Posted in Faith, Family

To be known

"Sweet One"
Our house guest on 9/9/18

Ahhhh yes, this is a picture of our sweet guest whom we met Sunday morning after arriving home from visiting with friends in Port Clinton for the weekend.  I have a nickname on my street.  I put out bird seed and corn, and as a result, squirrels, rabbits and ducks tend to come to the tree in the front of our home.  I’m known as “Snow White” and I love it.  I’m not sure all of my neighbors are fond of my furry and feathered friends, but I listened.  I don’t want to be an annoyance to others with gardens, so I tailored back a bit when there were deer starting to come (how I miss them, but I do live in the city…).

So, Kevin and I arrived home on Sunday morning, and before he went to pull into the garage, I went to hop out of the car in the driveway.  I saw a small duck by the front tree.  Nothing unusual – there are usually way more than ONE duck, but I figured she beat the crowd of 25-40 we get from time to time.  When I got out and closed the door, she didn’t really seem to move.  Hmmmm.  I knew since we had been gone, there wasn’t a lot of feed down, so I went to the garage and got the bag of crushed corn to spread out.  I figured I wouldn’t be able to get too close, but I’d spread it nearby for her.

As I neared the base of the tree, the little duck got up a bit and then stumbled.  She clanged.  Yes, clanged as something metal hit her foot.  I started to sense something was wrong, so I looked at her right webbed foot and it had a fishing lure with a metal flap sticking out of it.  I paled, and looked over to my hubs in the garage who was beginning to unpack the car.

fishing lure

“Babe!!”  I screamed.  He was surprised, and stuck his head out, “What??”

“Something is wrong with her.  Can you come here?  Can you help?!?”

I didn’t even know what was going on, or if we could help, or how…all that mattered was getting that thing out of her!  I began to pray.

Lord, you see her.  What happened?  This looks really bad.

It had rained for two days straight.  The front lawn was saturated.  Even the small bit of leftover corn that was on the ground in front of the tree was sitting in a pond made by the overflow of water.  The little duck tried to get away from me by this point.  I had knelt down in my jeans a few feet from her, and tried not to panic.  It was raining and I wanted to cry.  I can’t stand seeing anyone or anything in pain.  You cry, I cry.

Kevin assessed the situation and then lovingly said, “Grab the fishing line, and hold it gently.  Don’t let her get away.”  So I grabbed the line that was trailing behind her, about eight feet, and held on.  I couldn’t stop repeating, “It’s okay, baby, it’s okay…it’s okay, it’s going to be okay.”  I had no reassurance but I wanted to calm her.  She tried to take off of the ground once, but I held fast to the line.  I was so worried I was hurting her worse!

She landed again, and realized she wasn’t going to get away.  Kevin walked slowly to me, and knelt down as well.  He placed his hands on her back and sides and held her tightly.  He slowly rolled her a little bit to the side and that’s when we saw the three-pronged fishing barb in her underbelly.  My stomach sunk!  Tears began to pour and I had to take a deep breath.

Then Kevin looked at me and said, “Hun, I need you to hold her exactly as I’m doing while I go get some pliers.”

“I’m sorry, what?!?…Okay…I’ll try…”

More tears, more prayers.

Kevin lifted his fingers from the duck, and as he did, my hands replaced his.  I felt the beating of her heart, blood rushing through her little body so fast.  I’m sure mine was matching hers.

Oh my goodness, I don’t think I can do this…

Her little duck face was pressing into the grass a bit, as we had her on her stomach.  I slowly re-positioned her so she could relax a bit.  My hands literally encompassed the entire width of her little body.  I kept taking my thumbs and softly rubbed her back while whispering that it would be okay.  “It’ll be okay, sweetheart, it’ll be okay.”

How is it that we can comfort others when every fear known to man is flooding our own minds?  Love seems to take over.

My legs, of course, started to burn as I was sitting in an awkward position- concentrated on holding the duck.  Not too tight, but not too light to where she would take off and I’d have to grab the string again.  I shifted. Ugh, it was freaking me out!

Kevin quickly returned, and was so calm, told me how to hold her while he worked.  He was able to remove the entire hook from her foot. I couldn’t even fathom how she got snagged like that!

Then my thoughts went to a fisherman who had to have known that there was something attached to the end of his line…anger began to burn in my heart.  How could they leave her like that!?!  And then I had to pray it away and accept that I didn’t know how it happened.  Maybe there was no one to blame, or maybe there was, but it’s not my place.  God knew, and the good news was that she came to our yard and was getting help.  I let out a sigh of relief, but had to pray away that she might begin to bleed or try to bite us, or fly away…there were a number of possibilities that could happen, but panicking never seems to solve anything.

“Babe, I need you to make sure you don’t let her go.  I have to do the stomach now.”  I looked into his eyes, and saw tenderness.  More tears.  More prayers.  “Wait, let me shift.”  And I adjusted my footing in the wet grass, my knees burning in pain, but I imagined nothing like what this sweet girl was experiencing.  Her heartbeat was still a million miles a minute.  I rubbed her back some more, and then rotated her a little.  Lord, hold us.

“Hold her still here…”  he pointed. And I did.  My mind was asking the Lord for the physical strength to hold her and calm her, and please heal her, and let her be okay.  Kevin twisted the pliers, and little pieces broke off.  He worked so tenderly, and our little duck never made a noise or tried to get away.  She just laid there.  He worked some more, and some more little pieces removed from her underside.  And finally, he took a break, wiped his face (rain was dripping from the tree above us onto our faces the entire time), and looked at me.

“She may get a little agitated.  This last one might hurt.”  I held her a little tighter, and he tried again to get the last piece that was twisted into her feathers on her stomach.  I couldn’t even look. I was so afraid to see her wound.  It was hard enough to know she was in pain in my hands.

“That’s the best I can do. I think she’ll be okay.  You can let go when you’re ready, but be careful.”  His words scared me, because what if I let go too quickly? What if something happened and she yanked? I know the Lord calmed my spirit, because I was still repeating, “It’s going to be okay…it’s going to be okay, sweetheart…”  Her little body was facing down, but her head was turned a little to look at us.  I lifted my hands.

She didn’t move.

I began to cry again.

And then I realized she was in shock.

“Honey, maybe step back a little bit.  Let her readjust.  She’s probably really freaked out right now.”

Kevin reassured me.  I stood up and moved to the other side of the tree.  And within two minutes, she finally moved.  Not quickly, but enough to get herself right side up again.  I then cried tears of joy.  I didn’t want to leave her side.

She’s not my pet.  I have a dog that is my shadow, and my heart is so full because she’s in our home.  But man, I would’ve taken that little “sweet one” into my house so fast.  Bella Bean probably wouldn’t have even minded. She is so passive now. 😉

I moved into the house to help him unpack.  But I wanted to see if our little girl in the front yard would make it.  There was no blood.  No cry.  No frantic movement.  We removed the fishing line, she had a wounded foot, but there was still a small piece of the lure in her stomach.  There was nothing we could do anymore.  I had to rest in the fact that God knows her length of life.  For me, it was everything to hold an animal I have admired for years in my front yard.  Because of her woundedness, she allowed us to get close and we were able to have an impact.

