Strength For Today

A journey of keeping my heart, mind, and body in TODAY

All Things are New!

I was asked a question tonight that got me thinking about something.  I was asked “Why didn’t you let God restore your marriage?”  I was asked this in response, I believe, to a calling I have to write about God’s process of restoration and beauty that takes place through our brokenness.

Now, I have to preface this by saying that it would be safe to acknowledge (based on my history with this person) that the person who asked me this question did not have my best interest at heart, and the question was more than likely meant as a means of mental manipulation, an emotional dig, more than anything else.

But, none-the-less, it did get me thinking.

Why is it, that through this amazing process of total transformation that God has taken me through over the past 3 1/2 years….why is it that it didn’t include a full restoration of my former marriage?  Or could it be, that it actually did include a restoration, just not what one would typically expect?

My journey with this question started with a little research.  What is the actual definition of restoration? Here is what I found:

Restoration, as defined by Merriam-Webster:

1. the act or process of returning something to its original condition by repairing it, cleaning it, etc.

2.  the act of bringing back something that existed before

3.  the act of returning something that was stolen or taken

4.  the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition.

 

So, to be restored, then, is to return something to its original condition by cleaning it.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  ~Psalm 51:10

 “Come now, let’s settle this,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
    I will make them as white as wool.  ~Isaiah 1:18

And, to be restored is the act of bringing back something that existed before

The cords of death entangled me;
    the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
    the snares of death confronted me.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
    he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
    from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
    but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
    he rescued me because he delighted in me. ~Psalm 18:4-5, 16-19

To be restored is the act of returning something that was stolen or taken.

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;                                                                                     I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. ~John 10:10

To be restored is the action of returning something to its former owner, place, or condition

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them,                                                             because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is                                                                       in the world. ~ 1 John 4:4

 

And at the end of this study, here is what I have concluded.  I have been restored.  God has created for me a new heart and a new mind, a new body, a new life!!!  He has cleaned me from the inside, out.  I am cleansed by the blood of Christ!  I have been restored. He has brought me from death into life.  I was spiritually and emotionally dead.  My soul was dried up and barren.  I was dead in my sins.  He restored me to life! I have been restored. He has given me back the years that were taken from me as I wandered in the desert wasteland, far away from Him.  He has restored all that Satan tried to destroy.  I have peace, joy, love, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control in my life today!!  I HAVE BEEN RESTORED!!! I HAVE BEEN RETURNED TO MY OWNER – GOD.  HE IS THE BLESSED CONTROLLER OF ALL THINGS.  HE IS IN CHARGE, NOT ME.

Daily, I surrender my will to the care of my Lord!  Daily, I hand to Him all that I have and I invite Him to do with it all as He sees fit.  Daily, I choose to lay down my life as I think it should play out, and hand the wheel to God. And this is where He has me.  Today.

I believe that I believe that I BELIEVE that I am on the path pre-destined for me from the moment God created me.  I know that He has a plan for me.  I know that everything has purpose.  I know that His restoration process looks nothing like the restoration process I would have planned for myself.  No….this place I stand today – it is FAR BEYOND, FAR GREATER than anything I ever could have planned for myself.

We serve a MIGHTY, POWERFUL, WONDERFUL God!!!  And HE is in CONTROL!!

Bottom line is this:

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! ~2 Corinthians 5:17

17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved. ~ Matthew 9:17

I have been restored….into a new marriage, with a new mind, a new heart, and a new life!  All things are new!  Amen

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Dripping Faucets

I have learned many valuable lessons over the course of the past 3 1/2 years of my life.  One of the first, and probably most significant things I learned is that in order for change to happen, there must be action. Nothing changes by itself.  I can’t will anything into or out of existence.  I can’t wish a situation away.  I can’t avoid something enough times that it eventually disappears.  These things are all illusions.  The only way to change something, is to take action.

And sometimes, the only time action happens, is when there is enough discomfort.

Take this afternoon, for example.  We were sitting in a doctor’s office.  My daughter wasn’t feeling well, and she was in a room that had a sink.  And the faucet of the sink was dripping.  Now, I didn’t notice the drip at all.  She, on the other hand, spoke up about 5 minutes into our wait.

“That sink keeps dripping, and it’s really bothering me Mom” she said, with a slight hint of annoyance in her voice.  I looked over at the sink, and it was – in fact, dripping.

“Did you try seeing if it was all the way off?” I asked, in a logical, matter-of-fact way.

“No,” she replied and got up to give it a try.  She turned the knobs.  The leaky faucet stopped dripping.  She smiled a smile of relief and sat back down.

