Thursday, October 31, 2013

Moving On

i'm finding that the things most worth sharing about the life of a Christian come forth from the lessons learned through our struggles.  We all have battles, regardless of our maturity or faith. We all experience ups and downs. Regardless of whether our battles  and issues have anything to do with anyone else, we can learn a lot about our own hearts from those issues. It does us no good to examine others and ignore what is going on in our own hearts. That being said, I want to share my most recent insight with you, not only to be transparent about my struggles but also to form a "journal" of sorts that I can also refer to when I feel I've lost sight of what I have learned. 

I am at a point in my own life where I have started fresh, so to speak, i looked forward to this so much that I couldn't wait to leave Louisiana. I suppose I thought that leaving would free me of those who hurt me and / or attempted to control or manipulate me. This was by no means our reason for moving since we prayed endlessly over this decision. Things in our life were "comfortable" even as difficult as some of our relationships with various family members were. It wasn't an easy decision by any means and was one I was unwilling to make without God's assurance. Even now, i am sure He wanted us to come here as I wait on things to unfold. 

Yet I find myself looking back. Looking back can be a good thing, but it can also keep us from moving on. The things we tend to look back at can be good, bad or a mix of both. Memories, like any other series of thoughts, can be quite powerful. They can motivate us or they can cripple us. They can make us feel warm and fuzzy or they can cause us to become bitter and angry. For that reason, it's crucial that we keep a check on what's happening in our minds, even when our actions seem to be following God. 

Good memories can easily keep us from moving on, although most people think that this never serves us a disservice. But they most certainly can if we allow those fond thoughts to prevent us from adapting to change. We can get so caught-up in the good parts of our past that we cripple ourselves by refusing to see what the future holds. Let's face it, God does some beautiful things in our lives using change of some form or another. We, as Christians, were not called to a lifestyle that caters to our "comfort" levels. 

Bad memories are usually those things that left us wounded during a particular point in life. These are among the majority for me. I know that thinking about them will make me miserable but I do it anyway because I somehow think that playing it over and over will teach me something. Silly, huh? You would think I've learned by now.  I don't like what it does to my heart to think about it but my stubbornness stops me from doing what I know is right at times. It's scary to think about how quickly we become bitter and full of unforgiveness when we refuse to move on.  

The whole time I've been looking back, I have also spent regular time in scripture, devotionals, worship and prayer. But that time, as much as one might think, didn't keep my heart from going south - literally! It did, however, help me to identify it much sooner than I have been able to in the past. It led me to self-examination against who Jesus calls believers to be. It's really hard to seek God without seeing ourselves as we are. And as I stared at the bitterness and anger that I began to develop, I could do nothing but repent and ask God to change my heart once again. I love how He never gives up. 

You see, it's so easy for us to lose sight of what we've been taught. It's so easy to revert to our own old ways. But the Christian walk isn't easy at all. We are called to keep moving on. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Over the past several months, there have been several stories about sink holes and the threats caused by them. My family  recently moved from Louisiana to North Carolina and while in Louisiana there were some sink holes impacting our local area. Out of curiosity, I  asked a male coworker to explain what a sink hole is and what causes it. He explained it a bit something like this:
Sinkholes can be formed naturally via erosion or manmade via digging. They are basically air pockets underground that make the ground unstable, also threatening to collapse the ground surrounding it.  They can't been seen easily and take careful evaluation several layers below the surface in order to identify. If evaluation isn't done properly and regularly in some areas, sinkholes pose a threat to nature, homes, roads and even human lives. 

As I evaluate my own heart in my most recent circumstances, The Lord has revealed to me some sinkholes in my thinking. They are areas where I have a lack of faith and a need for growth. They started with my latching on to mindsets that are both harmful to me spiritually and contrary to who Jesus is and why He died for me. They require my careful attention to the potential damage, therefore must not go unaddressed. 

Just to offer you some background, we moved after feeling led to do so after much prayer. It all started with a lot of prayer for my husband in his struggle with his career over two years ago. God gave me a promise but even then I knew it would call one or both of us out of our comfort zones. In August, while I was on a business trip, my husband was offered a promotion with the stipulation that we moved to NC. It It was a huge step of faith as I had to choose between my comfy job with a steady paycheck and stepping out on faith to see God's plan unfold.  Now that I've been out of work for a few weeks, i find myself doubting God and His goodwill towards me. You might ask how I can take such a leap of faith, yet be filled with doubt afterward. It's simple. I have experienced the impact of one of those air pockets that reveal my lack of faith. Ouch!

You see, as we go throughout life and experience various trials, we can easily develop mindsets that are contradictory to our faith and / or harmful to us in our ability to enjoy life and live it to the fullest. When we allow the wrong mindsets to take root in our hearts, we begin to feel "stuck" and as believers we have already been freed. They keep us from believing God in a particular area of life if we hang on to them. If we carefully examine these "pockets" of doubt or wrong-thinking in ourselves, we continue to grow. But if not, our growth is stunted. 

In Luke 8, Jesus told the Parable of the Sower. He then explained it to the disciples as they expressed a desire to understand it. 
   "And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience." Luke 8:9-15

I don't know about you but I read this scripture and pray that God will help me to be "good soil". We are all equally as prone to being one of those others. But if we aren't evaluating and reevaluating our hearts regularly, we can get caught up easily in the wrong thinking. Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:" It's crucial that we stay in the state of evaluating our hearts. It's also hard to get caught up in judging others when we judge ourselves before God's Word. 

