Friday, April 18, 2014

My soul ached with an emptiness I couldn't describe.

The ladies hurried in and started removing items one by one. The lights were dim in the room that brought a quiet solitude. Everyone was reverently sitting and watching. One by one the candles disappeared, the flowers were next, then the cross that was centered on the veiled stone altar. In only a few minutes, nothing was left but the stark reality of masonry. As the decorations were being stripped from their normal resting place, it was in that moment I realized I needed Jesus.

I grew up in a Christian home. In fact, my parents were Christians and did their best to raise me in the church. Every time the church doors were open, we were there. Not on the front row but our family definitely had a pew that was ours. I grew up knowing the stories and the wonders of Jesus and that he died for the sins of the world. I knew that. I had been to Sunday School and had heard many sermons on that subject. Yes, I was a Christian. So I thought. Once married I went with my husband to church membership classes. I knew our church religious practices very well.

After we had kids, I also knew the importance of training them up in the way they should go. It was important to me to have a Christian home, just like I was raised in. Little did I know, though, that I was running in the opposite direction, away from God. It looked like I had it all together and knew all the right answers, but that was not the case. In reality, I didn't have a personal relationship with Christ. I only knew of Him. I had studied Him and acknowledged His existence, but there was a huge chasm of difference between my head and my heart.

My soul ached with an emptiness I couldn't describe. I sat alone in the cold, dark reality of my solitude.  
In that quiet and holy moment, it seems that I was the only one in the pew. God bent down and touched my soul in a way that I knew I needed a Savior. Heaven opened up and grace came down.  I suddenly felt God chip away at that hardened surface as it if were a block of ice readied for a masterpiece. 

Whispers to my heart..."I sent my Son for you, He died for you. That's how much I love you. And yes, even if you were the only one on this entire planet. I did that ....just for you." 

There were no trumpets blaring, no special lyrics, no confetti, party horns, no balloons, no compelling preacher, just Jesus bending down. 

It was if my eyes were opened as they filled with tears. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I needed to change.  I confessed my wrong ways, bad habits and behaviors. As I was praying, I accepted Jesus' love and forgiveness in my heart. After that, I was different.

My experience was a turning point in my walk faith. I came away from that service different and filled with love and joy. I had made the decision to let Jesus be my Lord and Savior. Now if I die before I wake, I know that I will be at the feet of Jesus. 

I am that sure. 

I turned away and I removed all things that were getting in the way of me living a life of faith. Those bad habits stopped. I filled my mind and heart with the things of God. I now live to please God instead of myself desires.  That was 25 years ago and I can remember it was like yesterday. I thought I was a Christian, but I really wasn't. I was only riding on the shirt tales of my parent's faith. 

Find out for yourself what you believe and why. Right now, ask yourself, if you died tonight, do you know without a shadow of a doubt....that you would see Jesus? If not, stop reading right now, and ask Jesus into your heart. It's that important. 

Ephesians 2:8 - 9 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; not by works, so that no one can boast."

Admit you need forgiveness.
Confess the things you know are wrong.
Believe Jesus died on the cross for your sins.
Receive His all encompassing forgiveness.

God's grace is a gift. You can't earn it nor can you get it by osmosis. Even if you have been in church all your life, and think you are a good person, you have to actively accept Christ's death on the cross as payment for your sins. Your guilt has been taken care of...because of His Love for you. Yes you if you were the only one on the face of the planet. This is grace, this is love, this is forgiveness, Jesus is the only way to God. He is the Way, the Truth, the Life. No one gets to the Father except through Jesus.

You have to choose to accept Christ's death on the cross as payment for your sins. The Gospel changes everything.   It's grace, it's love, it's forgiveness, and grace changes lives. Jesus bridges the gaps between heads and hearts, sins and righteousness, life and death. 

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Don't let another Easter pass without experiencing the cross and receiving love and forgiveness that God has for you.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Momma, what's a hobby?

Writing and sharing stories takes the brave part of me, it says no to the fear that haunts me. It comes from the part of my heart that feels so exposed once let loose.  Like a open target for Accuser's arrows.  But still...I am compelled to do this, I can't not do this.  

We do best what we are designed to do.  Nurturers nurture, it's our nature.  Moms will always mother.  Advocates help, they lend a tender hand and stand up and in for the weakened.  They give life to the voiceless.  We work hard at that.  We just do, it's what we do.  The God-artistry that stirs deep must be given to be celebrated, given, and grown.   

Your greatest ministry is usually birthed from your greatest weakness.

God is constantly moving His poetic voices, His masterpieces, His workmanship.  I understood this on a much deeper level the other day, when I watched a little girl named Claire color in some daffodils on a coloring page.  She was doing quite a colorful work filling in the spaces outside the lines.  She was having a mommy-daughter-coffee date with her one-year-old brother Warren.  I complimented her on use of crayolas and asked what her hobbies were.  

"Momma, what's a hobby?"  Her momma replied, "It's something you like to do, it makes you happy and you would do it because you love to create."

At that moment, God sent me wisdom about a prayer I had been praying recently. 

