Thank-Full, Even on Empty

Posted: November 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

Thanksgiving is special — it’s the One Day a year we all stop the busyness, slow down, and purposefully acknowledge the blessings we have. But what about those who are knee-deep in the Turmoil of Tragedy? Is it possible to be Thank-Full in the midst of deep sorrow, grief and pain?

The answer to that question lies in the Last Supper scene.

As recorded in Mark 14:22-24, after taking the bread, Jesus blessed it and gave it to the disciples to eat in remembrance of his body. Jesus then took the cup, and after giving thanks, distributed it among the disciples, as a symbol of the blood He was about to shed. What makes this so remarkable is the timing. On the very night Jesus is betrayed by Judas into the hands of those who would mock, insult, hit, spit upon, flog and crucify Him, Jesus doesn’t lash out. Instead, He utters a blessing and gives thanks.

In the quiet moments of the Last Supper, Jesus models something quite profound. He chooses to be gracious, grateful and Thank-Full.

A dear friend once told me that although we cannot always choose the Painless Path, we decide our mode of travel along those Rough Roads — we can either walk them with God or without Him. This Thanksgiving, if you’re in the midst of a Valley so Deep and Dark that Shadows threaten to overtake you, make the choice to allow God to enter into your Pain. The Father is the Only One who can Heal you — take your Broken Halves and make you Whole again. Even on Empty, it’s possible to be Thank-Full.

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Last Lap Syndrome

Posted: June 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

Elevation Worship’s lyrics “Walking around these walls, I thought by now they’d fall” (from the song Do It Again), always reminds me of the story of Jericho. Recorded in Joshua 6:2, God tells the Israelites to march around the fortified walls of the city once a day, for six straight days, in complete silence. Then, on day seven, the Lap pattern changed. Instead of marching just once, the Lord instructed them to circle the city seven times, the first six silently. On the seventh and final Lap, however, the Israelites were given the green light to make as much noise as possible. At their unified shout, the reinforced walls fell. Open and defenseless, the city quickly slipped into the hands of the Israelites.

Those Laps are my visual of what I call the Waiting Season – that seemly Frozen Period of Time – where we continually circle Our Walled Jericho, petitioning God to bring an answer to our One fervently-repeated prayer. The Bible is filled with such examples – the story of Abraham and Sarah is just one of them.

At the age of 75, Abraham received a promise from God that he’d be the father of many nations. The problem? His wife, Sarah, hadn’t born him any children. Obviously passed their prime childbearing years, but believing God’s promise, Abraham and Sarah waited. And they waited. And waited longer still. They waited and waited and waited.

But after nearly 10 years had passed, seeing absolutely no movement by God in this area, Sarah allowed her frustration to open the Bad Decision-Making Door. And in this mode, Sarah voices her Solution – she tells Abraham to sleep with her Egyptian servant, Hagar, saying, “it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” (Genesis 16:2) Abraham did as Sarah said; he slept with Hagar. Hagar became pregnant and bore Abraham a son, naming him Ishmael. At 86, parenthood had finally arrived, but ONLY to Abraham; Sarah was not part of it. This one decision created chaos and disorder. What was expected to unify only brought division, quickly consuming Sarah with Buyer’s Remorse. Pitted against one another, Hagar and Sarah quickly dove down into the depths of Baby Mama Drama.

Yet God had not forgotten His promise. When Ishmael was about 14, Sarah finally conceived, and at the age of 90, bore a son, named Isaac. Abraham, now 100 years old, held what God had promised nearly 25 years earlier – a son through which the nations would come. The Promise Maker showed that He’s also a Promise Keeper.

We get frustrated because our timeline never matches His. We are in a hurry. He is not. This is compounded by how we view the Waiting Season – we often see it as Wasted Time – Futile rather than Fruitful – Pointless rather than Powerful. The Waiting Season teaches us what no other Time Span can – it stretches us, producing change and maturity.

Last Lap Syndrome enticed Abraham and Sarah to “solve” their dilemma by stepping into God’s shoes and bringing about the answer in their own power. But despite Abraham and Sarah’s faith-less-ness, God remained faithful – He delivered exactly what He promised. That alone should give us hope – it’s evidence that even Wrecking Ball Decisions cannot derail the promises of Almighty God.

The Promise Maker is, and will always be, a Promise Keeper. What God promises will come to pass. Don’t give up. Keep circling your Walled Jericho. Your Deliverer is counting your Laps and He will crush those walls at the perfect moment. Hang in there. God’s never late. God’s never early, either. He is, however, always right on time.

