Find the David in You

“So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword.”

‭‭1 Samuel‬ ‭17:50‬ ‭NLT‬‬

There are times in our lives when we come against a mountainous Goliath. This person could come in the form of a school bully, a domineering spouse, a manipulative boss or even from a parent, sibling or close friend. Whatever form, they are a person who seeks to have power and control over you. They display an overwhelming strength that can be very intimidating. Your instinct is to want to fight them but fear, lack of resources perhaps or some other barrier keeps you from doing so. Maybe you do fight back but their coarse words or even physical strength leave you feeling even more defeated. You may cry out for help but no one seems to be willing to stand up to the giant. Maybe it feels as though God will never send help. I am confident David’s people knew exactly how that feels.

They prayed for God to send someone to defeat this overpowering beast who killed off anyone who even attempted to take him on. Day after day Goliath taunted the Israeli army. The Israelites shook in fear of him. I am confident they wondered where God was and how He was going to redeem them from the Philistines. God answered by sending David (who interestingly enough enters this story as a delivery boy checking up on his brothers.) if you’re familiar with the rest of the story then you know that David, the unlikely hero, overcomes the giant through God’s divine intervention.

When we read this story, it’s easy to pray for God to send us a “David” to triumph over our giants. I’ve prayed this prayer many times hoping God would conquer my giants the same way. But what if, God’s plan is to empower you and/or me to be our own Davids? What if ultimately we are the ones who will stand up and defeat those who seek to dominate us?

If you’re thinking in human terms, you could be wondering how that would even work? Maybe you’re thinking it’s impossible even. Jesus’ answer to that would be: “…Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew‬ ‭19:26‬ ‭NLT‬‬) Clearly though, if God wanted us to defeat our enemy it would’ve happened by now right? But what if it hasn’t happened simply because we’ve failed to take a stand, set boundaries and say “Enough is enough. I will not tolerate this anymore.” Think about this: the Israelites HID from Goliath. David ran toward him. The Israelites trembled when Goliath spoke. David responded to Goliath’s taunts with this: “…You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies…” (1 Samuel‬ ‭17:45‬ ‭NLT‬‬) Verse 46 begins with “Today the Lord will conquer you…” David’s secret weapon was His confident faith that he could fight this behemoth bully because God ultimately would be the driving force behind his victory! Even when others told him he couldn’t fight Goliath, David refuted their words by reminding them of how God had already protected him from brute wild animals who threatened the lives of his sheep.

David’s triumph over Goliath is a reminder of the warrior God has made each of us to be. We aren’t made to be prisoners of war or ladies in waiting locked away in a tower guarded by a dragon. We were made to be conquerors over all the real enemy throws at us including bullies, controllers, abusers, and overbearing people. How do we do that? How do we fight and become conquerors in our own trials and tribulations? Here are some useful tips I have been applying in my own life to become the David who defeats my giants.

1.) Set boundaries for yourself that protect you physically, emotionally and spiritually. This may look like telling someone not to speak to you a certain way but could also mean having to cut off total communication if the person continues to be demanding, abusive, harassing, or manipulative. This may also come in the form of police involvement or obtaining a personal protection order if the person’s actions violate your physical safety.

2.) Controllers do not like boundaries or being told what to do so once boundaries are set, expect backlash or retaliation. Do NOT tremble or cower from this. Be consistent in setting boundaries no matter how intimidating your controller becomes. Even if your heart is racing and fear tries to consume you, stand firm.

3.) Pray continuously and stand on Exodus 14:14. The Lord will fight for you, you need only to remain calm!

4.) If name calling or manipulation is the weapon of choice for your giant, do not feed into their lies. Stand on God’s truth and focus on what God says about you. Our enemies will never define us as good. They will always seek to be destructive because of their toxic make-up. That is their issue-don’t make it yours. God’s opinion of us supersedes any other, especially that of our enemies.

5.) Read the book of Psalms. David was taunted by more than one giant in his lifetime. Psalms is full of times he had to repeatedly remind himself of God’s victories in his life. Even when he feared for his own and was hiding in a cave from Saul David continued to praise God as a way of reminding himself that God would deliver him once again. (Psalms 57 and Psalms 142.)

6.) Don’t focus on your enemies’ actions. This gives them more power and can grow more fear, develop a root of bitterness and turn you toxic. Focus on God’s ability and His promise of deliverance. Praise Him in your storm.

7.) Seek our wise counsel but recognize what is and isn’t helpful. Before David met Goliath, Saul tried protecting him with armor that actually would’ve hindered David from defeating Goliath. Our friends and family can have the most meaningful intentions and still give us advice that, if followed, could set us back instead of bringing victory.

8.) Pray. Not just for protection and victory but for guidance, strength, endurance, wisdom, discernment and grace. No matter how awful our enemy is, God calls us to love and forgive them. This request is the hardest for me to practice in my own life so as I am praying for you, please pray for me in this regard especially.

9.) Don’t go down the rabbit hole of arguing with them (another weakness of mine.) This will only lead to giving them control over your emotions and leave you feeling defeated. If you have to communicate with them-stick to the facts and ignore every attempt they make to discredit you.

10.) If your Goliath is a boss or supervisor, remind yourself that you are working for the Lord. If their actions are creating a hostile workplace or coming in the form of harassment then you may need to enlist help from Human Resources or legal assistance. Laws were created to protect people from harassment in the workplace and more people need to stand on these laws.

No matter your circumstance or who your Goliath is, God will deliver you. Sometimes God will send a David to help us. But other times, He brings out the David within us to bring a victory that exceeds what we could ever imagine. If you’ve been battling a Goliath for a long time, it’s time to ask God to show you the David within you. Then trust God to deliver you from your Goliath by taking a stand, setting boundaries, praying and forgiving.

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The Wisdom of Motherhood

“Hear the instruction of your Father; do not forsake the law of your Mother!”

Proverbs 1:8

Today was Mother’s Day.  An obvious choice for a sermon, the minister preached on Proverbs 31.  However, the surprising theme of the message was not about women being the Wonder Woman described in this chapter (a woman most Christian women have compared themselves to more than once and most likely felt they could never measure up to-myself included.) Today’s theme was about wisdom and honoring women of valor because they are very wise women.

I was raised by a single mom.  When I read Proverbs 31 and compare it to my mom, honestly she measures up far better than I do.  If you read Proverbs 31 in a literal sense, my momma brings her husband (and others) good, not harm all the days of her life.  She knows how to select fabrics.  Growing up she sewed clothing for me and my dolls (we had matching outfits).  She made me dolls and crocheted versions of Care Bears.  To this day, she raises Alpacas and uses their fiber to make many beautiful things.  She is a very creative and talented woman.  I have never shared this passion with her and the only sewing I can do is repairing loose buttons and using iron tape to hem things.

