Lessons worth sharing

These are some of the things that I’ve gleaned over the past few weeks in my quiet time.  I have been told if it is good for me, it is worth sharing to others.  Enjoy!

1. Settle

2. stopshort

3. Quiet

4.

obey

5.  seeds

6. legal

7. passion

8. write

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Reminders from the Past

January 2019 went by like a whirlwind; as the new year starts I have had several reminders from the past. Things that I rarely think about, have taken a forefront of my attention. Sarah Jakes Roberts put is best in her book Don’t Settle for Safe, “The gift of growing requires letting go.  We have to let go or we will experience discomfort and even pain.  Letting go is trusting we can carry the lessons from our past in our hearts without constantly replaying the pain in our heads.”   I thought about what I might learn from those reminders of the past:

whirlwindThere are reminders that some things in my past I need to celebrate. I have been so blessed. I don’t mean that as just something to say, but from the depth of my heart how I feel regularly.  There is not a thing in my life that has happened, that I can not see God’s hand on looking back.  Amazing people poured onto my life. Even if they no longer remain, I gleaned from them what I was supposed to in the moment, even if was just a seed at the time.  I can focus on what is gone, or I can celebrate all that I have learned and all that I have in my life currently.

There are reminders from the past of the amazing transformation that God has done in my life. I look back on my life and don’t recognize who I was anymore. It feels like a whole other lifetime ago.  When that past stands before me, it can immediately take me back to the moment in time, however the past stands only as a reminder.  It is a reminder of “There but the grace of God, go I.”  When I see someone or something that triggers my past, I realize how far God has brought me.  It is a reminder that people can change.  It is a reminder that God never gave up.  God has used so much of my past to speak that hope into the lives of others.

There are reminders of the growth that has come in my life. There are things I had to intentionally do to grow. Choices I made, even when the choice was a difficult one to make.  There were times where that growth cost me everything familiar.  There have been times where I have had people walk and encourage me to grow.  And times where everyone walked away (or should have!).  Growth has always cost me something, whether it was my comfort, my pride, or a financial cost.  I also realize sometimes the best growth occurs in times when it looks like nothing is happening or when I felt like I was being crushed by the weight of what I was carrying.

There are reminders from the past that some things have created who I am today. Every experience in my life has taught me something.  The experiences might not have been good, but they have given me a perspective that no book can teach.  The way I think, the way I cope with certain things, or process were created from past experiences.  Some of those things no longer serve a purpose, but God’s grace will cover me in the process of change.  God can reshape the clay of my life into something that has greater purpose than just a collection of experiences.

There are reminders of the past of which I need to just let go.  I can stop running from those things because they no longer have the hold on me they once did. I need to stop looking at them as excuses.  Stop allowing the enemies reminders of my fears, mistakes and failures to keep me from stepping out where God has called me.

We all have a past, some may be more proud of their past than others, but none of us should live in the past.  We need to take our reminders from the past and use them as lessons for our future.

 

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The Quiet Whisper

Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God . God will pass by.” A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God , but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper. 1 Kings 19:11‭-‬12 MSG

wpid-wp-1436316824817.jpegI Kings 19 has been ruminating in my soul the past two days. So often we are standing at attention waiting for God to do something.  However, we are looking for the bells and whistles, miracles, signs, and wonders from the Lord.  Instead we miss  that still small voice, the whisper of His moving.

I am guilty at looking for some dramatic sign to direct me and show me that God is there.  I have heard the whisper, but I am looking for a bright neon sign to say “HERE’S YOUR SIGN.”  or “DO THIS.”  or “DON’T DO THIS.”  I find myself much like Elijah hiding in a cave because of some threat when I should be facing it head on because of the mighty things that I have seen God just do.

God’s wind has blown so much off of me.  He has shaken my world more than a time or two now.  I have been praying for Him to burn up anything in my that is not of Him.  Yet with all that He has done to prepare me, I have to quiet myself before Him to hear that still small voice of direction.  Those other things may get my attention, they may pull away the things that don’t belong; but God whispers His instruction.  He wants me in His presence.  He whispers so that I will draw near to Him to listen.

 

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It has been a rough year at work, a lot of death has been happening.  Some from natural causes, others for reasons of poor life choices.  Some young, some old.  Some with support around, others alone and seemingly forgotten by the world, other than a paid caregiver.  Sometimes I find myself praising God that their suffering is over.  Other times, I have found myself questioning “why?”

