The Beauty of an Exchange

Life looks different right now. We’ve all said or thought it over the last few weeks. This time in history will mark each of us in ways we can’t even imagine right now. Our rearview-mirror perspective will show us much more than our in-the-moment view ever can. I hope I can look back at my own life and know I did my best. My best to glorify God in the good and bad of a life pushed into a time where so much was decided for me and my dependence could only be found in Him and who He is for myself and my family.

As I write this, I am on the breakthrough side of a lesson that my heart needed to learn…again. If you read a piece I wrote not long ago called Leaving the Land of Self Protection, you know that I am a recovering self-protector. Trauma in my life has given me a stealthy skill of slipping into self-protection to weather difficult relationships and/or conflict. My word for 2019 was level-up and it played out in wild ways (isn’t that God?) most significantly was showing me there was an elevated way to operate when things got hard. Last year was the revealing and subsequent deliverance from having to live this way. Letting Jesus be my defender and protector is still new to me when I am hurting.

Over the last few days, I have felt the invitation to self-protect. I didn’t catch it right away, but now, I see the signs. I was numbing myself to feelings about anyone else. (If I don’t care, they can’t hurt me…) Also, doing whatever I wanted to feel cared for (under the slippery guise of self care). So indifference coupled with self indulgence are my big red flags that Self-Protection is creeping in.

**Quick note about these two actions: In health, I can put up good boundaries and practice self care. I am all for those actions. In the doing of both of those, I must be seeking the Father for guidance first or I can guarantee I do both from self protection. My biblical litmus is Seek ye first the Kingdom of God found in Matthew 6:33. When I seek Him first, His wisdom for boundaries or self care are good and life giving.

In the morning when I went downstairs to have quiet time, I felt my (fleshy) mind making a game plan on how to act today to preserve myself. This is when I had the full-blown ah-ha moment about the direction my behavior was taking. I sat with my coffee, journal, and worship music in my ears and I let it out. I started writing my most honest feelings. At the end I silently cried to God that I didn’t know what to do with these feelings, but I didn’t want to operate in old habits.

As I experienced all of this, it was in fact Good Friday. Just before Jesus gave up His spirit, and He declared “It is finished.” When He did this, He was ending the reign of terror that sin had on our lives. We get to put our sins to death because of His death. I am not destined to be a slave to Self Protection the rest of my life. I am 100% free from it in eternity, but I am also declaring victory over it in my remaining time here on Earth. My abundant life came at a price, and I will not forsake the cost because it is easier to live out old patterns.

Upon asking God, “what now?” I opened the YouVersion Bible app to participate in the reading plan my small group has been doing together. When I opened the app an ad for a three day reading plan greeted me. It was called Living Hope: A Countdown to Easter, and was designed to be read Good Friday through Easter Sunday. All I can say is the Holy Spirit prompted me to open it. I did and I was immediately blown away by the content! The devotion talked about being forsaken and listed three things to do when you feel that way. I don’t want to give it all away so please go the app and check it out for yourself, but that list confirmed that I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing. I was crying out to God with my honest words and a heart that knew there was a better way and yet felt drawn to old patterns. However, I was choosing worship and His word in the waiting to receive direction.

I finished day one of Living Hope and then turned to the reading plan that my small group was following and a line from that devotional jumped out at me too. It said, “The victory of Jesus is received where your trying ends.”

I realized my mind had been working to sift through all it knew about my old and new self to come to a conclusion as to what to do next. I was still trying to do this based on my own resources! This is when I stopped and reflected on how my showing up with open hands ready to receive something new is right where He wanted me. Now I am a visual person and the Holy Spirit has full access to my mind’s eye. So He showed me a picture of the poor widow mentioned in two of the Gospels. Here is what Mark 12:41-44 NIV says:

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

As I pictured her outstretched hands, poverty stricken and perhaps even dirty, but as humble as a pure-hearted child letting the two coins slide out of her hands to fully surrender herself to be cared for by God, I couldn’t help but see something new in this story.