“She gets up early and tends to her household.”  My mom was always the first one up, making sure my brother and I were ready for school or church and getting us to where we needed to go on time.  (Me-I’m always running late and my kiddos and I leave in a rush most days. In fact, today I woke them up late and they ended up having Hershey’s bars for breakfast and we were still two minutes late for church.) I am the first one up but I like to ease into my days enjoying the quietness of the morning while drinking a cup of coffee, some days reading my devotionals, other days reading a book.  My kids do get fed nutritious meals on a daily basis so don’t misinterpret the Hershey bars for breakfast statement.  That was a rare occasion and the chocolate bars were leftovers from the S’mores that were made at last night’s bonfire.

“She considers a field and buys it”-my mom has owned several homes and maintained them well.  She grew a few vegetable gardens and even knows how to can food items. She could make noodles from scratch.  I have no desire to own my home.  I tried helping my daughter grow a garden last year and I believe we managed to produce 2-3 tiny green tomatoes.  Nothing else bore any produce.  I do not have a green thumb-another thing I simply am not passionate about either.  I don’t think I’ve ever even attempted to make noodles from scratch either.

Something from Proverbs 31 my mom and I do have in common would be verse 20; “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”  My mom always had an open door for displaced people and stray animals.  Okay if I’m being honest, I was the kid who brought home every stray animal I came across but she never told me I couldn’t keep them. At one time, I had six pet cats (this was obviously before I discovered that I am in fact, allergic to cats-Ha! Ha!)  My friends always knew they were welcome in our home.  In fact, some spent time at my house when we weren’t even home.  There were many occasions that family members, for various reasons, lived with us.  Her generosity instilled in me a passion to someday be a key player in implementing homeless to housed programs throughout my country and God willing, all over the world.

I could go on but I am guessing you get the gist of the kind of mom I was blessed with and the fact that I am fairly opposite of her.  Doesn’t make me a bad mom.  Just means I parent differently.  My kids still learn the things I am passionate about and what I am not skilled at teaching them, I rely on others to teach them.  I’m secure enough in my mothering to recognize my strengths and weaknesses and to no longer beat myself up when I make a mistake.  I don’t like to cook and my kids know that.  But they love my sloppy joes and pancakes.  They also know that I love to baking and think I make the best homemade frosting in the world.  My son thinks I throw a football like a girl but he knows he can count on me to throw a football, play catch or shoot hoops with him if he asks.  My daughter is incredibly liberal (not how she was raised) but she knows she is allowed to speak her mind.  In my home we have an open communication policy.  You are allowed to say what you’re thinking knowing that you will be listened to.  But, you must then allow the other person to speak and give the same respect of listening to them, even if you do not agree with what they may be sharing.  There are days they may get a candy bar or even cookies for breakfast but my fridge is always stocked with healthy food choices and I spend 1-2 hours every other week doing food prep to ensure the healthy snacks are easily accessible for all of us.

But as I learned today, Proverbs 31 was not written to be a list of super hero traits we moms must aspire to be.  As pastor said today, “Proverbs 31 may be the final chapter of wisdom.”  He continued by explaining that “wisdom is the ability to live life skillfully.”  Later he stated that “being a Proverbs 31 woman is not about being perfect, it’s about learning to live life skillfully.”  When we learn this, we become women of valor, women of wisdom.  He suggested a great way to gain wisdom is to “Read and Plead.”  This means reading a chapter of Proverbs daily as well as seeking God and asking Him for wisdom.  He quoted James 1:5 (If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you”) to back up this suggestion.  He also explained how God in His infinite wisdom, references wisdom repeatedly as a female character.  God made women to be a source and example of wisdom.

What I walked away with today is this; the best thing I can do for my children, myself and to honor God, is to walk in His wisdom and to strive to be a woman of wisdom.  Proverbs 3:18 describes wisdom like this, “She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.” This is definitely a verse I am going to meditate on and strive to be.  Hearing that verse this morning instilled a desire to be the tree that is so rooted in an unshakable faith that my children or anyone who encounters me can feel blessed to take hold of because they see Jesus through me and gain wisdom by knowing me.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my readers who are moms.  I pray your day was blessed and that this post reminds you of the amazing mom/mum that you are.  I pray this post inspires you to measure yourself to wisdom only and to seek God for an increase whenever you feel lacking.  I also pray that you stop measuring yourselves to the literal version of the Proverbs 31 woman and embrace the woman you are, exactly as God made you.  Jesus did not gift us all to be seamstresses, grow luscious gardens or even to be morning people.  But whatever gifts He’s given you, use them for His purpose and glory and shine like the amazing gems you all are.  In case you forgot how valuable you truly are, Proverbs 31 tells us we are more precious than jewels (vs 10), that we surpass excellency (vs 30) and that when we fear the Lord, we are to be praised (vs 31.)

The Voice of Truth

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.””

‭‭John‬ ‭8:32‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As we go about our daily lives we engage with many voices throughout the day. Some of those voices are encouraging, some are critical. Some voices are loud and direct while others are barely audible and more passive. Nonetheless, these voices tend to skew the way we see and carry ourselves. We give a lot of power to these voices but the only one that truly matters-the one that can truly define us, is the voice of God.

But first-let’s look at the different voices. There are voices of encouragement. These are messages that build you up, strengthen you and motivated you. These can come from your family and friends who love and support you. Heck, maybe they come from Tony Robbins, Joyce Meyers, Bishop T.D. Jakes or Steven Furtick by means of a self-help book, devotional or YouTube video. Whatever the form, these voices help you walk taller, see yourself in a positive matter and display a “can do” kind of attitude.

Then we have the critical voices. These voices see your flaws and define you only by your worst moments or mistakes you’ve made. These voices condemn you, berate you and can cut deep and severe emotional wounds. They leave you seeing yourself in a very lowly manner. If you listen to them long enough these voices can lead to you feeling depressed, anxious and believing you are what these voices tell you. Ironically-these voices always seem louder and more direct than any voice of encouragement. Truth be told-these voices are liars.

The voice of truth is God’s voice. Since we are His creation, his voice is the only one that can truly define us. It’s also the only one we should be listening too. However, God’s voice isn’t always easy to hear or recognize. David describes the voice of the Lord as a thunderous roar that echoed above seas (Psalms 29:3), is powerful and majestic (Psalms 29:4), strikes with bolts of lightning (Psalms 29:7), and can split might cedars (Psalms 29:5.) In 2 Samuel 22:14, the voice of God “thundered from Heaven”, and in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 we read that the voice of the Lord is a commanding shout. Thunder, echoes, shouting-these words all describe LOUD! Yet far too often, the liars are louder than the voice of truth. How can they be, what can we do about it and who are we really according to the voice of Truth?

