Dry Bones

Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” “O Sovereign Lord ,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.” Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord ! So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’” So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.  Ezekiel 37:3‭-‬4‭, ‬7‭-‬10 NLT

When my pastor shared this passage a few weeks ago, my spirit stirred with anticipation. Dead bones coming alive and creating a great army; that would be an amazing thing to witness.  

This passage has been a catalyst in the dreams God has placed in my heart since the story came alive to me over ten years ago. This day, my pastor was encouraging those who were feeling dry that God could breathe fresh life into them.  I know that these dry bones were Israelites that had died. I know Israelites were God’s chosen people.

drybonesI truly believe God will bring dead bones back to life again.  However, when I read this scripture I don’t read it in the context of believers who are feeling dry going through the motions or even backsliding. To quote Haley Joel Osment from the movie The Sixth Sense, “I see dead people.” I see people who are spiritually dead, but who were once alive.  It is not the lost, but those who once knew the way but have turned away from God.  

People who have given in to the culture around us and compromised the gospel so much that it is no longer the truth.  People whose belief system is so contorted that they are no longer serving God, even though they may be sitting in a church religiously.  I see people walking around without purpose in their soul. It breaks my heart, as I know it breaks God’s heart.

When I read these scriptures, I see a great awakening as The Church rises up to be the active body of Christ.  I see life being breathed back into the dead bones in this region.   I see The Church speaking life into the dead bones.  I see The Church rising up to fulfill our individual and collective roles as God called us to.  I see God joining individual parts of the The Church working in unity instead of broken and divided.

I see an army rising up to push back the gates of hell and take back what has been readily handed to the enemy- our marriages, our children, our families, our schools  and even our churches.  I see God’s Holy Spirit filling this region, state, and nation as the Spirit that lives inside of every believer is allowed free rule and reign as God intended.  I see a move of the Spirit that would rival the Day of Pentacost.
And I see a ministry birthed out of God’s desire to meet the tangible needs of others. I see a battle taking place where God’s people stop settling for political correctness but in love and compassion reach out to the hurting world around us.   I see the collective body of Christ meeting the needs of the poor, widows, orphans, captives, prisoners, hurting, broken and lost.  This vision of the dry bones burns deep within my soul, as I know God wants to breath life into dead bones again.

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Lead the Way

God has placed on my heart a burden for marriages in the church. It comes in waves, but when it hits I can hardly move under the weight of it.  At times I feel like it us a selfish burden, but it is there none the less.   I pray until the burden breaks, which can be weeks or even months at a time.

I have been married for eighteen years, twenty if you count our first marriage. Much of my early marriage I envied wives  in the church.   I was envious because I had a disillusion that somehow having a husband beside you on the pew made marriage better. My heart would always sink as the pastor would say “grab your spouse’s hand if they are with you.”  Only twice a year would that happen for me; if I was lucky.  I wanted nothing more than to have “that marriage” where my husband was the head of our home physically and spiritually.

The more I spent time with Christian women, young and old in marriage, I began to realize I was disillusioned.  I realized our battles were much the same. A Christian husband who serves God doesn’t make marriage perfect.  A husband who will be the spiritual leader of a household doesn’t make him immune to the pressures of manhood.  And sadly when wives get together, more often than not if the topic came to husband’s the struggles come out.

I am thankful, because it helped me move past my Camelot picture of what it would be like if my husband served God wholeheartedly.  It didn’t make the desire go away, but it did take away the fairytale image I had.  When the pastor gives the call to grab the hand, I take my hand because my husband and I are united as one, and I thank God for the day my husband will be next to me there.

At the same time as my disillusion was broke, I was reminded of a comment that was made to me.  There was such similarity between my view of my husband at the time and what I was hearing from Christian wives (with few exceptions).  I heard women who were really down on their spouses.  Yes, there is power in letting others know they are not alone in their marital struggles, but this was more than that.  I would usually sit back and listen for a while and consistently there wouldn’t be a positive thing said about their mate.  I get it, I’ve been there, but it’s not a place you can stay if you want your marriage to survive.  If you find yourself relating to this description, please stop speaking the negative.

leadthewayWords have power, whether they are spoken to a person or just about them – they bring life or death.   Men need our encouragement and if we are only focused on their faults and shortcomings, that will be harder to give genuinely.  One day I had listened to enough of the husband bashing and asked the wives to share something they appreciated about their spouse.  As they shared the positive, one would think they were talking about a completely different person than the man they had just been talking about.

