Prayer for A Prodigal

When someone mentions the word “Prodigal,” my mind instantly recalls images of Sunday School flannelgraphs (yes, I just aged myself). These memories include a defiant son standing before his father, demanding his inheritance. Then there was the figure of a grieving and broken father gazing after the distant figure of his son, racing towards ruin, shame, and destruction. The next photo in the series was the shocking depiction of the son destitute and driven by starvation, groveling on hands and knees in pig slop. 

The In-between….

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We know and cling to the end of this story. My favorite image was of the father embracing his prodigal son, offering grace when the son deserved judgment, and providing clothes, jewelry, and a party instead of condemnation and banishment. Yet, there is a piece of this story that is often rushed past or perhaps even overlooked. There weren’t any photos illustrating the hardest season of life for the Father of the prodigal son. This is a season I refer to as the “In-between.” While this parable illustrates our relationship with our Heavenly Father, we might find ourselves the parent of a prodigal son or daughter. One day this story we remember from Sunday school, with a “Happily ever after” ending, might become a never-ending nightmare in which we live. We know God knows their heart, sees where they are, and is aware of their involvement in sin and rebellion. We know he is rich in mercy, grace, and love. We believe that there is no heart too hard, cold, or far away to be reached by his voice and presence. BUT right here, right now, our child is an enemy of God and contending against a Heavenly King of holiness, justice, and judgment. While they will always be our flesh and blood child, we understand that to be enemies with God is to be, in some respect, spiritual enemies to us as well. Knowing this can make our day grueling as we navigate through the in-between, a season when love is put to the test, as is our obedience to Christ (Lk 14:26). This season can produce sleepless nights and days filled with sorrow, regret, shame, anger, terror, and fear. 

Their hearts rest in the hand of God, not our own….

The reality of life is that no matter how well we parent and teach or how often we took our children to church and VBS, their life and choices might bring great sorrow into our hearts and homes by rejecting faith in Christ and rebelling against God. BUT, God declares that our hearts are precious to Him, and that he alone turns and redeems them. (Psalm 49:7, Proverbs 21:1) No matter how faithfully we are to addressed sin, disciplined Biblically, and vigilantly take advantage of every opportunity to teach our children about God, heaven & hell, right & wrong,,,, we might eventually find ourselves looking into the face (or even the fading form) of our very own prodigal child.

The journey of a prodigal often begins within the walls of their own home

While some kids might leave home in pursuit of the prodigal lifestyle , or be lured into it, oftentimes, that journey begins within the protection and supervision of our own homes. Long before they have the opportunity and resources to pursue the impulses of rebellious and fleshly desire, we might watch in bewilderment as they begin the journey to reject the truth of the Gospel and the beauty of a redemptive relationship with the Creator and Lord of all. The life of a prodigal can begin deep within the hearts of our children, who naturally despise boundaries, question restrictions, and chafe at the idea of being told they do not get to decide how to live their life. Add to this are the countless voices encouraging them to question, reject, and walk away from their Creator and Lord. Over the years, I have heard the words, “I don’t want to be put in a box,” tumble from the lips of a defiant child, more than I care to count. You see, I am the parent of a prodigal child who still lives at home with us. Though we live together, eat, laugh, play games together, and celebrate holidays and special occasions together,….. with each passing day, I watch my child spiritually rebel and run from God. No matter how hard I try, I can not extract myself from participation in my own “Prodigal” story. Every day I am forced to watch as a heart grows more cold, defiant, rebellious, and resistant to the truth of the Gospel. Our home isn’t a war zone, and there aren’t huge shouting matches, but the spiritual chasm between us continues to grow. 

They are asleep….

 Months ago, the Lord used a wise and Godly woman to encourage, challenge, and bless me through this season. She has walked the path I now travel, and her heart also grieved over her own prodigal child. She shared a book (Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter) and a story that has blessed and radically transformed how I pray for my child. This story is found in Luke and while this account isn’t about our children, there is a rich nugget of truth found within the verses: 

Luke 8:46, 49-56

Just then, a man named Jairus came. He was a leader of the synagogue. He fell down at Jesus’ feet and pleaded with Him to come to his house because he had an only daughter about 12 years old, and she was at death’s door.

While He was still speaking, someone came from the synagogue leader’s house, saying, “Your daughter is dead. Don’t bother the Teacher anymore.”

When Jesus heard it, He answered him, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe, and she will be made well.” After He came to the house, He let no one enter with Him except Peter, John, James, and the child’s father and mother. Everyone was crying and mourning for her. But He said, “Stop crying, for she is not dead but asleep.”

 They started laughing at Him because they knew she was dead.  So He took her by the hand and called out, “Child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. 

According to all the physical laws of nature, this young girl was dead. There was no sight in her lifeless eyes, and she can not hear the sound of her grieving parents. There were no breaths of air gulped into her lungs. Death had come, her spirit and soul departed, and her body was beginning to decay. While someone told the man to not “bother” Jesus, because in human terms it was too late, Jesus told the desperate father two things: Don’t be filled with fear, and Only believe (that life is still possible when the Son of God is present). As they approached the house, all present were in the process of weeping and mourning her death. Likely there were hired “mourners” in attendance stoking and maintaining the wails of grief and loss. Jesus then separated the parents and his disciples from the mourners. The crowd who had given up hope and did not believe Jesus could alter the outcome of the story. In fact, when Jesus told them to stop crying because she “slept”, scripture tells us they laughed him to scorn. But Jesus, the Son of God, who knew the will and plan of the Father, went into the house. With the disciples and her parents looking on, Jesus commanded, “Child, get up.” The bible tells us Her spirit immediately returned, and she rose from her death bed.

“She isn’t dead. She is just sleeping.”

“Δεν είναι νεκρή, κοιμάται”

Debbie’s testimony and application of this truth brought me to tears and helped to frame the petitions of my heart that I have prayed for my child every day since. Debbie reminded me that as long as there is life and breath in my dear child’s lungs, she isn’t hopelessly spiritually dead; she is simply sleeping. My prodigal child is sleeping because of the illness of a sinful heart. She can’t hear His voice or understand His truth. She can’t see the beauty and Glory of a Merciful and loving God. His majesty does not bring her to her knees in fear and terror, and his beauty does not captivate her heart and draw her into a redemptive relationship with Him… In the evenings, I often creep silently to her room at the end of the hall. I put my hand on her door, and I pray like crazy for her. I still pray for a hedge of protection, exposure of sin, and for mercy and grace to flow down on her like rain, but more than anything, I cry out to God, asking that He would awaken the spiritually dead heart of my child, calling her out of darkness and into light. A while back, I snuck outside her door and, with a sharpie, wrote above the trim and just out of sight the Greek phrase “She is not dead, she is sleeping.” I will continue to pray for her own spiritual resurrection and day of great awakening when Jesus speaks into her heart and proclaims, “child, get up!” Will you join me as I pray for my child? I will join you as you petition the Lord of mercy for your child’s spiritual resurrection as well!