As I was praying, a clear correlation was drawn for me between what I am experiencing at work and the spiritual process of dying to self, or crucifying the flesh.  I go through much of the same process as the individuals and families do as they face the dying process.  dyingtoself

Some people refuse to believe they are dying.  This comes in many different forms from outright denial to standing in faith.  I realize that sometimes I don’t want to believe that I still have some sins hanging around that I have tried to ignore, like pride masked in insecurities.  Other times I am truly blind to the sin so I can’t see that it needs to die.

Sometimes family is not prepared emotionally, financially or relationally.  Family wants more time to come to terms with the inevitable.  I do this too.  I often bargain with God for more time because I am not ready to make the changes required for my flesh to die.

Sometimes there is a financial reason for holding on, like if a family lives paycheck to paycheck and need time to figure out how to manage with the loss of income.  I have certainly disobeyed God in this area.  And I suffered the consequences of it.  Had I been willing to let go, I could have prevented a lot of suffering and remorse on my part.  I just needed to be willing to obey God and trust Him in my finances when He showed me clearly I needed to let go.

Other times people have unresolved issues with a loved one.  There are things that need to be said, but emotionally one or both of the parties are not willing to start the conversation.  No one is willing to say what needs to be said.  So often I have allowed my flesh to cause a rift between me and God.  I am not ready to start the conversation to allow healing to mend my brokenness.  Instead I continue to let my flesh grow in that area.

Sometimes distance is a barrier, the dying person is waiting for someone to arrive.  I realize I can not wait for someone else before allowing my sin to be crucified.    Unforgiveness and baggage from the past immediately come to mind.  I often want to wait for someone else to apologize or for justice to happen.  I can’t wait for someone else, if I need to change, it is on me regardless of anyone else’s actions. Sin will always find someone else to latch on to through me for survival.

Sometimes a person is hanging on because they want to know those who are left behind are going to be okay.   Some people are not going to be okay with the changes required in my life as I crucify the flesh.  Sin will stick around much longer than needed because I don’t give God permission to take it away.  The flesh in me does not want to die, but if I trust God I will be okay, even after the sin is gone.

Some are afraid that giving in to the natural process of death, is suicide.  Nothing could be father from the truth.  Just because science can keep someone alive doesn’t mean we should.  God receives people in His time, we may prolong he process with treatments and machines, but stopping those is not suicide.  When I die to flesh, I am giving in to the natural process that God has laid out.  I am killing it, but it is not killing me.  God takes my sacrifice and blesses it.  He receives it, and makes me the best version of myself that I can be.

Or families are concerned that they are killing someone by withdrawing care.  Machines and medicines can keep someone’s heart beating or provide oxygen, but they are just preventing the body from doing what it was naturally made to do.  When I submit to crucifying the flesh, my spirit, united with Christ is doing what it was created to do – imitate Christ.

Every now and then a doctor will want to pursue treatments that offer little hope or recovery. Families gravitate towards these treatments, thinking that someone will have a complete turn around.  And I have to say, from time to time, I have seen the miracle happen.  Before I say, what I am going to say, let me clarify I don’t think that doctors are the enemy, it just is a picture that helped me make sense of things.  When it comes to my flesh dying, the enemy will always try to provide just one more reason to hang on to my sin, my desires and my ways.  It will offer false hope and security, where there is none to be had.

One of the things I enjoy doing, is making sure that people have a medical power of attorney, stating who can make decisions for them should they be in a position they can not, whether temporarily or permanently and an advanced directive, letting doctors know what should and should not be done in the event of an irreversible condition.  These documents should be completed by everyone!  They really help guide and direct the family and doctor when it comes time for those difficult decisions to be made.

When I became a Christian, I turned power of attorney over to God.  The Bible became my advanced directive.  The Bible clearly says to lay down your life, and to sacrifice or crucify the flesh.  There is no guessing needed  The flesh needs to die.  Sin needs to go.

And so I pray:

God I give you permission to kill the flesh in my life, the time is now.  No more waiting.  Your Word is clear and I know that you want only the best for me.   God open my eyes to the truth about myself.  That anything that does not resemble You would be allowed to die.  Take everything in me that is not like you, regardless of how others will respond.  I want what you have for me and I am ready to die to self. No more excuses.  Open my eyes, let me not hold on to false hopes from the enemy or be concerned about how others will respond.  Your opinion is the only opinion that carries weight.  You are my POA, the Bible is my advanced directive.