And it got me thinking.  How many times do we see things right in front of our faces that we know need to be addressed, but we don’t do anything about it?  How about that bill that needs to be paid that you’ve been avoiding?  That weight you’ve been wanting to lose?  The work-out or food plan you’ve been planning to start tomorrow for the last 6 months? That spiritual discipline you’ve been wanting to start? There are so many, many things….drip — drip — drip —

For me – it’s my procrastination.  For years now, I have been complaining about how I am such a procrastinator and how I can’t stand the way I stress out when I put things off until the last minute.  I have labeled myself over and over again as the “world’s worst procrastinator”.  It’s almost like that dripping faucet, isn’t it?  It’s like I’m looking right at the problem.  I’m well aware of the discomfort it is causing me, but I do nothing about it.  I just watch it drip — drip — drip — drip —  Well, you get the point.

Watching K get up and turn off that dripping faucet made me think about something I heard at a conference a few years ago:

“The most uncomfortable times in my journey have been when I have been aware of a problem or issue in my life, but have not had the willingness to do anything about it”

How simple it was for K to fix her problem today.  Yet, the solution wasn’t available to her until it was suggested by someone else.  She was content being discontent with the dripping of the sink.  I think I’ll say that again.

She was content with being discontent.

Just typing that sentence feels convicting.  Content with discontentment.  I would never think that those two words could fit together in that context.  A complete oxymoron: content discontentment.  Yet, isn’t that essentially what I’m saying when I sit and complain about something I don’t like in my life, but take no action toward changing it?  I wish I could say that procrastination was my only issue.  Nope.  I have a lot of dripping faucets in my life.  Some to which I am able to see the solution on my own, and some that have required others speaking into my life before I could see clearly.  But the common ground that each issue stands on is this: I am currently not taking the steps I need to take to address the issue.  I am not taking action toward change.  I am content to be discontent.

Oh my goodness do I want to argue with that point.  I feel like a fool admitting that I have been content to be discontent…comfortable in my own discomfort….(maybe you do too?) But, regardless of how it makes me feel, it’s the truth.  There are a significant number of areas of my life that I have been able to change simply by taking action steps – no matter how small – toward that change.  There is no reason I can’t be doing the same thing with the other areas of my life.  I have stopped some of my faucets from dripping.  Yet there are still some out there waiting to be turned off.  I just have to take the action.

I’m thinking it may be time to turn off some faucets!  How about you?  What dripping faucets need attending to in your life?

 

 

The following are some “one-liner’s”  I have learned along the way that continue to help me out in this area:

Willingness without action is just wishful thinking.

Faith without works is dead (James 2:17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.)

When the pain is great enough, change will happen.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

Awareness without willingness leads to extreme discomfort.

 

 

 

 

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By His Wounds

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
He died to set each one of us FREE. Accept His forgiveness today!  It does not matter what you have done or not done in your life!  He wants YOU!  He loves YOU!  He calls out to YOU!  Won’t you let Him in?
It’s as simple as this:  If you want to live in FREEDOM, you must start at the Cross.  Ask Jesus to come into your heart and your life as your Lord and Savior.  Trust that He is who He says He is, and He had done – is doing – and WILL continue to do  all He has promised.  You only need the FAITH of a mustard seed!!!  Jesus can handle the rest!  He waits to hear you pour out your heart in honest confession to Him, and He promises to help you turn away from those old behaviors, and live inTRUE FREDOM.
I looked up cross references to Isaiah 53:5, and this is what I found.  I’ll let the Lord’s Words speak for themselves.
Romans 4:25
He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
1 Corinthians 15:3
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures
Hebrews 5:8
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered
Hebrews 9:28
so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
1 Peter 2:24
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
1 Peter 2:25
For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Deuteronomy 11:2
Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the LORD your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm;
Psalm 30:2
LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.
Proverbs 20:30
Blows and wounds scrub away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being.
Isaiah 6:7
With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Isaiah 40:2
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.
Isaiah 53:6
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:8
By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.
Isaiah 53:10
Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
Isaiah 53:11
After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
Isaiah 57:18
I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners,
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Contemplating the Cross

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines contemplate:

1.  To think deeply or carefully about something

2. To consider with continued attention; to meditate on

 

The words “contemplate the cross” have been on my heart this week.  As we enter into the final days of the “Lenten Season”, or the 40 days leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus, I have been trying to be very intentional about thinking of Jesus and what the cross represents in my life.

