Obedience Revisited

Sooooo…. This week started out interesting…. I received a text from a friend asking if God was telling me something and I was stewing on it or not acting due to disbelief. I guess in a way I was. I was in a tremendous amount of pain that day. I even broke my glasses when I tried to lift my leg to walk. Instead, I stumbled and fell, catching myself with my hand (on my glasses) before my face met the floor.

I had an act of obedience to do that I wasn’t resisting. I just hadn’t done it. I was “going to” do it, but hadn’t yet. (That’s code for I’ll get sidetracked and forget, so it’ll never happen, for those of you that don’t know me.) I was wracking my brain. I knew I was being told something, but I couldn’t hear it (this happens and is so frustrating), but I wasn’t willfully negligent.

Anywhooooo…. I completed that task and 99% of my pain went away. The next morning, it was 100% gone. I went from barely being able to walk normally to feeling like I’d had the best stretch of my life. Because I simply asked for it.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am cynical to say the least, but that is the truth. I walked about 4 miles that day.

I was able to pray and ask for forgiveness for both my inadvertent oversight as well as my intentional nopes. In return, I was rewarded with a pain-free day. Or Four. This is so huge.

This is the second time in as many weeks that different friends have reached out to me about things they could NOT have possibly known, but things where they were extremely accurate.

How could a God, who handles the needs of the entire world, possibly care about me? Easily. He cares about each of us. He is focused on our happiness and peace. All. The. Time. He needs us to further His Kingdom. He needs us to be His hands and feet. He needs us to trust Him completely.

Luke 12:8-10 ““I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

 

How Great is Your Faithfulness….

As humans, we get irritated and call it quits when life gets tough. Or people disappoint. Or people get annoying. Nope. Uh-uh. No way, dude. That’s our reply when we are “hashtag done”.

We just don’t have the patience to deal with things that aren’t working. Things that are broken. Things that are wrong. Soooo…. We walk away and never look back. We justify our exit. We play God with relationships. We can determine the outcome because we “know best”.

We can make snap judgments without a second thought, but, when this is done to us, we cry and argue and barter for justice and “one more chance”. We nurse grievances and hurts, sorrows and pain. We harbor resentment. We justify our actions. We are not loyal creatures by nature, based on our actions.

We are not God. If we were, we would extend grace and forgiveness. How many times a day are we forgiven for our actions and thoughts? That’s something that hurts to process, but it is the truth. We may pride ourselves on “being a good person”, but our actions often do not match our belief.

What if you were only extended the amount of grace and forgiveness you gave to others? What if you were only able to reap what you sowed? Measured the amount you measured to others? Guess what?

God gave his only Son for us. He gives us grace and forgiveness, and blessing after blessing. I’m not sure why it never seems to be enough. We have to be willing to forgive others as we have been forgiven. We need to stand by our friends and families with an unmatched fierceness. We have to fight against the forces wishing to tear us apart.

The next time you are angered, take a deep breath and count to ten. Say a prayer and offer unrivaled forgiveness and grace. Pray for your friend/relative. Pray for a softer heart. Pray that they will accept your grace.

Being faithful means knowing that He is near, that He will come, that He will forgive. We must offer these same gifts to others without strings attached. This is the love that He has given us. The love and forgiveness we could never earn, but fully inherit. He does not walk away. He is always near. We are never too far from His reach.

Luke 6:8 “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (NIV)

Matthew 7:2 “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (NIV)

 

 

My…. How Things Change

A year ago, I was in a very different place. I was afraid to walk into a church (I didn’t want to be responsible for others getting struck by lightning or stuck under a crumbling structure if I crossed the threshold). Yes. I’m serious. I thought that would happen. I had no hope of ever finding my true calling. I was pretty much going through the motions and hopeless. I was determined to never open my heart again. I never thought I could be myself and loved. I was wrong.

A friend tried for months (well, years, but who’s counting?) to get me to church. I finally went. Terrified. Shaking. Nauseated. Overwhelmed. But I went. We went and missed a week or two, then went, and missed a week or two. Yet I always found time to listen on the app or online. We went on vacation in July and I missed church. That was huge. I missed the people. My daughter and I sat in a cabin in Boothbay Harbor, ME listening to the app, so we had the message. We needed the people.

