Exposed

Have you ever felt … exposed?  I’m talking where your conscience is screaming at you and it feels like your flaws are simply … out there … as though everyone else can see your flaws too?  Of course, I attribute much of this to having the Holy Spirit which is like having a conscience that is magnified 100x.  Having been through some things, I’ve learned to appreciate that hypersensitivity, but other times, it leaves me feeling pretty … vulnerable.

There’s always those times when we mess up, right?  Oddly, those are the moments where it’s easier to just shoo the voice away.  You simply fess up, repent, and move on.  But then there’s those other times.  Those other times when maybe stress has been mounting and time and time again, you have really done your best to do it God’s way and you’ve done pretty well, but are getting pretty fatigued from the battle.  It seems as though there is no end in sight to the endless barrage.

Then … BAM!  It happens.  The straw that broke the camels back.  You find yourself in a situation where you just give in to the battle.  These are the moments where you are tired of trying to do it right.  The moments where you are tired of the fight.  The moments you are tired of missing the victory.  The moments where you are tired of taking the short end of the stick and giving in and seeing the enemy win.  The moment where you are just tired of being tired.  So you cave.  You cave to the anger, the hurt, the pity … to all the ugly emotions that have been pounding to get into your dwelling place.

Ugh!  I hate these moments.  These are the moments that sneak up on you and make you deal with stuff that you have been doing a pretty good job at dodging.  These are the moments that make you … gulp … fess up and confront how you really feel about stuff.  The anger, the resentment, the mounting bitterness .. it’s all swimming around in your head now.  If you are one of the lucky ones, Jesus keeps you from acting out on those feelings.  This is the very place that Satan has been trying to take you and now, you’re there.

I’d love to tell you that there is a magic formula to get out of these situations, but unfortunately, there isn’t.  All I know is that when God has gotten me in these moments, I can’t always say that I’m proud of how I respond.  It’s in those moments where I feel like Paul … ‘oh wretched man that I am.’  It’s like being in a current of ugliness that even though I know I’m wrong, there’s no simple switch to flip and turn it off .

Up until that time, I felt like, ‘Cool!  I got this.  I’m good.  I know God’s brought me through some things, but that’s okay … it’s all good.  I know it’s gonna’ be okay.’  But now, it’s like, ‘This sucks.  I was trying to do it HIS way and now THIS?’  I could go on, but if you’ve had any Christian walk at all, you get what I’m talking about.  And the worst part is that you feel like you can’t say anything because you KNOW you are in the wrong spirit.  UGH!!!  The insanity of walking the walk!

For me, this wrestling continues until finally, I break and begin to puke all over God.  NOOOO!!  This isn’t what I wanted to do!  But out it comes … all the hurt, the anger, the mounting bitterness, and list of unfair things you’ve been dealing with.  Some people feel better after puking.  Not me.  I feel sick for the next 3 days.  Man.  I just gave a bunch of crap to God.  I don’t think I blamed Him, but honestly, I was angry with Him and I’m not even sure that’s allowed and now .. Great!!  I’ve messed up again.  Sigh …. ever feel like you just aren’t going to get it right?

My  husband, he’s different.  He can get mad, blow up, then 5 minutes later he has a smile on his face like nothing ever happened.  Me?  I’m a woman.  If you know anything about women, we just don’t work that way.  Ugh!  So I walk around humbled and pretty quiet for the next several days.  I know Jesus’ blood covers my sins, but this is different.  I’m not always the best at just picking up and getting back to ‘happy’ so quickly.  I feel like a jerk and I wouldn’t blame Jesus if He lightning bolted me for my behavior.  ….. But He doesn’t.

Somehow, He just lets me be and then, slowly, He gently finds a way to let me know He still loves me.  How could He do that?  I mean .. after all I said and did, He’s taking time to minister to me?  He’s taking the time to let me know that no matter how mad, angry, and ugly I felt that I was, He STILL thinks I’m worth something?  Okay, it’s all over ….  I’m undone.

Only God!  Only God can do this.  Only God can allow us to be such jerks and then take the time to not only allow us to pound on, scream, and even blame Him and THEN take the time to whisper …. I still love you.

