Club of Endurance

I have a question for you – what is your reaction to the word endurance?

Take a moment.  Think about it.  Got your answer?

Did you know endurance is a gift?  Are you surprised as I was? Continue reading

The Veil

But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
So all of us who have had that veil removed
can see and reflect the glory of the Lord.
And the Lord—who is the Spirit—
makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
2 Corinthians 3:16-18

Have you ever wondered what “the veil” is?  I have.  Just what veil is big enough to be able to prevent us from seeing the Lord and to rob us of freedom? Continue reading

How big is God’s strength?

Question for you – how big is God’s strength?

What’s the first word, image, sound or feeling of which you became aware when I asked you that question?

For me it was the horizon.

Second question.  When you ask God for strength, how do you receive it?  Do you try to carry it or do you lean into it?

I discovered this morning I’ve been trying to carry it, and it’s not working for me.  Why?  Because of the answer to question 1.

This morning I went forward for prayer at church as our pastor said anyone that is struggling with health issues come forward.  Struggling is a very good word to describe the last month for me.

I had my eyes closed, my hands open to receive and someone touches my hand and starts to pray for me.  I felt this infusion of something very powerful but at the same time I felt my knees buckle, like this is too big for me.  For a minute or two I tried to stand there, but I knew to fully receive what my Heavenly Father was doing I just had to totally let go and do exactly that … receive.

I stepped over to a wall just a few feet in front of me, slid down it and sat there leaning up against it.  It was so cool, so strong, immovable …  hmmmmmm … just like Father God, Jesus and Holy Spirit – my rock.  I just had to lean in more, the strength of it felt sooooo good. The more I leaned, the more I relaxed, the more I received.

Revelation.  This is it.  This is Psalm 29:11 come to life for me.

The Lord will give [unyielding and impenetrable] strength to His people;
the Lord will bless His people with peace.

I have been meditating on this verse ever since Holy Spirit highlighted it to me almost two month’s ago in my post “Manufacturer’s Instructions”.   This is part 2 of my new paradigm about strength.  My perspective of God’s strength has been something additional I had to pile on to all I was already carrying and then be able to wield it skillfully, so there was no way it could be refreshing or empowering – rather just the opposite.   That’s why my knees buckled this morning, my body reacted before I could “brace myself”.  Jehovah “sneaky” caught me unawares to set me free to receive the gift of totally leaning into His strength.

Now I know why I was so drawn to these cliffs during our trip to California last year … as big as they are, the strength God has for me to lean on is bigger.

Psalm 62 8.001

He has more than enough strength for every one of us.  Care to lean in with me?

IF you seek me

Light in the darkness ... moonset over the Gulf of Mexico Jan. 27, 2013

Light in the darkness … moonset over the Gulf of Mexico Jan. 27, 2013

… you WILL find me.

Did you notice there are not any qualifiers on that?

It’s not you’ll find me if:

  • you’re perfect and never mess up
  • it’s sunny
  • you got a raise today
  • your family is happy and safe
  • you get a promotion
  • all your problems go away

It’s just “you WILL find me”.  IF you seek me, you WILL find me.  It’s carte blanche.  It is any time, any place, any situation.

Sometimes we just need to keep seeking/looking even when all seems dark … who knows you just might discover a moonset.  And you know what follows moonset right … the dawn of a new day.

Dawn of a new day

Dawn of a new day

Is that difficult for you to believe?  Maybe that’s why you are having trouble finding.

You’ve heard of rose-colored glasses?  Well that’s exactly what our personal beliefs are to each of us; the glasses through which we see the world.   Sometimes we need to get our eyes checked and get a new prescription so we can see what has been blurred from our vision before.

No worries if you find it hard to honestly believe that God wants you to seek Him and that if you do you will find Him.  No need to feel bad or hide.  Just ask a simple question of Your Heavenly Father – Reveal me to me Lord.

He’s just waiting to show you where an experience in your life set-up a distorted belief about Him.  He truly wants you to be set free from any misconceptions you have about Him that have been sewn into your life from other hurting people hurting you.