Here are some aspects of evaluating sinkholes that God taught me.
1. Know God's word. We risk full-blown collapse if our hearts don't know God's word because we then become vulnerable to everything else, let alone our emotions. There are a lot of things in this world that pose as light, yet are not. It's crucial that we not rely solely on church, preachers or evangelists to teach us. We shouldn't just attend church on Sundays and come away from service griping that it wasn't what we needed. We need to seek a relationship with God ourselves, Scripture is God's gift to us if we really want to learn more about Him. He blesses us when we seek Him and put His way ahead of our own. See Romans 10:17 and Jeremiah 23:13
2. Ask for forgiveness and faith where you know you don't have it. Remember the possessed boy in Mark 9? Jesus revealed a sinkhole in the boy's father's thinking. The man replied, "I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 
3. Stop trying to "figure it out" alone and embrace your vulnerability knowing you are safe in Him alone. God never said we'd have it all figured out or that there is this stage wherein we should stop learning. I've heard many Christians and non-Christians alike voice this belief that something is wrong with a person of faith if we expose any weakness, don't have it all together or express a gap in our wisdom/ knowledge. This is so not true!  We have unfortunately discouraged many and led many others astray with this teaching. Christ called His beloved to be teachable and always be in a state of learning. See 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Timothy  2:2, John 16:13, Hosea 4:6
4. Examine yourself habitually. Be willing to learn about yourself in all situations. In my struggle, I first found myself experiencing loneliness like I haven't in quite a while. I learned here that I really didn't believe that God is with me. I knew i needed to seek The Lord and I couldn't get enough of His word but knew it was the way to battle this war inside me. The Lord blessed me with peace once again but I cannot just quit doing those things if I want to continue to grow. See Psalm139:23-24
5. Take every thought captive. Be cautious of what you allow to take root in your mind. It can become who you are. 2 Corinthians 10:5

Be encouraged that although life can be difficult, we do not struggle alone. Fight the good fight and don't stop short of the finish line, my friends. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Enduring Trials

Trials typically feel like they will go on forever, don't they? They test us emotionally and spiritually in ways that physical exercise tests and matures the body...they both hurt! I must be honest here - sometimes I find myself hoping for a break from it all. But here's the thing -  neither good nor bad times last forever, no matter your philosophy on life. I do believe though that the source of where you get your hope triggers your worldview and our worldview ultimately feeds into every perspective you have. The right worldview and perspectives basically determine how you handle things, and how quickly you bounce back from troubles.

I know that many of you are suffering through something(s) in life just like I am and I am sure that we can learn a lot from each other. I don't claim to have it all figured out but I do believe that being a good ambassador of God's love means I must be willing to share my struggles and my lessons. Therefore I want to share the hope that I have with you along with some truths and perspectives that may help. Here are some things I try to remember when I am going through trials to help me to stay the course:
  1.  I am human, and none of us are perfect. If we were we wouldn't need God's precious enduring grace - and nothing is more hopeful than that. He stands ready to forgive me every time I do something wrong. He stands ready to help me up and put me back in the race. He isn't surprised at my failures and He doesn't stand waiting to punish me at every mistake I make. He wants to show us His unfailing love and grace. Hebrews 4:16 and I Peter 5:10
  2. Nothing can stop His love. Neither my sin or yours, not satan's lies or anything else can make Him stop loving any of us. He created us for communion with Him, and with one another. He hates sin, but He loves us so much that He offered His son as the one sacrifice that would cleanse and change us all if we believe. Romans 8:38-39
  3. Even trials are a form of grace. If it weren't for God using them to show me my need for Him, I would wander on in life never knowing the freedom that comes through Jesus Christ. And if I never had trials, I probably would never be broken enough to trade in my own way for His. I would be the most self-righteous person ever, and Christ didn't come for the ones who had (or thought they had) it all figured out. Psalm 119:71 and 2 Corinthians 12:9
  4. If it weren't this trial, it'd be some other one because everything on Earth is broken due to sin. Nothing works like it should. We all get hurt. We all experience struggles of one kind or another. How we view them ultimately determines our path. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
  5. I can learn something about myself in every trial. It's crucial that I learn my own heart if I am going to run this race. Do I really believe the stuff I say I do in the way I think, react and handle adversity? How easily I get discouraged tells me how much I hope in the Lord, and whether any idols have snuck into my life. 1 Peter 1:6-7 and 2 Corinthians 13:5
  6. I am expected to address what God shows me about my own heart. I can't do it alone but now that I know I have stuff in me that needs to go, I can ask for help and be conscious of falling into the same mental, emotional and/or spiritual traps again. 1 Corinthians 11:28 - 34
  7. Hope in Christ won't allow me to stay cynical. Once I see my own need for grace, I can't really be so shocked that anyone else needs it. I Corinthians 13:7
  8. Scripture gives truth but my emotions lie a LOT. If I get stuck on something, the best thing to do is search scripture for truth. Romans 12:2 and Galatians 5:16-24
  9. If I am not willing to have a teachable spirit, I will ultimately veer off course. And since He calls us to be willing to give it all to Him, what am I really giving up to Christ if won't give up my mindsets, ideas, perspectives and heart? Proverbs 13:18 and 2 Timothy 3:16
  10. God didn't create us to give up. He created us to be overcomers by His grace. John 16:33 and Revelation 3:21