As wives, we need to come along side our spouses and encourage them.  Yes, they will frustrate us at times.  Yes, we see their weaknesses,  imperfections, and downright failures in their roles as husband, father, spiritual leader, etc. Yes, there are times we may need to discuss things with love that need to improve.  Regardless, we have to encourage and respect them.

We have to be patient with the process on their life.  As much as we might want to nag for the process to speed up, we must realize God, not us will bring about needed and lasting change.  In my own life and marriage, I have seen that my behavior was as much as a hindrance to God’s process in my husband, as my husband was a hindrance to it.  God had to work a lot out in me so I would get out-of-the-way and let Him work on my husband.

The words I speak to and about my husband need to be kind. We have to lift our spouses up with our words, not tear them down.  We have to build up their strengths and support them in their weaknesses. When we are sharing with other women, we can be honest about the struggle without husband bashing.

We have to stop talking down to our spouses and about our spouses.  We have to stop telling stories that make us look like the innocent bystander.  Comments that lead our self or others to believe that our spouse is the sole perpetrator of every problem in our marriage.  I know from experience that there are three sides to every story, mine, his and God’s truth.  Every time I take a problem with my husband to Gods throne of grace, He shows me my part in the problem.  I can only fix me. I have to let God work on my husband.

We have to stop demanding that things be done our way.  In one of the marriage trainings I have done, there is a ridiculous video of a wife complaining about the steps her husband takes in washing the clothes.  She’s not complaining that he doesn’t help.  She not complaining that he doesn’t separate the clothes and the whites turn red, or the colors get bleached.  She is complaining about the order that he puts in the soap and the clothes.  It is completely absurd.  Yet a clear picture of how often we make a molehill into mountains because we think our way is better. It is okay for our spouses to do things differently than us.

We have to forgive our spouse’s  failures and help them move past them, not keep holding failures against them.  If your still bringing an issue from the past up when conflicts arise, you are the one that needs to seek forgiveness, because you haven’t forgiven.

We have to not rejoice when something negative happens when we followed his lead, thinking “if we had done what I suggested….”.  As a marital team some things will work. Some things won’t.  We are in it together and shouldn’t be cheering when things fail with an “I told you so” attitude.

Above all, regardless of what we face in marriage, we have to face it together.  For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or worse.  Stand behind your spouse and let Him lead.  Stand next to him and encourage him.  Stand before him and encourage him.  When all hell comes against you stand in prayer with him, and your marriage will endure.

I said at the beginning that I sometimes feel like this burden for marriage is a selfish one.  It is because I have done all I can, my husband is in God’s hands as I walk out the things I mentioned above.  Now I need Christian men who are secure in their faith and marriage to come alongside my husband as an example to him of how to be the man of God he was created to be. He is not likely to seek them out.  I know there are many men out there who need your spouse to have the confidence in himself and his marriage to come along side them and lead the way.  As wives we have to stand behind our husbands, so they can come along and lead the way for other men in confidence.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7 NLT

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Branding

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27:19

Living in a primarily retail community, I hear a lot about “branding” in the world surrounding me.  When I was a child, in the same community, “branding” was what you did to a cow.  If the cow got out of the fence, the cow could be identified and returned to the rightful owner by its branding.  Our community has changed over the past three decades and now most of the farms are gone.

Now “branding” is about name recognition.  It still has the logo that identifies the rightful owner, but it goes much broader now.  Company branding goes as far as the font used in internal and external communication, colors that can be used, and key words that spread a consistent message.  Companies are about creating culture, values, and mission statements that tell the outside world who a company is. The idea is that even without the logo, based on color and shape, people know the company and product.    There are even businesses that specialize in branding.

Lately there has been a lot of talk about “personal branding.”  With a move towards more interaction via social media this “personal branding” is about what the world sees you as when your name is searched.  It is about your personal image to the social world.  Again there are whole businesses created around this perceived importance of the “personal brand.”

