Beholding Beauty

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I’ve been doing a lot of ocean listening, star gazing, and remembering. I’ve been remembering how big the ocean is and how much bigger it’s Creator must be. I’ve been remembering how many stars I can see each night barely touches the beginning of how many we cannot yet, in this moment of time, see. I’ve been listening to the tide come in, and watch it go out again, just to return yet again, and I’ve wondered, does anything really change? I’ve enjoyed watching the dawn of a new day. My soul has danced with each sunrise, unique in it’s own push and pull with the clouds and sea, wondering what show will be displayed that morning. (What a marvelous event to have a front row seat to!) Surging through my being was the hope of a new day, a new beginning, as light pierces darkness. I’ve also longingly witnessed day turn into night, bringing forth its own beautiful nature that I can’t seem to get enough of. Light and dark. Sunrises and bright twinkling starlight. Light and dark. Once again I find myself convinced, it takes both to behold beauty.

So what is beauty? Why do I long for it so? How can I bring it? Embrace it? Then I remember that the greatest light in the darkness is Jesus. I remember that He has called me by name,and I answered, “My life is Yours Lord, send me!” But how and why was I able to? It was because of others who had heard about Him and received His great love, and were shining their light into my darkness. Now that the Light of the World lives in Me, it’s my time to bring light into other’s darkness. What could be more beautiful than that?

Isaiah 52:7 proclaims,”How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!” As beautiful as the stars in the night sky or the sun breaking night’s darkness, ushering in new beginning are to us, our feet going out to bring His light into the darkness in anyone’s life that we are connected to, is so entirely beautiful before the Lord! Light and darkness. It takes both to behold beauty.

This beauty of the oceanfront changes me. It changes my demeanor, my thinking, my hope for the future. It beings me peace and tremendous joy. God’s beauty poured out through us into the world, has similar but vastly greater effects on anyone who can see it, and begins to find themselves longing for it.

Tide comes in, goes out, and comes in again. Does anything really change? I’ve truly pondered that, and I arrived at a resolve, its us who change. We change all of the time, but it’s only by wisdom that we steward our change by choosing to be transformed through God’s Word, yielding to His leading and authority. Change is always happening, even though many things occur without fail, many things do not. I’ve decided, I want to be the change. I want the light I carry to pierce darkness with such power, that not only a new day, but  entirely new creations are made.

2 Corinthians 5:17 encourages us, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away; behold, the new has come into being.”

Lord, as the beautiful sun you have created breaks darkness and brings us a new beginning, allow me to so reflect your Son, to pierce darkness and cause a new beginning in other’s lives. May my life shine as bright as the stars in someone’s darkness bringing the relief of beauty to a soul long sickened with grief and suffering. May I not fear darkness, but rejoice in an opportunity to shine Your tremendous light into it.May I take courage to share the dark seasons of my soul that led me to this Great Light to encourage the hurting, God is not afraid of your darkness! May Your great love flow through me so purely, that all the old will be washed away as the tide goes out. May the rising tide coming in bring FREEDOM. I see You everywhere I look. I feel you in the breeze. I hear you as these waves roar with power. And I’m lost for words by Your might and Your beauty. All I can utter is, I need You Lord! Help me! I love You! In Jesus’ name I ask these things, Amen.

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Jump Over Yuck

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I mentioned a few posts back that joy does not have to look like happy. What I didn’t know then, was that the Lord would quickly unlock a major key to maintaining joy in my life.

There was an ugly message waiting for me. One laced with all the manipulation and undercurrents of superiority that could possibly be shoved into a few sentences. And suddenly, my joy was on shaky ground. I was tempted to hate, to expose, and to cut off all ties. Until a friend of mine, who I was totally honest with, offered, “that won’t feel as good as you think it might.”

With the insertion of truth into the swirling chaos of my reaction, my thoughts began to slow. I chose to breath deep and still my mind. I asked Jesus for truth. He showed me Hebrews 12:2,MSG “2 Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.”

