Author: waterthecamels

I am a wife, mother of 3, counselor, and a writer. I have been married to my husband David for almost 18 years. I home school our 3 children and in between try to find time to write, blog, and encourage women with the liberating message of the transforming power of Christ in our lives.

Surrender

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!

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.

Peace For Today: When My Heart is Overwhelmed!

Psalm 61:1-4
Hear my cry O God. Attend to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I will cry unto you,
when my heart is overwhelmed within me,
lead me to the rock that is higher than I
For you have been a shelter for me,
a strong tower from the enemy
I will abide in your tower forever,
I will trust in the covert of your wings.

Where do you go when fear strikes? What do you do when anxiety rears its ugly head?


I love the beautiful image David casts of his journey through anxiety and uncertainty. His thought process, prayer, and pilgrimage through times like we are experiencing today has been a great source of comfort to me, helping me to center my focus and quiet my heart.

“While man is the creator of chaos and pain, the only true source of Hope and Peace is the One True God and Creator of all things, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Hear my cry O God. Attend to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I will cry unto you

When overwhelming circumstances come our way, who or where do we turn to 1st? It is very easy for me to search for statistics, stories, and sources that produce information which confirm “things are OK”. The only problem is that for every stat or source I find there are often as many contradictory stats or stories that surface. If you add in the disheartening scenario like we have today where no amount of facts seem to be able to break through the walls of misinformation, deception, and outright lies- what began as manageable anxiety over the unknown morphs to downright frustration and even anger.

David’s first step in Psalm 61 is a movement to quiet his heart, center his focus, and remind himself that While man is the creator of chaos and pain, the only true source of Hope and Peace is the One True God and Creator of all things, the Lord Jesus Christ!


Like a child that has just been pushed down by the neighborhood bully, David runs to his “Abba” daddy father to make things right. “Hear my cry” or listen to the troubles that burden my heart he utters to his Father. “Attend to my prayer” Daddy, give full attention and all your effort to helping me with my conflict he demands. David is pleading with God to take notice and to take action! Stats will never bring peace or hope. Sinful, fallen, imperfect people are incapable of bringing security or salvation. This world is broken and corrupt. Chaos will continue to grow and spread. BUT we serve a True and Faithful God who never changes, and in whom there is “No shadow of turning.” In him we find constancy and solid ground. David realized that anxiety of heart, caused by the brokenness of the world, finds rest only in the power and person of a Faithful God who never changes. So David’s focus turns from trying to figure out how he can change the people and circumstances causing his distress, focusing instead upon the Faithfulness and Power of the God of Salvation.

“David realized that anxiety of heart, caused by the brokenness of the world, finds rest only in the power and person of a Faithful God who never changes”

When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I


The heart- (our mind & our collection of thoughts, beliefs, and understanding) is the epicenter where the battles of anxiety and fear take place. Our amazing body takes in the world around us and within milliseconds processes what is seen, heard, felt and sensed. Drawing from years of collected experiences, knowledge, and beliefs, our bodies then take action based upon what we believe to be true.


Quite often, an overwhelmed heart is one in which “Truth” has been drowned out by the fears of “what could be” and/or the experiences of “what has already been.” David’s cry of “Lead me to a rock, higher that I“ is such a profound statement. David, battling anxiety, fear, and probably even anger, recognizes that in that moment he is dwelling in a place where fear, anxiety, and anger thrives because his mind and heart isn’t where it needs to me. Man’s mind, body, thoughts, and, intellect are limited and imperfect and David realized residing physically and spiritually in a place limited by his physical body and intellect, he would find no rest. David understood that a change in the Spiritual location and the focus of his heart, spiritual eyes, and quite possibly even the physical location of his eyes and body were needed in order to vanquish the overwhelming feelings of despair and hopelessness. And so his prayer continues, confessing to the Lord that he understood he was not where he should be while also asking God to “lead him to the place “Higher” than himself, where he needed to be. A place that extended beyond his kingdom and provided a power, wisdom, and protection far beyond what even he, anointed king and ruler could provide. And don’t miss the important fact that there was a spiritual climb (and possibly a physical one too- perhaps to the sanctuary to pray some more) to get from point A– anxiety and distress, to point B– peace and hope. David didn’t get to simply ask to be transported to peace and hope. David understood that he had to take an active role to get to that place of peace and security- He had to aggressively engage in a journey from where he was presently to where he needed and wanted to be.

“Quite often, an overwhelmed heart is one in which “Truth” has been drowned out by the fears of what could be” and/or the experiences of “what has already been.”

For you have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy

I had the opportunity to counsel quite a few women through incapacitating anxieties and fear. The experiences of past abuse, present sorrows, and perceived future dangers were a constant and deafening noise to ears struggling to hear the voice of reason and truth. When tackling debilitating anxieties and fear, I often went to this Psalm as a source of encouragement and direction.

On a white board I would draw the counselee in the midst of a battle field and we would discuss the “enemies they battled. I would ask them to imagine the situations, memories, fears, and even people standing before them, that they mentally and emotionally went to war with on a daily basis. We would discuss how overwhelming and even hopeless the “enemy” looming before them often seemed. From their vantage point, the life they lived appeared to pit one (themselves) against so many others.

