Cycle of Frustration

The human ability to adapt to most situations and changes, is astounding. Even more-so is the ability to overcome— to beat, win, conquer overwhelming circumstances.

There are an infinite number of human-interest stories about people who beat the odds— and often God is credited for a person’s ability to do what our minds consider to be impossible.

I personally believe God should always be credited. God created every individual with the ability to focus with determination. God often allows us to be in situations where that is necessary. He put within every form of His creation the instinct to survive— to fight to live.

We see that all throughout nature. Butterflies struggle to be released from their chrysalis womb. It’s often been noted that if a human feels compassion and tries to help them get out, they can get damaged and even die. Human compassion most often lacks understanding of the necessary process for their survival.

Birds push their young from their nests to activate their instinct to fly.

Humans often feel the same sort of desire towards our offspring, but the difference lies in the dynamic of personal relationship between adult and young adult, as well as extenuating circumstances. Every situation is unique within the human relationship system. Background extending through generations, environments, financial situations, educational opportunities, personal experiences, directional purpose… an endless number of variables and belief systems.

The enemy to personal achievement is getting ourselves stuck in a perpetual cycle of frustration. Once we get into that, it can seem impossible to get out. Sometimes we stumble into that, sometimes we’re born into or placed into it, completely outside of our control. So, we adapt. We do what we believe becomes necessary for our survival.

Fight, or flight.

Sometimes the hard decision is to stand our ground and fight.

Sometimes we “feel” the need to fight, but we’re misdirecting our energy towards what looks very much like it should be our target focus. But, like trying to box against our own shadow, it ends up exhausting and depleting us of necessary energy, even robbing us of relationships.

Many marriages break apart in divorce because one or both individuals feel directed towards fighting against one another. Many marriages could be salvaged if only each person realized their spouse is not their enemy. Many marriages could become stronger, if instead all that energy being used in fighting each other could instead be directed towards fighting the invisible enemy breaking them apart.

The definition of invisible enemy is unique to every marriage (though I believe the exact same force is behind it)— but the result is often the same thing— trying to inflict as much pain through anger and disappointment as possible.

Marriages become blurred “friendly fire” zones, convincing spouses each other has become the enemy. Fight or flight is often activated. Instead of fighting to protect the union of two individual souls— nasty destructive anger becomes a sharpened arrow that penetrates the bone and marrow of the marriage.

It’s not only marriages where this happens. Families step into this quicksand-type trap. Brothers and sisters, parents and children, cousins against cousins. Family is messy. It’s a solid ground for forgiveness to be planted and nurtured. Unfortunately the personal nature instead often turns it into a battleground.

I’ve found myself stuck in an awful, exhausting cycle of frustration. There have been occasional outside distractions of conflict— especially lately. There has been the threat of my own marriage becoming a battleground of destructive distractions and fiery darts.

It’s not been easy to lay down my own types of weapons, and surrender everything to God to “please help.” I’m not the same person, deep within my core, that I used to be. My instinct used to be to fight against anything that threatened to hurt me, and not flee from it, but to turn my back and walk away.

God has changed me. He’s opened up my understanding that His way has not been my way. His way is forgiveness, surrendering the hard stuff to Him, and allowing Him to bring the healing.

His way is far better than my way.

At the beginning of my year, on my birthday, I felt God speak into my spirit that He will strengthen me this year. If anyone reading this knows the history of me at all, you could understand that I believed He meant with my physical health. Since the birth of our last child, I’ve dealt with a weakness in my legs, I believe came about because in a moment of personal weakness I chose to have an epidural. Since the birth of my first child, 21 years ago, I’ve fought an increasingly tough battle against other health issues that doctors haven’t found a solid, treatable cause for.

Imagine my surprise that instead of my physical health being strengthened, the very foundation of my life nearly crumbled apart. Many things I had believed turned out to be far different.

God is strengthening me in ways I was so clueless about. But first— I had to ask Him to be my strength, to help me walk because my path was all but gone. Life blinded me, I needed Him to be my sight. I’m still trying to adjust my sight to what feels at times like this blinding darkness— you know, like when you’re eyes are used to some kind of lighting, and then suddenly it all gets shut down— and there is only an absence of light.

My understanding has a new grasp of Jesus being the Light of the world. I now better understand what it feels like to need Jesus to be my Strength. He’s taken my arm and is guiding me through, safely. He is my Shield. God’s Spirit gives me a comfort no other source ever could.

Now I am enabled to walk in a forgiveness that comes from outside of myself. A complete, and all-encompassing forgiveness that spreads a healing balm in every direction that it walks.

Love covers a multitude of sins.

Not covers-up. Not pretending the offense hasn’t been real or caused damage.

Covers. With a healing balm.

Throughout my lifetime, so far, I’ve been given ample opportunities to forgive some very deep-seated wounds.

I have been sinned-against, many times, in personally physical and emotional ways. Others I care deeply about have been sinned-against, and it’s been in my “nature” to want to pick up their offense.

Again I get to practice walking in forgiveness that the world tells me I shouldn’t extend.

I don’t belong to the world any longer.

I belong to Jesus.

His ways are far above what the world would have me practice.

People fail me. I thank God that He continues to never fail me.

1Cor 13:12– “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”

In The Way

I was often told I was “in the way” by people who’s opinion mattered deeply to me, for a significant portion of my life. I had no reason to not believe them. So, I did all I could to move out of the way, whether physically or otherwise.

I assumed everyone thought this about me. I have lived most of my life trying to not be in anyone’s way.

My foundational understanding of myself has been flawed by believing that I’m just always in the way.

I was once told by one of my pastor’s that I was in God’s way and I needed to move out of it. You have no idea how that affected how I saw God at that point.

I still don’t trust anyone to “pastor” me.

Over the years I’ve thought about this phrase, and with God’s help, I’ve begun to turn it around into a positive.

The Way is what Believers in the past have called their group. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus lives in me. I am in the way. But– I am not in the way, as being an obstacle.

The pastor who said that to me did not see me in my time alone with God, often prone before God, surrendering my life and my choices to Him.