If you have anything to add, please add it in the comments below. I really would love to hear about truths that help you.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Grace Enough

"Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in time we will reap if we do not grow weary." Galatians 6:9

No matter how much you love others, the fact that you are human means you will have times when you get discouraged over the actions/words/inaction of others. We beat ourselves up over the disappointment it but it’s inevitable. However, the more we search the scriptures for a more appropriate worldview, these times will occur less frequently and less severe. Life is a process.
People are going to disappoint us. We live in a world where everything and everyone is broken because of sin. Now I know that according to many people, the word “sin” is a curse word. It isn’t preached in many churches and many Christians don’t want to use it for fear of being thought judgmental and therefore, face persecution. But you can’t explain life or people at all without taking about the foundation of which it all started.

The thing about sin is this: We are all infected. Once we  1. See the nature of our own hearts, 2. See what’s been done for us to atone for it and 3. Begin a relationship with the One who can change us, we can begin to offer grace to other sinners like ourselves. We Christians are thought to quite the hypocritical bunch by non-believers, and many times we are. We tend to forget who we are, and what has been given to us. 

But here’s the thing -- being changed is a process that never ends prior to our exit from this world. We need lots of grace just to make it through a day, and even when we don't feel like we have what we need - we do. If we need grace so frequently, why would we think a non-believer wouldn't need it? Everyone needs it - no matter how spiritually mature they are. And it’s so critical for us to show others how precious God’s love is by offering grace to them.
Grace, according to Miriam Webster , is:
  • is unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.
  • a special favor.
  • disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.
  • a temporary exemption.
  • the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful.

If you want people to see God, show them His love by showing grace. He has given the power to do so to those who believe in Him. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter that we don’t get what we want when eternity is at stake. It doesn't encourage anyone to follow Christ when we put our own expectations and feelings above showing them the very love God never deprives us of.
No matter what religion you practice, I’m sure you can agree that we learn by making some mistakes and seeing some real ugliness in ourselves (the need for change). That’s why Jesus said we must remain connected to the vine. You can’t see your true heart the way God sees it, much less change yourself without the mercy and power of the Lord. You can read and puff yourself up with knowledge all day long but it will never compare to the power of the Holy Spirit – never.

"But knowledge puffs up while love builds up." 1 Corinthians 8:1

The point I’m trying to make it this: give yourself and others a little bit of room. You are going to fail them they will fail you. The grace God has given you IS enough. He also commands you to show others just how He has empowered you by offering grace to others. And once you start practicing grace, you’ll start to see miracles happen in your life and in your relationships.

Fight the good fight, finish the race.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Called for Change

Life is unstable; we all know that, right? I don’t know a single person who doesn’t claim to know it, yet doesn’t resist change in some area of life. All throughout scripture, God calls about change- from Adam and Eve to the disciples. All throughout life we experience change, starting from birth and going through old age the message is consistent: we can’t get too comfortable with this life.

I am a creature of habit. I have some crazy OCD-like traits. For one thing, I become easily frustrated with procrastination and disorganization. I love to, and many times think i need to have a plan. These are both strengths and weaknesses because although they help me to remain predictable and responsible, they also make it extremely hard for me to go along for the ride whenever life calls for it. And there have been time when I've needed to relax but couldn't. This has always been a huge area of struggle for me, although it’s getting easier because I have a spouse who complements me in this way. He encourages me not to find my worth in what I do. He encourages me to relax more and stress less. The Lord has really used him to help me not to be so high strung.

I’ve been convicted over my resistance to change and my inflexibility. When we become believers of the gospel of Christ, we adopt the very concept of change at the deepest level. In fact, we beg for it, right? Then when we get it, we mope, whine and pout as if we are going through some crisis. I am convinced that the human race can be summed up as insatiable gluttons for punishment because, and only because I see it in myself.

I also hear it in fellow Christians, “Why can’t _______ just adapt?” In the same breath they gripe about their own struggle of adapting to change. We are so hard on those who struggle to adapt, yet we excuse away our own resistance as if it’s somehow justified. Of course scripture says that God doesn’t change but God is already perfect. We aren’t. We are constantly in desperate need of change.

God called Moses to go back to Egypt after he fled with his family. He wanted to use him for something great but every step of that journey came with a need to further adapt. Earlier this week, I was watching the movie “The Ten Commandments.” In the scene where Moses and his wife made the trip back to Egypt as God commanded, Moses looked at his wife and said, “You’d think if God wants me to do something, He would make it easy.” Whoa! There was no denying I needed to hear that statement reflecting that very attitude in my own heart.

Repentance pretty much sums up change in the life of a Christian. At the most basic level, repentance is change. It begins with a change of heart that spreads to impact everything we think, say and do. Rick Warren said, “You are not preaching the gospel unless you are preaching repentance.” The gospel should constantly change us by exposing more and more of our hearts. There is no point at which we are alive and can say, “I’ve arrived. I know it all and have it all figured out.” No matter how old we get, how “mature” we think we are, we still need the ever-cleansing change that only Christ can make in our hearts. And might I add that God uses the most unlikely people and circumstances to teach us. Everything in life can be used to mature us and draw us closer to Him if we will just listen.

