Posted on August 7, 2019
When I’m tempted to wallow in the “nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen” soundtrack of a suffered season …Psalms. Because the first thing I don’t feel like doing when I’m sad, angry or anxious isn’t what these profound words of wisdom instruct me to do. “It is good to give thanks to the LORD,” Psalm 92:1 says, “to sing praises to the Most High.” (NLT)
Flipping through a rolodex of the last month’s gut punches, I don’t want to sing. I’m thankful for the obligatory things …my home, health, family, talents, children, friends and God’s provision. There’s nothing earth shattering falling out of the bottom of my life. But occasionally a million little aggravations collide into a big burst of soul-stripping tears. Still, Psalm 7:17 instructs: “I will thank the LORD because he is just; I will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.” (NLT)
“After Jesus was baptized by John,” a pastor at our church faithfully reminded me the day I was baptized, “Jesus was tempted in the desert for forty days.”
“Crap,” was my first thought. CRAP. Over the next few weeks I started to feel like Psalm 3:7 …“Arise, O LORD! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked!” (NLT)
And then God asked me if I was willing to put reconciliation in His hands. Not just any reconciliation. One that had already rocked me, and my entire family, to the core. My answer was a resounding, “NO.” I didn’t want to. I’m down with heartfelt apologies. Reach as far back as you want to, God. And forgiveness? Forgiveness is a given. No apology needed. I got that memo. It’s an automatic process every Christian is wise to begin immediately after any hurt or heartbreak to prevent the root of bitterness from having babies all over our souls.
But reconciliation? Nope. No. There are some people we can love from a far and leave behind the lines of our boundaries …right? RIGHT? No. Psalm 5:11 says, “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy.” NLT
God is the one protecting and providing refuge. So, if He says we are free to come out of hiding, we should. If He prompts us to reach out one more time in an effort to build a bridge, we should obediently take the chance. What’s the worst thing that could happen when the best thing that could happen is peace?
Let’s just say …the worst thing happened. I opened up a wound that hurt worse than before. It leveled me. It surely made me ask “why …” a lot. But I kept reading through the Psalms …because coincidentally the devotional app I faithfully open every day has been in that book. (not a coincidence.) I kept praising God, through thick and heavy tears. He’s right, of course, but let’s face it …some moments make us doubt ourselves, everyone around us, all the decisions we’ve made, and the faith we stand on. Cry it all out. He can handle it.
As we continue to breathe air He will pull things out of the thin of it for us to give to Him. Not everything we go through in life is all about us. We’re called to leave the door wide open for reconciliation while God works on all of the hearts. If it’s possible …we want it. It’s OK to leave our boundaries in the protective hands of our Defender. God doesn’t owe us an explanation for our obedience. He just says, “obey.” Trust and obey.
We have to let go, so we can receive all He has for us. All we can’t see, doesn’t make sense, and makes it hard to leap in faith when He asks us to stretch past our flexibility. He knows what we need in breaking moments. Life is hard, and God knows it. He is our good Father, and so waits for us to open His book and fall into His capable arms. Every time, He will pick us up, stretch us out, and set us back on the path He’s prepared for us. He promises. And He’s good for it. Don’t let fear rob freedom.
Posted on May 29, 2019
“Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story-“ Psalm 107:2 NIV
“OK,” I motioned for my eight-year-old, “hop on.”
In the midst of a Spring that just won’t spring, I trekked through our over-saturated backyard in my rain boots with my daughter on my back. Emergency trips for X-rays never happen at convenient times, and so it seemed mildly appropriate the car was parked in the backyard while our street was being re-paved.
It’s easy to talk about God when things are great. To reflect His presence in our lives it’s rolling along at a nice clip. When the new road is freshly paved and void of bumps threatening to pop tires or spill coffee. We sing praises when the sun shines and the flowers bloom before the first day of summer, but much less when the old road is broken up and blocking our driveway.
How do we speak of God when the days are gray and we don’t feel very cheery? Deuteronomy 6:5-9 says “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” NIV
God doesn’t move or change with the weather or the roadwork. Through it all, He remains. When we are gray, ugly and broken-up, He loves us the same. So, on ugly broken days, when we have to carry our kids across the muddy lawn …we speak of God.
“Let me pray over it,” I said as I attached an icepack to her blue-green foot. We prayed, and then started to laugh. All the way to the car, sitting in the waiting room watching funny videos, and when her sock came off to reveal a regularly colored foot. Little Lo didn’t want to be pushed in a wheel chair to the X-ray room …so she rolled herself there like she’d just made the wheel chair grand prix. And we continued to laugh. The situation wasn’t funny -she had a dance competition in literal days and could put no weight on her foot. But she has God-given gift to see hard situations through a heavenly perspective.
Ruled a sprain, good doctors and good treatment would heal her, but we both knew prayer had a big stake in her circumstance. God will put out the orange barrels and block us from our driveways at times. There are parts of our lives that need tending to, in the time only He knows they will set properly. When we pray specifically for radical change, He is faithful to reframe our circumstances. God’s hand is in every rescue, and every excavation of evil. In Christ, inconvenience is used for good, and all things exist under His reign.