"That's what I have gifted you with, you are one of my "colors".  You have asked that I help you discover your dreams but you have not let me color outside your dream lines.  My dreams for you won't look like yours.  Don't try to understand my infinite plans with your finite mind."  

I stood still to fight back the tears.  God listens as our hearts dreams.  

The little blonde silently responded to her query by continuing to color outside the lines in her picture.  I secretly giggled.   I didn't share the story from my Kindergarten days when I was so intent on coloring a picture just right.  I took so much time doing it, I got into trouble and missed recess when I continued to color outside the lines on George Washington's wig.  I wanted it perfect for my momma's refrigerator.

I was nurturing my craft then, and sometimes now I get a little discouraged when I watch over the words that God has spoken into my life spill that outside the lines of where I think they should be.  But God wasn't done speaking..."Don't be discouraged when I take your words outside of your dream, you were meant to my speak a heart voice for my glory.  Your dream won't look like those I've written for others.  You are uniquely created with my imprint.  Giving your dream a timeline, doesn't let Me color My perfect timing in it.  Color with finesse, a fine fit inside the lines I have designed for you."

Again, I stood speechless at what He was speaking.  Jesus, you are the keeper of my dreams.

My eyes started  brimming with excitement.  I looked at her curly-colored perspective and as she filled in the daffodils with a light pink, God was filling in my heart with His artistry in a deeper, most spiritual way.  He was giving value to the words affirmed in my heart.

One's design, makeup, fabric, organic make-up or just plain old good crafty works are fine arts that needs to be shared and used to color the next person's perspective.  God watches over His works as they go out and as it comes back, fluid and flows, ebbs and draws, constantly growing.

When I think about how God started all life, with a spoken words, with just His voice designing us with a few life-words...then I can trust the Life-Source that compels me to write His words about life.  And I can, trust His timelines, after all He created that too.

The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled. Jeremiah 1:12  

The Giver of life watches to see that His words, take root, and grow us towards His intentions and the dreams He has for us.  I am taking this truth literally and applying them my dream.

May I always color your world with grace stories of God's love and truth as God colors our dreams.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Do you want it?

If you have been living with an addiction to food, drugs, alcohol, lust or whatever the struggle, you know that this life can be somewhat disheartening.  And the longer you struggle with a problem, the longer it persists, the more discouraged we become.

It challenges our faith.

It seems that daily our chronic problems become bigger...or never fade. Maybe this is just the life God has designed for us. We tend to give up, and give into our weaknesses and don't see a way out.  There are road blocks galore.

To add insult to our injuries, the more excuses we make the more discouragement amps it's voice.  Every thing, everyone, is against us. Excuses, shame, guilt, shame, excuses, and more guilt.

It's a broken record of our life.  The more days you tolerate the more you are sucked into the lie of the familiar Accuser's voice.  If one more bad things happens you just might lose it!  It might be time to let God turn the table around for our true heart's desire.  

"You can't change what you are willing to tolerate."  Craig Groeschel.  

How often have we've learned to accept the guilt, the shame, the circumstances that seem plague us every day?  We secretly suffer in the Christian life thinking that the good life is just for that other "believer" who has it all together.  

Dear defeat, please meet my Overcomer, Jesus.

We must want the kind of faith that depends on Christ, to leave the familiar lies, those that cast doubt as is the biggest enemy or an even bigger trap, the familiar.  The longer we are stuck in the familiar, the more we need to have faith that God is working for us, not against us.  

We have to do our part too in believing God for who HE says He is.

Is your desire is bigger than your disability?  God can still move in your life, even if it's been a while, like 38 years. It doesn't matter how long you've been down, by the power of Jesus, you can overcome.

Do you really want it? If you want it bad enough you can have desire to want to change. With the power and hope in Christ, we are not out of the fight. What is your greatest misery can now become your greatest ministry. But know this about God, His healing won't come as expected.

I know this personally as I used to look to food for comfort.  Then one day I lost hope to ever losing weight.  I asked God to be my comfort instead of food.  He answered my prayer that day by putting my hands on the stones of belief.  The Spirit helped to roll away the lies that had been holding me back.

God is my comfort and strength when I want to eat every piece of chocolate man has made.  I've lost 132 lbs to prove God's grace in me and through me.  I believed God when HE said that He would take care of my needs as my good Shepherd.  I  believed him when He said that He even looks after the lilies of the field, and the birds of the air.  I believed that He would take care of my food needs in a way that was healthy and pleasing to Him.

I believed God for who he was, not just for what He could do for me.  I am not enslaved to food anymore and am walking in the freedom of looking to my Comforter each and every day I want more.  

When you believe God for who He is, that's a game changer.  I want what God's best is.  Once you roll away those lies, you can see where your help comes from.

Ask God to do what only HE can do. Are you looking to yourself for something that only God can do in you? Take a step of faith forward, pick up your faith, and look to Jesus to give you the healing you need, the kind that can only come from God. The healing your soul longs for.