After reading this Psalm and discussing the need for movement from point A to point B, I would draw a shelter between the counselee and their enemies and then ask why they should run into this place of refuge? They would mention things like: With a shelter, they experienced safety because they were no longer out in the open, exposed and helpless. The place of refuge allowed them periods of rest when weary because they didn’t always have to fight…. in the shelter they were completely hidden from the gaze of their enemies and within the walls they were always protected. Once surrounded by these walls they were no longer exposed, vulnerable, and alone.

My favorite part of the verse came next. With the dry marker we transformed that shelter into something so much more formidable as we add depth and height making it into a tall “Strong Tower.” This tower was not only fortified and safe, it loomed over the battlefield. I would ask the counselee what had changed about the battle she was now facing, aside from the fact she was no longer out in the open and vulnerable because she was inside and sheltered. She was able to recognize the fact that the presence of a “strong tower” shifted the battle to her favor because her position in the tower provided her with a new vantage point. She was now above her enemies and she could see the entire battlefield and the boundaries within which she fought. She could see the enemy clearly and the tower allowed her to see their numbers, limitations, strengthen, weaknesses, and movements. She could see and understand the weapons they had brought to attack her with and she now knew exactly what weapons she needed in order to engage in battle and defeat them
In the “Strong tower” she now had the advantage not just defensively but offensively! What a liberating truth!!!


What beautiful imagery of the Spiritual battles we fight today. Yes COVID is a real physical disease, the riots and chaos on the news today present real physical threats and financial burdens. Lost jobs and future uncertainties are very real and palpable fears BUT God’s word tells us that the the battles we wage as children of the King are not merely physical but Spiritual in nature. We do not strive and wage war to preserve a physical life and worldly goods. We engage in battle to win and preserve what can never be taken away from us, a Spiritual Heritage, incorruptible, imperishable. We groan and strain under the burden of a broken world and corrupt society with hope because we know we are just strangers and sojourners here, looking for another Kingdom promised to us by our Heavenly father. Our fears, anxiety originate in this broken and fallen physical world but often they are fought predominately on a spiritual battlefield. A spiritual battle already won for us at the cross when Jesus rose from the dead in glorious victory over sin His Father placing all things under his feet including all rulers, powers, and dominions!


Today, if you find your heart “Overwhelmed” and peace and joy fleeting, follow David’s journey to the “Strong Tower” of God’s presence. If you are overwhelmed, you are not where you need to be spiritually, and quite possibly physically (For me often the wrong physical place is often facebook:) Ask God to lead you into His presence and to open your ears and eyes to the truth that liberates and brings peace and freedom. Step into His presence, into that “Strong “Tower” and let His Word, and His Truth” shed light on the battlefield before you. Let His presence and His Power change both your perspective of who or what the enemy is that you are to fight, how you are equipped to fight, and the true cause you are called to fight for.
Blessings and Peace!

Why monuments are’t our biggest problem…How Nelson Mandela Got it Wrong…and Why Racism Will Continue.

True history is a record of verifiable facts free from the prejudice of man. It must contain both his honorable, valiant, and noble deeds which ignite pride and gratefulness, as well as the deplorable and incomprehensible works of darkness that evoke shame and horror. Not one single piece of history is void of the deeds of both honorable and dishonorable men and women.

Because the heart of every man is filled with sin, every moment of recorded history is sullied and tarnished by his hatred, greed, and the effects of the natural depravity of his heart and soul. Every noble conflict is tarnished by the heinous deeds of inherently sinful and selfish men and women. Every vile conflict is filled with glimmers of light as men and women of honor and integrity stood against treachery, advocating for justice and equality for all. To demand that all history touched by the imperfections and prejudices of man be erased, as if by doing so you can punish those men and women for the sins they committed decades and centuries ago, is completely irrational!

George S quoteThe purpose of history, so wisely stated by Italian philosopher George Santayana,  is to educate humanity about the past BECAUSE “Those who don’t remember history are condemned to repeat it!” History educates us! It helps us to see how the unspeakable became possible. History reveals how ignorance and prejudice has fueled hatred and the murder of innocent men and women for thousands of years. It lets us consider and become aware that even the most pure of intentions can be skewed by the natural depravity of man’s heart bent towards selfish sinful self love. 

Erasing history is a global suicide mission with self destruction as the only possible end game! Systematically removing the monuments and records of every evil man, women, and event in this world, so that we can in essence remove any and all traces of his evil heart, will not end until every monument, statue, plaque and book is destroyed. Removing evidence of the the mistakes, sins, and ignorance of those in the past will not remove those very mistakes, sin, and ignorance still present in the heart of every man today.

