Identity

Revelation for today:  If my purpose is tied to what I do, then my identity is in me, not in Jesus.  This is why I feel like I am not working hard enough if I don’t have a “project”.  Thus why I have to be busy.  Because lets face it I will never be enough without Jesus. Time to slow down and rediscover who I am in Jesus.  The way may seem unclear but I suspect home is closer than I realize.

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The Struggle is Real

Four years ago I came home to my dog, Tipper, stuck up on the kitchen counter.  Anyone that knows her, knows she loves food to the point of obsession and over the years has done just about anything to get it.  At 11 years old she could get on the counter, but had a hard time getting off of it, particularly after foraging.   She knew she was busted and discipline was about to take place, but she also knew she needed my help to get down.  It was a no win situation for her.  Her strong will and her intelligence combined to get her into trouble.

I have recently discovered my beagle and I share this in common.  Intelligence used in the wrong ways can be lethal for one’s emotional and spiritual health.  I use systems and structures of my own design to control what I cannot control and to avoid having to feel those things that are uncomfortable or don’t fit in the boxes that I have created.  In the end it leaves me stuck – needing help but not wanting to let anyone know I need it because that would mean exposing my weaknesses and that has been unacceptable to me.  I have created a false self that says I am strong and always in control and that has no room for failure or weakness as I define it.

With the help of a counselor I am beginning to deconstruct this false self; to let go of  intelligence which reasons everything into a box and instead ask Jesus to show me my true self.  I did not know how ingrained this false self was until the last few weeks.  I also underestimated in a huge way how much breaking is involved to get rid of a false self and to find a new self – the self that Jesus died for.  This self is both strong and weak, both gifted and broken and oh so imperfect.  Living in the tension of that is going to be ok…eventually…for now it is still hard.

Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Is. 43:19  

This is the verse I am clinging to for the moment.  It is the hope that God gently whispers into my ear, telling me it is going to be ok if I can trust Him with my real self.  The struggle is real, but the desire to be healed is stronger.

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Come to the Altar

Out of the blue you hear news that something you thought was rock solid has been broken.  Broken beyond repair. And your heart breaks.  Breaks for the lives that will forever be different – for the situation you cannot change and for the people that you love and cannot fix.

Then you hear a voice that you know is God’s.  And He gently reminds you that He knows broken, He knows failures, but more importantly He knows redemption, He knows forgiveness and He knows grace.  He knows how to help, because He alone knows every part of what is going on. He invites us to the altar, to the forgiveness that was born through His son, Jesus Christ.

There is a beautiful song called Come to the Altar that Evolution Worship sings..  The chorus says:

Come to the altar.

The Father’s arms are wide open.

Forgiveness was born with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

It is based on the work of the Cross.  A work which says new life can be born from the ashes we make of our life.  There is no sin or failure that cannot be overcome when we allow Him to enter into the process.  Shame and condemnation have no place at the foot of the cross.

Jesus asked Peter three times, “Peter, do you love me?” and three times Peter said “You know that I do.”  Peter was both hurt that Jesus kept asking him this question, nor did he understand why.  But Jesus wanted Peter to love him in a way that was deep and eternal.  The first two times Jesus asked Peter, he used the Greek form of love that referred to friendship, but the third time he used it in the agape form, which was a love that would not change despite circumstances. A love that had no conditions placed on it. It is this kind of love that will restore us when we are broken and need to be restored to our God.

So my friend, please remember that grace and mercy are yours.  Christ was raised from the dead for you: so that you and others might be restored.  You are loved.  Just as Jesus restored Peter after the resurrection, so too, He is restoring you.  There will be beauty again, perhaps not in the same way, but beauty nonetheless because it comes from God.

Father,  For those who are hurting and broken I ask you to be in the midst of their pain.  Please bring healing, redemption and wholeness.  I pray they would sense your presence and that they would recognize the source of guilt and condemnation is the enemy who comes to steal, kill and destroy.  Forgiveness from you is real and it alone brings restoration.  Help them to claim this regardless of how they feel.  Feelings are not accurate gauges of where we stand in you Jesus.  In Your name I pray, Amen.image

Light

…for the light makes everything visible.  This is why it is said, “Awake O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”  So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.” Ephesians 5:10, 14-15

This is my prayer for today – that I will allow Jesus to reveal what needs to be changed in me and show me how to live wisely.

