Total Transformation

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun” 2 Corinthians 5:17

I have been on a roller coaster of a journey for several years that consisted of short highs and long seasons of lows. Last year was a major turn around for me both career wise and financially. This year I took my health back. I also am practicing walking in full surrender to His will and His ways. I still have shortcomings and a whole lot of “me” mentality to work on but it’s amazing what a little discipline, a lot of faith, full surrender and breakthroughs in prayer can do in a short time span!

Here’s a before and after of me in the same dress, two and half years apart. The 30 pound difference is a combination of Weight Watchers and letting go of heavy burdens, including forgiving my enemies. One day before my 44th birthday, I feel more free and joyful than I ever have. All glory to God for it is because of Him that I am a new creation!

Debunking Boaz

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you but will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17

If you’re familiar with the Bible then I’m guessing you’ve heard of the story of Ruth.  If not, let me give you a quick summary.  Ruth was a woman who married a man from a foreign land and tied herself to his family.  Her father-in-law, her husband and her brother-in-law all die (not simultaneously) and her mother-in-law (Naomi) decides to return to her homeland.  Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to stay with their own families.  Ruth’s sister-in-law Orpah stays.  But Ruth clings to Naomi and ends up returning to Naomi’s homeland with her.  Ruth then goes to work in a barley field as a means to provide for herself and Naomi.  There she meets Boaz who just so happens to to own the barley field Ruth is working in.  Long story short, Naomi finds out who Ruth is working for, realizes it’s a relative who can “redeem” Ruth as wife and mother and plays matchmaker between the two.  Her instructions and Ruth’s obedience pay off as Boaz marries Ruth and Ruth gives birth to Obed who was King David’s grandfather.

The book of Ruth is one of redeeming love and used as an example of how God can take tragedy and turn it into glory.  However, if misinterpreted, it can easily be romanticized and fill people, especially single women longing for marriage, with false hope.   For a woman longing for marriage, especially one has endured much rejection and/or abuse, the story of Boaz redeeming Ruth can fill her with the idea that God will use a man to redeem her circumstances also.  I want to be clear-Boaz was a kinsman redeemer but he did not redeem Ruth.

In Ruth’s cultural times, a kinsman-redeemer was a relative who carried out an act for a near relative who could not carry it out for themselves. In Ruth’s case, she was left a childless widow.  Boaz acted as a kinsman-redeemer by marrying and impregnating her in order to carry on her husband’s name (Ruth 4:10.) Boaz was a man of noble character but he was not a knight in shining armor who rescued Ruth.  He was a man who was impressed with Ruth’s beauty and work ethic.  He saws Ruth’s approach toward him as an act of kindness.  He also admitted there was another relative closer in relation to be Ruth’s redeemer. He protected Ruth’s reputation but was willing to step aside if the other relative chose to redeem Ruth himself (all found in Ruth chapters 3 and 4.)

Ruth was not a damsel in distress either.  She suffered great loss.  She made hard choices.  She worked on her own accord.  Ruth doesn’t bring up the idea of remarriage or children.  Her mother-in-law does.  Ruth only obeys the directives Naomi gives her.  Ruth was not wallowing in sorrow or waiting for a man to come along and rescue her.  She was in survival mode focused on taking care of herself and Naomi.  God stepped in and redeemed Ruth’s circumstances by connecting her to Boaz but God is Ruth’s ultimate rescuer.

No where in the book of Ruth does it mention that the desires of her heart was remarriage or to have a child.  In fact, when Naomi tells her to stay in her homeland, it’s because Naomi had no other sons for her to marry in order to bare a child.  Naomi tells her to stay with her own family and find another husband there.  But Ruth tells her this; “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)  Ruth does not choose to go with Naomi hoping to meet Boaz or any kinsman-redeemer.  She goes with Naomi because that’s who she identifies as her family and she has a loyalty to staying with that family.  The Bible doesn’t say it, but I believe Ruth either had no intentions to ever remarry or simply trusted God to take care of the matter.  Either way, remarriage was not Ruth’s priority.

Please don’t misinterpret today’s post.  I am not against marriage or remarriage.  The point of this post is to empower the woman who believe a man, a relationship and/or marriage is her saving grace to let go of that ideology.  To the woman who thinks her life will begin when God finally sends her the man of her dreams, you’re missing out on life that’s happening right now! God is our true redeemer.  He was Israel’s redeemer in the old testament and He sent Jesus to be our redeemer from sin in the New Testament.  He saves our circumstances and He redeems us from sinful mistakes.  No human being has the power to do that.  Expecting someone to redeem us puts unnecessary pressure on the person we identify as our savior.  It also is a form of worship and violates the Ten Commandments (Thou shall have no other gods before Me…)

If you are a single woman and your heart’s desire is marriage, please don’t pray for a Boaz.  Boaz was Ruth’s husband.  He can’t be yours.  Pray for the man God has designed for you.  While you’re waiting, be diligent in your work, recognize where you can rescue yourself and trust God to rescue you when you cannot.  Be the provider for the family God has gifted you, even if that family is just you and a pet or two. Trust Him to be your leader and partner.  See God as the husband you wish you had because we are all His bride. He is ultimately the One for each and everyone of us.