Today I stumbled across an article that troubled me greatly. In the report a protester declared Christopher Columbus to be a man with a “White supremacist mindset.” How in the world this person or any person living today claims they are able to know and interpret the thoughts, intents, and heart of a man dead and buried over a thousand years baffles me. Based on that assumption this person felt they have the right to call for the removal of a monument erected in 1910, honoring the courage of “Italians who immigrated to Detroit” seeking freedom and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What’s even more disturbing was that this clamoring to remove the monument wasn’t the original object of the protest. This Monument only came under fire after the search for other politically incorrect monuments came up empty.

Perhaps the quest to remove the “monuments” of those we deem unworthy has more to do with hiding the conditions of our own hearts here in the present than it is about the exposing the evil in the hearts of those from our past. Maybe mandatory history exams should be required of all protesters before any more monuments and records of history are removed! protest memeThe last time I studied history, the driving force behind the voyage that brought Christopher Columbus to America was the desire to find a new trade rout and resources with which humanity could sustain them self. Never in the annals of history have I ever heard it be charged that “white supremacy” drove Columbus or any other explorer to set sail, set foot, or ride to discover the unknown! If this protester were in fact correct, and the true motivation behind Columbus’ exploration was his own supremacy, it isn’t white man we would have to declare to be governed by a supremacist mindset, it would be Spaniard Supremacy we would have to go after.

Did prejudice, hate, murder, and slavery spread like cancer across the new world? Yes, and every other continent inhabited by mankind! Man abusing man existed long before Columbus set sail, and long before the Civil War began. Every act of hate exists because greed and self love has always existed deep within the core of his being. No human escapes this curse. It is a global fall and a global predicament. Native Americans killed, and were suppressed and killed by their own people groups long before Columbus showed up. Africans and people of all nations who were enslaved and brought to America (and the host of other countries riff with slavery), murdered, were murdered, and were oppressed by their own people groups long before they were violently ripped from the soil of their own countries. 

importantAtrocities are perpetuated and wars begun when one person or people group asserts that their humanity, rights and desires are more valid and important than everyone else’s. At the core of this mindset it the sick cancer of self-love. A love fueled by the belief my life is more important than any others. Because my life is all that matters, I have the right to decide to do or not do anything that pleases or benefits me and me alone! This is how one man can justify the enslavement of another. This is how one  can justify stealing the property of another. This is how one justifies destruction of another man’s property. This is how justifies murder, rape, adultery, theft, and abortion.

Regardless, as humanity once again turns against itself, to its own demise and destruction, every protest and every news article makes a most excellent “Case for Christ.”

This past week former President Obama also lit up the internet, responding to racial unrest by tweeting a famous quote from Nelson Mandela. NelsonFor those seeking answers and desperate for any semblance of a return to sanity in the midst of dark chaos, this quote rang true. While I am hopeful that our world might finally be ready for a wake up call, I find myself apprehensive and doubtful that we are actually heading in the right direction. You see the very quote encouraging an end to racism and hate in truth reveals why it still remains and will continue to exist and divide nations.

Contrary to Mr. Mandela’s claim, man is born filled to the brim with the capacity to hate and the natural desire to do so. Did you teach your kids to hit each other, steal from one another, devour the spirit of another with their words? NOPE! That came natural!  Jeremiah 17 states that the heart of man is the most deceitful thing in existence and beyond that Jeremiah asserts that man’s heart is desperately wicked. Yes, society plays an active role rationalizing the hatred of a man directed towards those it deems undesirable and worthless, BUT the fact is, before hate is given socitial permission to flow, it all ready resides at the core of man’s soul. Hate never lays dormant! It is violent, angry, and always calling for action and an avenue of expression. Even if we were to abolish all forms of hatred directed towards a person simply because of his/her skin color or nationality, we would be no better off as a society.

All forms of hate are vile and detestable, but a moral shift in society has proclaimed that certain forms of hate are permissible. Every single human on the face of the earth was born with a heart filled with hate. Without ever being taught or coaxed to explore that hateemotion, every living breathing human on the face of the earth will not only demonstrate that hate but also look for ways to rationalize and justify it, FOR the root of all hate is self love. Self love raises its head when a man steals an item from a store, a boss, or a neighbor. Self love is evidenced when a woman kills with her word or wounds with her hands. Hate extinguishes lives, abuses the innocent, bullies the weak, demeans the downtrodden and declares all others different from themselves to be less than human. Self love declares I am the most important thing on earth and anything that gets in my way or keeps me from what I want is the enemy and worthy of my anger, ire, and retribution. If a baby gets in the way of my career I have the right to kill it. If a man is married to a woman I like and find desirable I will steal her……and the list of acceptable acts of hate multiply because I have given myself the power and authority to make any decision because I am all that matters. What happens when masses of humanity, each with differing opinions about what is worthy of life (based on whether it adds value to their existence or helps them attain the life they want) rise up ????? You get what you have seen the past few days, weeks, years, decades, and centuries, anarchy, Hate, chaos, hAte, riots, haTe, beatings, hatE, theft, Hate, vandalism, hAte, murder, haTe, war, HATE………………………………When my happiness and success is all that matter, all that matters is that I get what I want, not the means by which I attained what I want!!!!!

