The Valley of Blessings

The Valley of Blessings

This is where I live, and it’s ok. Yes it’s in the valley where we struggle the most. But I’ve been told you’re either on your way out of the valley or on your way in. We never spend much time on the mountain top. And that’s ok too.

As long as I know I’m not alone once I get there, I know I’ll be ok. In fact, I praise God when I’m there, because I’ve also been told he is close to the broken hearted. So I would rather be broken with my savior in the valley, than be living the high life, alone.

Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance.  – 2 Chronicles 20:3

This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. – 2 Chronicles 20:15

Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. – 2 Chronicles 20:20

On the fourth day they gathered in the Valley of Blessing, which got its name that day because the people praised and thanked the Lord there. It is still called the Valley of Blessing today. – 2 Chronicles 20:26

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The Apology

Yesterday, I found myself sitting in my car yelling at some woman I have never met because she fed my son. Actually, that’s not why I was yelling at her, but it is something she does everyday.

I had lost it. I lost my patience. And then I hung up. It was ugly. I was ugly.

I was already having a bad day, a bad week actually. And I know I was being tested.

Things just kept happening.

I had to take my mom to two appointments. Take my kids to theirs. Go to mine. Schedule more for my mom. Try to coordinate with work what times I could take off. My AC broke. My AC broke again. My daughter gets sent home from school with a fever and can’t be sent back. There are fraudulent activities on my debit card.

And then there is this woman who was just trying to do her job. Who doesn’t understand the issues I have with my son. Who doesn’t know our history. Who just…just was a person I could lash out at instead of a thing that was making my life more difficult.

Satan, I’m sure loved that. I felt horrible. I felt horrible not because of all the crap that was happening around me or to me, but I felt horrible because of something I did, something I could have controlled.

The feeling festered inside of me. And even though people around me were telling me I was justified and I shouldn’t beat myself up over it; we all make mistakes, I felt… unworthy, I felt disgusted, I felt I let God down.

That’s exactly the feeling Satan wanted me to feel.

This morning I heard a faint whisper, it was faint but it was clear.

You could call, and apologize.

It wasn’t a command. It wasn’t a should.

It was just a suggestion, but as soon as I heard it, I knew it was right. I knew how to stop the self loathing, I knew how I could stand tall before the altar of God, again.

But I was scared! How can I do this? What will I say? What if she yells back at me?

Oh God, this is really something I need to do to make it right? I knew the answer.

Yes, I screwed up. Yes I am human. Yes, I am forgiven. But none of these made me feel any better about myself.

I picked up the phone. I called the school. I asked to speak to the cafeteria. And as the words fell from my mouth how deeply sorry I was for speaking to her the way I had, I became completely broken and I couldn’t keep my composure.

There was silence.

I was scared she was going to lash back at me for making her feel so bad. I deserved it. I was not Christ-like. I had misrepresented him. I should be ashamed. I was ashamed.

The pause broke, and I could feel her heart melt, as mine did, when she responded, “I am sorry, too.”

At that moment I felt the Grace of God, not only pour down onto me, but onto us, as we were lifted from this earthly realm, and risen to a heavenly state.

I felt Jesus today. I felt Holy; set apart. I felt transformed. I felt forgiven. I felt worthy. I felt loved.

LOVE ME, EVEN THOUGH I AM UNLOVABLE!

I felt God say, “I do.

Going Nuts

I feel like I’m absolutely going insane. Hopper (my pastor and friend) once described me to Mike as an Australian Shepherd. They are a working dog. If you don’t give them a job, they will find one. 

I just hate sitting still. If I do, I feel I’m wasting time.

Why do I feel like this? I hate this. Well, I hate this, unless I have found something to do; then I love it! It brings me joy. Otherwise, it feels like I should be doing something.

Why was I made like this? I don’t think it’s bad. I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it.

I always feel like there is something big out there that’s reserved for me to do, and I’m supposed to recruit others to come alongside me not to just do it, but continue doing it without me. But no one has.

Why is that? Is there a trait I haven’t developed yet? Is the timing just off? Am I practicing for something bigger?

Lord please help me with this. In between these big ideas you give me, I just go nuts!

All There is to Be, Unashamed

I remember the very first time I was prescribed an antidepressant. It was shortly, before my wedding in 1997.

It was Zoloft. I had already known I struggled with depression a great portion of my childhood. 

It just seemed like I always had it. There was no moment in time I can remember not feeling it. And the fact that I was feeling so much worse before what was supposed to be the most joyous day of my life made me feel even more depressed.

I don’t remember how long I had been taking it before I started to feel better, but it felt sudden. I noticed even my days where I felt physically bad, were still better than any other time before. Even my bad days were better.

