Hard To Love…

Handwriting - Love

(FreeImages.com/BobSmith)

I was grumbling in my bathroom today that some people are so difficult to love.  I immediately heard the Lord speak back to my heart: “Love isn’t about you.”

Talk about a readjusted perspective!

It can be very difficult to love some people.  Love though isn’t about the person doing the loving (us).  Love is about the person we are loving.  

If “love” is about us, it’s not love.  It’s selfishness.

Ouch!

Agape love is the purest and most authentic form of love because it doesn’t expect anything in return.  It’s not given based on the recipient’s worthiness or likability.  It can’t be limited or withheld based on an infraction.

Love just pours itself out without any thought of itself.  Love is never about self.  Love is about the other person.

The following passage in Scripture reaffirms that love is the strongest character quality and emotion of all:

1 Corinthians 13

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I was thinking that fear is a very strong emotion, but notice how love is more powerful than fear.  Love is truly the “trump card.”

1 John 4:18

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

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Ingredients for Kids Part Two…

Baking Day 4

(FreeImages.com/LynnCummings)

I was contemplating baking again and ingredients…

It struck me that most recipes call for both sugar and salt.  They may seem to discount each other, but in reality, they add a different dimension to the taste of the finished product.  They are both needed.

They remind me of the importance of adding in both truth and grace to our parenting, along with justice and mercy.  Both are needed for the finished product.

It’s also interesting that most recipes call for more sugar than salt.  That is a good reminder that our kids need a lot of kindness and grace, along with our doses of truth.

Children turn out well when a lot of love is poured into them.  Want a sweet finished product?  Add in some generous heaps of sweetness.

Fear Versus Love

Handwriting - Love

(FreeImages.com/BobSmith)

Struggling with fear?

How do you live fearlessly in a world that has hidden dangers, agendas, and impending hurts?

What’s wrong with protecting oneself? 

How do you love fearlessly in a dangerous and abusive world?

How do you trust when it may mean being hurt again?

Trust is essential to any good relationship, but doesn’t it make sense to hold back and keep your “best cards” hidden?

Sound familiar?

Want to know what the answer to fear is?

It’s living loved.

That simple.

How do we live loved though if we don’t believe we are loved fully?

How do we offer what we don’t have or haven’t received (accepted/believed)?

There are some very clear differences between love and fear:

Fear walls against, locks out, controls, tries to predict, measures, withholds, imprisons, incapacitates…

Love empowers, gives freedom, enables, expands, gives generously, is limitless, hopes, receives, believes…

Fear is the scarcity mentality.  It is a prisoner to the past and a prisoner to the unknown and what-ifs.  It fears and expects the worst, instead of believing the best.

Fear holds any new relationship prisoner and answerable to the wounds of the past. The present and future are never released from the wounds of the past.

Fear says that my future is only preserved by hoarding my present.

Fear refuses to be vulnerable and transparent.

Love though is the abundance mentality.  It overflows.  It releases the present and future from the wounds of the past.

Each new relationship is received with the openness that comes from freedom from the past and a hope for the future. 

Love focuses on others rather than protecting self.

Love is able to be vulnerable because to be loved is to be secure.  When there is true security, there is no fear of vulnerability.

Love is an expanding force.  It expands our borders, expands our abilities, expands our hopes, expands our giving and our receiving…

The relevance to understanding the difference between love and fear as it applies to my life and to your life is this:

I.  Fear is rooted completely in self.  It is completely self-centered and as a result imprisoning.  It holds you, your circumstances, your dreams, your life purpose, and your loved ones prisoner to what hurt or scared you in the past and what might hurt or scare you again in the future.

You will never grow, expand, or be “all in” for God so long as you are a prisoner of your past.

II. Love is bigger than self and expands me beyond myself, my fears, my borders, my experiences, my past.

In order to live fearlessly, you must learn to live fully loved.

As I was contemplating this, I immediately thought of the verse:

1 John 4:18

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

A Religious Spirit

shame

(FreeImages.com/KatherineEvans)

The Religious Spirit…

But first my story…

I grew up in a loving, Christian home.  I read my Bible, attended Sunday School and church services whenever the doors were open, prayed, studied the Bible…  I attended a Bible college, got involved in mission work, did everything I could to honor and pursue the Lord.  My heart was to please the Lord.  All good, right?