So God created mankind in his own image, 
in the image of God he created them; 
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27

I woke up thinking about this idea of branding, and I am not sure that I agree with it.  As a Christian, if my life reflects my heart, my heart should reflect Christ.  We are called to be imitators of Christ.  Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. (Ephesians 5:1 NLT)

Yes, He made us each unique, with goals and purposes He designed for us.  We, however have a larger purpose.  Our purpose as followers of Christ is to reflect Him to the world around us.  We are called to reflect God’s glory, not our own.  People should be pointed to Christ through our actions, not attracted to an individual.

Maybe I have thought about this too much now.  But I believe that God branded us at salvation and that everything about us should point to Him.  If I am looking for self glory and recognition, pride is in my heart.  If people can recognize me due to anything other than Christ, I have failed at reflecting Him.  ICOR117

We are all One Body, made up of many members.  Imagine if I took a picture of my big toe or just one of my eyes and said “This is me.”   It is a true statement, but if I was branded and that is all you see, it would not reflect the totality of who I am.  He made me in His image, and while I might reflect some characteristics of Him better than others, the image I am to portray is His.

So I probably will not get on the personal branding bandwagon.  I know I am not perfect, and that at times I fail to reflect the qualities of Christ.  But my hope is that to the world around me, and those who know me online, that more often than not they recognize Christ in me.  I hope that even if they don’t remember my name, my story, or how we met, they know that they encountered Christ when our paths crossed.  Then I will know that despite my personal shortcomings, I reflected the brand that Christ paid for me to have.

 

 

 

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One Thing

As I was praying the other day, I had the oddest picture pop into my head.  Initially I felt like it was a distraction, but then I focused in on it.  The picture was of a Dr. Seuss character “Thing One.”  Of course there is also “Thing Two”  which was a distraction.  I paused a moment and did a search for Scriptures about “one thing.”  There were many and so I set it aside.  Then today I heard “one thing” again and set aside some time to go through the many scriptures to see what God’s “one thing” was.  I knew it was more than the cute little character from a beloved children’s book to the image in my mind.

What are the One Things that God calls us to focus our attention on?first-things-first

Psalm 62:11-12   One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;  and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done.”

I don’t know which was the “one thing” that God spoke.  All three are true statements.  Power is His.  God’s love is unfailing.  He is a God who rewards.  What if for a moment, or forever, I allowed myself to believe that this is truth?

What if I really lived my life as if all power belong to God?  I might find that anything He asks me to do I am willing to step out and do.  When I am relying not in my power but His, no weapon formed against me will prosper.  What if I trust that His love is unfailing? I can step out knowing that even when I fail, God’s love never will fail.  He is not going to shrink back in disappointment at my humanity.  He is going to love me regardless because God is love.  What if I believe that my God is a God who rewards?  Then when circumstances come against me, I can rest assured that on the other side, He has a reward waiting for me that is good.  I can know that every good and perfect gift comes from Him.  

Mark 10:21Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

What if instead of focusing on the things I think I lack, I focused on what Jesus mentions?  The treasures that will be stored up in Heaven is where Christ directs attention.  So I could stop focusing on my insecurities and put my trust in the treasures that come from following Christ.  I wouldn’t be chasing the next big thing, because I would have the one thing that truly matters – a sold out life for Christ.

Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

What if I decided to let go of the past and live in today?  I could let go of past hurts and hang-ups.  I could let go of disappointments and personal failures.  Instead I could focus on the opportunities that God places before me as they come.  I could start moving towards the goal the Christ has put before me.

2 Peter 3:8-9But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

What if I stopped focusing on the length of the wait?  And instead, reminded myself that God’s Word never fails.  If God promised it, it will come to pass.  Instead of losing hope and growing impatient, I could focus on what God is trying to accomplish in the wait.

Thing one and Thing Two caused a lot of mischief when they were released from the box in Conrad and Sally’s house.  The Cat in the Hat eventually had to put Thing One and Thing Two back in the box to clean up the house before Conrad and Sally’s mom got home.  Maybe if I would focus in on God’s “one thing,” I could stop the mischief that I get myself into when I look at failure, my insecurities, the past and the wait.  Instead I could live a life empowered by God’s power love.  I could know that He will reward me with good and perfect gifts as I pursue Him, storing up treasures in Heaven where dust and moth will not be able to destroy.  I could run in freedom towards the calling God has on my life, and know that regardless of the wait, His will shall come to pass.