Oh my gosh I felt good, no, I felt great! So much so that even when I noticed my face starting to break out, I didn’t care. But then it was getting worse. I wasn’t just breaking out, I was breaking out in hives and as my wedding day approached I decided to stop taking them.

I was warned not to, but being that it was only weeks before my wedding, I couldn’t imagine feeling any worse than having to take pictures on my day with hives all over my face.

After the wedding, my doctor changed me to Paxil, but it was never the same. I didn’t feel good, I didn’t feel bad, I just didn’t feel. I felt numb. And that was still better than feeling bad.

So why am I telling you this?

Well, I’ve been wanting to read, again. I’ve gone to the bookstore twice looking for something I feel would help me grow, or understand who I am, and both times were tough. 

I would read title after title, thinking, “I didn’t need that. I’m past that. That’s boring.” But I finally settled on one, Unashamed by Christine Caine.

Honestly it was the first book I picked up the second time I returned to the bookstore, but put it back down. I’ve gone through Healing From the Inside Out so many times, and facilitated it for years. I’m past this. I don’t feel shame anymore. But ultimately, it was exactly what I grabbed as I headed for the checkout lane.

Today I opened it, and it took me back to the first time I took an antidepressant. Yes, the first time I took it, I felt great! But eventually I just became numb. I don’t want to feel numb. That’s not enough. Even though I’ve done a lot of healing in the past… Maybe I can still feel better; be better.

I’m not even through the intro, and so many memories have flooded my mind. Memories that are attached to emotions I thought I’ve let go. Yes, I can honestly say I feel better about myself than I did ten years ago. My bad days are still better.

But maybe I’ve settled for feeling better. Maybe better isn’t good enough anymore. Maybe the reason I was so hesitant to pick up the book in the first place was because I didn’t want to admit that this is something I still struggle with.

After all I feel better. Life is better. Shouldn’t that be enough?

I think, not.

I’m anxiously awaiting this book to wonderfully wreck me. It’s time to feel all that it is to be, unashamed.

I will keep you posted.

 

To Change the World

I want to change the world.

For me, my world is not the people on the streets, or the children living in poverty on another continent, oceans away from me.

That world is much too big for little o’ me.

No, my world starts with those people who are the closest to me.

My family, my friends, my coworkers, my former schoolmates, my neighbors, my acquaintances…

People I interact with and do life with everyday.

I want to be surrounded by so much love; by so many people who live life for others.

I want my children to be brought up in a community that is for each other, and not against.

I dream of a day, where we all move as one body, doing the works of Jesus. Bringing heaven to earth, to reach out to the people on the street, and the children living in poverty on another continent, oceans away from me.

I don’t care what church they go to. Or don’t go to.

I don’t care, what city, state or country they live in.

I don’t care who they voted for. Or if they did.

I want to see my community move, not because the church tells them, but because Jesus moves them.

I want to see a community where the Spirit dwells within them, richly.

I want to change the world by encouraging, supporting and showing.

It’s so simple, but it’s not so easy.

Many people are full of good intentions or excuses, but good intentions and excuses do not fulfill transformation!

The Spirit of the Lord is not silent, still, or too busy.

I dream of a day where my community not only reaches up, but also reaches out. A community that not only listens, but obeys. A community that stops acting like sheep and starts shepherding.

Every. Day. All day.

Serving the Lord is a full time job. It requires overtime. Sacrifice. It’s sometimes grueling, but most the time rewarding.

It’s a lifestyle.

It’s a lifetime.

And one day the opportunity will be gone.

Make this day, and everyday, count. They are numbered and are running out.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:10

Is the thief stealing, killing and destroying your time? Or are you living your life to the fullest? Are you living out all the opportunities Jesus has made for you?

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. – James 2:17

My life is not my own. I was not put here for my own gratification. I am not here to see how successful I can become, how many riches I can aquire, or how much freedom I can possess.

May the Lord use me as he sees fit. May he take all that I have for his glory. May I be emptied so that He may fill me. May there be less of me and more of him.

I live only so that one day I may hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

So are you with me? Can you help me?

If someone reaches out to you, will you pick up the phone? Will you help them move? Or watch their kids? Will you ask those who are hurting, how you can help? Will you LOOK for who has a need, and fill it? Will you welcome those who are pushed aside, or shunned from society? Will you give second chances and offer forgiveness? Will you cry with your neighbor? Will you do more than just pray for them?

Will you stop being offended and serve them instead? Will you stop sitting in a pew and start representing our King? Will you stop saying, I’m too busy?

Because, we can all can ask, and we can all listen, and this IS following Jesus.

We are on assignment!

Will you be the church with me Every. Day. All. Day?

I want to change the world. And my world starts with you!

I Want to Read My Bible, but…

I recently started a woman’s Bible study. We’re reading through the book, A Woman After God’s Own Heart.