When Blue Doors Brought Me To My Knees

“From the end of the earth I will cry to You,

When my heart is overwhelmed;

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Psalm 61:1

“Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

Psalm 42:5

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of an “end of the earth” moment? I have, and I do more often than I like to admit. I am not referring to missed appointments, burnt dinner, or throw-up that needs to be cleaned up. I am talking about times when fear wraps peace-devouring tendrils around my heart, stealing the very breath from my lungs. Moments when I truly feel like and believe the “end” of something has come. So I brace myself as the world appears to unravel before my eyes, with all I love and hold dear seemingly doomed to destruction. 

In those moments, to simply say “my heart is overwhelmed” seems like an insulting understatement because, what I feel and fear is a very real and present foe threatening to steal EVERYTHING I cherish. This lurking enemy takes no prisoners and shows no mercy. This foe wages a ruthless battle that saps every ounce of strength and threatens to steal every drop of peace and joy I possess. In fact, God likens our spiritual foe ,Satan, to a prowling and devouring predator. When David penned Psalm 61, chances are he was staring off in the distance at a very real, flesh and blood, prowling, devouring enemy intending to end his reign as King of Israel and take his life. Yet, when face to face with the enemy, David’s prayer often focused upon his own heart, not the physical enemy threatening to snuff out his life. 

I find this observation both exciting and liberating. David was the master of asking questions. Statements like “why O God,” and “how long O Lord,” flow from his mouth without shame or hesitation. Sometimes the questions are directed to God, but other times they are directed toward himself. David may have felt bewildered by the circumstances he faced, but he was never so bewildered as to doubt the presence God. In the face of fear and uncertainty, David openly strove to reconcile the circumstances in which he found himself with the Nature and Name of the Lord who had made him a king and promised a kingdom without an end. David did not hesitate to plumb the depth of his own heart, ask God to reveal His heart, always asking God to remind him of His Steadfast love and faithfulness until he had the answers he needed! In Psalm 42:5 he repeatedly asks himself, “Why are you anxious and unsettled, oh my soul, what has stolen your peace?” He understands the answers for deliverance are often 1st found by exposing the sin and weakness of his heart. David also knew that the answers he sought were obtained when he asked the right questions. 

Over the past few years, I have made it a habit to approach turmoil, anxiety, fear, and my “end of the earth moments” just as David did, with lots of questions for myself and then God. I have discovered that tuning my heart to seek and listen to the voice of the Great Comforter helps me to process, discern, and understand the truth and reality of the situation before me. This process helps to usher me into the presence of God with a soft and contrite heart. It is only in humility and weakness that our hearts are able to see and then willing to accept and cooperate with the Lord and His process of sanctification, transformation, and deliverance. 

This week, my most recent end of the world moment came because of “Blue Doors.” I can’t go into detail, but “blue doors” triggered overwhelming anxiety and fear. My initial impulse was to fight the situation and demand from God and others steps that I felt would ensure my world remained unthreatened and safe. My desire to fight quickly transitioned into feelings of despair. Once the urge to fight had passed, I faced a new urge to give up and retreat. The desire to withdraw (flight) tempted me to push aside the onslaught of fear, scolding myself about how stupid the situation was. But at this moment, I knew running away and denying the issues at hand were just as destructive as recklessly going to battle in my own wisdom and strength. In my frustration, I cried out to the Lord. In my despair, I asked the Creator of my heart and the Redeemer of my soul a question. “Why do the “Blue doors” matter so much?” As Lisa Terkeurst eloquently puts it, “God and I went a few rounds,” and in the end, He was the undisputed winner of the bout. God answered this plea and many more after it. Some of the questions I grappled with in the ring tumbled from my lips. But other questions, the ones that lay at the heart of my anxiety and fear, flowed from the lips of the Savior. He used the Holy Spirit to pierce, divide asunder, discern and reveal to me the true thoughts and intentions of my heart. Before long, I wasn’t asking the Lord to take care of my “blue door” circumstance because He had taken care of what truly needed care, my heart. 

If you find yourself struggling with your own “Blue Door” scenario today, consider David’s prayer and battle plan. The progression of Psalm 61 is a beautiful picture of how to process sorrow, grief, anxiety, and fear. It is a battle plan that helps us rise above our circumstances, draw near to God, and find peace. 

“From the end of the earth I cry to you.”

When overwhelmed with fear and anxiety over the prospect of what we feel is assured loss, destruction, and sorrow, cry out to God!

Cling to the truth that no matter where you are, God is present, can hear your cry, and stands ready to deliver.

Our End of earth moments often not the end, but actually moments that usher us to the border of our Heavenly Kingdom, inviting us into the sweet presence of our King, Redeemer, Savior, and Father.

“When My heart is overwhelmed….”

Understand our “Blue Door” situations might overwhelm us, but they are never too complicated, never too messy, and never too hard for God. 

Lean into God and cooperate with the process. All things flow through His Sovereign hands and will be used to draw us close and refine our heart. The key to peace and the solution to our “Blue Door” moments are found by submitting our heart to God for Spiritual surgery. 

In humility, ask the Holy Spirit to plumb your heart, piercing, dividing, and exposing the things that He desires to purge, cutaway, and transform… so there is room to accept and embrace His Grace and purpose for the trials at hand.

“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

David realizes he is not positioned where he needs to be. David has taken up residence (emotionally, spiritually, mentally)at the edge of a cliff. He is surrounded by a hopeless situation and life looks bleak. His has yielded to the feelings that doom is assured and eminent. His heart is bewildered, terrified, and “overwhelmed.” How could anyone ever expect to escape the anxiety and fear of horrible circumstances when willingly camped in the midst of calamity and surrounded by hopelesness on every side? 

David cries out to God, offering up a prayer that I believe is both a confession and a plea. He acknowledges where he stands and asks for God to move him emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to where he needs to be. If I were to pray this same prayer, it would sound something like this. 