That pastor was wrong.

In all those years before I accepted that he was wrong, I saw everything that I did or said as being in God’s way. I had no idea how to get out of God’s way, or what that even looked like.

I never felt like I could fit in anywhere, because no matter what I was blind to somehow being in the way.

I reacted by just removing myself. I can’t be in the way if I’m not there, right?

I was then told by that same pastor that I was in sin because I wasn’t at church everytime the doors were open– I was forsaking the gathering together of the saints…

How does one ever please someone who just sees what they think you are doing wrong?

God moved me out of that pastor’s way, relocating me to another area. But that criticism stuck.

How can I possibly ever get out of God’s way when He is everywhere?

Over the years, God has revealed that He does not see that about me. He has shown me that I have, in fact, been in His way. Going out of my way to obey His word, to demonstrate grace and forgiveness, to show compassion and love– I’m trying to do things in His way.

It’s amazing how much healing and reatoration can be released when God corrects wrong thinking.

Now I know– I am exactly where I need to be– in His way.

2 COR 10:5 “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Giving God What’s Broken

In our culture of Christianity, it’s become easy to sing our promises and confessions of faith.

Do we follow through? When the service is over, do we reflect on the weighty words we’ve sung in praise, adoration and promise to our God?

I can’t say, with a clear conscience, that I have.

When I sing about surrendering it all to God, and beg Him in song to “take it all”, do I really know what I’m asking of Him— what I’m giving to Him?

Lately I have been playing Animal Crossing with my kids and husband. I have this neighbor— Buck— the “neigh”bor that annoys me the most. He’s brash, loud, yells in my character’s face, and he sneezed on her. I mean— the nerve! Lol! In real life, I wouldn’t want a neighbor like that. So, I’ve been trying to get him to want to move away. I give him boots, which he always hands back, saying he doesn’t want my trash.

My point in sharing that is— God *does* want our trash. He wants the worst parts of us— the things we dislike about ourselves, the stuff we hide from everyone else.

He wants our broken hearts. He wants our ugly, horrible thoughts. He wants that anger that seemingly comes out of nowhere. He wants those feelings that cause us to do exactly what we hate…

He wants our trash.

Because then He can make us better. He can make us stronger. He can repair the broken pieces of our hearts and lives. He can calm the storm that rages in our emotions. He can help us see things clearly, without worry, fear or distortion.

But, we have to freely give them to Him. He won’t just take them. He is never forceful with us.

He just wants to make us the best us we can be.

🎶All to Jesus I surrender

All to Him I freely give;

I will ever love and trust Him

In His presence daily live

I surrender all

I surrender all

All to Thee

My blessed Savior

I surrender all

All to Jesus I surrender

Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;

Let me feel Thy Holy Spirit

Truly knowing that Thou art mine

I surrender all

I surrender all

All to Thee

My blessed Savior

I surrender all

All to Jesus I surrender

Lord, I give myself to Thee;

Fill me with Thy love and power

Let Thy blessing fall on me🎶

Focal Point

Have you ever felt invisible?

Have you ever been the sounding-board for someone who doesn’t really see you while they are talking?

Has there ever been an expectation of you to be available to fit into someone else’s schedule?

Have you ever just wanted to not— just for a little while— be available when it’s expected of you?

Have you ever been broken by something completely unexpected?

Have you felt pushed and pulled into expected directions you just don’t feel like going in?

Have you ever tried to pick things back up after being let down?

Have you ever felt like you needed a vacation from your own life?

There’s this song I loved years ago, called Disappear from Out Of The Grey. The idea in the song is the desire to disappear into Jesus— like John the Baptist said— more of Him, less of me.

Well, I did disappear— but into my marriage and my family.

I’m still seen by God, though, even though I don’t feel worthy to be seen by Him. Because I know I am a broken fixture in this world, and I can’t fix what’s broken about myself. There is no doctor, no hospital, for invisible wounds, and my brokenness is invisible except to God— Who really sees me.

I can rest in Him because He sees me. I’m not His sounding board. I’m not empty, I’m not weak because He fills me, continuously, with His strength and love.

As long as He is my focal point— I can push through the emotional labors of this life. I can stand up under the weight of the roles I’m expected to play. I can be who He created me to be.

Physically I can’t do what I used to. Thankfully my spirit still can, through Christ Jesus Who is my strength— He is my focal point.

Because of that— I am okay.

Isaiah 40:31 NASB Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

Tough As Sand

In the past, I thought of myself as a kind of diamond in the rough. But here lately, I realize I’m more a lump of soft coal that wishes it could be a diamond. Coal that is under the heaviest of pressure can, in part, become a diamond. In the past I’ve compared my life’s hardships as what coal experiences as it then becomes one of the very hardest substances known to mankind. Hard circumstances formed a hardened heart within me and a toughened, hardened exterior. I thought that was what I needed to protect myself, to make sure I could withstand more pressure from circumstances outside of my control.

Today I realized what I believed about myself may not even be the case— if it ever really was. God softened my hardened heart after I met my husband. He chipped away at that outer layer of toughness, like an emotional callous, and He took down the walls I had built up, brick by brick.

Nothing I do will protect me like God does. Walls trap the yuck inside, and keep the positive new things out. Before God fixed my old hardened heart, it could have easily been one of the rocks that praises God when people fail to.

It was that hard.

Today, I talked with someone about something I haven’t really thought deeply about in years! I’m not sure what I expected, but I left that conversation feeling as though all that hardness I still managed to cling to is crumbling away into dust. A trauma I experienced as a child re-emerged into my memories, and God has been so deeply at work within me, my reactions are different. My walls are gone. My heart feels soft, crushable and exposed.

I had myself so figured out before, I had every one of my reactions to my history carefully planned out. And now— I let go of my control. I feel like I’m just going to completely crumble as I now deal with old trauma mixed in with something new that was unexpected.

Maybe my life is a series of diamonds made from my spirit being crushed, over and over again. Maybe it’s all still just a lump of coal that has been broken into so many pieces, it more resembles charcoal powder. Maybe it’s a piece of coal used to keep the fire of difficult circumstances stoked at it’s hottest. Maybe it’s more like the ashes and residue left over.

