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Archive for February, 2011

Lookin’ Up

I spent an incredible weekend watching God bring new perspective to His children.  I got some for myself.

There are a lot of things in life that try to swallow us up.  Things like: curses and words of destruction spoken by people we have trusted and loved; the painful wounds of injustice, abuse; unforgiveness for ourselves and others; and incorrect teaching that we’ve embraced as truth.

As I prayed with a couple  yesterday, I saw the beauty of what it must look like to God when we finally embrace the truth of Isaiah 25:26.   “He will swallow up death in victory; He will abolish death forever.  And the Lord will wipe away tears from all the faces; and the reproach of His people.  he will take away from off all the earth; for the Lord has spoken it.  ”

That’s what God did through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  And he did it for each of us, for ALL OF US!

Like the ones I prayed for, our heads are sometimes bowed with guilt, shame, and all the things in our life that make us feel less than who we are in Christ.  We embrace the place of  “less than” and allow ourselves to be overcome by feelings of victimhood and despondency.  With every lie we believe about ourselves and our life, our heads hang lower and lower toward the ground.

Yet Jesus said three very important words as He hung on the cross for us.  It is finished!

As I prayed yesterday I heard God’s whisper, tell them it’s time to lift up their heads.  As I encouraged the husband to look up and lift his hands as a sign of surrendering the old stuff to God, I saw a literal transformation.  It was awesome to see his whole countenance change.

I haven’t known him long but his head was always bowed, he never looked people in the eye and rarely spoke.  Before I left church he was full of gratefulness and joy, and like a new man.

That is what God has brought us.  It’s up to us to accept it. If you are tired of holding on to something that is keeping you from freedom and life, you get to choose.

I hope you’ll embrace the words of Jesus and look up.  Give it to Him and say “It is finished.”  I’m done with this.  I’m not going to be undone by this.  I’m done with a victim and less than mentality.  I am God’s child and I am ‘more than a conqueror’.  I am victorious through Christ and fear, doubt, and insecurity is finished in me.  Guilt, shame, and unbelief is finished.

I choose to look up to behold the Lord of glory and the lifter of my head.  Psalm 24.

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God Thoughts, Part II

Continuing yesterdays post…….

So when those bad or difficult things happen in life, what can we be sure of?

In Isaiah 55:10, scripture compares the thoughts and word of God to rain and snow.  It says, “they come down from the heavens, and don’t return there again, but water the earth and make it bring forth and sprout, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater.”

God’s promises to us are found in scripture.  In our season of testing, we hung on to every one we could find.  Here’s a few things we learned, we can be sure of.

1.  God is always there.  True to His promise, He never leaves us.

2. He cares about us! He is a God of mercy and grace, goodness and compassion.  His heart and eyes are on us in every situation.

3.  Whatever the result, He turns it to good (seed and bread) for us.

4.  The fruit the trial produces will be much greater than the suffering and consequences on your life in the end.

I really love the illustration in verse 10.  For us, our trial held humiliation and lasting circumstances.  The end looked exactly the opposite of what we had prayed and believed for.  But, we can honestly say it produced good seed and fruit.

We know God better.  We know ourselves better.  We know others better.  That is good.

Throughout my life, I have recognized that our problems help us pray for or minister to someone else.  That may be part of God’s purpose.  I’m no expert but I know He allowed Jesus to come and die so that we could be reconnected to God.   Why wouldn’t He use us through our struggles to reconnect someone else to God?  Makes sense to me.

Verses 12 and 13 tell us that we will leave the place of exile caused by evil and go into our homeland with joy  and peace, and be led by the Lord Himself.  We have proven that true!  As painful as it was we still feel we are in a place of promise and have just begun to explore all the places God is leading us in life.  We’d never want to go through the exile again but we are actually grateful for it because it’s brought us to a better place.

Sometimes when there is a competition or race of some kind, we see people who are challenged with physical disabilities or obstacles.  We love to cheer on the underdog or those we think won’t finish or can’t win. God has created his own cheer squad!