While the world engages in an battle of epic proportions over diversity, arguing to the point of violence and then excusing the bloody and violent outcome, the very nature of self love is on display. When man cares more about the right to say I am right and you are wrong than he does for the human life and relationships he violently sacrifices in order to be able to brag he has won, self love is at its best.  When society can stand and fight for the rights of one people group while at the same time justifying the total extermination of another based on brain faculty there you see the dark face of self love!

Iceland Has Almost Eliminated

Down Syndrome Births Through Abortion

Racism isn’t our problem it is merely a symptom.  Self love is the monster we must address and hedonism the dragon to be slain! So what is the cure? We are told that there has never been a more powerful demonstration of love towards mankind than when one man laid down his life for another. The kicker is that this actual physical sacrifice  and death wan’t an even exchange. It wasn’t a good man dying for an even more noble and worthy man. It wasn’t a good man repaying the favor of another. For while we were still sinners, swimming in the mire of self love and depravity and hate, Jesus Christ died for us.   This is what true Love looks like. It is a love that can abolish racism and all other acts of violence. It is a love that sees fellow man as beautiful and worthy not because I deem him so but because he was created in the very image of the God of the Universe. True love understands that when much has been given much is required in return. The only hope we have to end racism and ALL other forms of hate is love and the only way we can exchange hate for love is to accept the Love of the one who first demonstrated what love looks like.

 

John 316

A husband’s greatest need….is for you not to “need” him.

A husband’s greatest need….

One of the most difficult lessons I have learned in 14 short years of marriage is this-

One of the greatest gifts I can give my husband is to not “need” him.

You see, by nature we are very needy women.  Early in my life, I took great prided in my physical and emotional strength and abilities. When I turned twenty-eight, that facade of inner and outer strengthen was obliterated when I entered into a life long covenant with my husband David. The union of two saints who possessed hearts that groaned daily under the burden of sin and self,  exposed a frailty and neediness I had no idea I had become a slave to.

I needed my husband to be romantic and write notes and send flowers like he did when we were dating, in order to feel secure in our relationship and love. I needed him to come home from work on time in order to ensure my troubled heart that our children and I were the most important thing in his life. I needed him to choose spending time with me/us rather than playing games on the internet and reading articles that weren’t nearly as interesting as I though I was, in order to feel loved and cherished. I desperately needed to see him look away from sultry dressed women as they passed by and to publicly wage bloody warfare against the endless stream of immorality and porn on the internet in order to feel a sense of worth and beauty. I needed him to visibly demonstrate he was a mighty man of God by getting up early and spending time in the word and in prayer in order to rest assured our home was pleasing to God and under His spiritual protection. This “I need” list was massive and dictated my days and my nights. When these things did not happen with the frequency or to the degree I thought they should, I willingly boarded an emotional and mental roller coaster laden with endless hills of self pity, fear, jealousy, doubt, anger, withdrawal….The mood and spirit of our home was unwillingly drug behind the erratic flight of my unstable and distorted coaster called “Neediness” and “frailty.” My peace was determined solely upon my perception of “how” I thought my husband was performing in life both spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  I had no idea how destructive this “neediness” was to our marriage and my life spiritually until God mercifully broke me and then faithfully bound my soul back together by exposing the sinfulness and idolatry of my heart.

Six years into our marriage, on the outside, life seemed perfect.We had a cozy home, three beautiful children, and an uncanny absence of public turmoil or strife in our lives. Secretly I reveled in this. Hearing about the marital/relational struggles of others feed the monster of pride that steadily grew in my heart. A pride that blinded me to a smothering darkness in my life and marriage. Didn’t I deserve a perfect marriage and a perfect husband? I had done it all right, hadn’t I? I had waited 28 years for the right one. I had endured years of loneliness, disappointment, discouragement, and unfulfilled desires. David meant everything to me, but the image of a perfect life meant even more. I was willing to do or not do whatever it took to maintain the image of a perfect marriage. I buried hurts, swallowed back disappointment, and turned my head away from the things my heart screamed were off.

In one fleeting second, God humbled my proud heart with His heavy but loving hand of correction.  My heart was shattered and the facade of a perfect marriage ripped apart. I was not the perfect wife I thought myself to be. My husband was not the perfect man my pride had fashioned and placed as god in my life.  I was insecure and in my insecurity I had looked to my marriage and my husband for purpose, fulfillment, and meaning. Success was measured by the degree to which David met my needs as well as the absence of conflict and strife in our lives. My husbands happiness had been my goal because this was a measurable standard I could wear with pride. I needed my husband to be the perfect husband and father. I needed him to return to our home each evening happy and content. This is what I strove for while denying the failures and spiritual needs in my own life. It was much easier to remain silent, play the part of the perfect wife, and uphold the facade the peace than to address and conquer the spiritual darkness in our lives and in our home.

I needed David to be the perfect husband and father not because this was what was best for him but because this was what was best for me.  If he was perfect I would not hurt. If he was perfect I would not have needs unmet. If he was perfect, I could look perfect too. If I was perfect I could acquire the esteem of others.  I could dress up the outside of Jody and neglect the more painful and ugly Jody inside.