From inside the window, I watched her, and she leaned forward, starting to eat the seed at the base of the tree, and I cried tears of thankfulness.  Within a few minutes, she then took off.  Low to the ground, but she began to glide higher as she went.

Kevin met me in the living room and wrapped his arms around me.  I was still crying.

“Thank you so much for helping her!!”  I sobbed into his neck and he hugged me so tightly.

“Babe, I know your heart.  I did what I thought would work.”

Then a few minutes later in the kitchen, he said, “I wonder if she’s one of your regulars, and she knew it’d be okay to come here.”  An interesting thought.  What if she had been here the whole time we were gone? How long HAD she been here?

And from the living room couch a few minutes later, Kevin said, “How wild for her to be here when we got home.”  Yep, I thought.  I’m so glad we were able to be here for her.

She arrived on Monday evening for dinner, but got chased out by other ducks, and I saw her fly over to a neighbor’s driveway waiting.  She was limping, so I knew it was her.  When a kid on a bicycle went by, she took off, low to the ground.  Darn it!! I thought.

And so now, it’s four days later.  A squadron of mallards came for dinner at 7pm tonight and of course, my nose was pressed to the window.  I didn’t see her.

“Lord, will you send her here for dinner, just so we can know she’s okay?”

The group of mallards took off, and then within minutes, she showed up.  She laid down by the food and began to eat.  A louder duck landed nearby and walked up on her, but they ate together in peace.  She stood up once to move, and because of the hobble, I knew it was her.

“You heard me, Lord…thank You!”

duck 2 I know it’s not the best picture, but she’s in the front.  I sat on the porch until it got dark to make sure she was able to eat.  She did, and then she took off again with her friend.

I love these little sweet animals.  I love interacting with God’s creation.  I don’t engage those whom I know will hurt me. I keep my distance.  But I absolutely am intrigued by behaviors, markings, patterns, etc.  Animals are incredible creatures with instinct and protective behavior, but they are still here on Earth for a reason.  Sure, someone could take my ducks and have dinner tomorrow.  I get it.  But I love to admire them.  I think they’re beautiful and I love interacting with them.

A few weeks ago, I built trust with a squirrel who comes once a week to my feeder from across the street.  She and I are able to sit a few feet apart from each other on the front lawn. She will take unsalted peanuts from my hand and plant them in my grass.  Will she find them all again? Probably not.  But she is doing what comes to her naturally.  I find it fascinating.   Our Lord is so creative and I love to see Him glorified by them.

I share all of this to share about being known. My husband doesn’t think I’m crazy for feeding animals.  He knows my love, appreciation and fascination for them.  He’s crazy about me, so he stepped into my panic and helped the duck.  It was a moment in time where we both worked toward the same outcome, trusted each other, and were both relieved when it was over.

This weekend, we celebrate seven years being married.  He truly is my best friend.  He deals with my quirks, my need to verbally process my emotions, my love for seeing success in forgiveness moments.  He understands my ache when I am rejected, and lovingly encourages me to stay who I am, that those who reject me are missing out on something special.  He and I had a hard year.  We learned more about each other this year than the other six combined.  But we grew, we endured, we recommitted.

Loving someone else is risk.  It involves taking them at their best and their worst.  And forgiving constantly without remembering.  Because peace should reign in the walls you call home.  And we have something we’ve both prayed for, for years.  It takes work, but it’s so easy at the same time.

I’m so incredibly grateful for the moment on Sunday that the Lord allowed us to have with “Sweet One” the duck.  It reassured me that my Lord sees me, and knows my heart, but so does the man He’s entrusted with it.  And I’m grateful for their love.

I love you with all of my kidney, Kevin.  ❤

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Posted in Faith

It’s Christmas!

Bethlehem.gif

Today, we celebrate Jesus’ birth! 🙂

Reflecting on Luke 2, I love to think about what was happening on that night.

A census was issued by Caesar Augustus to have families return to their birthplace. Joseph and Mary made the trek to Bethlehem to be counted.  He was going to register Mary who was pledged to be married to him. Most of us are familiar with the story of an innkeeper that told them there was no room, however Answers in Genesis gives this account as a reasonable explanation for what really happened:

Joseph and Mary probably stayed with Joseph’s relatives in Bethlehem, but because of the large influx of people, the house would have been crowded and the kataluma (guest room) was full. Consequently, Joseph and Mary would have been relegated to living in the lower level of the house. It is hard to believe that pregnant Mary would have been turned away from a relative’s home in a society that greatly valued familial ties.

Archaeologists have excavated first century homes from the Judean hill country. They have discovered that the upper level served as a guest chamber while the lower level served as the living and dining rooms. Oftentimes, the more vulnerable animals would be brought in at night to protect them from the cold and theft. This sounds strange to many of us, since we wouldn’t dream of bringing some of our cattle into the house at night, but even today in some countries of Europe (e.g., Germany and Austria), the farmhouse and the animal quarters are often different parts of the same building.

This is where the manger comes into play. Mary likely gave birth to Jesus in the lower level of a crowded house, in which some of the animals had been brought in for the night. She then wrapped Jesus in swaddling cloths and laid Him in the manger (feeding trough).

And thinking of the shepherds out in the fields that night, it’s incredible to think what they saw and heard.  It probably started out as a normal evening, and then within moments, an angel appeared (most likely, the shepherds had never seen them before) and told them not to be afraid.  Sure, no problem.  But then, the shepherds are told:

I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. -Luke 2:9-12

Can you imagine just minding your own business and then a being appears next to you with a message? And then immediately after that, the sky opens and more angels show up, singing?

GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST HEAVEN, AND ON EARTH PEACE TO THOSE ON WHOM HIS FAVOR RESTS!

To be alive and witness these events had to be amazing! I know the shepherds had to be initially fearful, because an angel told them not to be, and there must have been an ignition in their hearts to go see what was happening because they “hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” Luke 2:16

Here’s the part I love: He used unlikely messengers.  And I’m not talking about the angels.  I love that God chose shepherds to carry the message to the people.  Then they spread the news of what they saw, praising and glorifying God for what they had seen and heard.  Oh, to be near people that rejoice and get excited about what the Lord is doing! Never before, did they have hope like that! Up to that time, those who knew the Lord only knew that one day He would send a Messiah to save them, and here they were in the fields, getting the message firsthand.  What an honor!

I’m in awe, as well, of the role of shepherds. They obviously take care of sheep, but how exactly? They provide food, water, protection in the field and when walking through rivers, shelter from storms, and restoration to the fold when one runs off.

And how incredible that the Lord used the same role to describe Himself, to say that He is our Good Shepherd! In John 10, Jesus explains to the Pharisees about those who are able to enter the sheep pen by the gate, not other means. He is equating access to the Father through Him, our Good Shepherd.  He says that those who know Him hear His voice, which is the same as shepherds who have a specific call to their sheep.  Others can mimic the shepherd, but the sheep won’t respond.  So it should be with us.