In biblical times, we read multiple examples of God speaking directly to His people. I firmly believe He still speaks to us directly through His word and the Holy Spirit but in today’s day an age we have to remove all distractions and get quiet before Him to really hear His voice. I believe this because of the passage in 1 Kings 19 when Elijah is at his lowest point, asking God to End his life and God speaks to him. “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (Verses 11-13.) God’s voice was a soft whisper. Can you hear whispers in the middle of noise and chaos or are whispers best heard in stillness and silence? Why else would God tell us is Psalms 46:10 to “be still and know that [He] is God.” And again in Exodus 14:14 when promising to fight for us He says, “you need only to be still.” We can’t hear God because we’re too busy, too distracted and most likely to stuck on the critical voices that tell us we are the opposite of who God creates us to be.

What can we do about it? This is going to sound simple and cliché but we can stop, drop (to our knees) and pray. We have to carve out moments of silence daily to get into God’s word, the only source of really truth, and be still before Him. We have to pray for open hearts and open ears with the God-given ability to hear His voice and then allow the Holy Spirit to guide us and speak to us. We have to be patient when we spend a day or weeks in these moments hearing nothing at all. We have to persevere and choose to stand on His truth every day. Most importantly, we have to recognize the voice of God over the voice of the creator of lies. God’s voice will always coincide with His word. God’s voice will always be pure, peace loving, gentle, full of mercy and sincere. (James 3:17). It is never condemning and will not remind you of your mistakes. (Romans 8:1, 2 Corinthians 2:5)

So who does God say we are? First and foremost we are HIS! James 1:18 confirms that with this: “He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.” A prized possession is a priceless treasure that is safe guarded, protected and preciously cared for just as God Himself, treasures, protects and delicately cares for us. We are also FORGIVEN! 1 John 2:12 states it very matter-of-fact like: “I am writing to you who are God’s children because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.” Luke 7:47 reinforces that with, “““I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love…” and 1 John 1:9 promises that “if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

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God also say we are LOVED. He confirms this in 1 John 4:19 “we love because she first loved us.” For those who have never been unconditionally loved, this one is probably the hardest to understand. How can someone love you in spite of your failures? How can someone love before you were even born? For God it’s quite simple-God is love and He creates our inmost beings. He loves us because He created us and He knows us more intricately than we or anyone else can ever know us. One of the best ways to combat our critics to let go of their harsh words and cling to God’s love for us. It’s the only way we can rise above hate and truly walk in love.

There are many more things God says about us and you can find them all in His word. We have a choice to listen to the voice of critics or the voice of truth. When the enemy strikes you with harsh words, when liars try to remind you of your past or haters criticize you out of jealousy or selfish ambition, stand on God’s truth and if you can’t cling to His love just yet, cling to this one simple verse: “But the voice from heaven spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” Acts 11:9 If you’re a child of God, He has made you clean no matter what dirty mistakes you’ve made. You are not who your critics say you are. You are exactly who God says you are. Walk as the hold of God He made you to be.

I Need a Heart Transplant, do You too?

“I will give you a new heart and I will put a new spirit in you.  I will take out your stony stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”  Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)

I’m a girl with her head in the clouds, figuratively speaking.  I’m not referencing myself as a space cadet or an “air head”.  I’m referring to actual clouds-sky watching. I love sunrises and sets and seeing sunrays beam through the clouds. I love searching the skies for messages from Heaven, God’s wisdom in the shape of a cloud or glowing through a majestic rainbow stretched across the sky.

This time of year, where I live, sunrises and sets are few and far between with days filled with a fog of gray.  Trees are merely blackened sticks barren of their leaves covered in a dusting of snow.  People who don’t believe in seeing life in black and white should experience winter in North America because most days are just that-black and white coloring every.  Winter brings cold, ice and more darkness than daylight.  It’s the time of year I can fall into seasonal depression, becoming overly tired, cranky and just craving warmer temps with opportunities to soak up sunshine.

Earlier this week I took a quick trip into town to pick up my son from a friend’s house.  The day was your typical December gray day.  Temp was cold, and snow covered the ground and roads making travel slower than usual.  Out of habit, I searched the skies fully thinking I wouldn’t find anything beautiful or eye catching amidst the dullness.  But that day, right above me slightly to the left of my view was a stone colored heart shaped cloud.  I blinked a few times to make sure I saw it clearly but each time I saw the same thing-a stone colored heart.  The cynical side of my immediately thought; “How typical to see a stony colored heart on a cold winter’s day.”  But then Ezekiel 36:26 ran through my mind and I immediately thought about what it means to have a stony, stubborn heart and how God transform it into a heart of flesh.

I’ve spent the last few days reflecting on that verse and thinking of how it applies to me specifically.  I felt God heavily speaking me showing me reflections of this past year and how I handled different situations.  I finally realized He was showing me that I have a stubborn stony heart.  People closest to me may disagree.  I have many people in my life who tell me regularly how beautiful my heart is.  When I really blow it or make a big mistake they are the ones who remind that God sees my heart.  They’re right, He does.  I used to think He saw a solid black heart because when I’m angry and hurt I can have some pretty hateful thoughts. But I believe He was showing me my heart is gray, the color of stone because that’s what I have built around it to protect myself.  He also gently reminded me that He wants to remove the stone and give me a heart of flesh.  But I have to be let go of certain things in order for Him to pluck the stone out of me.  He’s been chiseling away at the stone for years but He knows I’m more bullheaded than a mule and short of zapping me with a bolt of lightning to knock me off my stubborn keister or throw me into the belly of whale, He lets me repeat the same mistakes over and over again like a wandering Israelite lost in the desert for 40 years.

Tomorrow is a New Year and I believe God has been telling me there are things I need to lay down and leave in 2016.  They don’t belong in the 2017 that He has planned for me.  Instead of partying hardy to ring in the New Year, I will be spending this evening home reflecting on the things I need to leave behind to make room for God to transform my heart into one of flesh that can receive His love and all He has planned for me.  I don’t know everything He wants me to lay down but three things have been tugging deep within me already this week.