Suddenly, I could see that this attack was just one of the enemies weapons of mass distraction. My enemy wanted me to be distracted from the entire point of my life. Instead, God called me to fix my eyes on Jesus, consider where I’m headed, and get back on track. As I asked Him to help me, He gave me the most amazing and simple vision to overcome.

I saw a trap laid out in the wilderness, and it was camouflaged with leaves. Holy Spirit removed the camouflage so I could see the trap. He asked me, “Are you their prisoner? I say you are free. What do you say?” I decided, “I am free!” Then He showed me to walk around the trap set for me, and keep going forward. And I DID! Praise the Lord!

Shortly after that choice, I was around the one who sent the message, and I can tell you that I truly harbored no anger or frustration or hatred for them. I AM FREE! This is a huge miracle. So I asked the Lord, how can I continue experiencing this freedom as life continues flying at me?

He said to maintain JOY, you simply, Jump Over Yuck.

J-ump.

O-ver

Y-uck.

JOY!

So today, I want to encourage you. Are you their prisoner? Or are you free in Christ? Will you choose to fall into the traps set before you? Or will you ask Jesus to help you see them, so you can JUMP over them.

Let’s all choose to Jump for Joy today! Let’s triumph and rejoice together in this great freedom Jesus has bought for us with His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. He is worthy of ALL glory, honor, and praise!

Father, help us have eyes to see the traps being set for us. Help us Holy Spirit to jump over them. Help us to become more like You Jesus, never losing sight of where we are headed. Remove any distractions that keep us from the main thing. Help us to be about Your business totally, and flowing at Your rhythm and pace for our lives. We need You! We love You! It’s by Your blood, Your spirit, and Your power I ask these things in Your Holy, Perfect, Saving name Lord Jesus! Amen!

 

Shame is a Liar

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Have you ever tripped over shame? One minute you’re fine, all is good, and the next you are swirling, having a hard time remembering anything true, and you just feel……That’s indicator number one- you begin being held captive by thoughts that are purely emotional. Play gets pressed on the shame tape, beginning these cyclical thoughts of how much you aren’t, how much everyone else is, and what you’ve wasted, maybe you start looking for someone to blame, and soon there you are, beat up and exhausted. Done. You might hear at the end of this battle you believe you’re losing: “Now look, you’ve even wasted this time, you loser!” YUCK! Shame is a liar!

I went through a bought of this hard earlier this summer. It seemed like everywhere I looked, everyone was doing better than me in every facet of life. All I could hear in my mind was how much I was lacking in comparison to everyone else. I felt alone, stupid, empty, and ashamed of being me. Indicator number 2- comparison. Comparison will always lead to death. A slow, horrifyingly painful, murder scene of who you truly are, what you’ve been called to do, and the gifts you bring to the world. Satan comes to steal- and comparison is a crafty con-man who needs to be caught and sentenced for LIFE!

So how do we catch this con team of shame, swirling emotions, lies, and comparison? The Lord has given me a arsenal, that I am hoping will be helpful to someone else.

1) STAY IN GOD”S WORD! The only was to discern a lie, is to know the Truth. And God promises, the Truth will set you free. This will feel like the last thing you want to do when you are feeling so bad about yourself, but its the first and most important thing you can do to stop the lies from having a place in your mind.

2) Journal with Jesus. Sounds simple, but this one step has proved to be one of the most powerful, freeing, aspects of my life. For me, I simply pour out my heart on the page, sharing it all with Him (He knows it all anyways, no use trying to pretend with God!) And then I ask Him, “What are you saying about this? What is true? Would it please You to share anything with me?” Then, I just start writing what I hear. I do not worry at that time, if it’s just me making it up, or if it is really Him. I just freely write what I’m hearing in my mind. I then ask Him to confirm what was Him, through His word. And He does!  There is no pressure to get it right, to be a perfect listener. He is so much bigger than our need to be perfect! He promises, “If you seek me, you will find Me!” So drop the perfectionism, and just seek.