I segued to shepherds because I love the correlation between one who protects sheep and the ONE who protects us.  Jesus was sent by God to become man, to be able to identify with us in our flesh, to be tempted and resist, so He could prove that we could do the same. He also humbled Himself by doing His Father’s will.  He sacrificed His life for His sheep (US!) and died on the cross so that when God and the Holy Spirit resurrected Him three days later, not only did He fulfill Scripture, but He conquered death FOREVER for those who believe in Him.  Death no longer has a hold on us!!  And there is also now a WAY, a DOOR to get to the Father that is not through human means, no matter what people tell you.  We have FULL ACCESS to our Heavenly Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.  And all of this was to be accomplished by our Lord whom we celebrate today.

So it’s an honor to reflect on the good news that brings us great joy this Christmas morning!  Jesus came to Earth to fulfill His redemption plan for us.  I am so thankful for the way He modeled righteous living, His continual and unending mercy and grace, His forgiveness that is never withheld and His precious, sacrificial love.  He was fully God and fully man so that He could redeem us.

When you are sipping coffee, watching wrapping paper fly by, and listening to Christmas music, may you take a moment to stop and reflect on all that this baby meant and still means for our salvation.

Glory to God in the Highest INDEED!

Posted in Faith

Forgiveness

forgiveness

This topic is incredibly relevant given the recent tragic events that took place this past Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio.

An elderly man, returning home from Easter dinner with his family, was gunned down in the street by a distraught man who was at the end of his rope, and felt the need to kill. The murderer then uploaded the video to Facebook and posted several videos of himself “snapping”- in his words.

The victim was a 74-year old man named Robert Godwin.  And his murderer, Steve Stephens, is now dead after a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, post police car chase in Pennsylvania.  There are still details coming in, but the ones I’ve shared have been confirmed.

If you live in Cleveland, or nearby, like myself, you’ve heard this story relentlessly for the past two days.  Even out-of-state radio programs, news stations and other avenues have been trying to educate us and alert us so we could protect ourselves and our families, but also help find the murderer who was on the loose, and bring him to justice through our judicial system.

Though Stephens worked at a mental health facility and was on the giving end of mental health needs for so many, he clearly needed help himself.  Sadly, in the end, he took the easy way out.  And though he seems to have escaped our system, make no mistake, he is facing his judgement today.  That final act is reserved for God alone.  It is not our decision to decide his fate.  We may have opinions and justified outrage, but where he lands was decided before he pulled the trigger on himself today.

In light of this tragedy, let’s revisit some truth about last Friday- Good Friday.

Christians and believers all around the world celebrate Good Friday, which is truly a day of mourning.  Jesus Christ, whom we believe was fully God and fully man, was crucified over 2000 years ago by Rome, Herod, the Gentiles, the Jewish Sanhedrin, and the people of Israel.  These groups worked together to have him tried, found guilty and murdered for claims of blasphemy, sedition and treason.  His death was senseless, much like the one listed above.  To some, he was guilty, but some weren’t as convinced, for they had witnessed miracles and saw Him give love to people whom no one else would have.

JESUS WAS SINLESS.

Regardless of the claims against Him, Jesus was without sin and only carried out the work He was meant to do for the redemption of all of us- Jew and Gentile.  But He was found guilty by Rome’s laws, convicted in the evening quietly, so that His death would be a message to those seeking to overthrow the government.

Once He was put in the tomb, they thought they had won.

A common word heard in some communities regarding Jesus’ life is this: Propitiation.  I heard it many times in my Lutheran upbringing.  And yet, the value of it never sunk in until today while researching.  According to Bibleinfo.com, Jesus’ death,

“…lies in the fact that a just and perfect God could not simply sweep sin under the carpet and go on running a perfect universe. God must deal with the injustice of sin. Suppose a criminal should come before a judge and that judge would simply excuse a crime of murder, rape, or theft simply because the judge loved the criminal. What would society think of such a judge?

The Bible says: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right” (Genesis 19:25). Selfishness has a natural consequence that eventually results in death to the innocent (Rom. 6:23). Jesus, the Judge, assumed the consequence of sin on the part of man, rather than inflict death upon the sinner. That consequence was death.

The death of Christ accomplishes reconciliation, or reconnecting us back to God. Romans 3:25 says, “…whom God set forth as a propitiation” for our sins. “Propitiation” literally means “something that appeases a deity.” However, in the Biblical sense it means much more than this. It can mean to “accept hurt”, to “forgive”, to “show mercy.” As sinners we transgress God’s perfect law and have no legal right to exist. But God himself who sits as Judge accepts the hurt, pays the price, forgives, and offers mercy.”

We all can look back through our own lives and remember moments where someone has wronged us, hurt us, hurt someone that we love, and caused pain in one way or another. By the world’s standards, we have a right to be upset, and to retaliate.  Eye for an eye, right?  After all, going back to the Facebook murderer, didn’t Stephens deserve to be shot by someone else?  What right did he have to be the one to do it?

Yet, a few days earlier, on the day that Robert Godwin was murdered, believers everywhere celebrated the miraculous and divine resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the grave-the place He conquered death for us, so we could have eternal life with Him FOREVER!  God accepted Jesus’ death as our death, so those who believe in Him and call on His name will be saved.  To those of us who follow Jesus, we cannot let unforgiveness take root in our hearts.  After all, Jesus certainly didn’t!

We ALL have hurt others too, and have sinned against our HOLY God, whether we agree with the setup or not, that’s the way it is.  God is God, we are created beings.  We act out of selfishness, hurt each other, make demands and misuse our bodies.  We have every right to go to Hell, and experience eternal separation from Him.  But Easter Sunday is the day we celebrate our exoneration from ALL of our debts (past, present and even FUTURE) in the perfect, sinless resurrection of Christ.

Because He died, we died with Him. And because HE LIVES, WE CAN LIVE WITH HIM FOREVER!

Robert Godwin was killed on Easter.  And that same day, his family was interviewed by news reporters and agencies trying to get the first word.  Clearly, this family had every reason to be outraged, upset, furious and retaliatory!  But if you’ve seen the reports or heard their interviews, their response is in sharp contrast to our human nature.

Yes, tears are being shed, questions are on their lips, but instead of hate speech, violence and anger, their words are carrying the truth of what we celebrate.

Tonya Godwin-Baines says this to the accused murderer:

“I just want him to know that God loves Him…we love Him.  Yes, we’re hurt.  But we have to forgive him, ’cause if we don’t, the Bible says your Heavenly Father won’t forgive you.”  

-http://fox8.com/2017/04/17/74-year-old-man-killed-in-cleveland-was-father-of-10/

Tonya is correct.  She is remembering Matthew 6:15, where it states,

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

I was sitting on my couch watching the news when I heard her say this, and I immediately started to cry.  She’s right!  Here I am, having awful thoughts toward this man for what he has done to them, but she’s redirecting my heart to truth.  She, and her family, all agree and are spreading the message that forgiveness has to reign.

Why?  Why should they forgive this man who killed their family member?  In cold blood, in the middle of the day, because he had girlfriend/gambling issues?  This older man had nothing to do with this young man’s problems!  What right did he have to take Robert’s life?

