Wounds, Scars and Marks

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

1 Peter 1:6-7 NLT

Sometimes life has reoccurring themes. Maybe I just notice because my ears are attune to common words and ideas that are floating around in culture. Quite possibly and with much more probability I’d conclude it is the the Holy Spirit guiding my attention towards lessons I need. The symphony of life gradually orchestrates a crescendo with the featured solo stuck in a loop. You know what I mean, the same topic of conversation among different friend groups, the Bible verse that keeps appearing, that one song that keeps playing on the radio, or even just a word you keep hearing like its being shouted from a megaphone. Whatever the topic, it beckons me closer. The loops that play are hooks to something deeper. When I slow down enough to take note I have the opportunity to learn and have my eyes enlightened. To be renewed with fresh perspective. To be marked by something much greater. To be transformed, one day at a time into a likeness resembling much less of me and more of my Creator.

“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NLT

Transformation is quite a word. Metamorphosis, a word that has nestled and woven itself a cocoon inside my soul. Several years ago I looked at my life and realized my values and beliefs were not translating into consistent actions. I didn’t want to be “one of those people” who said they loved God but their lives looked no different from the world and society in general. However that’s exactly what my life was. That is who I was. If someone from the outside looked at my life they wouldn’t say the foremost thing about me was I loved Jesus and He had transformed my life. To be completely honest with myself, God was someone I believed in but wasn’t my go-to. I didn’t believe Him “enough” to run to Him daily. I didn’t place my faith in a long obedience but in short term satisfaction. Remaining under His hand in the difficult times seemed too hard. I wanted relief in the “now” and couldn’t grasp how a patient endurance could accomplish that. I could talk a good game. I went to church. I knew the right phrases, but my heart was proud. My spirit was dry and my eyes were a river.

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 12:15 ESV

I know I’m not alone in this. What a wreck this world is, full of the broken and wounded. We are hurt but instead of receiving healing, we turn around and hurt others. These wounds we have…gaping, bleeding, oozing sores…completely exposed though we try to cover them. If I smother enough salve on this, I’ll heal. This salve comes with variable applications of man-made options. Success. Accomplishment. Striving. Isolation. Playing the hero. Acting the victim. Working harder. Giving up. A drink or a drug. Available with a human face, a “Him” or a “Her”. All of these temporary solutions. The wound remains and festers.

“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” Jonah 2:8 NIV

However there is another way. We can allow our wounds to heal. Through Christ’s redemption each wound can become a scar. Though still visible they hold a deeper meaning, a story. Scars are a reminder of where we have been. A piece of our history. Some wounds are so deep inside there isn’t physical evidence to those around us, but the soul ache holds us captive and paralyzed. When we embrace courage to share our experience the stronghold of fear, guilt and shame is shattered and replaced by the beauty of redemption. Our past is bought back with purpose for the present. Redemption illuminates my greatest fears and exposes the fallacy of my self-focused perspective. With Jesus these marks become part of the story we have to share with others.

I have several tattoos. They are my marks, my scars of journeys and moments where God has shown Himself to me in ways that have changed me forever. The pain and subsequent healing has been so profound that I want a visible reminder of the life change that took place during each season. Sure, they can be conversation pieces, but more so a reminder of lessons I don’t want to forget. Unfortunately my memory can be selective. Consequently, I must do all I can to be brutally honest with myself of who I am and what I’m capable of by my own works. God’s grace abounds.

God revealed himself to me as El Roi during a season where I felt utterly alone, completely exposed to the elements. Although there were godly people who loved and supported me, they were not with me in my valley. They weren’t supposed to be. The desert of my circumstance allowed the Holy Spirit to tend to my parched soul through Scripture and guide me to an intimacy I had never know existed. It is the reality of knowing someone for many years, spending time, and having some amazing conversations before going through a shared experience that ultimately revolutionizes the relationship. I’ve known Jesus the majority of my life, but never like this. Never so real. This season brought about by external circumstances beyond my control created a refining internal pressure pushing me towards Christ with a thirst I had never experienced or submitted to previously. There was no earthly being who could answer my questions, hold my tears or heal my wounds. Only Jesus. He isn’t just a “someone”, He became my only One. I wanted a reminder of this life changing experience where God came to meet me exactly where I was.