Father, “Blue Doors” have knocked me to my knees and robbed me of peace. I have been distracted by their existence, and I have been overwhelmed by their presence. Instead of trusting in you, I have allowed this situation to overwhelm me. I allowed myself to make a bed and then lay down in the middle of my circumstance.  I chose to live and fellowship with feelings of despair and hopelessness. I have willingly wallowed in fear and anxiety, and I have questioned your goodness, and doubted your truth. O God of Angel Armies, forgive me for my faithlessness. Lead me out of the midst of these “blue doors.” Help me to lay my fears and anxieties at your feet. Plant my feet me on a mountain far above my spiritual enemies. Give me relief from my fears and let me lay down in peace in the midst of your presence. Comfort my heart with the truth of who you are. Let your Name and Nature be my covering and my shield. Let me see and gaze upon the glory and majesty of your steadfast love, righteousness, and abounding mercy. Let me bath my heart and mind in the truth of your grace and faithfulness. Lead me to a location and a place far above the place I currently find myself in and the circumstances I face. Give me the ability to understand my heart and the real issues I need to face. Grace me with the desire and ability to acknowledge the sins I need to confess and give me the strength to fight the battles that truly matter. 

Remember my precious sisters, you were never meant to live in the midst of blue doors. He calls out to you and yearns to draw you out and up to a high place, and in into his sweet presence.

Marriage: “Future Gardens from Present Pain”

This past week, we celebrated the wedding of my nephew. As I watched the exchange of vows, rings, and professions of love between the young couple, I noticed the diversity of marriage relationships represented during the ceremony. In front of me stood a young couple just minutes away from being declared husband and wife. In the audience sat couples married a year, years, and decades. On this particular day, I sat in the back of the crowd with my Father. He and my mama recently celebrated their 50th anniversary. I pulled a chair up next to my dad, who was sitting alone because mom, wheelchair bound and on oxygen, could not join him. At one point, dad turned back toward the house where mom sat with her caregiver, and waved. I cried! The juxtaposition between my parents and the new couple standing in front, was an unexpected gut punch. I was watching one marriage beginning while another was slowly ending. As the young couple exchanged vows yet to be challenged and a love yet to be truly tested, I sat next to an incredible man who has faithfully fulfilled the promise to love, cherish, and honor till death terminates the covenant relationship between he and his bride. Their story is one filled with sorrow, brokenness, joy, and blessings.

Towards the end of the ceremony, my dad was tasked to read I Cor 13. I don’t think anyone in the audience was more worthy of reading those words to Kat and Levi than my Father. God’s description about what real love looks like flowed from the lips of a man who has lived out this famous passage his entire life, but especially in the last six years while caring for his dying bride.

Love is patient, love is kind.

Love does not envy,

is not boastful, is not conceited,

does not act improperly,

is not selfish, is not provoked,

and does not keep a record of wrongs.

Love finds no joy in unrighteousness

but rejoices in the truth.

It bears all things, believes all things,

hopes all things, endures all things.

When reading these verses, we are invited to understand and participate in the true nature of love. Marriage is a union between two sinners who are naturally impatient, unkind, arrogant, and prideful. Marriage is a covenant between two people who often act unloving, who in sin provoke the other to sin, who dutifully keep records of every mess up and hurt, while excusing their own sin. Marriage is a covenant between two people who are prone to listen to lies, establish limits and ultimatums, doubt the heart of the other, and become hopeless that change is truly possible. The reality of marriage is that two naïve, youthful kids, who can’t imagine not always being head-over-heels in love, might one day find themselves so broken by the words or actions of the other they will actually entertain the thought of just giving up.

Love isn’t easy and doesn’t come naturally. Love isn’t candy, flowers, perfect sex, and the ability to remember important dates. Love is forged in the trenches of conflict and brokenness. Deep and unquenchable love emerges from the battlefield of disappointment and failure, as two couples who once warred against each, other emerge as allies, hand in hand (or possibly even with one carrying the other). True love is in fact, death! The saddest part about marriage is that often, when presented with the opportunity to experience the love dreamed of and prayed for, many couples bail. When the reality of life extinguishes the butterflies, and the flutter of a new love is replaced with sorrow, disappointment, and brokenness, the popular opinion is the conclusion that the relationship was a mistake. Couples declare they are in fact incompatible, and the logical solution is to move on so the search for the “right one” can begin. If I were ever to get a tattoo, it would be of a line from a Jon Foreman’s song in which Foreman describes brokenness. Like all other conflicts and sorrows in life, conflict in our marriages are opportunities to sow:

“Future Flowers from Present Pain”

Marriage often deposits us in the middle of a battlefield. Initially, we often mistake our spouse for the enemy. The truth about these battles is that fact that our heart and flesh are our greatest foe. In the midst of brokenness it is easy to believe satan’s lie, that the imperfections of our spouse are the greatest threat to our happiness, their mistakes the source of our sorrows and why our longings remain unfulfilled. So we set out to eradicate their sin while silently being slain by our own. Early on in our marriage, I avoided conflicts at all costs and cheated myself of the opportunities to tend a precious “garden “of love that could one day bloom in beauty and grandeur if I was courageous enough to let it. I ran from the garden of opportunity, I did not tend it. If by chance I did stay, I hid my seeds in a bitter cup of disappointment where they rotted, rather than allowing them to be planted in the rich soil of His faithfulness and grace. Praise be to God who exposed hearts, tenderly allowed brokenness, and faithfully walked alongside us as we learned how to look to him, die to ourselves, and truly live out a Corinthians 13 love towards each other. If you find yourself in the middle of a marriage filled with sorrow, disappointment, and heartbreak, please understand you are standing amid the fertile soil of opportunity, growth, fruit, love, and a unity beyond comprehension. Water your garden with tears, but dutifully attend to the seeds sown in faith during seasons of sorrow and want. Vigilantly drive off the spiritual disease that rots roots, devours buds, and steals fruit. Lean into the Father and cooperate with his process of refining your marriage and developing a true I Corinthians 13 love. Remember, your spouse isn’t the enemy- sin is. Conflict is not failure, it is opportunity! Your Father gave you to each other, and he was present when you uttered your marriage covenant. He loves you, and the state of your hearts matter to him. You aren’t fighting alone. He fights for you and with you! And as Jon Foreman eloquently wrote, never forget,

“Love alone is worth the fight.” Jon Foreman

When God Makes A Man

For the past fourteen and a half years, I have been tasked with the responsibility to keep this man-child alive. I have feed, clothed, protected, and shielded him from foes and dangers, visible and invisible. For years I was his everything (what David would call having him wrapped around my apron strings 😊) From the time he was a toddler, he remained within eyesight of me and my protection, willingly lavishing me with his all his affection…. payable in never-ending hugs and kisses….. then one day the hugs and kisses became few and far between…. photos nearly impossible! Watching my adorable, affectionate, pudgy boy grow into a lanky, strong, deep voiced, hairy, opinionated man has been one of the most heart wrenching yet beautiful seasons of life for me.