3) Thanksgiving wins the war! I actively offer thanks to God! I look all day for what I can be giving thanks for! And I consider and pray for others all around the world who might not have as much to give thanks for as I do. THAT IS POWERFUL! Is your health fading? Pray for others who are suffering to! Is your money tight? Pray for the poor and needy and hungry around the world. Are your loved ones not following Christ? Pray for them, and for the nations where Christianity is unlawful. Look up, give thanks, consider then entire globe- cry out to God for your needs, and the needs of others!

4) Worship! When my thoughts are being attacked, and I can’t seem to slow them down. Worship usually unlocks peace, which unlocks gratitude, which unlocks JOY. From a place of Joy, by worshipping the God who IS in control, which means I don’t have to be, then I can begin to gain some victory over my thoughts, and fix my mind on only what is true, as we are taught to in Philippians 4.

5) Community. Pursue friendships with people who have God’s opinion of you. Know who is truly in your corner. Cultivate relationships that are deeply meaningful and spiritual. Not sure how to start? Find a small group, and start studying the Bible with other believers. Pray for God to send you the right friends. Pray for the friends you have. Humble yourself and ask for prayer and for help from friends. He will provide these gifts as you follow Him. We are part of One Body, and we all need each other!

If today, play has been pressed on the shame tape in your mind, let me encourage you right now, press stop. Tell God that you desire to get rid of that tape all together. Ask Him to open your ears to what Holy Spirit is saying over you and about you. Ask Him to show you His truth in His Word and through the saints in your life. Choose that today every time the tape tries to play again, you will meditate on a scripture,  sing worship songs, offer thanksgiving, ask others to pray for you, and pray for others around the world.

Shame may come armed with some friends, but you have The One True God, King of Heaven and Earth, The Most High, Almighty God with you! He wins the war! We are victorious in Him! He cares for you! And we will triumph together! YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Tenderhearted??

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Philippians 2:1 Are your hearts tender and sympathetic?

I mean, honestly, it depends on the moment right? My heart might be tender and sympathetic if I just heard about a horrible, sad, occurrence that took place somewhere in the world. However,  if I just waded through the immense stress of the check out line with two small children, where the person in front of me had nine thousand coupons and it just happens to be the cashier’s first day, by time I get to my car, chances are my heart won’t be super tender.

Hmmmm. So what’s that about? Is my heart tender and sympathetic? What about if I get the opportunity to be offended? Or horrified? Or disgusted? Or inconvenienced? Or maybe all of the above? Lord, are you requiring that my heart always be tender and sympathetic? How is that even possible?

Pursuing this truth caused me to consider what the opposite of tender and sympathetic would be. Cold? Disconnected? Unforgiving? Hard? Unapproachable? Impatient? What do you think of when you consider the opposite? As I contemplated these words in relation to my heart, I began to understand the question the scripture begs more.

What is going on in your heart? “Pay attention to what triggers you to act opposite of Christ. This is where you need Me.” Oh, I see, this is not an opportunity to shame myself for (once again) not measuring up, falling so short of the standard. In fact, nothing the Lord calls us to, is that at all. Instead, each standard is only the sincerest beckoning to run to Him. Without Him, we cannot reach any standard of RIGHT, it’s only with Him and through His blood. But the good news, the very best news is, He never tires of lifting us up, carrying us through, reminding us, and encouraging us. He is faithful.

I asked Him for more. He showed me, Colossians 3:12, “Since God chose you (I mean we could stop right there! What a JOY!) to be His holy people, whom He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” As I meditated on this scripture, I was reminded of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit out of Galatians 5. Relief swooped in, I am called to clothe myself in who He is, but I don’t have to find it alone. I prayed, “Holy Spirit, fill me up afresh, I choose to put You on, so that when the world sees me, they will really see You. I need You more now, than ever before, and I know tomorrow I will need You even more.”