I don’t know.

What I do know is— I am not the same person I started on this journey as. I thought situations had helped shape me. Turns out, maybe God has handled me differently than I believed He had, and maybe my opinions kept me blind to that. No trauma I have or ever will experience could possibly match what Jesus endured on the way to, and on, the cross. He was wounded for our (my) transgressions.

My walls and self protection have to crumble in order to allow His healing process to be thorough in me.

By His wounds I am healed.

Isaiah 53:5 “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Forgive Them? Why??

This is a recurring theme in my life, it seems. And not just little things— really big, hard issues. When things start to finally relax, suddenly it becomes necessary to exercise my forgiveness muscles again. I have lifted some of the heaviest issues with these muscles. I don’t see a need to flex them for vanity purposes— these are the necessary muscles for living a life that keeps me close to Jesus. They are the strength that is unseen, coming from an unseen force— Jesus, Who is my Mediator, my Intercessor— my reason for living. He keeps me continually moving forward.

I’ve been dealt some difficult cards throughout my life so far, most seem to fall under the category of betrayal. I don’t know if I can even categorize them all. The one thing they have in common, besides intense pain, is an attack on trust.

When the burden of offense against me is so heavy— a crushing weight, God reminds me that forgiveness lifts that burden off of me and puts it at the foot of the cross.

We can’t take anything with us when it’s our time to move on from earth— that includes the offenses and hurts from others. When we surrender them to Jesus, Who bore the crushing weight of every offense, past, present and future— we walk in the truest form of Grace and Mercy.

When we come face to face with the knowledge that Jesus said, while being crushed by all of the sins of this world— “Father, forgive them because they don’t understand”, we then have the tiniest of glimpses into what Jesus endured on that cross, in our place. He willingly surrendered to every betrayal we’ll ever experience.

That is why we forgive. Again. And again. And again…

“Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven…” Matt 18:21-22

Back To My First Love

Lately my time, one-on-one with God has been a spontaneous thing, which becomes steered by intention.

Something within me has changed. My perspective, or I guess my realization of the reliability— the consistent stability— of God with me. I never question His willingness to make sure I am taken care of. He has never wavered— though I know it’s certainly not because of anything I’ve earned nor do I dare think I deserve it.

This idea of “first love” is tumbling around in my brain today. Meditating in His Presence, saturating my spirit in the beautiful song Nothing Else, this idea of being taken back to my first love opens up a whole new reservoir of understanding for me.

“Take me back, take me back, take me back to my first love…” Can I say God has ever been my first love? I mean— honestly. Because, of course in “Christianese” that’s what we profess— that God is our first love.

As I just meditate on what that means to me, and question how exactly to get back to my first love when I cannot say that was God, I recognize what I need is to get back to the first recognition of my love for Him, and my first realization of His love for me.

My first time knowing this unique, soul-filling love that heals me, that refreshes me— that holds me close to Him.

“Take me back to my first love…” Take me back to that first moment the veil was torn from my understanding, that first glimpse my spirit had of You.

Take my heart back to being satisfied by sitting in Your Presence, back when things were simplified— back to the safety and comfort, like a newborn babe resting on its daddy’s chest— near to Your heartbeat. Because “Only You satisfy my heart… Nothing else will do— I just want You”

Inward Brokenness

There is nothing like brokenness of spirit and a broken heart to open or change your view of things for previously unnoticed perceptions.

Like the words to songs. As I relived some memory lane through songs I haven’t heard since my most recent bout with brokenness, I realized I’m seeing things differently. Where before I sang them with the confidence of being enveloped by the Love of Christ, this time that same Love permeated into the chasm coated with reactionary numbness that tries to dull the pain. It caused a different reaction, a realization that now I understand more than before, and perspective that grants revelation to a new depth of understanding.

“Clothe me in white, so I won’t be ashamed…” has a deeper meaning to me now. In order for God to clothe me in white, my soul is bare before Him. He sees everything— nothing is hidden from Him. In the past I’ve known this. Now I more than know it— I experience what it really means— He sees me. He sees my deepest shame, my pain, where I have been abused and cast aside. He’s taking the outer garments I thought I had to wear that I believed covered me, but instead caused rejection of me— and He has clothed me in His acceptance. He’s thrown-out the old garments of being shamed, and He’s covered me in His forgiveness, His righteousness, His approval!! And though people may attempt to shame me— I will not be ashamed because I know Who I belong to— no matter what. The not being ashamed, that’s for me to live out. It has nothing to do with how anyone treats me or talks about me— I am not ashamed of who I am, because of Jesus.

When I sing “set a fire down in my soul, that I can’t contain, that I can’t control— I want more of You God, I need more of You God…” and I tell Him through singing that I want Him “…to pour it out…“ I understand that I need to be intentional about what I am asking Him to do— because He will give me more.

What will I do with the more that He gives to me?

When I sing about how “ I will dance, I will sing, to be mad (not angry FYI) for my King, and I will become even more undignified than this…” Baring my naked soul with unskilled dancing is the most vulnerable thing that I could do. I can boldly approach God’s throne of Grace in this manner— it should be an easy decision— casting off everything that weighs me down.

This is the way we should all be with Jesus. It’s a process we each get to face as individuals.

“…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Eph. 4:22-24

The likeness of God, is Salvation through Jesus. We have the promise of eternal life with God through Christ Jesus. As we lay aside the old life and choices, we begin to understand the why’s concerning God and His Word. The why’s are important, because without that understanding, we will never be able to really lay aside our opinions that don’t line up with Scripture, or forgive the person who may actually be trying to sin against us 7×77 times daily.

Disadvantaged And Broken

The shock is wearing off now. The sting of the jolt that rocked me is beginning to fade. Numbness that covered me fully, almost like a protective layer of clothing from the elements of harsh weather, is beginning to peel away now.

Ow!

It’s tempting to pull back from some of the most intense, penetrating pain I have ever experienced. But, I’m forcing myself to do what I have always tried to do– lean into it. Soon it will intensify to its strongest point, and then I’ll know the level I need to rise to to move beyond it.