The cross used to be just a symbol to me;  a symbol that I saw in church.  A symbol that meant I believed in God.  I thought the cross was pretty when it was worn as jewelry.  I liked looking at the cross in church when I was growing up. But I never really spent time thinking about how the cross affected my life.  Why?  I guess because it really didn’t much affect my life back then.  I didn’t look at Jesus as playing an active role in my current life.  I didn’t look at Him as a friend, or counselor, or leader, or guide, or anything like that.  He was God’s Son, He lived and performed miracles thousands of years ago, He died on the cross, He was resurrected from the dead, He rose again to spend eternity at the right hand of His Father.  I believed all of those things.  It’s just that I didn’t see any connection with my life.  It was like He was “up there”, up in Heaven, looking down on my life and watching over me.  There was a disconnect somewhere.  I thought that Jesus was a passive presence in my life.  I thought He paid attention to all my sins, and was always disappointed in me.  I thought He was keeping track of my good deeds, and my poor choices – deciding whether or not He would allow me into heaven someday.

It wasn’t that I didn’t believe.  It was that I didn’t understand.

I didn’t understand that Jesus is an active part of my life, very much interested in every detail of who I was, who I am, and who I am growing to be.  I didn’t understand that His love for me runs deeper than I can possibly imagine.  I didn’t understand that He longs to be in relationship with me; close, intimate relationship.  I didn’t understand that when He said, “Follow me” 2,000 years ago to some men on a boat; that those very words would continue to ring true in the hearts of every single one of God’s creations.  I didn’t know that He was pursuing me with the same longing as He pursued each one of His disciples.  I didn’t know that when Jesus died, He chose it – He accepted it – He went to the cross WILLINGLY.  I didn’t realize that He would have still gone to the cross if I was the only person on the face of the Earth.  I didn’t get it that Jesus took every one of my sins onto Himself, and endured the agonizing torture of separation from His Father.  I didn’t know that Jesus asked God if there was any way that the cross didn’t have to happen…but in the same breath He surrendered to the will of His Father.  I didn’t understand that the blood that flowed from Him on that day continues to flow through the hearts and lives of all of His children today.  I didn’t realize that Jesus was 100% human and 100% God; that He experienced every emotion, temptation, and problem that all humans have to face, without the sinful nature that all humans are chained to.  I didn’t realize that when Jesus healed the sick, blind, deaf, mute, dying, and diseased of His time, He would still do that today – both physically and spiritually.  I didn’t understand that Jesus is eternal, infinite, all-knowing, all-loving, ever-present….that the echo of the cross could be heard even before the cross was created.  I didn’t realize that the grace God gives us through the death of His Son Jesus, is a free GIFT – which cannot be earned, and cannot be lost.  I didn’t realize that to receive this gracious gift of LOVE, I had to accept it.  I had to open it.  I had to invite Him in to my heart and my life.  I didn’ t realize that Jesus is as real as I am, as alive as I am, as totally able to communicate as I am.  I didn’t know He would speak to me through the Power of His WORD.  I didn’t know that the words he spoke audibly 2,000 years ago would still be spoken to my heart today.  I didn’t know that when I openly confessed my sins to Him and repented from my behavior, that I instantly received His beautiful gift of forgiveness.  I didn’t know that He took my sins and threw them as far as the east is from the west.  I didn’t realize that He would make me brand new – from the inside out!  I didn’t understand back then.  I was missing the amazing, precious, Almighty, gracious, kind, compassionate, loving, forgiving, constant, eternal LOVE of Jesus because I didn’t recognize the cross for what it really is.

The cross is far more than a symbol in a church, or a symbol showing I believe in God.  The cross is where Jesus laid down His life for the sake of His friends.  For my sake.  For yours.  He chose DEATH.  He died willingly.  He carried each one of my sins on His shoulders, endured the punishment that was meant for me, suffered agonizingly at the hands of His enemies for my sake, and then crawled WILLINGLY onto the cross in order to be tortured, taunted, and tormented to the point of unfathomable, excruciating pain.  The worst part?  By doing all of this for me, He was separated from the only sure thing He had ever known – the love of His Father.  The strength of His Father.  The presence of His Father.  Gone. For that awful moment, when He cried out “Why have you forsaken me?”, Jesus actually lost all relationship with His Father.  Why?  So that I could be healed.  So that I could be saved.  So that I could be set free!!!!  And so can YOU.