How my life changed…..

After an extremely painful trial in our marriage, I resisted seeking out Biblical counsel for myself and instead spent two years bound in a prison of fear and hurt. I didn’t know how to repair the pieces of my shattered heart but I was desperate for peace and healing. Like the stubborn child who insist on having things their own way, I did what I had always done, I placed the responsibility squarely on my husband shoulders. I decided I needed him to do a, b, and c to repair the broken pieces and bring healing to my life. I needed him to be strong, perfect, and daily reassure me I would never hurt again. This did not work because I was asking my husband to do something he  would never be capable of, perfection.

There is but one person who can accomplish what I demanded of my husband. Somewhere between single life and marriage, I placed my husband and marriage on the throne of my heart. I put a human with a sinful heart in a position only Christ could fill, demanding he play a role only God was capable of.

Sin can not produce holiness, peace can not rise from the ashes of chaos. Disease can not spawn healing. Only the God of Peace can bring peace. Only God the Righteous Judge can be, demand, and make one righteous. Only the Eternal, All Powerful, All Loving God can fill the abyss of a broken and needy heart. My needy heart needed it’s neediness to be reoriented to the one who never disappoints and never fails. It was in this moment of brokenness that God opened my eyes to the truth that my greatest need was Christ. In turn I discovered that my pursuit of fulfillment in Him this was the greatest gift I could ever give my husband and family.

You see, My husband’s greatest need was for me to “not need him”, but instead be possessed, driven, and overcome by my need for God. Our poor husbands are doomed for failure when we insist on placing them in a position they can’t measure up to. My liberation day came when I realized my peace and joy was not dependent upon my husband’s godly integrity, moral victories and spiritual growth. My healing and confidence came when I realized I could experience disappointment, failure, and pain in my marriage and life and still be “okay.” With my focus off my husband and on my own heart, sin, and needs, I found freedom, healing, and peace. A perfect marriage and husband would never bring peace and happiness, but a Jody with an upright and perfect heart toward God could experience and revel in a peace and joy unspeakable. When I could say “whom have I in heaven but Thee and there is none I desire beside thee” then peace, contentment, and joy would rain down. When my heart could echo David’s cry “My soul thirsts for you and my flesh longs for you” then I would experience a strength empowered by a Divinely given neediness, I was meant to experience daily. I was created needy so that I would daily, out of that neediness, peruse the strength of another. So that I would be driven to the throne and to the feet the the Savior who would gloriously and faithfully meet those needs.

What is your greatest need?

Perhaps you are hurting, looking at the shattered pieces of your heart and wondering how or if it is even possible to repair what has been so painfully broken. Has something been taken or withheld? Has your love been betrayed or cast aside? Please believe me when I say “beauty can rise among the ashes”, and “joy can  follow the cries of great sorrow.” Do not look at what or who has brought such pain or grief. Do not place the role of healer in their hands, this is a job they can not shoulder or fulfill.  This is the curse and product of sinful man and why he stands in such contrast with our Savior. Instead look to the only one capable of healing the broken, giving rest to the weary, bringing peace to the troubled. You need a Savior, a Redeemer, a Comforter. Yes God can transform the lives of those who have disappointed, frustrated, and wounded us but healing will never be found solely in another’s transformation but through our own.  You need Christ, not a husband. Your need the Righteous Judge, not a perfect spouse, life, marriage or family.

Jesus cry was “Come unto me and I will give rest”, “Know the truth and it will set you free….I am the truth”, “drink of the water I give..and never thirst” Let your gaze fall upon Him, let your heart rest upon Him. Set your hope and expectation upon He who never sleeps, never falters, who sees all, hears every cry, who is sufficient.

May the God of Peace fill you with peace!!!

Visit The Practice of Love for many uplifting and godly perspectives of marriage and life.

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On the edge of that glad surrender

On the Water’s edge…..

Free Image of a Boy Fishing on the Beach. Click Here to Get Free Images at Clipart Guide.comI stand on the shoreline with my son, who wiggles about more violently than the worm I just skewered with a fishing hook.  As I attempt to remove slimy worm deposits from my fingers, my boy impatiently scans the lake before him, looking for signs of the hungry fish he has come to catch.  I smile at the energetic five-year old, dancing about beside me. He looks like he is about to pop out of his skin from  excitement.  I hand him the freshly loaded pole, but before I can launch into a “fish hook safety” lecture, a worm whizzes past my cheek plopping into the murky water that laps at out bare feet. Ripples race across the surface of the water like sonar, alerting the unsuspecting fish to our presence. Before the last expanding circles have had time to disappear, my son eagerly begins to reel in his line.

“Hold on there Owen.” I admonish. You have to leave it out there a while and wait for the fish to bite. He looks at me with a mixture of frustration and disbelief. He does not understand why nothing has happened. For five grueling seconds he has waited for his offering to disappear, and in his opinion, countless fish should be floundering at our feet.

I Peter 5: 6-7 ESV

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God

So that at the proper time he may exalt you.