Hebrews 13:8 says Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  What that tells me is when God makes a promise, He keeps it.  You can rely on it.  There is no shadow of turning with our Heavenly Father … the Amplified version of this verse (James 1:17) reads:

Every good gift and every perfect (free, large, full) gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of all [that gives] light, in [the shining of] Whom there can be no variation [rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [as in an eclipse].

Did you catch that — God never turns so that He is eclipsed from us.

What is it He wants us to find?  (Eph 1:18-20)

By having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones),”

What makes up our inheritance?

 the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness
of His power in and for us who believe,

How great is that power He wants us to find?

” … as demonstrated in the working of His mighty strength,
Which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead
and seated Him at His [own] right hand in the heavenly [places].”

Yup – you got it — our Heavenly Father tells us to seek Him and promises we will find Him because He wants to flood our hearts with light, truth, and hope so that we may take hold of our inheritance which is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

So here is where I draw on the prayers I’ve requested from friends to have godly courage to be transparent on this blog.

What has my seeking looked like?  Why did that first picture of the darkness being pierced by the setting moon strike such a chord with me??

My seeking took on a whole new depth and dimension 15 years ago when I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.  The gloves came off.  I was angry and I was desperate.  Finally I was real with myself and with God and it has been quite a journey of revelation ever since.  I continue to seek; He continues to reveal Himself to me, and to reveal me to me.    My most recent “find” came when I least expected it … at 5:15 AM out of a sound sleep.  Yes, God’s ways are mysterious 🙂

It was a Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago and my alarm on my iPhone went off at 5:15 AM.  My first response was “oh great, I forgot to turn off my alarm last night”.  However, when I reached for my phone to turn it off and saw what time it was, I thought I don’t remember setting an alarm for 5:15 … uh … that would be because I didn’t.  On iPhones you have a list of alarm times that you have set previously.  There was no alarm set for 5:15 AM, and yet the alarm had rung.  OK God, You have my attention.

So I asked Him – what are You trying to tell me God.  I heard John 5:15.  I looked it up.

“The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus Who had made him well.”

I can’t tell you I honestly understood what was happening, but Mary’s example of agreeing with what the angel had told her even when she did not understand seemed like wisdom to me (Luke 1:35).  So, I did.  I simply prayed I agree with Your Word Father that it is Jesus who has made me well.   The best way I can describe what I was sensing/feeling is this was going to be my testimony too if I would just take hold of what God was offering me.

I told my husband about it later that day and he asked me what I thought was going on. I told him, I think God is telling me He has healed me.  I can’t explain it, I’m just telling you what happened.

The following day I went for dental crown work.  In the last decade any dental work has always been followed by a Fibromyalgia migraine … not so this time.  Actually the muscle relaxer I always take before dental work made me sick, like my body couldn’t tolerate it.

Later in the week a huge storm front moved through which would normally have resulted in my muscles feeling like they would tear if I moved.  No pain.

Are you getting excited here?  I certainly was.

That same week I went to see my acupuncturist for an appointment I had previously scheduled because I always need to see him after dental work.  During the treatment he looked at me and said “Something amazing or miraculous has happened here.  All the old patterns that have been present since I started treating you are gone.  All I see is a very new pattern a few days old that I think is stress related.”

I looked at him and said “I knew it!!”  He was seeing what I was experiencing; healing and the stress of a big project at work.  That big project meant multiple 16 hour days but when it was over — still no Fibromyalgia pain.  I was exhausted, but who wouldn’t be?

So, back to where I started “IF You SEEK me …. You WILL FIND me”.   Don’t give up no matter how long you have been seeking.  I’m living proof it is true because only the the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe  (Eph 1:19working in me could cause what I have been experiencing.

Worth a little seeking on my part?  Your part?  I think so 🙂 Don’t you?

Where else can you find a guarantee like this one?

You know the expression “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”

Well … let’s prove “them” wrong.  What do you say?

I’d rather take the time to know what I have while I have it, wouldn’t you?

I was just reading a friend’s blog The View is Great . You’d think from the title of the post it’s about her birthday … but what I saw was a post about thankfulness.  She took the time to look around her and really see.  From that position of thankfulness this happened:

This is when it hit me…a huge ah ha birthday moment. Even though I’m getting older, there’s still so much left. There are places to go, friends to make, things to experience that I just can’t even imagine now. So much of life is still a mystery to me.