As the years passed, I began to realize that my life consisted a lot in doing.  The Christian life had become a struggle — a struggle to do and trying to be by doing.

“…trying to be by doing.”

I felt more like an onlooker rather than a participant in the realities of the love and power in the “Kingdom” of God.

“…felt more like an onlooker rather than a participant…”

I remember crying out to God for Him to increase my love — to return me to my “first love.”

I knew all of the right things (for the most part), did all of the right things (for the most part), but inwardly, I knew that something was lacking.

God began to reveal to me that I was trying to relate to Him intellectually and through self-righteousness.

Relating to God on an intellectual basis is very easy to do!  It’s especially easy if we are more analytical in our approach, more fear-based, only allow what we can understand into our lives, prefer security, prefer predictability, avoid vulnerability, etc…

I am going to step out on a limb here and say that a religious spirit summarizes this pursuit of God by doing.

The religious spirit is a struggle to be enough by doing enough.

It is looking to self and relying on my own actions to measure my worthiness and His approval of me.  It is all self-focused.

Intellectualism ties into the religious spirit because it is trying to convince myself, God, and others that I am worthy, spiritual, and have a relationship with God, based on what I know about Him.

I am very thankful for all that I did and still do in my life to seek God and to learn more about Him, but what I was lacking before was knowing Him intimately instead of as an onlooker. 

Note: I was a Christian at this point.  I was pursuing God and loved Him to the best of what I knew as love.  The point is, my love wasn’t very great because I didn’t understand and hadn’t received the fullness of His love for me.

I wasn’t experiencing the full reality of God because I didn’t fully understand His love for me. 

I still don’t.  It will take me a life-time and an eternity to comprehend the vastness of His love for me because it is infinite — without limits.

What happens though when we have a religious spirit is we truly don’t comprehend that His love is not based on us/me.  It’s not given in measures, based on how I perform or don’t perform.

His love for me has nothing to do with how I perform, how I pray, how I worship, how much I know about Him, how much I serve Him.

His love has everything to do with Him!

We define love by our own experiences or the lack thereof.  We think that God’s love is like what we have experienced and how we operate: given to those who like us or treat us well or that we like for some reason.  This is why we so easily “fall in and out of love.”  It’s really not love out all.  It’s self-gratification.

Within us all is this longing to be loved like what God offers: unconditional, infinite, lavish.

We want someone to love us — I mean really love us.  We want someone to know everything about us: all the good, bad, and ugly — and to love us anyway.

We are tired of trying to be enough by doing enough.  We are tired of trying to earn love.  What an agonizing struggle!  What a sure way to suffer defeat, discouragement, shame, and guilt!

Does that mean there are no actions to our love?

Absolutely not!  Authentic love will flow out into actions.  It always is seeking to serve, to minister, to heal, to help, to release, to free…

The difference though is the root/heart motivation.

Is what we do motivated by trying to “please God” by doing?  What we really mean by this is: “We don’t believe God is pleased with the way we are — that we are enough or loved the way we are — so we are trying to earn His love.”

This doesn’t mean change won’t occur. In fact, real change — real life transformation — occurs when we begin to live from the flow of His love for us and allow it to change the entire reason for the way we live. 

Living for God no longer becomes about earning or doing enough to be enough.  It becomes about surrendering to Him with full trust because we know He is good because of the reality of His love for us.

People can preach, teach, and tell you a lot about God’s love.   You can preach, teach, and define God’s love, but until you have experienced the depths of His love personally, you will always be an onlooker to the realities of the wonder of God and His love for you!!!

As I blogged awhile ago now, Job learned the reality of God in the middle of His sufferings.  He was a righteous and faithful man before his sufferings and honored by God, but as he states later in the chapter, it was through his sufferings he experienced the reality of God.  His understanding of God was no longer intellectual and from an onlooker’s perspective.  He now had a “front-line,” reality of it!

Job 42:5

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.

What is your reality today?

What is your motivation for living and for what you are pursuing?

Do you really comprehend that God loves you completely just. the. way. you. are?

Do you understand that He wants you for your sake?

Do you understand that His love isn’t constraining or confining?  It sets your soul and spirit free to truly soar!

Do you understand that God isn’t interested in what you know about Him?  He is interested in you knowing Him.

God doesn’t want you to be a spectator to the realities of His love for you.  He wants you to be “reveling” in its bounty, wonder, and overflowing abundance!