“I feel great pain deep down inside me. The terrors of death are crushing me. Fear and trembling have taken hold of me. Panic has overpowered me. But I call out to God. And the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I groan and cry out. And he hears my voice. Psalm 55:4-5, 16-17, NIRV

Hagar referred to God as, El Roi, the One who sees me in Gen 16:13 when she was fleeing Sarai. He asked her, “Where are you going and where have you come from?” Hagar told the truth, she was running away and God told her to return. I still don’t have the answer to many questions that arose during this particular season, and to many questions that have arisen since, but He does. The tension of the question, “Do I believe God is who He says He is?” would have destroyed me if it had not been for the comfort of His Word. Many times I found assurances not specific answers, but my Spirit was calm. That peace is an answer in itself. I began learning to trust His provision. So my visual reminder is a tattoo on my back, although I don’t have a picture posted I’ll lend to the imagery by saying, “In the rocky desert of my circumstances I will flourish like an olive tree because my God, He is the One who sees. He sees me exactly where I am and meets me, covering and shielding me with wings like an eagle and lending His strength, for He is El Roi.”

I want to remember this wound and the redemptive healing because this marks the point I finally quit running away and began running to Him. This is the season I had a desire to be marked by Jesus. I didn’t want it to be about me anymore. I started participating in the battle and tension of life instead of expecting someone to rescue me. I decided to actively pursue a way of life that would honor God. I would love to say its been smooth sailing from this point on, but no, life has been even more complicated. Nonetheless, God is faithful and I wouldn’t trade any moment of suffering because its interwoven with His grace. My greatest blessings have come from His Comfort. Some nights my prayers were as simple as, “If I trust You with my life, help me trust You enough to sleep”.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” Psalms 91:1-2, 14-15 ESV

So I ask, what’s your story? How have you been marked by Christ? If you had to sum it up in a few paragraphs or a brief conversation could you tell another human your history? Would you be willing to share your scars and marks with others? I’m curious because it was a great challenge posed this summer at a conference I attended. We were asked to find someone we didn’t know and share our “nutshell history”. There were so many amazing women with equally incredible stories. It was a rewarding and extremely encouraging experience. How often do we compare our stories weighing them based on the severity of circumstances instead of the immeasurable grace present in all of our lives? Or equally common, do we shy away from sharing because of a fear of judgement? Is my story not real enough? Have I really changed? Can I share my story if I’m currently struggling? Do I need to wait to talk about what Jesus has done to make sure its real? So many questions centered from a self focused insecurity…these are questions that circulate within my own mind. The Lord must so often remind me to risk rejection and judgement. Vulnerability does something amazing. It removes the pretense and allows us to finally take off the mask. It has to start somewhere. Will it start with you? A spirit of community is vital if we are to live in liberty and freedom encouraging one another. Each story is a miracle.

This task of sharing our stories stemmed from Galatians 1:11-24 as Paul tells his experience of coming to know Jesus and the life change that followed. Sure, there is so much more to any relationship than a few sentences, but to succinctly discuss with another person who Christ is and what He has done is so powerful. He alone has the power to effect life change in a manner that could radically transform pain into purpose. To awaken a desire to share what once we would fight to keep hidden. It becomes less about us and much more about Him. We risk it all for the sake of another because of a man who walked this earth and sacrificed all so we might live.

Do people change irrevocably and completely overnight? I haven’t. No, it’s a process. A journey of building new habits and learning to continually surrender. May we have grace in today for one another and be thankful that God doesn’t extend the same judgement that we impose on others. Instead of policing another’s growth I would do well to plead at the throne of mercy for humility. Instead of imposing some harshness of my version of truth I ought do well by allowing the Word to prove true in my own life. Rather than demanding change from the world could we instead live in liberty & freedom by walking out the gospel of love? Let us not lose sight of the completed work of redemption provided at the cross. Not by works. He said it is finished. It is done. By Christ alone. 

“But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done. He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5 NET

770BF669-06A5-4999-BCA8-A3B709E89376

A Hope Worthy of Endurance

Over the past 10 days I’ve put in some miles. From Texas to the mountains in New Mexico, to East Texas on to Louisiana and back again to West Texas. I added up the miles, because once I started contemplating the distance, I just had to know. I’ve had 1,900 miles of windshield time to think, pray, consider and chat. Some of those miles included four kids, some only two. Some included my niece and some my brother. So many conversations and so many words poured out as the tires rolled down the road on my trek from one hot summer locale to another.

I traveled to the mountains to run my first half marathon with my dad. I drove to East Texas and Louisiana to pay tribute and bury my grandfather. So many miles gave time for words to accumulate in my soul. The build-up creates an overflow and these thoughts are my spillway. I hope you can be encouraged whatever season you are in. A season of beginnings, one of endings, maybe just a season that has yet to be named.