Verse 12 says the mountains and hills shall break forth in singing and the trees will clap their hands before you.  Instead of thorns of testing we will grow trees. I believe that when we move from victim to victor all of creation rejoices!

Julie Andrews has nothing on the child of God.  As we reach the other side of our testing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” It is the song of God being sung through us showing Him to the world!

I love God’s song.  It carried me through suffering.

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Dear God, What Are You Thinking?

I’ve been writing a short version of Erv’s and my story for a book my friend Jonathan is compiling.  It’s been interesting to review the tension between what we thought we knew and what we experienced during our suffering season.

I’d always been a person of faith.  My sister used to laugh at me because I’d pray about every little thing, treating it all as if it required a miracle.  Nothing wrong with that.  We should go to God with every concern and expect Him to answer based on His promises and scripture.

But what do you do when it appears the answer is delayed, denied, or appears to be exactly the opposite of what you prayed for?

What if someone dies after you prayed and believed for their healing?   What if you can’t find a job after asking for God’s provision?  What if you are following Christ with everything you’ve got and yet you seem to move from one problem to the other with no break in between?

What if you’ve prayed, fasted, and done all you knew to do and things don’t appear to be working out the way you think they should?   What then?

I’ve been there.  I’ve been stared down with the choice of fear versus faith and anxiousness versus peace.   In fact, the season I wrote about lasted four years and it’s residual affects are still part of our lives.

I don’t know all the answers but I was reminded this morning about what kept my faith going.

Isaiah 55:3  holds the first promise.  “Incline your ear (submit and consent to the divine will) and come to me:  hear, and your soul will revive:  and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even sure mercy (kindness, good will, and compassion…..”

In testing or suffering, our soul can only be revived as we consent to God’s sovereignty, coming and listening to Him.  Some things are out of our control and we have to recognize that.   We’re promised that no matter what we have His mercy, His kindness, goodwill, and compassion.

Verse 6 holds another key.  “Seek, inquire, and require the Lord while He may be found (claiming Him by necessity and by right): call upon Him while He is near.”  God is never as near as He is when we are in trouble.  We have absolute right to claim His presence!  We can move through anything as long as God is with us and He promises to be with us.  His presence in pain is what got me through.

Verses 8-11 give me courage  even though things don’t always turn out the way we think they should.   “My thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways, not your ways. ”  He goes on to say His ways are higher than ours which to me means He sees more than we see and thinks deeper than we do.

We can’t always understand what God is doing or thinking, but we can have peace in all situations. He is at work whether we understand what He is thinking or doing or not.

What has gotten you through times of testing?

Part II, tomorrow.

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Drunk and Fat

It would be rare in this country if we were thirsty and couldn’t find anything to drink.  Yet, in life we find ourselves thirsty and it seems much harder to find the thing that satisfies that thirst.

Many of us have wounds that have left us craving for healing and peace in our souls.  We’ve experienced dryness in our relationships, our careers, our religion, and our  lives over all. We live life more out of habit then passion and purpose.   We find ourselves longing for things we don’t believe we can have, for true connection, for something more.

So in that dryness, longing, and craving season we search endlessly for something, someone.  Even those of us who call ourselves Christians find ourselves wanting at times.  Out of that longing, we reach in many different directions to discover that something that will quench our seemingly insatiable thirst.

I never did drink or smoke pot but I can still relate to the feelings of pain and discomfort that would tempt someone to get lost in that mind altering world.  I did turn to food for comfort.  I also got lost in doing and performing especially in church to prove that I was worth something to someone and to make sure I was pleasing God.   I tried to fill my longing for value in people and my craving for significance in their opinion of me.  I was determined to avoid my dryness and hurt by keeping a stiff upper lip each time I experienced something that wounded me again.

Sometimes in life, we are like a child who is crying out for something to drink but when offered water, refuse to accept it because they think it should be juice, pop, or some other favorite beverage.  In reality, water is the best thing to drink but they want something different.