Seeing Through A Different Set Of Eyes…

Child

(FreeImages.com/ArturoGarro)

It’s VBS (Vacation Bible School) at our church this week.  Whether serving food, helping with crafts or games, or helping to keep an eye on kids, I am constantly surrounded by children.

One child stood out because she has constantly been a discipline issue.  She is nasty to the other children, disruptive, and carries a boatload of attitude

Yesterday, I had to separate her from another girl because they were involved in an argument that was quickly turning ugly.  I began to talk to each girl individually while other staff mingled nearby.

With the first girl, it became obvious that she was fearful for her sister.  By the end of our talk, she was calm and comforted.

As I walked over to talk with the other girl, I silently “flare-prayed” to God, asking Him for wisdom.

The girl was intimidating. She was defiant, nasty, and angry!

As I began to talk with her, I knew immediately she had a lot of anger bottled up inside. I began to ask her why she was angry and hurting.  At first, she denied it, but with gentleness, I told her that it was obvious that she had been hurt because she is a little girl full of a lot of anger.

The Lord then directed me to ask her if she knew that God loved her and if anyone had told her that.  Her answer was “No.”

I took her to the Bible and began to have her read a few verses that spoke of God’s love for her, such as John 3:16-17.  We talked about what the verses meant, and as she read, her anger began to dissipate more and more.

John 3:16-17

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

It wasn’t long before we were talking about Heaven and why God wants her to be there and how special she is to Him!

I asked her if I could pray for her, and she said “Yes.”  I then asked her how she wanted me to pray for her.  She said, “For God to watch over me.”  Right then, I prayed for this precious girl, and my heart broke for her.

At the end of VBS, my hands were full of crafts to distribute to the children, when this girl ran over and gave me a huge hug.

It amazed me how simply telling a child that they are loved, turned an angry, defiant child into a child who was affectionately giving hugs!

My heart broke when I realized how many hurting children there are who are never told they are loved, who have no idea the worth/value they have, and who have never seen or experienced kindness in their life!

I was so convicted that it is easy to judge a book by its cover when in reality maybe we need to see with a different set of eyes… maybe we need to look inside the pages and listen to the stories that are needing to be told…

Running On Empty?

glass

(FreeImages.com/MargaritRalev)

I started this year with a theme/verse that God had given to me: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)  The theme was freedom from self.

Let me tell you, when you know you are called to a place of dying more to self so that you might live more in Christ, the battle is not going to be easy!  This entire year so far has been full of many wonderful God-moments, but it has also held some huge attacks against my identity.

I have written numerous blog posts about identity because this topic is so incredibly important and is very dear to my heart.

You might be asking, “What does identity have to do with feeling like I am not just running on empty but I am dried up, cracked, and brittle?”

Talk about busy!!!  We are down to 5-6 weeks left in the school year.  The end is in sight, but there is so much to accomplish at the end.  Summer sounds like a “breather,” but for those of you who have some or all of your kids in school, it’s a different kind of busy.

In the 21st century, “busy” is such a common description that if you ask someone how they are doing, 95-percent of the time, they will answer, “Busy!”

I understand that we can’t ignore busyness all together and live.   I have five kids.  I home-school two of them, two are in private school, and I have a 3-year-old who desperately needs to be potty-trained.  I have a side business.  I try to stay connected with people.  I am a soccer-mom, basketball-mom, and swim-mom, during the typical seasons.  I run to allergy shot appointments every 3 weeks, orthodontist appointments for three people regularly,  and at least 22 other medical appointments in a year that are just for regular maintenance (optometrist, dentist, gynecologist, dermatologist, and ophthalmologist).  I run to fix retainers and glasses that seem to constantly be getting bent or stretched.

So, if busyness comes with the territory of living, how can I avoid the never-ending feelings of emptiness that result so often?

Is the issue the busyness, or is it something else?  Is busyness the root cause of my emptiness or merely a symptom of the root cause?

To start to answer these questions, let me share a little of my recent experiences with you.

I knew I needed a spiritual “re-alignment” recently.  When I started to feel those old feelings of insecurity rearing their ugly heads, I knew I was it was time to come in for a “tune-up.” 