We don’t have to fear change. We can be Biblically sound, open to growth while using wisdom that scripture teaches us. If you know that the greatest miracles God performs are those changes of the heart, it’s because you’ve experienced it firsthand. And if you have experienced it, can you agree that it’s quite rewarding to see those changes impact every area of our lives? And if you don’t know the Lord, do you want to? If you do, I encourage you to write to me at I have a lot to learn, but I do know that our God is the expert of change and makes it all worthwhile.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Crash Landing

Recently, The Lord seems to be working overtime to teach me. And let me just say that the lessons He wants to teach us and that we so desperately need never come without some pain and suffering. Over the past several months, I've felt more and more of a call to pray that He cleanse me of my selfishness - no matter what it took. I know what you're thinking - "That's real smart of you, Jennifer. Why would you pray for that?!?!" But when God works on your heart, you can run and get swallowed up by the whale or you can go ahead and do what you're told.

As I began to understand what God has ultimately called believers to do - serve Him by serving others - I began to see how much I stand in my own way. My heart was always being broken over something I thought I needed but didn't get. My own wants were always interfering with with what someone else wants or even needs. I tend to start out serving God but somewhere in that service I start thinking about me. Me Me Me Me...

As the journey began, I had my sporadic bouts of "me spells" and then they became less and less frequent. Just when I thought I could balance this "bicycle" called ME without thinking about myself, I got overly confident. I must have unknowingly said, "You can let go now, Lord. I think I can do this." And then, almost instantly I slammed my bicycle into the Great Wall of China and the crash landing wasn't very sightly.

I found myself angry with people close to me, feeling like my poor old self was overlooked and insignificant. I started focusing on what they weren't doing for me and how I wasn't being thanked enough. I voiced it many times and threw a few mini-tantrums as this thing ran it's course. I was so full of anger that I could have burst. But the Lord never stopped working on me even in my selfish feelings and shameful attitude. He was there talking to me even when I was drowning out His voice with such loud thoughts of myself.

Now some would have me think I was just neglected and was suffering from giving too much of myself - or some explanation that would only make me feel better about my feelings / attitude while excusing my actions. But I tell you that when I weigh it in the Word of God, I am flat guilty of selfishness. There isn't any way to feel good about that!

Please tell me you can relate because this story doesn't reflect my "shiny side" but it does reflect something deep in me that needs to be addressed. And as I look around I think other people must struggle with it too because we're all broken from sin. And since the root of sin is selfishness, I know I do not stand alone.

But it doesn't mean we're stuck with it. If God calls us to do it, He has already given us what we need and we need to focus on believing Him. If we fail, it's because we ceased to believe God's way is better than our own. He doesn't give us a calling and then say, "Here, go do it while I sit and watch." He goes with us and when we fall, He encourages us to get right back up. He cleans our scrapes and off again we go.

And I close, I want to share with you some things that always encourage me in a godly way. I hope if you can identify with me in any way, you will not let discouragement take you out of the battle. Continue to get back up no matter how long it takes.
  • But what I do have, I give to you. --Acts 3:6b ESV
  • We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up but love builds up.-- I Corinthians 8:1 ISV
  • Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.--Proverbs 3:5-6
  • So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. --Isaiah 41:10
  • Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. --John 14:27
  • Don't try to take credit for what only grace can do. --Rick Warren
  • We get into bondage because we don't trust Him. --Beth Moore
  • You grow when you do the right thing when you don't feel like it. --Joyce Meyer.
  • Our gifts were given to us to help others. --Rick Warren
  • Faith is acknowledging your brokenness with hope. --Paul Tripp
  • When I forget who I am in Christ, I quit pursuing what is mine in Christ. --Paul Tripp
  • There is no such thing as love without sacrifice. --Rick Warren
  • Success is never God's endorsement of your character but His revelation of His.--Rick Warren
  • Don't beat yourself up over how far you have to go but be encouraged about how far you've come. --Brian Batey

Monday, April 8, 2013

Finding True Fulfillment

Life provides an equal opportunity to suffer for each and every one of us. It does not discriminate based on color, creed, or even financial status. Nothing you own and no human in your life can protect you from the hurt life brings. But yet we try to fill that hurt with things and people who weren't intended to fill it.

We so badly want to have our own way and not feel the pain at the same time. We so quickly run to things of this world to fill our voids and even when we come out disappointed repeatedly, we run right back to it. But God's word reminds us that He is the only One who can fill our voids and that filling them with anything else will lead to disappointment.
"He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanityWhen good things increase, those who consume them increase. So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on?  The sleep of the working man is pleasant, whether he eats little or much ; but the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep."   Ecclesiastes 5:10-12

At the same time, we buy into this lie that we aren't meant to overcome our struggles nor are we to try. I've bought it, I'll be the first to admit. Suffering is part of life and it was hard for me to comprehend how God, the One who hates sin, can also want to deliver us from it and the consequences thereof. But He does. And His word says that too. Even better -  He leaves proof of deliverance in my heart consistently.

I believe it's important and urgent that I remind you that we don't have to live our lives defeated. If you are saved, you have the Holy Spirit in you seeking to obey God and taking joy in all that He is. If you believe that Jesus Christ died a torturous death on the cross for you, do you not also think that He also wants to heal your hurts and carry your burdens? If you are struggling, hand those burdens over to Him and let Him handle it - trusting that He knows what's best. Don't let your feelings talk you into giving up.