This afternoon, for thirty minutes, I forced myself to remain calm and glued to the couch where I sat while watching my boy scale a backyard tree. This wan’t your typical tree climbing adventure. This involved ropes, climbing harness, carabiners and a homemade climbing rig and minimal use of the tree to climb. I can’t begin to express the struggle within my heart as I watched my son climb 30 plus feet into the atmosphere, where I am pretty sure oxygen deprivation would soon overtake him and inhibit any existing common sense! I willed myself to sit in silence as I watched him falter, flounder in the breeze, struggle with tangled ropes, get stuck, cling to a branch (I am pretty sure it was rotten) swing precariously out of control, untangle and eventually free himself…..and then continue to climb…… It took every ounce of will power and self-control to not run out and shout motherly (and wise) admonitions, imploring him to not kill himself all while pointing out every possible way he could die….. which was in fact a real possibility because I ran the probabilities of all manner of calamities that could possibly kill him, and the odds were not in his favor.

After a thirty-minute struggle with nature, I was relieved to watch Owen’s uneventful return to earth.  A few seconds later he rushed into the house and invited me into his world. With excitement, he began to describe his adventures in the tree. Once more, I bit my tongue and listened to his detailed narrative of events. I praised him for his quick thinking and asked questons about his ability to free himself ( from what I considered a near death experience with a rope and gravity.) I asked him questions about how he solved the delima of getting hisglove caught in the rope (to which he proudly exclaimed “I unhooked myself from the line (30 feet in the air) in order to get loose!!!!” And gasp, ….. I even offered him my phone to take back up into the tree so he could photograph the “hundreds” of beetles he discovered on a branch. A miracle happened in that moment mama’s because  I didn’t reprimand, caution, or give him sage advice. I let him be who God created him to be, a strong, courageous, adventurous warrior.  I can’t describe his excitement over the entire episode (which I consider a near debacle!) He talked me through everything he realized had gone wrong, and his solution to the rope that had inhibiting him from successfully reaching a dead branch (he has determined to cut down), and how he was going to succeed next time. Seconds later he was back in the tree and….climbing even higher. I verbally called out to the Lord to preserve the life of my son and then forced myself to look away while doing a mental refresher of my 1st Aid skills.

Then my husband came home. He walked over to the couch where I sat and I pointed out the window towards the tree. With a smile, he gazed out the window at his son dangling from a rope. He nodded at Owen and exclaimed, “That’s exactly what I did when I was his age.” David slipped out the back door and walked to the tree, standing below flailling limbs and legs. I am not sure what my husband said to our son, but I saw a grin spread over Owen’s face as his daddy called up to him. Soon Owen was on the ground, and I watched as father and son discussed climbing strategies. I watched David inspect Owen’s rigging and ascent line, giving him advice regarding his knots. I watched Owen ask a question and then saw him respond, giving his father a huge smile and thumbs up….. and then he was backup up the tree. While my mama’s heart ached for times long past, I knew even in that moment, I was watching the process of my boy becoming a man! I am not sure how, but my heart ached and surged with pride, all at the same time.

I an age where men of courage, valor, and strength are shamed and even attacked, I am so very grateful for my husband who models Godly character and might in action. David knows that Owen faces an uphill battle and he is committed to walking alongside and encouraging him to become an man of God as he faces the battles ahead. David is reading a book “How God Makes Men,” preparing to take Owen through it.” I’d give anyhting for a hug, or semi normal picture, but more than anything I want my boy be be the full measure of a man God desires to make him. I pray that as God grows my son, he also gives me courage and faith to let go. Though my heart aches to hold my adorable, cowboy boot wearing, tractor loving kid one more time, I pray there are more towering trees to climb in Owen’s future, and mountains to scale, battles to fight, and enemies to vanquish……

Mama’s, hug your sons while you can, savor the moments, but don’t hold onto them. Let them find a tree to climb a mountian to scale, a battle to fight. Let them falter, fall, and fail. Let them discover who and what they are made of. Don’t shield them from battles that will make them men. Let them become men who love you but don’t need you.

My Abba Father, Part 1

I remember the day my oldest daughter Jessica entered this world. The Doctor dutifully announced her arrival and shortly after, her tiny cries filled the delivery room. At that moment, her wails of disapproval were the most beautiful sounds I had ever heard. With awe, David and I welcomed her into our lives and she captivated our hearts. There was no question about it! We had given birth to the most beautiful baby ever created. Looking back this makes me laugh because Jess was the typical newborn- blotchy, cheesy, with a very malformed head and swollen face. BUT, she was ours and in our opinion, she was perfect. Shortly after her grand entrance, both sets of grandparents busted through the delivery room door, eager to meet their granddaughter. As they passed her around, I remember hearing David’s mom exclaim “She has David’s nose!” Even in my exhausted and drug-induced state, I immediately felt a twinge of irritation. Yes, I was completely aware that this little life shared our DNA, but something inside me wanted to see, and hear others to acknowledge, my likeness in her tiny purple form. 

If you are a parent, you understand that longing to see your likeness and the sense of pride your child(children) brought you when you caught glimpses of yourself in their face. For the past two days, I have been immersed in a book, “God Has A Name,” by John Mark Comer. As he expounds on Exodus 34:4-7, describing the life-transforming truth of God’s character and nature found in His name Yahweh, he asked a question.  “Can you imagine how God feels about His Children?” This question brought me back to that hospital room almost eighteen years ago. The joy, excitement, pride, utter awe I felt when I held my daughter is indescribable. I loved her then (and now), with a love I had never experienced before. For seventeen years, I have positioned myself to move heaven and earth to care for, protect, and provide for her every need. I have sacrificed sleep, food, personal wants, and needs (including hygiene those first few weeks), goals, and even dreams, in order to care for, provide, teach, and prepare her for her own journey and life story.  Even today, as I look into the face of the beautiful seventeen-year-old woman, racing out the door on her way to work, my heart swells. She is my daughter! I gave birth to her!! How did I get such a precious gift?!?! (Also, how did we manage to keep her and the other two alive??) 