In this new stage of my life, with my mostly empty nest, and with the hype about middle age it would be easy to feel like my life is over. But, I don’t feel that way. As a matter of fact, I feel like things make more sense now. The tough times have taught me to wait on the good. The good times are to be treasured.

It a weapon you know … thankfulness.  It pushes back the things that try to steal life from us … like cynicism, criticism, jealousy, doubt, bitterness, being judgmental, hopelessness, and fear to name a few.

I was about to type “and it’s free”; but it’s not.  There is a cost to thankfulness because it involves a choice.  I wasn’t always aware of this, but each of us make our choices because in some place in our beings we believe we will gain from whatever it is we are choosing.

You’ll have to figure out what you gain by your choices.

What follows is a list of my “gains” that upon further reflection I discovered were actually losses.

  • Cynicism – I gained self-protection from being disappointed but it closed the door to joys yet to be discovered.
  • Criticism – again I gained self-protection because if you’re wrong and I am right, I don’t have to change.  The world becomes a very small place from this vantage point.
  • Jealousy – I gained the right to feel sorry for myself but I opened the door to envy.  Envy can eat you up quicker than cancer.  It is a poison that makes it impossible to participate in the joy of those around you.  Personally I want to participate in as much joy as possible!
  • Doubt.  Ah, the great “what if”.  It masqueraded as “caution” in my life. Of course there is a place for caution in our lives … like look both ways before you cross the street (thanks Mom 🙂 ); but doubt can paralyze you like a slow toxin.  Rather than being thankful for the unknown and new opportunities you are paralyzed from moving forward by doubt.
  • Bitterness. I’ve talked about this one before.  Best way I can sum this up “Bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping it kills the person sitting next to you.”
  • Being judgmental.  BIG self-protection here.  We can rationalize a host of our actions by judging others/things.  But the kicker is you truly reap what you sew.  The example that comes immediately to mind for me is the experience I have had with acupuncture the last year.  For years I “judged” acupuncture as something eastern and dangerous that I had to guard myself against.  Why?  Because I did not understand it.  And, if I judged it as bad it meant I didn’t have to risk checking it out.  I was doing the “right” thing but not exposing myself to it.  Well, when I got desperate enough after a 12-week migraine to tell God “I’ll do anything” what I heard while my husband prayed for me was the word acupuncture.  Unexpected.  To make a long story short, God put the pieces in place for me to see an acupuncturist (referred by my pastor … gotta love God’s sense of humor) within 72 hours of that prayer.  It has changed my life in so many ways for the positive that will have to be an entirely separate post.  You better believe I repented of judging acupuncture as “dangerous and bad” and confessed that judgment as sin and asked God to put the complete work of the cross between me and all consequences of sewing and reaping that judgment.  That judgment had separated me for years from exactly what I needed.
  • Hopelessness.  Immediately I see a picture of quick-sand.  It gave me permission to lock that part of my heart away that felt hopeless.  Because hopelessness is a bad thing right?  So I’ll just lock it away.   But all that did was set-up a festering caldron within me.  Until I let my heart have a voice and express that hopelessness God could not show me the truth I needed to be freed from it.  Don’t get me wrong here.  I am NOT saying it easy to make the choice to be thankful when you feel hopeless, but it literally is the life-saver to pull you out of the mire.  When I am there, I am thankful that God still loves me (Rom 8:38-39), I am thankful that He will show me the truth I need to destroy the hopelessness if I will only let Him.  (Ps 32:5-8)
  • Fear.  I chose fear for a L-O-N-G time.  I thought it kept me safe — safe from getting my heart hurt, safe from what I did not understand, safe from trying and failing, safe from letting you see the real me and not like me.  Does anyone see a problem here?  What fear actually did was rob me from being fully alive.

So what are you gaining from your choices?

