Even Then

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Not long ago, I awoke to two sweet and very excited children. “Mommy, please get up early and follow our signs”, they pleaded. Each heart shape post-it note led me to the next on a short scavenger hunt through our home. It ended in my son’s closet. When I opened the door I saw the pink blanket laid out with our Easter tree, a potted flower and handwritten “I love you, even when I am mad, I love you” note from my son. While I was taking it all in, a song started playing. They had recorded my son singing an “I love you” song and my  daughter hid in the back of the closet to press play when I opened the door. I was astounded. It was certainly worth getting up early for!

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. 2 Thessalonians 3:5

I saw Jesus in their actions. For years, I slept through God’s pleading and desire to get my attention. To draw me closer to Him. I ignored the signs that said “follow me”. I didn’t think I needed direction. I had it all under control. I had a plan. I would make things happen. I could get through life without having to follow His signs and relinquish control. I saw it as a weakness to trust in God fully. I didn’t want to turn it all over because it over gave me a sense (a false sense) of control over life. I – I – I . . . you see the pattern here.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-5

Praise God He never gave up on me. He never stopped whispering “I love you. Even when you are mad, even when you try to hide from me. I love you.” in my ear. As I drew closer to Him through studying the Bible, He changed my heart and opened my eyes. I began to see how much freedom comes in turning it over to my creator who can handle it ALL! Trusting Him to lead me where I am to go. Learning that if God doesn’t want me there – I don’t want to go because it will only lead to destruction. Finding that peace comes from Him and only Him – no amount of long-range planning or worry will bring it. Praising Him for His mercy and forgiveness that never run out. Knowing I will always find Him when I am seeking Him. Understanding that the pruning and trials I endure in this life are only to draw me closer to Him because He adores me.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

You see, a few days prior to this scavenger hunt I had disciplined my son for being disobedient and he responded by writing me three notes that all stated, “I do not love you, mom!” on them. I read them and recycled them promptly knowing he would come around and love me greater for it. Just as our Father in Heaven disciplines us because He loves us and just as He always takes us back when we return to the foot of the cross after going astray. He adores YOU! Seek Him, trust Him and follow Him. He will not leave you or forsake you.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7

I Never Knew You

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Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)

I have lived this passage over the past several weeks. I’m beginning to see more clearly how it creates growing pains to enter the narrow gate (Jesus). He has stretched my faith and desire to serve Him above ALL else. The gate that is wide (the gate of this world) is so easy to fit through, simple to enter, doesn’t ruffle feathers or question anyone about their motives, BUT leads to destruction. Destruction of so much more than we realize until it is too late. As we are herded through the wide gate, trusting only the ones we follow behind and not our Lord and Savior our core values, Christian principles and faith in Jesus is crushed.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)

“I never knew you!” are NOT the words I want to hear from my Lord when I see Him face to face. But how do we discern between letting go or standing up, fighting back or sitting passively by, giving up and walking away or standing by my convictions and living that radical life for Jesus? He said to love your neighbor as we do ourselves, but He also says to love Him above ALL else. Praying and praying for clarity and direction on when to let my tongue go and when to hold it. Knowing it is an evil weapon if led by me and not the Lord. Trying so hard and still getting it wrong. The lyrics of that song Should I Stay or Should I Go by Clash keep running through my mind as I face these different situations. “Should I stay or should I go now? If I stay there will be trouble. And if I stay it will be double. So come on and let me know. Should I stay or should I go?”

I don’t have all the answers and I won’t get it right all the time, but I pray for God to direct me and shape me so that going through the narrow gate feels more comfortable than the wide gate. That my heart would beat only for Him. That my trust in Him would guide my thoughts and actions. That He would take my heart and revise it to look more like His. A heart than doesn’t put comfort, self and the world above Him. A heart that only cares what He says & thinks and not what the world would have me believe. I pray we all start looking more to Jesus and the example He set for us when He walked this earth so we enter the narrow gate!