I saw a storm coming, but to be honest– I expected a much different storm, in much different territory. This storm is familiar, but the territory is unexplored.

I’m at a disadvantage– probably more so than I have ever been. I don’t know if it’s the result of being cursed by those I should have been able to trust from a young age, or God just designed me and my personality to be much saltier and independently confident than many others. All I know is– support has almost never been something I could rely on. I’ve dealt with some of the most devastating things alone– often one-on-one with God but never much human support or understanding counsel. For a time I tried to fight for that, but realized it was an exhausting battle with little to no reward for all of my efforts.

As a result, now I find myself in this place where I wish I could have 1 solid person who can or will just walk with me through all the stages, emotions, and healing I will be pushing through as I continue to lean into the pain.

I’ve experienced first hand what so many often try to advise me of. I’m not one who can just settle under opinion or scrutiny, no matter how well-meaning the one doing it is.

I find myself looking for an equal. Not a counselor. Not a Pastor. Not a mentor. Not an advisor. Someone who doesn’t view me as a project or someone who needs their help. Because I know. I’ve already lived it. I’ve already made it to the other side. I’ve heard the voice of God calling out to me, directing my steps. I’ve experienced Jesus strengthening me.

I know how to get through this to that other side where healing will fully embrace me and restore– once again– what the locusts have destroyed.

I am confident in my direction, though I don’t see my path clearly yet. That will come into focus as I take each step forward. I’m not going to fall back– not with Jesus as my strength.

I just need/want someone who can and will walk with me, step with me– listen and respect me and my way of going through a process that I have already gone through successfully more than once. Someone proven that I can fully trust. That’s all. A trusted equal who has leaned into their own painful, devastating situations successfully.

For now, it will be me and Jesus, walking forward with steady, firm, intentional steps. Maybe God will provide me with a spiritual walking partner, too. But if He chooses not to– I’ll be ok. He’ll hold me up just as He always has.

A Song of Ascents. I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep.” Psalm 121:1-4 NASB

Christian Music VS All Music

There is this notion embedded in our society that Christian music isn’t really good unless it fits in perfectly with what is currently popular. If you can tell it’s Christian then it’s cheesy, it’s less valued than anything not Christian.

What??

I have given in to this in the past, believing I should be embarrassed by any music not accepted by the “in” crowds of the world.

I have pondered this for awhile now, and here is the conclusion I have come to–

Christian music isn’t supposed to sound like everything else.

Christian music has a different focus and purpose. It has a different origin, and if it is written correctly– a completely different target audience of One.

It should always be excellence strived for, but most importantly– it should be Jesus-focused.

That’s why it’s Christian.

If we are embarrassed about a song those who don’t accept Jesus make fun of– are we also embarrassed about Jesus? Are we afraid or ashamed of being His follower– a Christian?

Christian music is supposed to be different. It’s supposed to stand out. It has infused power that no other music can match. It reaches the senses of our Creator– it teaches truth, it can break bondages, and God releases His healing through it. He illuminates truth through it. The music is inspired by Him and directed at pleasing Him.

We aren’t meant to mimic what is “acceptable” and try to fit in– we need to stand out! Shouldn’t our music, as well? So what if someone makes fun of it? There is a deeper, hidden meaning from those who reject the wisdom often injected into the lyrics. The music is inspired from a different area of our hearts and minds– an area only Christians can tap into– experience with God.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16 NASB

Expectation Meet-Up

I’ve failed. Again. No big surprise. I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing the game by now. I show up, with all of my imperfections– which are easily recognized at first glance– and I fail the test. You know– the test– where I do, or behave, or look like the labeled box I “should” just fit right in to. Where I “fall in line” with how everyone just is or just does– just sayin’…

The expectation test.

Although, I must admit, the anger I seem to detect lately is a new twist. I mean, surely I deserve whatever reaction the opinion of unmet expectations metes out, right? Surely I have no right to react or respond, or– heaven forbid– show any sort of weakness emotionally or physically.

I see the looks behind your eyes, I am aware of the reactions, and all it does is push me farther away.

Humanity has been such a disappointment to me most of my life– other than my own family. See there? You didn’t meet my expectations, either. I’ve expected grace, kindness, but have most often been meet with coldness, disappointment or indifference.

Thank God for Jesus.

Jesus didn’t meet most people’s expectations, either. In Him I find my own identity. In Him I find acceptance, and peace– comfort in all of my times of need. Where I am weak, He is strong. Where I am found lacking, He provides everything I need. When life just makes me more tired, when my body fights itself leaving me exhausted and frustrated– He carries me, He ministers to my spirit– giving me rest.

God made us to need other people. For myself– that remains to be a double-edged sword.

This is what has been on my heart this week.

Maybe God will choose to heal me this year. Maybe He will enable me to better fight back against that invisible enemy that attacks my body. Maybe He will just continue to draw me nearer to Him. I have learned to be content with where I am, no matter how He answers my prayers and needs– have you?

If I’m not angry about my personal fight, what gives anyone the right to be angry with me about how I manage my personal fight?

After nearly 51 years of life, I’m tired.

Be kind. Pray. Don’t put expectations onto me–I will never be able to meet them. You have not walked my path, experienced the things I have, or fought the fight I deal with daily. Maybe you’ve heard things about me, taken out of context. If so, you are adding opinion to heresay.

How is that Godly?

I expect to receive the grace of Christ from my fellow Believers.

Are my expectations too high for you?

Used By God?

The Voice of the Martyrs Facebook Timeline headline says– “LAOS Pray that new believers facing angry relatives will not waiver in their faith.”

How many times has the Devil weaponized family and friends against believers?

The Devil has come to kill, steal and destroy– by any means necessary. Jesus said, ” “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Luke 12:53

In Ephesians 6:12 we are informed– “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

How many times has the Devil weaponized someone at our churches?

Here’s the most revealing question– How many times has the Devil weaponized us?