Would you like to choose thankfulness with me?  I’ll start:

  • I am thankful for my friend who blogged about her birthday and reminded me of the power of thankfulness.
  • I am thankful for the nurse practitioner who saw me last night at 7:00 PM to help me with the sudden extreme hip and leg pain I was having while she herself is within a week of delivering her child and was exhausted from her day.  I will not forget her kindness to me.
  • I am thankful for the medicine they gave me that has eased the pain.
  • I am thankful for my husband who has cared for me so diligently through this.
  • I am thankful for this day to rest and heal.
  • I am thankful for my “amazing grace” blanket that covers me given to me by 3 wonderful friends at the time of my mother’s passing. I just love being covered by amazing grace!
  • I am thankful that everywhere I look in my den I see where my husband has worked to make a home I love to be in; from the furniture he has built; to the french doors he put in that would be easier for me to open than sliding doors; to the HD TV and surround system he installed so I could enjoy my NFL football … not to mention the Olympics 🙂
  • I am thankful for VPN and the people I work with that have created a system that allows me to be home and heal and still have access to my office if needed.
  • I am thankful for comfy slippers and pj’s.
  • I am thankful for the fireplace across from me and the picture that hangs above it that reminds me of love in so many ways.
  • I am thankful for windows to look out and enjoy God’s creation even when I am indoors.
  • I am thankful that in 2 hours I get to see my acupuncturist!
  • I am thankful for this quote my husband just shared with me from John Lennon “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life.  When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote down “happy”.  They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, stop, take a look around, see anything for which to be thankful?  I’d love to hear your thankful list!

Together we’ll prove “them” wrong.  We will know what we have before it is gone … yup … that’s what I’m talking about.

Pain and Provision

My  husband has an expression “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good”.

That’s not what I’m talking about here.  I’m not talking about stuffing your heart away so that you don’t feel loss, grief, pain, disappointment or whatever lack has occurred in your life; then when your heart tries to surface for air you smack it down again with your will beating-up your heart with something like “you’re wrong/bad for feeling that way”; “if you were a good christian you wouldn’t feel this way”.

No, I’m talking about experiencing real pain without shame attached to it and experiencing real provision in the midst of the pain.

Last week I was looking back in my journal from last year.  I read the journal entry that marked the six-month anniversary of my Mom’s transition to heaven.  What jumped out at me and what has been rolling around in my thoughts this week is “pain and provision, they can co-exist“.  As I learned of the shooting that occurred in Aurora, CO this week, the volume cranked up on “pain and provision can co-exist“.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing losing my Mom to the trauma that was inflicted on so many innocent lives in Colorado.  What I am saying is pain is pain … no matter what the cause …  what the form (emotional, physical, spiritual, financial) … when it is your pain, you want answers; you want it to go away; you want it to stop eating away at you.  You want and need provision.  

Here is what pain and provision looked like for me:

July 4, 2011

You always know what I need Father, so amazing.  I’ve been more and more irritable the past few days.  I haven’t wanted to journal.  It’s been hard for me to take-in as real what I’ve been reading in  “Have Heart”.  There has been a place in me that has been almost cynical that they are reading into scripture what they need to see so that they can deal with their grief; but I’m not sure I can believe what they are saying is true.  And it’s 6 months today since Mom’s transition. 

First I want to thank my spirit for leading me to know I really needed to spend this time being still with You even if I had no idea what to say.  I opened my journal and it opens automatically to the first page, which was right in the middle of Mom’s transition.  Reading through was like reconnecting with You.  I was so aware of You; Your presence; Your provision during that time; I’m not sure what has happened recently that has made it so much harder to believe Mom really is alive in a better place and not just gone.  

What I just heard is
the longer someone/something is gone; the more you want it back”. 

Huh, there is definitely something stirring in me at that thought … like usually when time passes and you are waiting, it is with the hope of something being resolved.  But, this has felt like the more time that passes; the farther away I am from Mom; the more real the separation feels/becomes. 

I think of what You pointed out to me shortly after Mom’s transition and highlighted as I re-read my journal this morning.  Turn aside and look and I will see You.  That’s basically what “Have Heart” has been saying – turn aside and look and you will see God’s hand; His nods; His provision; His comfort and assurances; His truth.  You have the answers for each person’s grief.  One size does not fit all 

Oh my, I’ve been stuck.  I have not been able to reconcile the pain of my grief with the truth of Your Provision.  The two in my mind have been exclusive. 