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

“Fossilized”

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God-of-the-Angel-Armies gave me this Message for them, for all the people and for the priests: “When you held days of fasting every fifth and seventh month all these seventy years, were you doing it for me? And when you held feasts, was that for me? Hardly. You’re interested in religion, I’m interested in people. Zechariah 7:5-6 (The Message)

As Easter approaches, many of us give up something for Lent. I never participated in Lent (especially attending a nondenominational church) until I asked someone why they participated. “I give up something I enjoy each year during Lent as a way to remember the sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross.”, my friend said.  Although, giving up TV, Facebook or sweet tea (in my case) doesn’t come close to the sacrifice Jesus made, it acts as a daily reminder of something we might normally forget or overlook during other times of the year. The unimaginable sacrifice – God sending His only Son to die for the forgiveness of our sins.

I have also embraced the Jewish tradition of placing a Mezuzah on the door frame of our home. It houses a scroll of parchment paper with Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21 inscribed on it.Each time we enter or exit the house it is a visual reminder of God’s laws, commandments and my responsibility as a Christian and a mother. I encourage you to look up this Jewish tradition and read more about it.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.Deuteronomy 6:4-9

I have embraced these traditions because they draw my mind and heart back to Christ. I don’t participate because it’s expected of me or because it will make me a better Christian. I don’t participate because everyone else is doing it. I have chosen to adopt these traditions because they draw me closer to my Heavenly Father. They keep my eyes focused on Him. All of these rituals and traditions are rooted in faith and a desire to draw closer to Christ, but when we allow them to become “fossilized” over time, they become empty actions that slowly erode values. (fossilized means no longer useful, broken down, set in a rigidly conventional pattern of behavior, habits, or beliefs). Our faith and love for the Lord should be purposeful, engaging and joyful . . . far from fossilized.

Pray about the rituals and traditions you have embraced or been taught over the years. If they have become empty traditions with no meaning attached to them, rethink taking part in them or take time to study the significance behind them so that you can appreciate and grow in Christ as you take part.

If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me. Matthew 10:38-39 (The Message)

Book Review

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I had the opportunity to review a book by Holley Gerth called: You’re Already Amazing: Embracing Who You Are, Becoming All God Created You To Be

I already have friends I want to buy this book for.  You’re Already Amazing takes you on a wonderful journey. If you are ready to embark on the quest of discovering who you are in Christ, facing fears and lies that have stifled God’s vision for you and embracing your unique gifts God created you to share with others – then this book is for you. Throw caution to the wind, challenge the lies the world has thrown you, give God control and learn the truth about who you are in Christ. As Holley draws from scripture, her experience as a counselor, and life as a woman and wife she will walk with you as you discover how You’re Already Amazing!

You can purchase it on Amazon.com by clicking this link – You’re Already Amazing

 

Your Cup

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let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22

I recently lost a very special friend to cancer. Grief is a tricky emotion. It sneaks up on me when I least expect it. It brings on tears in the middle of the checkout line, makes me tired and almost impossible for me to concentrate. I had to retreat for a few weeks after Ella’s death. I needed time to regroup, to be alone in God’s word, to refuel and regenerate. When I do this, I often feel guilty for not being as available and helpful as I usually am. I feel lazy for needing a mid afternoon nap and selfish for not doing as much as I normally do for others.

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6

As a sweet friend reminded me, as she lifted up her coffee cup, “We can’t serve when our cup is empty”. What a great reminder. We are NEVER sufficient in ourselves. Our sufficiency is from God (2 Corinthians 3:4-6). When our cup is empty. Our emotional energy exhausted. Our heart weak with grief, sadness, anger or despair.  Our faith tested and stretched thin. We need to retreat and seek out God for His mighty strength. His provisions. His grace and His comfort. We seek Him through His word. He promises us protection, gives us life and confidence if we are abiding in His word.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:1-4

How can you share something you do not have? I need a cup (heart) full of God before I can go out and share His love and mercy with others. Without a full cup, I would surely be useless in sharing Christ’s love and message to others through my thoughts, deeds and actions. If your cup needs filling today, take refuge in the Lord. Find peace in retreating to reconnect and recharge in Christ. Throw the guilt out and take advantage of the freedom to sit at the feet of your Savior and bask in His light, His love and His power. It’s OK – take some time –  fill your cup.