God looks at the heart and in that moment Jesus looked at a woman who was all in. She knew where her hope was anchored and empty hands are free of false security in earthly resources. But more than that, He delights in watching us bring our “stuff” for the exchange. This action is an act of worship that declares that we know that He supercededs ANYTHING we could bring to the table. He delights in me coming to Him and spewing my very real feelings and honest longings. He knows it is for my benefit to unload on Him. In the unloading, I am emptying my hands to receive a priceless exchange.

With worship music in my ears and eyes closed I continued to see in my mind’s eye a simple scenario of my own hands dirty and ravaged, clutching sharp rocks. When I opened my hands, the jagged stones had words written on them. One said “brokenness” another “self-protection” and another “pride”. I flattened my hands and tilted them down to let the rocks slide to the ground and they landed right in front of the feet of Jesus. I was crying and sad, but He had the biggest smile on His face. He was overjoyed to see me surrender these burdens. To give everything I had to bring so He could exchange it all. He then extended His hand and touched mine, healing and cleansing them. Empty hands are a joy for Jesus to fill. The exchange has nothing to do with the value of the items brought, but everything to do with the heart of the one bringing them. The heart reveals when we are truly at the end of our own trying.

As we continue to wade through difficult times, how are you dealing with disappointment, fear, frustration, sadness, conflict, the unknown, etc.? Are you taking time to be truly honest with God about all of it? If you haven’t, I urge you dear reader, to spend time unloading on God. He is big enough to handle any and every emotion you have. His exchange is based on who He is, not what you bring.

Trust the Process

ScriptureArt_-_Philippians1_6_157x157

This is my favorite verse. I chose it as my life verse a few years back. It reminds me of the truth that we are all on a journey. Salvation is immediate, the rest is a process as unique as you. The common denominator that we all have as believers is Jesus and Holy Spirit. Our struggles, our temptations in this life will vary greatly from person to person and from season to season. The constant is Jesus and Holy Spirit. They are always wooing you and pursuing you. They are singing love over you and pulling your true identity out from underneath the world’s chains of sin and shame.

Our time to meet our maker is set. Jesus knows what his timeframe is with you. Be confident that as long as you are open to his work in you, the pace is perfect. I often get frustrated that I don’t have victory in a certain area when I would think I should. It is good to keep pressing on, but let’s not forget who is doing the work. Sometimes, we just have to trust the process and fall in step with Holy Spirit as he guides us to truth and revelation.

Here is a perfect example of my own frustrations and my need to be reminded of that verse. I have anger issues. I have struggled with them for most of my life. In my past I have flown into rages and by God’s grace was able to keep my distance from pounding on the offender. I have put my face to the ground more than once in anguish over this shortcoming in my life. I feel anger well up so quickly sometimes that I am shocked that before you know it, I am consumed with annoyance and sometimes rage.

Why? Why can’t I get total victory over this in my life? I have given it to God more times than I can count. There must be a piece missing. Or maybe it is a proverbial thorn that my insides will always have to deal with, yet God will give me the grace and power to squelch it before it comes to the surface. Maybe it will be the one thing that constantly reminds me of my need for a savior (Jesus) and a helper (Holy Spirit).
It has improved over the years and having three small children definitely gives me ample practice with controlling the issue. I have lost my temper with my children and had to go to them and apologize. This has given me great opportunities to talk about how we are not perfect, but Jesus loves us anyway. Isn’t He good?

He is supplying me with grace, knowledge, and confidence that HE IS WORKING in my life!

I can take stock of my life and see progress and know that Philippians 1:6 is true for me!