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Lessons from Hacksaw Ridge

Last night I watched a surprisingly excellent movie.  I say surprisingly because I  am not a war/combat movie fan.  As a child, I was forced to watch way too many war movies and westerns, so generally they are not my idea of a something I want to watch.  I am grateful to the men and women who fight for our freedom, I just don’t want to watch battles.  My husband suggested the movie, Hacksaw Ridge.  I figured I would just go to bed early and said “okay” as I selected it from the choices On Demand.

I admit, I don’t remember much about the movies I watched as a child – just green or brown and fighting with guns and bayonets.  I was pleased to see there was a story line to the movie other than a battle.    I found myself connecting to the story and actually enjoyed the movie.

When it got to the battle scenes, I couldn’t help but thank the Lord for my loved ones that served in the military and returned home.  I can not imagine how devastating war-time really is, especially when it hits home.

As I sat there watching, I couldn’t help but think of the spiritual battlefield that is going on around us constantly.  I thought about the main character, Desmond Doss; he had signed up to be a medic  – someone there to save them when the battle was raging.   He was a person of strong moral conviction.  The people who were suppose to support him in his team, turned against him and mocked him.

My heart was quickened as I thought about the battles that many of our pastors and leaders face.  They are challenged to lead with integrity of heart, compassion and service. They are called to serve a church culture that wants things on our time frame and without offense to the way we want to live.  That doesn’t even take in to account the attacks of the real enemy in their life.  It is no wonder so many pastors step away from their calling.

I was taken aback by the destruction, the gruesomeness of the battle scenes.  I suppose I have never really paid attention when those scenes were on.  The idea of seeing your comrades fall.  They were having to walk over dead bodies and worse wounded that were still grasping for life.

Hacksaw RidgeIt is easy to forget about the war going on around us.  Ephesians 6:12  says For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.  I thought about the battle field in the Christian world.  How many people are we walking past every single day that dying?   How many people are we leaving behind that are grasping on for any piece of something that resembles life?  How many of the  people we used to walk alongside have fallen?  My heart is saddened to think about the answers.

Yet, in the mist of the warriors running from the enemy, realizing that the battle was too much but one stayed behind.   Although he wasn’t fighting the enemy, he was tending to the wounded and getting them to safety.  In his actions, others gained hope and they eventually won the war.  In the end, Desmond Doss did two things he said he would not do, but He did not compromise the principle behind his belief.  He said he would keep the Sabbath and he would not touch a gun.  The last battle required him to lay down the Sabbath, but because of his example the warriors were willing to pause until he had finished praying before going into combat.  He also said he would not touch a gun, but in the end used a gun as a stick to pull his commanding officer to safety.

I thought about how much difference one person can make that is not willing to compromise beliefs.  One person can make a difference; maybe not to everyone but to each person they do touch.  In doing so, there is a chance that people will be inspired and instead of adding to the Kingdom, it turns in to multiplication as more reach out to do the will of God.  So many times we are so focused on winning the battle that we will lose the war to do it.  We isolate people with our beliefs instead of drawing them in.  We condemn sinners with our words and actions; instead of loving them where they are and encouraging them to a better life.

If you haven’t seen the movie, for what it is worth; I highly recommend it.  Maybe you won’t get out of it what I did, but it is a true story.

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A place

It is hard when you are walking through something to surrender and realize God is working out stuff in you through the process.  When we see others getting an upper hand, it is easy to think that things are unfair.  In those times, we may just want to give up or at minimum complain a lot.   This scripture is reminder that we have to trust God through the process.

theplace.jpgWe have to realize that heat burns up what doesn’t belong.  It might be painful, but getting out the impurities is for our benefit.  Letting God burn off pride is a painful process, but scriptures remind Pride goes before destruction (Proverbs 16:18).  God is just burning it up, because it doesn’t belong in us for it will eventually destroy us.

There are times that we may feel like God is restricting us.  I know there are times I really want to lash out, but God stops me (When I listen). Scriptures tell that People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord  (Proverbs 19:3).  More times than I care to admit, I have lashed out and then gotten angry with God because what should have happened didn’t.

God wants to do so much more in us than we can image.   Often times we keep Him busy protecting us from our own worst enemy.  Not the enemy that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy, but ourselves.

