Just Do It

foldedhands

I haven’t written in forever. I hate that I don’t have time to write because sharing on this blog has been truly therapeutic. You hear people say that all of the time, but it seems writing about the things God does bring new life to the soul. So what have I been doing?

Over the last several months, God has tapped me on the shoulder more than once to simply pray. This has happened to me before. I believe with my whole heart, God sees us when we struggle. He not only sees and feels our pain; He calls someone (or maybe many) to walk this road with us in prayer. And so, He has prompted me, awakened me at night and impressed on my heart to pray. Normally, this would be easy. I love to pray. But this time is different. He’s asking me to pray for someone I hardly know. Needless to say, it’s been a faith walk for sure. But I have learned some things about myself in the process.

I am reminded the problem is not really God’s concern. It seems He is more focused on the walk to the solution. You see, no problem is too big for God. He can do anything. But ultimately, it’s the journey He cares about. Along the way we learn to trust Him in ways we never would have before. We learn that He actually has a plan and all is worked out. My problem is that I think I will mess up His plan. But no, nothing I can do will ever change what God intends.

I also learned how fearful I am. It seems God has had to drag me along on this ride. He has had to persuade me. I have tried to walk away, but He simply won’t let me. He wants me to stay the course. I keep asking Him, “Why me?” I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. I don’t know how this person feels. I have no words of wisdom. I guess that’s precisely the point. It’s not about me. And how arrogant of me to think otherwise.

My scripture for this year is:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

I never realized how much fear hinders our lives. The reason we can’t seem to move forward with God is because of fear. It literally cripples us. It seems God is showing me this over and over. He’s making me do the things I fear the most.

This morning I had a special time in prayer. I have been agreeing in prayer with someone different for a few weeks and it seems God has answered our prayers. I was so thankful to pray with her. And I am praising God for His protection over her. But even more so, I sobbed because I felt so privileged to pray and encourage a sister in the Lord. I felt so honored to be chosen, really.

I don’t know where you find yourself today. Perhaps you are someone in need of prayer. God will send the perfect person to pray with you. Or maybe, He’s tapped you on the shoulder and invited you to walk the road with someone who desperately needs prayer. Whatever the case, know that He is in complete control and He really has a plan.

Everything that Hinders

nathanchristmas

I memorized Hebrews 12:1 and in the middle of it are these words, “let us throw off everything that hinders”. I’ve thought about those words a lot over the last few weeks. I’ve been thinking about them because I knew God was asking me to do something I’ve failed at in the past (or at least I considered a failure). I spent a lot of time praying and asking if He truly was prompting me. I reminded Him of my past failures. I decided someone much more qualified should step in. I really didn’t want to mess things up or make any part of this situation about me. It must always be about Him, His plan, His purpose and His will. And so after wrestling for several days, I told God I would do whatever He wanted.

During those days of wrestling these words made me realize I had been wearing my past mistakes as a cloak. They were weighing me down preventing me from moving forward. The hurt had turned to fear and the fear was stifling me. Worst of all, I allowed it. I lived there, in the safe place unwilling to step out for fear of failure once again. That was until God told me to “throw off” the very thing that was hindering me.

So, I sit here a few weeks later, after completing the task, with a thankful heart. He truly was my strength in weakness. He did the very thing He said He would do. I doubted. I was fearful. I was sure I’d fail. But He knew the outcome. And He allowed me to step outside of my natural inclinations to do something special. The thing about it was the task He asked me to do wasn’t all that magnificent. It was something terribly simple. But the effects were huge.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

Forgiveness is a Process

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In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. (Matthew 18:34 NIV)

I read Matthew 18 this morning. The end of the passage is a parable Jesus shares to answer questions about forgiveness. Peter asks how often he is required to forgive. He puts a limit on forgiveness. Can you imagine keeping track of every offense by each person in your life? I’m exhausted just thinking about it!!

I know Peter was simply trying to live as Jesus would expect. I imagine he was used to following a set of rules. It’s not like that with Jesus. He was not motivated by performance. Instead, love propels Him.

The servant in the story was jailed because he was unwilling to forgive a debt. He refused to offer the same mercy he had received from his master. Likewise, when we can’t bring ourselves to forgive, we are imprisoned. Our minds are consumed with thoughts of vengeance. We justify our behavior. We convince ourselves we have a right to feel this way. We think we are being righteous when we are actually judgemental.

The reality is, we will never be free until we forgive. God forgives us over and over. He shows us mercy and love every single day. We should offer the same. We have to if we want peace. But how do we? Sometimes, everything in us wants to but we just can’t.

True forgiveness is a process. It begins by allowing God’s will to override ours. We just have to tell Him we will forgive. Then we have to pray diligently for Him to change our hearts. He will but often times it takes work. It rarely happens overnight. And it has been my experience that I have to go to Him over and over recommitting to forgive. I know in the long run it is for my own benefit to forgive. And God knows that too!

Seasons

lemonThe Christmas decorations were placed back in their rightful containers. Some were wrapped with care, others placed without protection. They will stay in those boxes until the end of the year when we again celebrate the season. It’s always a sad time, packing away the trinkets. Many carry precious memories. But life moves on and it’s time for the next season. So we put them away until Christmas comes again.

Our lives are marked by seasons. Some seasons overflow with joy. We celebrate. We embrace the blessings God provides. We are thankful. Seasons of joy are what we live for. They excite us. They remind us we are loved. They give us a reason to celebrate. But would we honestly understand true joy without pain?

No one looks forward to seasons of pain. Not one person hopes for struggles. People don’t ask for hardship or tragedy or dark times and yet they come. They come because it is in those times we see strength. We persevere. We fall to our knees and beg for God to walk with us. It’s in those difficult times we understand God and His love a little more. And when we struggle through coming to the end of another season, we are forever changed. Our perception has been altered. The world around us hasn’t changed but the way we see it has. And joy, what about joy? Joy is that much sweeter.