Within the limits of my earthly brain, I understand Comer’s question and the importance of asking it, not simply within the context of my children Jess, Mollie, and Owen. My Father feels the same way about my husband, sister, parents, friends….. He feels the same about them as I do my own children, but then a gazillion timed more!! As often as I can, I let my children know, no matter what they do (good or bad), what they accomplish (noteworthy or embarrasing), or who they become (professional dog walker or president)…. I will always love them. There is no sin, no screw-up, no failure, no length of prodigal living that can diminish, to any degree, my love for them. They may cause great sorrow and break my heart, but they are mine, and I will love them unconditionally (Never condoning, excusing, accepting, or enabling sin). But then there is the Love of our Father towards HIS children! A Love that abounds, overflows, and is poured out with unlimited, “Compassion & Grace.” Comer’s point was to allow our limited comprehension of God’s love for His Children to challenge, define, inform, and empower us to love others, be they spouses, children, friends, enemies, those who have hurt us, and even the mildly (or majorly) irritating people in our lives. All BECAUSE, they-are-HIS-children and HE is the Ultimate, ON Steroids, Don’t Mess With this Papa bear’s kid…… kinda daddy…. A Daddy who NEVERgets it wrong, never misses a fall, never fails to see, never fails to respond, never lacks the resource. A papa who never lacks authority, power, and ability to intervene and come to the rescue of his kid!!!!  Immediately after reading this, my thoughts were ouch! What have I done!!… duck for cover!!!…. repent !!!!

If the above truth strikes a twinge of fear into your heart (and it should) as you consider all the relationships you have with all the children of The Father of Heaven – husband, parents, children, siblings, co-workers, churchgoers….. the quarrels, fights, disagreements, public slander, private musings….the thoughtless offenses and outright blatant sins you have committed against His children, let this next thought bring comfort. (after you repent of course)

As I grieved over this realization and with embarrassment and shame began to talk to my Daddy and ask for forgiveness, MY Abba, Daddy In heaven reminded me “I gave and YOU a name too Jody, you are equally mine! (Isaiah 43:1) In the margin of my book, I scribbled, “I am never a disappointment to God! There will never be even a moment in time where God can not, does not, or will not look upon me, his faltering and struggling daughter, and not be moved with compassion. His graciousness, in light of my failures and imperfections, will never cause him to hesitate to come to my aid, encompass me with His presence, and forgive me of my sins and failures.” WOW!! He looks at me the same way I gazed upon my newborn daughter! He looks at me with equal measures of pride and compassion. Because of the blood of his son, I am forever and eternally His! Do you struggle to wrap your head around this truth like I do? The insecure, often made fun of, never quite fit in, never chosen, never enough, always felt like a mistake little girl inside of me struggles to understand…believe, accept this truth.. I am the wife who got irritated at her husband, the mamma who snapped at her children, the drover who got angry and barked at the driver in front of her going 15 mines under the speed limit, and I struggle with this reality….this gift. How can he look down upon me and beam with pride and glance over at the angles and exclaim “Thats my daughter!!!”

Think back to a time when your kid did something so amazingly fantastic that your heart swelled with a pride you could actually feel deep inside your heart. A time where you pulled out your phone to share a photo with a firend or posted a video of them doing their thing on the internet for all of the world to see……… This is how God your Fathert feels about you!  Let your heart and mind settle on this thought until it breaks you, sucks the very breath out of your lungs, ignites hope and joy where frustration, guilt, and shame used to reside….. And then go climb up into His lap and tell him about your day.


Letting Go Of The Past

Part 3 of the Surrender Series

Renewed in Surrender

Ephesians 4:22-23 “..Put off the former conversation of the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.

The Struggle to let go

I have likened the frustrating struggle to let go of what I desperately need to rid myself of, to the well-worn trail that meandered through my grandparent’s back back yard all the way down to the gate leading into the chicken yard. My grandma always fed the feral cats that roamed freely on their farm. Even when the grass was long overdue for a mow, the one path that every single cat took to get down to the food bowl was ALWAYS visible. It began at the foot of the back porch steps, snaked alongside the old well, continued beneath the rusty chicken wire gate and stopped in front of a henpecked rubber feeding dish at the foot of the chicken yard. I am not sure why the cats chose that particular route to get to the food, but from the time I was a child, running across the lawn in my dirty bare feet, up to the day the last cat disappeared, that well-worn path was always there, in the exact same place it had always been. This “cat track” provided a path of least resistance to the free food that awaited the freeloading feline that my grandma complained about but tolerated.  I am convinced that the cats traveled this path so often, they could have found their way with blindfolded eyes and stopped up noses.

Fast forward many years since childhood and Seven years into one of the darkest and most broken seasons of my life. Without knowing how I had gotten there, I eventually found myself shattered beyond what I thoughts was repairable. My pain, compounded by Isolation, had exasperated the brokenness I was desperately trying to escape. The absence of outside counsel and help, apart from what I could muster on my own, was a perfect recipe for disaster. Though I spent half the day simply trying to survive and the other half attempting to hide that fact from everyone, I was indeed, a walking disaster, waiting to implode. My life had become like the well-worn path in my grandparent’s backyard. Even though I fervently prayed to God for relief from the fear, anxiety, and pain, the habitual processing of what I thought I saw, heard, and felt was the only way I knew how to protect the broken and hurting parts of me. 

Just when I was at the point of a physical, emotional, and spiritual breakdown, God led me to a counselor. For the first time in my life, I was no longer on my own, trying to figure out how to repair the broken pieces of my life. This counselor’s presence provided me with the opportunity to hear Truth from the perspective of someone “sitting on the back porch” as they watched me walk that well-worn path from the deck to the feeding bowl. Wise counsel and probing questions revealed a pattern of beliefs that led to habitual responses to pain and triggers that drudged up the past. This cycle, trapping me inside a prison of pain and fear, not the freedom and peace I desperately cried out to God for on a daily basis.

My counselor saw what I could not. In my journey, I was just like the barnyard cats. Sometimes I willingly searched for the familiar memories, feelings, and events. I felt the need to replay them in my mind, believing it would help me make sense of what I had experienced. On bad days, I willingly revisited the past in order to justify the dark place where my heart decided it wanted to reside.  Other times the past crept up from behind, blindsiding me in the midst of a normal, carefree day. Though I had done nothing wrong, a mere word, memory, or photo would trigger and drudge up the past I was desperate to escape. Imprisoned once more by unrelenting fear, anxiety, and anger, a good day quickly became a day of torture and torment.  There were even days I prepared and valiantly fought like mad to get off the old warn path that I knew I shouldn’t be on, only to jump back on in defeat, when exhaustion and hopelessness from trying to forge a new path overcame me.

John 8:32 “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The truth he spoke into my life was like water to a parched soul, but it was still an agonizing journey to enter into that healing process to find, forge, and walk in the freedom I had almost given up fighting to obtain. Unconscious habits had to be replaced with intentional and exhausting efforts to forge a new path and a new way of thinking. A spiritual, emotional, and mental renewal of my mind was the only way to freedom. At first, no matter how diligently I recited verses and statements of truth, my mind instinctively wandered back to the path of least resistance. Without effort, familiar fears, anxieties, and accusations inhabited the spaces I had fought so passionately to clear out. Gradually, a new path became visible while the old path began to fade. The Truth was the only thing that could erase the old familiar path to the feeding bowl of misery and brokenness. Only freedom could help me forge a new path that lead to freedom. The steps and process that forged the new and erased the old are for another day and another blog, but I am here to testify that it is possible and the process one of the most beautiful chapters God has written in my life story. 