Casting ALL your anxiety on him

because he cares for you.

The Happy Exchange, that Glad Surrender….

I am not unlike my impatient son. I also stand at the water’s edge, my hands filled with the “things” I desperately need to cast from weary shoulders and aching heart.  I have come with burdens and the need for direction and assurance. Years of pain and sorrow have made me impatient to rid my flesh of the “old way of life.” My spirit is eager to make a very lopsided exchange with the Father who cares deeply for me.  My son understands a fish is so much better than the slimy worm dangling  helplessly from his pole. I recognize that what He asks for and what He offers in exchange is so much better than the “things” that collect both spiritually and physically in my cluttered heart and life. As I stand at the water’s edge, hands grimy with the things of this earth, my soul cries out “Father I believe, help my unbelief!”

I am humbled by the fact He is willing to take what little I have to offer. My hands extend upward, offering up the grimy and broken parts of my life, clinging to the promise I can exchange what little I posses to obtain what He promises in abundance to pour out. Refreshing currents of hope lap at my tired feet as I recall similar visits to this  shore. I recount vivid moments in time when the healing waters of his grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness washed away the black ashes of pain, weariness, and sorrow. Beauty has always emerged from beneath the ashes. My mourning always transformed to dancing. Exuberant songs of praise lifted high, the fruit of prayers offered up as sacrifices from a needy heart.

I stand on the shoreline with my Father, impatient for those needed moments of spiritual exchange. He looks deep within my heart, gently admonishing me to let go of the “things” that smother life and drain energy from my breast.  Some burdens are relinquished with the childlike eagerness of my impatient son. Others are harder to cast away, for I am ever reluctant to relinquish control. Then there are the “things” I have no clue how to sever from my life. Sorrows and burdens that cling to my heart with a relentless persistence. The weakness of humanity can be so very frustrating! How easily I forget that I don’t have to be strong. How often I chaff over my inability to conquer on my own!

The ripples of his grace relentlessly tug at the sand beneath my weary feet. The foundations I once clung to yield to the persistent currents of  His faithfulness and steadfast love. Without effort, I find myself drawn one step closer to He who is Peace. The sweet relief of His unfathomable mercy pours down over my parched heart as The Comforter gently whispers, “Remember my daughter, weakness is not a curse, but a window that invites humility as its sacred guest.”  I smile as I Peter 5:6-7 echoes in my mind….. Humility ushers us into that grand arena of opportunity, where room is made for the mighty Hand of God, and where the needy is exalted.

Today, I will unfold my chair and settle comfortably at the water’s edge. I am not sure how long my prayers will dance across marcandangelthe surface. His gift, that sweet exchange between earth and heaven might take place before the ripples have time to fade. Then again the echoes of my longing heart might disappear beneath the surface of His faithfulness, long before I receive His answers. I am here for the long haul. I have no idea if I will receive deliverance from my weaknesses, answers to my questions, or direction in my wanderings. Perhaps today my catch will not be answers, but rather grace sufficient to endure. The moon might rise before I reel in my line, heavy with His Divine exchange. The stars might keep diligent watch with me throughout the night, but one thing I know, I will not walk away from His presence disappointed. I will cast my line into the vast ocean of His abundant grace and mercy and I will wait for that happy exchange, that glad surrender! Worms for fish…grace for the redeemed.

Psalm 39:7 KJV

And now, Lord, What wait I for? 

My hope is in thee.


Covered in Grace

The amazing sunset photo used with permission via: http://www.marcandangel.com/2009/02/25/how-to-make-all-the-difference-in-the-world/
Other Photos used w/ permission:  http://www.clipartguide.com/_pages/0512-0705-1013-3712.html

If God isn’t Sovereign…….

An article hit the news stands last week producing a firestorm of responses from every possible world view and belief system. I have been thinking about the article and the various replies and felt compelled to respond with an observation missing from many of the “Religious” who criticized or rallied to support the declaration made during the interview of a professing Christian singer and songwriter.

 

rgue

 

With that being said, I want to clarify that my response is directed towards Christians. I draw this line because I believe it is futile to argue morality with a person who does not believe in the God who has Saved and redeemed my life. It is foolish to argue with anyone who does not believe in His Sovereign right to proclaim what is sin and what is holiness. I think it is silly for a Christian to expect a professing atheist to adhere to a set of moral standards and way of life when they do not acknowledge or serve the God who decreed them.

 

So, here we go….

 

First off, I can’t begin to fathom the pain, struggle, depression ect. that Vicky has gone through. My observations are not an attempt to downplay or write off her story or her years of suppressed pain. I am not declaring her struggle to be unworthy of consideration and response from the church and individual believers. My response is not a pro or anti-homosexuality statement but rather a statement regarding the error in which professing Christians are viewing God, in both her situation (homosexual struggle) and all others struggles that we find ourselves in.