Feeling hyper-sensitivity, feeling really “low,” feeling jealous, feeling insecure, feeling a desperate need for validation and affirmation?  Those are dead-giveaways that there is a core problem that can’t be fixed with more pats on the heads, a platform, a position, a vacation, a new outfit, a horizon, a new vocation, or a new decoration.  In fact, those very things will continue to feed the feelings of emptiness and discontent.  They will satisfy fleetingly, but there is a never-ending need for more…

The other day, I took the kids to a nature center/park.  My 5-year-old daughter was immediately drawn to the shiny appearance of Pyrite (Fool’s Gold) that they had for sale.  I decided to purchase the large rock because I knew it would make a great object lesson and also would be a good reminder to me.

Pyrite has the appearance of something of value, but the reality is that it doesn’t hold the core qualities that distinguish it from the similar appearance of real gold.  See the following article on differences: https://www.thermofisher.com/blog/mining/pyrite-the-real-story-behind-fools-gold/ and http://www.minerals.net/mineral/gold.aspx.

It is interesting that Pyrite is brittle and can’t bend like real gold.  The mineral structure of Pyrite is mostly sulfuric.  The appearances of gold and Pyrite is similar, and they can be found in similar rock-beds, but the structure is different and thus is their use.

Pyrite reminded me of how we often search for the value of something, based on its appearance.  Does it look like success?  Does it look like prosperity?  Does it look like affirmation?  Does it look like security?  Does it look like beauty?  Does it look like fame?  Does it look like comfort?

What if the value of something isn’t in its appearance but in its core?  What if it’s the structure of the thing itself that determines whether it will hold up or whether it will crumble under pressure?

During part of my “re-alignment” time, God was showing me that I had been following after fulfillment based on the appearance of things: their appeal.  What He reminded me is that the most important things — the real blessings are not out there.  Rather, they are always right in front of us. 

God doesn’t dangle His blessings on a string and then keep pulling them back further the closer we get to them.  Rather, His blessings are often the gems hidden in the foundation of our every day lives.  God places His most priceless treasures in the framework of our daily lives — within the gritty, dull, hard surfaces of our lives.  It’s mixed in the hard grind of our daily and in the muddy, messy of authentic ministry.

Why do we rush after the appeal of appearances? 

What drives the empty to pursue the empty?

A friend recently gave me the book Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst.  I want to share a few powerful quotes from her book:

Indeed, the world entices your flesh but never embraces your soul.

We run at breakneck pace to try and achieve what God simply wants us to slow down enough to receive.

Imagine a little girl running with a cup in her hand, sloshing out all it contains.  She thinks what will refill her is just ahead.  Just a little farther.  She presses on with sheer determination and clenched teeth and an empty cup clutched tight.

She keeps running toward an agenda He never set and one that will never satisfy.  She sees Him and holds out her cup.  But she catches only a few drops as she runs by Him, because she didn’t stop long enough to be filled up.  Empty can’t be tempered with mere drops.

There’s no kind of empty quite like this empty: where your hands are full, but inside you’re nothing but an exhausted shell.

He’s into the slower rhythms of life, like abiding, delighting, and dwelling — all words that require us to trust Him with our place and our pace.

Why do we run to agendas, people, things, and appearances?  What is the draw?

The answer is you look for fulfillment out there when you are empty inside.

Remember, the verse I mentioned at the beginning?  …the one about Him increasing and me decreasing?

You know what truth came to me as I was getting my “tune-up”?  It was that I had been trying to find my worth again in myself. 

You see, it’s not about the agendas, people, things, fortune, fame, and appearances out there.  What we are really seeking is to find something out there to satisfy me, to validate me, to fill me, to secure me, and to give me a sense of worth.

That’s why it is so dangerous to pursue those things from a place of emptiness.  You are not after those things necessarily because of the thing or people themselves.  You are after what you hope to get from those things or relationships.

Look at relationships.  Know what happens when we try to pull from people our sense of worth?  This is what happens: rejection, shame, pride, insecurity, judgement, selfishness, comparisons, jealousy, labels…

As Christians, the deception is even more subtle sometimes.  We look to ministries and service for our fulfillment.  It is so hard to see through to the truth of our motives because we can cover them in so many “right-sounding” words.

I believe this: I believe that God’s invitation isn’t to serve Him.  I believe the invitation is to be loved by Him and for Him to love through us.  The focus really isn’t on serving; it’s on being loved by God and letting His love flow through us to others in tangible ways.  Otherwise, we’ll attach “strings” to people so that we can attempt to pull from them what we lack and which only God can fill.  This kind of “love” isn’t really love but selfish manipulation of people to ultimately feed my sense of worth.

