Letting Go of Striving

I’ve been in a dark place of defeat, failure, and doubts with a weight bearing down on me. Crushed in spirit. Doubting, disliking who I am. Focusing on my sin nature, the “old self.” What’s changed? I’m focusing on who I am in Christ, on the “new” self. I’m crucified with Christ. That old self no longer lives. I’m free to rise above, to ignore, the pull of the flesh. I’m free to act on what I know is true and not on what my flesh desires. I’m a new creation, walking by faith. If I lose faith, the old nature rears its ugly head. If I think I can indulge the flesh “just a little,” I deceive myself and the flesh pulls me down. Lies bind me hand and foot. But those bonds are an illusion, working only as long as I’m depending on “my” goodness or ability instead of the power of Christ in me. Christ in me is my hope of glory. Walking in the Spirit, I won’t fulfill the desires of the flesh. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. Walking in my effort, wanting my flesh to be “good,” fearing I’m a failure and incapable of loving or serving God, I fall on my face. Defeat, depression, and doubt trap me. Believing I’m doomed to be conquered by my sinful nature, I yield to the temptations of selfishness and pride, and I struggle to genuinely love others. My spirit loves God. I want to love others. I hate selfish, ugly thoughts. I hate acting rudely or missing opportunities to show grace. Christ lives...

Ditch the Labels

        You are irreplaceable. One in a hundred billion. * The only you. Unique in design. “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.” Psalm 139:13-15 (NASB)   Designed by the Master Designer. Embroidered by God who lovingly chose each color. Your exclusive design and life experiences cannot be duplicated.   So let’s stop using labels to put people in groups.   A label only tells us one small part of who a person is. I’m an introvert but still different from every other introvert. I’m a white female but that doesn’t fully define who I am. I’m American but that doesn’t reveal my soul. Because I vote a certain way doesn’t mean I’m like all others who vote that way. To say someone is OCD, autistic, ugly or beautiful doesn’t tell me who he or she is. We are individuals. One of a kind souls wrapped in bodies unlike any other. Each of us is a wonderful miracle. Assigning you a label doesn’t mean I know you. To know each other we must communicate, listen, understand and love. We need to look for the exquisite colors He put in each soul. Some of us hide them well: we need to be willing to take as long as we need to see. Father, please help...

In the Face of My Enemies

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5 Who are my enemies? I don’t have the kind of enemies King David faced every day. I don’t go into physical battle to fight other nations. I doubt my son will ever wage war against me, as David’s son did. But I do have enemies. My biggest enemy is the enemy we all have: Satan. Our accuser, the father of lies, the evil one. He’s the one who wants to steal from us, kill  and destroy us. I also face the enemies in my own heart: my pride, selfishness, apathy, jealousy, self-protective bent, and desire for comfort to name a few. Sometimes when I am struggling with these “enemies,” I have a hard time writing or sharing spiritual truth. I find it difficult to write out scriptural insights because my enemies accuse me and tell me I’m not worthy. As I was reading Psalm 23:5 one morning, it struck me that God wants to prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. When I come to Him in the morning to read the Bible, pray and write my thoughts, He has promised to spread a table before me, to give me truth and insight into His word even in the presence of my enemies of pride, selfishness and sin. Even in the presence of the accuser, the devil. When I come to Him with an open heart and mind, confessing my sin and seeking Him, He will give me truth. He will feed...

How To Change Your Life

“Maybe this will be the one,” I thought. “The event that will change my life.” I used to search for the conference, Bible study or sermon that would change my life. If I could attend a certain conference or spend the weekend listening to these amazing sermons, I believed I would come away a changed woman and would live for God the rest of my life. I’ve learned my life is not changed by a weekend, a particular Bible study written by a popular author, a mission trip or any other short-term event. Yes, these are all positive influences in my life and they take me one more step toward my goals, but when I return home, I find I’m still a woman who struggles with selfishness, jealousy, laziness, apathy and pride. I’ve learned it’s what I do every day that changes my heart and my life. “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free,” (John 8:32) is an often-quoted Bible verse, but it’s an incomplete quote. “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him; ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” John 8:31-32 How do we know the truth? By abiding in His word. Strong’s Bible Concordance defines the original word as “to stay, abide, continue, dwell…remain.” Someone who wants to follow Jesus will continue in His word. Abiding involves reading and/or studying His word regularly. The promise is if we abide in, live in, continue in His word, then we will know the...

Mama Bear Love

“That brings out the mama bear in me,” a friend exclaimed. Most parents love their children with a love so powerful it’s scary. New parents are blown away by love when they see their newborn baby. It’s been said that becoming a parent is like having your heart walking around outside your body. Such fierce love causes parents to struggle with their children growing up in a world filled with danger, evil, and potential pain. We make it our goal to control our child’s life. We take on the impossible task of guaranteeing our child’s safety. Adding to our fear is the realization our child has the freedom to choose, and we can’t control their choices. When our child is forty-five, we’ll still want their safety, well-being and happiness. Once a parent, always a parent. Recently, our twenty-four year old son mentioned a health issue he has and indicated he has no plans to have it taken care of. I couldn’t sleep that night. I started imagining all the possible results. In my mind, he was headed to an early grave because he left this issue untreated. The next morning, I read about Abraham, Sarah and Hagar in Genesis 21. God promised Abraham and Sarah a son, even though Sarah was well past childbearing years. Sarah decided to help God by offering her servant, Hagar, to Abraham so he could have a son by her. Her plan was to then raise this son as Abraham’s heir. Hagar had a son but it didn’t work out the way Sarah thought it would. A few years later, God fulfilled His promise...