When this is the God we serve, how can we not be totally devoted to Him?

And we think we have this figured out?  Ha!  We haven’t even scratched the surface of what He has planned for us!

Yep … that’s right … exposed.  And still … Satan can’t snatch me out of God’s hand.

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The Healing Place

A couple of years ago, I attended a ladies retreat where there was a tongues and interpretation.  The room was filled with 2000 ladies.  I recall that despite that there were so many women in that room, I knew in my heart of hearts, that the message spoken was for ME.  Of course, when God speaks to the body, the message is for everyone.  Maybe its pride, maybe it’s arrogance, or maybe it was really just something that spoke in my soul that said .. I want this.  I want this message to be mine.  The message spoke of listening, really listening, to the ladies on the stage because God said … they had been to the healing place.

Of course, at the time, I didn’t really know what that meant.  What exactly was the healing place?  Was it a specific location?  Could anyone go there?  Was there a cost to go there?  Where do you even begin? …. So many questions and not many answers left me with a deep-seated desire to get to this place.  Despite that I was Holy Ghost filled and blood bought … despite that I had spent many hours at several alters pouring my heart out to God … despite that I had spent hundreds of hours in prayer … there were still things inside of me that I just couldn’t get away from.  I’m not even sure I can accurately put my finger on it other than to say that there were holes in my heart that hurt.  Things in my life that haunted me that while God knew, I somehow didn’t know how to let go of.  Some people put up walls and call it being free, others put on a smile and hide the hurt, I seemed to be plagued with my hurts seeping through at the altar behind unspoken words and sobs as my soul begged for mercy.  This was a couple of years ago.

I sought pretty hard for God after that.  I wanted the healing place.  I wanted to know what true freedom really is.  I found out that healing and freedom were none of the things I thought they were.  I thought that once I had reached that place, that it would be nirvana.  I thought that I would finally be able to walk around and not feel insecure.  I thought that I would finally be able to feel the joy non-stop instead of continuously having life frustrate me with challenges.  I thought I would always be able to handle every situation with a smile and calm and know that it was real instead of feeling that I was hiding behind a wall of pretense.  Nope … the healing place was none of those things.  Neither is freedom.

We had a guest preacher in today that spoke of the healing place.  He didn’t call it that, but that’s exactly what it was.  I’ve been there now, so I know.  He was talking about the healing place.  It’s the place where we are confronted with all kinds things that we never expected.  It’s the place where we are forced to face some of the most dreaded things in our lives.   It’s the place where you life seems to be falling apart.  It’s the place where you are certain, you can relate with Job.  It’s the place where you find out people will fail you .. even family.  It’s the place where you find the world will fail you.  It’s the place where you find out that yes, the church too will fail you.  It’s the place where you learn …. complete dependence on Jesus.

But it’s not just learning about being let down.  It’s also learning about trust and confidence in God.  Not just in God, but His ability to restore.  His ability to rebuild what He had just torn down.  His ability to work in others and regain your trust in those who may have let you down.  It’s about learning to depend on God for finances and health and trusting that even if it doesn’t look like you thought it should, God’s got it all under His control.  It’s about learning to fear the power of God and not take it for granted.  And somehow, through all of this, at the same time, He pulls you in closer and lets you see HIS heart.  I’m sorry, but if you want to be close to God, there is absolutely no way to do it without jumping in the fire.  You can get close and feel His heat, but until you allow the fire to consume you .. you will never get to the place where you see Him standing in the flames with you.

Please don’t be afraid of the healing place.  Please don’t be afraid or refuse to go through the valley.  If you look at your circumstances and think you might be there, please be encouraged.  It’s a frightening place but this is the place where you learn to discern the hand of God.  This is the place where you learn to discern God’s touch.  If you are looking at the fire and have been afraid to jump, be encouraged, He’s at the door waiting for you to ask Him to lead you through.