  1. Pride-Pride is something I have wrestled with most of my life.  I grew up in very humble means and chose to pursue a college education believing that degree would bring me a salary where I could live comfortably and never know financial struggles, never need anyone’s help.  I couldn’t have been MORE wrong.  My college degree has led to me to the career I have but it also afforded me a large almost unpayable debt and the paycheck of a social worker is far from lifestyles of the rich and famous.  Being a single parent means being the sole bread winner.  Short of working myself to death and never sleeping or seeing my children, my income is limited to what my salary brings.  Money is tight and there have been many times I could not make ends meet.  Pride kept me from asking for help when I really needed it and getting buried in such financial dishevel that asking for help became my only  With a broken spirit and in utter embarrassment I would sob words of failure to my family and friends who graciously have helped me throughout the years.  Just tonight God blessed me with an unexpected offer of help (and answered a prayer to pay off a debt I have been battling with for a few years.)  The first sentence spoken to me before the offer was made was, “Put your pride in your pocket.”  Thankfully I prayed ahead of time asking God to help me swallow my pride before meeting with the couple who blessed me tonight.  I left their home with a check in my pocket and utter awe in my heart for how God uses everyone in our lives, even people we would least expect consider the role they play in our lives, to help us in time of need.
  2. Selfishness-I am a very “me” centered person. I grew up feeling invisible and looked over, viewed only as average or ordinary.  The only time I was noticed was if I was acting out, being loud and obnoxious or simply to be the butt of someone’s ridicule.  Add a few neglectful relationships in there and suddenly I took on this whole new defensive persona that felt no one would fight for me so I had to fight for myself.  I busted my backside living down the lies people spoke about me and lies I believed in myself.  I did it in my own strength.  If someone didn’t notice good in me, I made sure to point it out to them.  I was very much a “Look at me-I’m worth noticing.  I matter too.” person.  I refused any type of constructive criticism and immediately reacted with accusations and attacks to my critic’s character.  I was very much a “Who are you to talk to me that way?” thinker.  In a nut shell, I lived for me.  Even my prayer life was selfish.  Oh I prayed-I prayed daily. I made myself get out of bed at 4am every day to get on my knees and pray.  I was even faithful in fasting.   Why?  Because I wanted God to give me what I wanted.  I didn’t pray seeking what God wanted.  I prayed for Him to selfishly grant me my desires-like a genie in a lamp granting me three wishes.  When He told me no I believed the lie that fasting was futile and my prayers didn’t travel any farther than my living room ceiling. I couldn’t admit that I was praying wrong and with selfish motives.  James 4 is very clear when in verse 3 he says, “And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong-you want only what will give you pleasure.”  That was me.  I wanted what I wanted and didn’t consider what God would want.  Mostly because I feared God wanted the exact opposite of what I wanted and I couldn’t accept that. Which leads me to the third thing God wants me to leave behind in 2016.
  3. Fear-Fear is probably my biggest stronghold. I have missed out on amazing opportunities because of fear.  As a child, I wanted to be a Disney animator, work as a marine biologist for Sea World and perform on Star Search.  I believed I wasn’t good enough in drawing or smart enough in science nor talented enough as a singer to pursue any of those dreams.  In high school, I studied performing arts for three years, performed in talent shows and school plays.  I dreamed of studying at Juilliard in New York and star on Broadway.  Fear of rejection and being told I wasn’t good enough kept me from even applying.  In college, fear kept me from doing a study abroad in France for five weeks.  I feared losing my job, losing the relationship I was in ad flying overseas in an airplane.  Fear kept me from taking a lot of risks and trying many things for many years.

Fear has been a factoring role in many of my relationships also.  In college I would fight with my boyfriend if he wanted to have a drink or go to a party because I was afraid he would drink and drive and cause an accident (my step-dad died in a drunk driving accident when I was 8.)  I stayed in a very destructive relationship for many years because I feared being a single parent and having to raise two children on my own.  I held onto the hope of another dead end relationship out of fear of being alone.  And I settled into a “this is as good as it’s going to get” mentality career wise for years because I was afraid to pursue something new and fail again.

Fear of rejection and fear of failure are my two biggest controllers in life.  Fear of failure has shaken me from a deep sleep in the middle of the night and kept me away for hours just tossing and turning worrying about failing.  It’s kept me from speaking up when I should and saying the wrong thing when I should’ve remained silent.  Fear of rejection has kept me from chasing my dreams time and time again.  Fear is the most crippling baggage I need to let go of and probably the hardest one for me to separate from.

Pride, selfishness and fear. Three controllers I will be eliminating from my life TODAY so God can strip all the stone from my heart and transplant into me a heart of flesh filled with the Holy Spirit.  Thankfully God’s word has some pretty specific thoughts on all three of these areas to help me let go of them.  For pride God says; “Pride ends humiliation, while humility brings honor.” (Proverbs 29:23), “And when they cry out, God does not answer because of their pride.” (Job 35:12) and “He shows them the reason; He shows them their sins of pride.” (Job 36:9.)

For selfishness, God specifically says, “For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom.  Such things are earthly, unspiritual and demonic.” (James 3:15), “And even now in your holy festivals aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourselves?” (Zechariah 7:6) and “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.” (James 3:16.)

God’s word speaks even more about fear.  Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not worry (fear) about anything, instead pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done.”  In 2 Timothy 1:7 we read, “for God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”And Deuteronomy 31:6 specifically tells us to “be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.  For the Lord Your God will personally go ahead of you.  He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Today I will leave these three in 2016 and refuse to carry them with me tomorrow as day 1 of 2017 begins.  But because old habits die hard, I won’t be doing this on my own strength.  I am finally at a point in my life of surrender to God and His will for me making it easy for Him to do as He has promised-remove my stony stubborn heart and give me a spirit filled heart of flesh.  Today-I will be undergoing a heart transplant by the best Heart Surgeon no money can ever afford.  As you begin a new year, I invite you to reflect and see if you too need a heart transplant.  What better time to gain a spirit filled heart of flesh than at the beginning of a new year?

Single-Party of One

In 9 days I will celebrate my 41st birthday.  As much as I love birthdays, each number gets a little more challenging to accept.  Considering I just entered a new decade and am still adjusting to the big 4-0, I’m really not in a hurry to turn 41-yet it’s literally right around the corner.  To those who are 10+ years younger than me, I am typically viewed as “old” and to those 10+ years older I am still seen as a “young pup”.  To me, there are days I feel “old” but there are other days I feel 16 again (and sadly, act like it too.)

Each birthday I take time to reflect on my life-I look at who I am, who I want to be, where I am and where I want to be.  I examine my life goals and see what I’ve accomplished and what I still want to accomplish.  I also realize no matter how hard I try, I will never get younger.   And sometimes that is a scary thought.  Mostly-because I’m afraid I will run out of enough time to achieve all my goals before God calls me Home.  For the longest time, my biggest goal was being married-having that one person who would commit to spend the rest of their life with me.

Ever since I can remember I have always been the “hopeless romantic.”  My favorite fairytale was Cinderella and I would dream of a prince on a white horse with a glass slipper rescuing me and the two of us living happily ever after.  I loved the romantic storylines in soap operas and my all-time favorite movie is Pretty Pink where the movie ends with Andrew McCarthy telling Molly Ringwald he loves her, always, during their high school prom and when she chases after him they end up in the parking lot, kissing in the rain.  Yep-still my favorite chick flick because there’s still a hopeless romantic in me.

I have two children-but never been married.  I’ve come close-three times actually but circumstances happened and the relationships didn’t work out.   I’ve also had tons of other dead end dating relationships.  I’ve prayed for marriage, I’ve fasted for marriage but at the age of almost 41, I don’t even have a prospect for the possibility of marriage.

For years I convinced myself that there was clearly something wrong with me-I must not be marriage material.  I also believed God clearly didn’t want me to be married.  I cried, threw many pity parties and then closed myself off.  I took a hiatus from dating-a four year hiatus actually.  I took the hiatus for the wrong reasons but ended up learning the blessing of being single.