God is a mystery. It’s not that He doesn’t want you to know these things, it’s that He wants you to get close to Him and find out so that He can teach you. When you get close enough and quiet enough, He’ll whisper a secret to your heart and it will change your life.

In that moment, all your fear will be gone. Ask God to speak to you today.   We can all begin anew, God wants to help you but have to want HIS help to get it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The strength of our faith

Sometimes, it’s easy to wonder if God even hears our prayers.   We tend to think we are one small voice among millions knocking on God’s heart with our requests.

I used to think God didn’t have time for me or my insignificant prayers.  Why would he bend down and listen to needs when there were much “bigger problems” to care for?  There was no way my little needs would be heard by God.  So, I didn’t have much faith in the conversations between us.

It was only after I became a Christian that I understood that no words to our Father are insignificant.  After accepting the personal work of Jesus on the cross for my sins, everything became very personal.

My prayer posture changed the day I believed in Jesus.  I knew without a doubt that God touched my heart and was Jesus was my Savior. It felt like I was the only person alive that needed saving that day.  That was many years ago, but a move of God like that changes you forever.  I am so grateful that our Father is such a personal God.

My prayers changed my faith.  I started to believe and know that my prayers were always important as the next person’s prayers.  I became expectant and waited on the Lord to answer for His best answer for whatever was happening in my life.

My perspective of God has changed my prayers.  I love the way Pastor Craig says it best, “The size of your requests reveals the strength of your faith.”  Faith is about the unseen, not evidence.

Faith isn’t based on feelings, either.  How often does doubt hit our hearts when we don’t hear from God right away or in what seems to be His silence?

I believe by faith God’s best answer is enough and worth waiting for.  Our conversations with the Father make a difference in our faith, and it builds trust that fuels our faith.  Faith that believes, persists and is put to work pleases God.

Don’t you love it when you please the Father?  Faith is a demonstration of what we believe and know about our God, who loves us more than we could ever imagine.

The Accuser likes to hinder our hearts from believing God for what he tells us and then makes our faith falter. There is no room in our faith for those kinds of sneak attacks.

We have to believe God for who He says He is.  He is mighty, all-powerful, and all-knowing.

Believe that He has a plan to grow you in your faith and trust in Him.  His faithfulness shows us that He alone is a personal God and most trustworthy.

After all, God thought you were worth dying for – that’s why Jesus came. He sent His Spirit, our Counselor, to help us in our everyday faith journeys and when life brings storms that build our faith.

So have faith in a God who is very personal, who cares, and has all the answers to your problems.  He’s still in the healing business, He’s into restoring families and marriages, and cares deeply about each and every need like you are the only one who talks His ears off.

Believe it, our God is that BIG.  Just ask Him, He’ll tell you…”I AM your God!”

1 John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him.” 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Desperately gaining more

"Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions.  Don't worry about missing out.  You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met."  Matthew 6:33. (MSG)

I was wiping the shiny kitchen counter in front of me and thinking about this verse.  God keeps smiling back often with it.  Maybe because I have been doing a bit of my own searching inside, where the quiet work is done.  My mind wandered back to the C.S. Lewis tweet from earlier that morning...and then God connected some of my quiet thoughts.

The quote from earlier that day was:  "Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.”   There are so many days when I wish I could lean over our latte-laden table and tell you there has been a big awakening in my soul.

I wish I could tell you that a single prayer of desperation from last year started all of this.  But I'm not sure if it originated there or not.  Could those pair of lost eyes living in the slums in India, urgently haunt me  

Honestly that's not when I started praying for Jesus to be enough.  

While in India in Feb. 2013, I witnessed desperation, those desperate for God.  They weren't in despair but doing what they could to find God in the middle of their overcrowded religions.  They were seeking God in the most desperate of ways in the middle of their depravity, believing Jesus was the answer to everything. 

When we seek God to be our answer to everything, he becomes our answer to all things.

"God I want to know desperation."  It was my audacious prayer traveling back when I was sandwiched between the loud-talking Finns and the other lady traveler who spoke across me.  

Desperation.  My prayer language was changing, and so was my desire to know more of God's Kingdom.  It might have all started there, this restless season of my spiritual springing.  

It's my looking back there that I've seen how I've grown.  When you look at your past prayers God shows you where you have been.  God has brought restoration in some areas but ripped the scab off of many others.  But mostly He has brought me to deeper level of prayer language.  

I might sound a little desperate.  In my prayers, that's a Good-God initiative.

He met me in my seeking as I have sought Him first.  God cares much more about your character rather than how much you feel faith-comfortable in seeking Him.  In consistently seeking a desperate heart, God is opportunely preparing my heart to be reckless.  God is bringing freedom and abandonment in many areas right now.

You may think I'm giving up a lot, I'm desperately gaining so much more.

I'm budding by leaps and bounds by creating margin for God to bring deeper growth.  Oh how I love the spring of the Spirit.  The changes are telling as my Author is still writing my language story.  It feels like we've only just begun.

I am desperate for more springs.  More roots deep.  God not only shakes our worlds but He desperately awakens our souls.