How often in life do we face seasons that demand endurance? Circumstances that ask everything of us and more. How many times have I fallen on my face, in the mud because I try and do it on my own? Too many. However I’ve fallen hard enough and into the pit so deep that it caught my attention that there must be another way. A much better way. The way my grandparents have lived their lives and walked in the manner worthy of the calling they have received.

My Papaw, Rodney Louis Salmon, was an incredible man. Tenacity would be an appropriate term. In fact, he carried his favorite poem in his pocket entitled, “Don’t Quit”. I wasn’t even aware of this until his passing, but it doesn’t surprise me one bit. He served in the Air Force and completed graduate work at University of Texas. He was an accountant by trade and very precise, yet he had a mischievous streak that ran deep. He married Nora Beth Fuller, my Memaw in 1958 and they were an amazing complement to one another during their 59 years of marriage. I have many fond memories of his dinner table story-telling and my Memaw “assisting” him in sticking to the actual events, not the exaggerated ones, reminding him of the original story he set out to tell. She did it with such tact, always respectful, a skill I recognize much more now as an adult myself. I honestly don’t think we ever finished a story because he chased many a squirrel up multiple trees in expansive forests and by then we never remembered what the intended point was. But we enjoyed it. We enjoyed him.

Health and physical fitness were important to him. He was very competitive and loved letting us know how he beat men half his age on the racquetball court. His morning sit-up routine and exercise regimen is more than the average person does in one day and he completed half of it before getting out of bed. It is quickly becoming something of legend among his great-granddaughters and may soon morph out of proportion to a fable of sorts if we’re not careful. Family was very important to him and everything he did was driven by his love for the Lord. He relied on Jesus for his strength to push on, no matter what.

This is why the onset of his dementia was so difficult. It’s not like it would be easy in any situation, but my Papaw was a larger than life man with superhuman qualities. At first it was little things that started to go, like forgetting words and facts. But it progressed to the point of him being unable to move on his own or complete any basic task. This progression wasn’t fast. It was gradual and it lasted over a span of thirteen years before he was released from this earthly body into eternity with our Savior.

With every season and situation there are multiple facets. As we honored my grandfather’s life this past weekend, a piece of this story caused me to pause. I made a short post on Instagram and touched on this, but I must go even deeper. My Memaw has loved and served my Papaw faithfully through their life and his illness. They shared a marriage that honored Christ, showing countless generations what it means to love joyfully, “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health”. The last 13 years have required a strength that no human possesses of themselves. God is faithful and provides exactly what we need for each moment. My grandparents have had many “moments” and knew who to go to for sustenance minute by minute, day by day. When the day came that my Papaw could no longer communicate my Memaw pressed on. When the day came that he could no longer walk, she pressed on. When the time arrived that he was confined to his bed, she didn’t waiver. Her witness to countless onlookers holds value and weight beyond measure. On this side of heaven she may never know the impact of her joyful endurance and service, but Jesus knows….and I’m sure He will embrace her one day when she joins Him and whisper in her ear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”.

Thirteen years. How easy it is to glance at another’s circumstance but not give thought to the internal battle of emotions waging each day. My Memaw never complained. She didn’t serve begrudgingly, but joyfully. She wanted to be involved. Dementia is a thief and steals everything while leaving the warm body of your loved one. Out of respect for my Memaw I don’t want to go into detail, but caring for a loved one who is sick is not glamorous. That never mattered, she served him with determination to do what was best for him. She prayed constantly. So many decisions had to be made and she didn’t take that responsibility lightly. My Memaw is a warrior, with a beautiful Alto voice, and she serves the King. She has always taken her requests to the throne begging for His wisdom, asking Him for His involvement. When she says she will pray for you she means it. What a legacy. What a bloodline. Ya’ll I’m in tears to have the privilege of knowing these people I call my grandparents.

A running theme of an overarching season in my life is focused around the Greek word hupomone which translates to our English words endurance, steadfastness, and patience. It literally means cheerful or hopeful endurance. I first became aware of the word when studying James about seven years ago and groaned.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” ‭‭

James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s been such a continual lesson that I recently had some new ink applied with an equation of the Greek for “endurance + encouragement = hope” on my right arm. It’s a reminder that endurance doesn’t stand by itself. It’s not an independent external action but an internal work from God allowing us to remain under the shadow of His wing during tough, excruciating, devastating, drawn out attacks on our souls. Hupomone is strengthening through His encouragement that allows us to hold onto hope. Not hope of a person changing, situation easing, sickness leaving, loved one returning, marriage redeeming, addiction disappearing, financial burden lifting, child returning, cycle ending or any other miracle we may yearn for, but hope in Christ in whom all things are held together.