The answer is he had no right!  And we are all justifiably angry about the injustice of it. But this family is demonstrating for us a quick response to an even worse reaction if unforgiveness takes root in their hearts.

What is forgiveness?  Personally, I love this definition:

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.

-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forgiveness

I teach on this subject, and believe it is a choice to let go and not hold onto something offensive.  As a believer, we go a step further to deepen our faith by trusting that God will deal with the offender, and that He can be trusted with the outcome without our manipulation or assistance.

Forgiveness is necessary for a sound mind and a free heart.  And it’s a gift to an offender who may not even be seeking it, but also the giver who doesn’t bear the weight of the offense any longer.

Don’t believe that your health can be affected by your anger and unforgiveness?

“Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.”

-Karen Swartz, M.D. at Johns Hopkins,         http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_connections/forgiveness-your-health-depends-on-it

I’m also reminded of a story in the Bible, found in John 9, where Jesus healed a blind man who had been blind since he was born. The disciples (not even the religious leaders who were ready to accuse him at every turn), asked which of the parents had sinned in order to make their son blind (assuming God was punishing the parents for something- sound familiar to any thoughts we seem to have at times?).  Jesus’ response was that neither of them had sinned.  The act of blindness had happened so that when Jesus encountered him and healed him, he would glorify God.  His exact words were,

 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. “

Say what!?!  This poor guy had to be blind from birth, so that later in his life, he could be healed by Jesus??  That sounds crazy!  But to be honest, it is also beautiful.  Our lives are meant to reflect the light of Jesus whom we choose to believe in, and our circumstances may be just that-something that happens or that we must endure so that God may be glorified.   It doesn’t mean we’re being punished, it means there is something bigger going on.

And this is where I go back to the Godwin family.  They have demonstrated extreme restraint and forgiveness.  I’m not God.  I don’t have an answer for why He allowed Robert to be walking down the street by himself when this other man felt the need to shoot someone at random.  I know God would’ve prevented it,  because He certainly can step in and assist us at any time.

I am choosing to believe that Robert Godwin was a saved man, who is being heralded by his family for being selfless and teaching ALL of them about the love of God.  God knew that Robert was coming home to him in Heaven.  Maybe God allowed the death of Robert to be a message of hope for those of us who struggle with life at times.  Yes, we can have tragedy, pain and struggles, but God sent His Son Jesus years ago to save us from sin and the charges brought against us before Him. Jesus chose to forgive when the world was against Him.  If He could love beyond the hate thrown at Him, who are we to withhold love for others?

At the end of our lives, we will all stand before God with our infractions and charges. None of us will be exempt.  Everyone will give an account for what they’ve chosen to do with their lives.  The only way we will not face eternal death and separation from God and our loved ones is to choose Jesus, who was the Lamb who died to spare us.  Jesus will stand in front of those of us who have surrendered our lives to Him, and defend us, saying we are no longer condemned, but free because of His shed blood.

I don’t want unforgiveness in my heart.  I don’t want the physical effects that come with not letting go of hurts and infractions.  I want to reflect the light of Jesus to the world, which is full of pain and heartache, and share with others, that, with Jesus, we can forgive.  I want to offer the same freedom He offers, and point people in His direction so that they too can share in the gift of eternal life with Him when ours ends here.  And I’m thankful to the Godwin family for reminding me of the goodness of Good Friday and the beautiful life-giving truth of Easter, that because of Jesus, we have been forgiven and should extend the same to those who hurt us.

It is not our right to hold onto the offense when Jesus already died for it and wants to grant grace for it.  And that may sound like it doesn’t make sense.  Where is the justice for when people do things wrong?  It’s on the cross.  Right next to my sins, are yours.  And there was blood shed to cover them.  That’s what His grace IS.

My challenge to you: May you take some time and be bold enough to search your heart for the names and moments that have hurt you over the years, and when you’re ready, go a step further. Pray for that person or group, ask the Lord to have mercy on them, forgive them in your heart, and remember the offense no more.  We are to pray for our enemies.  We are to love those who accuse us and wrong us.  It’s completely counter-cultural and absolutely absurd, but it is Jesus’ way.  It’s freeing, and moves us from judge, jury and executioner to a son or daughter of God.  

And a separate challenge: pray about the unforgiveness in your heart for moments and hurts done to someone you love or care about.  It’s not your burden to carry.  Give it to Jesus.  There is no reason to have hatred in our hearts for injustice.  We can walk alongside our friends, and help point them back to the cross. God doesn’t need any of our help deciding who deserves what, when we all deserve death.  When you realize what you’ve been saved from on Good Friday, your heart will open up to the idea of loving those who have hurt you, in spite of the hurt, so that you heart, soul and mind can be healthy and at peace with God.  

Praying you can take these steps, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, release those who have been on your “hook” and trust them in the hands of God.

Love, Gracie 🙂

Posted in Faith

The time is NOW

graveside
Death.

It’s going to happen to all of us at some point.  And on Earth, it is final.  When someone we know and love dies, they are now physically gone, and that is/can be extremely painful.  We can feel helpless, lost, scared, uncertain and afraid.  And something I’m sure we never consider is how unresolved issues with those we had negative experiences with will never be resolved, and closure will escape us.  Why am I posting so morbidly?

Because recently God brought a passage to my mind that has been working its way through my thoughts and prayers for the last two weeks.  It’s Proverbs 6:16-19.

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

I could write volumes on the first six items listed, but my focus for this post is on the last one: ONE WHO SOWS DISCORD AMONG BROTHERS.  And the reason I’m tying this into death is because the time to reconcile and “make things right” is now.  It’s while those who have hurt us or whom we have hurt are still alive.  The goal as believers should be to keep and maintain peace in our families, our relationships and everyone we encounter.

Discord that is being sown is usually in the form of words against someone else.  It’s mainly gossip or speaking about someone in the family/relationship who isn’t present to defend themselves with the intent of getting someone to think negatively about someone else.  The speaker shares just enough information to help you “form an opinion” about someone who isn’t even present.  Of course they wouldn’t say these things in front of the actual defendant, but they’ll definitely plant seeds to make you reconsider their character or motives.  And the truth is that the one sowing the seeds is the one who has the ulterior motive.  It also promotes unforgiveness and bitterness toward others.  It’s destructive.

I’ve been in many Christian circles where some want validation for their hurts and wounds brought on by others, and to share that is fine for the purpose of prayer, healing and restoration.  But to stay in the position of unforgiveness or anger is not healthy, spiritually or otherwise.  And it truly has no place in God’s Kingdom.

Sin, and namely the sin of pride, is what hinders us from moving into a place of forgiveness for those who have wronged us.  We think, what was done to me was so significant, I don’t have to forgive.  I get to be the victim, and nothing is required on my part.  But that kind of toxic thinking is harmful to yourself and others around you.  Was the sin against you truly worse than what you’ve done against Jesus?  Be honest.