 

 

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Still There

I gave God

half hearted prayers

with a divided focus.

I took back the control

I had been surrendering.

It was so unsatisfying,

even in the moment.

Yet still, God’s voice

Still spoke to me.

Even though I failed Him

and disappointed myself,

when I turned back to Him,

His grace was there.

His voice was still speaking.

His presence still strong.

God was there providing for Jonah

even after he disobeyed.

God was there for David

when he failed.

God was there for Peter

when he denied Christ.

God is still there for us too.

It is time to stop allowing

the enemy to use

our mistakes against us.

Repent and turn back to God.

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Promises from the Past

Then God was right before him, saying, “I am God , the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. I’m giving the ground on which you are sleeping to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will be as the dust of the Earth; they’ll stretch from west to east and from north to south. All the families of the Earth will bless themselves in you and your descendants. Yes. I’ll stay with you, I’ll protect you wherever you go, and I’ll bring you back to this very ground. I’ll stick with you until I’ve done everything I promised you.” Jacob woke up from his sleep. He said, “ God is in this place—truly. And I didn’t even know it!” He was terrified. He whispered in awe, “Incredible. Wonderful. Holy. This is God’s House. This is the Gate of Heaven.” Genesis 28:13‭-‬17 MSG

This passage really hit me.  In part because my name is derived from Jacob’s name and I have to catch myself as sometimes I tend to do things like he would do.  Since that tends to be a curse rather than a blessing, the blessing caught my attention.

The other reason is because I had just listened to the chapters before where Jacob had got Esau to trade Esau’s birthright for Jacob’s bowl of soup.   Then with the help of his mother had deceived his father Isaac in obtaining Esau’s blessing.  He was fleeing from the wrath of his brother and ends up sleeping outside and having a dream with angels ascending and descending a stairway to Heaven.  And in the aftermath of Jacob’s failures, God is there promising a blessing.

I often find myself focused on the failures instead of the blessings.  I allow the lies of the enemy to keep me from pursuing the promises God has for me.  I allow the enemy to keep me tied to the failure from the past instead of listening to the voice of God and the promises of where He is leading me.

But Jacob didn’t get to hear that promise until he stepped out in obedience to what his father had commanded.  He was running, but God was leading.

Yes. I’ll stay with you,

Jacob was fearful, but God was promising protection.

I’ll protect you wherever you go,  

He was leaving behind everything he knew, but God was saying “I will bring you back.”

I’ll bring you back to this very ground.

God was solidifying the promise that God had made to Abraham.  His promise was tied to his past.

I’ll stick with you until I’ve done everything I promised you.

I have spent much of my life distancing myself from my past.  I ran.  I changed my name.  I changed my life.  Yet, I still let it hold me back in areas.  I look to the greatest victories that God has brought me through and they are some of the greatest tools that He has given me to help others.  There is not a heart-wrenching experience that I have walked through, even those of my own orchestration, that I have not been able to use to minister to someone else, and generally in the most similar of circumstances.

It is as if God reminding me:

Yes. I’ll stay with you,

I’ll protect you wherever you go,

and I’ll bring you back to this very ground.

I’ll stick with you until I’ve done everything I promised you.

There are promises that I am still holding on too from 20 years ago, and some that He has given me since then.  I have seen God’s faithfulness.  I can testify of His protection.  He has brought me back to where everything started.  And I know that His promises will not return void, He has stuck with me even when I did not stick with Him.  He is not looking at my failures, except as a tool for His glory.  He is looking at the future that He has for me.  What a wonderful God I serve.

 

 

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Have it Your Way or God’s Way

But Lot protested, “No, masters, you can’t mean it! I know that you’ve taken a liking to me and have done me an immense favor in saving my life, but I can’t run for the mountains—who knows what terrible thing might happen to me in the mountains and leave me for dead. Look over there—that town is close enough to get to. It’s a small town, hardly anything to it. Let me escape there and save my life—it’s a mere wide place in the road.”  Genesis 19:18‭-‬20 MSG

I listened to this passage this morning and thought about the stark contrast of what happened between Lot and Abraham.   It wasn’t that Lot was disobedient, he just asked for something different.  How many times do I settle for less than God has for me because I want things my own way?

choiceLot ended up in the mountains shortly after living in a cave afraid to be in the town he had fled to.  His wife was turned into a pillar of salt for her disobedience.  Eventually his daughters got Lot  drunk and slept with him so they could have children.  There are always consequences when we want something our way, and generally they are far-reaching.  This decision created the Ammonites and Moabites, both fought against Israel.