Isaiah 55:1 says, “Wait and listen, everyone who is thirsty!  Come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!”  Verse 2 continues, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your earnings for what does not satisfy?”

I’ve done that, have you?  Trying to control our lives by purchasing false fixes –food, drink, relationships, performance, or any other thing  in order to cover the deep ache inside of us, never works.

There is only one place we can find real validation and acceptance and the satisfaction of our deepest inner places.  According to Isaiah 55:1 (Amplified) the price is: “simply for the self-surrender that accepts the blessing.”

That’s the first step to being satisfied and having our thirst quenched.  Letting go of our control.   Acknowledging that God is about goodness and blessing and accepting that.  Sitting with Him and letting Him fill us, letting Him replace  the dry, old places with new fresh wine.  Allowing ourselves to accept the blessing of God on the old stuff and the future.  Trusting Him to bring treasure out of tragedy.  Sitting with Him long enough that we we are drunk and fat with joy.

Thirsty?  What can you do today that will help you surrender and accept God’s blessing?

 

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If Heaven is For Real

I should never start a good book at 10:30 at night.  That’s when I opened the cover on Heaven is for Real and I didn’t go to sleep until I read the last word.

What an incredible story of Colton Burpo, a three year old boy who experienced heaven.  He describes what he saw and experienced from the eyes of a child and it’s endearing and beautiful.  The depth in his simple words is profound.  I highly recommend it for your reading list!

Life after life is a fascinating topic and many people have shared near death experiences.  But I have a question.  If heaven is for real, what does that mean on earth?

I grew up in a church that was always talking about how wonderful it would be when we got to heaven.  All our problems would be over and we would move right into a beautiful mansion made just for us.  And of course we would see Jesus.

It all sounded great but true or not it seemed to me that many were so focused on the actual experience of living in heaven that they sat around just waiting for that to happen.  That’s when I first heard, “Some people are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good.”

Don’t get me wrong.  We need to think about heaven and what it’s all about.  I’ve actually caught a glimpse of what it’s like myself.  We were going through a very difficult time in our life and God used a vision of heaven to help me get through it.  I’ll save the details of it for another time but here is what I understand because of that experience.

Life on earth is a shadow of what’s real.  Earth feels very real to us and while we are here it is.  But Heaven is the real deal!   What is happening there in any situation is different then what we see on earth. Everything has meaning and purpose–to reveal more of God.  His will is always from intense love for all of us and what happens in life is not just about us or for us.

Jesus taught us to pray and in that prayer there’s a line, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  Think about that.  If heaven is all good, what does it mean when we pray that prayer?  How could it change our lives if we began to pray that over everything?

Can you imagine a broken relationship if you saw it through the eyes of heaven?  Would you see the person differently?  Would you see yourself differently?

How about your financial problem?  Or your feelings of insecurity, low self worth, and fear?

What could looking through heaven’s eyes change how we serve others?

What could living our life through heaven’s perspective do to make a difference while we are here?

Whatever you are dealing with, I hope you’ll join me in taking a second look at it from heaven’s viewpoint.  We might just find ourselves looking into the eyes of God and when we do, I have no doubt we will be changed forever!

 

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Legacy Builders

I’ve been reflecting on the way I raised my kids lately.  You see, even though they are gone from home, I still feel responsible for influencing them even as adults.  I am so proud of them, yet well aware that where they struggle in life, it may be because I struggled there too and modeled it for them, or that I was simply unaware of what I needed to instill in them.

Moms have always played a big role in building the next generation.  Sometimes it’s difficult to be fulfilled while we are changing diapers, wiping snotty noses, and surrounded by piles of laundry, toys, and chaotic noise. Yet, I can attest this is the most important season you will ever be in.

Regi Campbell says in his book Mentor Like Jesus, “More time spent with fewer people equals greater kingdom impact.”  That perfectly describes raising a family.  And mentoring the next generation is a noble and necessary calling.  We don’t just raise kids, we build the world!

Here’s a few things to think about when desiring to build kids who will make a difference.

