Monday, February 24, 2020

Do You Feel Stuck? Part II

Hey Friend,

Last week, I asked the question, "Do you feel stuck?"  Along with comments, I got quite a few emails from people telling me about how they are "stuck."  I'd like to share some of these emails (with permission) and address them.

Lauren writes:  "I really enjoyed reading your recent post.  I am definitely feeling stuck.  I really thought that once I got out of this abusive situation (marriage) and finished with court that I would be able to start to thrive.  But, I am struggling much more than I anticipated.  Part of that, no doubt, is losing the amazing church community that I had established.  I felt we had to move away in order to be safe.  I really want to feel peace and freedom to set down roots for my daughter and myself."

In my previous post, I gave the "car sliding off the road" analogy.  Lauren's car has slid off and landed in the ditch of doubt, despair, and disbelief.  In other words, life is not meeting her/your expectations and you/she begins to wonder, where is God in all of this? What should I be doing?  Will I ever get "un-stuck"?

The biggest thing needed when stuck here is ENCOURAGEMENT.



The first source of encouragement needs to be from God so that we can  remember Whose we are and Who is in control. GET IN GOD'S WORD.

"I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit - the fruit that will last..."  (John 15:16)

We are CHOSEN.  Forgetting we are chosen leaves us stuck. Claim your inheritance.  Even if you don't "feel" it, "choose" it.

In addition, call upon the Lord. He's listening. Here is His promise of encouragement for those who are stuck.  God's heart is FOR you...

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.

(Psalm 40:1-3 ...my life verse.)

Getting "un-stuck" is a work that the Father will do in us and for us if we ask...He hears our cry!  Our pleas will not go unanswered.  

When I lived outside of Chicago, I was traveling along an icy two lane road with ditches on both sides.  Even though I was going slowly, I hit a pure patch of ice and I soon realized I was going off the road and right smack into a snow bank.

 

I was definitely stuck.  I tried, unsuccessfully, by myself to get my car out of the ditch. Thankfully a couple of drivers stopped to come to my rescue.  One had a big 4 wheel drive truck.  He had a cable that he hooked to my car from the hitch on his truck. The other car had two carpentry fellows heading to a job.  They had wood planks in their vehicle.  

Between the tugging of the big truck, sand underneath my wheels to give them traction, and wooden planks being shoved under my wheels, for leverage, as the two carpenters pushed my car from behind, it wasn't long before I was back on the road again. But, it took a team of encouragers.

When we're stuck we can't go it alone.  We need a "team."

Who is our team?  The body of Christ

Who is the body of Christ?  The Church which is made up of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  

Even if we need to swallow our pride and admit that we need help, we need to run to those who can come alongside us and cheer us on.  This may require hard work on our part - like putting ourselves out there to join a small group or a Sunday School class.  Ask God for the courage.

When I was going through my divorce, I told a few close friends that I REALLY needed their help because I was struggling.  They became my "Perseverance Posse."  They didn't allow me to stay stuck.  They prayed me through. But I had to make myself vulnerable and lose the self-sufficiency way of thinking.  This is healthy dependence.  

Getting un-stuck means setting aside our pride.

Why do we need this team of encouragers?

The enemy of our soul is always prowling about.  He wants nothing more than to isolate us from the pack.  That makes us easy prey.  If he can isolate us, he can more easily destroy us.  He can pour his lies into us and when we're stuck, it's harder to refute them.  

A team of encouragers will remind us of God's Truth and help us hold it up against the enemy's lies.  Being stuck is most definitely a spiritual battle.  One we are bound to lose if we go it alone.  There is safety and comfort in the pack.



Back to my starting point of needing to be in the Word.  

When stuck in a spiritual battle, we need the sword of Truth.  We need to know Whose we are and that God is in control.  We need encouragement.

As I told my new friend Lauren...if she is coming out of an abusive relationship, she could, most definitely, use a Christian counselor, pastor, or mentor.  Though she was physically removed from the abusive relationship, the baggage from years of abuse had not yet been removed from her. 

Sometimes the weight of our "baggage" keeps us stuck.

** Sisters in Christ, if you are in an emotionally, verbally, or physically abusive relationship or marriage, God DOES NOT expect you to submit to this person.  God does not want His precious daughters being used as doormats.  Seek help about getting out if your husband shows no signs of changing...REAL change not empty promises. **

Dear Heavenly Father,  please turn to me and hear my cry.  I'm stuck in the mud and mire and I need You to lift me out with your righteous right hand.  I claim that I am chosen by you and dearly loved.  If you are for me, who can be against me.  Help me to set aside my pride and seek encouragement in your Holy Word and in the body of Christ.  Give me a safe hiding place there.  Hide me underneath your wings and keep me safe from the enemy.  I wait, expectantly and thankfully, for the miracle you are about to perform and the way out you will open for me.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  What is God calling you to do to get "un-stuck."  How can you be an encourager to someone around you who is stuck?  Are you struggling in the stuck and need prayer?  Please feel free to Comment or contact me and I will pray for you.  

Be blessed....

ps.  If you'd like to read more of this "Stuck to "Un-stuck" series, go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above and enter your contact information to receive my weekly blog post (and nothing else).  Be Sure to check your email inbox for a CONFIRMATION LINK that you will have to click to finish your subscription.  Thanks for reading...

Monday, February 17, 2020

Do You Feel Stuck?