This profound truth recently “struck” me: Authentic love produces authentic righteousness.  If we try to live righteous lives to find worth, to attempt to prove our worth before God, we will only produce self-righteousness, which isn’t righteous at all.  When we are still trying to figure out our own worth, we will bury ourselves under layers of ministry, “righteous” labels, and appearances, but the core motivation is once again an attempt to persuade ourselves, others, and God (we think) that we are worthy of His love.

The truth is this:

“God’s love isn’t based on me.  It’s simply placed on me.”  — Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited

And this…  Authentic love that comes from a place of being filled by Him will always flow out.  It’s like a stream.  There’s a continual reservoir of being filled and pouring out but never running dry because the source of the water is from deeper and higher up.  By pouring from a place of abundance, there’s not a need to be concerned with running dry.

The place of abundance — the abundant life — is God Himself!!!

Living loved isn’t deciding to be loved…  it’s settling in my soul, “I was created by God because He loved me.”  — Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited

You don’t have to win God’s love.  It was poured out on a cross for you.  It ran down in rivers of blood from a crown of thorns and spikes driven into His hands and feet.  It gushed out from His side, where a spear was thrust to determine His death was real.  It revealed itself in a myriad of colors, shapes, sounds, and fragrances at Creation.  It reveals itself in an eternity that is planned just for you to experience the fullness of life, love, joy, and peace like you have never known before.  Even now, it shows itself in the daily grind where He offers His Presence to be the “Gem” that is found in the midst of the hard and muddy of life.

What Is Our Identity?

Handprint

(FreeImages.com/BSK)

As I was studying I John chapter 2, I was amazed once again by the depth we see in Scripture!  The topic of identity has been greatly on my heart because how we perceive ourselves is how we will live.  This is why it is so important that our thinking is truthful when it comes to how we see ourselves.

As a Christian, I know that my identity is in Jesus Christ!

Who He is is my position and also is what He is revealing, transforming within me (because of Him).

The following verses reveal the nature, the premise, the foundation, and the purpose of our identity:

1 John 2:10-15

10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Their Spiritual State

12 I write to you, little children,
    Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.
13 I write to you, fathers,
    Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
    Because you have overcome the wicked one.
I write to you, little children,
    Because you have known the Father.
14 I have written to you, fathers,
    Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
I have written to you, young men,
    Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you,
    And you have overcome the wicked one

1. First, we need to know that we are forgiven.

The forgiveness Jesus offered to us at the cross frees us from Satan’s and sin’s dominion.  Sin and Satan no longer have authority over us because Jesus defeated them at the cross.  This means, Satan has no authority to condemn or accuse us.  We do not need to listen to his lies/false accusations.

2. Second, we have “known the Father” is emphasized several times.

The point being made is that we need to know our Heavenly Father.  Children will often talk, walk, eat, and have similar personalities and even posture to that of their parents.  The same is true with us.  We need to know our Heavenly Father so we pick up on the “family resemblance” and know what it means to be a “Christian.”

Who we are is completely tied in with who He is.  We need to know our Heavenly Father so we can understand better who we are.

3.  Third, we need to understand that we can overcome the evil one.

“God’s truth had a place in their hearts.  And that truth made them victorious in the spiritual battles they faced.” (from Community Bible Study on Christian Living)  God’s truth illuminates the “darkness” and strengthens our faith, keeping us rooted and grounded.  We can overcome by understanding the authority we have in the name of Jesus and in the promises of God’s Word.

4.  Fourth, the Word of God needs to abide in us.

The Word of God will give us insight into our Heavenly Father, into our inheritance, into our standing as His Beloved children, into His promises towards us, and into right thinking in order to have our thoughts transformed by the light of His Word.

5. Fifth, we need to understand the new natures we have been given as His children.

In First John 2, the young men are told that they are strong.  This reminds me of when God called Gideon out and called him a mighty man of valor when Gideon was actually living in cowardly fear.  Once God called Gideon into his new calling and into his new identity, Gideon actually began to live out the truth of what God was actively creating within Gideon.  The same is true with us.  God calls us “children of light” and calls us His beloved.  He says we are overcomers.  It is our inheritance and our new natures to overcome, to live victoriously, to understand we are forgiven, and to understand that Satan and sin no longer have the right to have authority over our lives.

What does this new nature look like?