And if you aren't yet saved, I need to tell you that God is very real. The proof of His existence is on your heart whether you know it or not. You long for something more, something real to fill those voids that you've tried and tried to fill with other things. That very longing was placed on your heart by Him, for Him.Some of you have been hurt by religion and want no part in anything faith-based anymore. Let me just tell you that God's approval is a lot easier to get than man's because we can never be as merciful as He is. And if He were not, He would not come to Earth to die so that all sin may be offered forgiveness through His sacrifice.Why not end the cycle of filling your voids with things that won't heal you and call out to the One who can, and will?
“Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will you perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will you do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” John 6:27-35

Our God loves to rebuild us when we've come to the end of ourselves because it's then that we can't claim any change in us as our own - believe me, I know. He loves to make us things that we cannot be on our own, because then there is no mistaking His mark. Therefore don't expect that He will build you into to what you want to be or make your life the way you want it. If brokenness doesn't teach us anything else, it should teach us that our way doesn't work (it's a hard pill to swallow). When He heals us, the hurt is gone because the wounds become scars. The scars then merely serve as reminders of our journey.

Our feelings try and get in the way of what we know to be true about Him, so I encourage you to keep them in check. As believers, we cannot afford to be placing emotions with any level of high ranking. We've got to learn to rely on what we know to be true. And when you don't know, seek it. But in seeking, keep your focus on Him because nothing else will fill your voids and heal your brokenness as God will.This I know. Be encouraged!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Throwing Rocks

It’s been said that many, if not all, of the Old Testament laws were written to reveal our own hearts and our need for a savior. I’ve come to believe that. I was watching a stoning scene in the series, “The Bible” recently. Seeing it visualized served to teach me the intention I believe stoning was meant to fulfill – to serve as a mirror of our own hearts.

You see, to pick up a rock and throw it at someone takes arrogance, nerve and mean-spiritedness that hides itself deep inside the human heart. It takes blindness to our own sins and complete focus on someone else’s to start with. Even more so, it takes intent to hurt someone that only a hard heart can follow through with. Think about it – the rock is being thrown with full intention of killing “the offender” due to an injustice that those throwing rocks were just as capable of.

I don’t know about you but I’ve learned that focusing on others or the wrongs that have been done to me always causes me to stumble because it takes the place of my focus on Christ. The ugliness in our hearts simply exists because sin can only thrive in the dark. Therefore, our focus on others becomes nothing more than a scapegoat for us since it changes the focus on someone else and allows us to feel better about the junk in our own trunks. We become more and more blinded, as we look at others, about what’s in us.

Oftentimes, I judge others so quickly and so harshly when I really don’t know what circumstances led them to what they’ve done or how they live. Subconsciously, I have this idea that the way I do things is right and I’ve earned the right through my decisions to be hard on others. Yes, it sounds a bit delusional but if you are honest I bet you can identify with it.

Of course none of these thoughts are at the forefront of my mind since they hide behind prettier, more reasonable thoughts, but they are the indeed the foundation on which my thought system has rested for so long. And I think that’s what Jesus Christ meant in the Bible when He referred to the concept of surrendering all. If we are going to be overcomers in Christ Jesus, we must surrender not only our lifestyle but also our thought system and be willing to search it for gaps repeatedly.

We have to be willing to ask ourselves the hard questions. We should ask ourselves things like:
  • Does this stuff I am doing, saying and living match up to the word of God?
  • Am I being a tool of grace for someone else?
  • Are my motives holy?
  • Am I judging others for something I, myself, do?
  • Am I really seeking the best interest of another person or am I seeking my own interests and glory?
  • Do my words serve as an ambassador of Christ, meaning do they show others the love of God?
  • Would the way I want to respond to this person bring them closer to God or push them away?
  • What would/did Jesus do in this situation?

As I search my own heart, I realize that I’ve denied others the grace and mercy that I so whole-heartedly desire, and that has been so freely given to me. As much as I hate to know these things are inside of me, I rest knowing that when God reveals something it’s because He wants to cleanse it.
We throw rocks every single day, as believers. They may not be real rocks that kill but they do hinder and they do hurt. And that’s not the testimony we are called to live out. I don't say these things to scold anyone but as a lesson I feel I've regrettedly learned the hard way. If we are going to say we take our faith seriously, we must examine ourselves consistently.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Impaired Vision

I sat there, staring at the page, trying desperately to focus on the book in front of me. The uncomfortable conversation I’d just had with a loved one left me seething with anger. I needed to focus on something else but anger filled me to the brim to the extent that it had impaired my vision. No matter how much I tried to focus on my book, the only thing on the page that I could see clearly was the word:
Everything else on the page was blurry, but that one word seemed to glare at me -  and I stared back at it as if we were in a standoff. In the moment, I wanted that word out of my way. But it wouldn’t move.
With my selfishness exposed and my vision impaired, I wasn't going anywhere good with that stance. I lost my reading battle and I was later convicted to offer an apology. I know the Lord was speaking to me in that instance, using the word “grace” as a reminder of what he gives to me even though I don’t deserve it. I was so full of myself that I couldn’t see anything but me - my pain, my struggles and what I felt I deserved. 

