesus made sure his own mother had someone to step in to fill the void He was leaving. What an amazing example of compassion and understanding! We lack nurturing, healthy relationships inside our church families. Our own members are hurting from devastating wounds and circumstances, and we busy ourselves with programs, not recognizing the deep needs right in front of us.

God help us to be what our own family-in-Christ needs us to be– what You call us to be.

God has given us shoes to wear. Shoes of the Gospel of Peace. Shouldn’t we wear them at all times, starting inside the Church? And if we don’t wear them there, if we take Abaraham’s burning bush approach and take them off on Holy Ground– Jesus made it abundantly clear the need to wash one another’s feet.

In other words– we need to look after one-another, with the same intimacy as close, healthy, loving family.

We need to get this right so we can effectively affect and reach the world around us with God’s gift of Hope, Love, and relationship with Him through Jesus.

Worship– What Exactly Is It?

We’ve all been there:

Cue music:

Oh, I love this song! I wonder if my hair looks ok? Did I brush my teeth? Oooh, my voice sounds so good today, I’ll sing louder!

How much thought do we give to God, really? Everytime? Do we pay attention to the words we sing?

Are we really worshiping God through music and singing?

As a worshiper, these are things that have been stirring up contemplation in my own heart lately.

The Bible tells us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. It tells us to exhort one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs and sing to God with gratitude.

I looked at 71 Bible verses about worship, and out of all of those verses about 10 mention singing.

Not one mentions music.

Am I saying worshiping God with music is bad? Absolutely not– I believe it is genius!

But, what I am saying is– worship and praise are not music. They can be done with music, with singing, but music is not the definition.

I wonder how God sees what we do in our churches we call His house? Does it really honor Him? Does He approve? Does He even like it?

Or, does He see that really, we are doing it for ourselves, at least, sometimes, and only think it satisfies God?

Or, maybe we are missing that whole worhip Him in spirit and in truth, completely.

How do we worship God in spirit and in truth? What would that look like to God? Do we even try to worship Him outside of the music sets and practice times?

What does worship mean?

What does praise mean?

I do believe we all come to a point in our walk with Jesus where these questions burn into our spirit. We think we know, but–

Do we really?

May God grant us understanding, a willingness to learn, along with eyes and ears to hear and see what we might not already, clearly.

Don’t stop the music and singing. Let’s just do a heart and understanding check to see if we are missing something.

Reflections

Today is my birthday. I’m ?? years old– my Grandma always said “A lady never reveals her age.”

I’m feeling like– I made it! I survived! I feel a kind of rejunenation today.

Also tired.

I’m leaving an era behind me. My husband just retired from the military, and we’re moving into a new phase that I think we are both pretty excited about. I wish I had the same energy I had in my youth to do cartwheels and cheers. My mind is full of energy, but my body is on a whole other plateau.

My husband and I get to enjoy the fruits of our labor now– or soon, anyway. There are always hurdles and obstacles in our course. We’ve learned to weather some big, strongs storms– natural and figurative.

I find myself taking some serious deep breaths. I can let go of some of the heavy things I’ve carried over the years. I can let out that mental breath I’ve held for over 20 years as my husband was sent away from us for months at a time, waiting to find out the unknown, not anticipating the unexpected. I can start thinking about plans I’d like to make that we won’t have to change at the last minute.

I can start thinking about things I want to do.

That’s hard.

I’ve been mom, and military spouse for so long, I’ve tied most of my own interests into my family. My relationships with my kids and my husband have taken most of my energy and planning.

I have a new stage ahead of me that I get to set. I get to explore new things to find what I want to put on it.

I get to relearn, maybe even remake, who I am.

I’m still wife, mother and homeschool/violin teacher. But, now I can look around and add some other things that I want to. I’m not limited to what’s chosen for me, my plans aren’t laid out for me, I have a plethora options I didn’t have the freedom to choose before.

I have the benefit of hindsight, and the excitement of foresight.

I have so much to be thankful for to God, my husband and the military.

I haven’t felt a physical joy in a long time. It feels almost foreign to me as I feel it now– almost like that part of me is thawing out.

I’m genuinely looking forward to the next ?? years that God grants me to live.

Also– I have birthday pancakes made for me by one of my boys.

Life is good.

Awoken

Have you ever told the truth, then had to try to prove you were telling the truth, about something that no one wanted to believe?