Did someone pop into your mind just now?  Someone who hurt you, or whom you’ve shared misinformation about?  If you find yourself perpetuating events over and over again, ruminating on them for your own self-gratification, you need to stop.  You are sowing discord, and God hates it. Why?  Because He is about unity.  Sin has been dividing us since the Fall. But to those who have given their lives to Christ, your life is not your own, and your reactions and responses reflect what you believe and the power of Jesus to a watching world.  Are you letting Him move you in compassion to a place of forgiveness so you can love those who hurt you, serve those who anger you, and provide a place of safety for those who think differently than you?

And be advised: If you do not believe that the enemy prowls around like a lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), you’re mistaken and deceiving yourself.  The goal of the enemy is to separate, divide, kill and DESTROY.  You are made in the image of God, and because Satan hates God, he hates YOU.  His tactics haven’t changed.  He still tries to use US against each other, and he’s working mightily in those of us who struggle with letting go of hurts.  This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed for ALL of our relationships, but primarily the one with God.

Christians, it’s not okay.

1 John 4:19-20 says, “We love because God first loved us.Whoever says, “I love God,” but hates his brother is a liar. The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love the God whom he has not seen.”

Many families are divided because sisters are against each other, in-laws disagree and pull away, brothers are competitive, and children learn to cut off those who don’t think like they do, because it’s been modeled for them so well.  But this is not the way of unity and it is not okay in the eyes of Jesus.

Caveat: I realize there are harmful, abusive situations where boundaries have to be made. That is not the discord God is talking about in this passage.  And I also realize there are issues within families between believers and non-believers.  We can’t expect those not walking with Christ to follow His laws.  So, we need to be prayerful about forgiving them, loving them and modeling Jesus to them.  Seek a Christian counselor or a trusted pastor if you are having trouble forgiving.

My plea is for those who are walking with the Lord to search deep in yourself and ask if the rift that was caused in your family is worth the remorse you will feel later in life when that person is gone.  Can you truly turn a blind eye to it?  Search your heart and reflect on why you won’t open your heart to the idea of that person being in your life.  Is whatever happened really worth losing the relationship for yourself, your spouse, your children, and future generations?  Is it worth acting in a way that is hurting your relationship with God?  It’s easy to parade around on Sundays acting like we have it all together, but God knows the discord that is being sown in our families, and the way we hide so we don’t have to deal with ourselves. Denial is a safe place for many but it is still inexcusable in this instance.

Again, this is not okay.  So if there is any truth to what I am saying, AND I KNOW THERE IS, Christians, I am imploring you to stop and repent of the words that are coming out of your mouths to character assassinate those you are hurting.  Be alert of who is trying to get you to do the character assassinations, and don’t give the devil a foothold.  Do not let him use you to hurt someone else.  It’s divisive and truly hated by God.  Do not feed into the lies spewed by those who try to sway your minds.  Go directly to the person to set things straight, and don’t let gossip take over your conversations.  We are accountable for our words and how we represent the Kingdom.

None of us who are believers should let time pass on these crucial relationship missteps. We need to pray about reconciliation, be willing to let Christ give us the love we need for others, and let ourselves be humbled to the point of forgiveness and restoration.

THE TIME IS NOW.

**If you do not have a relationship with Jesus and want to learn about Him, I invite you to go to the following link for great resources.  And if you’d like me to pray for or with you, you may contact me directly at grace.hejnal@gmail.com.

https://needhim.org/knowing-jesus/

With love, G 🙂

Posted in Faith

Living Intentionally

gentle breeze

I’ve been in a season of quiet and stillness for a few months now, and it’s becoming incredibly refreshing.  I am typically busy, running from appointment to meeting to gathering to party to… you get the idea.  Since I’ve learned to allow myself to say no, and not feel guilty about responses, I’ve become increasingly relaxed.  I believe it’s a lesson the Lord has been trying to show me for some time now.  And I’ll explain why.

The beginning of 2016 was a huge transition for myself and my hubster, K.  He was working the night shift at his factory job, and since I work at home, I transitioned with him so we could still be connected.  We did our best to be close: eating meals together, praying when we could, talking about what we were reading, fasting for specific reasons, and hanging out, since getting together with others was restricted to weekends and sporadic events we could handle in the hours before starting our night shifts.

Loneliness, isolation and quiet were paramount in that season.  We couldn’t change the way we felt about not being around other people, which was devastating and eye-opening, but the positive effects on our marriage were incredibly significant.  We grew so much in our communication and we bonded in ways I know we wouldn’t have otherwise.  We both were grounded in Scripture, challenging each other with questions about what we were reading, and sharing dialogue regarding passages that spoke to us.  It was a beautiful, trying season.

Just before Easter, we went back to day shift. I changed contract companies, and K began a different position with a new team under him.  We both began a new journey.  Staying as close as we were, when we were all we had, has become a challenge, because now we have time for others again, and family needs, and insert any other type of distraction here.  The down time we had in the winter was a way of opening our eyes to our availability: to others as well as ourselves. And for the first time, it was a time to just focus on our faith and each other.

Something we do pride ourselves on, is being available for others with our presence, and if that’s not possible, we send cards and prayers in our physical absence.  We try to stay connected to others as much as possible, because we are two social people who love people.  But I must admit that I know that I am someone who needs to step back at times to re calibrate in quiet.  And knowing that I’m an introvert, I had to stop considering what others might think of my absence.  Saying no to things is okay.  For so long in the past, I would be upset about turning something down, or saying no for fear of what someone’s opinion of me would become.  It took me a while to give myself permission to be okay with being true.

What I’ve come to realize as I reflect on both seasons this year, is that sometimes it is necessary to pull back and reassess our positions.  As believers, we are definitely sent out into the “mission field” every day, as servants and representatives of Jesus.  Divine interruptions happen frequently and we have to be ready.  However, we also must admit our emptiness at times and “fuel up” so we can be who we need to be for the Kingdom.

Living intentionally as a believer means that I am living with the purpose of reflecting Jesus through my words, actions and deeds.  I am a human vessel who is used by God to show the world His Son. I am accountable for that.  And sadly there are times I know I haven’t done a good job of that. I can remember times when I served in ministry that my actions became obligatory, that my “I’ll pray for you”s were rehearsed and unfeeling, and my “yes”es were because I was afraid of what others would think. Just as our bodies need physical food to provide energy so we can function, our spirit needs the Holy Spirit and downtime to recharge and be filled so we can reflect Jesus.

Don’t believe me because you feel like you’ll miss an opportunity to serve God?  Even Jesus took time to stop and pray, step away from the noise and reflect.  We don’t have to think we’re saving the world or missing out on opportunities.  The more time we have with God, the more we are able to hear His voice (John 10:27) and know what His intentions are for us on a daily basis.

When I was in the early stages of working the night shift, my physical body was a wreck (working during the night hours does something horrible to your mind and body).  However, I spent my days literally reading my Bible on my couch with my husband, sharing insights and fueling up.  Free of distractions and obligations, we both felt disconnected from others, but incredibly linked to the Lord.

I believe God wanted me to slow down and focus on Him.  And He accomplished it by changing my availability.  My choice to work nights was optional, K’s was not.  But I wanted my husband to feel supported and encouraged, and I didn’t think it would affect me as much as it did.  I’m glad we switched back to days, despite how much we were growing.  Because now even on day shift, I am still available for others. I am just more mindful of my time and whether or not my “YES” is because of God or my desire to please others. I have learned to pray before responding and not feel guilt, even when I get push back or disappointed responses from others.  I have to be true to myself and my Lord.