When I think about the consequences of Lot having things his own way, and compare that to Abraham’s complete obedience, I am left wondering why I ever try to do things my own way.

The angel of God spoke from Heaven a second time to Abraham: “I swear— God ’s sure word!—because you have gone through with this, and have not refused to give me your son, your dear, dear son, I’ll bless you—oh, how I’ll bless you! And I’ll make sure that your children flourish—like stars in the sky! like sand on the beaches! And your descendants will defeat their enemies. All nations on Earth will find themselves blessed through your descendants because you obeyed me.” Genesis 22:15‭-‬18 MSG

Abraham asked to flee for his safety to the mountains, he was being asked to sacrifice his only son of promise.  Abraham had tried his own way, and got Ishmael.  But Abraham was not asked to sacrifice Ishmael, but Isaac.  If there was a time to ask God for concessions to His way, I think sacrificing my child would be the time, but then maybe Abraham realized what happens when he does things his or his wife’s way.  Abraham was obedient.  It was at the point that Abraham raised his knife to kill his son who was laid on the altar that God said “Okay.  You’re good.  Kill the ram over there instead.”  It was a relief I am sure to Abraham and Isaac.

God blessed Abraham’s obedience.  He had already made a promise, but he expanded on it.  Not only would he be made a great nation, all nations would be blessed through him because of His obedience.

I admit I am doubtful that nations would be blessed through me, nor has God promised me that.  However, I am left to wonder what blessing I left on God’s table because I insisted on my own way.  I question how many others are paying a price because God let me do it my way.  And I am hopeful that I will keep this in mind going forward so I can be blessed and be a blessing to others!

 

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God can handle it

I have been listening to the book of Job in The Message translation of the Bible. It is really interesting to hear conversations in modern language, it makes me take pause.

So many people are afraid to really talk to God. They think they must have perfect grammar, King James version speech, and get it all cleaned up to talk to Him. I think the book of Job is proof that God can handle whatever we say to Him.  I think if He would be offended at the candor, it would not have been included in His Holy Scripture.  Yes, He talks back and lets Job know he is wrong, but He lets Job and all friends do a lot of talking before God responds.

handleitI admit sometimes I look at things from a social workers point of view that were not meant to be. All I can say, is Job needed a social worker; if you look at some of the things said, certainly a referral would have been sent my way. Listening to it in the Message version convinces me of this even more.

“Why does God bother giving light to the miserable, why bother keeping bitter people alive, Those who want in the worst way to die, and can’t, who can’t imagine anything better than death, Who count the day of their death and burial the happiest day of their life? What’s the point of life when it doesn’t make sense, when God blocks all the roads to meaning?
Job 3:20‭-‬23 MSG

Or

Human life is a struggle, isn’t it? It’s a life sentence to hard labor. Like field hands longing for quitting time and working stiffs with nothing to hope for but payday, I’m given a life that meanders and goes nowhere— months of aimlessness, nights of misery! I go to bed and think, ‘How long till I can get up?’ I toss and turn as the night drags on—and I’m fed up! I’m covered with maggots and scabs. My skin gets scaly and hard, then oozes with pus. My days come and go swifter than the click of knitting needles, and then the yarn runs out—an unfinished life! Job 7:1‭-‬6 MSG

It is so real and honest. I can see someone going on this rant. I can see those who care about them expressing concern for this line of thinking, and bringing them to see me. Then I can see the speaker sitting remorseful for feeling this way, let alone voicing it.

The reality is, many of us have those thoughts and feelings. The book of Job is proof that God wanted us to understand that it was okay. It is what we do with those thoughts and feelings that matters. And again, Job is great examples of how to handle these emotions.

But for as long as I draw breath, and for as long as God breathes life into me, I refuse to say one word that isn’t true. I refuse to confess to any charge that’s false. There is no way I’ll ever agree to your accusations. I’ll not deny my integrity even if it costs me my life. I’m holding fast to my integrity and not loosening my grip— and, believe me, I’ll never regret it. Job 27:1‭-‬6 MSG

I can sit and stew on something for a long time, and reality is, it will turn a anthill into Mt Everest when I do. Or I can voice my frustrations to a few trusted friends, or better yet God and move forward.  God gave us emotions. God knows what we are thinking and feeling, and God can handle it.  We can voice it to Him, without proper grammar, without KGV language, just as we are in conversation to Him.  God can handle it!