During my dating boycott I received various feedback.  Some people supported my decision-after all, I told them it was God directing me.  Others told me I was closed off.  Still others tried to set me up with their version of my “soul mate.” The best “feedback” I received was being told I was too picky.  If you’re single I am sure you can relate to the many advices your family and friends give about why you’re still single and it usually ends up being your fault.  I’m a strong enough person and content enough in my circumstance as they are now to admit that I am single by choice.  Why?  I refuse to settle.

The past 4 years have been a road of growing my faith and discovering who God made me to be.  With that, it’s open my eyes up to the pros and cons of both singlehood and marriage.  The best thing I’ve discovered is that being single is not a curse, there is nothing wrong with me and I’d rather be single my whole life than be married to the wrong person.  I’ve also learned that my relationship status doesn’t define me as a person-being married or single is a part of who we are but it’s not all of who we are.  Yes, God created Eve because He said, “it’s not good for man to be alone. (Genesis 2:18)  But He also said, “and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” (Matthew 19:12b)  Paul even tells us in 1 Corinthians 7 that is better to not get married (vs 8.)  His reasoning was because while a married person is focused on their spouse, a single person is more apt to be focused God.  That is certainly to not say that married people do not focus on God. I know many happily married, godlly people who have amazing Christ centered marriages.  Marriage is a gift from God, designed by God.  But, so is singleness.

That’s right-I said, being single is a gift, not a curse.  It’s a gift I have embraced and actually enjoy.  Once I accepted it I experienced that peace beyond all understanding Christ promises us in Philippians 4:7.  I no longer have an urgency to “hurry up and get married.”  I feel free and in control of whether I choose to date or not date, who I want to date and who I politely say, “no thank you” to when asked out.  I’m completely at peace saying “no” to the offers of being set-up and I can listen to other people’s love stories (which are typically their attempt to encourage me to not give up on marriage) without wondering if I’m missing out on something.  I’m not-just like God made them different from me, His love story for me is also different from theirs.  If God has a love story for me, it will be different and it will be epic. It will also happen in His time and in His way.  I won’t be too closed off to miss it or too picky that I turn it down.  I will know it’s from Him and I will embrace it.  How do I know, because I’ve surrendered my heart to Him and trust Him to do with it what He plans-lead it to love another, or lead it to live singly, serving Him.

I almost didn’t write this post. It’s pretty transparent and I had to question my motives.  This post wasn’t meant to bash marriage (I love weddings, I love being in love, I love happily married people and I pray for troubled marriages all the time.)  It also wasn’t meant to stick it to all those who seem to be an expert on my love life or lack thereof.  Which by the way-as helpful as people think they’re being, unless advice is solicited, telling someone why you think they’re single really isn’t helpful. If you want to see someone you love in a relationship-pray for them and pray for their future spouse.  And keep mum unless they want to talk to you about their relationship status.

I wrote this post because there are people out there who’s deepest longing is to get married and they think they’re life won’t be complete until they find their one true love.  To them, I want to say-your life is already complete.  Your life doesn’t begin with marriage-it began when you were growing in your mother’s womb.  As long as you are breathing, your life is happening, with or without a spouse.  So live it.  Find out who God made you to be and turn your focus on serving Him daily.  Don’t focus on what’s missing in your life-find a thousand reasons to smile every day.  Make a bucket list and set goals.  Then take the steps needed to accomplish your list and goals.   Most importantly-show love and kindness daily to the people God has placed in your life and seek out opportunities to bless others.  This life is really not about you or me.  This life is all about God and serving others for His glory.  Lastly-don’t worry about getting married or being in a relationship.  If God has designed marriage for you, It. Will. Happen.  Lay your heart’s desire at the foot of the cross and trust God to fulfill it in His time.  But remember this-if the worst thing is your life is that God calls you home before you ever get married-you’ve lived one heck of a pretty good life.

NO FEAR!

 

“As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him.”

1Samuel 17:48 NLT

The other night I had a spiritual warfare dream.  In this dream, I had just moved into an older, two-story home with a large porch on the front.  I found myself in the living room area immersed in fear of an evil presence.  I tried crying out and rebuking the devil to cast out the evil but I had no voice.  I felt helpless and paralyzed.  I prayed for Christ to rebuke the enemy for me and to restore my voice.  Suddenly I became bold and angry.  Amidst a terror inside of me that was almost debilitating, I ran upstairs and started kicking in doors hollering at the enemy to show his face, daring him to come at me.  I ran into dark unfamiliar rooms not knowing what would be on the other side of the door, terrified but determined to face my enemy.  I was fed up with being afraid and I was chasing after this evil presence.  There was a room at the end of the hallway with a light on.   I never made it to that room.  When I noticed the light on I called the enemy out again and told him to show himself.  He came out of the lighted room cowering. When he appeared, he was nothing but a wiry, thin, pale faced thug-a thief who ran with his tail between his legs when I started ranting and thrashing at him to GET OUT!

Although I woke up exhausted, I had no doubt what my dream was telling me.  I have lived in fear most of my life.  Fear caused me to not try out for the softball team my freshman year of high school.  Fear kept me from studying in France for 5 weeks when I was a college student.  Fear kept me from pursuing my dream of being a professional singer/actor.  Fear also kept me in an abusive relationship.  It even still keeps me from visiting my dentist regularly.  God used this dream to show me what I needed to do with fear.  Face it. Run after it and kick it out of my soul.  Fear has no place in ruling my life or yours.

I have read repeatedly that the Bible says “Do not fear” 365 times.  Although I haven’t googled the validity of that statement, I’ve read enough of in Deuteronomy, Joshua and Isaiah alone to believe it’s true.  In His word, God repeatedly tells us to NOT FEAR, to not be afraid and to be still.  Each time He says it, He also adds, “for I Am with you…”  The Great I Am is with us all the time, everywhere we go.  Focusing on that alone should be enough to make us fearless.  But for most, for me at least, it’s not.  I needed God to show me how to not fear.

He not only showed me in my dream, He confirmed it this week through the story of David and Goliath.  You don’t have to be a Christian to be familiar with the story of a shepherd boy who took on a 9 foot (2.74 meters) giant and killed him with a slingshot and 1 stone. Some probably think it’s simply a fictional Sunday school story.  But the true believer knows it is truth because God’s word tells us so.

1 Samuel chapter 17 tells us David was Jesse’s youngest son.  While his older brothers were at war, David went back and forth between the soldiers’ camp and the sheepfold to help his father keep watch on his older brothers and the family sheep.  One specific day, Jesse, sent him to the camp with food for his brothers.  When David arrived, the Israelites and Philistines were in the midst of war. David ran out to meet his brothers.  This is the first time he sees Goliath taunting and terrorizing the Israelite army.  Men older and “braver” than David were frozen in fear because of one enemy who towered over them and taunted them.  To this point, anyone who had attempted to take on Goliath was murdered.  In human thinking, their fear was completely valid.