One Last Tear

My mom’s breath began to slow. It was 10 seconds between breaths, then 20, and then 30. There was one last breath. I realized that the first sound I heard on this earth, my mom’s heartbeat, was about to stop. Sobbing, my two sisters and I clung to our mom as a tear rolled down her cheek. Then her spirit was gone. In an instant, her body became an empty shell. As I gripped her hand, it became as lifeless as an empty glove. One last tear was shed. Did she cry for her daughters who were hurting? Did she cry at having to say goodbye? Maybe it was a happy tear as the veil was torn away and she saw glory. My sisters and I believe she shed a tear for us. She loved us well and with all her heart. In that moment, it was clear that this body we live in is just temporary housing. When her spirit left, the body was just an empty tent left behind. She wasn’t there anymore. It had been a difficult ten weeks. From the time my mom first fell and broke her hip, she faced one setback after another. She finally was put on hospice and we sat by her side for a week as her body slowly weakened. Here are some thoughts I meditated on as I sat there: Dying is hard. Regret is devastating. Moments are fleeting. Opportunities pass. There’s a last time for everything on earth. Seize the moment. Love well. Make eye contact while you can. Say I love you often. A person’s tent is...

Who Am I?

Often I forget life is not about me. I’m not the source of strength or truth in my life. I can’t produce one good thing in my own strength. My breath is a gift of grace from God. I can’t hold onto it or guarantee I will take another one. As I take a deep breath…that act is grace. Do I have hope? That is a gift. Do I have a moment of peace? Also a gift. Every second I spend with a loved one and look into their precious face is a gift. ALL good things come from our Creator Father. The ability to enjoy His gifts comes from Him. Life and death are gifts from Him. Life because it allows us to know Him. Death because it allows us to be with Him forever. I need reminders of who I am. I’m a receiver of His good gifts. I am… A branch not the vine. A creation not the Creator. A pencil not the source of truth A reflection not the light. A servant not the master. A voice not the message. One part not the body. Gifted not the gift. A messenger not the message. A channel not the source. Forgiven not sinless. In process not perfect. En route not at my destination. A singer not the song. A child. A follower. A believer. A vessel. Forgiven, loved, trusting. He is… The Creator. The Light. The Hope. The Master. The Message. The Author. The Giver of every good gift. He alone is worthy of praise, honor and glory. All that I am, I owe to Him....

What’s Required of Me?

“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.” Luke 12:48b (ESV) I’ve often heard that whisper from God. While worshiping and praising God at a concert recently, my heart was focused on Him. Once again that whisper came. “To whom much is given, much is required.” “What’s required, Lord?” I asked. “What does this mean?” He spoke to my heart. “What have you been given?” Lord, You’ve given me grace beyond measure, forgiveness for my sins, knowledge of your truth, and your everlasting love. You’ve given me physical well-being and health and you always meet my daily needs. You’ve given me opportunities to learn and grow, people who love me, and freedom to worship you. I’ve received love, joy, peace, forgiveness, grace, and truth and I’ve learned to trust you. If you’ve been given grace, give equal grace to others. If you’ve received forgiveness, forgive others more. If you’ve been encouraged, be quick to encourage. If your physical needs are met, meet the needs of those around you. If you know the truth, share the truth. If you are loved, then love freely. If you are strong, help those who are weak. I believe what’s required of me is to let all these blessings flow through me to others: to those around me who need grace, forgiveness, encouragement, a meal or daily needs. This isn’t something I can do on Sunday morning or Tuesday evening and then I’ve met my requirement. This is a way of living. This is an attitude, an outlook, a way of being. It’s a change of focus: a change from...

Looking for the Garden of Eden

“And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed…Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’…And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Genesis 2:8, 18, 25 (ESV) Aren’t we all searching for the Garden? Deep in our souls, we know that’s where we belong. Walking with our Father. Sharing our heart. Worshiping Him. Praising Him. Knowing His love. Love, perfect, complete “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:6 (ESV) Yet, she was tempted. She wondered if there was more. She had everything. No need unmet. Unconditional love. Complete acceptance. Walking perfection. Pure heart. Untainted mind. And she wanted more. Perfection reached out for more. “Therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.” Genesis 3:23 She lost the Garden. She lost perfection. She lost everything — Except what was most important. Unconditional love. His love cannot be thwarted. His Son took on flesh to mend what was broken. His Son suffered and died to restore that walk. Jesus restored what was lost. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and...

I’ll take instant maturity, please

Grinning with pleasure, I watched my newly planted butterfly garden. The bold yellow of the yarrow and the vibrant orange of the blanket flowers were a great beginning, but I longed for all the green to turn to blossoms. I rushed out each morning, excited to see new blossoms, but nothing seemed to change. Gardening brings a great lesson in patience. Hoping for growth, we plant seeds or small plants where they will get sun, adding soil, food and water. It takes weeks, months or in some cases a year or more to get the full benefit of our labor. We must trust the food, water and sun to bring the seeds to full growth. Spiritual growth is the same. When I read an inspiring verse or book or hear an insightful sermon, I want the maturity offered right now. I read about loving others with all my heart and wonder the next day why I’m rude and uncaring. I learn about the power of thoughts and keeping them focused on truth and want victory that minute. Like my butterfly garden, spiritual maturity comes with time and the right conditions for growth. “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” Luke 8:15 (NIV) Perseverance produces a crop. If I want growth, I prepare my heart with prayer as I would prepare the soil. Letting the Holy Spirit break up the hard clods of sin, I plant the seeds of truth in the soil of my heart by reading and meditating...