My church family has prayed for my kids. They’ve prayed for me. Flowers were sent to me during recovery from my surgery. Private messages are exchanged to check in on us. When people ask how we are doing, they really want to know. These are my people. My daughter and I have found our church home.

Last year, it was not this way, but over the past 11 months, we have truly gained a family in this church. We have cried, prayed, and laughed. We have grown in our faith. We’ve been encouraged, loved, and lifted up. This is how life should be lived: around people living to better His Kingdom. This group embraces individual talents and gifts, while building a foundation for others to learn about Christ. It’s amazing to watch, and even more amazing to be a part of what’s happening to glorify God in this church.

It’s about the Risen Savior, the one who died for our sins. The one who was beaten and broken for us so that we may live. Surround yourself with the goodness that comes from above. Plug in somewhere. Love one another. Share life.

 

Choose Wisely

The enemy is predictable. We know he will attack when we are comfortable. Sometimes it’s an overt affront, but other times it’s a sneak attack. If a door is left cracked, he will come in and wreak havoc. Yet, we know it is coming. We should expect it. His approach may vary, but the inevitability remains.

This week has been a challenging time. It’s been one of those weeks where I was unable to remember the things God has impacted in my life, including me. I allowed satan (I refuse to capitalize that word) into my life this past week. Fortunately, someone reached out and called it to my attention. Otherwise, I’d be well on my way to reverting back to my old self.

I’ll start with the events of the week that made me oblivious to his presence: I was exhausted (mentally and physically) from work, home, and personal battles. I was skipping my morning time with the Lord, especially my worship time as I drove to work. I was chastised and belittled several times, so I kind of “checked out”. Stress levels were high. In other words, I was distracted and overly confident in my faith. I never saw it coming.

I think the exhaustion is my biggest struggle. Normally, the attack is grand and obvious when I’m exhausted: “You’re not enough. You can’t succeed. This is stupid. Why would God want to use YOU?” I was looking out for that approach. However, I was not expecting the evil presence to sneak into my life – and then blossom. I wasn’t expecting the small rebukes, which I was able to counter; the seeds that were planted and watered.

By mid-week, I had basically forgotten to read my morning verse, have worship time, and pray. I was preoccupied with work, chores, responsibilities, and – some new additions – loneliness and despair. I decided that I deserved certain things, including someone to love me despite their commitment to Christ. I was withdrawing into my own world where I am in charge and needed no one to remind me of what matters.

So, yeah…. Before long, I had rationalized that smoking didn’t matter as I stood in line at the store (I didn’t buy cigarettes, but I was starting to ask for them before I realized what was happening), church attendance was unimportant because I have an app to listen to, and that I deserved someone who wanted to be around me. I didn’t need to surround myself with people who encouraged me because “I am an adult”. <Insert eyeroll here.>

Fast forward to Friday evening…. A sister in Christ reached out to me via private message to pass along some messages. Messages that she could NOT have known would impact me and that would hit the target. She reminded me that I am not invisible. God sees me. He loves me. I need to remain smoke-free. Surrounding myself with Godly people matters. I was convicted. Right there on my neighbor’s deck. Every point she made was spot on, yet something she never could have known was occurring.

God reached out to someone who was listening to remind me that I am His child, created in His own image, for His purpose. The reason? Because I was NOT listening. I had allowed the enemy to enter my mind through a mere crack in the window. He exploited that vulnerability, entered into my life, and blossomed like a mushroom cloud. He filled all of the space he could and I. Never. Even. Saw. It. Coming.

When we guard against the big attacks, we never realize how vulnerable we are to the insidious maneuvers of the dark one. It’s not enough to protect ourselves from just the major warfare; we have to be hypervigilant against the little things.

This week has illustrated to me that I need to really be aware of the little negative comments that enter my mind. As they accumulate, they allow access to my sacred thoughts. There isn’t enough room for good and evil in my head. I have to choose. As I was told last night, “Choose wisely.”

I know that I am precious to Him. I am valued. I am loved. I am necessary. I know that I now need to adjust my focus back to what matters and place my trust in the one true King.