Have you contemplated the cross lately?  I promise you, Jesus is beckoning you there….right now.  Won’t you sit with Him and discover who He really is?  Experience first hand, the life-changing, mind-altering, transformational, intoxicating GRACE of the Lord, Jesus Christ.  All you have to do….is accept His gift, invite Him in, and let Him move.  I promise you – it is a choice you will never regret.  Christ is amazing.  His love is amazing.  His grace is truly awesome!!!  So, sit with Him a while today….and let Him break you, shake you, MAKE you – as He shows you – His unequaled, unconditional, undying LOVE.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed. ~ Isaiah 53:5

 

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Waiting for the Bloom

The following display of text is from a  devotional email I have been receiving for the past few weeks.  It spoke volumes to me this morning, and I would like to share the text, as well as some of my own personal thoughts and reflections as they relate.

Lent Day 42 – Flowers in the Desert
We began these daily Lent reflections by noting how Lent takes us into a spiritual desert. Biblical people knew all about the desert: Abraham has to cross it to get to the promised land; Moses and the Israelite people have to go through it to get home; Joseph is sent into Egypt and prison before he is ready for his mission; John the Baptist is a voice crying in the desert; Paul goes into the desert of Arabia after meeting the Lord on the road to Damascus. Even Jesus himself spends forty days and nights in the desert before commencing his ministry–the template on which Lent is based.

What does the desert symbolize? A number of things: confrontation with our own sin so as to see our dark side; a deep realization of our dependency upon God; an ordering of our priorities in life; a simplification, a getting back to basics. It means any and all of these things.

However, the desert also symbolizes waiting in anticipation. Desert wanderers are compelled to wait, in a time and place where very little life seems to be on offer, in hope of better things to come.

And it’s precisely in such hopeful deserts that flowers bloom. Moses becomes a great leader; Abraham is the father of many nations; Joseph becomes the savior of his people; John the Baptist is the forerunner of the Messiah; Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles-all of this flowering was made possible by the desert.

So as we near the end of Lent, the end of our desert waiting, and move toward the Holy Triduum, let’s prepare for new flowers to bloom.

The words that especially ring true for me today are these:

What does the desert symbolize? A number of things: confrontation with our own sin so as to see our dark side; a deep realization of our dependency upon God; an ordering of our priorities in life; a simplification, a getting back to basics. It means any and all of these things. 

However, the desert also symbolizes waiting in anticipation. Desert wanderers are compelled to wait, in a time and place where very little life seems to be on offer, in hope of better things to come. 

 

Compelled to wait.  The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines compel:

: to force (someone) to do something

: to make (something) happen : to force (something)

So, in this desert time, I have been forced to wait.  That makes absolute sense to me!  I am waiting in so many areas of my life!

For me, this desert season has been like going to the doctor’s office.  I wonder if I am the only one who has had this experience:

I go to the doctor, and  expect to wait.  It’s just part of the deal.  I expect to wait a reasonable amount of time, of course.  The first part of the waiting is done in the “waiting room”, where I am waiting in community with other people.  There are other patients waiting to see the doctor.  There are receptionists at the desks.  There’s usually a television to keep me occupied. The waiting during this phase of the appointment seems to be fairly easy. Then, I get called back.  I walk with a nurse who asks me some questions, and then she leaves me alone.  Alone.  And I wait. And wait.  And wait.  Alone.  And I find myself waiting patiently at first. But then the time starts ticking a little slower, and I begin listening for the doctor’s voice to get louder.  And I begin wondering if the doctor forgot about me.  I  hear him going into other rooms, and the muffled conversations he is having with other patients, and I find myself feeling irritated that he seems to be going everywhere else but my room.  I start looking at the time.  I catch myself  sighing with frustration from time to time.  I begin flipping through that magazine that I have no interest in.  I look at the time again.  And I wonder:  Where is that doctor?

Can you relate?  Do you ever experience the slow, but steady progressive wave of impatience that sneaks over you during the waiting process?

That’s where I am starting to find myself at lately.  Impatient for God to move.  Wanting Him to operate on my time schedule, instead of His.  The only problem with that?  If I want it to be part of His perfect plan, I have to wait.  He gives me freedom to act at any time I choose.  I can move on my own strength and in my own time, but if I’ve learned anything at all, it is that moving apart from God NEVER winds up with me being satisfied.

So, as difficult as it is, today I will choose to be patient.  I will choose to let God run the show.  I will choose to rely on His timing rather than my own. Will I like it?  Honestly, I might not.  But, that’s alright, God doesn’t need my approval.

The reading today reminds me that there is a PURPOSE in this season of my life.  There is purpose in the desert wandering, purpose in the waiting, purpose in the struggle.  For me, right this very moment, that is enough.

I am fueled by the hope that from this desert, there will come beautiful blooms.  Blooms that can only come as a direct result of where I am today. So….I’ll wait.