Many years ago, once I returned back to the church I questioned how I was suppose to act as a Christian woman. I didn’t have role models in place to glean from, then. So I took to reading.

I picked up the book written by Elizabeth George, A Woman After God’s Own Heart. It radically changed my life. And little tips from the book helped me start making new habits that helped me grow as a Christian woman.

My group and I are presently in chapter two. It’s about reading our Bibles daily.

I have to say way back when I first read this book, this part was super hard. I wanted to read my Bible, but it was too complicated for me. And it was a great book, but I just didn’t see how it applied to my everyday life.

So I set out to find a way that one, I could understand and two, was relevant to my life.

Here is what I found that worked for me.

There are many, many ways to read the Bible.

I’m certainly not suggesting this is the only way, or that it will even resonate with everyone. But what do you have to lose?

1) Pick a topic you would like to learn about.

The Bible is packed with lessons. You can’t learn them all at once. Pick one.

Some beginning suggestions.
The face of God: What does God look like?
Women: How was I designed to be?
Fear: What does God say about Fear?

More focused suggestions.
Christian Living: How should I be living?
Mental illness: How does God feel about my son?
Honor your mother and father: How can I honor my mother, if I don’t like her very much?

2) You don’t have to read every. single. word.

Skim, with caution. Will you read anything about, Fear in the genealogy of Jesus? Probably not. But do be careful. Once you narrow your search and become more focused on a topic, you will find lessons sprinkled out all over, in places you never saw before. It’s so exciting to find hidden treasures!

3) WRITE IN YOUR​ BIBLE!

You’re going to miss stuff. You’ll want to remember stuff. You’ll want to go back and find stuff. You’ll want to reread stuff. You gotta, gotta, gotta mark up your Bible.

God won’t get mad. He’s thrilled! He wants to encounter you there. Let him. We’re stupid. We can’t see him through all the other words. He’s talking to you, so make his words stand out and speak.

4) Whenever you come across something that has to do with your topic you’ve selected, underlined it. And move on.

You don’t have to stop and meditate on it (unless it really hit you, and you want to). Don’t assume everything has some great, Aha! moment. It won’t. But accumulatively, it will.

5) Start anywhere.

I like to start from the beginning, but I guess you don’t have to. Just make sure you don’t miss anything. If you start in the New Testament, make sure you finish in the Old. We may not be under the old law anymore, but there is still a lot of lessons to be learned, or supported in there. And don’t jump around. You start the book of John, finish the book of John before you move onto something else. Again, you’ll miss stuff.

6) If you don’t have time, read until you can underlined something, then put it away until tomorrow.

A common excuse for not reading the Bible is, I don’t have time. You don’t need a lot of time. But I can tell you, there’s been plenty of times where I thought the same thing so I decided I would only read until I found the next section that talks about my topic, and then when I look up I’ve realized I’ve not only done that but find myself several chapters passed it and 30 minutes late. Don’t even care. I’m on fire!

If you don’t have a lot of time, be disciplined, not neglectful.

7) If you have questions, write them down.

Then call or email your pastor. They love this kind of stuff! They want to know you are reading. Another common excuse for not reading the Bible is, it’s too hard to understand. Pastors’ want to be there to answer any and all of your questions. Sometimes it means they gotta go searching for the answer too. That’s good. It keeps them on their toes.

8) Don’t do more than one topic at a time.

It may take you a year to get through one topic, but that’s ok. You need to stay focused. If you start different Bibles with different topics, you’ll get lost again. It won’t be as meaningful as one topic would. You don’t have to mediate on everyday readings, because once you start reading about the same thing everyday it starts sink in and changes stuff inside of you. Narrowing your focus is important.

So, when you’re done, guess what?
YOU’VE READ THE BIBLE! THE WHOLE BIBLE! That’s huge! Not many can say that. Ask yourself,

“What did I get out of that?”
“Did I encounter God?”
“What is he trying to tell me?”

And if you don’t know, flip to anywhere in the book and look at what you’ve underlined.

Now wasn’t that just the coolest thing, EVER!?

What do you do from here?

9) We’ll pick up another Bible, silly.

But remember to lable your topic in the front of each book. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.

You’ve got a lot that God wants to talk to you about. He’s just waiting for you to listen.

Let me know what works for you as you’ve read your Bible, and if you try what I’ve suggested, let me know how that went too. I’d love to see how you grow!

The Drunk, the Crack Head, the Lazy Fat Girl, and the Fabulous and Over the Top Drag Queen with the Beautiful Dress and the Gorgeous Hair

This is the post I may lose friends over. However, no one really reads my blog, so whatever.

Yesterday, I was listening to a conversation between two of my friends. One of which is a lesbian, and hearing her beliefs about life and death, God and sin.

My heart broke.