Deception hides amongst the well-intended. It thrives on emotional reactions. It drives misunderstandings and miscommunications as a destructive force, tearing through walls of relationships as though they are nothing but smoke.

Make no mistake– the Devil intends to use us to tear down everything God is doing.

May God grant us all discerning eyes and spirits, increasing our sensitivity to where He is at work so we can join in with Him through prayer, supplication and surrender completely to His Holy Spirit.

We need to ask Him to reveal where we may be, now or in the future, deceived by His enemy and the enemy of our souls. Lay aside every assumption and belief of being “right”. Step back and just wait for Him to reveal what He is doing, where He is working– who He has chosen to work through.

We cannot allow ourselves to be weaponized– used– by the Devil.

To surrender everything we believe, everything we “know” to Him– recognizing that He knows all and sees all– that is wisdom. It is necessity— right now.

Who’s “tool” are we? Who’s purpose is being fulfilled through our actions and treatment of others?

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. You are looking at things as they are outwardly. If anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again within himself, that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we.” 2Cor 10;3-7

Vlogging- Venting Blog

So– I know this will be shocking, but–

I have a pet peeve.

Actually, I have a few.

But the one I am being pounced on by right now is– well– I’ll call it flabbergasted.

I am biting my proverbial tongue pretty hard right now, in all honesty.

The ignorant gall of some people brings me to a boiling point I absolutely have to surrender to God.

First off, I will point out that as Christians, I believe it must be apparent we actually follow the example Jesus set before us. My focus now is on His example and His definition of being a friend.

The greatest lack I see today is selflessness. We have “self-awareness“, “self-assuredness“, “self-esteem“, “selfie“, “self-confidence“, “self-identification“– but not much selflessness.

When a husband returns from the memorial of their recently passed-away dad– that is NOT the time a wife should decide to pack up and move out– as an example of what my pet-peeve is ticked off about.

I don’t understand how when someone needs support the most, a helpmate can turn a cold shoulder and just walk away.

It looks exactly like what the enemy of our God and our soul would convince someone to do– especially in a marriage. Friendship- nurturing is at the root of that lack.

Maybe that’s just the appearance.

I really hope that’s the case.

Someone needs to write a book about the Art of Friendship Within Marriage.

Inside the Broken

I’ve had this post bouncing around inside my head all day, wanting to just get out.

As a kid, I remember waking up in the middle of the night with a sudden inspiration for writing. It was usually a poem. I recall just looking at the words I had written down, marveling at the picture they painted–amazed that they had come out of me! I wasn’t a clever person. I wasn’t anything special. I was just a kid, a pre-teen, with no special writing training.

I was inspired. I believe, by God. He gave me what to write. No way I could come up with all those phrases and word pictures all by myself.

So, as a child, I was inspired.

I also suffered from PTSD. As a child.

Everyone has hardships in their life. Everyone has obstacles to overcome, people who don’t believe in them– situations beyond their control to push through.

Not everyone has the same things, situations– people– to push through.

For instance– not everyone has survived a cougar planting its teeth in their skull. I have survived this. I’ve lived to tell that story.

That’s a story I can freely share, an injury I can point to that people show interest in hearing about.

Those scars can be seen by anyone, even felt by someone who cannot see. Those scars filled in what was broken, they made it stronger, tougher. But, even though I’ve been healed, which is what produced my scars– the scars still ache sometimes, reminding me that where they provide more protection than the skin surrounding them, there is still weakness within them.

What’s broken is not the same as it was before, after it’s fixed or repaired.

That got me to thinking about the word “whole”. How it has the appearance of being complete. But– inside of the word “whole”, is hole. The word itself defies its own definition.

On the outside, we appear whole. In reality, we might be broken.

My hair hides my cougar bite scars.

I recently heard someone speak on healing, and he shared what I’ve known personally for quite some time. Our physical issues can be the fruit of having been wounded in our spirit, but never getting full healing.

Outside, we give the appearance of being whole. Inside– there is a hole that needs God’s healing touch.

Outside defies the reality of what’s inside. Because it’s not seen with eyes, or felt with physical touch.

Except– it is.

It’s often what is rejected, abhorred, resisted, and can cause hard-heartedness.

It can be defined as quirky, character flaws, or just out right unacceptable. It exposes the lack of compassion of a dying world.

I’ve sometimes wondered what we look like to God, Who sees all, knows all, and is everywhere all the time.

He sees what the appearance of wholeness attempts to hide or disguise.

He sees the brokenness.

Like the doctor who examined my wounds and wrapped my head to stop the bleeding and protect my wounds from infection. God has done this for my spirit.

But, that doesn’t mean there is no sensitivity to what caused the brokenness.

I don’t go out of my way to seek out mountain lions to embrace, to face my apprehension of cougars.

I don’t go out of my way to seek people who are abusive, who break the spirits of others, to form relationships with. And trust me– there are far too many of those types out there!

I have, for years, openly sought out the people who would not do that. In my doing so, I’ve found very few that make the time or effort to look past my quirks, personality deficiencies and obvious flaws. I don’t form friendships easily– never have, I’m guessing never will.

I have scars on the outside of my head, and scars on the inside of my head.

Sometimes they both ache.

The Forgiveness of God

How many times have you heard someone say, “I will never forgive them.” How many times have we all felt someone has done or said something that is beyond the scope? It’s crossed that unmentioned line we all tend to instictivlely draw in our personal belief system?

I can tell you I had my own line, and I stood firmly behind that line– even though there had been a few events of someone stepping right on or over that line, as though it did not even exist. Of course– for them, I don’t think it did exist, while for myself it seemed reasonable to assume everyone knew about this line.

That’s the problem. Rational people know, people in my society know, men know. Except some must not, or they don’t care about that line.

So, for me, I’ve had this line solidly placed in my belief system, that should never be crossed. And, if it were crossed, as it has been a few times in my life, then I have an “out”– surely I don’t have to forgive that… right?

So a challenge came to me in the form of a testimony of a woman missionary, who had recently passed away when I learned about it.