 

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From “Good Mom” to a Mother

As a mother, I often wonder if I am doing the right thing for my children.  Not only am I concerned about doing the right thing for them now, but even more so for their future.  I look at each new day as an opportunity to invest in their hearts now and for their future. This idea was spurred when a friend shared her heart for mothering and gave me a beautiful picture of how she prayed for her children: “I don’t so much pray for the ability to raise good children, as I do to raise godly adults.”  Her words impacted me, and have made a difference in the way I look at my role as Mom.

I used to think that being a good mom was some sort of badge of honor I needed to wear daily, out in the open, so all who were within viewing distance of me could see it.  It was kind of like a public performance, a total facade, just to impress whomever was looking.  I remember looking around at other moms when my daughter was in preschool and sizing them up.  Did I look like that mom over there, with her frazzled hair, her tired eyes, her exhausted sighs of frustration as she picked up her screaming toddler to comfort him?  Or, did I look like that mom over there, with her beautiful hair, perfect make-up, name-brand everything and well-behaved children?  Well, I knew what I felt like: the exhausted mom. But I couldn’t let anyone know that about me, so I learned to play the part of “the mom who has her act together” quite well.  Nevermind that inside I was scrambling just to figure out my own feelings half the time.  If you knew me, if you were in my life in even the smallest way back then, I made SURE you knew that was a good mom.  It was essential.  Being a good mom was more than just a role I was playing, it was my identity.

Wow, have times changed for me.

God has done a major work inside this mother’s heart.  It started when I realized that I was an alcoholic.  When God opened my eyes to this major issue in my life, I began to see how very twisted my perception on reality had become.  I was constantly over-striving to be a good mom because, inside, it was the only thing I had to cling to. I had already lost the role of good wife.  I didn’t care much about being a good daughter, friend, sister, or even employee at that time.  I was so self-consumed, so stuck in my pit of despair, that the ONLY – and I mean ONLY – thing that kept me motivated some days, was the fact that I had to be a good mom.  In fact, one of the driving forces for me to get the help I needed to overcome my active alcoholic behaviors was the fact that my kids needed me.  In the beginning, my sobriety was directly tied to my role as a mom.  I needed to be sober because I needed to be there for my children, and, I desperately needed YOU to see that.

Today, I stand 1,318 days without a drink.  That’s 1,318 days of learning how to live a sober life.  God has done a major work inside my heart during my recovery process.  About a year into my sobriety, the desperation to stay sober for my kids was no longer there.  At that point, sobriety had become a way of life for me, and things were starting to become a little more balanced.  God began to show me some things during that time.  He began to show me that I placed my role as good mom far too high on my priority list.  He showed me that while I was so busy trying to get everyone to see me being a good mom….I was missing out on some of the most important aspects of being a mom.  The first thing I was missing was that my kids don’t actually belong to me.  Let me say that again.

My children do not actually belong to me.

You can believe that I wrestled with God on THAT one for a while.  In the end, He showed me that my children are not my property.  I don’t own them.  He showed me that my children are precious gifts, more than that: He has entrusted me with their lives.  Entrusted me to love them well, to raise them up in His Love, to discipline them and show them the right path, to minister to their hearts, to guide and direct them in their times of need, and MOST IMPORTANTLY to foster within them a LOVE for the Lord.  He showed me that He has blessed me with the role of being a mother, not just a good mom.  My number one job as a Mother? Getting my kids back to where they came from!  I did not create my children.  God did.  I did not place every hair on their heads.  God did that too.  I don’t own them, but He has given them to me to love, to cherish, to teach, to guide, and to direct them back to Him.  Letting go of my need  to  be validated as a good mom was HUGE for me.  When God finally broke through my pride, and I was able to see the Truth about my children being gifts and not possessions: only then was I able to begin developing real relationships with each one of them.  I was able to stop trying to impress everyone around me, and start intentionally working at impressing God’s Love into my children’s hearts and lives.

All three of my children understand that I put God first in my life.  My middle guy – my logical thinker – struggles with that concept from time to time, and questions me on it.  One time he said to me, “Mommy, does that mean that you love God more than you love me?”  My response to him was this:  “Honey, without God, you aren’t even here for me to love.  The best way for me to love you is to make sure that I am keeping God first.  I can love you best when I am loving God first.”  He understood what I was saying, and I even saw a twinkle in his eye as he processed what that meant.