I am ashamed to say that the last thing on my mind was serving my loved one that day. Grace should have been the obvious way because I know I have been given so much. I also failed to remember that grace is never deserved. I should have known better! But then again, we are never more blinded than when we are the center of our own universe.

Remember Peter? He promised Jesus that he would stay by his side. But Jesus revealed what He already knew about Peter’s heart before it manifested. Jesus told Peter that he would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crows. Peter’s response was one of denial. I can imagine that he was thinking something like, “Lord, you have me pegged all wrong. I’m not like that!”

Isn’t that how we humans are? We don't really see our hearts for that they really are. And when we are blinded by who and what we are, our relationships suffer (especially the one with God). We may see bits and pieces of what’s in our heart but rarely do we see it very clearly - partly because we don't want to and partly because of our fallen nature. Let's face it, it totally crushes any sense of self esteem to see how helpless and wretched we are deep down.
I didn't write this to guilt you about your condition - whatever that may be. I wrote it, hoping that you will think about how much you really know about your own heart. Because it isn't until we are willing to see and accept our condition that we realize how desperate we are for an ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ. And even then, seeing our own heart is an on-going process.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Craving Protection

We come into this world completely helpless and dependant on others to care for us and protect us. We need someone to teach us to walk, talk and love. It’s absolutely vital that someone protect us from others and from ourselves while we are little. As we grow, we need for our caretaker to exercise the wisdom of “letting go” little by little until we are what we like to think of as self-sufficient.

Little do we know, we never quite grow out of this need to be cared for, protected and taught.  We just graduate from one school to the next. Our parents are like elementary teachers meant to prepare us for higher education. God will become our teacher of things that our parents could not teach and He has far more self-control than our parents, who want to coddle us when we really need to suffer the scrapes and bruises of the fall.
I find myself pondering the idea of protection a lot lately as have struggled with it more as I have aged. As I think back, I realize that I have often thought that I am unloved or unworthy of protection because I was not protected when I felt I should have been. My fleshly nature wants to resent those who failed to protect me in life. But then God tells me that even though it’s natural for me to want it, those who failed to protect me too much somehow did me a favor regardless of how they (or satan) meant for it to impact me.
We have a natural tendency to crave protection because it makes us feel loved and cherished. We feel great when we are loved and cherished but the problem is that we don’t grow if we don’t suffer some. And when we don’t suffer, it keeps us from needing God. But no one likes to suffer…it’s not part of our plan. It prevents us from this “happiness” we think we deserve.
We have this idea that people don’t love us or that we aren’t important when we are in the midst of pain from something we think could have been prevented – by someone else.  Many of us have even resented God at some time or another for allowing something to happen that we deemed “unfair”.  There are a lot of things in life that are horrible and cruel that I, myself wish I could have prevented for others but the truth of it all is that He isn’t sitting up there trying to make life horrible for us. Sometimes things happen to us with no rhyme or reason.
The glory in it all is that He can make it all work towards our benefit rather than against us. And when we survive without these things we thought we needed, we realize that the net of God's grace held us all along.
There is flawed thinking in the idea that true love must not allow one to hurt. The “coddle” mindset we’ve adapted lends to the narcissistic thinking of our society – “It’s all about me, myself and my pain.” We, as believers have got to learn the difference in when and how much protection is too much. Too little protection causes unnecessary hurt but too much handicapps a person. It takes quite a bit of discernment to know that fine line of too little – too much.

Here are some truths I have learned that help me combat the “Why didn’t they protect me” thoughts.
·        Read His word daily. Seek to understand His message.
·        Pray often…at least daily but you can never pray too much.
·        Apply His truths to your life actively. This stuff He teaches us isn’t just words that sound nice. It’s quite logical and practical.
·        Let go of your old thought system and be open to the one He teaches you. Use it to combat the lies in your head.
·        Remember that other people are as helpless as you are. They cannot fix you. They cannot fix themselves. Freeing them from that burden is a beautiful act of grace.
·        Believe that no matter what happens, God can make you better from it. Better, not by society’s definition, but better in character and in faith.
·         Keep going no matter how much you hurt and no matter how badly you feel.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved” Matthew 24:13

We are never really alone, like we think. God can hear our thoughts, feel our pains and I believe it hurts Him to see us hurt. He wants to see us grow way past the person we have in our minds that we ought to be but if we don’t learn how to rely on Him, be obedient to Him, and focus on Him we will never leave this spot.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sustaining Love

For a long time in my life I thought it was unfair that others seemed to love me based on what I can do for them. But then I realized that I often do the same to others. I think it's a common mindset in our society that we should love people based on what we can get out of it. And yet, we wonder why relationships so often fail.

But in the process of "growing up" I am learning that true, wholesome, lasting, godly love cannot be sustained based on what we get from it, but what we can give. And it doesn't take long to learn that looking out for number one, seeking our own interests and even setting our expectations too high can lead to disappointment - for both sides.

We want all this stuff even while knowing our own humanity, and that we probably couldn't give it out as well as we think we could - yet we seek it from others still. And where does it get us? Alone? Lonely? Why? Many times it's all because we insist on our own way and because we refuse to accept the way another shows love. Sometimes it's because we are so selfish to think that having our own way is worth destroying everyone around us.

It's human nature to seek to please ourselves. But love originated with God, and it can't be sustained via man's way. Nothing changes, it seems, until we realize that our whole purpose in being is to serve others and not ourselves. Even then, it's hard to accept. Even then, it's hard for a faulty human to practice consistently.