This is the place where you learn that God will truly never leave you nor forsake you.  There is so much beauty there!  There is so much that God wants to salvage from that place!  But He will only salvage those that want to be salvaged.  He will only rebuild those that choose to go through this process.  We, the church, have been blessed so much.  It’s time for more of us to be willing to enter in to the healing place.  There is a world out there crying out to God to show them just how real He is.  There is a world out there crying to see Him alive in others.  There is a world that wants to know the true blessing of serving a God that is alive and holy.  And there is a God who wants to guide you through this place to show you just how beautiful it really is … just how MUCH there is to salvage!

The healing place is where God teaches you to close your eyes and listen with your heart …… it’s only then that you hear the lost souls crying out.

As the body becomes united as One …

I think that Preacher’s have a pretty cool position.  I’m not talking about the fact that they get to stand on the platform and do all the talking while everyone else does the listening.  Neither am I talking about the fact that they hold the power in the room.  I had an experience that showed me something entirely different!  I invite you to take a peek from my perspective ….

It was the end of May.  I was on my son’s last field trip that I would ever have the chance to be a part of.  We were at a local state park doing lots of hiking, exploring, swimming, boating, and all kinds of cool outdoor things.  The temperature was perfect!  The bugs weren’t too bad and the sky held a deep blue with a hint of storm clouds that were running to catch up with us.

The winds blew and without us even noticing,  the clouds snuck up on us and now dark grays loomed over us, doing their best to let us know … the storm was coming.  The teachers sent the kids to the bus and tried to delay in hopes that the storm would move on without us.  The delay went from 5 to 10 to 15 minutes and soon, those 60+ fifth graders were beginning to take on a life of their own … one that was rather cranky and annoyed to be sitting on a hot stinky bus.

I decided to check on my boy.  He was of course, in the back.  I took a couple of snap shots of him then headed back to the front.  I turn around and look at these kids and a few heads look my way.  That’s when one little guy looked me right in the eye, started motioning, and singing ‘YMCA.’  I was intrigued by his beckoning to interact, so I did the best thing I knew how … I did the YMCA with him.  Next thing I know, the WHOLE bus (except my son who is now shrinking in embarrassment) joins in!

I was a bit overwhelmed, nervous, and completely engaged at the same time!  While there were 60+ individual children on this bus, I was watching as they all had united as one … literally one mind and in one accord!  After YMCA, it was my turn to take the lead.  I began with ‘The wheels of the bus.’  Once again, we became one voice.  Truthfully, I was shaking in my boots, but this was truly a blast!  After this song, they once again took the lead and began to sing out and pound on the seats, ‘We will, we will, Rock you!’    I got that one on video!  These children were truly delightful!

Wow!  What a blessing this was from God!  I imagined that this MUST be what it is like for a preacher when he truly allows God to lead the service.  Sure, he comes prepared with a sermon.  However, as the hearts and minds of the believers begin to become united and the spirit sweeps in, the preacher then begins to interact with the Body of Christ with Jesus taking the lead!

I can only imagine how the preacher gets a glimpse of Jesus’ hands reaching in and caressing a heart here, or uplifting a spirit there.  I have witnessed my own Pastor as he is heading one direction and suddenly, he begins down a different path as though Jesus had just tapped him on the shoulder and whispered in his ear.  What an incredible blessing it must be to witness this!

I am so enamored by God!  He truly amazes me!  We think so much of what we do is because of our own efforts.  Hah!  Boy have we got a lot to learn!  I think it is really cool that we have a God that is so interactive and truly teaches us how to live and enjoy the many blessings He provides!  We haven’t even scratched the surface to all that He has prepared for us!  WOW!

 

 

What’s a vision for anyway?

Have you ever had a vision from God that left you with a boost of enthusiasm that a situation would change?  Or what about a word of faith from someone else delivered with such confidence that surely you thought, it was going to happen?  Then, despite these prophetic moments, circumstances seem to reveal a slightly different path?

Maybe it left you thinking … just what was the vision for anyway?  Was this God’s way of teasing you?  Dangling a carrot out that you could never quite grasp?  Satan is surely there to point out all the depressing realities of the lack of prophetic fulfillment, isn’t he?  Or worse, he widdles his way into your psyche making you believe that somehow you’re responsible for the success or failure of the vision.