At first, I was angry with her. How dare she blow off what was a great injustice done to her– and to me! How dare she minimize that as though it were not that major deal I had known personally for it to be! How could she excuse away this awful thing when it has ruined and damaged so many lives?!

Then God’s Spirit went to work in my heart and my understanding– my outrage.

In my defense of holding my grudge, I viewed her as weak- minded and ignorant. I mean, she had been violated— didn’t she get that??

History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.” (Ecc 1:9 NLT)

Then I started to think on Scripture that says “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matt 6:15 NLT) Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” (Mark 11:25-26 NASV)

Most times I have no problem forgiving what people do or say to or about me. But violating me– that is intensly personal, the greatest offense and sin against me. I felt I was justified in my anger and unforgiveness.

This woman’s approach and her testimony challenged my deepest-held justifications.

Then I began to think about all the abuse Jesus experienced on the cross and before He was nailed to the cross and what He said in response– “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice...” Some continued what they were doing, not even realizing the profoundness of what Jesus had just asked of God.

People do things without realizing what they are doing to others.

Our role as children of the Most High God, as followers of Jesus– is to forgive them. 7×77 times. Per day.

Forgiving is not easy. But, the focus I’ve found I need to have is not on my need to forgive others, but instead on my desperate need for God’s forgiveness towards me.

It’s a matter of spiritual life of death.

I want to encourage you to watch the video interview of a woman who I now believe to have been a pillar of strength and understanding for God’s Kingdom, inside this article linked below:

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/a-woman-of-whom-the-world-was-not-worthy-helen-roseveare-1925-2016/

Heart Strings

I love rainbows. Besides being beautiful, they fascinate me. The origin and history are intriguing.

Besides the colorful streams that invoke a feeling of warmth, to me they are one of the many wonders of our world.

Rainbows and I also have a history. My very first memory in our shared history is seeing one outside my bedroom window. Inside my room, inside of my heart, it was raining– tears of sadness. I don’t remember the cause, maybe I’ve blocked it, maybe I was too young. But I remember that rainbow. I remember crying because I didn’t think anyone loved me, or liked me. I remember, fairly vividly, seeing that rainbow and feeling the voice of God inside my heart tell me that He loves me.

I knew He had made a promise to mankind that He wouldn’t destroy all of mankind by flood again. I remember a kept promise being a deeply important thing to me.

That is my first memory of connecting with God. Through that rainbow, having known about that characteristic of God, He brought His Word to life and breathed life into my spiritual lungs. I was about 7 or 8.

When I was 8 I began to learn to play the violin. I don’t think I took learning it seriously until I was 9 or 10. I had a wonderful teacher who took the time to help me find a sincere love for playing it. That’s when I began to practice. I started practicing everyday during the news– I hated the boring news back then!

As I grew in my ability to play, I also grew in my affection for it. At times it became the extension of my inner secrets, those things I couldn’t give voice or words to, things I didn’t understand.

I struggled with learning certain techniques, and I began to practice hours at a time because I wanted to be the best I could be– I wanted to be 1st chair. You see– that violin sounded scratchy no matter how much I practiced. I had to work extra, extra hard to get the scratchiness to not be noticeable.

My parents were kind, they didn’t complain about what must have been awful sounds at times. They didn’t have much money, and that violin was a rent-to-own. It was what they could afford. They gave me something far more than just a musical instrument to learn. They gave me what I needed to succeed, to survive, to feel. I had a way to access a depth and passion I would not have otherwise.

Without that, I’m not sure I would be here today. My violin became my best friend. It was the tool that I could use to help bring healing into my soul. It was the tool that allowed confidence and accomplishment to be poured into my spirit.

As that rainbow I first recall observing became a vehicle for God to reach into those inward places only He has access to, so became my violin. So much so that when, during my first military duty assignment, my dorm room got so hot from the heater I could not adjust, the glue melted and my best friend literally fell apart.

It was as though I lost my right arm.

I think I was in shock that I didn’t have it anymore.

A few months later, after making payments with my meager A1C salary, I brought home a new violin.

Then my dad bought me a special one, that I sincerely believe God set aside just for me. Someday I’ll tell that story, I’ve gotten myself side-tracked.

As I continued to play, a new passion stirred up in my heart, a desire to serve God while playing, an intense need/want to help bring God closer to other people’s hearts. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming, it feels like my breath is taken away, hoping I can be His vessel to pour healing and life through.

Rainbows, to me, are a visual of how God reaches into our inner recesses through music, through His Word, through prayer– through His Spirit.

I’ve been meditating on the song Remembrance all morning, and as I’ve been writing this. There is so much in this simple, short song. The music is nice and it gets intense. The words are nice and they get intense. My memory gets intense as I internalize, absorb, soak in every note and word– saturating my soul. Communion is deeply personal for me, the words remind me to not just take it but to remember Him as Christ is formed in me– continuously, as I take Communion and live my life for Him. He has been so, so good to me– oh the things He has delivered me from, and protected me from. No matter how bad things ever got– they could have been so much worse.

The rainbow seems like an illusion, but science has proven it’s absolutely real. Just like God in our lives. To others He appears to be an illusion to us, but through our personal experiences with Him interacting with us, we know beyond any shadow of any doubt that He is more real than any problem we face. In fact– the problem becomes the illusion and dissipates completely as He takes it and deals with it in His timing and His way.

Yes– He has been so so Good to me. Unworthy as I am, as I have always been– He has not withheld His goodness from me– I would have. He has provided me with all I need, He gave me a husband who reminds me of Him in how he treats me and loves me. I don’t know what He sees in me, but I am Eternally grateful that He does.

I owe Him everything. I have nothing of worth to pay Him back, He has accepted my life. My life.

My life.

Some days I do need Him to remind me that He’s not finished yet. I don’t understand why he has not given up on me at times.

I would give up on me.

My life is no longer my own, it belongs to Jesus.

Limited as it is, He still finds ways to use it as a catalyst for His healing Spirit.

Until I see You face to face, Until at last I’ve won my race– remind me You’re not finished yet. Hallelujah…”

Here’s another link to the song– Remembrance– Hillsong Worship

Words Matter– Spoken and Unspoken

Have you ever stood out on the beach and just yelled into the wind? Did anyone hear you?