1.  Start with you.  Keep letting go of the past.  Keep your relationship with God front and center.  Invest in you–keep learning, nurture yourself, stay fresh.

2.  Build on God’s principles.  Strong character comes from understanding values and principles from God’s perspective.  When teaching kids how to do life, this helps them set the parameters.

3.  Focus on Strengths.  Each child has certain strengths and weaknesses.  A child who understands what they are good at and works from their strength will not let their weaknesses hold them back.  They are more confident and do things they love.

4.  Experiment for discovery. Plan teaching activities.  Explore new things, make things, let them them try things they are interested in.  No better way to help them understand what they love and who they are.

5.  Parent for purpose.  Life is never about just yourself.  Talk about and create opportunities to impact someone’s life.  As they get older, discuss relationships, problems like homelessness, poverty, and age appropriate topics.  Help them find a way to serve their school, church, or community.  Our life’s purpose is about the way we serve others and this is where our understanding begins.

I’m still a mom even though my kids are grown.  I still can follow these steps with a little tweaking.  I can still influence my kids.  And now I have five beautiful grandkids to pour into.

As I look back, I wish I’d spent more time thinking about and planning my parenting.  Like most moms, I just kind of did it.  I winged it and said a prayer and crossed my fingers.  I don’t have any guilt.  I did the best I could with what I knew.  But, I see now what would have made it better.

What could you do today that will build a legacy for tomorrow?  What does your  plan for parenting or grandparenting look like?

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The Best Deal

Who doesn’t love a good deal?  Unless we are an impulsive buyer, we love to shop for the best prices on something we want.

Life’s like that.  When we w base our choice on what we believe holds the best deal for us.  The problem is how do we arrive at that conclusion.

I believe there are two things we can do to find the best deal in life and a third one that seals the deal!

#1.  Think.  Someone recently told me, “But I don’t like to think.”  That is true for many of us.  We are used to being told what to think, believe, and do and we find comfort and safety in that–maybe because we are afraid to be accountable for our decisions. Or maybe because thinking might cause us to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly in ourselves and our lives.   Or perhaps it’s because we don’t understand the process (and there is one) for how to arrive at a decision. Nevertheless, God gave us a brain and thinking is part of it’s function.

I’ve always been a thinker and questioner.  The problem was I couldn’t think clearly because of my deep emotional feelings.  Once I learned to think and question before I got to that place, I found new freedom and joy in my life and the struggle inside was much less frequent.

#2.  Listen.  Whether God is a big part of our life or not, He still talks to us.  People say things through books, drama, art, and personally.  Nature teaches us.  Past experiences bring wisdom from lessons learned.  He sometimes speaks through dreams, miracles, and even supernatural signs.  And I believe each of us has the voice of God deep inside of us. If we will listen, we will hear. The biggest reason we don’t listen is we’re afraid we won’t like the answer.

When we are shopping for something we want, we don’t want to  settle for less quality just to save a few pennies.  That is true in life too.  We want the real change that brings us real life.

Sometimes we want to change but can’t seem to follow through.  This is usually because we don’t recognize some false belief we have.

Sometimes, we are resistant to change because we don’t want to let go of that false belief.  It brings us some comfort or some reward.  When the uncomfortableness of our situation outweighs the choice we are making to hang on, we will decide to move on.

Those two steps require the thinking and listening process.  But what do we do when we know the truth, understand the right thing to do and the right choice to make and yet we refuse to do it? The reasons may or may not matter.  The bottom line is we just don’t want to change, period!

Imagine a soldier in war.  Hunkered down behind a wall of defense, being shot at from many directions.  Unable to move, his life hangs in the balance.  His only hope is to call for reinforcement from the air.

The third option is a great place to begin and end our struggle for change.  I call it The Battle Cry For the Weary Soldier. Psalm 51:11, 12:  “Cast me not away from Your presence and take not Your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

Need change?  Listen for God’s voice, think it through, and let God change your unwilling heart.

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