When God is burning up things in us or binding us, it may look like someone is getting one over on us.  But the reality is, God uses people to  bring us to the spot that we are dying to self and the flesh.  He wants us to set an example far above what the world expects.  If we trust Him through the process, He will bring us out to a much better place.  A place of abundance – not only for us to enjoy but for us to be able to give to others.

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Thickened Gospel

I’ve never tasted them but I’ve heard that the thickener used to make liquids thicker have no taste.  Despite that, most of the people who I come in contact with that are forced to drink thickened liquids have a different opinion.  I think part of it has to do with the texture.  There’s nothing refreshing about yogurt or pudding, despite its yummy taste. Eating even the most liquid of potato soups does not quench thirst.  These thickened textures, despite tasting great are nothing like a nice cold drink of water, soda,  tea, lemonade, or juice on a hot day or after exercising.   Cold, thin, refreshing liquid those are the things people take a drink of to quench their thirst.

thickenedgospelI have no idea what made me think of this as I was driving home from work.  Yet, I immediately thought, “we do the same thing with the Gospel.”  We add things to it and act like it should still have the impact on our soul that it would if we just applied the Word as written.  We want to add our justification on the parts that we struggle with, and still expect the refreshing blessing of God to fall.

We put qualifiers on the scriptures, especially the New Testament ones that call us to a higher level.  We are okay with “Thou shalt not commit murder.” Exodus 20:13  Easy Old Testament Law.  But Jesus took it to another level,  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause[b] shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.  Matthew 5:22

Maybe I am the only one that reads that scripture and says “But God you don’t know what they did….” I justify and want to add wanting to show I have cause.  And I don’t take a second thought about adding my own names to others because their behavior is less than what I expect.  I want to add a little to that scripture, because really I am not killing someone.  What upsets me, is usually nothing compared to what truly upsets God.

I looked up hate in the Bible and there are a few things that come up:

I admit I didn’t need to search scriptures to know that I have certainly caused God anger with my behaviors and done things that He hates.  I didn’t need a search because I am a sinner saved by grace.  But I look at this list and know I have been a worker of iniquity, I have set up pillars in my life I placed before God at times, I have been prideful, I have lied, I have run into evil knowing better, I have sown discord, I have thought evil of others, I have divorced.  My heart is sad to know that most of those things occurred even after I accepted Christ as my Savior.

Ad yet, God in His mercy and grace has forgiven me.  I do not have to walk in condemnation.  What it shows me is that regardless of my justifications, I am called to walk with the same grace and mercy towards others that Christ did.  He is my example.  The world may let me justify my pride, my lies, my divorce – adding to the Word;  God calls me to a higher level of sanctification.  Yes, I will still fail at times, but when He shows it to me, I will repent and seek to give mercy and grace.  If I want to live with a thickened Gospel, I can not be upset with God when I don’t walk in all that He has for me.  If I am willing to let Him take all my justifications and replace them with His mercy and grace for myself and others, He will refresh my soul and let me walk in the fullness of all that He has for me in Him.

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Restoring Process

I love home restoration shows.  I remember when I first discovered them, there was Extreme Home makeover, Color Splash and Design on a Dime.  Now I love watching Fixer Upper, Love it Or List It, Flip or Flop and Property Brothers.   Making something old and run down look brand new and amazing.  There is something about seeing a room or house made over in a thirty minute or hour-long show. I realize it creates an unrealistic expectation on the length of process, but it is so much fun to see the beginning and then finished product.

apartment-87805_1920I was visiting with some ladies the other day about marriage.    God has remodeled my marriage.  Most people can not believe the amount that my husband and I have weathered and that we are truly happy and in love after everything we have put each other through.  Our story can inspire most that there is hope for a better relationship.

The ladies asked point-blank how long it took.  The answer is frightening on the starting side of the journey, but I answered “About eighteen years.”   I stepped out of the conversation and then came back in to the room a few minutes later.  God showed me a picture of remodeling that really drove the point home.

I knew one of the ladies had been doing some work on her house, so I asked – “How long does it take to remodel a house?”  We had some discussion, but ultimately, the answer is “It depends on how much you work on it.”  One can spend years remodeling, but someone who is motivated could remodel a house in a few months.  It is the same with relationships remodeling.