God will always be our Mr. Right.  If we misinterpret Boaz and especially if we get caught up in romance or Hallmark movies, we can easily become impatient and fall for a Mr. Right Now.  Wait on God.  Trust His ways.  Celebrate your singleness (it’s just as precious gift as marriage) and work hard at being the woman God made you to be.  If being a wife is part of His design, it will come to pass, just like it did for Ruth, in God’s time and His way!  We don’t need to manufacture our own love stories.  Ruth didn’t and God gave her Boaz.  Trust Him to write your love story too!

 

Crickets? Crikey!

‘For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,’ declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” ~ Isaiah 41:13-14
When I was a young girl my mom sang in the church choir. She would have choir practice at the church one evening per week. While she was practicing, I was left with the other kids to entertain ourselves. This usually involved a lot of running, going places around the church we weren’t allowed in and being very noisy. We were hollered at repeatedly. Sometimes, when our behavior was too disruptive, we would have to sit in a pew and observe the entire practice. Being a high energy 10-year-old forced to sit still and be quiet was challenging, boring and downright awful. Considering I was benched on a church pew a handful of times I wasn’t only hyperactive and noisy, I was also a slow learner.
One particular cause for disruption was centered around crickets. During certain times of the year, the sidewalks and other areas of the church had an abundance of the big black yucky jumping beasts. By big I mean they were probably 1 inch in size! But let’s be real-that is BIG for a bug, right?!
I have no idea who devised the evil plan but at some point during cricket season the boys in our group decided throwing these bugs at us girls would be their source of entertainment for the evening. Each girl scream prompted boy laughter. It became a disruptive cycle that was definitely heard over the church organ and choir vocals. It was also an event that got some of us, including myself, stuck in a pew for the next choir practice. Cricket throwing was so entertaining that it occurred on multiple occasions.
One of the best pieces of advice my mother gave me was centered around this event. She had grown quite frustrated with the situation and me for disrupting choir practice. One day she said to me, “They only throw crickets at you to get a reaction from you. If you don’t react they’ll eventually quit throwing them.” Being a head strong child determined to do her own thing, I didn’t always take my mother’s advice or listen to her rules. But I did this time. In fact, I went a step further with it. When the boys threw crickets at me, I didn’t scream. I picked those nasty bugs up and threw them right back. I threw them back for my own defense and in defense of the other girls (who by the way we’re still screaming and running away.) My momma was right. When those boys saw I wasn’t scared anymore, they stopped throwing crickets.
The enemy uses fear the same way those boys did, to get a reaction from us. He uses repeated situations and circumstances to keep us afraid. He throws things like rejection, conflict, busyness, failure, exhaustion, and defeat that cause us to scream, cry, argue, become depressed, feel anxious, and even develop recurring health problems that disrupt our lives and relationships. If we’re not careful, we can become enslaved to what we fear and misinterpret people’s words and actions. We can actually expect what we fear.
God is not a spirit of fear. He does not bring rejection, anxiety, depression or defeat. Repeatedly He tells us He is on our side and He will deliver us from the hands of our true enemy. God did not make us to be His puppets but when we give into fear, we allow satan to be our puppet master. Repeatedly God’s word says “DO NOT FEAR.”
Just like those boys, satan will keep throwing fear at us as long as he can get a reaction. The best way to defeat him is to throw the fear back.
Are you wrestling with rejection? Remind yourself that in Genesis God said “It is not good for man to be alone…” and in Ecclesiastes He said again, “Two are better than one…” Psalm 68:6 begins with “God settles the lonely in families…” God does not call us to journey life alone. He gifts us with families, friendships, church bodies, and other relationships to do life with. Families aren’t always biological but I know from experience that God can gift us with people who feel more like family than our own blood relation.
Worried about your relationship? Stand on God’s truth and tell satan he can’t have it. Worried about your children? Guess what! They were God’s before they were yours. Remind satan to Whom they really belong to and that he cannot have them. Worried about your job? God gave it to you and only He has the power to take it away. But He promises to always take care of us.
No matter what your fear is, God has scripture to combat it. Scripture and prayer are the best weapons to throw at the enemy. Every time you worry, experience racing thoughts, feel so anxious you physically feel like vomiting, pray, get into God’s word, google “verses for fear, rejection, anxiety, etc.”, read a devotional or several at a time or listen to songs that remind you of His deliverance. If you’re able to, profess aloud God’s ultimate power and control and His ability to conquer our enemy.
It’s been 30+ years since I had a cricket thrown at me. But they still make me scream. Just this morning one jumped on and at me invoking a high pitched squeal to come from my voice box multiple times. It literally felt like the cricket was attacking me. Every time it jumped, I jumped and squealed. This went on until it made its escape underneath my kitchen island. I looked for it to kill it but it found safety in a secret hiding place.
This morning’s event reminded me not only how we can become enslaved to fear but how small our fears really are when we measure them up to our God. A black cricket is typically no bigger than the size of a peanut shell. I am over five feet tall. I have the power to crush this bug with my bare hands (although I wouldn’t for the simple fact that bug guts on my fingers would gross me out!) Yet fear gave the bug power over me. Rejection and other debilitating fears are just as tiny when compared to God’s power and His promises. God is in control and He promises to squash our enemy like a bug some day. But He also gives us the authority to squash the enemy too. Luke 10:19 tells us this; ““Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you.”
The next time satan throws fear at you, throw back scripture, prayer and God’s truth. Watch the enemy get squashed like a bug, scorpion or snake! God is in control and His power makes us powerful and fearless. Do not be afraid!
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A Memory Verse