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Inside Out

Posted: October 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

Current Culture has become increasingly hostile to the idea of going Through nearly all forms of Hardship. This has fueled the misconception that in Tough Times, we should take the first exit off the Hard Highway. As the view of Struggling continues to be devalued, it’s become more popular to point the finger, rather than take a pointed look at ourselves. But the Storms of Life do have value — they ignite maturity, breaking off the things which Hinder us. Repeatedly skipping the Storms by constantly taking Detours around what’s Difficult only serves to stagnate our growth; we end up more focused on what’s wrong with others, rather than what’s wrong with us.

Although, at times, we may be pitted against a person or a particular group of people, we have to look Beyond them because our Greatest Opponent isn’t physical — its spiritual.

The Bible plainly tells us that Satan is our enemy. While we may easily see the manifestation of the devil’s Lies in others, we are often Blinded to the ones WE house in our hearts. Scripture describes the devil as roaming to and fro, searching for Open Minds in which to plant Weeds of Anger, Dejection, Disappointment, Despair, Disillusionment, Discouragement and Resentment.

Although not built of stone or brick, a spiritual Fortress is similar in design to a medieval castle. But instead of safeguarding people, a spiritual Fortress protects Lies, which it will defend against attack at all costs. Belief drives Behavior, so if we take Satan’s Lies to heart, then the devil becomes the one we listen to …. submit to … and follow. The more Lies we ingest, the quicker we spiral downward into his Dark Dungeons of Unforgiveness, Co-Dependency, Anxiety, Fear, Doubt, Depression, Bitterness, Envy and Jealousy.

What starts as a Foothold can quickly grow into a Formidable Fortress, and the only way to demolish it is from the Inside Out.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 says, “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.”

The Word of God is the only weapon capable of bringing down a spiritual Fortress, but we cannot wield it unless we know it and accept it as true. God’s Word tells us that we are loveable, worthy, forgiven, cherished, adored and treasured. Satan, on the other hand, tries to get us to believe the opposite: that we are unloved, unworthy, unforgiven, despised and rejected.

Jesus came to free us, but there’s one catch — we have to partner with Him and go Through the process of being set free. Always the perfect gentleman, Jesus will never Liberate you against your own will. Instead, He stands outside the door, waiting for permission to enter. Open the door — allow Him to tear the Weeds of Distortion out of your Mind-Field, and replace them with the Fruit-Bearing Seeds of God’s Word. Let God’s overwhelming love wreck your Fortress, tearing it down, Lie by Lie, from the Inside Out. It’s the only way you’ll ever truly be Liberated.

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Marked

Posted: May 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

Based solely upon distorted accusations, fraduluent charges, and the testimony of lying witnesses, Jesus was pronounced guilty of crimes He never committed. Betrayed, abandoned, spit upon, mocked, beaten, whipped, and then nailed to a cross, Jesus’s last breath was expelled in the presence of more enemies than friends. Clearly, Jesus suffered great Injustice.

Scripture warns that those who follow Him should expect to suffer as well. The question is: who are we to expect it from? God, the Maker and Creator of the Universe, established the idea of justice; therefore, Injustice does not come from His hand. Rather, Injustice comes from the hands of Unjust Men — those who either do not believe in, or are hostile to, God. Unwilling to submit to His Authority, they walk the path of their own ideals — what is (or isn’t) acceptable — without any sort of checks and balance system to gauge their thoughts or actions. Simply stated, they do what seems right in their own eyes. Instead of caring for others at the expense of self as the Gospel directs, they care for themselves at the expense of others. That sort of Injustice is the rocket fuel of Unjust Men.

Vile things happen, not because God orchestrates it, but because Unjust Men follow their own, deviant will. While we cannot always get the target off our back, there is a Biblical principle to follow when their arrows strike. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good….” Unfortunately, this verse is often rephrased as “all things happen for a reason.” If you’re like me, that’s a hard pill to swallow in the midst of an unforseen and unavoidable disaster that has just descended upon you or your loved ones. While that phrase is okay for the Fluffy things in life, it doesn’t hold up against the Fury that sometimes life unleashes.

The crucifixion was horrible, period. Yet what happened three days later was expectedly beautiful: Jesus rose from the grave. It’s interesting, though, that despite returning from the dead, Jesus remained a Marked Man — the nail Marks in his hands and feet, along with the spear Mark in His side, were still there. But instead of evoking painful memories, those Marks became a source of hope — that the evil plans of Unjust Men will never prevail against the plans and purposes of a Just God.