Social Media traffic is the online wind, tainted by “deboosting”, “algorithms”, “shadowbanning” and the bias of those enforcing them.

That’s a part of what I’m thinking of as I type this on my Social Media platform.

But, it’s more than that.

For me there has been a recurring theme of a sense of being unheard, undervalued, even unseen.

I found at times I could use that to my advantage in a defensive/protective kind of way– I could leave a room and not be missed. I could stay quiet and no one notices or tries to talk with me.

I can’t begin to describe that deep lonliness I’ve just learned to live with.

Why don’t some people want to hear me?

Some are so engrossed with what they want to say, others are lost under the clutter of words, ideas and opinions.

Writing has been my out-source. Sometimes I feel free to say whatever I want to say.

Except I’m not.

Because what if someone reads something they find offensive or hurtful?

It’s always about everyone else.

What about me? Do I ever get to just talk and be heard?

When can I openly share my heart and concerns?

I could tell some crazy and awesome stories!

I could even share bits of wisdom from firsthand experiences.

I think I’m pretty funny. (Don’t ask my husband though, lol!)

I’m pretty creative.

My topics of passion and pet peeves have “evolved” through experiences, trials and life lessons learned from that popular school of “hard knocks”.

One thing has always gotten me through the silent times, the emptiness, and the “I don’t quite fit ins”.

Answered prayer.

Because when no one sees me, hears me, or values my input or presence– God always has. And He has always let me know.

I’ve seen Him transform lives. I’ve seen Him heal people– He even healed me! I’ve seen miracles!

It’s sad that some will just never know what God has done because they won’t stop talking and listen to others.

Talking has always been a struggle for me. The anxiety after talking in a group setting is suffocating. Did I say too much? Did I talk too long? Did what I say make any sort of a difference to anyone? My spirit feels anxious, restless, even worried.

I know this problem is not with others– not most of it.

It’s how I react, how I relate, how I believe I’ll be received.

Or rejected.

Having been told I was “in God’s way” from someone who’s opinion I deeply valued has had an almost crippling affect on my life.

Having been told that I’m “poor in spirit” has stuck with me through decades of church relationships and church leadership. I think that’s because I’ve heard so little to counter-balance and cancel that out.

Where Scripture has admonished us to build up one another– I’m not a “one another” worthy of that, it appears to me.

Tearing down is for strongholds, not for people. Not ever for people.

I’m guilty of having torn others down in my past.

I guess it’s taken feeling like that outcast that helped me wisen up and learn the necessity of speaking life– and life abundantly– to one another.

This is my invisible enemy that fights me often. I wrestle not with flesh and blood– I know this too well.

I have people I do talk to, though my list is growing smaller by the year.

There will, however, always be One on that list. That is in no way a sad or depressing thing. I have the ear and attention of God attuned towards me. That is humbling– so very humbling.

Worshiping in Spirit, in Truth

I’m not a performer.

While I got over “stage-fright” years ago, I don’t like the spotlight. If I could plug in my violin and play from the next room, unseen by anyone, that would be my ideal situation.

Since my husband and I married, Worship has kind of been our “thing”. We’ve been involved with several ministries and churches the past 2 decades. While every experience is different, the focus has most often been the same– God.

At this point in my life, I believe I’m settling into who I am in Christ more. I don’t have to prove myself, I’m a seasoned Christian, with a solid understanding of Scripture, unwavering in my belief and understanding of Who I serve.

But, as settling has occurred, my understanding of certain concepts is changing.

Like the concepts of worship.

The Bible says we worship in spirit and in truth.

My church family says we worship with music.

Do these two ideas contradict one another?

As my husband points out in his latest blog What Worship is Not, there really is not as much emphasis in Scripture about music worship as we sometimes make it seem. There is not an office for Worship Leader.

Do we focus too much on our own definition and understanding of worship?

I know it’s easy to go on the defensive and stop listening when something we believe in strongly is challenged. I’m not set out to challenge, I’m just re-thinking things a bit.

Where in our current recogized system of worship does in spirit and in truth fit in? Sure, we can claim we do these naturally as we focus on God with our spirit, and sing verses written about Biblical truth, and that makes it all fit in a neat, nice little package that is easy on the ears and heart.

But.

Is it all really for God?

Does God need the sound system? Does He need the lights? The projection screens? What about the music and perfect-sounding voices– does God need that?

Is that what worship is to God?

What if we just didn’t have the worship part of the service one Sunday, and just dove straight into the preaching? Would that affect God at all?

If we are honest, our system of worship is really for ourselves. We like the concert-type atmosphere, with our favorite coffee off to the side when we finish. We believe we are ushering His Presence into ours– isn’t it really us just becoming aware of His Presence that is everywhere all the time, and living within those of us who have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior, sealing us with the Holy Spirit?

Individually some do bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. But, do we corporately? Do we even know what that really means?

How do we worship in spirit? Does it have to involve music?

How do we worship in truth? Do we have to sing to do so?

When I think about Julie Andrews having her voice taken from her, I can’t help but wonder– what would happen if our music abilities or apparatuses were taken from us? Would we stop “worshiping” altogether?

Square Person in a “Well-rounded” World

That’s me there– the square one. You’d think I’d be the well-rounded one with all my experiences and whatnot, but that’s not how it really works.

Words that have been used to describe me by others over the years–

Intense.

Intimidating.

Too sensitive.

Angry-faced.

Project.

Beautiful.

Tenacious.

Words I wish I heard about me–

Compassionate.

Loving.

Kind

Giving.

True friend.

Loyal.

Honest.

Beautiful.

Generous.

Acceptable.

That last one is probably the most coveted by me. There seems to always be something people want me to change in order to “fit” their box for me and change the label they’ve put on me.

It’s not going to happen.

I’ll never again be happy-go-lucky. I’ve experienced too much first hand.

I’ll never be the perfect cook or housekeeper. I just won’t.

I’ll never perform the way anyone thinks I should. I have no desire to jump through “social norm” hoops.