When I was a child attending Sunday School and Vacation Bible Schools, often I was given the assignment of memorizing and reciting verses. I was even on a team that competed against other church youth groups that involved memorizing specific Bible passages in order to answer trivia like questions. I didn’t take any of it seriously unless it involved winning a prize. Memorizing scripture just wasn’t an interest of mine back then.

As an adult I’ve participated in Bible studies that encouraged scripture memorization also. This time I worked harder at reading and re-reading verse sets in order to have them permanently written down in my mental Rolodex. But to this day there are only a few verses I can repeat from memory. Most verses I cite end up being a paraphrased version and I rarely remember the book/chapter I found them in. Thank God, literally, for Google. I rely on it greatly when I’m blogging or just have a fragment of a verse in my mind and want to know all of it and it’s reference in the Bible.

But what about verses that trigger certain memories? Have you experienced this before? Perhaps when you’re struggling and don’t know what to do, the Lord sends you Proverbs 3:5-6 reminding you to trust in Him, not leaning on your own understanding, acknowledge Him and knowing He will make your path straight. Perhaps when the battle seems impossible or too brutal to keep fighting God sends you Exodus 14:14 reminding you that He is fighting for you so stay calm and be still. Maybe you struggle with body image and the Lord sends you Psalms 139:14 to remind you that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Maybe He even delivers verses through a specific friend and whenever you see that verse it reminds you of that special person.

What do you do with those kinds of “memory” verses? If they’re reminding you of who you are in Christ-you praise Him. If they’re reminding you of God’s abilities-you stand on His truth, get out of His way and trust He is fighting for you. If they remind you of a specific person, you pray for them.

Two years ago, I received Isaiah 43:2 from a friend as part of a goodbye message. Today, that verse showed up in my Bible app once again. It prompted me to reread the conversation that took place between us. In it, we both promised to continuously pray for each other. If I’m being honest, I haven’t been faithful in keeping that promise. So today, I am praying and restoring that promise. God is a man of His word and made me to be a woman who keeps her word also. Today, I pray that when this friend goes through deep waters they remember that God is with them. When they travel through rivers of difficulty, I pray they are at peace knowing God will not let them drown. When they walk through fires of oppression I pray they know God will not let them be burned up nor will they be consumed by the flames. Lastly I pray they are saturated in God’s truth, wisdom and grace knowing who they are in Him, trusting in Him with all their heart, leaning on His understand, not their own, and being still knowing He is fighting for them. In Jesus’ name, Amen! Who is God reminding you to pray for today?💜

Better than Mr. Clean

“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7

For several summers I have cleaned a 5 bedroom lake house that is rented by the week for families to vacation together.  Each Saturday I’m scheduled, the owners and myself have five hours to launder linens, change bedding, dust furniture, wash windows, clean bathrooms, maintain the lawncare and so much more.  Each Saturday we take a well vacationed home and turn it into a brand new adventure for the next arrival.  It’s amazing what we can do in the limited time when we roll up our sleeves and determine to make it shine for the new renters.

Yesterday was no exception.  As I headed upstairs preparing to clean four out of the five bedrooms,  I turned on Pandora.  Music always helps me work more diligently.  Perhaps I learned that from the Seven Dwarfs-they did love to “whistle while they worked” didn’t they? Francesca Battistelli’s “Beautiful Beautiful” was just starting.  The song opens with these lyrics:

“Don’t know how it is you looked at me

“and saw the person that I could be…”

After the first verse, she bellows these lyrics in the chorus:

“Like sunlight burning at midnight,

“making my life something so beautiful, beautiful…”

This is one of my favorite songs that depict a beautiful image of redemption.  As I listened I couldn’t help but compare the work I do as a cleaning lady (job number 3 that I work) to how Jesus cleans up our lives.  I spend my Saturdays cleaning up somebody else’s mess in preparation for someone else to come in and mess it up again.  Jesus gave up His very life to clean up our messes knowing we would mess up again.

As a cleaning lady, I’ve faced my share of dirt and stains that were difficult to remove.  Some in fact I couldn’t get out at all.  I’ve seen bedding and walls colored on, stoves covered in thick grease, etc.  In fact, the kitchen counter of the house I clean had a stain on it that seemed impossible to remove and had been there for a few years.  One day I bought a new organic cleaner and asked the owners if I could try it out on that stain.  With their approval, I sprayed the cleaner on the stain and let it sit for a few seconds.  Scrubbed a little and wiped it away.  It wasn’t removed but it had become a little lighter.  So, I sprayed again and let the cleaning solution sit longer.  Scrubbed and wiped again to find it was almost completely gone.  The third time was the charm and the stain was completely gone.