Telling our story, like Psalm 107:2 says, is more than just sharing the gospel. Loving God, like Deuteronomy 6:5-9 instructs us, is more than telling our testimony. It’s living His truth, as though it’s permeated into every last thought and thread of our being. Loving God is living loved, in the everyday annoyances and little bits of triumph. Laughing in light of trying times tells more than mere words. Celebrating small victories make says something about the state of our souls. We are the redeemed of the LORD! Through all we say do, let the love of our Mighty God’s redemptive and compassionate hand be ever so evident.
Find a way to laugh …or at least smile through the tears on tough days. Reach out to encourage a friend to remove self-pity. Remember all there is to be thankful for. Repeat, “Jesus!” for there is power in His name. We are promised painful times this side of heaven, but there is so much good to say. Talk about it! Repeat it! Go tell it! The healing power of God is activated when we engage in conversation with Him. Our hope is restored by the re-telling of way He’s moved in our lives before, and it encourages and assures us He will do it again.
Posted on April 24, 2019
“Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” 1 Corinthians 12:14-16 NIV
The urge to compare starts early in life. It’s a fight we battle throughout life, and often leads to envy, bitterness and dissatisfaction. Pride thrives off of comparison, dually, in that it strips our confidence and blinds us to our unique abilities. More than obvious arrogance, pride seeks to disqualify us is such an extreme way, that we can begin to mistake humility for it.
“Now if the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.” 1Corinthians 12:15-16 NIV
We each have unique gifts, given to us freely by God in order to fulfill the purpose we were created for by Him. Denying these gifts exist, or acting like we’re not as good at them as we are, is pride in reverse …not humility. Humility is acknowledging our gifts and celebrating them in honor of God, and working hard at what we’ve been given to be good at to glorify Him and accomplish our purpose.
“As the human body must have diversity to work effectively as a whole, so the members of Christ’s body have diverse gifts, the use of which can help bring about the accomplishment of Christ’s united purpose.” NIV Study Bible Notes
Knowing this truth isn’t enough to fight the pride that fuels arrogance nor the pride that burns down our confidence. Living this truth is the key to unlocking a Christ-led life of freedom. Through Christ, the Word of God comes alive, living in us with every breath we breathe. Through His Spirit, we are strengthened in godly confidence, and restrained with holy humility. Anything worth doing takes work, and our faith in Christ is no different. We are on a constant trajectory towards eternity, daily growing in our faith (sanctification). It’s important to keep fighting the good fight of faith, because we are all so radically important to God.
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:4-8 NIV
God places people in our lives purposefully, not so we would compare in pride, but be encouraged in community with each other. Pride runs rampant, in church communities just as much as agnostic. We can wisely ask God to search our hearts for it daily. Christ is the only One powerful enough to keep pride at bay. The only one powerful enough to conquer the impossible, Emmanuel, God with us. Knowing the Truth ignites our faith, but clinging to Him daily allows us to live it.
“The emphasis is on unity within diversity.” NIV Study Bible Notes
Communities experience unity through diversity. We were not put on this earth alone. Love truly does conquer all. In the end, Love does win. Love has already won, defeating death on the cross. If we could only see each other as He did, hanging there on the cross …One body, all of us. Imperfect, broken, world a mess …He died for us anyway. Our Creator is intentional. He created me, you, and all of us with specific purpose. There is only one me, one you, one of us all. None more important than the other. Neither loved less than the next. It’s a choice to see everyone that way. As a child of God, whom He loves and created for a purpose.
Each puzzle needs every piece to be complete.
Posted on April 3, 2019
“For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” Hebrews 3:4 ESV
“Did you get new knobs?” Sitting in the kitchen for coffee, my friend noticed the new bright blue and yellow cabinet knobs.
“No, we just now installed them!” Though we built our home six years ago, some things are still on the “to-do” list.
Hebrews Chapter 3 got me thinking about the building process, and the way it admonished Christ as the builder alongside God of the house …the church …us. (Hebrews 3:6) We are built on a firm foundation, but sometimes neglect to install pulls and knobs to properly open all God has for us.
Overwhelmed with joy to move our growing family into a larger space where we could all breath our own air, knobs and pulls seemed easy to live without. But after opening and closing drawers and cabinet doors for six years in the wrong way, they became crooked, dirty and loose.
I sifted through a bin of blue and yellow flowered knobs caught my eye at the craft store, purchased and placed them on my kitchen counter. There they sat, for weeks, waiting to be installed. But eventually, they donned my kitchen cabinets, and we began opening things the right way.
Pulling on things the wrong way wears them out prematurely.
I have worn the corners of my life in similar ways, procrastinating the process of change. The cycle of disappointment can rob my will to start. Frustrated with myself, worn corners start to wear off on everything and everyone my life touches. Enter, cycle of shame.
