Can We?

Can we give thanks for opportunities to forgive? Can we give thanks for the times we’ve felt the loneliest? Can we give thanks for the times we’ve been betrayed and felt the most hurt? The ultimate thanksgiving.

For the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:2) Mentally, physically, spiritually, it took all He had and He did it for us.

God is the Giver of all good things. (James 1:17) He is also with us when things and people are taken away. (Joshua 1:9) When we can see these difficult situations as times to deepen our relationship and increase our dependence on Him, we can view them through different lenses. The lenses of thankfulness. Thankful that our God never changes. Thankful that our God is the same God in the good times as in the bad. Thankful that He still died for us. And thankful that He is coming back to take us home.

Can you, like me, look back on your worst times and think, “Wow, I lived through that and I came out closer to Christ. Leaning on Him harder than ever.” I have different trials now. We all do. Can I look at each of these and say “Thank you, Lord.” “Thank you that You hear me and although You have the Power to remove them completely, You may not. You may walk beside me instead.” Either way, Lord, I say thank You.

Those “opportunities” to forgive mean someone has wronged us. That’s never pleasant. Can we, instead, view them as opportunities to catch a glimpse of how much grace God lavishes on us? How often we let Him down and how His love never fails or wavers? Can we forgive someone and say thank You, Lord, for forgiving me…?

Can we say “Thank you God, for what you give. And, thank You for what You do not.” It takes great faith that God IS love to do that.

Be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (GNT)

When our child turns away, runs away…..When our spouse leaves, when our health fails, when our job is uncertain, when money is tight, when tension is high. As tears roll down our face, can we say, “Thank You, Lord, for never forsaking me.”

Because, no matter what, I have this blessed assurance that Jesus is mine…’O what a foretaste of glory divine’…

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Layer by Layer

We get to know a person better over time, because we see their layers. Like an onion before you, they peel back layer by layer. How they act when they’re mad, sad, happy, scared, lonely and what gets them that way….We learn what they prioritize, what they don’t, what they’ve been through, what they’ve learned, and what they struggle with. All layers.

When we are born, we have only the layers applied by our genetic DNA. These layers may predisposition us towards certain behaviors, but circumstances haven’t happened yet. Brand new, clean slate, fully loved, and fully open to our Creator. The One who loved us and knitted us together in our mother’s womb (Psalms 139:13). Then, life starts. Bumps, bruises, brokenness, betrayals. Layers are added one by one. Individual and personal like our unique fingerprints, these layers are added to our cores. Our innocence, openness, and view of the world around us changes.

The way I see it, the world adds layers and the Lord longs to remove and replace them with His blessed layers of grace, love, and peace. The devil wants us weighed down and covered in fear, anger, and hurt over the layers added by ourselves and others. Ask God daily to remove what needs to go and replace what He wants us to have.

I also think that the layers that bring the most tears and are the hardest to pull back, bring the sweetest relief and relationship with our Savior. Only God can turn our most bitter onion layer into our dark chocolate or raspberry layer. A layer we wouldn’t trade because it drew us to Him and keeps pointing us back to Him. Our hardest layers become our sweetest layers. Because we bring it to the Light and let God in, our relationship deepens. He wants us aware that we are just as fully loved with our layers as we were fresh from the wombs. Then, His replacement work starts…

Like the prodigal son’s return, each layer that we ask God to remove brings Him enormous pleasure because we are that much closer to Him. The relief and joy it brings us pales in comparison to His excitement for asking Him in. He already knows each layer, it’s up to us to come before Him, allow Him in, and ask for His help. He wants us at our cores before Him. That was His plan since the Garden of Eden. It wasn’t until sin entered in, that Adam and Eve felt any need to cover themselves with leaves…layers.

When someone gets to know me, may my layers of pain and shame be a testimony to God’s redemptive power. May He get the glory for replacing those layers with His own. And, may God continue to peel away what is keeping me from being as close to Him as I can be. Bosom to bosom, heart to heart.