David was a man after God’s own heart before he became King of Judah.  What was David’s response to Goliath’s threats?  “Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?(vs 26b)”  David had no fear of Goliath because David knew his God was bigger, stronger and mightier.  He couldn’t understand why the Israelites were so afraid of this giant. David recognized who Goliath really was-He wasn’t an enemy of the Israelites, Goliath was an enemy of God.  David knew no enemy of God’s ever wins-that confidence, made him fearless.

Even though David trusted God to defeat Goliath, he still received backlash from even his own family members regarding facing the giant.  David’s older brother, Eliab, was angry with David for talking to the other soldiers and asked him, ““What are you doing around here anyway? “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle! (vs 28)” Eliab’s faith wasn’t as big as David’s and he didn’t see David as the man God created him to be.  Eliab only saw David as his annoying little brother who was just an action-junkie going to get in the way and get himself killed.

I love David’s response to his older brother.  “What have I done now?” David replied. “I was only asking a question! (vs 29)” Then he walked over and asked other soldiers the same question.  He didn’t bat an eye to his brother’s naysaying.  I imagine David was already hearing God calling him to face this giant and he was determined to obey God.  Nothing anyone said was going to deter David from his God ordained destiny or make him falter in his faith.

At this point, King Saul hears about David’s question and calls for him.  When David meets King Saul, the young shepherd boy boldly and confidently tells the king, “Don’t worry about this Philistine…I’ll go fight him! (vs 32)” To which Saul replied, ““Don’t be ridiculous! …There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth. (vs 33)”  And here’s what verses 34-37 tells us David’s reply was, “But David persisted. ‘I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,’ he said. ‘When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death.  I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!’”  The best part of that whole passage is the first sentence, but David persisted.   In spite of his own family not believing in him, in spite of the law of the land at that time having no faith in him, David persisted because he trusted God to defeat the enemy.  His persistent faith is what prompted Saul to finally say, ““All right, go ahead…And may the Lord be with you! (vs 37b)”

Even though Saul consented to David’s request, Saul still didn’t see David as the warrior God made him to be. Saul tried to dress David up in protective armor that actual held David back. If he had worn the man-made armor, David would have readily been defeated because it was too heavy, weighed him down, and not what David was used to. So David refused the armor and prepared for battle-how? He used what he knew, his staff and his slingshot.  His ammunition was 5 stones.  He ran toward his enemy, fearlessly and was practically a laughing stock to his family, the army he was fighting for and especially his enemy.  David looked square at his enemy and said, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us! (vs 45-47.) He loaded his slingshot, took aim and nailed Goliath square in the forehead, then cut off his head.  Did you catch that-David, a small shepherd boy killed a 9 foot giant by knocking him down with a slingshot and cutting off his head!  Why was David victorious?  Because he knew it was the Lord’s battle and he TRUSTED God to deliver the enemy to him.

When we lay our fear down, face the giants in His way and trust His might through us, He moves in a mighty way and makes us victorious too.  David had no battle plan. He was simply a natural born warrior and he used what he knew trusting God to do the rest.

As I write this, I’m listening to a sermon by Todd White, entitled, No Longer a Slave to Fear.  In this sermon Todd says, “[We] are not victims of circumstance-[we] are victorious.  We are sons and daughters of the King.  Let us not be bound by [the enemy’s] lies.  Don’t let your hope be deferred.  If it’s deferred, it’s because your hope isn’t set on what God says you are.  It’s impossible to have your hope deferred by circumstance when your hope is set on Jesus.”  The Israelites lived as victims.  David lived as the victor through Christ.  The Israelites lived without hope.  David’s hope was set on His God.  He knew, deep in his heart, that he was a mighty warrior made by God and that no enemy would be victorious in destroying his God-ordained destiny.  Because he was not a slave to fear, God’s destiny for him came to fruition over and over again.  David only knew defeat when he sinned against God or handled life by his own might.  But even then, when David repented, God raised him up again and made him victorious over all his enemies.

We all have a God-ordained destiny.  The only thing that can keep us from achieving that destiny is paralyzing fear.  We have a choice to be like David who ran after his enemy or be like the Israelites who doubted God and fought battles in their own human strength.   We can live to know who God made us to be, or we can live with a hope deferred and sick hearts (Proverbs 13:12.)  We should definitely pray and know God’s destiny for ourselves but once we know, we have to go.  As Todd White says, “we’re not going to pray about where to go, we’re just going to go.  Why?  Cuz’ ‘go’ is two-thirds of God (G-O-D.)”  If God is telling you to go-then go, fearlessly, and let God guide you along the way.

To blindly go, we will need faith like David and like Abraham.  When God told Abraham to go in Genesis 12, He didn’t spell out the plan step by step or detail by detail.  God only said, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. (vs 1)”  God said GO then He promised to SHOW.  Too often we miss out on what God is calling us to do because we’re waiting for God to show before we go.  We need to take that leap of faith and go first.  Then trust God to show us the way.  We need to trust that God is moving mightily defeating every enemy that attempts to block us from His destiny for us.  But remember, He calls us to first GO.   He calls us to run after our enemy and trust Him to bring the victory His way, and in His time. Let us stop floundering like a wave tossed to and fro and let us go after what He has already laid on our hearts to achieve for His purpose and glory.

Its Snowing…In May?!!!!

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Proverbs 19:21 NIV

Like most people I have BIG plans for my life.  As a little girl I aspired to be a Solid Gold dancer or a singing contestant on Star Search.  Don’t judge (but please feel free to laugh out loud!)  Any child of the 80’s with a creative mind like mine and a gift for making a fool out of themselves in front of a crowd, had the same dreams.  When I was 12, I wanted to be president of the United States.  By the time I completed high school my goal was to earn my college degree, get married, become a mom and have a successful career helping troubled teens.  On my 25th birthday I cried-I had only accomplished one of my goals and I was working 3 jobs just to make ends meet.  Now at 40, I am a single mom working 2 jobs, still struggling to make ends meet and clearly in the midst of a mid-life crisis.  Today I want to travel and touch lives all over the world letting people and orphans know they matter and they are loved.

The past couple of months I have been restless- physically, emotionally and spiritually. This restlessness has boiled into fear and anxiety.  It’s become a serious condition like a rash that takes over your entire body or a virus that eats you from the inside out.  It invades my dreams, it wakes me in the middle of the night and it robs my joy during the day.  The simplest task can become easily overwhelming when fear is hitting me full blast.  I become easily angered or I sob.  I’m exhausted but can’t seem to get a good night’s sleep because my mind simply won’t shut down or be still.  People who know this struggle about me often ask what I’m so anxious about.  Sometimes I tell them I don’t know. But I think I’ve figured it out.  I simply feel stuck.  My life feels stuck in a season of winter and at this age of my life, I am afraid I will stay stuck in winter forever.