Of course we pray for all of these things, but our hope doesn’t rest in a circumstance changing. Our hope is eternal. To endure whatever season or situation we are in with patient and joyful endurance we need encouragement. Paraklesis is the biblical encouragement I’m referencing. To have hope we must be encouraged to not lose hope. Thankfully God does this for us. He himself encourages us. He is the God of encouragement. He does it through scripture, the Holy Spirit and also through the community of believers.

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:4-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Life when lived for duty without passion and purpose falls stale. It’s dangerous. To do what is right can begin with the proper motive but life will wear you down. It’s whittled me down to bare bone on many occasion. One of the most painful seasons of my life, to date, is when my steadfast pursuit of enduring lost focus. Initially “Jesus loves ME” was my “why” but my focus shifted to an indignant, “Well, I love Jesus, so why me?!” I became angry and resentful and began to make the wrong decisions. Duty for the sake of duty falls short. I believe the term legalism may ring true. It is not of God and holds no encouraging power.

Discouragement is dangerous, but so natural to our human nature. God understands and that’s why He Himself encourages us. We are also called to be there for one another. Not in giving our opinions, gossiping by way of requesting prayer, or judging how others are walking according to our perception, but by sharing our experience, strength and hope. Maybe we could start by praying for situations ourselves and seeking His Word for direction so we can be encouragers to those God places around us? An excerpt from William Barclay’s “The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians” describes this relationship between hupomone and paraklesis far better than I ever could:

“Here we have two great words. Patience is in Greek hupomone, which never means simply the ability to sit down and bear things but the ability to rise up and conquer them. God is the one who gives us the power to use any experience to lend greatness and glory to life. God is the one in whom we learn to use joy and sorrow, success and failure, achievement and disappointment alike, to enrich and ennoble life, to make us more useful to others and to bring us nearer to himself. Consolation and comfort are the same Greek word – paraklesis. Paraklesis is far more than soothing sympathy; it is encouragement. It is the help which not only puts an arm round someone but sends that person out to face the world; it not only wipes away the tears but makes it possible to face the world with steady eyes. Paraklesis is comfort and strength combined. God is the one in whom any situation becomes our glory and in whom people find strength to go on gallantly when life has collapsed.”

When running the half marathon with my dad in Ruidoso we had several mountains to climb. The entire race wasn’t uphill, there were many ups and downs. Being a fellow flatlander himself he understood some of the obstacles I would face. A friend shared a tip with him years ago that he shared with me. Never look at the top of the climb, just put one foot in front of the other. Look directly in front of you, only a little ahead to see where you’re going, but never all the way up. Eventually you’ll get there without all the mental doubt of not being able to make it.

It is one foot in front of the other, one moment at a time, one day at a time. Life can become overwhelming if we try to take it all on. God never asks us to do that. He gives us our daily bread. I am not who I will be a week from today, one month from today, one year from today. Enduring our current season builds new character producing hope through the Holy Spirit. The character built enables us to face each day as it is called “today.” My Memaw pressed on a day at a time trusting Jesus and I believe she will continue doing this each day until she joins Him. It’s a way of life not just some nice tag line or cliché. Let it be the same for us, one day at a time as we trudge this road together.

 ’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise;
Just to know, Thus saith the Lord.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er,
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er,
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more.

 

images

Lessons (being) Learned

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

I’ve gone back and forth on writing this. I struggle sharing things so publicly that bring attention, positive or negative. My struggle with pride has been the story of my life. I pray and consider my motives because selfishness is something that plagues me. Yet, what do we have but a story to share with others. Our triumphs, failures….the story of this journey called life.

Today is a significant day. It marks 4 years clean & sober, by the grace of God alone.  I was overcome with emotion this morning thinking about the life I have today and remembering the life I had. Weeping over the blessings I would’ve missed. Ya’ll, addiction and alcoholism is the name of one of my strongholds and has been for over half my life. This underlying “dis-ease” of self….the idea and belief that I can satisfy myself, my own way…it’s such a lie. An un-truth I’ve chased for many seasons.