Go After the Person, Not the Practice

 

go after the person (1)

If you spend much time in the Christian faith, you will quickly become aware of the common disciplines that we as a people attribute to the strength of our relationship with God:

  • prayer
  • reading the Bible
  • tithing
  • attending church

These things are good. I have been in church my whole life and I wouldn’t cross a single thing off that list—I would probably even add a few. I cherish the foundations I was given and the emphasis on certain pillars of the faith. I found myself leaning on these things to get me through tragic times in my past when I had no emotion left to be led into an encounter with God. I relied on the rhythm of daily prayer to keep me attached to God when I was operating out of hurt and making choices that were not His best for me. These disciplines saved me when I was a shell of a woman in a spiritual coma.

Although they were a lifeline at one point in my life, I hope that I am coming at them from a different angle with my kids. As a child, I was taught the disciplines as the pathway to holiness. I was pressured to do these things out of loyalty to God—a respect for the religion of Christianity—not from an outpouring of my love for Him, or even a celebration of His love for me.

If you spend your days perfecting a discipline to ensure that it is engrained in your being, you have fallen prey to religion. This thing that you look to perfect, will become what you anchor your hope. You stir up a sense of entitlement that if you hold up your end of the bargain—if you execute your discipline—things will go your way. You enclose yourself in a fortress of manmade accomplishments. Pride and pious thinking creep in like fog in the evening. They shroud your fortress to keep humility far from it’s doors. As the walls grow and get stronger, it becomes harder and harder for you to fathom that you are living anything but a holy life. The Enemy has been given space in your heart because he has become your biggest cheerleader. He pats you on the back and sings your praises for the work you are doing for God. Standing tall and strong for righteousness and hating all those deplorable actions of those who “claim” to love God.

The heartbreak of it all is that you have accidentally changed masters. You now serve holiness. You are seeking to be holy out of fear of being perceived as unholy, not out of adoration for your savior. These small pivots of the heart, these 1° changes in direction are hard to spot.

The reality is God doesn’t want your disciplines if they come from a place in your heart that says, “I’ve done these things—thus, I have earned your goodness.” The order is important. He wants you to long to be about His business and His purpose. This may require you to get in His word, or worship, or give sacrificially. He is not so one dimensional that you are going to be able to anticipate what He wants from you every single day. Disciplines have a strange allure to them that says you have all the tools and methods needed to create a holy life.

Having daily habits are great. I like routine as much as the next guy (okay, maybe not my type B will not be denied). We must examine our intent and be open to redirection in our motivation for the disciplines of the faith. Holy Spirit can bring this to our attention if we ask. We may also get a small conviction while reading God’s word or in a random conversation that we have with a friend.

The truth is Christianity was never meant to be a religion. It was freedom from the bonds of religion and an invitation to a relationship. We need to keep the religious habits in proper perspective. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 to, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” The Message version refers to His Kingdom as God-reality, God-initiative, and God-provisions. The best way to do this is through the channels of the disciplines listed above! The key difference—and the point I am trying to make is that you need the active relationship with the Holy Spirit to orchestrate those disciplines in such a way that you get the most out of them for the season you are in. Seek His presence and will for your time with Him first and the discipline will be a by-product of your time with him. Just seeking and asking each day what thing to dive into (worship, praying, reading the Word) will be great for your prayer life. Being led to a passage or book of the bible to camp out in is one way to be strengthened in your ability to hear Holy Spirit’s voice. Being led to listen to worship music and just sit is the discipline of quieting your spirit.

Whatever you feel more drawn to (by the Holy Spirit), go and be free to saturate yourself with it. Do not worry about the other disciplines or see them as tasks to be completed. They are by-products of the intimacy. We are to become Christ like. If you search the scriptures, you will not find a point-blank formula for holiness outside of accepting that we are only holy through the blood of Christ. Jesus had tendencies and habits that he held in high regard, but He knew that it was not the habit itself that gave him access to the Father. It was His heart’s desire to be about whatever the Father wanted Him to be about. It was His willingness to immerse himself in anything Heaven oriented. That mindset gave him a hunger for the Word, for quiet time with God, and a desire to share what He knew with others. He desired to know God. As much as I value the practices of Jesus, I want to be after Him more than His practices. I want to press into who He is and gain a greater understanding of each individual member of the Trinity. Revelations of this will come from all avenues (disciplines) of the Christian faith, my priority is to keep my eyes on the goal and not the practices themselves.