How can pain and provision co-exist? If there is pain does that make the provision a “fabrication”; if there is provision does that make the pain either self-pity or a slap in Your face?  

I’m aware of 2 things.  I heard “in the midst” and I need to go search that at Bible Gateway.  And I saw a picture of You, Jeshua first at Gethsemane and then on the cross … pain and provision definitely both existed at that point and the reconciliation / resolution was the resurrection!  I just saw Jesus with Mary “why do you weep?”  I am seeing Mary as I’ve never seen her before (because I’ve always focused on You) … Mary becoming aware of the reality of the truth that the one she loved and thought was lost to her, was very much alive. 

Oh, Lord – that’s what I just haven’t really been able to be sure of as I have read “Have Heart” … that the one(s) I have loved are not lost to me, but very much alive.   Forgive me for my doubts, Abba, Jeshua, Holy Spirit.  I forgive myself.  I thank You for giving me eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to receive as one being taught by You!  To be set free by Your/the truth!  I take the authority You transmit to me Holy Spirit and tell the spirit of doubt that has been tormenting me with “how can you be sure” that the light, love and truth of God Most High, my Heavenly Father, has revealed you and you must go and deal with Jesus.  And Father, just like Your arch angel Michael asked You, I ask You – that You, Most High God would rebuke whatsoever powers and principalities of darkness that have had access to me through this sin.  I thank You for the complete work of the cross and I ask You to put it between me and all consequences of this sin.  

I thank You for all the blessings of Mom’s and Dad’s time here with me/us on earth that I do miss, but more than that I thank You that neither of them are lost to me but fully alive in You.
Huh, I AM waiting for something with the hope of it being resolved!
NOT, time passing that separates me further and further
from those I love.
THANK YOU LORD!!

That’s why I’m here writing and sharing with you … because I know that I know that I know that I can be real with myself; real with God and find unconditional hope.

That’s my experience.

But I am not alone.

This link [ http://aminiatureclaypot.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/so-you-still-think-god-is-a-merciful-god/ ] will take you to a blog written by a woman that was in the Aurora, CO theatre during the shooting who knows that she knows that she knows that in the midst of pain there is provision.

Let your heart speak, God is listening

Let your heart speak, God is listening

Whatever your pain, there is provision for you too!

What are you missing?

Could the “safety” of the familiar be stealing the “more” God has for you?  “More” as in exceedingly, abundantly above anything you could even dare to dream to ask? (Eph 3:20)

From the blog “The Positive Pear”

I’ve recently been confronted with that choice.  “What if” feels pretty scary when there is no going back if you take the risk of stepping into the unknown.  It takes Godly courage to take that step.  Not courage that I muster up within myself like The Little Engine That Could; but rather courage that is founded in who God has revealed Himself to be through Jesus Christ (Heb 1:3) and knowing that foundation is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8).  Knowing He is the Father who gives good gifts to His children and that He wants us to ask for them. (Matt 7:7-11)

What am I talking about here?  It is being willing to let go of whatever is not working in your life even though it feels comfortable, familiar and less risky than the unknown.  What is the offer in front of us that anyone should even consider such a risk?

He who did not withhold or spare [even] His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all [other] things?
(Romans 8:32

What it looked like for me recently was a choice about a relationship.  Do I continue the way I always have so that I don’t risk losing what I do have with this person or do I trust God with my heart and with the relationship to risk open, honest communication not knowing how the other individual will respond.

I didn’t enter the matter lightly.  I had spent much time in prayer about it asking God to show me the plank(s) in my own eye; dealt with what God showed me about my own planks and then sought godly counsel from friends whose walks with the Lord I respect.  It all kept bringing me to the same point.  I had to risk the familiar for the unknown unless I wanted to keep harvesting the same fruit.  Fruit that was becoming poisonous to me and to the relationship.