“Take it away, I beg you, take it all away

The pain it causes, it makes me wish I could fade away

If they knew what you knew, they'd probably shun me

I'm surprised you know it all and you love me

I know I break your heart”

Cry for You - Lecrae

It’s so easy not to talk about the elephant in the room, yet don’t we all have our own mammoths? We’d like the world to think they’re extinct. We (only) fool ourselves. The struggle doesn’t have to be public for it to be reality. It can be an internal angst that causes just as much damage. We aren’t called to go through this life alone. Why do we exert so much needless energy putting on a front? I’m calling my elephant out today and hoping it encourages someone to call theirs out too. It doesn’t require that your elephant shares the same name as mine for us to relate and support one another. Let’s be authentic and embolden the next person placed in our path to continue trudging on. This life is rough enough without throwing stones of judgment at those we perceive as different….for what to make ourselves feel better?

Four years ago today wasn’t some earth shattering horrible experience. That self-imposed chaos had been occurring for years, on and off. Who would’ve thought so many shipwrecks could occur in the middle of the West Texas desert. My story isn’t about some monumental event that woke me up. Yet, four years ago today I made a decision to ask for help and a decision to surrender to God’s guidance in an area I’d tried to take care of myself. That’s what I’d consider monumental. I love Jesus, I always have….yet I wouldn’t give Him this one thing. I’d had periods of sobriety, but when things didn’t go the way I wanted, I’d trip up and be caught back up in the cycle of destruction.

 

“I promised I would die a thousand deaths 'fore I cause them any pain

But somehow I end up killing everything

I cry for you

If you feel a dark, twisted, heart-wrenching, hate-to-see-your-own-reflection

Praying for an intervention, feeling guilt and feeling shame

I just call on Jesus name

Praying daily, can you take away this pain?

Take the thorn away

Still, it remains, I

Feel the same, I

Know that I'm here, but

Still feel insane

Satan would love to see me give up and throw up my hands

He say I'm guilty but You say I'm clean”

Cry for You - Lecrae

God presented an opportunity to change the trajectory of my life and that of my family’s. To create a legacy for our children, and at the time we only had two! I cannot imagine what life would be like today had I chosen to be stubborn and selfishly held onto my anger, hurt, pride and perceived protection of myself. I wouldn’t have the beautiful family I have today, including the addition of two precious boys. I wouldn’t have the husband who struggles alongside me in this journey. By saying “yes” we have had the opportunity to break generational strongholds and begin writing a new chapter, instead of closing the book to write a new one.

Redemption is a beautiful thing. It’s raw. It’s messy. It digs up the past and makes you face it in the present. So many fears arise and scream, “YOU CAN’T DO THIS.” But Redemption prevails. One day at a time, with God’s help, He reminds me I’m not alone. He has called me blessed. I can face the past remembering who I am today, by His grace alone. He re-writes the past and allows it to be used for good. The destruction that would never dare voice a public word has become one of the strongest testaments of the miracle of freedom ONLY Jesus can bring. It doesn’t mean life is perfect, but it gives the gift of peace in the midst of pain. It provides hope and comfort propelling me continue on knowing it’s worth it. Redemption gives to life what was thought impossible. It is a intimate whisper that proclaims, “I love you.” An assurance that I was not forgotten, even for a moment. Redemption is a glimpse of His faithfulness and purpose even in the most broken pictures.

“…as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed,who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” Romans 4:17b

I struggle with self…daily. It manifests itself in various ways. I’m grateful for this struggle because it helps me stay willing to ask for His help. My alcoholism wasn’t about the alcohol; it was about my attempt to fix an internal spiritual condition by myself. In all truth it’s a battle I’ll face for the rest of my life, not necessarily with a substance, but a lesson of surrender. Do I really believe God has the best plan for me? The solution didn’t come from my willpower. I really wanted to stop multiple times. If you know someone who battles addiction of any kind you’ve seen effects of addiction. You’ve seen the struggle. Rough doesn’t describe it. There isn’t a word that fully encompasses the destruction & despair. I’ve lived on both sides of it. Loving someone in the midst of addiction is impossible without God’s help. But truly loving anyone is impossible without His help. It is a struggle that requires surrender, just like any other struggle that happens to go by a different name.

“But grace is sufficient to start my mission

I'm so far from perfect, can't believe they listen

But hear a broken man tell you healing happens

And hear a liar tell you truth to bring you gladness

I could never boast in my accomplishments

I can only hope in God with confidence”

Cry for You - Lecrae

 

Addiction isn’t a special thing. I’m not “terminally unique” as is a term used within recovery circles, basically poking at the level of pride and ego the disease carries. I’m a run of the mill human being who struggles with selfishness and have found the solution of a relationship with God, through the 12 Steps, mentorship and the Word of God. I needed something simple and He provided it. If you want to know more about the 12 Steps please feel free to let me know. I’d love to have a real conversation over coffee, face to face.