I wanted to share my beliefs too, but I knew it wasn’t the time.

I could hear she had already been verbally beaten up by other Christians by her use of, “hate the sin but love the sinner.”

She added, “But I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong. I am not sinning.”

Now she knows what a Jesus freak I am. But it’s not because I’ve ever shoved him down her throat.

When asked, I have shared. During this conversation, I was not.

But if I could have said something, it would have been this.

I don’t believe our bodies that we have today, function the way God had originally designed them. There are diseases, disorders, anomalies, deformities and so many other mutations, people everywhere are living with.

It may be caused by pollutants, genetics, or accidents. But sin is everywhere.

Sin is the absence of God.

We live in a fallen world.

We have ever since the garden.

Sin is everywhere around us and even inside of us.

There is no escaping it and things have definitely changed because of it.

That’s why God sent his son; to save us from it.

I am fat. I can diet, I can exercise, and I will lose weight. Yet ultimately, I always go back to being fat.

Trust me when I say I don’t choose to be. I don’t want to be. But as much as I want to be thin, my body just doesn’t want to be.

It is a battle I fight everyday.

I don’t believe I was designed to be overweight. But where other people don’t give much thought about their weight, I obsess about it, all the time. Even when my weight is down it is something I still always have on my mind.

Gluttony and being lazy is a sin, and day in and day out I fight against it. My weight is an everyday struggle.

I don’t believe being homosexual was apart of the human design but for the same reasons that I’m fat, some people are gay. I don’t believe they choose to be. I don’t believe they want to be. But ultimately, they are.

Now they could fight it. They could hide it. They could marry, have children and try to disguise it, but the struggle would still be there. The sin is still there even if they don’t act on it.

Even when I hit my goal weight, I am still worshiping food.

But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:28

A sin, only needs to be a thought.

An obsession one thinks about everyday.

There’s no escaping it.

Sin is everywhere.

Sin consumes all of us.

But that’s why God sent his son.
He knew this would happen. He knew sin would keep us from him, so he sent his son to take it from us.

The most perfect sacrifice gave his life to bare our sins. All had been forgiven. So no longer will me being overweight keep me from him. And no longer will people who are gay be secluded from him.

Ours sins have been paid for!
All of them!
Everyone’s!

So although sin is still all around us and in us, we do not suffer the eternal consequences of them.

He loves us. All of us.

Now I don’t know how he will judge my friend because I do not know if she had accepted Jesus as her Lord or not. I don’t even know if she has been given accurate information about him to be able to make that kind of decision, but I do know her being gay is not going to determine her fate.

He loves her. He wants to spend eternity with her. And I would be more afraid for those who try to lead her astray by saying she is not welcomed into the throne room of God.

But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. – Matthew 18:6

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. – James 3:1-2

There is an entire community of people who have false ideas about who God is, and who they are as his children; and it’s the Christians fault.

The community has been told God doesn’t accept them. God doesn’t approve of them. God doesn’t love them and they are all going to hell.

Well, I wouldn’t want to believe or trust in a God like that either. Why would I make him my Lord and Savior if he died for everyone but me?

It’s almost as if they’re not allowed to believe in Christ.

Oh, I would be very worried if any word came from my mouth that would push someone farther away from God, rather than closer. I would be very very afraid.

Jesus loved sinners. He hung out with them; like all the time. They were his favorite people. He hung out with the people, who people despised the most.

Tax collectors were hated by the Jews because they were Jews who not only worked for the government that oppressed them, also but stole money from them as well.

Samaritans were half-breeds. They were not from a pure bloodline of Jewish descent. In the Old Testament they were repeatedly commanded not to intermarry between other nations.

You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, – Deuteronomy 7:3

With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the Lord, but they will not find him; he has withdrawn from them. They have dealt faithlessly with the Lord; for they have borne alien children. Now the new moon shall devour them with their fields. – Hosea 5:6-7

Yes, today Jesus would be kickin’ it with the falling down drunk, the crack head, the lazy fat girl, and the fabulous and over the top drag queen with the beautiful dress and the gorgeous hair. You know why?

Cuz they’re fun!

Well that’s not why, but they are.

Because he loves them.

Flaws, sins and all. They are his children too.

He’d hang out with them just like he hung out with the tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers, and Samaritans.

So I think, we as Christians have a lot of work to do. We have a whole community of people who don’t know the gospel. Who don’t know the good news!

Jesus loves you! Jesus died for you! He accepts you and all your brokenness life in this fallen world has given you. There is room for you in his house.

And we need to get busy.

I’m tired of having to apologize for Christians everywhere who should know there stuff, and yet, preach hate.

Jesus gave us TWO commandments. Love God and others, and to go out and make disciples. That is it.

Why are we making this much more complicated than it really is?