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The Result

Several months back my husband found this grey cat stranded on a neighbors roof.  He has since become a part of our pack.  The first month or so was rough to say the least.  Two dogs and two cats was a bit overwhelming, especially since our white cat, Moses, was ticked we brought another cat into his territory.  Moses took every opportunity he could to lay in wait and attack Gandalf the grey.  He tormented him for weeks…and in the process upset the whole precariously balanced equilibriam of the pack.

Meanwhile Gandalf for the most part just put up with it.  He literally turned the other cheek until he would get fed up and then he would let Moses know back off.  This wasn’t hard to do since he is at least 3-4 pounds bigger than Moses.  But honestly he didn’t do this much, despite Ken and I wanting him to so Moses would learn to back off.

So fast forward to today and this picture.  Gandalf now regularly grooms Moses and while there are still some times where Moses is a little stinker towards him, Gandalf and he are friends (or at least as much as cats are ever truly friends).

So many lessons to be learned from Gandalf. Patience, turning the other cheek, loving your enemy, a soft answer turns away wrath, to name a few.  My husband kept telling me that peace would happen.  That I needed to trust them to work it out.  To back off.  All things that are difficult for me.  Learning when to step in and mediate and when to back off and let them is a balance that can be difficult to learn.

Cats are one thing, but people oh my.  My nature is to fix:  problems, situations, people.  But Jesus is the only one who can truly fix anything.  He alone holds the key.  He created us, he knows how we were formed and knit together in our mother’s womb.  I need to remember this.  My husband was right.  Peace was achieved in their time because they figured it out with no help from me.  To be honest, my hovering and wanting to fix it made the situation worse as I was bringing my tension into it.

If you see something that needs to be fixed, make sure you are the one who is supposed to fix it.  Sometimes the best thing we can do for true growth to take place is to let others work it out.  When we step in to fix it, we may bring peace in the short run, but we may be hindering their ability to learn the hows of working out problems.  We may gain peace, but at whose expense?

I am learning to ask both the Holy Spirit and the person for permission to enter in before I just step in.  Despite what my flesh tells me, I do not always know best, but I have a God who does!

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.  Colossians 4:6

And might I add, if you should answer each person…Blessings my friends.

Murkiness

When you are waiting on the Lord for clarity (no matter what the issue is), it can be hard to see what lies ahead.  You can make out images, but they are not clear.  For what feels like a long time now (but probably isn’t really all that long), I have been in this season.  I want the big “ahah” moment, the moment where God speaks so audibly that there is no doubt to the direction He has for me in this day and for the future.  Don’t we all want that?

God is showing me He will not always make the path clear.  God is also showing me I am to be obedient.  Everyday He puts people in my path.  People to show the love of Jesus to, people who are hurting in ways I cannot see, people who need to see Jesus around them, people who don’t want to believe in Jesus.  All of these are God opportunities, but if I am not acting on any of them because I am looking for some future revelation then I am right where the enemy wants me.  Stuck. Not moving and certainly not being obedient to the here and now and those around me.

So today I move on faith. I press forward as I have been for the last few days. I thank Him for showing me the blessings of acting on the God opportunties that have been and are there every single day.  I thank Him for the clarity to see that inaction is a sin.

It is a myth to think that “waiting on the Lord” means no action until then.  Quite the opposite.  We are to be obedient to those things He puts before us each day and in so doing I am discovering that those daily acts of obedience ARE the plans He has for me.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13

When we act, through obedience, we will find Him.  We may be surprised to find He was there all along, just waiting for us to live in the moment, not the future…

Choose Joy

I found this necklace at a craft fair right before Christmas and was drawn to the simplicity of the message.  Perhaps because I found my life was a little off kilter, an underlying discontent or maybe unrest would be the better word to describe the vague feeling.  Either way I bought the necklace and for me it is a daily reminder that to experience joy, I must choose it.

I choose many things: what I eat (much of it not healthy), my priorities, how I fill my time…But do I choose joy?  The reality is my choices affect my joy.  When my choices align with God’s, I am drawn closer to him.  True joy comes when my life is grounded in the One.  The One who will not let me down, the One who teaches me that material things are nice, but will not last, the One who  shows me that time spent with Him is the only way to start my day and that I will be less joyful, less at peace and less productive when I don’t.

So today I choose joy over stress.  Contentment over discontent.  Peace over anxiety.  Jesus over the world.

I choose joy.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

When the Ordinary Becomes Beautiful

There is a native bush/tree that grows near our house that blooms for about a month a year. It is a beautiful bit of color in what is otherwise very drab.