I hope if you made it to the end of the post, whatever your silent battle is, you realize you’re not alone. I pray that if you have a loved one struggling through a stronghold you don’t cease to hope and seek support from others enduring the same. I hope if you’re on the other side of your battle that you will be encouraged and empowered to speak. Don’t let the enemy silence or convince you otherwise. The power of the gospel is alive in the stories of God doing the impossible. What was dead has come alive. What was hopeless has been redeemed. What was lost has been found. Only through Jesus….what does your story look like in this season? Speak.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings,  so also you share in our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4,7

Paradox of Peace

During crisis and times where pain can seem unbearable the way you see things can drastically change. Sometimes for the worse or others for the better. 

 

In the midst of the holiday season, busyness, financial stress, family struggles or loss of loved ones can really mess with the normal traditions and joys that the holidays so often symbolize. The focus shifts to the immediate circumstance and all that is not right, everything that’s just plain out of whack. 

 

The Christmas Eve service at our church this year grabbed my attention as the message was not just the birth of Christ, but WHY Jesus came. He came to bring Peace. He is the Prince of Peace, from the beginning of time, now & forevermore. 

 

For most of my life the holidays have been a really special time for family gatherings, eating lots of (maybe too much) amazing food, laughing and just enjoying each other’s company. Yes, Christmas is all about Jesus’s birth, but my main focus has always been the tradition and comfort of a special time spent with family. 

 

This year things have been different & in the middle of my struggle, God so sweetly grabbed my attention and showed me His Peace & Joy is the center of the season. Maybe I’m just a slow learner, but it literally just hit me what Christmas is all about.

 

Traditions were out the window and the holidays have looked much different. However looking around at the fellowship, friends & family God has blessed me with I was overwhelmed with His Peace. The Peace He came to bring to earth. The Peace God gifted us- through a baby. The Peace that for so many years my attention has drifted from and almost looked over as I was enjoying the blessings & comfort of tradition. Not to say that tradition & family isn’t a huge blessing, but when it really boils down to it, how can I truly enjoy those blessings without His Peace. 

 

So this holiday season I’m overwhelmed with gratitude at the true gift & meaning of Christmas. The reality of a Son sent to lavish mercy & grace on us. The gift of perfect love possible because of perfect peace, sacrificed and resurrected on a cross for my dire and grievous sin. A gift that I will never deserve or be able to pay back. A gift that is a living reality every moment, that no circumstance, suffering, pain, or death can steal from us….Peace. 

 

Peace isn’t the absence of difficulty. No, it’s the presence of God’s Peace that surpasses all understanding in the middle of affliction that no one can understand. So desperately I cherish & guard this Peace, because life has it’s share of joys & pain, but The Lord offers a steadfast & consistent love that showers Peace and washes the burden and tears away. And though some seasons tears may run a steady stream, His love never fails. His Peace is like a river, roaring through my soul. 

 

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

Psalm of progression

Amazing Grace a song I heard when I was just a child.
The words I sang sometimes quite loud because I liked the sound.
This grace so sweet I did not know how desperate was my need,
Yet soon I’d know of His unending love and His blood poured out for me.
Just as I am He took my soul and made me whole in Him.
With just one plea He grabbed my hand and I found He’d been calling me.
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light I fell onto my knees.
The burden of my heart was rolled away setting my soul free.
There is Power in the blood to cleanse my sin and make me white as snow.
The stain removed, washed by His blood, my passion have been cleansed.
The wonder working power in the blood of the Lamb please continue to change me from within.

Safety Net

Isn’t the idea of a safety net a paradox? For to utilize it, one must first fall. When falling there is an element of danger and my safety net is what I’m putting hope in to save me, to rescue me from certain death. I watched Nik Wallenda walk across the Grand Canyon a few months ago. (Well I watched it on DVR so I could fast forward because I’m not a patient person. I also couldn’t stand the anticipation and it took him quite a while to make his way across, it’s not called the Grand Canyon for nothing.)

An excerpt from Wikipedia states: Wallenda performs without a safety net or harness. “My great-grandfather taught that safety nets offer a false sense of security,” he explains.[12] He notes that a safety net is no guarantee – an uncle was killed while performing despite falling into a safety net.

Hearing this quote on TV a few months ago really got me thinking. I don’t think I’ll ever attempt walking a tight rope, but in a more figurative sense, how can anything in my life serve as a true, reliable safety net other than God? The times in life when I’ve turned to something else for a sense of comfort and safety it hasn’t turned out so well…and believe me I’ve tried many times and it just gets messy. Today by God’s grace I’m a total wreck FOR Him, but without Him I’m just a total mess. When I put my trust and faith in anything above God, I’m stepping into a trap. The nets I go to for safety turn into a web entangling my limbs where I cannot escape on my own.