Did I mention I HATE winter?  I’m speaking of the actual season.  Where I live we get very cold, very long and very snowy/icy winters.  Days are dull and skies are gray.  Many days I drive to and from work in the dark and never see any daylight.  I get quite depressed.  By the time February and March arrive I am anxious for warm days, sun filled skies and for all the snow to melt away.  We tend to get a mid-winter thaw-a few warm days here and there but then we get slammed with more cold, more snow and more ice.  April arrives and I check the weather daily hoping for a hint of even 50 degree (10c) weather.  And in May, I celebrate the colors of green, the blooming of apple blossoms and spring time flowers.  I relish the smell of the first lawn mowing and celebrate the year’s first real thunderstorm.  I buy my park pass and count down the days until the lakes are warm enough to swim in while planning out my beach days for the summer.  My spirits lift as I think snow is finally gone and my toes will be buried in the sand in not time.

This past weekend, in Mid-May, it snowed!  As I woke Sunday morning to a dusting of white powder covering my lawn, I reflected on my life and feeling stuck in a winter season.  I have so many plans for my life, yet none of them seem to be coming to fruition.  It’s like my life has come to a standstill with no hopes of moving forward relationally, financially, spiritually or even in my career.  Seeing that snow outside my window, I thought “That’s it, winter is never going to end, summer is never going to arrive.  All my beach days are never going to happen.”  Reflecting on my life, I tend to think “My dreams are dead.  This is it.  This is as good as it gets.  God just wants me stuck.”

But God has a different answer.  Weather wise, He’s shown it by gifting us with a prediction of 70 degree temps (21c) later this week.  Life wise, He says “Don’t worry,” (Matthew 6:34.) He keeps sending me Proverbs 19:21 and a few other verses like Job 23:14 and Isaiah 46:10.  He gently reminds me that His way is better than my way and I simply need to surrender my hopes and dreams to Him.  After all, every dream He planted in my heart will come to pass in His time.  Because patience is not a virtue I was born with and God knows I LOVE being in control, He makes me wait, refining me and conditioning me into the Kingdom Woman He designed me to be to do the big things He has planned for me.  Dreams He’s already shown me, I’ve turned into idols and tried manufacturing my own miracles instead of trusting Him to bring them to pass.  I always lose when I get in God’s way.

Winter is a time when days are shorter and life slows down.  This winter season in my life is God’s way of teaching me to just “be still.”  I make myself restless because instead of obeying Him, I act like a crazy hamster in a plastic wheel running a race that will never end, chasing after empty things, and going absolutely nowhere.  If you’re in this same season, remember this-a wise woman recently told me, “There’s never been a year summer didn’t come.” With that I will add, there’s not a story in the Bible where God’s dreams and purpose didn’t happen either. Practice being still, practice trusting in Him and read His word every day.  When someone I love dearly was going through an incredibly difficult time, we read the book of Psalms together.  Psalms was the same book suggested to me just this week to read and pray, as a means to overcome my fears and anxiety.

Lastly, find contentment in every day no matter how long you’ve been waiting, longing and praying.  Most importantly-don’t lose hope, but place your hope in the One who gives us something to hope for.

Trash or Treasure?

In my twenties I watched a home improvement show that involved renovating specific rooms in people’s homes.  At the end of each episode they showed a five minute clip where the hosts of the show would purchase used items from rummage sales or junk yards and transform them into decorative useful items-like turning one person’s “trash” into their own beautiful “treasure.”  I loved watching the room makeovers but I especially enjoyed the “trash to treasure” portion at the end.  I was so amazed at the creativity the hosts had and how talented they were in crafting something someone considered “junk” into home décor.  One episode in particular they changed window screens into a headboard and used the screen portion as a jewelry hanger for earrings.  Coming from a mind who’s craftiness consists of finding an idea on Pinterest and having someone else make it for me, those hosts were crazy inventive for sure!!!

Last week I had a conversation with a co-worker, that reminded me of that show.  The show itself was not discussed but a simple phrase the co-worker spoke to me and God later reinforced.  “God used something awful to make a beautiful treasure.”  She spoke this phrase several times as our conversation was ending. It was her response when I shared with her how I had been conceived.  Without giving too many personal details, I was born out of wedlock.  I became a Christian at a young age and learned all the “do’s” and “don’ts” of Christianity through a “fire and brimstone” theology.  If you do all the right things and don’t sin-then you’re in God’s will and you get to go to Heaven.  If you sin, you’ll burn in Hell.

Learning this type of theology and knowing how I was conceived, I grew up believing God had no plan for me.  How could He?  I was the bi-product of a sinful act-clearly I was something He just allowed to happen, thus He had no plan for me.  I was just here to exist and then die.  Those thoughts were lies from the enemy but as a young Christian I didn’t dig deep into my Bible and seek out my own understanding of the faith, I just listened to what a preacher told me and took it as “truth.”  It took years well into my adulthood, a road of my own rebellion and some real godly people investing in me before I started reading my Bible and learning my own truths of Christianity and God’s purpose for our lives.

God divinely placed my co-worker in my path that day to take a bathroom break the same time as me and to turn a conversation into a beautiful message from Him and this blog post.   I heard her say; “God doesn’t like sin.”

“He took something He didn’t like and turned it into a beautiful treasure.”

“That treasure is you.”

“You are His treasure.”

And it was all very hard to digest.  The whole time the enemy was fighting hard to remind me of who he fooled me into believing I was for so many years.  But I fought past it and I let what I believe the Holy Spirit spoke through her resonate inside of me.  I was nearly in tears when I left the office and headed to the grocery store.  It was while shopping I thought of the show that turned trash into treasure.  And I thought, “That’s what she means!  That’s what she’s saying.”

Sin is our trash.  It can come in some pretty packaged forms but it’s really ugly, smelly and if we stay in it too long it weighs us down and can even make us sick-spiritually, emotionally and physically.  But what does God do with our trash-what can He do with our sinful acts?  Through His grace, mercy and redeeming love, when we repent, He turns our sin into treasure He can use for His kingdom.

David and Bathsheba had an affair.  Bathsheba became pregnant.  David tried to cover up the affair.  Out of desperation he even had Bathsheba’s husband murdered and took Bathsheba as his own wife.  Although the baby Bathsheba carried died, God blessed them with Solomon, who was the wisest king of Judah. (2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12)  Out of Solomon we have the books of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs (treasured wisdom), and the Songs of Solomon (treasured love.)

Christ’s crucifixion was also a bi-product of sin-the Pharisees’ sin, the roman soldiers’ sin, even your and my sins and we didn’t even exist then. But God used Christ’s resurrection, rising from a grave and overcoming death as a beautiful treasure that wipes our sins clean washing us white as snow and promising us eternal life. (Isaiah 1:18.)