I had given them some of the tools that God has used to in my life to transform my marriage.  When I started in the journey my prayers were always “God change him.”  In the process, God has changed me more.  I warned them of this on the front side.  Not that my husband hasn’t changed, but ultimately as God worked in me, my husband responded in kind.  I have to say, God has given me an amazing husband – even if it took me a while to truly see my diamond in the rough – and trust me, we had some pretty rough years.

It probably didn’t need to take eighteen years, but I wasn’t committed to the work.  There were times I decided my husband should be putting forth more effort, so if he wasn’t going to, neither was I.  I was my own worst enemy.  There were times that I spent years hammering the same nail.  I would put the hammer to it every few weeks; when it didn’t repair everything, I would pull it back out again.

Some times I would try for a bit, and then slack off.  I was hoping to keep the progress that we had made, without maintaining the things it took to get there. So at times I would paint the same area over and over again because it didn’t look quite right or would quickly fade.

Most of our relationship, I wanted things on my terms, and expected my husband to give in to my way of thinking.  There were times I would take an almost finished room and strip it down to the frame because of my negative comments and childish temper tantrums.

I wanted the ladies to know, that the only thing I had control over in the process was the effort I put in to our relationship.  And more ultimately, surrendering my will to God on a minute by minute basis.  Yet when I truly submitted, God has done amazing things in my relationship – even more than I could have ever thought possible.   Had I chose to surrender completely and immediately, God could have circumvented the process.

When I went home that night, God started showing me anything that we need His work on – how long the process is depends  on how committed we are to the restoring process.  There are several areas that I know God has been speaking to me to change.  He showed me that He meets me where I am, but only to the extent that I am willing to surrender to Him.  If I put the work into it, God can make the changes complete quicker.  It might not be wrapped up in the thirty-minute time frame, but God can redeem the process time.

 

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Know Thy Self

“You don’t know someone until you know what they want.” It was a quote in a movie playing on the television.  I suppose it caught my attention because I have been searching for what I truly want in life.  The statement made me pause, because if I’m honest, maybe I don’t really know myself.

I feel like the last three years God has been taking me on a journey to learn more about myself and what I want.  Without hesitation there are things  that I can state “I want.”  I want my husband, children, grandchildren, and extended family to have a personal walk with God and to fulfill His plans for their lives.  I want to be able to help those who are hurting, especially women, find healing and wholeness that is found only in Christ.  I want to live my life to the fullest, bringing glory and honor to God with every word and action.  I want to build others up in their faith and encourage their personal walk with God.  I want to see the Church being the hands and feet of Christ in relationship with the hurting world around us.

Those are all very large goals, ones that have to be planted and tended too.  Yet, I know God cares about the little desires of my heart too.  Those little wants, that is where I find myself lost.  I need to know myself better to be able to put words to my wants.  I suppose after decades of daughterhood, motherhood, and wifedom I have lost track of who I am. I have forgotten what its like to know what I want for myself because I’m used to meeting the needs of others and compromising my desires in the wake of that.  I am content where I am at now, but I know there is more.  I have people who would give me what I want.  My issue is, I don’t have a clue as to what I  want.judge

I see God working in this area too.  The more I draw close to God, the more He reveals to me about myself.  I know that much of the revelation is part of the pruning process.  He is showing me things He needs removed from my life that are hindering His plans and purpose for my life.

There are still a few areas where I have to receive the Lord’s discipline.  Areas where I try to hang on to things that He has already told me need to go.  For the most part though, I see God cleaning up my life to promote new growth and more fruit.

Sometimes I see the baggage that needs to be removed as He starts peeling back the layers.  I can see what is laying just under the surface, even if I can’t quite put my hands on it.  It’s like God knows that I need the preparation time before the pruning time to be able to handle the amount of pruning that needs to happen.

I have to be careful not to allow others to put their opinions on me in areas where God wants to prune.  Others can’t see what God wants to do, only what He has already done.  I have to guard my heart and His plans and purpose or I may settle for less than He desires.  If I let the opinion of others build up what God has already done it will take my focus off what God wants to do.

Other times, I am completely caught off guard at what He reveals to me.    I realize how little I know about myself.    Sometimes as I share this area with others, they can identify it right away.  The parts of me others clearly see, but I am unaware of at least consciously.  Other areas that catch me off guard, are the deeply buried, tightly tucked away pieces of my past that have shaped who I am so firmly that I can no longer identify the origin of the behavior or thought pattern.  These are areas that God deals with slowly or when I have time to press into His presence for extended time and really allow Him to deal with the hidden places in my heart.  It is scary and liberating all at the same time.

