This Is My Worth!

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(FreeImages.com/HansWidmer)

The book lay open in my hands.  I had been given the privilege of reading for a few uninterrupted minutes, and the book I chose to read told the story of Jesus’ life, ministry on earth, and His death.  It was a story that I had read many times.  Yet, reading it again was like hearing it for the first time.  I read again about someone who lived so purely, so sacrificially, and so lovingly.  His humility was such a stark contrast to the showiness of the religious leaders and to those who sought Him for His works but not for Himself.  Yet, He gave and healed so freely, and what was given and done for Him?  A few rugged and uneducated men followed him, often bickering and then finally abandoning Him when it became dangerous and unpopular to follow Him.

Then, my mind’s eye could picture Him in all the gore of His beatings, the pain of the betrayals, but even more the weight of all the shame He bore.  Do you know how horrible it is when we needlessly carry the shame of our mistakes?  Yet, Jesus carried all of those horrendous sins — from Adolf Hitler to ISIS to the Ted Bundy’s of this world.  He carried every abuse, every lie, every lust, and there was no one to shoulder the burden for Him.  We don’t have to carry the weight of our sins, but He did.  He carried the crushing weight of EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. THOSE. SINS.  Yes, EVERY. SINGLE. ONE!

And God, His perfect and incredibly loving Abba Father had to turn His back on His Son.  Jesus had never experienced that — ever.  We don’t understand that because God pursues each of us and loves us.  Yet, Jesus didHe experienced what it felt like to have to carry every last sin and carry it all upon Himself.  He carried all of that for me.  …for you.

Then, it struck me.  It struck me how incredibly I am loved!  Such a price was paid for me… for you!  It was a price of infinite worth!  The price paid was God Himself.  He gave His all.  He gave Himself.

Then, I realized this:

We don’t understand our worth because we don’t understand the depth and magnitude of the sacrifice He made for us.

I don’t deserve it.  I am absolutely humbled and incredibly grateful that God Himself gave His all to redeem me and to give me an inheritance with Him!

To be honest, I can’t wrap my mind completely around that thought.  It’s overwhelming!

As the truth of this sinks in, I raise my face, slick with tears, to look up, knowing He sees and hears me.  Into the holiness of the realization of Who He is, I whisper these simple words, “Thank you, Jesus!  Thank you!”

This is what it means to be His daughters and sons: it means to have infinite worth because an Infinite God loved me that much!

He gave His everything for me… for you!

Thank you, Jesus.

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Do It Broken

YMCA Horse Mosaic 1

(FreeImages.com/MichelleRau)

As I was sitting in bed this morning with my journal, Bible, and a devotional, the words began to pour out, and the tears began to fall.  Before long, I was scrambling for my pen to jot down the thoughts God was giving me — thoughts about brokenness and grace…

I was reflecting back on how so many times I have wondered why God would entrust me with five precious children to raise when I am far from perfect.  I am not the most patient person.  Loud noises and lots of activity stress me.  Chaos and messes annoy me.  I get easily stressed over crazy busyness and never-ending activities.  The humor in this is all the above often describes my life.

I seem like the most unlikely choice to being a mom of five kids.  Was it all one big cosmic mistake, or ignorance on my part?  Does that mean my kids and I are relegated to just “muck through” the rest of life until they are out of the home, and I can be back in my comfy place again?

In answer to those questions, I will share thoughts God has been teaching me and what I want to share with you today…

Religion often teaches us that God waits until we get it all right before He uses us.

Grace is about God using us — not even in spite of our imperfections — but sometimes because of them.  Why?  Because when we are broken, we are pliable — more apt to be yielded and teachable.

Grace is God taking our brokenness and making something beautiful with the pieces.  He puts the pieces of our lives together, and it forms a beautiful piece of art.  It tells a whole new story.

I wrote the following words to the leaders on my business team.  Within our business, we are often required to stretch beyond our feelings, and the following words were to encourage them: (I think they just might encourage a few of you.)

I wanted to share some words of encouragement to you this Tuesday morning. We all go through times when we doubt ourselves and when we don’t feel completely “on top of our game.” The tendency is to then “hang back” and wait for that future time when we feel more successful or like we have it together before attempting to pursue our dreams. In other words, we want our dream before we pursue it. The truth is we have to pursue our dream before we find it.

I am going to blog about this shortly, but I wanted to post this note I wrote to an ambassador for all of you. I am hoping there might be a word of encouragement in it for you…

“I want to tell you, it’s okay to do life ‘broken.’ You don’t have to wait to live life or pursue your dreams until you ‘feel’ them. The best advice I can give you is to ‘do it scared’ and do it broken.