Like the organic cleaner’s ability to remove that impossible countertop stain, Jesus can remove every single sin stain our lives display.  Did you not save your virtue for marriage?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Were you unfaithful to your marriage?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Did you lie and cheat your way to success?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Did you catfish someone or many others?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Are you addicted to sex, drugs and/or alcohol?  Jesus can wipe those sins away too.  Do you struggle with anger, rage and unforgiveness?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Are you a womanizer or a man-hater? Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Have you attempted to fill voids with toxic relationships, loveless sex or other self destructive behaviors?  Are you addicted to pornography?  Jesus can wipe it all away.  No matter the mistakes you’ve made, the mistakes you continue to make or the mistakes you will make, Jesus’ death wiped every sin away.

You are not the stains of your mistakes. Our enemy uses our mistakes to keep us locked up in sin, despair and drudgery.  We beat ourselves up for repeating the past.  We continue to chase after dead end relationships, we argue with the toxic person in our lives and we harbor unforgiveness toward those who’ve hurt us.  We can even fall into the trap of not praying for our enemies.  We can’t enjoy the life Jesus wants for us because we can’t see past our stains.  We buy into the lies of our enemy and choose to remain stained.  We live rejected and therefore reject the love of others because we believe we are too damaged to ever be loved again.  We live like a garment so muddied it’s not even worth donating to Goodwill and ultimately ends up in the trash.

Just like cleaning that seasonal summer home takes time to clean so it goes with Jesus’ cleansing for us.  There’s no magic wand waved, there are no fingers snapped and poof we are magically cleaned.  It took three times of spraying cleaner on that countertop to completely remove the stain.  Jesus’ cleansing is a similar three-step process and it begins with confession.  1 John 1:9 states it perfectly: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  If we want to stop living like stained rejects and damaged goods, we have to be honest with Jesus and ourselves.  We have to admit our mistakes, confess how we’ve been living and confess the mindset we’ve been living in.  Very similar to an alcoholic beginning their road to sobriety by admitting they are addicted to alcohol.

The second step is forgiveness.  We have to seek His forgiveness, possibly seek others’ forgiveness, forgive ourselves and forgive those who have hurt us.  That too is not something that happens overnight or instantaneously.  Forgiveness is a lifetime practice of choosing to acknowledge the wound, let go of it and allow Jesus to heal it. Forgiveness is also about trusting Jesus to vindicate us rather than seeking out our own revenge.  I have always been one who is quick to defend myself.  One of the hardest verses I’ve had to learn to stand on is Exodus 14:14-trusting God to fight for me and choosing instead to just be still.  Forgiveness is like being on the battlefield with arrows pointed at you and choosing to stand still, unarmed, trusting that God is avenging you. No matter how badly you want to throw an arrow back, you instead, choose to lay it down.

The final step in Jesus’ cleansing process is healing.  If we want to be made clean, we have to let Jesus heal us.  That can be the most painful part of the process.  If you’re like me, you’ve let your mistakes define you to the point that it’s become your identity.  When you look in the mirror all you can see is brokenness looking back at you.  People continue to build you up but you just throw their building blocks back at them.  Being broken has become your comfort zone and being healed just feels like an open door to get hurt all over again.  But God did not make us to be a broken people.  We are His light to the world.  A broken light bulb cannot shine into others’ darkness.  It can only exude more darkness.  If you’re living in brokenness, you know too well how dark and lonely that kind of living truly is.  We attract what we are.  If we are living as damaged goods, we will attract the same mind set which only seeks us deeper into despair.  When we walk in His healing, instead of attracting more brokenness, we can become His tool in healing others.

To become His light, we have to open the wounds and allow Jesus to scrub away the stains.  Depending on how stubbornly we hold on to any specific stain will determine how uncomfortable and lengthy the process can be.  If you’ve made brokenness your comfort zone it’s going to feel like jumping off a high platform into an unknown abyss when you finally choose to let Jesus heal you.  But when you do, your light will shine again, you will be a lighthouse to someone else’s darkness and you will see Jesus as the Mr. Clean who washed you white as snow! Confess your sins, forgive yourself and others.  Close your eyes and metaphorically jump into His healing.  When you open your eyes and look into the mirror again, you will see the man or woman Jesus truly made you to be!

Nautical Naughtiness

“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.”

2 Peter 3:17

In my country, July 4th is a national holiday known as Independence Day.  It’s a day that is celebrated with parades, picnics, barbecues, beach days, boating and of course fireworks.  Everywhere you look American flags and  red, white and blue decorations adorn homes, streets, businesses and even people.  It’s a day the US celebrates becoming its own country, independent of another country’s governing.

