I want to be like this photograph! I don’t care if I am surrounded by tumultuous waves that crash and surge; I want to grow and persist! Even if I feel isolated in moments, I will remember that I am not alone! I will overcome the obstacles that I find myself surrounded by, and I will (by God’s grace) become a beautiful, vibrant testimony to the fact that even a seed dropped into a rocky crag, surrounded by surging water can go on to bloom…even if the waters eventually become this:
This Spring, James and I went to Chicago, Nevada, and California. We went to encourage friends and family who were out in California. We also went so that I could intentionally forgive and heal from so many painful memories and humiliations that I had suffered in those places through my first marriage.
They have other sites, as well, but this location was exactly where we needed to be on this particular day.
Their mantra is, “Love more, Fear less”.
It’s based on I John 4:18:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love.
(Berean Study Bible translation)
For me, I went on the trip with all the gritty determination to rid myself of the demons from my past. Before we left, an elder from our church challenged us to “Lay aside all of your expectations and simply expect that Jesus Christ would be glorified.” We did.
Gone were my expectations of doing this incredible service and brave act for God, as I deliberately and intentionally visited so many hurtful places.
I never imagined that I would so tenderly be healed from so many memories and humiliations. I knew that Jesus Christ is good, and kind. I knew that Yahweh is attentive to all our humiliations, I just never expected to be so specifically and intentionally encouraged.
So many ways that would only be a specific gift to me…
I have been amazed as I marvel that the God of the Universe and the Creator of the Cosmos pays all that attention to “Li’l old me.”
I challenge you, beloved ones.
I dare you!
Lay down all expectation, and simply ask that Jesus Christ be glorified in your life. Then hang on as He tenderly and intentionally shows you specifically that HE SEES YOU!
Love more. Fear less.
Religious rules and traditions make me claustrophobic. My off-beat sense of humor and lilting sarcasm are here to “shake things up and keep things honest”; at least that’s what I have repeatedly told myself. Have you ever had a moment of truth so startling that you found it hard to catch your breath?
My last post chronicled my ever-present struggle with my language. What it didn’t mention or divulge is how fast my words leap out of my mouth ahead of my mind sometimes. I cringe to think about the slew of recklessness that I have unleashed at different moments in my life.
The weekend after my post, Pastor’s message rang true with me. I was convicted of my sinful lack of self-control; but wanted to get to the heart of the problem. I prayed, “Father, give me your eyes. What is the issue here?”
The answer was like a kick in the gut.
“You are terrified of the image that I carry a rod and a staff.”
I began to cry.
I see a rod and a staff as weapons to inflict beatings and undeserved punishments.
My ex-husband’s abuse warped my view of God.
In life, psychologists describe the “flight or fight” response. Simply put, when in danger, people either respond by fleeing or by fighting. I fight. In my former self-defense training, I was taught to unleash cuss words when fighting…especially if fighting in a conservative society where the language would draw more attention and therefore bring more help.
Gold star for applying my lessons in self-defense to my relationship with Christ! (Told you I have the gift of sarcasm). Seriously , though, I have felt threatened by the image of God holding a rod and a staff. I have spent years pushing the “envelope” of Christianity with my language, my rebellion, my attitude, my life; all while waiting expectantly to go too far, to have the rod &/or the staff whack me back into submission.
I sobbed like a little girl who’s been hurt.
I sat down with my mentor after church and we talked through this…all of it.
She lovingly pointed out that any area of sin is really a spiritual strength that is being allowed to run uncontrollably, without being submitted to the Holy Spirit. She reminded me that my “dragon-lady speech and cutting remarks” are really witty, truthful words that are not being spoken in love or kindness.
When I told her about my terror at the thought of God holding a rod and a staff, my eyes became floodgates. I explained that I don’t want to be hurt like that again. We began to pray, and she asked that I see God’s love as a guardrail, not as a fence of confinement.
Simultaneously, I had the image of my cheek up against a red wall of rock. I could feel the heat and smell the fresh air of high altitude mixed with flowers. I looked over to see a guardrail on the edge of the mountain pass, and just over the railing; there was a steep drop down thousands of feet to a certain death.
I looked up, and crumpled like a rag doll.
All these years, I have been flinching every time I pray; just waiting for the recoil and the certain blow of a rod, a stick, or a fist.
I have reacted like a penned animal who is cornered instead of embracing the beautiful truth that I am loved and protected.
It’s not an instantaneous turn-around in my mind.
I am studying the true use of a shepherd’s staff and a shepherd’s rod so that I may have a fresh understanding of how God shows love to me by protecting me.
Like all wounds, I know that this will take time to heal.
For now, though; I am content to lean up against that rock wall in my mind and look out over the panorama that is laid out before me, careful to stay far away from the guardrail that warns of certain danger.
I am choosing to trust that Isaiah 42:3 is true when it says, “He will not break a bruised reed, and he will not put out a smoldering wick…”(HCSB). It seems to me that if he carries a rod and a staff, but doesn’t break a bruised reed that is weak already; then I am safe as I learn WHO he is and what he uses his tools to do.
To take up refuge.
To withdraw from those around you, and seek refuge.
To burrow, or hide oneself away.
Sometimes, it feels safer to be hidden or burrowed away.
We were not created to hide in darkness.
If He meant us to dwell in darkness, He would never “shine His face on you”
When you feel overwhelmed,
remember that He who shines His face on you is
You are NOT alone.
Bask today in His Goodness, soak up His light.
Swim in the knowledge that you, beloved;
are dearly loved.
Thank God for it,
then go out in peace.
Today I am thankful for the reminder that I heard on the radio last week.
The announcer said, “I don’t want moss on my feet…I want to wear out, not give up.”
I was looking through my old photographs and I saw this.
It reminded me of that statement.
Algae grows on things that don’t move fast.
Don’t get me wrong, rest is vital.
So is growth.
You can’t grow in Christ if you never take steps of faith.
This rock is in freshwater, which means it is living water, and isn’t designed to create stagnancy.
The rock isn’t moving, though.
This results in it being covered in algae.
I don’t want to be inactive; I don’t want to ever stop giving to people;
or to ever become so self-focused that I only give to myself.
He created us to give His love to others…
the same love that He gave to us.
Today, I am thankful for the reminder.
I accidentally pushed my camera button this morning…and was gifted with a beautiful reminder that He always redeems accidents and slip ups…when we let him. 😉
Unexpected generosity gets me every time.
Earlier today I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the positive impact that the following
campaign is having.
Give like it’s your last chance to do good…
you never know who may need