I am intentional now about staying connected to Christ.  Knowing myself as I do (imagine that), I realize that as a woman, I emotionally respond to many things.  I’ve learned to slow down, filter it through the Lord’s filter instead of my human emotional filter, and have seen my responses change.  I realize that my eyes are being opened in many other areas of my life as well, and in order to navigate the dark, stormy waters that are approaching, I need to cling to my anchor.

Now, K and I also as a couple have to be mindful of when we’re getting so busy that we’re not making time for each other. I imagine every married couple knows when that happens because you start to get irritable or angry about little things when it’s really because you’re missing each other and not making time to connect. It’s an easy fix.  Say no to whatever is taking you away from your covenant.  My Lord needs to be first, then my spouse, then whatever God says is next, not what I deem important.

And just so this doesn’t sound like I’m knocking being there for others, K and I both have developed some pretty cool relationships with people this year and are connecting with some friends we’ve not spent as much time with in the past.  We are able to say yes to spending time with others without compromising time with each other.

My perspective has changed in the area of serving as well.  I know when God is saying Yes for me for something, and stepping into obedience has blessed me incredibly.  A study on forgiveness that I began teaching last fall with one woman went from an eight-week study to eight months.  The relationship that was forged through some many painful, tearful evenings blessed us both.  The study produced a woman who now is able to transfer her insecurity to Jesus and she was able to forgive someone for 35+ years of hurt.  I will never feel bad about saying no to things while working alongside the Holy Spirit for that woman’s transition.

Also, a door opened after ending my time with her, to help another woman who is struggling with her marriage.  My Tuesdays are set aside for her and developing trust through her heartache.  I’m enjoying what the Lord is teaching us both through her  sessions.

Slowing down, focusing on Jesus and listening instead of running has strengthened my heart and faith in many ways. I’m so thankful for His leading me to rest in Him, and teaching me to depend on Him instead of working out of my own power.  I’m intentionally seeking rest and stillness now, without fear of any other feelings being hurt. I am following where Jesus leads.

Posted in Faith

Clear vision

I was seven years old when I realized that I could not read the words on the blackboard in my second grade classroom.  They had become blurry after a few days, and I wasn’t allowed to sit in the back row any longer.  I mentioned something to my parents, and shortly after, my mom took me to see Dr. Rowe, a local eye doctor who fitted me for my first pair of eyeglasses.  It’s been almost thirty years since that day, and I’m incredibly grateful for the maker of corrective lenses and disposable contact lenses.  Without them, I would not have been able to blog my first 60 blog posts (or do many other countless things)!

I was diagnosed with myopia along with astigmatism.  Reading close-up or far away truly made no difference. I was unable to do it physically.  Seeing underwater is something I’ve never been able to do, nor have I been able to see clearly across the room when removing my glasses at the end of an evening before bed. Had I been born in another time period, I would be considered an invalid.  I would not be able to see the computer screen to medically code for the veterans that I submit claims for.  I would not be able to drive a vehicle, order lunch from a fast food place, see across the room to whomever had called my name.  I had a fear of losing/breaking my prescription eyeglasses (due to my intense prescription), or having a contact lens fall out, and having to drive home from someplace with only one working eye.  These are not life threatening emergencies, but realities in the life of someone without 20/20 vision. My hope was to one day be able to see without glasses.

Recently, my husband and I made a financial decision that would allow me to undergo LASIK surgery.  So I did.

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The last picture of me with prescription glasses on. 🙂

I have been researching the surgery for quite some time.  I had watched a video that showed up close EXACTLY what happens during the procedure, and the follow-up afterward.  I spoke with people who had done the procedure and loved the results.  I had read reviews online of local surgeons, their staff, and reviews of the procedure, cleanliness of surgical space, and rates of success before choosing a location.  I reviewed pricing options, financing options, and reimbursement factors before making my final decision.  And ultimately, I found out I had money left over in a health savings account from a previous job that would cover the cost!!  SOLD! 🙂

So I had LASIK surgery this past Thursday morning, while my husband and I were off of work.  I had to put antibiotic drops in the night before, and I left my home Thursday morning incredibly hopeful, squashing the anxiety I felt in my stomach.  It’s silly how our minds wander down crazy paths when we are about to embark on something we’ve never done.  Vast were the irrational fears that began to creep into my mind: would I jerk around during the procedure and laser off my nose?  What if the numbing drops didn’t work and I could feel everything?  What if I woke up after the procedure and my vision was WORSE?!?!

Thankfully none of those things happened.

Below is a picture of my eye before the laser part began.

My husband was fascinated with this:

wp-1468173951583.jpgAnd the laser part where they began to reshape my cornea:

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How wild, right!?!

The end result, however, has been none of those crazy irrational fears I’ve listed above.  I had to go through some excessive tearing of my eyes as they adjusted to the corneal tissue growing and reattaching itself, and I also had a few sporadic moments where light sensitivity became an issue.  Overall, I woke up Friday morning with the ability to see into the bathroom and I didn’t have to reach over to the nightstand for my glasses.  It was a wonderful feeling, and still catches me by surprise!!  I’m extremely thankful and glad I did this!

It got me thinking about eyesight and vision in general.  Going through this procedure certainly was an example of trust for me.  The second that I laid on the surgical table, I could not physically see ANYTHING/ANYONE.  I had to trust the surgeon, the nurses, the laser, the pre-programmed measurements, the table, the calming medication, the numbing eyedrops, the outcome, the treatment afterward, etc.  I ultimately trusted my Heavenly Father, as this was elective, and I didn’t have to put myself through this unless I truly wanted to.  I trusted God with my choice of location, and the decision to do something that would benefit me long-term.

Throughout the procedure (Note: you’re awake the entire time), the surgeon was very good about making sure I was physically comfortable and ready to proceed.  He and the nurses would encourage me, let me know what the next step was and how long it would take, and then GO only when I said I was ready.  That helped me to feel safe and secure with them.  Understanding what was coming and having a guide to know ahead of time was essential in building trust.  If every day was like Thursday morning for me, I would be exempt from having trust issues.  Wouldn’t that be great?  But that is not always the case in life, is it?

I’m about to drop some serious truth here: ALL HUMAN BEINGS are people: individuals created by and loved by an amazing God.  Over time and given our family dynamic, we learn and develop how to respond to those around us, sometimes based on personal experience, sometimes based on our parent’s views, sometimes based on other people’s views who have significance in our lives.  We inadvertently are shaped by those who we learn from.

Value for every human being should be the same, as we all have value in the eyes of our Creator.  Sadly, though, bad life experiences with someone of another faith, religion or color has tainted our view of them as a person.  Even worse, shared stories of these events or views help children/others to take in that same tainted view, and begin to see someone through our perspective, as dark as it may be.

We go to the heart’s core function of judgement.