So what is the vision for anyway?  Having had a few myself of late and living out some of the thoughts above, admittedly, I have wondered myself.  I took these visions pretty seriously, so was God just teasing me, making me look the fool, or was there something more God had in store?  Today, I had a thought that perhaps the visions are more like seeds.

The intention of the seed is to produce something.  In fact, it’s intention is to produce something very specific.  If I’m the one receiving that seed, I suppose I feel I have a responsibility to do something with it.  I really have a choice to either toss it or plant it.  However, irregardless or what I do with it, God is still in control of what happens to that seed.

If I never do anything with it, that doesn’t mean that seed won’t germinate.  As a matter of fact, things may seem to get radical before that vision ever takes on the appearance of looking anything like what it was designed to, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t happening.

I could toss it out the window and some bird gobbles it up, poops it out, and BAM!  It falls into a nice pit of soil complete with fertilizer becoming a 200 year old solid Oak Tree.  The point being, if God’s intention is to produce, nothing I can do will stop that seed from producing exactly what God intended it to be.

Interestingly, in botony the ‘radicle’ is the first part of the seedling to emerge during the process of germination.  The ‘radicle’ is the embryonic root of the plant.  So, in my effort to play on words, there really is a place for all this seeming ‘radicle’ behaviour of this seed.

But what is our part?  What do we do with this seed?  Our part is to treat that seed just as God intended .. to plant it in good soil, to water it, to protect it from weeds, and to make sure it’s getting plenty of sunshine.  And when all else fails because maybe we never really got the hang of gardening or simply found that the cares of life kept us from keeping up on the weeds, we trust that God really is in control of the end result of that seed.  Trust that God doesn’t give seeds to just anyone and if He’s giving me one, He will follow through on His intention of producing exactly what He intended for that seed.

And when things get a little radical, instead of freaking out that the vision won’t happen, trust that maybe, God’s working His magic in the embryo of the seed.

Why do we always expect these things to happen over night?  Sheesh!  Give growth a little time for heavens sake!  Will ya?  After all, if it were to happen too quickly, we might just start taking more credit for the result of that seed than we should and then we are in for an entirely different problem!

God’s got this, remember?  😉

So caught up in the why, never considered who …

I’ve been studied the Holocaust for some time now.  I wanted to know how one man could lead an entire country to destroy human lives as though they were cattle getting ready for the slaughter.  I also wanted to know how so many people could just turn their head to such disaster.  So I started reading Mein Kampf.

Perhaps you’re thinking that wasn’t such a good idea, and I was a bit hesitant myself knowing that the government probably now has me on some black list because I got it from the public library.  However, I felt a strong urging in my spirit to move forward.

I heard a sermon recently that told me the Jewish people face East and facing East meant facing backward.  So they move forward, facing the past, knowing where they’ve been, just like in a row-boat.  I happen to agree with this.  It’s not only been Hitler that slaughtered millions of people at a time and got others to turn their head, there’s been others.  At some point in time, we need to start asking ourselves, how did this happen and how can we prevent it?  I’m beginning to find out that, unfortunately, the only way to understand madness is to take a really good look at it and pray that God leads you to His understanding.

While Hitler’s book wasn’t an autobiography, there was enough personal information in the book to get an idea of who he was.  I was quite surprised to find that this ‘madman’ had many traits that were desirable, that he was intelligent, artistic, empathetic, and loyal to his country to a fault.  I was also surprised to read that in his own words, he tells how in the beginning, he wasn’t against the Jews.  He was a man of keen observation and not just of events, but of the effects of those events on people.  He seemed to be caught up in how he was responding to events around him and was unafraid to openly show his struggle with his internal man.  He was unafraid to show how quickly he could be persuaded to ‘change opinions.’

Despite these findings tho, there were some marked events in his life that gave me a better understanding of how he perhaps started on the path he ended up on.  From my perspective, I could see a determined arrogance that was fueled by a hate of those he felt repressed the German people and he seemed to take this battle very personally.