Each January, we make promises and resolve to live better. It all sounds great but I have far more failed resolutions than successful ones. For me, change doesn’t come because of a date on the calendar or the time on a watch. My life changes through experiences. Those experiences are called seasons. And each season is important. It adds to my life. It changes me. It makes me the person God intended. As hard as life can be sometimes, I wouldn’t give up any seasons, good or difficult.

So, for the New Year I hope to look more intently to see God. I want to be thankful when life is grand and all of my prayers are answered. And I want to see His gentle hand when things seem unfair. More than anything, I want to use those seasons and memories and experiences to bless the people He places in my path.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance,  perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4 NIV)

I’m Guilty

jonahandjona

“No guilt in life, no fear in death

This is the power of Christ in me

From life’s first cry to final breath,

Jesus commands my destiny.” (In Christ Alone)

We sang this song this weekend at church. It’s one of my favorites because it is the perfect picture of life. As we sang the verse…”No guilt in life…” it reminded me of a story about Jonah. It happened several years ago but it still rings fresh in my mind. He was playing on the bleachers while his sister had soccer practice one night. My husband told him not to play on the bleachers because it was dangerous. I’m married to “Mr. Safety”. Anyhow, the little boy playing with Jonah fell and hurt himself. He ran to his mom crying. Moments later, Jonah burst into sobs crying, “I’M GUILTY!!” He had disobeyed his dad and now his little friend was paying the price.

This morning I read the story of David and his guilt. He slept with a married woman. She became pregnant. He tried to cover it up but his plan didn’t work. So, he had her husband killed. Then he took her as his wife. It was the perfect plan. He was king. He could do what he wanted. And everything seemed to be going along as he hoped until Nathan, prompted by God, confronted him. He was guilty! He had consequences to pay. But did that mean God would never favor him again? Did that mean he would be unloved by God? Did that mean God was mistaken when He said David was “a man after my own heart”? I don’t think so.

There are times in our lives we are going to make terrible mistakes. The fact is, we are sinners. We are not perfect nor will we ever be. We try but sometimes our best efforts fail us. We are guilty. But our story doesn’t have to end there. In the midst of our humiliation, God is with us. He sees our hearts and wants to redeem us. Some focus on the consequences but I focus on the relationship. After we’ve sinned and been forgiven, I believe we are more humble. We trust Him a little more and follow His leading. We are not so eager to pump ourselves up. We refocus.

If you find yourself in the midst of a mess, know God truly loves you. He doesn’t love you because you are perfect. He loves you because He created you. He can redeem your mess. He forgives your sin. He will never forsake you, ever…even when you are guilty.

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48 NIV)

Life is Short

life

My heart was heavy and my mind was reminiscing as I drove to the church on Saturday. I was attending a memorial service for a man I had never met. I knew his name. I had seen pictures, but I had never had the privilege of sitting and talking with him. The only thing I knew about him was the woman he had married; an old friend of mine.

My friend was someone I met over twenty years ago. We met at church and realized we had the most important thing in common. We both loved the beach; still do. Way back, when I had no husband and children, we would get up almost every Saturday morning and head over to the coast for a day of relaxation. We’d set our chairs up on the edge of the water and soak in the warm sun. I am convinced there’s a beach in heaven. There is simply no better place on earth.

When I got married, my friend was one of my bridesmaids and she sang. I remember looking over at her singing that day but having to look away because I was about to burst into tears. It’s funny the things you remember. On Saturday, I became teary eyed again as I watched my friend sing at her husband’s memorial service. Her voice brought back so many memories. You see, it had been probably ten years or so since I had seen my friend.

After the service ended I made my way to see her. She gave me a big hug and I burst into tears. I told her I was so sorry. And she responded, “You never got to meet him.” You know, the older I get the shorter life seems. You think you’ll do it tomorrow. You expect everything will remain the same but it never does. There are no guarantees.

So, my question is, if we knew when our last day on this earth would be, what would we do with it? How would we spend our time? Who would we talk to? What would we say to them?

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12 NIV)

Focusing on God

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This morning, I found myself praising God for today. I thanked Him for this moment in time where all is well. I thanked Him because I know everything can change in the blink of an eye. So today, I simply sat and thanked Him for today’s blessings.

My prayers today came about because of a conversation I had with someone. She was throwing out a bunch of what-ifs. She asked what I would do if this or if that happened. She wasn’t being cruel. In her mind, she simply wanted all of the bases covered in case something happened. I think she was surprised by my response. I told her I can’t live my life worrying about the “what-ifs”. I told her it wasn’t biblical to concern myself with things that may never happen. And I told her I would drive myself insane if all I did was think about the possibilities. The fact is they are endless.

Rather than worry about what might happen, I thought, what if for today I was completely satisfied with where I am in life. What if I were satisfied with our home and all of its needed repairs? What if I were content with my car because every single day it starts and takes me where I need to go? What if I had no expectations from my husband except to come home at the end of the day and spend time talking? What if I were absolutely without want for anything more than I already have? This perspective made me cry.

It is too easy to think about what could be or what might happen. I believe this is what Paul was saying when he said, ”We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”(2 Cor.10:5 NASB) He’s urging us to take every unholy thought and make it obedient to Christ because he knew our thoughts, if unchecked will wreak havoc in our lives. They can cause us a tremendous amount of unnecessary stress. And quite frankly, if we are looking at what-ifs, we will not have our gaze focused on the One who is in control.

Thank you Lord for today. Thank you for your abundant love. Thank you for your provision. Thank you for holding my future. AMEN!