Sometimes, the enemy wants to aggravate us, to sidetrack, and distract us from what Jesus has called us to. Most often this will come through some opportunity to be offended, hurt, enraged, depressed, or totally overwhelmed. I choose to see that attack as a tip off: Ohhhhh, I have an important mission today, so my enemy wants me defeated. Then I use that to fuel my fire for this world knowing they are LOVED through and through, by Love, Himself.

My resolve will be modeled after Jesus’, as we find in Hebrews 2:2, “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.”

I have a goal, to make Jesus by living for Him and with Him.  I will continue to study how Jesus did it by being connected to the Father in utter submission to His Will. I will continue to model my steps, my choices, and my beliefs,

after His. I will finish my race with endurance, by receiving all the Heavenly helps available to me. And with YOU! We will triumph together in Christ!

 

Not afraid of the dark

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I found myself thinking, “I can’t do this.” And I heard the reply within my spirit, “But I can.”

I knew immediately that Holy Spirit was ready to help me. He wasn’t ever expecting me to go at life apart from Him. He is not disappointed in my limits, or my humanness. He made me. He sees me, He knows me better than I know myself.

I listen to the words being read from Psalm 139, “but even in the darkness, I cannot hide from You. To You the night shines bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to You.”

As I hear those words, I consider how often I try to hide when it gets dark. I hear the lies that I can’t be Debbie Downer, and that they are all so sick of my sad story, my pain. But the truth is, God is not afraid of the dark. He will not avoid the dark seasons of the soul. He is ever near.

A friend told me, “Lately, I’ve been thanking God for laments.” To which I instantaneously replied, “I welcome laments from others, but generally despise them coming from me.” She said, “He doesn’t just welcome them, He delights in them.” With those words my heart stopped beating for a second.

Can you believe that? As I contemplated on that thought, I chose to believe it. God never tires of hearing from me. He knows me better than I know myself.  In fact, He lives inside of my heart. He is truly the only One who can fully KNOW me. Why wouldn’t He delight in me opening my heart to Him, even if when I open it what comes out is sorrow?

Psalms 56:8 says, “You keep track of my sorrows. You have collected all of my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book.”

I asked, why? Why would You collect tears? If they are that important, maybe there is something powerful in them. I imagined God pouring out our tears into the gardens of our hearts, it was the very substance that brought tremendous growth, delivering incredible fruit.

As it continued, I saw my tears being poured out into the hearts of my children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren. I found myself understanding, just slightly more than before, why my life seems to require so many. Peace and resolve settled in.

Therefore today, I continue to give Him plenty to collect as an offering. I will lament to the Lord if the need arises. I will not try to hide. I choose to ask Him for help. He is showing up, and I’m finding relief.

Resolve to choose joy while simultaneously experiencing what I need to, to be real. Joy doesn’t have to look like happy. Joy is believing in my great salvation in Christ Jesus, and all of it’s benefits, which will never change due to earthly hardships.

Romans 8:18 encourages us, “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.”  Joy unspeakable, not hiding in the dark, being genuine, and asking for help. Today will be victorious and my future looks brighter than I can imagine. Praise the Lord!

Just a little more, and then……

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I’m hungry. I’m hungry to create something. Something that matters. I find myself desperate to be a part of something beautiful. To create beauty. To join in. To be a part. I want to write something that will change the world as we know it. I want to paint something that will heal a broken heart and bring the walking dead back to life. I want to be great! I want to do something inspiring and amazing.

I cry out to God! Here I am! Send me. But its more like waving my arms, as in, don’t forget me. I want to be used mightily. And He smiles, turns me around, and shows me the life I already have. He shows me how He has called me and sent me. He sent me to be his wife, and their mother, their teacher, their friend, their daughter, their sister, their confidant. I am called. I am called right here in the place that I’m already in.