Loving God FIRST in my life is the only way I can do anything.  Keeping Him on His throne keeps me off of it!  It was so easy to place my need to be a good mom as the highest priority of my life.  It was no wonder that I was constantly falling short.  I was trying to be this great mom on my own.  And, let’s face it – on my own– I can’t even keep my own life straight, much less my 3 beautiful children.  I HAVE to have God’s presence within me to even begin being the Mother He has called me to be.  I have to approach Him with every need, every fear, every worry, every heartache.  I have to pray for the words to speak into each one of my children’s lives: words that will encourage them and build them up, while disciplining them and teaching them the way they need to go.  I can’t do that without God in the driver’s seat.

So, I think I’ll move over, and let the Father drive.

New International Version
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

New Living Translation
Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.

English Standard Version
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

 

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The Shadow of the Cross

The Shadow of the Cross

And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

Yesterday, I was gifted with the amazing opportunity to spend a beautiful hour and a half with the Lord at one of my favorite spaces.

It is not everyday that my life circumstances work out in a way that I have space to sit with Jesus in this place.  It is a quiet place called La Salette Missionaries and Shrine, in Twin Lakes, WI.  To me, it is a sacred space.  It is a beautiful, spacious place – where serenity and solitude join hands in perfect harmony. I love to just go there and  be with the Lord.  The grounds are well-kept and flourishing with greenery.  There is a quiet koi pond, rolling hills, distinct walking paths with benches lining them for times of quiet reflection and meditation.  It is just beautiful there.

So, I had some time to spend there yesterday while I was waiting to pick up my children for school.  I went for a short run and then decided to go sit on a hill, where stands a life-size representation of Christ and the two thieves on their crosses.

I fell to my knees, and placed my hands in an open position before the Lord, in the shadow of His cross.  I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving.  I quieted my spirit.  I recognized that I was both sitting in the shadow of His cross, while at the same time I could see and feel the warm of the sun.  I felt a most amazing feeling of peace come over my mind and body.

And the following words came over me:

In the Light of Your Spirit, in the shadow of Your cross,

I will find my rest.

In the Light of Your Spirit, in the shadow of Your cross,

I will find my death.

In the Light of Your Spirit, in the shadow of Your cross,

I will find new life.

Because death could not hold you, the grave was not your end,

I have found new life.

 

These words played in my mind over and over, and I began to sing them aloud to the Lord.  As I did, I just felt His Amazing Grace sweep over me – heart, mind, body, and soul.  I was overcome with a joy that still remains as I write this entry.  A joy that feels unbreakable.  A confidence in my God, my Lord, my ROCK.

I am so grateful to be exactly where I am, right now.  Thank You God!!!

 

 

 

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Be Still

Psalm 46:10

Be still and know that I am God.

I cannot count the number of times I have found myself longing for a simpler life.  The longing is not for an easy life, but for a life that is quieter, calmer, more peaceful.  I long for a life of less.  Less activity.  Less striving.  Less rushing.  Less worrying.  Less stress! I don’t know about you, but I have a mind that rarely shuts off.  Even when my body is still (which is not often) my mind continues to move.  I am constantly thinking.  Constantly planning.  Constantly engaged in some kind of mental manipulation of my present circumstances.

When I look at Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God, I feel this longing intensify. This longing to sit.  To stop.  To bask in God, and to just allow Him to quiet me to the core.  Quiet not only my physical being, but my emotional and spiritual being as well.  I feel like this is an impossibility for me.  No, let me rephrase that.  I KNOW this is an impossibility for me.  A simple life? Ha!  I am about to enter into a world of 6 children under the age of 11.  Quieter?  Calmer?  More peaceful?  I don’t think so.  Not on the outside anyway.

Here is what I love about God:  IMPOSSIBLE doesn’t stop Him!  In fact, Matthew 19:26 tells me that NOTHING is impossible for God.  For Dawn, yes.  For God?  No WAY!  Philippians 4:13 tells me that I CAN do this!  I can do all things through Christ who is my strength!  It isn’t about me.

What I have had to learn, and am continuing to learn at a deeper level, is that my circumstances are NOT in control of my life. I think that warrants a repeat:  my circumstances are NOT in control of my life.

It is so easy for me to bow down to the god of busyness.  It is so easy for me to fill my plate to the point where things begin to fall off.  This starts in my thought life.  I used to struggle with understanding why I can be so absent-minded sometimes.  The Lord is showing me that this happens when I have too many things in my mind.  My mind-plate is so full, that whenever I add something new, something old falls off.  And my mind-plate is so full, that I cannot stop and spend time on any one thought without a hundred others competing for my attention.

Unfortunately, I have found that when my mind-plate is full, my commitment and activity-plates are also.  This presents a major problem in my life because I become stretched too thin.  I overcommit myself, even to good things, and I end up regretting my choices.  I lose steam half way through something  because it is probably something I had no business adding to my plate in the first place.  This has created problems for me in the past, and is still creating problems for me now.