While at a recent conference, I discovered that the eyes of my heart were focused on what only I could conceive and it wasn’t a pretty picture because that was constrained by my fears of “what ifs”.   The speaker suggested when praying about a matter to ask God how He sees the situation and wait for whatever thought or image comes to mind.  It seems like a simple concept but it had just not occurred to me to ask God how He views a situation rather than explaining to Him how I see it.  So I asked.  The image God showed me was very powerful and different than anything I had even considered possible.  As I fixed the eyes of my heart on that image I could feel both hope and courage permeating my soul (will, intellect, emotions) and spirit.  I did not know how God would bring the image to pass, but I knew I wanted what my Heavenly Father was offering and that no thought or purpose of God’s can be thwarted (Job 42:2).

I’m not going to share names here because this is my blog and not theirs. But I will tell you God is faithful!  Was my heart pounding in my chest during the conversation – absolutely.  Was it uncomfortable for each of us to raise the level of transparency in our relationship – unquestionably.  But I am so thankful for the “more” God had and continues to have for both of us that I/we would have missed had I continued to opt for what was familiar and safe.

Letting Go and Trusting God’s Heart

I’d just had another “flying lesson“.  It had a lot of similar characteristics as my first flying lesson in 1998.  That got me wondering where else could the comfort of familiarity be stealing from me?

Do you know how baby eagles learn to fly?  Their parents perch on a nearby branch with a choice morsel of food.  Even eagles who are born to fly need some encouragement to risk leaving what is familiar!   Then there is pilots.   Think about all the time and training pilots go through to learn to be able to fly.

Would you agree that learning to fly (Isaiah 40:31)  in our own lives involves risk, time and perseverance? Would you agree being able to soar when you come to the edge of the unknown is worth all three?

Risk – why do we avoid it so, when doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity?  Our world teaches us in many ways that risk is a bad thing.  Insurance companies make millions of dollars selling that mindset.  The truth is, the only way to grow is to risk change.

Familiarity will try to tell you, that what you currently have is a known quantity and that’s got to be better than an unknown quantity.   Really? My recent experience with relationships tells me otherwise.  What about living with chronic illness and hating yourself; can that really be better than risking change?

Can taking the risk to look at what you believe about yourself, a situation or God and discovering where you have believed lies about any of them be a bad thing?  How do you feel when someone lies to you?  Doesn’t it make you angry?  It does me.  So wouldn’t you like to know where ever the enemy has deceived you with a lie and be freed from it by God’s truth?

Time – I’ve been taking “flying lessons” now for 14 years and I don’t see an end to the lessons in sight.  Did you know pilots must be re-certified on a regular basis to continue to fly, as well as, receive specific, intensive training for every type of aircraft?  As I encounter and face the many facets of living with chronic illness, I am recertified to fly every time I make the choice to risk trusting God’s heart for me, believing that His plans are to prosper me and not harm me to give me a hope and a future (Jer 29:11); believing that Jesus came to bring life and bring it abundantly (John 10:10).

Choosing to risk trusting God , His Word and His heart is me spreading my wings so that I can “catch the thermal” of God’s Holy Spirit who is every bit as real as that invisible undeniable force that caused me to rise up and soar like an eagle when I was hang-gliding.

Perseverance – I never liked this word until I heard a teaching about the greek roots of the word.  It means being able to be at rest/peace while in a state of limbo.

Limbo – I know that pretty much sums up life living with chronic illness, never knowing how I’ll feel or what my capacity to do anything will be.  But, I’m guessing it pretty much sums up life for anyone, doesn’t it?  I mean who really has any clue about what today holds?  So being able to be at rest/peace while in a state of limbo made perseverance sound a whole lot more desirable.  There is just one catch … the precursor to the fruit of perseverance is tribulations … bummer 😉

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope
Romans 5:3-4 

Ah … there it is again .. hope, unconditional hope because our Heavenly Father can take whatever you are facing and turn it to His good purpose (Gen 50:20) when we are willing to risk letting go of what is familiar for the unknown and un-imagineable goodness He has for each us.

Count me in!

Hang gliding for my 38th birthday – Lookout Mountain, TN

Never and always … not necessarily a good thing

Two words that when I hear them come out of my mouth my “Danger, Danger Will Robinson!” alarms go off inside me.