My Summer Prayer

Today I sit at my computer and mentally prepare for the next 10 weeks. I LOVE having my kids at home, but I also have things that need done and I am accustomed to fitting them in with less children in tow. This means that I have to strike a balance between conquering my list and really enjoying the moment. This is totally doable. Many women have gone before me and owned their summers while keeping on top of work (be that housework or vocational work). I am blessed to work from home so I am doing both under one roof. For all the moms out there preparing for the adventures of summer, I give you my summer prayer. I looked at the prayer of Jabez and thought, what would it look like to ask God for an amazing summer?

 

jabez summer

Throughout this summer do not forget where your strength comes from. When the excitement of freedom wanes and boredom beckons your kids to whine, remember that this is an opportunity to strengthen their problem solving skills…and your patience. These days will be some of the best days of our lives. We will catch some of that now and realize it more fully later. Ask God for the most aware perspective you can handle in the moment. Ask boldly for the power of Holy Spirit to help you navigate the harder times. And don’t beat yourself up if you are longing for August in the middle of June. This parenting gig is not all roses, and we are not less holy if we have a string of days where we don’t jump out of bed with a smile on our face and pour milk for cereal like it was what we were created to do. I just hope that you know where you need to go when those days come. Take time to make sure you get in the Word. Spend time worshiping. This will lighten your heart in those moments. Pray and do spiritual warfare for those little ones in your life that are victim to the Enemy without even knowing it. We are not powerless to the season of less structure. We have great opportunity to rest, make memories, and see our kids in the moment.

Doing it Again

OTGBookCover
The book cover for my second devotion due out in December.

 

A little over one year ago, I was dreaming and talking with God. I felt him ask me, “What is your wildest dream?” That is a loaded question and I have taken more than a decade to bury my wildest dream under fear, practicality, family obligations, and other dreams deemed more reasonable.

It took me a moment. I quieted myself and began to peel away the excuses that sealed my wildest dream deep in my heart.

I wanted to be a writer.

More than that I wanted to write about things that mattered most to me. The journey between saying “Yes” to Jesus and meeting him face to face. the growing of ones spirit in the ways of God. Freeing individuals from the snares of religion. I wanted to share my woes and my triumphs with whomever would care to listen. These hopes–once held up to God with un-clinched hands–were released last year and I began to pursue the possibilities.

One year and a month later…

I am about to finish my second devotional ebook. The first one (here) came quickly and more easily. I needed to prove I could do it. I will most likely look back at this work with a fairly critical opinion. At least, I hope so. I hope I continue to grow and surpass the early 2014 writer that I once was. But it is a finished work nonetheless. This second one did not come so easily. The fears that I boldly shut out the first time came back with vengeance. I chose a topic that I am quite certain is as vast as the ocean and as important as air. I am both inadequate to fully explain it, yet passionately consumed by trying.

My hope is that those who read it learn something new, and more importantly, feel encouraged to go on their own exploration journey. The topic is the Holy Spirit. I want to spark a desire in others to pursue a daily, intimate relationship with him. I want to kill some of the stigma that he gets because he is a spirit.

I am releasing in December–hopefully. I feel the weight of completing a project this week, and hope that talking about it, will shed light and cause the darkness to flee. I am standing on one of my favorite verses this week as I plow through the final stages of the writing portion.

2 Timothy 1:7

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.

I trust that the very Holy Spirit that dwells in me is the one that is sustaining me and giving me the words to say. I know this is not a perfect work as I, an imperfect human, still control the keys of the computer. But I trust my imperfect work can still bless and liberate those who are hungry for fresh perspective on Holy Spirit.

To God be the glory!