We may not even know someone, but based on what Susan’s sister’s uncle’s brother went through, we may find ourselves in a similar situation.  The odds of that happening are beyond slim, but we begin to think irrationally and filter life through others’ eyes.

Is this fair?  Should we even be doing this?

The answers, of course, are NO and NO.

How does this begin, how do we end it, and how do we proceed for future generations?

In the original texts of Scripture, Romans 7 and Romans 8 use the word “sarx”, which is Greek and means “sinful nature” or “rebellious nature”.  The Bible is stating that we all have within us a nature that goes against the Lord’s value system.  We are created, born into a sinful world, and daily fight against the laws of God.  These laws are innate, since we are created by HIM.  Our nature, however, hates the laws of God, and therefore chooses to reject the laws set in place to protect us.  Only when we submit to the authority of God, and accept Jesus’ blood sacrifice as our own, can we be made right with God, and be given a new nature.  Until then, we are sinful, hateful, judgmental human beings with an autonomous nature that is inherently selfish.  See Paul’s words in Romans 7:14-25,

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[b] a slave to the law of sin.

  There is a constant war going on inside of us until it is surrendered to Jesus.

Romans 8: 1-17 tells us this:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c]And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life[d] because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of[e] his Spirit who lives in you.

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Our flesh (sin nature) and our spirit is at war.  We have been blinded by the enemy who longs for us to stay blind and follow him.  See John 8:44 and 1 John 1:8-9.  To deny Satan’s power doesn’t make him less powerful. It means you’re already under it.  He is very much at fault.

Second Corinthians 4:4 states:

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Without clear vision, we are led to believe that we are here on Earth to serve ourselves, that people’s lives don’t matter, that we can make judgments about each other, slander and degrade each other, hate, murder and kill those that think differently, and assume that there are no consequences.

That is not the truth.

We are born into sin, whether we want to admit this or not.  We are sinful people.  We will always be selfish and want what is best for us, disregarding the needs of others, or their well-being, because this is how the enemy operates.  Our nature and the wiles of the devil cause us to be selfish and have no regard for how we live.  The only way to combat this, is to recognize our very rebellious nature that wants what it wants, regardless of how it affects others, and surrender it to Jesus Christ.  He has proven Himself to be the Son of God, who loved us in our rebellious state, and died to destroy that sinful nature, and to vanquish the darkness that wants to separate us from God and others.

Seeing sin in others is pretty easy, isn’t it?  Do you know someone who gossips, who loves to share news of something that happened to someone else without the actual person being present to agree/disagree?  Do you know someone who makes vulgar comments toward a certain type of race, gender, employment status, etc.?  Do you know someone who places blame on someone else constantly without ever taking responsibility for their own actions?  We are so quick to judge others, without realizing what it truly says about ourselves.

Matthew 7:3-5 says the following:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Who are you to judge someone else?  Do you never make mistakes?  Do you never have a bad day and react accordingly?  Where is the love and grace for people who have bad days?  Where is the lack of stereotyping when someone wrongs you?  Where is the forgiveness for actions that hurt?

The truth of the matter with what is happening in America currently is corruption at its worst, and injustice that is out of control.  We are allowed to be angry when people are being murdered for no reason.  We are allowed to be angry when those who are supposed to protect us are profiling and making matters where there was previously none.  We are allowed to disagree.  We are allowed to protest these wrongdoings and state solutions that can benefit society.  These are still freedoms we are allowed to have here.

What is not allowed is incessant murder in the name of someone else.  We are not allowed to let our anger take control and take lives of those whom we deem “inconsequential”.  We are not allowed to take weapons and use them on others because we disagree with them, or feel like they no longer deserve to live.  We are not allowed to go in front of the justice system and make judgments ourselves.  We must wait for these processes to work themselves out in time.  But our impatience keeps us from thinking rationally, and our feelings of injustice have us crying out to God that He’s taking too long.

These are judgments that are reserved for God alone.  And HE wishes no one to perish without the knowledge of who He is, so He’s not advocating murder when we disagree.  Where is the peace and love for each other?  Where is the positive dialogue that can happen when we put others first?

We hate punishments, and we hate correction.  We want to be right.  We want to be heard. But we need to find a new way to do this.  And though I would love to provide a clear-cut solution to the hurt in today’s world, I don’t have the one you want to hear.

I have one name:

JESUS.

The reason people are out of control and self-seeking is because they are operating out of their blinded vision.  They only see themselves.  They have hatred in their hearts and are using their voice as a mouthpiece for justification.  They hide behind computers so their faces will be obstructed.  They write and spew words that vilify and destroy others.

We, humans, are hateful beings. Read any comments section on any news site and you’ll see people who have never met each other, destroying each other because of a difference of opinion.  We don’t care to hear what others have to say when it doesn’t support our own beliefs.

This is not love.  This is not mercy.  This is not grace.  This is not right.

This is blindness.

The only way to clarity is to seek Jesus and His ways.  We are so quick to make assumptions about others, or to predict behavior patterns.  The truth is that God says none of us know the intentions of another’s heart.  So why do we act this way?

I’m reading a book by Ted Dekker called “The Forgotten Way” and in it, he says the following regarding our understanding of Paul’s teachings in Romans:

“Have we lost sight of Paul’s teaching?  He made it plain: The preeminent evidence shown by those who know the Father is this: LOVE.  And not just any love, but the unique kind that loves enemies, not only those who show us love in return.  A love that is patient, showing no jealousy or arrogance, keeping no record of wrong, not seeking its own and not provoked by another’s behavior.  This is to love as Christ loves, submitting to each other without judgment.”

The description above is the way to show the world the clarity of who Jesus is, by HOW HE LOVES.  He longs to see peace and unity among all of us.  Black lives matter.  White lives matter.  ALL LIVES MATTER!  Jesus died for all of them.  We are not to be taking these lives away from each other.  We are to encourage each other, and show love to those who are unlovable.

Something I learned a long time ago is that hurting people hurt people.  Instead of responding with another harsh word or assuming why someone says/does something, why not respond to them in love?  Turn the anger away, instead of fueling it.  Ask Jesus for the love to give to those who are bitter.  No one knows the journey of anyone else, so show grace when someone may not view life the same way.  Show mercy when someone deserves justice.  The Lord will take care of someone else’s need to “learn a lesson”.  It’s not your job.

And let’s begin to ask the Lord to help us see others the way He does.  He sees us as we are: by our hearts.  If we truly saw ourselves the way He does, we wouldn’t be so quick to judge others.  We need Him to transform our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).

Colossians 3:5-9 shows us who we really are, no matter how we deny it to ourselves:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:[a] sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.[b] In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self[c]with its practices

Thankfully, there is a verse 10:

10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator

Jesus never leaves us as He found us.  He transforms us.  We can become NEW in Christ and learn to love with His heart, instead of our sinful, hateful heart.  We can see each other through His eyes, with love and compassion for each other, with a yearning for others to know Him and share His gospel of life eternal with God.

Love is possible.  Unity is possible.

Will you choose to have clear vision today?