Romans 12:2  instructs us,

“Do not conform to the pattern (ie. paths) of this world,

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—

his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

If my story sounds a lot like yours, take heart. There is hope! Beauty from ashes is possible and joy can replae mourning! God’s desire for your life is that you find and forge a new path that leads to fullness of life, freedom, and healing. Reject the temptation to isolate yourself from others. Open up to a counselor and trusted friends who will love you well and love you unselfishly. Reach up, cry out, and drink deep in faith the words of truth God speaks into your soul through His word, His people, and His Spirit.

Surrender: Stepping into the unknown

As I study the call to surrender and grapple with what this looks like for me, I have come to realize there are quite a few obstacles that question the sensibility of doing this, as well as my ability to embrace this endeavor. Some obstacles rear their head in the form of red warning lights that blink brightly, shouting questions like “What if?” Many of these cautions evoke an onslaught of turbulent emotions. In order to move forward in obedience to this call to surrender, it is crucial to identify, interpret, and remove anything that holds me back from full surrender. In my next few blogs I will focus on some of the obstacles I find myself contending with daily..

Perhaps one of the greatest physical, emotional, and mental struggles I deal with as I dive into the practice of surrender, is the reality that surrender doesn’t just invite me into the realm of the unknown, it demands it of me. When God asks me to surrender and let go, he is asking me to let go of all that I know and am familiar with and to obediently step into the unknown of His Providence and Sovereignty.

Surrender doesn’t just invite me into the realm of the unknown, it demands it of me.

 I like the uncomplicated rhythm that familiarity brings to my life. Change can be scary and is often disruptive, exhausting, and at times painfully uncomfortable. I love adventure. It is something my husband embraces with childlike delight, and after 18 years of marriage, I ’d like to think that I have learned to enjoy and share in his passion to experience and see different things. But, whether we are soaring into the heavens inside a small metal box with wings and a prop, or plumbing the depths of the ocean with small metal tanks strapped to our backs, we still maintain some degree of control. These adventures come with a clear understanding of what we are doing, where we are going, and how long it will take us to get there. Flight plans and dive plans are made, measuring fuel or oxygen consumption. Risk assessments determine if our adventure is a go/no-go, and each adventure requires lots of preparations so that if any surprise arises, is isn’t as surprising. 

Surrendering to the call to follow God, is to relinquish control and the right to decide what path I walk, where the journey will take me, how long my journey will take, and what this Divine adventure will require of me.  Surrender invites God into my life, my home, my family, my work, my hobbies, and my giving. Surrender gives God the freedom to disrupt the calm of the known in order to rearrange my priorities so that I can travel His path of Kingdom work. This might look like interrupted evenings, resumed education/training, transition of careers, diverted funds, and even (gasp), less involvement in earthly family so I can join in the work of growing His Kingdom Family!

Painting by: Joel David Holsinger
Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the paths of life. In Your presence is fullness of Joy. At your right hand are pleasures forevermore

How in the world do I find the strength and desire to cry out to God the words, “All to Jesus, I surrender, All to Him I freely Give?” Well the answer is found in the next part of the song 🙂 I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.” Jesus proclaimed that any person who does not hate father or mother, brother & sisters, wife & Children or his own life, that he couldn’t be his follower. This isn’t a call to actually foster the emotions associated with hate and to treat those on my life with acts of contempt. His point is that when I truly Love God and understand His unsurpassed value and worth, I will spend my days identifying and opposing anyone or thing that threatens to rob me of, distracts me from, or take from me any degree of what he desires for my life. True surrender means I am willing to forsake, push aside, and deny myself earthly comforts and pleasure because I do not want to miss even a second of His riches, glory and sweet fellowship. True surrender means I not only understand God’s value and worth, I believe it in an earth shattering, life changing, priorities shifting way. I surrender because I both Love and Trust Him. It’s hard to comprehend a love greater than the loveI have for my husband and children! I can’t even hope to foster a desire and drive that exceeds the relationship that with my family, but God declares that kind of love was bestowed upon me and that depth of love can grow and thrive inside my heart. I want this. I want to understand this love and be consumed by it. I want to know Him so deeply and fully, that any command, no matter what it is, can be yielded to without questioning, doubt & Fear!

All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give

I will ever love and trust Him, In His Presence daily live

All to Jesus I surrender, Humbly at His feet I bow

Worldly pleasures all forsaken, Take me Jesus take me now

All to Jesus I surrender, Make me Saviour wholly Thine

Let me feel the Holy Spirit, Truly know that Thou art mine.

I surrender all,

I surrender all,

All to Thee my blessed Saviour,

I surrender all

Surrendering my Identity

Do you know your true identity?

When we hear of someone “losing” or “surrendering” their identity, it’s usually not in a positive light. For example, in a former relationship, my husband felt the need to suppress who he truly was (likes, dislikes, goals, dreams, activities he enjoyed) to try and win the approval of his fiance and her parents. Early on in my marriage, the insecurity and baggage I brought into our relationship made me feel like I had to hide who I was and what made me tick and instead become who I thought my husband wished I was. This made it hard for me to do simple things like voice my own perspective or suggest opinions that were different than the ones expressed by my husband. In fact, I was so insecure, not only would I struggle to tell him ‘what I wanted” (yes we’re talking about things like what restaurant to go to and where to vacation), I even stop drinking flavored coffee, which I absolutely loved, all because, in my husband’s opinion, flavored coffee was an abomination. Please understand, my husband is an incredibly sensitive and loving man. He never told me to only and always agree with him or I prohibit me from drinking flavored coffee, he just complained about how stinky he thought it was : )

The kind of surrender God is calling me to, is not an exchange of who I am in order to become what pleases another, which is in essence a lie and unhealthy. This type of surrender is in reality, a letting go of who I am not, in order to become who I truly am. True Biblical surrender is a call to understand, believe, embrace and become who God has declared me to be so I can accomplish the Divine work he has called me to engage in, for His Kingdom, His honor, and His Glory.  Ephesians provides a beautiful picture of this heavenly exchange and provides a guide that helps us through the process of surrendering the identity of someone who has died in order to embrace and assume the identity of who God declares, equips, and calls us to be.

