Calming Life’s Storm

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”  Psalm 27:13 NIV

In the midst of a world pandemic we are surrounded by scary statistics, rising death tolls, overcrowded hospitals, limited medical supplies, etc.  We’re told the safest place to be is home.  People wear masks and other personal protection equipment when they have to go to public places.  Personally, I have even resorted to “washing” my groceries before bringing them in the house.  Why?  Because our world is fighting against the spread of a scary and unpredictable virus that continues to wreak havoc and steals our hope and our freedoms.

Life, as we know it, has been put on pause for an indefinite time period.  People have temporarily lost their jobs due to businesses closing down.  High school seniors lost the last few months of their high school careers because school buildings closed in mid-March and have been ordered to remain closed for the duration of the school year.  Spring athletes like baseball players and track stars will have no season this year.  Weddings have been cancelled or rescheduled.  Family gatherings are halted.  Grandparents can’t see their grandchildren except through their picture window or via video technology.  It’s as if the world itself has stopped turning and is standing still on its axle.

For many, this sudden change in lifestyle, cancellation of plans and loss of  tradition has brought much despair.  Others wrestle with anxiety while trying to hold their family together with little or no income.  Still for others it brings anger, resentment, sadness and even fear.   Watching TV or scrolling through social media only adds to these emotions due to the barrage of false and overly exaggerated information that pours through both media channels.  Even in the comfort of our homes we cannot escape the eerie silence and chaotic noise of COVID-19.  It’s almost like that dreary calm in nature when the skies are dark and the trees are motionless just before the madness strikes as a destructive storm blows through.

I can imagine the disciples knew that exact dread and fear when their boat sailed right into a deadly storm.  Mark 4:37 describes it as a “furious squall…that broke the waves over the boat making them nearly swamped.” (NIV)  I  imagine twelve men scurrying around, panicked doing everything that can to keep the boat from sinking.  Although verse 38 tells us they ran to Jesus asking Him to save them, based on their history of unbelief, I think they tried to save themselves before running to Jesus.  Here’s the kicker of this story.  Jesus was in the stern, SLEEPING!  When the disciples woke Him, He stood up, “rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ (verse 39) Then He said to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

I think Jesus could be asking Christians of today’s world these same two questions-Why are we so afraid?  Do we still have NO faith?  Does His word mean nothing to us when we need it most?  Jesus reminds us in John 16:33 that “in this world [we] will have trouble. But take heart! [Jesus] has over come the world.”  In Deuteronomy 31:6, God told His chosen people to “be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.  He will not leave you or forsake.”

We do not have to be afraid or in dread of a deadly disease.  We can be at peace through this tumultuous whirlwind the Coronavirus has brought upon us.  We do not have to entertain anger, despair, grief or fear.  We can choose joy, gladness, gratitude and hope.  How? Taking His word for the very truth that it is and standing on scripture that combats every negative emotion that floods our spirits.

Are you angry because your plans have been ruined and you feel stuck at home?  God’s word says “…human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:20.  Ecclesiastes 7:9 warns to “not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”  Instead of anger, God tells us to “Consider it pure joy…whenever we face trials of many kinds because…the testing of [our] faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3 NIV)  We combat anger with choosing joy.

Are you anxious because you’ve lost your job, maybe have no income and unsure how you will meet your family’s basic needs?  God is our Provider.  In fact, in Matthew 6: 25-27 (NIV), we are told this; “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body…is not life more than food…? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet [our] Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are [we] not of more value than [those birds]? Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Worrying doesn’t grow a money tree or put food on your table.  But prayer and faith can.  We don’t have to have big faith either, just the faith the size of a mustard seed.  Isn’t that ironic?

Have the cancellation of milestone events (graduations, weddings, etc.) left you grieving what you or your loved one are missing out on?  Are you crumpled in a pit of despair?  Grab on to hope and don’t let go.  1 Peter 5:10 promises us this: “The God of all grace, who called [us] to His eternal glory in Christ, after [we] have suffered a little while, will Himself restore [us] and make [us] strong, firm and steadfast.” Milestone events may not happen exactly as were planned or even in the traditional manner we looked forward to.  But that doesn’t mean they will not happen.

If it’s a part of God’s plan, it will happen.  Sarah and Abraham are the perfect example of that.  Sarah’s dream of becoming a mother fell to the wayside as she grew to be past the child bearing age.  She “thought outside the box” even and tried manufacturing her own family using Haggar. But God’s plan was for Sarah to bear a child, not adopt one.  Even though Sarah laughed at God’s promise, Hebrews 11:11 tells us that “by faith…Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered Him faithful who made the promise.”  Sarah laughed at God-clearly her faith was the size of a mustard seed.  BUT-God is a god of His word and He always keeps His promises.

Lastly, have you been paralyzed by fear-fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of this virus itself?  Then memorize these scriptures and follow these commands!

     1.) “Do not fear..when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not [even] set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:1-2)

2.) “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified, do not be discourage for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

3.) “Tell everyone who is discouraged, be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” (Isaiah 35:4

4.) “Do not be afraid…The Lord your God Himself will fight for you.” (Deuteronomy 3:22)

5.)  “...do not be afraid, just believe.” (Mark 5:36)

God is in control.  God is bigger than COVID-19.  This pandemic did not surprise Him.  I do not know His “why” for this world crisis but as He tells us in Isaiah 55:8; His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways the same as our ways.  He doesn’t call us to find the “why” in every situation.  He calls us to trust Him and take Him at His word. He also calls us to obey His word.  Right now I believe, He is telling us to “Be still and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:10)

In the end of this terribly long pause, God will be exalted among the nations.  Until then, we can stave off anger, despair, grief and fear by  setting our minds on things above and turning off the earthly things.  When the news and social media posts feel like cataclysmic waves crashing into you life’s boat, remember these strategies and trust that just like he did for the disciples, Jesus is calming this life storm too.

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!