Life has filed down my rounded edges into sharp corners with precise edging.

I can’t go back to being ignorant of pain and suffering.

I can’t heal the wounds others can’t see or make the invisible scars actually disappear for good.

I can’t become someone I have not been designed or conformed through life experiences to be. I can’t, and I won’t.

I am not my outer appearance.

I’m not my experiences.

I’m not maleable to people’s whims and wishes.

I am who God has made me to be, and who He continues to shape– as He kneads the mars and scars.

I am misunderstood and misread, as well as overlooked and undervalued.

Somedays I am only loved by God.

But– I am always loved by God, and that is what makes the difference to me.

I have demonstrated my love for others through acts of service in the past– serving my country, using my gifts and talents for the Body of Christ.

Right now I’m in a season of rest and retreat.

I’ve lived for 1/2 a century. I’ve seen and experienced so many things in those years, sometimes it overwhelms my heart, my mind and my spirit.

I’ve been looking for the miracles of God in people’s situations and lives. I’ve seen some in my life, in my circumstances, and God has caused my own life to do a 180 turn. Miracles are not always evident, but if you can catch just a glimpse of one, you are seeing the evidence of God in action.

I could chip away at the edges, but I’d be leaving off what God has carefully shaped. While that might please the well-roundeds, it would not please God.

So, I don’t mind being a squared person in a well-rounded world.

Because that’s the shape God has formed me into.

Caught In The Middle

I just caught a live sermon from Elevation Worship about transitioning. As I listened, it hit me– that’s what I’m going through!

I’m in such a weird place right now.

I don’t mean physically, or emotionally. Not really mentally– just in life in general.

I’m not young anymore, but not old. In my heart I feel maybe 15-20 years younger, but in my body I feel way older than I am. Maybe that’s part of that thing I was diagnosed of years ago.

Maybe not.

I’ve got two grown kids, and two at home. I’ve been a spouse and home educating mom for so many years now– much of that kind of isolated.

I think I’ve grown up now. Transitioning into a different mindset, a newly focused one– who did I grow up to become?

I’ve been defined by what I do for far too long now. I’m not satisfied with definitions and labels deciding who I am for me.

I’m caught in the middle of a transition.

And, sometimes that makes me a bit weepy. Sometimes I feel impatient for it to just be finished so I can step into the newness of being transformed into a better, wiser person.

Being caught in the middle feels chaotic, tumultuous– even ugly.

Looking through pictures to post here about transitioning, I found some interesting ones that helped me change my own perspective on being caught in the middle of a transition.

Like this dandelion caught in the middle of transitioning from a wildflower to seeds carried off by the wind.

Or the transition of day into night, with the sun captured, creating a breathtaking view– caught in the middle of the daily transition.

There is always a lot going on in the middle of a transition, but even if it feels awful, when we surrender our control– or lack of control– to God, He makes it a beautiful thing, with a beautiful change.

So, while I’m in this place that feels weird and lonely, often designated as the listener with nothing of value to say– God sees beauty in the process, and hopefully in me.

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.

Relationship Versus Wrongs

What do you focus on with your best friend? How about with your spouse or significant other? Your family?

Do you concentrate on what you have in common? Do you remember how they have wronged you?

Are you confident in how good things are, or are your thoughts consumed with how they just don’t measure up to your standards?

Do you tell others the positive things about them? Or do you feel justified in telling others about what you see as negative qualities?

Does how you treat them, how you talk about them to others, have any impact on that relationship?

How do they treat you, or talk about you? Does that affect how close you feel to them?

What does a healthy relationship even look like?

What about Jesus?

Do we focus on how Jesus has wronged us? How He just doesn’t meet (or mete) our standards? Do we tell everyone negative things about Jesus?

I’m pretty sure the answer is no to the last 3 questions. How do you even measure against His perfection?

So, let’s flip it around.

Does Jesus focus on how we have wronged Him? I think some people really believe He does, but Scripture tells us He throws our sins as far as the east is from the west. That there is no record of wrong.

Is He disappointed that we just don’t measure up to Him? I mean– who can, right? Scripture reminds us that Jesus is our strength, the Holy Spirit is both our Teacher and our Comforter, and that God is our Father. We have been adopted by Him, grafted into the vine of His family tree!

Does Jesus tell everyone the negative things He knows about us? No. Instead, He is our Mediator. He prays for us– He prayed for us all in the Garden of Gethsemane. He felt so much love and compassion, burdened so deeply for us then, that it caused Him to sweat His blood as He prayed! Who else has ever done that for even one of us?

And then– then He willingly died to become the final sacrifice to God, to pay for our failings, our inability to do right by God.

He became our Mediator– standing between God and the punishment for rebelling against God in our actions and in our hearts. He became our covering, the lens God now views us through.

If this is how much we are worth to Jesus, how much should we practice love, kindness, generosity– forgiveness– with our friends, spouses and loved ones?

The saying is, “You can’t pick your family.”

Jesus didn’t pick us– and yet He did! Our sins, our rebellion, against our Creator were the cause for Jesus to be abused and nailed to a cross to be murdered. There was no justification for Jesus to be killed, He did nothing wrong. We did! Jesus could have hated us all, instead. He could have focused on all we did wrong, and turned away with hatred and anger at us. He could have– but He did not. And God accepted His willingness to die the eternal death every one of us deserves. And because there was no sin found in Jesus, God raised Him back to life, and took Him up to sit next to Himself, at and as His righteous right hand. Jesus is God’s Right Hand man.

And Jesus, having done all of that for us, does not focus on what we did to cause Him to be murdered. No. Instead He has given His life to God, to help us be better. To strengthen us. To give us confidence. To free us from the death traps that have been set out for us by the enemy of God, the enemy of our souls. He sets us free as we trust in all He is, all He has done, and all that will come to pass.

Jesus has forgiven us. Jesus has forgotten our sins, all of our sins.

Shouldn’t we?

It’s no longer about sin– it’s about our relationship with Jesus.

Jesus paid it all!

All to Him I owe!

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow!

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.