I know that the God I serve knows me better than I will ever know myself.  He knows exactly what He created me for.  He knows what I need to remove or add to my life, and when that needs to happen.  If I take the time to really get quiet before Him, He can reveal to me everything I need to know about myself.  I can listen to His voice and allow Him to heal the broken pieces and learn what I want, and who I really am.  Only when I am seeking Him with my whole heart, will God be able to give me the desires of my heart.

 

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Running from the enemy

There’s a story on 2nd Samuel chapter 15-19 that begins with David running from his son.  Absalom was attempting to take the kingdom of Israel from David.  As I listened to the story, I thought “Why is the king running?”   David was the king.  He had all power and authority.  Yet he ran to avoid war with his son Absalom, to protect his city, or maybe out of fear – those details are unexplained in the scriptures.

I  thought about David running, and I realize that is what we do as Christians also.  Jesus gave His followers  authority ( Psalms 8:6 and Luke 10:19).  Victory was won and maintained by Christ at the cross and at resurrection.   We were given authority over all the power of the enemy.  Yet when the enemy attacks, we run instead of standing and fighting.  Despite the fact that God’s Word says “The Gates of Hell (which are stationary) shall not prevail over the kingdom of God;”  we run.

I can look back on my life and see numerous times where the enemy rose up.  Often, instead of standing up and fighting for what God said was mine, I quickly gave it up and ran in the opposite direction.  For instance, the Word that says “let no one split apart what God has joined together.” (Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:9) This is a promise I should have stood upon instead of filing for a divorce not once, but twice in my marriage.  When I should have fought, I ran.

David ran with 600 of his followers.  They mourned as they ran into the wilderness, but the man with the heart after God’s own heart reached the mountain and turned his attention back to God.  It says “when David had come to the top of the mountain, there he worshiped God.”  Then he was given a plan of how to defeat Absalom.  He sent one of his counselors back to give counsel to Absalom.

Even when we run from the enemy, I have always been amazed that God is right there when we turn back to Him.    Sometimes we run for years, and other times just far enough to gain perspective, but God is there when we stop running.  He is there when we turn to Him is worship and call out to Him.  He will give us a plan on how to regain what we allowed the enemy to take when we ran.  I praise the Lord that in my running from the enemy that was seeking to kill, still and destroy my marriage, that God was there to provide a plan.    The plan didn’t look like I thought it would, but God not only restored our marriage, but He made it stronger than it ever was before.

The story ends with Absalom’s death at the hand of David’s soldiers in battle.  However, when David hears of the death, he mourns deeply with loyalty towards his flesh and blood.  Understandably, Absalom was David’s son, so I understand that he would still mourn Absalom’s death.   Yet, he didn’t take into consideration how his actions would impact his warriors and kingdom until one of David’s leaders called him on his actions.

Like David, we often give our loyalty to the enemy that works against us. I find I often  celebrate the very things that are seeking to destroy me and isolate those who were sent to restore me.  Like those who would feed in to my one-sided victim complaints about my husband, I kept close when I was running.  If I started thinking too much  about the good parts of my marriage, I could count on them to remind me why I filed for divorce.

LoveprayWhen I was running, those who tried to speak life into my marriage, I kept at arm’s length.   I remember sitting before my pastor with my husband at my side telling them both, I had no desire to be there and work towards reconciliation.  I was done.  I went, but begrudgingly and out of “religious duty” not desire.  I was mourning what I was loosing, but I wasn’t willing to look at the impact on my children or the effort my husband was putting forth in trying to change.

However, just as God was able to bring about justice for David and restore him to his kingdom, despite the death of his son.  God changed my marriage.  The things that caused me to file for a divorce are no longer part of our marriage.  Our first marriage ended after nineteen months.  It has been thirteen years since I filed for a divorce the second time and we just celebrated eighteen years of marriage this past May.  God is good, even when we run when we are supposed to stay and fight.  God is good, even when the one we are fighting with has been joined together with us.  God is faithful to be there when we call upon Him.  God is there to protect those who are impacted by our decisions with a wonderful thing called grace.

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