Do you realize that if you have received the gift of salvation, YOU are literally, spiritually, & physically an actual daughter of God!!! Please repeat that phrase and ask the Spirit of God to allow the reality of this truth to be understood by your mind in a way that transforms the way you think and act! At your salvation, an actual legal adoption took place in heaven between Judge and Savior, Father and son. There is an actual document with your name on it contained in the Book of Life. On this document you are listed as the daughter of God. You are part of His Family tree.

I was never into the Royal Family, and never understood friends who obsessed over them and followed their every move. I think the physical example (and failures) of kings and kingdoms have ruined our ability to understand the truth of who and what we have become in Christ. As trite as the kingdom and rule of an earthly king and queen is today, at a human level, it can still help us to comprehend, to a minuscule degree, what our new identity and position in Christ means.  

Imagine being an orphan in the poorest country on the face of the earth. Not only do you live in a wretched country, you also live in the most wretched children’s home ever to exist. You have no rights or privileges, and you are not free to leave because you belong to the cruel owner of the orphanage. You do what you are told, wear what you are handed, and eat what little you are given in silence. There is no time for yourself. You are powerless and must do everything you are told, no matter how cruel, painful, or damaging it is to your health and life. This home is your prison and you know you will never set food beyond the miserable property upon which you live. Imagine if one day you received an official letter informing you that Queen Elizabeth had held a lottery and your name had been chosen. A press conference had been called, without you even knowing what was going on, and the Queen had declared to the world that you (insert your name here) had just been officially adopted into their Royal family. There on the spot, you are announced as the princess of England with all power, privileges, rights, and duties are bestowed upon you as the Royal Daughter. Accompanying this declaration is a request for you to prepare yourself for the journey to meet your new family and begin your new life. You are instructed to burn every scrap of clothing and discard every object in your possession that ties you to your previous life as a wretched, lowly orphan, and slave. Placed in front of you are boxes containing clothing and riches, the likes you have never seen. An attendant is also provided, This “helper” knows everything the Queen desires for you to do before your arrival. He knows what state you need to be in by the time you stand before her throne and He also has unlimited power and ability to carry out every demand that has been given regarding your physical appearance, conduct, possessions, education.  All the time, resources, and opportunities you need in order to transform you from an orphan slave into the sophisticated and elegant princess of England is his to freely lavish upon you. Immediately, you are also free from the laws, constraints, rule of everyone around you, including the owner of the orphanage. No one has the power to demand anything of you or do anything to you. The only voice you are required to listen to, and the only kingdom and ruler that defines who you are, the scope of your power, and what is expected of you, is the kingdom and voice of the Queen of England. 

A scenario like this would blow my mind YET this is our reality!! Can you wrap your head around the fact that as unreal as the story above sounds this, to an even greater degree is the true narrative of your life and calling? Does your heart quicken because you understand “This IS your Life?” You have been rescued from a literal and physical hellish existence! You are living, breathing Royalty! (I will give you my autograph if you give me yours) One day, you will live in an physical mansion of an actual brick and mortar Kingdom. You will walk streets of splendor with your siblings, who you will actually get along with. You will sit at table next to your brothers and sisters, millions upon trillions of them. You will be able to physically see, speak with, and permanently dwell with Jesus Christ, the Son and Savior of the world!!! You will enter into, remain in, and experience the presence of The The Living God who created the universe. Right now angels in heaven experience this but with head bowed, and eyes covered. All they can do is what God created them to do, proclaim “Holy! Holy! Holy! You are Lord God Almighty! God who was, is, and is to come.” BUT WE, we were created for relationship with Christ and we will dwell with him and remain in His presence. God is actually our Father!!! God is your daddy! 

How does this impact how you “dress” yourself, physically, and spiritually every day? Who or what do you dress as? Doomed orphan or daughter of the King? What do you take off and put on every time you get out of bed? What identity do you surrender yourself to? How does the reality that “I am in the midst of the greatest wardrobe change ever known to mankind,” change daily activities, goals, and desires? All of us would jump at the chance if we were offered the opportunity of a “rags to riches” moment here on earth. How can we hesitate to accept the gift of our own eternal real-life rags to riches opportunity today? What part of the broken, filthy, powerless orphan are you holding onto today. 

Ephesians 2

2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love for us, 5 has made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

A Word

My focus for 2021

New Year, new focus!

Like many, I spent some time considering what “word” to choose as my focus for 2021. As I was finishing the year with a great book, end of year sermons, and my own personal devotions, a word seemed to echo in my heart. So for the year of 2021, my focus will be upon the act of Surrender!


Normally, the word surrender isn’t not one we think of in a positive light. The definition of the word surrender is:

“To cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.

Whenever there is war, there will be surrender. In war, to surrender means to lay down weapons and to stop fighting for your cause. In war, the losers are the ones who surrender in humiliation and defeat. The climax of some of the greatest books and movies of all time, is the point at which the protagonist is confronted with prospect of surrender. The height of the plot coming when, with all option are exhausted, all strength depleted, and casualties high and the hero is faced with the choice to surrender pride, rights, livelihood, family, and freedom in order to survive. The resolution of some of the greatest battles in history are those in when, against all odds, the underdogs didn’t just survive, they defeated their enemy.  Surrender is not something we are supposed to yield to, but rather something we fight against, at all cost.

But as I sit on the couch, the old hymn “All to Jesus, I surrendered” echoes in my head. Surrender!?!?  Why in the world would I voluntarily do this you might ask? We just celebrated the Christmas season with the familiar words “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and goodwill to all men.” With what has gone on in our world in just the last year even, it’s obvious that this wasn’t a declaration to mankind and a promise that the end of all wars and violence had come to earth. We in America alone have experienced the Revolutionary war, Civil war, World war I & II, and vietnam war…… just to name a few. No, this announcement thousands of years ago held far greater meaning for all of mankind both present and future. 

Because of sin, before that wondrous night in Bethlehem, man was always and only at war with God. Mortal enemies with an immortal and all powerful God with the doom of all mankind guaranteed. “But God, who is rich in mercy and great Love” sent His only begotten Son, in order to facilitate the most historic peace accord of all time. We deserved absolute annihilation as enemies of the Living God but Jesus, God’s Holy and Righteous Son, came as a babe and then died on the cross, feeling the full weight of His Father’s wrath and justice. Mankind, once mortal enemies with God could now be “brought near” and “called sons and daughters.” Where all of mankind once had the sentence of eternal death and separation from Christ pronounced upon them, they could now receive not only pardon but also adoption into God’s family. Added to this, a promise was given that man would only be pardoned, he would also become joint heirs with His Son, and gifted with all the rights and privileges that Jesus Christ, the Son of God had. The only action required was surrender. 