I'm not suggesting we allow others to mistreat and abuse us. I am saying that we bring all this hurt on ourselves when we follow society's way of love. Many times. we put ourselves first in a relationship with the mindset that it's up to us to go after what we want and to expect others to meet all our needs. But is it really? Based on what I am learning from who God is, I don't think so.

I'm not suggesting that you are unimportant either. I am suggesting you make it a point to make someone else more important than yourself. When we stop thinking about how we feel or what we want all the time, we are happier because we are fulfilling our purposes. We can't be so dependent on people to meet our needs or we'll stay discourged non-stop because we are all so prone to mistakes. Trust me, I know.

We might begin a relationship seeking to meet our own needs but if we keep up that pace, we will either be destructive to that person and / or we will destroy the relationship. Selfishness builds a wall, and that wall is easier to prevent than to tear down.

I'm convinced that God's design for love is not possible until:
  1. You have an intimacy with God first and foremost.
  2. You accept that you were not meant to meet one's every need or to have one meet your every need. (This goes back to #1.)
  3. You realize that we are here to serve and are able to say "This isn't about me."  
  4. You are willing to sacrifice for others.
  5. The hurt of another is more important than your own.
This stuff wasn't meant to be easy. But nothing worth doing ever is. Keep the pace and never quit.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Look in the Mirror

One thing I've noticed lately is that we humans tend to be quite quick to label others. We're good at it, and of course it makes us feel better about our own flaws. I only know because I tend to do it too. We have this need to feel good about ourselves and sometimes that need causes us to try to take down those around us, even without knowing it.

Lately I've been really agitated because I have the perception that I am quite often taken for granted, overlooked and disrespected. Oh poor me...I even threw a couple of minor hissy fits, hoping someone would take me seriously and change it for me. I knew deep down that I was focusing too much on others and not enough on God. But I was stuck clinging to it anyway because although we can know the truth, there are times when refuse to let go of the lie. You can't choose both.

I was quite a mess over things that I couldn't change and yet I refused to let go of my issues. I had not forgotten that the issues of others aren't about me and I knew there was a chance I could be wrong - but for goodness sake I had to make it all about ME. It eventually bottled up so much inside of me that I couldn't take the pressure of carrying something that I couldn't change anymore. That's when I asked for help.

The Lord began to show me how I was discouraging those around me, especially my husband - and they deserve better from me. While I need to address my issues, I was called to put the needs of those around me first. My husband has needed my patience and grace and if I put myself first here when I have an opportunity to minister to his needs,  I fail and hubby loses out. But here's what woke me up most.
My alarm clock went off and I got out of bed as was my normal routine. I was closing the door behind me, and as I stood in the dark at the end of the hall I instatnly got a good look at myself. It was as if I was watching myself from afar, realizing how foolish my mindset has been. I saw the hypocrisy in my selfish attitude - expecting others to put my issues ahead of their own. I had been accusing certain people of selfishness but I was at least as selfish, if not more, for being willing to fight and discourage others in order to get my own way. No more "poor me".
The only way I know how to describe it is an attitude adjustment from God himself. And I needed it. Other people can't fix us and we can't expect them to. We often place expectations on them that they just couldn't meet even if they wanted to. Expectations are no less of a burden on the expecter, although we somehow think we need them. I have learned that we typically don't need the things we think we need and when we do without them, we either grow up or grow bitter. It was time for me to grow up some more. It isn't easy but it must be done.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Panic or Peace

I used to be one who was easily worked up. I thought I was stuck with panic attacks and uncontrollable anxiety forever. My tendencies to over think were always justifiable. I felt it was only right to want to understand everything, even to the point of which it left me anxious striving on my own. I look back and realize how miserable I was, and how uncontrollable it all seemed as I watch others struggle with the same things. It seemed that this would be my affliction, just as Paul had his. It seemed I needed to learn to be content with the way things were and the issues within myself...but God.

Of course I have been saved for years prior but nothing ever changed in this area of my life. I got to my breaking point, as we all have to do, and I cried out for help because I couldn't take anymore of this constant stress that seemed to be making me sick. Of course I thought about trying medication but I felt God wanted something more from me. I couldn't take anymore of this lack of self control over my own mind. God heard my cries for help, brought me in close and put a desire on my heart for intimacy with Him. It was because of that intimacy that I was changed, not because of my own doings. It was because of the strength I see in Him, that I can rest just knowing that no matter what - He is still in control.

This is not to say I never fail, or never get worked up. It's not to say that I never for a moment forget what I've learned. But I will say this, I don't fall near as far and I bounce back in a fraction of the time it used to take me. You won't find this peace in owning things, your dream job, your family, or anything else for that matter. And I firmly believe that our peace, as a believer, speaks louder than anything we say or do.

He isn't going to force His way on us. We have to want it. He wants us to seek it. We have to realize that our way doesn't work first and then we have to ask for His help. Until we are sick and tired of our own ways, we will be constantly at battle with His ways.

It's obvious to me, as I watch people get so easily riled up and carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, that we can't change ourselves. We can't even see our desperation until we are far beyond it. Even then, we scramble around in the dark looking for someone to help us and we cry out to God mostly because He's our last option - but why shouldn't He be our first?