Grace acknowledges our brokenness — not to worship the brokenness — but to give glory to the Supremacy of the cross over our brokenness.

The power of the cross is the fact that God sees you not as you are but as Christ is!!!

Grace is the cross!

Grace is God’s ability to take our anguish, our brokenness, and our failings and to use us still. It is God’s ability to use imperfection and make it perfect because of the User.

The key is our surrender. We surrender to Him and quit trying to be all perfect before He can use us.

He uses us not in spite of our brokenness, but He uses even through and because of our brokenness itself to accomplish His purposes.”

And I want to cry right there…!

I am going to repeat this powerful statement once again:

Grace acknowledges our brokenness — not to worship the brokenness — but to give glory to the Supremacy of the cross over our brokenness.

So often, we get this idea that grace is slapping a “happy face” sticker over the world’s ills and telling everyone, “You’re great where you are.  Just be happy.”

The reality is Grace sees the depths of our anguish and brokenness and then says, “Give it to me, and I will take your brokenness and give you My Wholeness.  Your brokenness will become My wholeness because I will take those broken pieces, and I will bring healing to them and make them whole.”

Today, as you return to your chaotic world and the reminders of your own brokenness, I want to encourage you to stop looking at the brokenness and start looking at the cross.

The cross is a picture of brokenness and wholeness that melded into One Perfect Being so that you and I have a future, a calling, a tangible peace, an inexplicable joy, and an eternal hope that is a reality!!!

Give God your brokenness because He wants to weld His wholeness to it.

When All Creation Cries…

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(FreeImages.com/SimonSmith)

I awake this morning to more news of suffering and tragedy. The air is heavy with humidity, and I wonder if it isn’t the tears of this world, groaning because of the depths of such suffering and such evil. Hearts are heavy, and as much as we couldn’t exist without God’s grace and long-suffering, we hold our breath in collective question and ask, “How long, Oh Lord?”

Tears pour down, and I grieve for the mommies who want to hold their precious babes one more time. …for husbands and wives who wish they could love one more time… for children who wish they had a parent to kiss their tears away… There are no simple words for anguish so deep.

Within this heavy, collective breath, I see Him, like it was yesterday, hanging there on the cross, and saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He was perfectly sinless; they were perfectly evil. Why does He say, “They know not what they do?”

Perhaps, the answer is this: if we all really saw and understood the heart of God and His purpose and plans for our life… if we saw what He desires for us and tasted of His goodness and His life… if we really and truly understood… if eyes weren’t blinded by lies, evil, and suffering… if people didn’t turn away from their true Source of comfort, peace, and love and turn inward, trying to cover the searing pain and questions…

Then, we would know that the answer to this world’s agony is not enacting more laws. It’s turning to the One who doesn’t just turn a deaf ear to our suffering, but He took on our suffering and became one of us. He not only suffered along with us, but He suffered for us. He carried agony that we will never experience.

That is why the cross is a picture of “Unfathomable evil intersected with unfathomable grace at the cross.”

What The Cross Really Represents…

Dirty Fingerprints

(FreeImages.com/StephenDavies)

This struck me so powerfully this morning:

Unfathomable evil intersected with unfathomable grace at the cross.

And I am undone… because this. challenges me. to forgive. to love, even the unlovable. to “fellowship” with those who don’t yet understand their value to God. to be patient. because what looks like too far or too low looks like something completely different to God.

Sometimes, it means I need to get a little dirty because grace takes the ugly and wraps it up in the garments of love.

How To Face Your Biggest Obstacle

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It started at the end of last week…  those old negative feelings of discouragement, fear, discontment, washed over me, overwhelming and seeking to bring defeat to my soul.  As my heart cried out to God, asking Him to change my thoughts and help me to think the truth, God began to speak to my heart.

It’s amazing how quickly I can be like the Israelites, seeing God’s miraculous hand of victory and then suddenly back to the complaining and whining and forgetting all that God has already done.

Last week, I had just started a study by Beth Moore on the life of David.  As I completed the study guide for today’s reading and notes, God’s Word began to speak to me once again.

My parents first took me to church as a babe in arms and every Sunday after that; so I grew up, hearing the story of David.  I knew all about how a boy defeated a giant with just a sling-shot and a few stones.  It was an amazing story!  Somehow though, it was easier to imagine those incredible type of events happening to the extremely “righteous” people — someone with extraordinary faith and a special brand of godliness. 

Me?  I saw myself as just the average girl  — nothing extraordinary about me.  Surely, I didn’t have that special brand of godliness or exceptional brand of faith.

So, when those “giants” reared their ugly heads, I became just like the Israelites, accepting defeat before the battle had even begun.  No battle had been waged, but the attitude of defeat had decimated me. 