For the 1st and only time in history surrender wouldn’t mean humiliation, imprisonment, expulsion, the loss of everything, execution, or suffering. This surrender, this bowing of knee to the rule and reign of God, meant adoption and absolvement of the debt we owed and could never repay. Surrender didn’t mean slavery and loss of freedom, it meant provision and power. Instead of the victor taking everything from us as plunder, we received complete access to His evenly treasures, imperishable, immeasurable,  and eternal. 

This is a gift I received as a young 6 year old girl but for God’s children, the need for and call to surrender is one I must engage in daily. This call to surrender has been a common theme and mantra of our church.  A call to Surrender my time and talents, so they can be  used for God’s purposes and glory not mine. It is a call to Surrender what is comfortable and familiar and to step out into the battlefield where I will be uncomfortably stretched beyond what I thought possible. It is a call to surrender my desire to have a safe and pain free life for my kids by stepping aside and allowing the Lord to have His way, in His time, with my kids. The day I kneeled in surrender, accepting the free gift of salvation and peace with God, my life of surrender had just begun. Its easy to forget this truth in the midst of a busy life. Its easy to forget my life is no longer mine, because it was redeemed with the most expensive and precious price ever paid.

So for 2021, surrender is my focus. The action of giving up one thing in order to obtain something else of greater eternal value. I know surrender might be uncomfortable and even painful at times, but in the end I know the words of Jim Elliot will prove true:

“He is no fool who gives up what he can not keep,

In order to gain what he can not loose.”

For another blog about surrender click here: “On The Edge of That Glad Surrender

Little Foxes that Spoil the Vine….

The not so respectable, respectable sins

Between the Vines – Artist: Carl Brenders

Catch for us the foxes,

    the little foxes

that ruin the vineyards,

    our vineyards that are in bloom.

Song of Solomon 2:15

The Fox

A few days ago I found myself quite irritated with my husband. If I were to disclose what it was that set me on edge I have no doubt you would shake your head in amazement and then hand me the number of a good marriage counselor because at that moment in time, my heart needed some help. As I stood trying to sort through what I was feeling and why, the Holy Spirit pressed upon my heart the realization that immediately identifying and dealing with this perplexing situation was not an option! As I forced my brain to concentrate on God’s call to love unconditionally, it struck me that moments like these, if left unattended, threaten the foundation of even the most solid and committed relationships. Couples do not stand at the alter on their wedding day with hearts full of contempt and disdain. What begins as true, committed love will always grow cold over time if the memories of what they loved most about their spouse are replaced and replayed with a growing list of hurts, offenses, and irritations. If I valued the gift of a healthy and thriving marriage and planned to honor my pledge “to love, honor, and obey till death”, not divorce, I had to figure out and deal with what really was going on in my heart towards my spouse. But, there was more going on in my heart than opportunity for a silly irritation to attack the foundation of our marriage. A few days later, God used a simple drive in the car and then a book to bring understanding and truth to a critical need to identify and eliminate some foxes in my vineyard.

The Drive

The drive on Thursday wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for me. I wasn’t in a hurry, there wasn’t a lot of traffic. I was simply making my way back home after running some errands. As I approached an intersection, a car hesitated and then pulled out in front of me. With their available clearance to shoot the gap already in question, the car then proceeded to slow down and go a full 5 miles under the speed limit. Frustrated, I eloquently barked out my irritation at the inept driver. I did’t cuss and I didn’t rage or loose control of my emotions, but in frustration I proceeded to spend the next few minute explaining to the car in front of me exactly what I thought of their driving skills or rather lack of them. The entire time I was vocalizing my displeasure, the Holy Spirit quietly was doing the same to me to me. Conviction eventually led to muted irritation until opportunity provided me with the chance to get around my slow moving obstacle. I snapped the turn signal my, jerked my car into the other lane, and then stomped on the gas making sure to looked over as I passed the slow moving can in order to get a glimpse of the offending driver. My irritation seemed innocent, if not justified but deep down I knew I had responded poorly. I knew this outburst and the many others like it were wrong. I felt convicted and ashamed because I knew this was an ongoing problem I hadn’t been able to master. I also knew I this was a sin I should not excuse to justify and so I arrived home discouraged. I continued on with my day, got distracted, completely forgot about the interaction. Eventually, the sorrow and guilt over my conduct faded and the little fox remained in my garden.

The Book

Today I finished up Lisa Terkeurst’s book “Forgiving What You Can’t Forget.” One of the last points she made about the importance and necessity of forgiveness, brought everything from the past week into light. Aside from the fact that God commanded us to forgive and Jesus tied it to the Father’s forgiveness toward us (Luke 13), was the truth that the consequences of refusing to forgive seeps into all other relationships and aspects of our lives. We can’t simply choose to not forgive a specific person and keep the effects of that bitterness confined to that one single relationship or situation. Bitterness is a sin that will spill into and poison all other relationships. Bitterness towards an “enemy” who has wounded us will multiply and be poured out upon the spouse we love, the friends we cherish, and the children we adore. Any sin rationalized and justified produces consequences that seeps into every aspect of our lives and relationships. I began to reflect upon the people and events in my life that had caused great brokenness and pain, things I would never be able to forget. There are memories so painful that the mere mention of names or events can trigger stifling anxiety attacks. Lisa’s words rang true as I began to connect the dots, recognizing a familiar pattern of keeping score, making lists, and withdraw from other relationships I cherished.

The Connection

As I digested Lisa’s words, I thought back to my shameful ride in the car and then to the silly irritation towards my husband a few days earlier. The light came on again as I realized those 2 moments were also connected. Just as bitterness towards one relationship affects another, justifying my irritation towards an aggravatingly slow drivers created a home in my heart for the seeds similar irritation towards my husband. “Little foxes” (ie. sins) are often excused reactions that fly under the radar. While they seem innocent and harmless, they quietly perpetrate some of the greatest damage to relationships far and wide because they continue unnoticed and unhindered. I would never dream of killing someone who hurt me, but I can become so bitter I rejoice when they hurt or worse yet become bitter at God when they don’t. I may believe it absurd to divorce my spouse for something petty like leaving his underwear of the floor but I can poison my heart and love towards him by daily compiling a list of irritations, faults, and failures that silently and gradually erase from memory all that is good, and noble about him that I admired and fell in love with in the beginning.

All foxes that are welcomed or tolerated into the vineyard spoil the vines and destroy the grapes. Every sin tolerated and justified in one situation take root in our hearts and bring destruction in others. May God grant us discernment and vigilance to root out and annihilate all the little foxes.