Why doesn’t it feel like it’s the GREAT I desire? Why does it feel so insignificant? Why do I always feel this sense of wanting something MORE? It like a constant nagging, that even though I can’t put my finger on it, what I have is not enough. Discontent. Exhaustion. dissatisfaction. He reminds me that all I have right now, began in a place of prayer. I asked for this life, for these callings. And He answered.

You see, I believe this “not enough” sickness is a ploy from our enemy to steal our joy. To steal our moments, to steal our hope. I believe that, at least for me, comparing what I am called to, to what others are called to, is one of the most exhausting parts of this cancerous not enough plague. I have decided to declare war on not enough. I have decided to embrace what I have in my hands and heart, and offer it up to God in thanks.

I choose today to sow my whole self into what is already before me. I choose to no longer wait for the great. I choose to put my full weight into the great that is now. Today, exactly where I am, exactly what I have and what I don’t, is enough. I will honor God by honoring all of the ones He has entrusted me with.

Father, please keep turning me around to see the beauty of the life before me. Help me to guard my heart and mind from thinking everyone else has it better, or simply just easier, than I do. Help me to rejoice in the beauty that is my life, status quo. I trust You with my life, with my present and future. Thank You for covering my past. I admit that all I need more of, is You. Bless me with Your presence and truth all day long today, my daily bread. I see you, and I want more of You. In Jesus’ Mighty name I pray, Amen.

Love is seek and find

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Love is seek and find

I had this funny thing happen the other day. I wanted to spend time with the Lord, but my son and husband were having a “camp out” in the living room where my Bible, devotionals, and journal were. I lay in my bed wandering if I could try something new instead of being stuck in my box of “this is how I do my quiet time.” Upon which the Lord reminded me that I had noticed an old journal and some pens in one of my bathroom drawers. What was is doing there you might ask? I have no idea. Since it was so out of place I remembered it, so I grabbed it and purposed to journal there. As I opened it, I saw prayer request from 2013, and I spent some time in awe of God’s hand as I could see specifically now each one had been answered abundantly. I praise and rejoiced and my faith was once again stirred. Next I noticed that I had written a challenge to myself- get outside more. Funny, that is still, in 2017, the same challenge. Here is what I am learning, to love myself well, which consequently aligns me to love others more, I have to honor what makes me come alive, and one of those things for me is the outdoors. I am making a choice to be intentional about getting outside and doing some outdoor activity multiple times a week.

As I am slowing down to focus on loving myself and others well, I thought it would be a good idea to read the Song of Solomon. It is a book in the Old Testament filled with love poetry between and woman and a man who are deeply and madly in love with each other. However, the book is full of seeking each other out, finding each other, and then having to seek once again. Sometimes, when one would find where other was, the other one wasn’t ready to be found. The book ends with them seeking for each other once again, not the ‘happily ever after skipping down jolly lane’ we expect from a great love story.

At first I thought this was strange but I sought the Lord to teach me something new. He began to show me how love is never finding the one you love and then staying in that blissful place forever. Love is being committed to seek and find, forever. We are always changing and growing and becoming. Along the different parts of that journey, different types of love will be required. I believe this could be a true piece to every relationship, even with myself and with God. As life flies at us, we have to continue finding new facets of God which in turn unveils new pieces of ourselves. Sometimes we find something new and amazing and sometimes we uncover something hard to process. We can choose to show up and love if we choose to invite Jesus into it all. Apart from Him, I think the notion of this eternal game of seek and find would be overwhelmingly exhausting.

I’m just beginning to embrace this notion and trying to live it out. It definitely feels less ‘wrapped up in a neat box with a bow’ than I want it to. But I can tell this type of perspective on love is more genuine than I previously expected and yet tremendously less likely to set me up to be deeply disappointed than what I’ve understood before.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about love or how you plan to love yourself well this year!