It is like I am at war within myself sometimes.  I mean, I know (in my mind) that I have to change these things.  I know that I can’t continue to overcommit myself or to constantly be engaged in thinking through my life.  I know all of this in my head, but my inner desire to perform typically outweighs my common sense, which tells me to slow down!  Some days I feel like life is moving faster than I can ever catch up to.  I am my own worst enemy.  I don’t take care of myself in the way that God commands.  He actually commands me to rest.  More than once in Scripture, God calls His people into rest.  Why do I fight it so much?

Tonight, I have a longing in my heart to slow down, to be still, and to KNOW that He is God.  And I can’t wait to see what He does with that!

 

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Power of Prayer

“Prayer works.”  “Prayer is powerful.”  “God answers prayers.” “Pray for God to….”  “Pray for God to stop….”  “I pray every day”   “I pray at meals”

So many people in life have said these words – believers and unbelievers alike. I wonder how God feels about us using him as a prayer “vending machine”, where we go before Him and deposit our “good works”, punch the buttons of our prayer request, and hope that we have enough “good” in our lives to earn His favor and receive a “YES”?

So often, we walk through life feeling “satisfied” with our attempts at getting the “God-thing” right, by going to church on Sunday, singing some songs and listening to a message – and then going about our independent living for the rest of the week. God is on Sundays.  Back to work on Mondays.  Sure, we’ll pray when things are rough.  We will pray when things are difficult. When someone is sick.  When someone loses a job.  When things are falling apart.  When we really need to make the mortgage this month.  When we can’t find work.  When we need a raise.  I can speak to this, because I was that person.  For a long time actually.

I prayed.  When I needed something.  I prayed.  When I wanted something.  I prayed.  When I lost something or someone.  I prayed.  When things got tough.  But, I can honestly say that I never even used to consider praying when things were good.  I never considered prayer as a way of life.  I never looked at prayer as a time of communicating with our Sovereign God.  It never even crossed my mind that God longed for me to come to Him in prayer, all day long – every single day!

He actually wants to be a part of every aspect of my life, and prayer is the channel through which I invite Him.  I didn’t know that.  I honestly didn’t.

I didn’t realize that prayer didn’t have to be a formal dance with God, where I had to be a dressed up in my best dress, hair done, makeup on, wrinkles ironed to perfection!  I didn’t know that He loves me just the way I am, wherever I am.   I didn’t realize that I could go to Him about anything at any time, and He would be there.  I didn’t know that I could address Him as Father, God, Lord, Savior, Abba, Yahweh, Majesty, Creator and so many other wonderfully beautiful names, and they all referred to the One who Loves me completely. I didn’t know that He passionately craves a relationship with me!

And any relationship – at least any successful relationship – requires communication.  Constant communication.  Consistent communication.  Formal communication.  Informal communication.  Raw emotional communication.  Honest communication.  Vulnerable communication.  Communication is an essential element to all healthy relationships.  Why would a relationship with God be any different?  Why would communication with the God of the Universe be on any level lower than our human relationships?  Would we consider communicating with our spouse or children just once a week for an hour or so? Would we consider it acceptable to only communicate with them in the morning and then briefly before a meal and before we go to bed at night?  No way!  Then why is this acceptable when it comes to our relationship with God?

Is it because we think He’s too busy or doesn’t want to hear from us?  Do we worry we might bother Him, or that our problems are too small to worry Him – or that perhaps He can’t handle hearing from us on that same topic again?

I am here to tell you all something.  This is how I used to think.  Thank God I can say used to think.  Someone once told me that prayer with God should come as natural to me as breathing.  Someone once told me that God loves me so much that He knows every single hair on my head, and He summons me by NAME.  Someone once told me that God longs to hear from me all day long!  He longs to be invited into every aspect of my day, my week, my month, my year, my LIFE.  Someone once told me that when I started to place my relationship with God above everything else in my life, that prayer would become an entirely new experience for me, and I would begin to long for Him the same way He longs for me.  Let me tell you, that someone was right.

My prayer life has changed exponentially.  I no longer wait for a “reason” to pray.  I no longer have to have a “request” for God in order to communicate with Him.  We just talk.  I tell Him how much I love Him.  I thank Him for all that He has done, is doing, and will continue doing in my life.  I let Him know where I am at each day.  I ask for His guidance in all things.  I ask for His direction in all things.  I pray for His will to be done.