After getting to page 65, the last page of chapter 2, I’ve decided that regardless of what the rest of the book says, I got the answer I was looking for.  There it was, in his own words, ‘And so I believe to-day that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator. In standing guard against the Jew I am defending the handiwork of the Lord.’  He honestly thought he was in God’s will.

So how does an atrocity like the Holocaust happen?  Hitler was so caught up in the whys of his day that he never stopped to consider who he was following.  There is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that this was a spiritual battle where Satan merely needed an outlet to gain power.  Unfortunately, he found it at the expense of millions of lives.

While some may balk that I could see any positive in a man such as Hitler, I honestly believe that he had a greatness in him that was designed to be used in a positive way.  Unfortunately, it didn’t play out that way.

How careful we need to be to search our hearts!  This man claimed to be doing ‘the work of the Lord.’  Yet, clearly, it wasn’t.  We don’t hear of him having conversations or thoughts asking God what God thought.  We don’t hear of him having thoughts of praying about it and seeking God’s face.  Nor do we hear of him addressing the hypocrisy of his own thoughts and actions.  Instead, he very plainly points out his faults with every intention to correct everyone except himself.

He never stopped to listen to the small still voice inside telling him, ‘this is wrong.’  Instead, he kept barreling ahead towards the voice that fed his pride, his self-righteousness, his hatred, and ultimately, his insanity.  What I get out of all of this, is that it only takes 1 human vessel for Satan to get his hands on to mess up a whole lot of other people’s lives.

And while the good news is that it only took 1 human vessel to die on a cross and save our souls, we still have to live this life out.  We still have to face the evil present in the world and we still have to face the fact that, we could be persuaded to partake in that evil just as easily as this man was.

How we need Jesus!  Not just as a Saviour for eternal salvation, but we need His leading and guiding every day!  While this study hasn’t been easy, I walk away understanding now, more than ever, just what Christ did for us and how we need Him.  Fact is, we can’t do this alone and even if we think we are, Hitler’s actions remind us very clearly, there is a spiritual entity that understands our power more than we understand it ourselves.  If we don’t use it for God’s glory, he’s more than willing to use it for his.

God help us.  I’m sorry this has such a downer tone, but the promise and hope comes in mourning and remembering those who were a part of this and other atrocities.  That their lives weren’t lost in vain.  There are very real people effected by this garbage.  But we can’t just pick up the book and hate back.  We have to stop and say … WAIT!  That’s how he ended up down that path.  Yes!  I know his soul may be in hell; me pointing out the goodness that God put in him doesn’t change his soul status.  What it does is show that if we don’t take time to see ourselves in men like this, we might just find ourselves being led to be the monster he became.

If we aren’t careful, we might just find our own selves getting caught up in the why and never consider who we are following.

Jesus Wept: A love story

The deeper my relationship with Christ gets, the more I appreciate what He’s done and IS doing for me.  This weekend, I was reminded of how there are times, I don’t always respond in a way that is pleasing to Him. It’s interesting because when I mess up, I know it.  If it’s a mistake, I fess up, clean up, and move on.  I take responsibility and understand that mistakes will happen.  Jesus still loves me.

Well, there are other times when, it isn’t so much a mistake that I make; I would categorize it more as negligence.  Admittedly, I am at times negligent to my responsibilities as Christ’s bride.  Times when I get caught up in my own selfish reaction or feelings.  Kind of like Mary and Martha did in John 11, when they lacked faith and blamed Jesus for Lazarus’ death.

Ugh … not an easy thing to admit .. but there are times when perhaps, I react selfishly .. when I feel my needs aren’t being met by a loved one .. or overreact to something that really isn’t that big of a deal .. maybe not watching my tongue because I’m ‘having a bad day’ .. or perhaps even not being careful of what or whom I share with.  Sigh .. there really is no justification for my behavior in those moments.  I’ve literally just given over to my flesh and am creating a mess.  A mess that literally, only Jesus can clean up.  Often, I’m not even aware of the damage I’m doing because I’m too focused on ME.  After reading this particular passage this weekend, I have a better understanding that Jesus really does get upset with us when we do things like this.  It’s something that I have to come to grips with, I’m not always at a place where I am going to be pleasing to my bride-groom.