To bring something good out of what is clearly bad involves a transformation process that requires our participation. We must submit our Unjust Circumstances to God and give Him permission to dig through the Ash Heap in order to find the Gems. Only God, the ultimate Recycler and Restorer, can make something Beautiful out of what is Horrible. That’s the essence of Romans 8:28.

Every Unjust Circumstance we endure leaves us with a Mark — some sort of emotional wound — that needs to be healed. Without healing, these wounds can easily fester, leaving us with a defensive, hard, unforgiving heart. I call that place Victim-Hood — a Place that’s easy to move into but nearly impossible to move out of.

If you have a smoldering emotional wound, allow Him to dig through your Ash Heap and pull out the Gems. The Master stands ready to transform your Marks into a Masterpiece, but He cannot do it if you’ve parked yourself in Victim-Hood. To exit, take the Romans 8:28 Road — it’s the only path that will ever guide you back to the Victorious Life.

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Beloved

Posted: August 29, 2016 in Uncategorized
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The Bible says that we are Beloved by God. While I firmly believe it’s true, I have to admit that my feelings don’t always match up. In other words, I don’t always feel as though I’m Beloved. If I followed my feelings (rather than scripture), I’d probably never believe I was good enough to Be Loved.

However, Romans 5:8 gives us the assurance that God deeply loves us. That verse says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus died on the cross while we were still in our sin, without any requirement that we clean ourselves up or get our messy lives back on track first. At the very point when we were at our worst, Christ responded in love, not anger or punishment. Many have laid down their lives for their friends; others for complete strangers; but Only One was willing to die for His enemies — Jesus. We cannot save ourselves because we need to be saved from ourselves. Jesus is the Only One who can save us, and His gift of forgiveness is available to all who call upon His name and ask for it.

God’s love heals; not hurts. It builds up; not tears down. God’s love empowers; not controls. We have to remember that we live in a sin-filled world and that people (not God) hurt us. Wounded hearts keep a record of wrongs, and our defense mechanism is to guard our hearts behind a brick wall. Each time we are hurt, we put another stone on top. This is effective in keeping people at a distance, but those same cinder blocks have a major downside: they also keep God’s love out.

If you really want to be His Beloved, you have to be willing to Be Loved. God’s love for you is strong, and if you allow Him access to your heart, He will destroy the brickwork separating you from Him. Accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior instantly makes you a princess of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Your King is on His throne and you are His prized, cherished, respected, and esteemed treasure. Accept His gift. Allow yourself to Be Loved so you can be His Beloved princess.

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Right after teaching the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus enters a village and a woman named Martha invites him into her house. The story, beginning in Luke 10:39, says “And she had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'”

Martha, who had invited Jesus in, busied herself with the task of serving — making sure her home was just right for HIM. But Mary, understanding the unique opportunity before her, sat down at His feet and received a lesson that was just right for HER.

Martha opened up her home, but Mary opened up her heart.

What about you? Are you like Mary — have you opened up your heart to Jesus? Or are you like Martha — afraid to let Jesus in because no matter how much you try, you just can’t get rid of the Skeletons and Dirty Laundry in your Closet? Don’t waste your time trying to clean up your life — it’s NOT your job. Let Jesus do that. He is the ultimate cleaner and He is ready to cast out the rotting bones, scrub out the stains, and breath new life into you. Jesus deeply loves you and NOTHING can separate you from His love. Let Him in. Grant Him access to your heart, and He will clean up your life.

Be still. Be renewed. Be Mary.

The Pattern

Posted: February 23, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  God’s word tells us that we are made in His image. God does not reflect us — we reflect Him. He is the Pattern — we are the copy.

In business, the quality of a copy hinges on whether it is a duplicate of the original document or another photocopy. The same is true in life. God is the Pattern, and He must be our go-to source if we want to reproduce His qualities in our lives. Yet instead of mimicking Him, we get consumed with mimicking His copies. And when we do that, we become a very poor reflection of who God is.

My own father showed little interest in me as his daughter. I spent so many years believing the lie that God was just like my dad — uninterested and unavailable. But that belief was both twisted and untrue. My Heavenly Father is the Pattern, and my dad is simply a poor reflection. God was available to be copied, but my dad chose not to reproduce the Pattern in his own life. We can either be a reflection of the original Pattern, or we can be a reflection of a poor-quality copy.

Who do you Pattern yourself after? Let God be your Pattern. Look to Him. He is always available and can be duplicated at any time.