 

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Missing information

Each year I try to do a Read Through the Bible in Year plan, in addition to other Bible studies that I might do.  I have also tried to change the version that I read each year for the past four or five years, because I realized that I often “knew” a verse, even through I didn’t have a full revelation of it.  I would find myself, even when journaling, just skimming the surface of things I “knew” instead of allowing God to really show me how it applies to my life right now.  I started memorizing scriptures when I was two, so there was a lot of skimming despite a love for reading the Word.

This year I decided to use the Message version.  I have steered clear of it since the version came out, other than when reading it in conjunction with a written devotional or book.  I liked the idea of easy to understand language, but when journaling, I like to be able to break down scriptures.  With The Message Bible, it is usually passages with multiple scriptures lumped together.  To be honest, sometimes I really don’t want to write all that at one time.  Reading through the Bible in a Year, I thought would be a good way to hear (As I generally listen to that) and just go back and focus on things that really stuck out.  It didn’t take long!

prayingandworshippingThe end of Genesis 4 says “Then men began to call on the name of the Lord.” (NKJV)  I have read it at least a dozen times if not more in my life.  But today, it grabbed my attention: “That’s when men and women began praying and worshiping in the name of God.” (MSG)

It wasn’t Adam and Eve.  It wasn’t Cain, Abel or Seth; it was the 3rd generation that began praying and worshipping in the name of God.   I have taken for granted that praying and worshipping God was happen from the beginning.  Why did it take 3 generations to pray and worship the Creator of the Universe?  

I get Adam and Eve. God walked in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8) with them.  So praying to Him might be weird.  Like talking in 3rd person or about someone like they are not standing right in front of you, weird.  They were also the 1st humans.  Most kids, even with famous parents don’t “worship” them, especially when the children have to face the consequences of bad choices.

I can understand Cain not praying or worshipping God. I mean, he was cursed after murdering his brother.  Abel of course was dead, so no prayer or worship there.  Scriptures indicate that both Cain and Abel brought their gifts to the Lord (Genesis 4:3-4).  Maybe the relationship that they had with God was one of a more intimate nature.   God was after all, their grandpa!

But what about Seth?  What was his relationship with God like?  There are only nine scriptures that mention Seth and eight that mention his son, Enosh.  There is a genealogy in the following chapter followed by the commission to Noah to build the Ark in the sixth chapter of Genesis as the people were so wicked. There is 105 years from Seth’s birth to the birth of Enosh.  There is almost no information about any relationships or interactions with God at all; other than Enoch, five generations down, walking with God.

Did they become so distant from God that they had to call out to Him?  Or did they have a new understanding of God, so the only thing they could do was worship Him.  As I asked myself these questions, I realized I may never know what happened in those years.  Why at that point in Scripture it is important to know that something changed.

What I can know is that I want to walk with God.  I want the intimacy of just being able to talk with Him.  I love that I can just talk, or even think and He hears me (Isaiah 65:24).  I have the privilege of praying to Him (Philippians 4:6) and worshipping Him (John 4:24).  But I also have the ability to fellowship with Him (I Corinthians 1:9).

I have to ensure that I don’t hide from God as Adam and Eve did in the garden.  Although I might feel guilt for my actions nothing is hidden from Him, so I have no reason to hide.  I also have to ensure that I don’t let my sins separate me from Him like Cain did.  Jesus paid the price to close the gap that sin leaves.  Thanks to what Jesus did on the cross and the gift of the Holy Spirit, I have that choice.  

 

 

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Thoughts on the night

Laying in bed

Trying to sleep

Instead my thoughts

Are going down a path

That is keeping me awake.

Thoughts that want to argue.

Thoughts that make me bitter.

Thoughts that make me want

To tell someone “how the cow ate the cabbage.”

Even though I have no clue

If cows even eat cabbage

Or how the cow digests his food

If cows do eat cabbage.

I realize that my thoughts

Are not productive,

But I can’t turn them off.

Trying to take them captive

Hasn’t worked,

There is some truth to both sides.

Truth in replacement thoughts

Truth in the bitter thoughts.

I find those are the hardest thoughts

For me to stop as I find myself asking

“God are you trying to move me?”

Quickly followed by

“Or is this the enemy trying to deceive me?”

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