In my family, we have a traditional Independence Day celebration.  It’s a small gathering of cousins and their children.  We attend a parade, enjoy a cook-out, relax at the beach and end the day reveling at the firework show.  There is an annual festival going on with many events and we tend to find ourselves exploring vendors and enjoying the whatever entertainment is performing in the park.  There are always a few stressful moments but overall it’s a very enjoyable day.

This year, after the cook-out, I took my daughter and three nieces to the beach.  The lake is very shallow and my younger nieces went out quite a distance before the water was even near their bellies.  Being a “nervous Nelly” when it comes to water safety, I would call out to my nieces and motion for them to come back in.  This of course was no fun to them because they would inevitably end up swimming in very shallow water.  After seeing one of my nieces express some frustration, I explained that I was only trying to keep them safe.  As far out as they had previously gone, if they ended up in danger, it would have taken me too long to get to them from the shore.  After a brief storm interrupted our beach time, we found a happy medium for distance in the water that we could all live with.

As evening approached and only a few short hours until fireworks time, the rest of my family arrived.  This crew included my nephews who are seven, five and three.  Because the temps were cooling off, the sun was setting and fireworks would start at dusk, my nephews were not permitted to go swimming.  In fact, when everyone else arrived, my nieces changed into dry clothes as all swimming had come to an end for the day.  That was, until my three-year-old nephew decided to walk right into the lake.

Keep in mind, this is a very shallow lake.  Thankfully that meant no drop offs anywhere around him that put him in immediate danger.  His mother, seeing what her son was doing, called out his name and told him to stop.  He did not listen.  She called again and he continued walking into the water.  Another adult family member headed to the water to get him.  My nephew turned around wearing a giant grin on his face and continued to walk backward farther into the water as my cousin slowly walked toward him.  My nephew’s mother continued to tell him to stop but alas, he did not listen.  Reading his face, it looked as though he thought his uncle was playing a game with him and he was determined to not get caught.

Just before he went under the water, my cousin grabbed a hold of my nephew and carried him to shore.  He was greeted by his momma who was wearing a very serious, concerned and unhappy look on her face.  As he looked as his momma, that big smile turned to a frown.  He lowered his head and in a soft, sweet toddler voice he said, “Sorry momma.”  As I am one who tends to find these moments funny when it’s not my own child disobeying, I jumped up and took a photo of the very moment he became apologetic.  All in all, his clothes were soaked but he was kept safe from going under water.

As this scenario played out, and especially as I watched my nephew’s facial expressions turn from joy, mischievousness and then to remorse and regret, I thought about God’s parenting and our own sinful natures.  If we are honest with ourselves, we can be certain to recall a time or many where we looked God in the eye, heeded His warnings, possibly flashed a cheeky grin and walked directly into a dangerous and sinful situation.  It doesn’t have to be something as drastic as three-year-old ignoring his mother’s warnings and walking into a lake where he could’ve drown.  It could be something as easy as overeating, overspending, having sex before marriage, telling a lie or a handful of lies, etc.  It could be something more destructive like being married, forming a friendship with a member of the opposite sex, heeding God’s warnings about getting too close and crossing lines into an emotional and/or physical affair.

There are times we face sinful choices and like the situation with my nephew, God steps in just before we’re about to go under water.  There are other times though, God chooses not to intercede but instead waits to piece us back together as you or I self destruct.  With that self-destruction comes collateral damage to ourselves and others that isn’t always fixed.  Relationships can be destroyed and God’s redeeming love doesn’t always restore them.  Some decisions we make can be life changers or life enders.  That’s why God calls out to us yelling, “STOP!” It’s our fault we get into deep water when we choose to ignore God’s warnings.

No matter what type of sin it is, ignoring God’s warning signs will always lead to negative consequences.  When walking through those consequences, that cheeky grin we once displayed turns upside down as we are burdened with remorse and regret.  Thankfully, God’s mercy and grace mean we do not have to live in an eternal state of regret.  Yes we will make mistakes.  Some may even forever change us.  But we don’t have to let our mistakes define or govern us.  We can have our own “independence day” celebrating the freedom God’s love and forgiveness brings-freedom from guilt and shame.

God’s redeeming love covers all of our mistakes.  He is our foghorn when we face temptation.  He is our lifeboat when find ourselves in deep waters.  He is our guiding light when were shipwrecked and lost.  He forgives us as soon as we say, “Sorry Abba” just as my nephew’s mother forgave him immediately when he sought forgiveness too.  If you’re in deep waters today, God can still save you.  All you have to do is cry out for help and trust Him.  If you’re struggling with a regretful past, swim away from the under toe of shame and know that you are forgiven.  If you’re facing a temptation today, listen to God yelling, “STOP!”, heed His warning and walk out of the deep water you’re about to enter.  Walking in obedience may feel like swimming in shallow water but there’s no chance of drowning when you’re right where God can save you.

No matter how enticing the enemy is making temptation look, it will not bring you the joy and satisfaction you’re longing for.  Obedience to God’s word is the only joy that will truly satisfy you. Walking in obedience may not always feel fun or joyful but living with a lifetime of regret from sinful choices is far less enjoyable that doing life God’s way.   I’m writing from experience on this one for sure!