I have.

Have you ever been called a liar by people who knew you were telling the truth, to others who did not? And the others not only believed you were lying, they punished and rejected you because of it?

I have.

Have you ever had your character slandered, purposefully, just to protect the actions of someone else?

I have.

I know, beyond any shadow of doubt, with a passionate fire in my bones– I know President Trump has been put into that situation a million times worse than I experienced.

I hated being put in that position.

I despise with every fiber of my being what is being done to President Trump’s character and his family.

I’m not talking about his past life of bad decisions and unChristian choices.

I’m talking about now. How he has stepped up to do what no other President has ever done, by listening to the concerns of people, like myself, who have been shut down and ignored for years, decades– for some of us our entire years of understanding.

I am deeply grieved that so many will not simply take a step back and see what is actually happening. The slander of the media, the political attacks from all sides against President Trump and his family.

I am even more grieved that Christians cannot accept or recognize where God is working through the actions of this President and his administration.

People are being set free– in record numbers– from human trafficking.

Most of those people are children and women– the two groups the opposing party claims to “champion”.

I had to write this, because I am so deeply troubled by a lack of compassion and ability to see God through the smoke and mirrors people opposing this man and his prayerful, praying choices are constantly tainted and painted with.

Please– wake up. Ask God what the truth is, because He will show you.

I may not have accurate knowledge of everything– and I don’t– but I firmly believe at the heart of President Trump is a man who simply wants to fix what Americans cannot fix, for Americans.

He has the vision God gave to our Founding Fathers.

If you truly trust God, you will learn through His Spirit that you can trust President Trump.

He needs our prayers and our support.

Regardless of your belief about him, as Christians we all need to be praying, unbiased, that God’s Will and Purposes be accomplished through him and his administration, and for his and their continued protection.

Pray that those mountains of obstacles be removed from the path God wants President Trump to plow through.

Don’t pray for him to fail– that is not God’s Will.

God is blessing our Nation through President Trump– like He blessed mankind through imperfect King David and his bloodline.

Please– ask God to show you the truth in all that is happening.

“Call unto me and I will answer you and I will show you great and marvelous things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

As Christians, all of us need to seek Him for the truth. Because if we don’t– we may be allowing ourselves to get caught up in a snare of lies and deception. And that’s on all sides of the political spectrum! God wants us to dwell in the truth— at all times. Not in our opinions or our fears that we may be wrong if we decide to believe what others say.

I was telling the truth.

Others chose to believe I was lying.

I was defensless.

I was punished and rejected.

I recognize the fruit of this pattern happening now with President Trump.

My spirit bears witness with his.

Trump deserves to be treated with Grace by every Christian.

I hope you will seek God with all you have, surrendering your opinions and your prejudices, and let God wash your understanding with the truth.

Because– He will.

Home

Home- Chris Tomlin

As a kid, when my Grandma yelled “Kids! Dinner!”, I stopped what I was doing, dropped everything, turned towards her voice and house, and raced home as fast as my legs would move me.

Before that, I was so involved in whatever I was doing or playing like “ice cream truck” with my tricycle upside down and the pedals spinning, (not sure how exactly that made it an ice cream truck, but– it was the best game to play!), or burying m&m’s and pennies hoping for very special trees to grow quickly– nothing else mattered!

Important things, right?

As I Watched the video linked above, I had this mental picture of Jesus in the distance, and then of me just freed from wrist shackles– throwing off the weight of the world that ties me to this place, taking off at a full dead-on run, pushing my legs hard to get to Jesus.

All those things I’ve been focused on asking for God to bring His Kingdom here on earth– Jesus is His Kingdom.

Jesus is His promise.

There is no one else I want to be as close to as possible, besides my husband– and even he takes a backseat to my Jesus. My Rescuer. My Holy Hero.

There is some ugliness in the world that is not going to let the healing, transformative Light and Life of Jesus into it. Ever. It will burn in that lake of fire with the enemy of God and our souls.

I want to be as close to Jesus as I possibly can be. Here on earth, in Heaven. Everywhere.

This song has reminded my spirit. There is nothing more important than closeness with Jesus.

Nothing.

No matter where I am, when I am close with Jesus– I am Home.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 NASB

His rod and staff can only comfort me when I am close to Him. This Psalm is a picture of walking close to Jesus.