From “Lost In Space” TV Series

Never and always … there is so much power in both of these words.  So when you use them is the power to which you are referring a blessing or a curse?  Do these words show up in your life inspired by love or inspired by bitterness?  Do you use them in ways to open your heart to receive or to close off your heart and self-protect?

Can you see why my “danger, danger” signal goes off?  There is so very much at stake with never and always.

The upside of never:  God’s promise to us in Hebrews 13:5-6  “I will never fail you.  I will never abandon you.”  (New Living Translation).  What does God’s “never” look like?  Here is the Amplified translation of the same verse: “for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]”

The upside of always:  “I have loved you with a love that lasts forever.  And so with unfailing love, I have drawn you to myself.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

The downside of never and always –  judgment and bitterness.

To me it’s pretty hard to separate judgment and bitterness.  If you are judging yourself or anyone else can you feel the seed of bitterness that feeds the judgment?  Likewise, if you are bitter about someone or something, it usually spills out in the form of judgment.  Both judgment & bitterness can feel “protective” but that would be a lie of the enemy.  The best description I have ever heard about bitterness was by Dr. Mario Rivera-Mendez “Bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping it kills the person sitting next to you.”

Bitterness/unforgiveness keeps you chained to the very thing that is hurting you.  Making the choice to forgive, i.e., let someone/thing/group off the hook, breaks that tie and sets you free from drinking any more poison.  It doesn’t mean whatever happened to you wasn’t wrong.  Forgiveness sets you free to take whatever wounding is there and the need that has created in your life and give that need to our Heavenly Father who has the supply for your every need according to His riches in glory (Phil 4:19).

Bitterness and judgment show up in phrases like “I or they will always …” or “I or they will never …” . You are going to have fill in your personal blanks for yourself here … so take a moment, put your hand on your heart and ask God “where do I use never and always”?  If you’re like me, it’s a pretty long list and God is kind enough to show them to me one at a time when the time is right.

To help you understand what I’m saying, here’s one of my bitter root judgments (BRJ) that my Heavenly Father just revealed to me this week through a dream.   The brief version of the dream is I am in a mansion and I know the owner.  I feel so driven in the dream to clean up and take care of everything and the owner keeps trying to help me and tells me to stop/rest and enjoy where I am and who/what is around me.  I can’t.  All I can see is the huge, deep sink of dirty dishes (deeper than I am tall) that need to be taken care of.  What follows is from my journal after that dream:

Father I confess this bitter root judgment as sin that everyone always sees me for what I can do for them, how I can take care of them and what they need me to do for them.  That is my ungodly expectation Father, not theirs.  I do not know what they are thinking.  Forgive me Lord.  I forgive myself for believing this lie and for isolating myself by judging those around me.  I did not know what I was doing.  I ask You to put the complete work of the cross between me and all consequences of this sin.  I accept the truth that I am loved; that others are just happy to see me and be with me for no other reason than I am me, Your beloved daughter, Abba.

This feels very vulnerable.  That “judgment/BRJ” was protective from allowing others to truly connect with me and me to truly connect with them, it was safer to just serve them.  It feels vulnerable that it opens the door for possibly not being liked for who I am rather than what I do.   Oh, but it also opens the door for being loved for who I am rather than what I do.  I hear You, Holy Spirit.  Help me to live this out Holy Spirit.  Thank You for being my guide, counselor, comforter and strength. 

My prayer for each of you is that you would have eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to receive as ones being taught by the Lord (Isaiah 50:4) so that you would be set free from bitterness and judgment to receive every good gift Your Heavenly Father has for you! (James 1:17)

Does God really love me if I am chronically ill?

Big question.  Important answer.

If I may, I’d like to thank our respective intellects for how hard they work at trying to figure everything out for us, sorting through all the input that we experience and trying to connect the dots so that we can rest easy.  Our intellects work very hard; but right now is a moment for our hearts to speak free from any pressure from our intellects of what is or is not the right/acceptable answer.

Heart free to speak whatever it needs to say

Photo by: Jolanda Boer

What does that look like?  Close your eyes, put one of your hands on your heart and ask your heart “does God really love me if I am chronically ill, or for that matter, living with any chronic challenge?”.   What was the very first thing of which you became aware?  That’s what you truly believe.  That’s a building block that impacts how you feel about yourself; how you feel about God and actively impacts how hard or easy it is for you to trust God’s heart for you; His love for you; and His will/purposes for you.