Posted in Faith

Selflessness and what it means for all

Ugh…I’m so done with this…

A nose that is blocked by swollen nasal passages with only mouth-breathing as an option, an incessant cough that sounds like the Jake brake on a diesel truck, and an urgent rushing to the bathroom due to the side effects of the cold medicine that is NOT providing relief or results.

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And it’s no one else in the house that is driving me up a wall with these symptoms…it’s ME!  My voice has taken on a low, James Earl Jones-type inflection that I’m not used to, and just this morning on a work phone call, I had to convince the recipient that it was me!!

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Forgive my brief complaint, but I’ve never been down this long. Typically, I determine my main symptoms, listen to my body and rest, drink plenty of fluids, take OTC meds and move on about my day.  But since January, after completing our corporate fasting at church, my body hasn’t been the same.  I thought I knocked it out by using NyQuil and Vicks on my feet with socks, four weeks ago, but this came back! Since the beginning of 2016, I’ve probably been able to breathe through both nostrils seven days total.  I know it’s not the end of the world, but I would give anything to smell ANYTHING!

So, with plenty of time to take a respite on the couch, I’ve had my “morning” quiet time (which is now 2pm or later EST due to being a vampire for job-related reasons) and as I was catching up on an online Bible study, reading Scripture began to turn my complaining into praise.  I fell on 1 Corinthians 13, which many of us lovingly call, “The Love Chapter” because it defines characteristics of love.

I’d love to be able to say that I could insert my name into the chapter and say how loving, patient, kind, etc. I am, but I’d only be fooling myself.  There are times in my life that I can recall the exact opposite.  I may have let my emotions take over and responded erratically to a situation, or assumed something about someone before I had a chance to know them, or put an expectation on someone that once they didn’t meet, I knew I could call them out.  That’s not even half of what I know I’m capable of.

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The truth of this passage is that love is many things that we cannot do on our own.  Our nature has a way of putting ourselves first in all things (we call this SELFISHness), but the gift of God is that He is able to equip us to put others first.  Being others-centered is a way of becoming like Jesus.  Jesus didn’t focus on Himself during his entire 33 years on Earth!  Sadly, I can’t even go a day!

Selflessness is proof of Jesus being present in our lives.  By putting others first, we are showing that we know others have value, and they should be served.  There’s no scale where we balance out the actions of another to see if they deserve to be treated kindly, we just do it.  Now knowing that love is of God, and knowing that to know love means to show love, consider the following:

1 John 4:8 states, “Anyone who does not love, does not know God, because God is love.”

Hit you in the gut a bit?  Here, the apostle John is urging those who are reading his words (followers of Jesus, the church) to love.  He begins verse seven with, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and anyone that loves is born of God, and knows God.”

To know God is to know love, and to know love means we realize the value of it and our need for it, receive it from God and give it away to others.  God never gives us something to keep for ourselves.  Now the lesson in this verse is that if we withhold love to others, we are not loving God.  If we aren’t loving others, we aren’t loving at all, and we can’t possibly know the Lord if we’re not loving like Him.

Let me explain it out even further.  To know God is to know who He is and what He has done.  God, in His great mercy, sent His Son to Earth to model His characteristics: patience with those who needed it, words of life for those who were dead, compassion toward those society had rejected, etc.  Jesus manifested God in the flesh.

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And we as believers who also live in flesh, have a responsibility to exhibit the same.  Why?  Because Jesus died for our sins and rose to defeat them. That’s why.  Plain and simple.  The hurt you dispel to others hurts God just as much as the hurt you receive from others.  Both hurt. Both offend. Both stunt growth. Stop the cycle.  Give the offense to God, trust He will work it out, and move on with your life.  If you’re holding onto things from the past, you’re not moving forward and there is much life to be lived.  It begins with taking the focus off of ourselves and putting it on Jesus, who deserves all praise for what He has done so we could be reconciled to God.

Staying in a position of selfishness means that I am constantly questioning why things are happening to me, or thinking for some reason that they shouldn’t happen to me. That is illogical in a world of selfish people. You will be hurt. You will be offended. You will be shamed, picked on, bullied, etc.

The key to combatting the “me syndrome” is knowing your own value, which resides in WHO GOD IS. He is perfect in every way. He made you, you are HIS and you are loved by Him. Hold onto that truth, and live that out. Choose to let go of that which desires to imprison you, love people where they are because you want to be loved the same, and choose to focus on things that are of importance.

So much is temporary here, but what really matters is our response to the goodness of God, and His compassion toward us. Do we believe He is who He said He was, and are we living our lives aligned with His plans for us? Are we living surrendered to His purposes? How do you know?

Let’s say your day gets interrupted by someone who doesn’t know God and they treat you in a way you don’t want to be treated. Do you condemn them, or love them? Because they don’t know God, stop and consider that you may be in their lives because you will help them learn who He is. If they don’t know God, they can’t love like Him. But we can. The responsibility to love will always be on our shoulders. And it’s not a hard thing to do when you realize what He has done in love for you. It gets easier to pass it on, because love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. No longer when you’re hurt or wronged will you be holding onto it, and rehashing it over and over. You’ll let it go quickly to God for His forgiveness, and choose to love. It is entirely possible with God.

I want to love like Jesus loves.  My heart has lived on Earth for 36 years and I have endured much, but also not as much in comparison to other people.  I have endured what God allowed in my life, or the consequences of choices I made apart from Him.  But through grace, and His forgiveness, I don’t have to hold onto the past or the hurt people have caused me.  I believe that putting others first, especially those who have hurt or wronged me, can be a stepping stone in their life to see grace in ways they don’t expect.  And who gets the glory there?  God!  Putting others first will always be Christlike.

The weather outside has turned to rain, and it is getting colder as some snow is on the way.  My husband, went to the back bedroom, threw on a shirt, jeans and some shoes, and left!  I assumed my coughing had done him in!  Surely, he couldn’t take it anymore!!

But alas, I was wrong.  Instead, my handsome groom dropped off the following:

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This, to me, is a picture of selflessness.

I haven’t been verbally complaining of my ailments (although I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if my coughing would cease either), but just the fact that he would go out of his way to do something that makes me feel better, means he put me first.  This is love.  This is doing something for someone else because it benefits them, and the blessing from God for being obedient is now my husband’s.  He gets it.  And should he come down with something that is just as  relentless, I will do exactly the same.

Now having taken my Mucinex, my praise is even better!! I am incredibly thankful for the love that God has poured over me and allowed me to receive, despite my heart that needs His tender care and Scripture soaked wrapping.  I am thankful for an opportunity to share these truths with others via the internet.  And I am thankful that this sinus infection is maintainable and temporary.  I want to remember the lozenges that were brought to me in a time of need, so I can do the same when an opportunity arises.

Dear reader, I pray that any hurts you carry, may be dropped at the foot of the cross for the sake of being free. Realize Jesus’s love for you just as you are, and that you can have a relationship with Him today by just accepting that He is the Messiah and He loved you enough to die for you so you could be with Him forever. Our lives are fleeting, but they matter to the Lord. He created us for His glory, and loving on each other for His sake brings Him much glory. Will you choose to be less selfish today, so someone can see Jesus in you? If so, I just may share some of my lozenges with you. 😉