 

STOP DEFENDING YOURSELF!

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only be silent.” Exodus 14:14

Ever argue with a narcissist or someone who has extreme hatred toward you? The arguments tend to look this: The hater is very accusatory, demanding and threatening. Their accusations usually come out of nowhere. You feel stunned by such a sucker punch (metaphorically speaking) and backed into a corner. While your head is spinning from the lies being hurled at you your immediate nature to defend yourself kicks in. This only fuels your accuser to push back harder and in the end you’re left wondering if what they’ve said about you is actually RIGHT?!

I have had my share of said arguments both personally and professionally. Each time I’ve felt a deep hurt and confusion asking myself why someone could say such things, tell such lies or treat me the way they did. I would turn to God in prayer seeking truth but also seeking justice. More often than not, I would get the message to just be silent and let God fight this battle.

I’m a woman of many words. I have a sarcastic sense of humor and am very quick witted. Growing up my momma would say “Her mouth will get her into trouble someday.” And it has, far too many times. Obviously, God’s “be silent and let Me take care of this” answer has never been an easy one for me to follow. In fact, there were times that this answer infuriated me. It’s not easy to let someone slash your character and remain silent. It’s taken much practice and I’ve still a long ways to go. When I put silence into practice, this is what happens:

  1. My accuser cannot argue with me if I’m not saying anything back.
  • 2. My accuser can hurl harsh words at me but those words can only deeply hurt me if I let them.
  • 3. My accuser cannot define my character. Only God can.
  • 4. Silence allows me to listen to my accuser, think about what’s being said and decipher between truth and lies.
  • 5. Silence is a form of humility. Defense is a form of pride.
  • 6. God is faithful and always keeps His promises. If He says He’s fighting for me, I believe Him even when I can’t see His work in action.
  • 7. For every verbal tearing down I’ve experienced, God has sent someone to build me back up.
  • Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: I’ve seen two movies recently where refusal to argue (a form of silence) was put into action. Both of these scenarios stood out to me as signs of true humbleness. Here’s the scenario of one of them: In the ending of this movie two women, who’s friendship had ended over a man, cross paths. One is carrying the man’s shirts that were just picked up from the dry cleaners. The other notices and says; “I bought him that shirt!” The other says nothing but then apologizes for hurting her. Instead of accepting the apology, the jilted woman responds with “you were always jealous of me, even when I was accepted to Notre Dame.” Now if you’ve seen this movie you would know that a discussion takes place earlier between the woman who ends up with the man and another person. Basically they draw a conclusion that the jilted woman actually lied about being accepted to Notre Dame. At the moment she then calls her ex-friend out on jealousy, the other woman could’ve called her out on the lie but instead responds (in a soft caring tone) with, “you’re right…”
  • The jealousy statement was an open door for the accused to defend herself but she chose to let her accuser think she was right instead.
  • If you’re character is being attacked right now, if you’re battling with a narcissist perhaps or just being bombard with false accusations take courage in knowing that you’re not alone in this kind of battle. Saul hated David and hurled a spear at him. Jezebel hated Elijah and hunted for him. The Pharisees hated Jesus and nailed Him to a cross. Even Judas sold Jesus out. Just like God fought for and protected David, Elijah and Jesus, He is fighting for and protecting you. God knows the outcome of your circumstance and no matter what, He IS fighting for you (and me.) When your accusers rise up, be silent and let God fight the battle for you.
  • O Death, Where Is Your Sting?

    This week I watched my mom and her siblings walk a heart breaking journey that ended with saying goodbye to their younger sister. At 57 years young, my aunt lost her battle with lung cancer. Her final days were spent in a hospital, hooked up to a machine that aided her breathing surrounded by family who hoped, prayed and waited for a miracle.

    Some will look back and think that God did not answer our prayer. Some may even get angry with God. The day before she passed, I found myself questioning God’s purpose in her suffering. But God is always faithful and instead of doubting Him, I chose to cling to my faith. I chose to trust Him confessing that His ways are not my ways. He called her Home the very next day.

    God’s timing is always perfect. My aunt had been on a ventilator since Sunday evening and didn’t pass away until Thursday afternoon. She passed away on her mother’s birthday. Her mother, my grandmother, passed away in 1987. I believe the timing of my aunt’s death was God’s way of reminding us that as a believer, death can be something to celebrate. What a blessed birthday present my grandmother received this year welcoming her baby girl into Eternity!

    In our humanness, we will grieve. My mom and her siblings as well as my aunt’s children will most long for my aunt to still be on this side of Heaven-not suffering, but still living. But in our faith we can rejoice through the sadness, celebrate through the heartbreak and be reassured that my aunt did get her miracle. God did heal her. Rather than heal her here, He chose to heal her with perfection.

    The day my Aunt died, I woke up with two thoughts-The first was this: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” I Corinthians 15:55. The second was the song No Matter What by Kerrie Roberts. The chorus kept swirling in my mind.

    “No matter what! I’m gonna love you. No matter what! I’m gonna need you. I know that you can find a way to keep me from the pain but if not (if not), I’ll trust you. No matter what!”