Next question – hand still on your heart, “Is what I believe true God?”

Obviously, I don’t know what your answers were for either question.  But before I share my experience I want to share some scripture with you as a “level” to test your building block.

Romans 8:35 (The Message)

Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture.

Romans 8:38 (The Message)

I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Savior has embraced us.

Maybe your building block could sit level on the truth above.  Mine couldn’t.  Why?  Because our enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8) and one of the ways he does that is to distort what we hear and internalize from our experiences to cause us to believe that we are unloveable and despicable rather than him.  Isn’t that what all bullies do — always blaming someone else, telling the person they are bullying they deserve what they’re getting?

Let me preface sharing my experience with this — if you eat a nutritious meal your body is strengthened right?  But, you have to continue to have more nutritious meals for your body to stay strengthened; one nutritious meal won’t do it.  Same way for your spirit and soul (soul = will, intellect & emotions).  When God reveals truth to your spirit and soul you must continue to “feed on it” by bringing it to remembrance again and again.  Just as your body gets hungry and weak if you do not feed it, the same goes for your spirit and soul.

My experience – the date is July 2008.  As I mentioned previously in “My Thorn” my world was spiraling downward at a rapid rate.  I was working on a huge event for my company’s Board of Directors and Shareholders.  Each day I was hating myself more and more for being in so much pain and feeling so weak and overwhelmed.  I needed to be strong and well to do my job; I had done everything I knew to be strong and well; and it wasn’t working.

I went to see my physical therapist for cranial sacral release.  While I was on her table I was telling her how disappointed I was in myself.  Basically telling her – you know everyone deals with some kind of pain why can’t I just suck it up and move on.  I’m doing everything I’ve been told to do to be well.  I must be missing/failing at something or I wouldn’t be feeling this way.  She was very quiet for a couple of moments and then she said “if a child was savagely ravaged and raped, would you blame the child”?  I laid there trying to take in what she had just said.  What did she mean?  Of course, I wouldn’t blame the child but what did that have to do with me?  Wait, did she mean I was the child and what my body was experiencing from the FMS was the same trauma as someone brutally raping a child????  Surely not, I mean … was she saying I was being attacked by this disease???  It was not my fault?  With my head spinning, I blurted out what had been whirling around in my thoughts.  She gently responded “That’s exactly what I meant.”

Driving home I was trying to take in all we had discussed and I heard my Heavenly Father ask me – if someone continues to be attacked by an enemy – does that make them a failure?

My response: Uh, no it doesn’t Father.

His response:  So are you a failure?

My response:  Well, I guess that would be no, too.

I came out of agreement with the lie that because the FMS persisted, I was a failure.  I came into agreement with the truth that indeed I do have an enemy who is seeking to devour me (1 Peter 5:8) but God was telling me these things, so that in Him I may have perfect peace and confidence. In the world I will have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer, take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted! For He has overcome the world. My Heavenly Father has deprived it of power to harm me and has conquered it for me. (John 16:33 – Amplified).

My enemy had been trying to crush my spirit through self-hatred because our enemy is very aware that “A healthy spirit conquers adversity, but what can you do when the spirit is crushed?” (Proverbs 18:14).

Fast forward a few weeks into my month of Sundays.  I was journaling one day, expressing my thanks for the healing God was bringing into my body, soul and spirit, but along with thankfulness I had to admit I was also feeling that it would have been real nice Father if You could have answered me a little sooner so that I didn’t have to go through all this.  His response surprised me:  “You weren’t ready for an answer.”  Say what??  “If I had answered your cry for strength to meet all the demands you were placing on yourself without your first seeing that you were not ‘a failure’ all you would have used that strength for was to beat yourself up with more demands.”

Once again, God’s mercy leaves me speechless.  He just loved me too much to answer me before I was ready to handle the answer in a way that would not bring me more harm.  Now that is love!

Back to my original question “does God really love me if I am chronically ill?” — no doubt about it!!!