More often than not the safety nets I put in place are not bad, in and of themselves, but when they become an ultimate thing I begin placing my trust and hope in perceived safety rather than God alone. God’s plan for my life hasn’t always seemed to be the safest route, but looking back regardless of my perception at the time, its proven to be the route ONLY He could design. Ephesians 3:20 can be a reality when I do life on God’s terms not my own.

I heard this song on the radio earlier by Group 1 Crew called Dangerous. These are the lyrics to the chorus.

I want to live dangerous.
Risk it all for You, Lord.
I need You to wake me up
From the life I’ve known before.
Whatever it takes, I want You to make,
Make me more like You.
There’s nothing I won’t give up.
I want to live dangerous.
I want to live dangerous.

Kelly Minter wrote an amazing study called “No Other Gods” and the way she laid out and defined idols has forced me to look and evaluate my heart time & time again. Rather than an idol being limited only to an object on a shelf or a bad habit, she encompasses the things I place my hope in and elevate into ultimate things.  Psalm 106 tells of the Lord’s faithfulness delivering the Israelites from the hand of the enemy countless times. The verses are a reminder of God doing immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine, parting the Red Sea and causing it to cover the Egyptians. I wonder if the Egyptians considered the Red Sea a “safety net” of sorts keeping the nation of Israel trapped. You can bet they never dreamt it would be their own death. Oh how the Israelites worshiped the Lord and sang of His praises. None of their story is “safe” but it is magnificent and they were protected and provided for by the Lord himself.

But they so soon forgot what the Lord had done. Sadly I do this all the dang time too. Things began to get uncomfortable in the desert and rather than waiting on the Lord they gave into their cravings. How often have I desired safety even demanded understanding of situations, forgetting the countless occasions God has provided! Acting on emotions I desire to satisfy my cravings on my own will, and forget so soon what God has done, who He IS.

Oftentimes I just crave something familiar, something which is seemingly safe. These can vary from materialistic things, even people that could offer a sense of comfort. It has even been cravings for an emotional need of affirmation, security, love…none of these desires are bad in themselves, but when they become my safety net I’m in trouble. God desires to give me all of these things, to be my one and only. He is jealous for my affections and rightly so. My safety nets are just an illusion and typically turn out to be traps the enemy sets to detract my devotion and hope FROM the Lord…. TO a thing, idea or person.

Scary thing is God often gives me what I ask for, just as He did with the Israelites.

But they soon forgot what he had done

and did not wait for his plan to unfold.

In the desert they gave in to their craving;

in the wilderness they put God to the test.

So he gave them what they asked for,

but sent a wasting disease among them.

Psalm 106: 13-15

 

Although my wants seem to be a great idea at the time, they never prove to be the best option and usually prove detrimental. MY biggest fear shouldn’t be to be uncomfortable but to miss out on God’s sovereign plan for my life. May my desires line up with yours Lord. I do not want to miss you because IN your plan is my true joy. Let me live dangerous in your arms.

 

 

 

 

Chrysalis of Humility

(Any words in blue have a relating scripture which is listed at the bottom. Soon enough I will take the time to figure out linking these to a separate document. Until then, enjoy the colors!)

Writing #3-

Because of pride and lies from sources other than the One who speaks only truth, it is most difficult to be rigorously honest when currently struggling though a situation. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, so guilt and shame are from another place. We may feel that we are being attacked by humans, even hurt by those who are closest to us, yet we must never forget that the Enemy is the enemy. It is easy to shift focus to blame those around us rather than taking full accountability for our errors in life. These missteps whether in speech, action, or posture of heart don’t need additional actions heaped atop the damage already done, but truly this is all guilt and shame accomplishes. It’s a trap and façade feeding the perception, “I am a failure” or “I’ll never be good enough.” This is a lie.

The enemy need only confuse and convince us we are still caterpillars, we are not worthy of our wings, and they must be only an illusion. Why we listen, when we clearly have wings is a mystery to me, but I fall for it too.  When I go to anyone other than Christ to seek my identity I suffer a temporary de-capitation of my wings. I continually do it to myself. When I hurt, I seek immediate gratification, typically in the flesh rather than the Holy Spirit which always sends me reeling. It may have a short season of satisfaction, but always falls short of my desired outcome. The emotional hangover can last even longer when retaining this illusion of control. My pride hates to admit I fell for the lies (again) and some attempt at preserving my ego must be had-yet it too fails once more. Pride is my constant enemy and it can only be combated with the humility that comes from serving Christ.              