 

I have never struggled with same-sex attraction. I have no idea what it is like to have affections for someone the same gender as myself after having been taught those affections if given into are sinful. Yet for the thousands of Christians like Vicky Beeching out there, there are thousands more like me who have known and experienced different darkness’s, and our pain is equally unfathomable to the Vicky’s out there. We live in a fallen world, and because sin resides in the heart of every man, woman, and child. Pain, destruction, and darkness hits everyone in many different ways and throughout all seasons of life.

 

Many years ago, my world was crushed and turned upside down. Someone I loved betrayed my love and trust, and in the aftermath, my heart wasdep ground into so many pieces, I believed it impossible to ever be made whole again. I was so broken, I despised my life. I hurt so badly, I just wanted to disappear into a dark hole and never come out again. As a result of the wounds I suffered, I became incapacitated with fear and had emotional and physical panic attacks on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. My seemingly perfect life was replaced with a living hell I could not escape. Not a day passed by that I did not feel the pain and disappointment of my wounds. I had been robbed of so many things and I would never get them back. I did not choose to be hurt nor did I deserve to be hurt, but it had happened, and all I could do was look at the pieces of my broken and bleeding heart and weep.

 

In California, a dear sweet woman I know is battling for her life. Her body is riddled with a monstrous disease that not only robs her of her health, but also the ordinary every day moments and pleasures we all take for granted. She has 3 beautiful children and a loving husband. As she struggles through pain, rounds of chemo, depression, and fear, her mind is racked with anxiety over her family’s future. Every day she is given is a gift, but each day leaves her wondering how much time she has left to enjoy, love, and live life. She was not a bad person before cancer. She does not deserve this pain or this burden, but it is hers to carry.

 

I have a  friend, who had her childhood dream of love, marriage, and family crumble before her eyes. Just weeks into her fairy tale marriage, the man, who had appeared to everyone to be the epitome of godliness, love, and strength, revealed himself to be a verbally abusive, controlling monster. My friend had been a wonderful example to me. She loved the Lord and had faithfully served Him with all her heart during her single years. She had waited and saved herself for her husband. She is a “good woman” and in the world’s eyes, she does not deserve to wake up every day in a living hell married yet lonely and unloved, but this reality is her life

 

There is a godly, humble, loving couple who had their lives turned upside down and their plans drastically altered. A few years ago their 18-year-old son was involved in a car accident that left him mentally and physically handicapped for life. This young man loved and served the Lord with passion and zeal. He was looking forward to college, establishing his ministry, becoming a husband and father. He was an accomplished artist and musician but now he is fed, clothed, and his diapers changed by family and friends. His parents were looking forward to a new season of life as “empty nesters.” After faithfully raising their children, it was almost time for them to enter the season of life when they could fill their days focusing on each other. No more school bills, cooking for boys with bottomless pits for bellies. They were done with sleepless night worrying and praying for their kids as they made the transition from children to adulthood. In a moment, that dream was snatched from them and tragically replaced with one demanding even more sacrifice, heartache, and time. Instead of retirement and trips alone across the world, their situation now demands more time and energy than the first 18 years of all their children’s lives combined. Now they are bound to their home and devoted to the 24 hour daily care of their wheelchair bound son who may never walk, talk, or ever verbally recognize them again. They did not deserve to have their lives and dreams wrecked, but that dream was ripped away and a different one placed in their laps.

 

str w mt

 

Personal stories like these are endless. The stories of almost every “Hero of the faith” include periods, if not a lifetime, of great personal tragedy and conflict. As believers, our lives are filled with pain, disappointment, sorrow, and grief. It should not surprise us because Jesus himself told us “In the world you will have much tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”

 

 

There is an Author and Finisher of each story above, including my story, your story, and Vicky’s story. No mistakes have been made in any of these people’s lives. God was not out to lunch when Vicky was created, nor was he taking a nap when the young man’s truck was t-boned at the intersection of his home town. The Creator was not distracted with other overwhelming issues when my friend said “I do” to her husband. The presence of death doesn’t signify the absence of God nor does it declare His indifference. My friend who battles cancer isn’t proof God does not exist or that if He does exist He  is a heartless and impersonal God. Suffering does not prove His impotence, lack of judgment, character, or ability, but rather it proclaims with fierceness how greatly He is needed in our lives. If God were not aware, not in charge, not in control, or not sovereign for even a fraction of a second, He would not be God!

 

If we confess and proclaim to serve the Sovereign and powerful Creator of the Universe, we must accept and glory in that Sovereignty during every season of life, including the times of deep sorrow, pain and loss. What we so often forget is, that the Sovereign and Glorious Lord of Creation has the right to choose who, and how, and when He will be exalted, honored, and glorified.  He may choose to bless a man with great talent and riches, allowing that man to glorify him with his excess and prosperous life. Throughout history, the Savior of our souls often chooses a different path for His children, confounding the “wise” as he not only allows, but rather calls His own to suffer. On Sunday, we worship and praise the Savior who sacrificed all on the cross, but so often struggle to understand His call to suffer when we are thrust in the middle of a chapter filled with pain and sorrow.