It is amazing to see the true power of prayer unfolding in my life today. It isn’t about whether or not my prayers are “answered”. It is about having Faith that the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE, the ALMIGHTY MAJESTIC CREATOR, loves me enough to sit with me every single day, and communicate with me!  That is an amazing reality that eluded me, until I finally stopped trying to figure out how to do it perfectly, and just started talking.  Seriously, I just started talking.  Sometimes I have requests, sometimes I don’t. In fact, one of my favorite prayers is one I say in the morning when I awake. It goes a little something like this: “Good morning God.  Thank you for waking me up today.  I pray your will would be done in all things during this day.  Use me and my life as you see fit, Lord.  In Jesus I pray.  Amen”

God is not a prayer “vending machine”, ready to dispense a “YES” or “NO” answer to our prayers based on the amount of “good works” we deposit.  That isn’t the heart of prayer.  The heart of prayer, a prayer that truly honors God, is one in which we honor Him first, praise Him, thank Him, and surrender to Him.  The answers to prayer come as God sees fit, and in His time.  I have learned that I don’t have to lay a list of prayer requests at His feet in order for prayer to be answered.  He already knows my heart, and everything that is on it.  Through actively engaging in prayer all throughout my days, I can be certain that He is aware of each and every desire of my heart, and has already made a plan to accomplish what needs to be accomplished in the life I get the beautiful opportunity to live here on this earth.

We serve a really big God, and He is interested in the really small details of every single one of His children.  Have you talked with your Creator yet today?  If not, you can start right now with a simple, “Hi God….I love you”

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Because I Love You

There was a song in the 90’s that I really enjoyed listening to as a Freshman in high school.  It was called “Because I Love You” and was sung by the artist by the name of Stevie B.  It just so happened to be mine and my first Sweetheart’s “song”.  You know, that song that plays on radio, and the entire world stood still and your heart started pounding as you envisioned yourself walking down the aisle in a fancy white dress…?  OK, well, perhaps you aren’t the sappy romantic I was (and still can be)!

Anyway, those words because I love you represent a powerful message to a person.  When someone tells you they love you, it makes you feel special, valued, appreciated, accepted, loved.  And is there a greater feeling than the feeling of being  loved?  I’m not sure that there is.  I think one of the reasons that the words because I love you create such strong emotions are because they represent one very important word:  COMMITMENT.  When another person tells you they love you….what they are really saying is “I am committed to you”.

This morning, during my quiet time, I was led to a set of verses in which GOD makes such a commitment to us.  To me.  To you.  And if having another human being tell me they are committed to me creates such feelings of being loved, valued, appreciated, accepted, and loved – how much MORE does this mean to me that the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE is making that same commitment??  For me – it means everything.  Let’s look at the verses I read this morning:

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 set you ablaze.  ~Isaiah 43:2

There is such beauty in that verse alone.  There is commitment woven all through those words.  The images of walking through the waters, passing through the rivers, and walking through fire – those images create fear inside of me.  Those words speak about extremely dangerous situations, extreme hardship and trials, terrifying situations that would instantly overpower a mere human being.  Maybe you aren’t as visual of a person as I am, so let me just try to give some words to you that explain what these words make me “see”.

pass through the waters:  I envision a tsunami water-wall hitting with extreme force and taking over everything it its path

pass through the rivers:  I envision fast-moving currents that are over my head, and me struggling to keep above water.

walk through the fire: I envision flames all around me, consuming everything they touch.

So, God is telling me WHEN I experience these things… not IF.  That is a key word to me here.  Nowhere in His Word does God promise that we will not have trouble.  Just the opposite is true, actually.  He promises that we WILL encounter trials and tribulations, hardships and suffering of every kind.  But He doesn’t stop there.  Look at His promises that accompany each of these images of extreme hardship:

I will be with you.

they will not sweep over you.

the flames will not set you ablaze.

He is promising to BE THERE with us through the times of suffering.  He is promising that our trials will NOT sweep us away! He is PROMISING that the hardship will not permanently harm us (emotionally, spiritually, or physically).  Of course, we will be affected.  Of course, these times will be DIFFICULT and SCARY.  But if we place our trust in Him instead of our own strength and capabilities:  we will be victorious on the other side of each of our seasons of difficulty.  Why?

He says it in verse 4:

Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you

 

BECAUSE I LOVE YOU – says the Lord.  Wow.  Wrap your mind around that today.  You ARE loved.  Perfectly.  Beautifully. Amazingly LOVED by the God of the Universe.

In my next post, I want to take a look at Psalm 91, where God tells us what happens when we place our LOVE and TRUST in Him.  When we commit to Him with the passion that He commits to us!!

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