The distinctive characteristic of God’s true children is the love that they manifest and live out towards one another. 

To walk in light/truth means that we are walking in love.  The truth/light can only be correctly discerned through the eyes of love.  Authentic truth/light is never separate from love.

We receive abundant love from Him that we in turn pour out on others.

The Dance Card

dance

(FreeImages.com/SriVatsa)

I sat there in church, soaking in the worshipful music and lyrics, allowing the music and words to soothe my heart.

My heart was saddened with a weighty decision ahead of us.  Either outcome required sacrifice and a sense of loss.  My husband and I were torn…

Each word of the message seemed directed right at us: the entreaty to trust the Lord, to not avoid the discomfort of the hard decision, and to not neglect His will and calling upon us.

The night before, I had sat in a meeting and kept seeing this picture of Jesus stretching out His hands to me.  I saw the beautiful, nail-pierced hands.  For some reason, I kept getting this impression that He was imploring me to take His hands.  I didn’t realize the significance of that until more than a day later.  He was asking me to walk with Him, to “take His hands,” to trust Him.

As I sat in church Sunday, suddenly, I saw this picture of a dance card (odd that such would come to me), and then it was as if I heard His voice.  He spoke to my heart, and I “heard” these words: “[…], may I write my name on every slot on your dance card?  Will you dance your life with Me?”

God knew my deepest needs.  He knew that in order to take His “hand” and to trust Him, I also needed reassurance of His love.  He didn’t command that I obey Him, but He asked me, while at the same time, reminding me of the depth of His love for me and that there is also joy in His will.  He wanted me to dance with Him…!

I am still pondering that one…  It was so unexpected!  After something like that, I want to question this and wonder if it was all in my head, and then I remember that He does love me that much!  He does ask me to trust Him but never without reassuring me of the unceasing merits of His love — the depths that have no end and the heights that have no ceiling…!

The question for you and I is:

“Do I want Him to claim me for every dance on the dance card of my life?”

There is freedom there!

wedding

(FreeImages.com/LioraZakai)

Save

The Brave Voice

shadows

(FreeImages.com/GerardoAlvarez)

The woman, brushed back her brown hair, pensively looked at the computer screen one more time, and bravely wrote the words.  With a simple click of the mouse, her words were posted.  They were words, expressing something that she cared about and appreciated.  She had asked for feedback on her post, and she was not disappointed by the amount of comments she received.  They poured in.  The post had definitely “plucked a few strings.”

The feedback was very honest.  Some was super positive, some was very doubtful, some was skeptical, and some was clearly negative.  She had asked for honest feedback, and she had received it.

At first, some of the feedback stung.  The words were raw in their honesty.

As the woman read all of the comments, she realized that she could view the responses two ways: she could take them as rejection and/or harsh criticism, but that wouldn’t be fair because she had asked for honesty.  The other choice would be to feel honored that people felt safe enough to voice their opinions to her.

One commentator even apologized for voicing some skepticism, and she quickly assured that person that they should never apologize for having a voice.

Every day, we have these moments — these encounters with others — when we choose how we will respond to the voices around us…

Over the past year, I have been feeling called into this place of freedom — a place where I can have the courage to speak and to not feel it necessary to apologize for my voice.  …apologizing for my existence.

It is not a matter of being offensive with my voice because that would be a different matter.

It is a matter of answering this defining question: 

“How will you respond when the temptation is to shut down, to hide, to walk away from freedom because of the fear of the risk and the fear of rejection?”

Here are thoughts that I recently wrote:

“There is an enemy that wants us to apologize for existing, wants us to fade into the background, wants us to hide behind our fears and insecurities and rejection, wants us to not exist…

There is a Lover/Creator who keeps telling me to not apologize for being, thinking, believing, and feeling.

He keeps telling me that He placed His voice inside me, and that regardless of who agrees or doesn’t or who likes me or not, that I am to stand bravely and securely because I am unfathomably, completely, lavishly loved!

This entire past year, the Lord kept telling me, “[…], you know your freedom; now walk in it.”

It brings tears to my eyes every time I am made aware of how He is changing me, making me brave, helping me to become His warrior-princess!

Am I perfect? Far from it!

Do I make mistakes? Daily.

BUT, this I know: I am learning the freedom of being completely secure in eternal, unceasing, undeserved Love!

…and I am learning the beautiful humbling merits of His grace!

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.