 

Live Loved

stony heart

For a girl who grew up questioning love, living loved is a phenomenon. Learning about and growing aware of God’s love for me is a continuous life changer. His love allows me the freedom to speak. To feel. To let go of perfection. To walk away. To walk towards. To be me. To really live.

When we question love, we seek constant approval from others. Constantly wondering “Do they love me?”, “Did I do something wrong?”, “Did I say something wrong?” We latch onto those who don’t show us love and try to change their minds or squeeze it out of them. Thinking if they do, we will have proved our “lovability”. This leads to a prison of pain that the devil wants nothing more than to keep us locked away in. Constantly seeking love. Jesus’s unfailing love turns the key to this prison, wraps us up, feeds us, and slowly but surely and consistently loves us back to life. In turn, we long for others to feel this new love we have in our heart. This love that warms and reassures our questioning hearts like never before.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26  (ESV)

I used to think a “heart of stone” meant only apathetic, unloving, uncaring, mean. A hard heart. While, no doubt, God’s love can soften a heart like this and turn it completely around. My “heart of stone” felt opposite. It felt too soft. Hurt and scared. Unloved, desperate, clueless, unaware of this Great Love just yearning for me to take notice and strengthen it. To feel it. To live in it. To immerse my thirsty heart in this unending and unexplainable love. Living aware of His love changes everything! Remember this when you feel rejected or abandoned. He’s still right there. He never left. He’ll never leave. He loves you more than any human being ever has, ever could, or ever will.

God’s love will soften and strengthen our hearts of stone. He will turn them into hearts of flesh filled with His Spirit. Are you thirsty? Hard? Soft? Hurt? Consider the Ultimate Source. His love is the source of unquenchable love we seek. Our desperate (stony) hearts looking high and low for acceptance and approval can rest easy and come to life in His love. Soak it in, squeeze it out by sharing with others, and go for another soak.

Live loved today and every day. Because you are.

 

Behind the Smile

behind the smile

I was reminded today, ever so blatantly, of the brokenness in this world.  Today, the tears flowed with nowhere else to go but down. Remember, that most of us have been broken by the loss of a loved one, a marriage, a childhood, a family member, or an illness. There are countless ways we may feel broken. This great sense of loss will change a person. Behind the smiles, you may not know what people are going through or have been through. Be mindful that others may have been touched by tragedy. Think twice before you envy someone’s seemingly “perfect” life. Remember, that brokenness is a part of this life…only.

Yes, there are blessings to be found in brokenness. Yes, finding out that God has never nor will ever forsake us is the ultimate blessing we discover in our trials. But, that doesn’t mean the pain isn’t real.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15

Our human race was broken in the Garden of Eden. The shame, guilt, grief, and separation from God is still evident in our brokenness today. Our souls long to be complete in Him. Cultivating a relationship with God does not guarantee we won’t be broken again, but it does show us where to turn when we are. It reminds us that He is still in control and keeps us ever homesick for heaven.

Open your eyes and hearts to others around you. Be aware that there has been pain behind their smiles. Pain is increasingly evident in this world. Today, I was at a loss for words. I couldn’t encourage, all I could do was empathize with and feel the pain and loss. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus….there are times when this simply means lending an ear and following up with a heartfelt “I’m so sorry”. Sometimes there are no words, answers, or clichés to relieve the pain. There are times we just have to feel it, let it roll down our cheeks, and pray for comfort. I do believe it’s better to feel it than deny it. To honestly feel it allows for healing and growth.

Being honest about our own pain may strengthen another to open up and receive healing in theirs. I have witnessed and personally experienced that just knowing we aren’t alone can bring the most comfort. Let us actively love each other by recognizing that we are all broken, living in a broken world, and getting by the best we can. Let us also be reminded that God is good, in the good times and in the bad. God is good, in the pain and in the pleasure. God is good, in the loss and in the gains. And let us continue to praise God from whom all blessings flow…

Yearning for heaven where our hearts and circles will be forever unbroken.