    The best way to walk through grief is to know that death has no victory over us and to choose to trust God even when we don’t understand His ways.

    Be blessed and please keep my family, primarily my mom, her siblings and my aunt’s children in your prayers as they grieve my aunt’s Earthly absence and experience this side of life without her.

    Stainless

    “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

    Psalms 51:2

    I am neurotic about clothing stains.  If I catch one on my clothing before I leave my house, I will quickly change into something else that is stain free before facing the public.  If I spill something on myself during the day I will do my best to get the stain out or try to make it unseen.  I will also obsess over it fearing people can see it or worrying that the clothing item is ruined because of the stain.  I count it a great success when I am able to launder the item and permanently remove the stain.

    My son is a three sport athlete.  Throughout the year he busies himself with american football, basketball and baseball.  Two of three sports are notorious for creating many stains on his uniforms.  It’s most challenging when his uniform is white.  Within in minutes of a game his jersey and/or pants are adorn with grass and mud stains.  I’ve spent many late nights soaking uniforms and buying all kinds of stain remover sprays to return the uniform back to its unblemished look.  Again, I’m usually successful but sometimes, the stain simply doesn’t wash out.

    Sin is an ugly stain we walk in daily.  God sent His son to cleanse us from all sin but we still struggle with the stain of sin every day.  Christians are not free of trials, tribulations and most definitely not from temptation.   We have an enemy who waits and watches just looking for the perfect opportunity to lead us into sin.  Some believers even have strongholds they continue to be slaves to even after choosing Christ and saying the prayer of Salvation.  Just like an impossible stain on a clothing item, a stronghold can seem like an impossible stain of sin in our lives.

    Jesus’ blood is the ultimate stain remover.  1 John 1:7 explains it this way; “…if we walk in the Light as He Himself is the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  Christ’s blood was shed to cleanse us from every sin possible.  He died before you and me ever existed.  In a sense, Christ’s crucifixion was a pre-treatment sort of scotch guard that doesn’t protect us from sin but protects us from the stain walking in sin brings. Even though we are born into a sinful world, every sin stain is removed when we give our lives to the One who died to save us.

    Here’s a better explanation.  Imagine salvation like a white fur coat.  You’re so in love with this fur coat that you don’t save it for special occasions, you proudly adorn yourself with it every day.  After all, Christ does call us to take up our crosses and live out our salvation daily.  Satan is like a fur protester waiting and watching to throw red paint all over your fur coat while your running errands, heading to work or engaging in some other ordinary routine part of your day.  I’m not a dry cleaner, but I cannot fathom that red paint all over a white fur coat would be easy if even possible to remove.

    That’s what satan wants for our lives, to be so stained in sin and strongholds that we think it’s impossible for Jesus to ever wash us clean.  When we are in this mindset, we feel hopeless, ruined and beyond repair.  If we think Jesus can’t fix us or make us clean, how will ever strive to seek Him or walk in His ways?  How can we ever recover from mistakes and addictions if we believe we cannot be saved.  The enemy uses sin and strongholds to fool us into believing God cannot and will not redeem us.

    How do we combat the enemy’s lies?  Very similar to how we combat clothing stains. With the best stain removing tool out there.  In the Christian world, our best stain remover is God’s word.  The Bible is full of promises that remind us of what He has done and how He cleanses us from all our sins. In fact, that’s exactly what 1 John 1:9 tells us: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of all our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  Unrighteousness is a stain that God promises to purify (cleanse) us from.  Isaiah 43:25 explains it even better; “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

    Stain removers for clothing have come a long way.  There’s even a laundry stick called Tide To-Go that one can apply to clothing as soon as something is spilled in an effort to be proactive in preventing a stain.  In faith we don’t have a Tide to Go, but we do have a God to go to every time we are tempted to sin (stain prevention), when we get caught up in sin (similar to a coffee stain on a shirt sleeve after accidentally spilling it on yourself) and especially with every stronghold we are chained to (those continuous sins we can’t seem to get free from.)

    Just like with clothing stains, we can be proactive against sin stains too.  For clothing, we may carry a stain stick for anticipated spills.  For sin, we can carry our Bible, download a bible app to our smart phones and tablets and especially memorize scripture.  To combat the enemy’s attacks and in anticipation for whatever “red paint” he throws our way, standing on God’s word and reciting the right scripture will protect us from being permanently stained.  If you’re struggling with the idea that God cannot fix you, buy yourself a Tide to Go and on the back side of the package, write down Isaiah 43:25.  Carry it with you and confess it aloud as often as it takes for you to believe that Jesus made you stainless!

    What’s Your Worth?

    “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

    Colossians 1:13-14

     

    In today’s world people are desperate to feel valued and scrambling to find their worth.  Popular magazines write articles about value and self-love.  There is a plethora of self help books covering this same topic.  Music apps are full of songs with lyrics revolving around finding one’s worth.