“Humility is the only soil in which the graces root; the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure. Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with the others; it takes the right attitude before God, and allows Him as God to do all.” –Excerpt from Andrew Murray’s Humility

I can only come to the conclusion to further ask God to reveal my pride and ways to die to it, and to accept further pruning with a willing heart rather than run. The running always gets me in a heap of trouble. The enemy hooks me and I once again fall at God’s feet for mercy. This mercy I should accept but so often fight it, choosing to be more concerned with others perception of me rather than Christ’s opinion.

This is where I’ve so often become stuck in the transformation process, refusing to move forward. I’m looking at an audience of butterflies and moths rather than the One….the Son. Only in the Son’s light will I see myself clearly, but I continue looking through dimness trying to see who I am. He has already told me who I will always be to Him…His precious child cleansed and covered in His blood. I am bought at a price but constantly sell myself for worthless lusts. This world consumes me and uses my fear as fuel. I chase the flames asking to be burned more, maybe this time it will finish the job. But this fire cannot quench the Spirit; it makes the Spirit fight harder because He will never let me go. He has a better fire to offer-one of refinement to make us reflect His image. He’s rescued us from this darkness I try to return to time after time. I don’t fit in there anymore; I have this light that shines. It’s His light and treasure I carry around, not mine. It belongs and originates from the Glory of God and I cannot fuel it on my own. Therein lays my dilemma when I attempt to live life on my terms.

When I stray from His fellowship my light grows weak. The gifts He has graced us with, are just that, gifts. He entrusts us with His grace through “talents” used to glorify Him and edify the Body of Christ. These gifts are not our own nor do they make us “special” and above others believers. As His children we are all special but not above others. It’s by His grace we are saved so no man can boast. I boast a lot, but have no room or place to. When Christ makes us keenly aware of the enemy’s lies in our lives, it isn’t the awareness that makes us wise, but the decision to act in the wisdom he has given. I believe this is where so many of us stray and unfortunately I’m speaking from experience not presumption. The insight alone in how to respond to situations does not equate a life of wisdom-knowledge truly avails us nothing without action. It is the works and actions done in accordance with the insight God gives us, that produces a life lived wisely or in other words an abiding life. 

“When the creature realizes that (the call to humility) is the true nobility, and consents to be with his will, his mind, and his affections, the form, the vessel in which the life and glory of God are to work and manifest themselves, he sees that humility is simply acknowledging the truth of his position as creature, and yielding to God His place.”–Excerpt from Andrew Murray’s Humility

So as I’m sitting in a painful, prideful pity party God is just waiting on me to put it aside and accept His love & fellowship. We can attempt to heal ourselves, to seek shelter in things of the world. But as time goes by, nothing changes. Time itself does not heal. The key to healing is time spent with a loving God who will hold nothing back to heal us. He already gave the blood of his only Son. This is where I’m stuck in my transformation process. I’m scared to death.

I like to imagine a caterpillar and am curious if she ever feels this way, frustrated and eager to participate in a reality outside the chrysalis. Imagine if she was removed too soon from her environment of transformation, it wouldn’t be pretty. Of course a caterpillar doesn’t wonder these things, she has no idea what is in store for her ahead, but God has an amazing plan for her nonetheless. We have many seasons lived in chrysalis of our own, you know the period of waiting where God will always prove true and is doing so much INSIDE of us. So often we are too focused on external circumstances to see it! As God continues to work things out inside of us I pray that we will focus on the hope in Christ who promises He will complete the work He began. This is where Hope exists in and through our circumstances.

“My fundamental identity in Christ supersedes whatever struggle I am going through now.” –Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp, How People Change

Relating Scriptures

Image

No Condemnation

Romans 8:1 (NIV84)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

The Enemy is the enemy-

Ephesians 6:12 (NIV84)

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Pride is my constant enemy-

James 4:6 (ESV)

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Concerned with others perception-

Galatians 1:10 (NET)

Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ!

Bought at a price

1 Corinthians 7:23 (NET)

You were bought with a price. Do not become slaves of men.

1 Corinthians 6:20 (NET)

For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.

Sell myself for worthless lusts-

James 4:1 (NIV)

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

James 4:4 (NIV)

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

He will never let me go-

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)  

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

Rescued us from this darkness-

2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV)

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

His light and treasure-

2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

By His grace we are saved-

Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Decision to act

James 3:13 (NIV)

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

Works and actions-

James 2:22 (NIV)

You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.