You see, the problem with we humans is that we want help but we don't want to have to give anything up - especially our "cherished" mindsets. We want to do things our own we have to learn this lesson before we can move forward.

I've put together a list of thoughts He has taught me and I want to share them with you.
  • Don't over think things. You don't have to understand it all, no matter what your brain tells you. Faith is sometimes believing and obeying in the absence of proof.
  • Don't bottle it up or lie about how you feel. This stuff has to be addressed or it will come out the wrong way. Talk to God about it, ask for explanations from others when it makes sense, or ask for insight from Him. But don't let your issues turn into hate and resentment. A hard heart and unforgiveness will hinder your prayers.
  • Learn that other people's issues aren't about you, even when they affect you. You can only work through your own. The best thing you can do for them is be consistent, love them and pray for them.
  • Don't get defensive when facing accusations or insults. It's always a good thing to explain yourself, but if you are doing what you truly know is right you have nothing to defend. Notice that Jesus didn't get defensive. He said very little. It's not about being confident in yourself. it's about having a godly confidence.
  • Don't expect other people to fix you or heal your pain. They can't even do this for themselves any more than you can.
  • Don't overreact when things aren't going your way. Life isn't about making you comfortable and happy...our best opportunities as Christians is during our suffering. We were never promised a rose garden as believers.
  • Love others for who they are, and accept that you can't change them. I've learned that if I ask God for understanding, I can learn far more about a person. Showing love doesn't mean we don't set healthy boundaries in how they treat us, it means we show them love no matter how we feel.
  • Don't be cynical. That just shows your over-dependence on people to fix you and your lack of faith in God. I don't believe we have to be cynical to be realistic and faithful. Being cynical comes off as angry to others...and anger never made anyone feel loved or at ease. Anger is selfishness 99% of the time. Jesus wasn't selfish.
  • You don't need the approval of others. When you think you do, you are at their mercy and a prisoner to human emotions and actions. You only need the acceptance of God and you already have that.
  • Trust God - no matter what. Trust His timing, trust that He can make any situation good for you spiritually (because that's where it matters most.)
  • Don't let other people determine your relationship with God. People are going to fail are going to fail them. Being let down isn't the end of the world when your God is still in control. Focus on Him and on serving Him, not so much what's in it for you. I have found that if I focus on people for too long, I become resentful and sometimes angry. This impacts my relationship with Him.
  • Don't focus on your wants and needs more than you focus on serving others. There really is healing in putting others first.
  • Ask that He make you more like Him and ask that regularly. Focus on who He is by staying in the Bible. Ask for more faith when you are doubting. Focus on the reasons to believe and not the ones not to.
  • Study and read His word regularly. You need His truths implanted in your mind in order to combat the old man in you.
  • Pray....I can't emphasize enough that He wants us to seek Him and spend time with Him. Even though He knows our heart, He blesses prayer. There are countless places in the Old testament where the Israelites cried out and He responded to their cries. It had nothing to do with how great they were, but how great He is.
  • Continue godly habits even when it seems they aren't working. It takes time to kill off our old ways. And Satan wants you to think godly habits don't work.

I want to encourage you that it doesn't have to be this way--you don't have to bottle it up, over think it or fix issues everywhere. We as believers, don't have to be victims to every circumstance, situation or the thoughts / actions of others. Faith overcomes that. We were meant to be overcomers in spite of suffering. People are watching and they desperately need to see us live what we say we believe. Our attitude shows our measure of faith more than we realize.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Starting from Scratch

It is a new year and with that comes a fresh start. With the fresh start comes hope of a better future and freedom from shame and hurt caused by previous experiences. Each day brings a new beginning as well, but we so often overlook that. But even though a new beginning can bring relief, it can and often does bring about some very hard times.

Starting from scratch can be a very desolate place to be. It brings about a new scenery, many times of unflattering things in us that we've never seen before. It can be very discouraging to look at yourself and see how many changes need to be made in you. And if you don't have some truths to cling to, you may find yourself running back to your past sooner than later in search of familiarity. At the same time, starting from scratch provides a sort of redemption. It means we can shrug off the shame, hurt and pain for the hope of something better.

The thing about starting from scratch is that you have to have a goal and eager focus on the truths of your basic foundation. That brings up another point. Your foundation has to be solid, and if it isn't you need to ditch it for one that is. Otherwise the this whole thing is simply based on intentions, and good intentions alone never accomlished anything. I only know of one foundation that is solid enough to withstand anything.

I know what it means to start from scratch - to realize just how little I have to offer on my own. I have come to think that those who endure the walk come to this realization over and over  in life. It's not just a one time thing, if you truly want to keep growing.

On one hand it can be discouraging to see how wrong my mindsets, motivations and intentions really are. It stings to see my heart in the eyes of God sometimes. And it is also quite intimidating if I don't know or forget some basic truths. There have been times when I've seen felt crippled by the mere thought of the amount of change I need.

But on the other hand, that fresh start just confirms that God is still working in me. It means I don't have to cleanse myself from the issues I have. I don't have to, nor can I make myself better. But I can listen, and I can follow the lead of the One who does. It means He loves me too much to let me sit and grow stale. But he requires my obedience.

I hope you savor the opportunity of a fresh start in some area of your life. Don't let it intimidate you. We weren't called to let fear stop us.

(Those of you who have been here before know that I haven't written in months. I felt called to sit out for a while to learn some things. Thank you for returning.)