 

Vicky’s struggle with homosexuality, my broken heart, my friend’s broken body, broken and discarded dreams aren’t a mistake by God, garnering a green light to respond in any way that makes that pain and sorrow a little easier to bear, including sin. If our pain is too heavy to bear or our sorrow too grievous to carry, we do not get to say, it’s too much. We can’t call a press conference and declare God made a mistake in our situation, therefore what he has said to be right and true no longer applies to our life. If God’s Holiness, His Righteousness, His character, (that dividing gulf between himself and man) changes for just one moment in time, for one life, in one situation, He is no longer True, Just Righteous, Holy or God! (Any time the world, who has declared God to not exist, agrees with the declaration that God has made a mistake and changed His mind, we have great cause to pause and consider that view!)

 

Vicky’s life is indeed a grueling battle and her struggle painful, but such is the life of EVERY believer.

 

YET there is something greater than the pain and suffering of all the Vicky’s of the world and it is the Grace of the Savior of the Universe poured out abundantly upon the lives of all He has chosen to allow to suffer

SO THAT He might be glorified.

And so, some suffer for a season, and some most of their lives,

yet He Is LORD!

 

Sadly, right now Vicky can not know or experience that grace, nor can she glory or glorify Him because she has chosen not to trust, obey, and submission to His purpose. Her declaration to herself and the world, that her response to her particular trial is ok will not bring her peace! The great news is that it is not too late for that miracle in her life or ours. By miracle, I do not mean the removal of Vicky’s homosexual desires or the instrument of pain in my life, but rather the astounding, other worldly, God Glorifying testimony of how He has graced her/me/us with the power and ability to say no to the flesh and yes to life a that is fulfilled and victorious despite the ever-present struggle with same-sex attraction/the daily battle to say no to our flesh.

 

Vicky is one of millions who suffer with burdens they never asked to carry,

and burdens the Lord has decided not to remove while they walk this earth.

 

For years I sinned in my heart and mind and with my actions towards the person who had so grievously hurt me. I believed my pain could never go away until they changed and their life was radically altered. Because they did not change, and my hurts remained, I felt justified to do whatever it took to deaden and appease my hurting heart. I begged God to take me out of the situation, I begged God to remove the fear, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression but it remained. My life did not get better by giving into my impulses, rather if got darker and more unsettled. Was God’s refusal to miraculously heal my heart to 100% wholeness, or His failure to change the heart of the person who hurt me proof I didn’t need to change? Was God’s silence a sign I had been left on my own to deal with my pain in any way I could manage? No!!!

 

You see my problem is also Vicky’s problem. It is the problem of all who struggle to obediently submit to the call to carry a burden to heavy for their own shoulders,

 

In the midst of great pain and sorrow, our situation doesn’t change because our hearts haven’t changed, and our hearts haven’t changed because often times, we seek the wrong solution our hearts fixed on the results of sin instead of the sinner itself..

 

prsInstead of asking God to get rid of the “thing” that makes our lives hard, we need to ask Him for grace to accept the trial He has chosen to place in our lives. In death is life, in weakness He is strong. This may seem trite, but there are millions who have suffered unjustly, grievously, and with patience and boldly proclaimed during the storm and after the storm, “It is well with my soul.”

 

This submission involves a transformation of our heart- as our affections are reoriented upon the right person. My life is no longer consumed with and frustrated by the pursuit of self-love and pleasure because HE matters more!

 

This involves transformation of our eyes– as our focus is drawn away from our own lives and struggles, where instead we daily gaze with rapture upon the Savior who Redeemed and ransomed our life from hell.

 

This involves a transformation of our mind– as our spirits are renewed and reoriented to fulfilling no other purpose other than obedience to the call and will of the Father….which is to glorify Him though our lives …..no matter the cost….

No Matter HOW He decides to do this.

For we are called to be HOLY and Joyful, not happy, gratified.

And yet in yielding Joy replaces weeping, beauty springs up from the ashes.

 

 

My prayer is that Vicky, and all Christians presently suffering through their own darkness and pain, will recognize it is not our struggle and our response that is to define and shape us, but rather the Lord of the Universe who ordained both the suffering and the gift of grace to not just endure but also triumph. It is He who defines and shapes our lives, through our struggles and pain.

 

For His purpose not ours,

Through His Ways not ours

For His glory not our own.

 

If you struggle like millions of other believers, take heart, He is Sovereign and in control. He has a plan that will accomplish His will, in His way, for His glory. Liberation of your heart, soul, and mind does not come through submission to the sin, but through submission to the plan and truth of the Savior who loves you enough to let you suffer. Suffering is not a sign God is absent, but rather that He is at work in your life with an amazing purpose in mind, He is going to bring glory to himself through your life. Be less concerned with the removal of the trial and more concerned with the removal of yourself. Get true biblical counseling from Godly,  Biblicaly sound counselors! You were never meant to struggle on your own. The body is there to lift up and edify. If you don’t come, “the Body” can’t help and both you and your brothers and sisters are being robbed of the blessing of Spiritual community. No sin, struggle, hurt or pain is beyond His ability and Grace. The cross was enough!

 

Next time: How God transformed and is transforming my life with Grace.