I stood, outwardly, but inwardly, my heart was crumbling.  I wanted to be that amazing mom, that amazing wife, that amazing friend, that amazing woman of God.  Yet, I felt small, worn out, crushed, weighed down, defeated.  Why?  Sometimes, it only takes a word of criticism.  Mostly, it’s because I am just like the Israelites, measuring the size of the obstacle against my own strength. 

How can one defeat the “giants” out there when one isn’t even fully recognizing the God who is present?  Sometimes, it’s not even understanding the God who is there but understanding my relationship with Him/His relationship to me.  Too often, it’s because I still see myself as having to somehow earn His favor and love.  In other words, I am resting in the strength of my faith and the measure of my godliness.  It’s then I feel defeat.  I know I am not perfect enough, godly enough, faithful enough, nor good enough to keep anyone’s eternal and unwavering affection and devotion.

Anyone’s?  Yeah, when I compare God to earthly loves.  It doesn’t matter how good and loving our parents were nor how loving our husband is.  At some point, human relationships are going to let us down.  They were never meant to be our god.

My parents loved me and do love me.  My husband, he does too.  I know all that.  Yet, there’s that seeking, searching little-girl heart that cries, “Abba, do you love me?  Were you with me when that person let me down?  God, show me where you are when sleep eludes me, the tasks of life overwhelm me, the pain of defeat and fear crush my spirit.” 

Suddenly, a “shade” to the “window” of my soul lifts.  I begin to understand that as wonderful as my husband is, he can’t fill my need for identity and worth.  My kids… they are cute and all that, but they sure let me down at times.  Even friends, as wonderful as they are, can’t fill that desperate need to know that Abba-God loves me — that His love is eternal and unwavering.

I then realize the key to David’s victory.  He didn’t measure his obstacle by the size of his faith or his own strength.  He measured his obstacle against the size of His God.  (Thanks, Beth Moore, for that thought!)

Quoting from Beth Moore’s study guide:

Do you approach every circumstance and conflict as a member of the army of the living God?  Do you continually regard God as able?  Is He not only the Lord Almighty on the page but the Lord Almighty on the pavement? Do you stand in His name?  Our victory rests not on faith in our spirituality.  Our victory rests on faith in our God.  We’re often intimidated in battle because we are uncertain of our faith.  We must remember we don’t stand in victory because of our faith.  We stand in faith because of our God.  Faith in faith is pointless.  Faith in a living, active God moves mountains.

I love that thought: Is He not only the Lord Almighty on the page but the Lord Almighty on the pavement?

“We stand in faith because of our God.”

Lord, help me to understand that I don’t need to envy the “Davids”.  Help me to realize that I am a unique expression of your love and a unique testimony to your creativity.  Help me to understand that I don’t have to be David to defeat the “giants” of life.  Help me to understand that I don’t have to have amazing faith or be a flawless paradigm of godliness.  Help me to see that all I have to do is open my heart to your love and to rest in you — your power. 

Like David, I still have to face the obstacles, but my confidence isn’t in myself or my abilities but it’s in You — the God who created the universe.  He is not only the God of the Universe but the God who took on a fleshly body like mine so He could feel the scourge of the whip and the pounding of the nails being driven into His hands to demonstrate the extent of His love for me!

He is a God so powerful that by the word of His mouth, He brought into existence an entire world and countless galaxies and a God so powerful that He could submit to a wooden cross in order to demonstrate the height and depth of His love for me! 

Could it be?  Could it be that a God so powerful died for me and now seeks to show me how to truly live with Him?  Could it be that He doesn’t seek extraordinary people to do great things?  Could it be that He looks for ordinary people who are willing to let Him do extraordinary things in and through their lives? 

Could it be that in God’s eyes I am just as amazing as David and Joseph and Paul and all of those other people of faith?  Not because I am so special in myself but because He made me, He died for me, and He lives within me!

Lord, is this what it’s all about?  Living a life of victory… it’s facing my biggest obstacles because I am not alone!  It’s because of Who my God is and because of who I am in Him!

A Cross in the Commonplace

Last evening as Jonathan was mowing and the boys and I were watching him mow, Will exclaimed, “Daddy is making a cross behind the swing set!”  Sure enough Jonathan’s mowing pattern had crossed over each other behind the swing set.  Will showed me with his hands the cross pattern it formed and said, “It made a cross like Jesus died on.”  How precious to hear him grasping more truths!

A Cross

Yesterday, Jonathan was helping the boys begin the process of growing an avocado tree.  In the beginning of this process, you have to take four toothpicks and insert them into the avocado seed.  Once Jonathan finished inserting the toothpicks, Will said, “That’s a cross!”  He recognized the shape it had formed.