Oh how I realize my need for Him!  How did Jesus react to the unbelief He encountered?  The Word tells us He was troubled in His spirit and groaned within Himself .. but how He chose to handle it … He Wept.  I can only imagine how it must feel for Him to not have His disciples on the same page.  Here, He spends time loving, healing, sharing, caring, and even letting these ladies in on what He has in store and how do they react?  Disbelief .. lack of faith .. negligent .. completely contrary to what He’s trying to accomplish .. yep .. we do a pretty good job of mucking up His plans.  Yet still, He loves us.

What amazes me …  He doesn’t freak out on Mary, Martha, and the Jews that lacked faith.  He dealt with His spirit by weeping .. showing us how to seek His face in times of trouble or frustration .. then He continued on His path and completed the miracle.  His reaction was nothing but pure love!  He gave Mary and Martha room to grow.  The good news is, He really is all about mercy and grace.

I can’t help but feel that the stories we read are constantly Him talking to His bride trying to get her to see that He really is all about mercy, if she would only look in the mirror and realize just how much room He gives her to grow.  If we could just realize that He would like us to give the same in return, to others.  If we could just realize how much He withholds His wrath from ALL of us because He wants to include ALL of us!  Will He have to draw the line some day?  You bet.  But today, it’s mercy .. it’s grace .. it’s Love.

And even when we don’t ‘get it’ … still, Christ loves us.  He continues to draw, continues to gently correct, continues to withhold His wrath, continues to teach, continues to lead .. continues to love.

If only we truly understood how much He really loves us ..  All of us.  The Bible .. it really is the greatest Love Story ever written.  The best part, you and I both play an important role .. and Jesus is going to show us each how to play our part.  He really is an awesome God!

The risk of investing everything

The other day, I made a comment to a young lady telling her that her boyfriend was worth the investment.  I didn’t put a lot of thought to the comment, it just came out because I believed it.  After I said it though, it really made me think about relationships between a man and a woman.

The young man I was referring to is someone very near and dear to me and someone whom I have always seen great potential in.  From the very start, I have seen the man who God wants him to be.

Of course, this is a young couple who are both growing and maturing, figuring out who they are in relation to themselves, each other, and I would venture to say, even God.  As I watch and pray for them, I can’t help but see the importance of investing in the person we are with .. not just the relationship.

I’m amazed as I watch this young man grow and see him maturing.  I have watched him grow from almost indifferent towards his girlfriend to being just that .. invested.  No longer is it just a relationship for the sake of relationship.  It’s something more.  It’s a realization that the other person has taken hold of a place in your heart that no one else can or ever will fill.

What a hopeful thing to see!  When we are invested, we are willing to go through a thing or two.  When we are invested, we have something to fight for.  When we are invested, we allow God to show us the person we love through His eyes instead of our own.  When we are invested, we are willing to bear our hearts, even when it hurts.

I believe this is one of the key factors to really good marriages.  Marriages shouldn’t be just a matter of convenience or filling financial and physical needs because it’s some sort of contract.  Marriage should be an investment in a person that God chose for me.

Unfortunately, I’ve been through divorce and didn’t realize these things in my previous marriage.  I fell into the trap of believing that marriage was about our individual happiness.  Mostly, I didn’t have God focused eyes to help me see the things I could not see.

While I’m not proud to say I’m divorced, I am thankful the situation ultimately led God to open my spiritual eyes.  I’m also thankful that God had someone in mind for me because, being the gracious God He is, He would give me a second shot at marriage.  God would teach me the importance of not just being committed to a marriage, but being invested in the man He has chosen for me.  What a difference investing in the man versus the marriage makes.

Why?  Because now that I invest in my husband versus my marriage, I’ve been given a glimpse of the bond that God truly intends between a man and woman .. and I realize just how valuable that bond truly is!  It is something to desire and strive for.  It’s beautiful and it’s worth every bit of effort and ugly thing you have to go through to get it.

When you are truly invested, you have everything to lose .. yes.  But on the other hand, when God is the one leading the investment, you have something that is priceless to gain … a type of love that only God can create.

I love my husband.