Christ never pulls on us in a way that prematurely wears us out. Shame is NEVER from Jesus. He died to put shame to shame, to erase guilt. So when we’re feeling that way, it’s our lurking enemy and this broken world seeking to keep us from simply installing the right knobs and pulls in our lives.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16 ESV
When we’re walking around wounded, we can’t operate in the full capacity of life Jesus died to give us. We live in a world that allows us to justify every stupid mistake we make, instead of encouraging us to apologize, right the wrong, and try not to make the same mistake again. For the sake of comfort, we’ve become uncomfortable. We don’t know our full potential, because we’re too busy making excuses.
“Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” 2 Timothy 2:14 ESV
When the knobs and pulls are installed properly, we know unequivocally that Jesus is God. The One True God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Residing in every Christian believer. There is power in the name of Jesus. There is strength in Christ to persevere the pulling open and slamming shut without falling a part.
The radical love of God is life-altering.
Posted on February 20, 2019
Applying ointment my daughter’s scalp, I prayed she didn’t have a serious illness causing her to scratch it raw in her sleep. I reached for the tea tree oil halfway through the night, hoping it wasn’t the possibility of little critters reeling through my mind. At breakfast, she happily announced the itching was gone. Somewhat relieved but still curious and a bit skeptical, I filtered through her scalp as the morning sun lit the kitchen.
Two and a half hours later, I came to the last inch of my daughter’s hair …and they fell into the sink.
“Sneaky little buggers!” I yelled in pure …freaking-out …disgust.
They ran for two hours. I’m itching as I write this. I itched for weeks, having to mentally reminding myself they were gone.
When my kids graduated to the Intermediate school, I let my guard down. There were literally bigger things to worry about. So, she bounced her heart out one winter day in bounce house heaven with her hair flying all over the place like she loves. I should have put a pulled it back- I told her to pull back …but some days I simply pick not to win certain arguments.
A lack of preventative maintenance leads to regret.
Psalm 130:4 reminds us, “But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” NIV
Life is full of regrets, but un-forgiveness isn’t a healthy place to park our minds. Often, we see forgiveness as something we ask God for and give to others, but I often find it’s hardest for me to let myself off the hook.
Replace regret with reconciliation.
Through Jesus, we are forgiven. (Acts 13:38) Our God, is a forgiving God. Reconciliation happens through restored relationship. When we depend on another person for reconciliation, it’s not always a guarantee. We can’t control people’s hearts, but we choose to confess and be reconciled to God, through Jesus. (Matthew 26:28) Guilt and shame for our lack do not come from Him. He is Love.
It took me at least a week to comb through every part of my life and to find the root of a dark soul itch. Self-doubt and disqualifying lies were pelting the space between my ears like frozen precipitation. Inch by inch, I rerouted my thoughts, took them captive and flipped them back to truth. Down to the last foothold …a stronghold …bent on destroying me…
When “YOU-ARE-AN-UNFORGIVING-PERSON!” was used against me in an argument, I crumbled. I live and preach forgiveness, and felt accusations of failure mounting.
The last inch. The button released tears I’d talked back. When the garage door closed, I cried out. I picked my phone up, put it down, and then picked it back up again. I typed out “pray …” through the mist and hit send to my God girls. I ugly wept, asking God to search my heart for any shreds of truth to that accusation …to comb through every last inch …and get rid of it.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance of God’s grace.” Ephesians 1:7 NIV
Un-forgiveness can become lodged in the dusty corners of our hearts. We think we have fully forgiven, until that ugly feeling comes up all over again as we think about what happened. Un-forgiving is an unfair accusation. Just because someone calls us un-forgiving doesn’t mean we’re un-forgiving. And just because we struggle with forgiveness in the last inch …doesn’t make us anything but HUMAN. God knows our hearts, and how hard we earnestly try to hand over our deepest hurts and hangups to Him.
Accusations can deceitfully convict us to believe them. I let the name of Jesus loft into the air and bounce off the walls of my home. In the middle of a frigid MidWest winter, neighbors overhearing didn’t cross my mind. With every cry, I choose to grip His peace a little tighter. I’ve never felt so harassed, poked at, and prodded with. The devil will dig into a lie we are tempted to believe about ourselves or fear the most.
“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5 NIV
Jesus is the Light. At the sound of His name, darkness flees. Our daily priorities determine how we will fight in the last inch. When we feel hopeless, worthless, helpless, and not enough …convinced we’ve lost the fight …consider submitting to loser status …and see how broken we are. We are pressed and pushed to give up, give in and throw our arms up in the air. We will most definitely ugly cry in that last inch. And hopefully, we will cry out to God. We need to give it up. We are losing the fight. We are broken. We are being pushed around, harassed, and messed with until we are ugly-cry-screaming with our arms up in the air.
Live everyday life in preparation for these moments. Get into the Word, pray, and pay attention to the people He’s placed in proximity to pray in the last inch.
Jesus is our strength. In the last inch, we learn hands on what we read about in Scripture everyday. Anyone who’s lived a little bit of life in the last inch can testify. Throw your arms up. Cry out. And call on the name above all names, more powerful than any name …JESUS. It took mere minutes to replace hopelessness with peace. I just had to remember it was there, and how powerful He is.
Happy combing …(who are we kidding …there’s nothing happy about that! lol)