    There are many ways people define their worth too.  Some chase after success.  If they are successful in their career, their relationships, athleticism, etc. they feel worthy. Others define their worth solely in romantic relationships.  If they’re dating or married, that means someone loves them and that person’s love, makes them feel worthy.  Then there are those who define their worth in their looks.  Physical fitness, perfectly coiffed hair, daily make-up regimes that are professional grade and wearing designer labels makes them feel as valuable as a rare diamond.

    Working hard and having a successful career is a good thing. Being a top performing athlete is a great thing.  Doing the work for a steady and trustworthy relationship is definitely something to celebrate.  Even taking care of your body and valuing how you look is important.  But-none of those things make you anymore or any less valuable that someone else.  That is a sentence that may be quite upsetting for some to read.  Upsetting or not, the truth is, success, marriage, dating, having a super model body, even being an Olympian athlete, does not make you any more valuable than someone who doesn’t work, isn’t into sports, may be overweight and perhaps single, divorced or in a bad relationship.

    We wear ourselves out placing our worth in material things and in human beings.  When our worth is defined through the success of our business, what happens when that business fails or we lose our job?  Does that make us a failure?  Not at all.  When we define our worth in our relationship status, what happens when our spouse wants a divorce, our partner cheats on us or we’re chronically single for a decade?  Does being single with an empty date card make someone less valuable that a married couple who are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary?  I certainly hope not because personally, I’m on year nine of that “chronic singleness with an empty date card” path.  How about overweight people?  Are they less valuable than someone who works out hours a day twelve times a week and eats like a caveman? The answer again is NO.

    Defining our worth in things, status or relationship can lead us to feel unworthy when things don’t work out the way we think they should.  I am firm believer that suicide has been attempted and completed when someone is at their lowest point feeling unloved, unwanted and unworthy.  Young kids have taken their own lives after being told they should kill themselves by their peers.  Adults have killed themselves after being rejected by their spouse or lover.  There are others who have taken their lives after losing their business or career. When we lose what we think defines are value and worth it’s inevitable that we are going to wrestle with despair and feel lost.  It’s also inevitable that we will believe we aren’t valued or worth anything. People struggle to choose life when they feel they are have no worth.

    Personally, I am guilt of defining my worth in my career, relationship status and my physical appearance.  I worked a dead end job for 10 years and felt completely devalued on a daily basis.  I have been dumped more times than I count and tend to chase after the guy who only sees value in what my body can give him or wants to control me.  I have felt more worthless in a few romantic relationships than I have felt these last few years of singlehood.  Physically I have struggled with weight gain for years and am currently at my heaviest weight I’ve ever been (even heavier than when I was 9 months pregnant with both of my children.)  I look in the mirror and see minimal glimpses of my youth but more and more changes that occur when one is considered “middle aged.”  I dress to hide all the bulges that are present with being overweight and out of shape.   I have spent many years feeling completely worthless.

    If success, relationships and our physical appearance do not define us, what or who does?  There are only two things in life that can define worth. One is the dictionary.  According to Google, worth is defined as “the value equivalent to that of someone or something under consideration, the level at which someone or something deserves to be valued or rated.” Deserving is the key concept in that definition.  Worth is dependent upon what is deserved.  This definition makes it natural to get caught up in the idealogy that we get what we deserve so if we are getting failure, rejection and heartache, we must’ve done something to deserve it.

    The second definer of worth would disagree.  The other definer of worth is God.  His definition of worth is simply this, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

    God is the defines our worth because He is our creator.  He created space, Earth, the planets and galaxies, the sun, moon and stars, and every creature that roams the Earth, including you and me.  When an artist creates a painting, they know how much the supplies cost and how much sweat and tears went into making the artistic piece. Thus, they can set a price for it because they created it.  The same goes for you and me.  Because God created us, He knows us inside and out.  He defines our worth and sets a value to each of us.  The price He set for us is this-while we were still sinners, He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for you and for me. (Romans 5:8)  Christ’s death and resurrection is was the ultimate sacrifice made for those who live before Jesus, walk with Jesus and for those (including you and me) who came along after Jesus.

    The Bible is full of examples of God’s love, deliverance and redemption.  No greater story defines exactly what we mean to our Heavenly Father than Jesus’ crucifixion.  Christ was nailed to cross and crucified in order that we can be cleansed from all sin and spend eternity with Him. Second Corinthians 5:21 explains it best, “God made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God.”

    If you belong to God, you are His pride and joy.  His love for you is endless and He pursues you daily. Your worth is defined in Him and Him alone.  There is nothing, not your past, not your definition of failures, NOTHING, that can separate you from His love. (Romans 8:38)  If you don’t yet belong to Him, I pray this message moves you to seek more about Him, His love for you and exactly how He defines you. I want to encourage you to attend a Easter church service or watch a sermon on YouTube to learn more about Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection.  I pray you choose Him, become a believer and seek His truths.  But whether you know God already or not, know this-whenever you feel worthless or devalued, God says you are more precious than rubies (Proverbs 31:10) and He thinks you are to die for!

    From my family to yours, Happy Easter.  May God’s redeeming love penetrate your heart and His love overflow in you and through you today and always.