When the enemy tries throwing your trash (sinful past) in your face, remind him that you are God’s treasure.  Quote Romans 8:28 aloud and tell the enemy to back off because God promises to use all things (even our sinful choices) for good and for His glory.  And remind yourself of whom you are in Christ.  He created our inmost beings and knitted us in our mother’s wombs. (Psalm 139:13)  Ephesians 2:10 tells us we are His masterpieces.  He has a plan and a purpose for each and every one of us. (Psalm 139:16, Ephesians 2:10 and Jeremiah 29:11)Don’t let the enemy waste another moment of your life fooling you to believe you are anything less than who God made you to be.

Sand Paper People (or How to Effectively Produce Pearls)

Last week, during my leadership training, I met an abrasive woman (or as I like to say, a sand paper person) whose demeanor was quite unwelcoming.  While discussing the rules and regulations of building usage she displayed an attitude of inconvenience mixed with an overabundance of micromanagement.  Every encounter with her created an increase in my annoyance level that felt like sand paper going across my skin (or to others perhaps like nails on a chalkboard.)  At one point she interrupted our class to have a group of us move our vehicles to another side of the building to make parking more convenient for others who would be coming/going in the building.  THAT was my breaking point.  Although I calmly moved my vehicle, when our class reconvened, I failed to bite my tongue.  The comment I made wasn’t incredibly rude or malicious but was still a clear display of my dislike for this woman’s personality.  I was immediately convicted in my spirit and reminded comments like that do not produce pearls.

Yes, you read that last sentence correctly-produce pearls.   Last year, one of my best friends texted me about a dream she had.  In the dream, God spoke one word to her for me-refinement.  She shared the word but nothing else. It was up to me to receive the message and figure out what God meant regarding His refinement for me.  I prayed asking God to give me wisdom and show me specifically what He meant regarding the refinement of me.  Traditionally refinement is compared to the melting of precious gold or silver.  It’s placed into an inferno and melted down to cleanse the metal from all impurities.  It’s said the metal stays in the fire until it’s so pure the maker can see his own image in the metal.  The metaphor behind that is that God refines us (Christ’s death even cleanses us from all our impurities) into His image (Malachi 3:3, 1John 1:7 and Zechariah 13:9)

After praying, I read Malachi 3:3 and googled “Refiner’s Fire.” During my research on refinement, I felt God speak “sand paper” to me.  My human thinking thought about sand paper in the literal sense-a rough abrasive material that creates smooth surfaces on wood.  So, I thought God’s refinement meant he was using sand paper people and sand paper like situations to sanding me down into a softer image of Him.  But then I heard God speak the word “Pearls” to me and I remembered how a clam produces a pearl.  At least I thought I did until I was trying to explain God’s refinement for me to a good friend and it wasn’t making sense to him, or to me.

So I went back to Google and researched how a pearl is made.  I read that when a clam gets an irritant (usually a grain of sand) in its muscle it produces a protective layer around the irritant in order to protect itself from being harmed by the irritant.  Those protective layers are the pearls we wear in various forms of jewelry.  And then it “dawned” on me.  God was teaching me that my refinement was the same as a clam producing a pearl.  Instead of allowing people and situations to affect me in negative ways that caused me harm by stealing my joy and exhausting me from being so angry and frustrated I needed to form protective layers and produce pearls.

This past year God has shown me a variety of ways I can produce pearls.  The Bible teaches us to not let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26) put away all bitterness, wrath and malice (vs 31) and to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave you.” (Vs 32 NLT) Colossians chapter 3 tells us to clothe ourselves with “protective layers” of tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Four of these are also listed in Galatians 5 along with love, joy, peace, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control-all classified as “fruits of the spirit.” And speaking of fruit, Jesus used parables about bearing fruit as a metaphor in showing His love to everyone we encounter.

Over and over the Bible tells us to love each other as Christ loves us, and to forgive as Christ forgave us.  Producing pearls is an act of mercy, a display of kindness, the key to humility, an opportunity to practice patience and the perfect source of gentleness.  When we “sweat the small stuff”, we become a clam that allows the irritant to injure its muscle; injuring ourselves and others physically, emotionally and spiritually. Our negative reactions damage our character as well.  When we practice producing pearls, the irritant can’t harm us. The people around us also receive the blessings of precious gemstones in the forms of our humble, gentle, and kind responses. No matter what type of sand (or sand paper) people or circumstance may throw at you, always choose to produce pearls.  And this is something that clearly I am still working on “practicing what I preach” as well.

Want versus Need….

“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

Matthew 7:11 NLT

Have you heard the saying, “God doesn’t give us what we want, He gives what we need.”  I have-many times and unfortunately I believed it for many years.  After all, there are many things I want, have asked for in prayer even, but since I haven’t received them yet, this saying must be true, right? Wrong!

God has always provided me everything I need from the very basics of oxygen to breath to food, water, clothing, a roof over my head and even reliable transportation.  But is that really all God is going to give me, or you?  No, God gives us more than the bare necessities.  His word is full of promises that go beyond what we need.  Psalms 37:4 tells us if we delight in Him, He will give us the desires of our hearts.  Desire is another word for “wants”, not “needs.”  Abraham desired a child.  He didn’t need an heir.  He told God he planned to leave his fortune to a servant. (Genesis 15:2) Attempting to manufacture his own miracle he created a son with Hagar.  But God still gave him the heir He promised. God still gave him Isaac.

David and Bathsheba committed adultery and from their sin produced a son. As punishment for David’s attempt to cover up his sin God took the life of that child shortly after his birth.  But that wasn’t the end of David and Bathsheba’s story.  What did God do next? He gave David and Bathsheba another son, Solomon.  David had other children already-Solomon wasn’t a need.  Solomon was a want that God gave them. (2 Samuel 12:14, 24)

Matthew 7:11 compares God to earthly parents.  If you’re a parent I am confident you wear yourself out providing for the basic needs of your children, but you do more than that.  Don’t we as parents strive to give our children what they want too?  Don’t we delight in seeing our children’s joy when they receive that special present they longed for, not necessary something they need but something they will find true delight in.  I believe God does that for us too.  Within reason, God gives us what we want too.

Provided our desires line up with His will, He promises that whatever we ask for in His name, it will be done. (John 14:13-14) “Whatever” certainly doesn’t sound like just our basic needs. Whatever means everything we ask for in Jesus’ name, will be given to us.  The key phrase is “in Jesus’ name”-meaning in His will.  And God’s will is to definitely give us more than what we need-He longs to see the joy on our faces as we receive His blessings, that special present we’ve longed for no matter how long we’ve been asking Him for it.

What is the desire of your heart?  Is it a godly marriage, children, a dream job?  Have you aligned it with God’s will for your life?  Marriage, children, even careers aren’t anything we need.  But if they are part of God’s plans “for good, to prosper…to give us hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) then we have to trust that He will give them to us. Just like our children ask us for wants (or if you aren’t a parent, remember the wants you asked your own parents) we can boldly approach our Heavenly Daddy asking Him for our wants too.  Keep in mind, God is not a genie-we can’t rub a lamp and ask Him to grant us 3 wishes.  But God does delight in showering His blessings upon us, including gifting us with “the desires of our hearts.”