Proverbs 3:15 She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. (NIV)

2 Corinthians 4:18 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (NIV)

 

 

Fear and Protection

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Psalm 91

“1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
Sometimes our fear is crippling. It paralyzes us in our location. It could be a test or a quiz. Maybe it’s a person we would like to know better. Perhaps it’s a medical scare. It could even be a situation at work. The possibilities are endless.
We can rush to fix the issues and mitigate the risk, but we have to understand the situation first. Otherwise, we may be vulnerable in other areas. Human protection is flawed because humans are flawed. We focus in the wrong areas, we become distracted, and we fall short in so many other areas.
When fear strikes, we cannot allow it to rule our minds. We have to fight back and refuse to allow others to control us. Facing our fears makes them seem infinitely smaller and less intimidating, once we are in the situation. Before, we may want to revisit breakfast, but we are at least moving forward.
When we accept who we are in Christ, we know that we may not always be in for an easy ride. We will have to stand up for our beliefs and convictions. It’s just something we do. Facing our fears is terrifying, but it’s a necessity.
When we ask God for refuge, it is given. God will protect us. We are safe. We are loved. We are valued. We are home. As we tuck under His wing, he shows us love and compassion, along with safety and understanding.
We need to remember that He is always with us, whether we sense His presence or not. He is our Heavenly Father, who knows us and loves us, despite our faults and flaws.
God walks with us always. He goes before us and ensures our path is safe. He holds onto us fiercely and with unrelenting strength. We are His children and His love for us is amazing, along with the grace He extends.
Walk in His presence and ask for His protection. It will be given.

Glimmers of Hope

We have all been in a situation where we think we cannot possibly make it out of that place, but (somehow) we have made it out. Maybe it’s a little voice, or a nudge, or just a feeling that we need to keep going. We listen to that voice and/or obey the nudges simply because we believe that it will get better. That’s the manifestation of hope.

We keep going and try to find the positive in troublesome diagnoses, angry interactions, and feelings of defeat. Just a tiny glimmer of hope can go a long way. That tiny inspiration can get us out of bed, encourage us, and make us smile. It’s the promise that better things are coming if we put our trust in Him.

We are not promised an easy life; we are promised that we will never be alone. We are not told that we will always win the battles; we are told that the war has already been won. This knowledge lets us keep trying to get it right while dreaming big.

In order to hope, we must dream. In order to dream, we must feel safe. In order to feel safe, we must trust that we are not alone. We have to believe that we are loved. We must have hope.

Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (NIV)

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (NIV)

Come at Me, Bro

I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’m vulnerable. I’m scared.

I saw my surgeon today. While I’d prayed for a great visit filled with happiness, unicorns, and butterflies, that was not the case. Sigh.

He’s not overly concerned, but he definitely feels there is room for improvement in my healing process. Splendid. I’ve done everything I was told to do. I’ve been careful. Yet I’m still in this spot wondering how to fix the issues.

So….. If you don’t know me, I’m not patient. By “not patient” I mean really impatient when I’m healing. Not my strong suit here. “Slow down.” Huh? Yeah. Whatevs.

Over the past two days, I’ve seen Romans 8.31 (“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us,who can be against us?”) more times than I can count. I’ve heard Chris Tomlin sing about “Our God” being for us several times, and even back-to-back. I’ve been intrigued by what point God wanted to make.

While I was on the phone with my mom, it hit me: I broke down asking what I’d done to deserve this stuff. Why was I being punished? I’ve done whatever I’ve been asked to do! Surely someone else could handle this because that someone CLEARLY was not me at this moment. While I pondered these thoughts, I had some random messages in my head. When I called a dear friend, she reminded me that I am more than a conqueror. God is with me, even when I don’t realize it. He isn’t punishing me. Her words: ” He isn’t punishing you. You’re being tested.”

Wow. What a great perspective for my trials. Rather than assuming our God, who is full of love and mercy, was judging me and punishing me, my friend’s words made me shift perspective to realize that He is with me even while Satan was testing me. There is something within my being that the enemy wants to prevent me from realizing. By being friends with others that share their faith and remind us of God’s promises, we are able to remain strong in our convictions as well. We are able to affirm our place in His Kingdom. We can conquer all who come against us if we rest in the faith.

Romans 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us,who can be against us? (NIV)