Like this tree, life can feel ordinary much of the time.  Like the things we do don’t always have purpose.  But when what we do is what God has called us to and has tasked us to do, then the ordinary becomes beautiful.  Not because of us, but because it is part accomplishing His will for not only our lives, but more importantly for the lives of those we encounter daily.

Psalm 15:3 says, “those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends”  are able to enter into His presence.  When we treat the people we come in contact with in our everyday interactions with dignity and respect, we bring honor to our God.  When we refuse to tear someone down, or complain to someone about a co-worker or a spouse, then we show the world the love of Jesus.  I can only imagine what Jesus would say about me if he were given the chance to gossip.  Oyvey! It would not be pretty.

Help me Jesus, to not gossip or complain.  Instead help me to encourage and lift up those around me.  Forgive me for not doing this more regularly.  Help me to love as you love.

If you are prone to seeing and acting in the ordinary as I am, I pray you will start to see the beautiful when we act as Jesus would want us to.  Make a determined effort today to create beauty by encouraging someone.  The simple act of smiling, paying a compliment or doing a small gesture of kindness creates beauty and blessings that create lasting impacts on others.  Acting in this way allows us to enter into the presence of God.  And the more we are in His presence, the easier it is to see and create the beauty He calls us to.  It is a beautiful circle, but one we must start.

Start today.

Wisdom

Because my dog was abused in the past, he tends to be fearful of anything that is bigger or louder than himself, which are many things.  For some reason though, he is fascinated with horses.  On walks he will stop and stare intently and I usually have to drag him away to continue our walk.  I am not sure why this is so.  What would normally scare him, intrigues him.  Perhaps he senses they would not hurt him, or perhaps he is trying to glean something from them.  Maybe their gentle ways are soothing to him.

I was thinking about this today and pondering where I am at in this season of life.  I want to grow, I want to overcome my giants.  And then I happened upon Proverbs 4 regarding wisdom.  When I was younger, I thought I had it and was so sure that there was one right way and I knew it.  But as I have grown older, I have realized how much I need it, need to seek it and need to glean from those who are much wiser than me.  I am also learning that not seeking wisdom is a form of pride.  A way to think I am in control, that I know better than God, that I don’t need to learn from others, even if their perspective on wisdom is different than mine.  This is sin.

Proverbs 4 speaks to the benefits of gleaning wisdom.  It says that if you love wisdom she will protect you and guard you (vs. 6), if you prize wisdom she will make you great (vs. 8) and if you embrace her, she will honor you (vs. 8).

It goes on to say in verse 12-13, that if you learn wisdom’s ways, “When you walk, you won’t be held back; when you run you won’t stumbleGuard them, of they are the key to life.”

Lord, help me today to glean from those who are much wiser than I.  Whether it is people I come into contact with or things I read or hear, all of these are potential sources of wisdom  you want me to learn from.  Help me not dismiss them because they have a different viewpoint than mine.  Let me seek you first in all things for  you are THE Source of true wisdom.  Amen

Avoidance

This is one of my favorite pictures of my dog, Tipper.  We had been at the bay walking, and she found this little perch and together we sat and watched the setting sun.  It was a moment of contentment, a peaceful escape from the pressures and problems that surround us all in one form or another.

With the political and social climate of the past year, particularly since the election, I have purposely chosen to stay away from news or social media that was divisive or argumentative in nature.  Avoidance is a strategy that has worked well for me.  It has allowed me to focus on things that bring me joy rather than things that bring me angst.

I am wondering though at what point is this healthy or even Biblical.  Apathy towards what is happening in the world has become my friend; however, there is a delicate balance between balancing peace of mind and staying informed/engaged in the world we live in.  My brother was out visiting recently and pushed back some with me in regards to being more active in what was happening in the world, saying that as a pastor shouldn’t I be more engaged?  At first I defended my stance, but as I have mulled it over the past few weeks, I realize he is right.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus talks about the idea that as Christians we are called to be salt and light in the world.  I would like to think that it is enough to be kind and treat those I encounter with dignity and respect, and this is certainly a huge part of what Jesus was talking about.  But as much as uncomfortable as it makes me, I cannot be a light in the world if I am not willing to bring a Biblical perspective to what is happening around me.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16) 

Lord help me to bring Your perspective to what is happening in the world.  Help me to engage in a way that honors you and helps me to keep a proper perspective…one in which I know you are in charge.