Hey Friend,

U2 tickets in hand, we filed into the outdoor stadium.  My teenage son, the drummer, and his older sister loved this band.  You could feel the electricity in the crowd.  

I had hoped to sit next to my kids, but they eagerly led the way into our seats, followed by my husband, followed by me.  It was hard to talk around my husband in order to tap into my own U2 fans' exuberance.  I wanted to embrace this family moment, but once again, I was literally and figuratively on the outside looking in.  

My husband's back was to me most of the concert and hardly a word was spoken.  When the stage lighting went dark, and you could sense the climax of the concert crescendoing, cell phone flashlights and lighters lit up the circular bowl of humanity. Silence punctuated by thousands of tiny twinkling lights lit up the stadium.



The setting was ethereal as Bono launched into their signature song, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."  There, among 60,000 people, I never felt so alone in all my life.  No one saw the tears running down my cheeks as I sang and asked God, "Why haven't I found what I'm looking for...someone (my husband) to really love me?"

For many years, I had felt stuck in a loveless and often toxic marriage. I wondered if just being alone would have been better than being in a marriage and feeling this loneliness?  I wondered if God had forgotten me?  Despair, disbelief, and disillusion had settled in like a wet blanket over my life. 

I truly felt stuck in the struggle.  "Lord, I want to be un-stuck...help me," I plead.

Within a few months time, my husband was gone.  He up and left.  

I wanted a husband who loves me...not a husband who leaves.  

I have found, driving down this highway called life, that the road is often laiden with potholes, filled with scattered debris, covered in snow, or clogged with angry drivers that cause me/us to sway, swerve, and sometimes we end up stuck in a ditch on the left side of the road. 

 

This ditch we find ourselves stuck in can be called "Sin."  It's a "stuck" of our own making.  What's needed is God's correction and repentance is key. Asking, "Father, forgive me," can unleash His mighty power.

But perhaps you've swerved off into the culvert on the right.  

This valley you find yourself stuck in can be called "Disbelief" - it's often linked with doubt and despair.  What's needed is God's encouragement.  Also needed is the encouragement and support of fellow believers. Now is not the time to go it alone. 

Or maybe, you're still on the road, but you're "stuck" in a traffic jam.  

This is the path and stuck of "Stagnation."  There's no forward movement or progress.  Apathy and restlessness can accompany this form of "stuck."  You wonder if God's moving, even if you're not?

Do you feel stuck in the struggle?  Are you wrestling with sin or in doubt and  disbelief that the struggle will never end?  Does your faith life feel stale, stagnant, and like you're standing still?  If so you are NOT alone.  

These verses from Psalm 40: 1-3 have become my life verse.  You see, I've experienced many "seasons of stuck" and God has been faithful to never leave nor forsake me.  He is truly, the God who stays. 

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the muck and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear (be in awe of) the Lord
and put their trust in him.



In upcoming weeks, I want to delve deeper into the phenomenon of being "stuck." The goal is to become "un-stuck." Would you dare to be vulnerable and share where and with what you are feeling stuck?  What are you feeling?  Questioning? Do you wonder if God's moving even if you're not? 

If you've managed to get "un-stuck," would you share what helped you the most?  I want to be able to address the deepest needs.  Thank you in advance for sharing in the Comments or email me:  bevritter413@gmail.com.  I'd be honored to pray for you!

Be blessed....
 

Ps.  If you would like to receive my weekly blog posts (and nothing else), go to the SUBSCRIBE tab and enter your contact information.

BE SURE to look for the CONFIRMATION EMAIL that will arrive in your in inbox.  Click on the link provided to confirm your subscription.  Thanks for reading...


Sunday, February 9, 2020

Why Are We All So Easily Offended?

Hey Friend,

I had just finished having a delightful lunch with a good friend.  After paying our bill, we got up from the table and headed toward the front door.  We were saying our goodbyes, promising it wouldn't be so long in between get-togethers, when I realized I was heading out into the cold and I had no coat.

"Silly me," I giggled.  "I guess I'm just having a 'blonde' moment."  My friend, also a blonde, joined in the laughter. 

"Excuse me," a curt voice sliced into our laughter.  "I'm a natural blonde and I'm offended by your remark!"

Kind of dumbfounded, I looked at my friend with raised eyebrows.  Is this woman serious? I wondered?  I was just having a little fun at my own expense.  I used to be a natural blonde, though chemistry has been an essential aid in recent years.  I didn't mean to offend. I was simply not taking myself so seriously. 

Since then, I've been pondering...why are we all so easily offended these days?



Here's my hypothesis: I believe that a repeated pattern of being offended is symptomatic of harboring a victim mentality.

Could it be that, as a society in general, we've chosen to be victims instead of victorious overcomers?

What creates the victim mentality?  

I believe that victims are those who are wrestling with their faith and their identity.  I think that describes a lot of people.

If we don't find our identity in Christ (being seen as perfect through the sacrificial blood of Christ) we don't know that in Christ we are more than conquerors.



If we don't find our identity in Christ, chances are we are looking for worldly success and approval from others to fill the voids only intended for God to fill. When we look to the world and it doesn't meet our needs, we get offended.

When we are outwardly critical, it often signals that we are inwardly jealous or insecure. 

If we aren't secure in WHOSE we are, then we will take every opportunity to put others down in order to lift ourselves up.

Does this sound at all familiar in 2020?

The victim mentality says that we should blame others for our circumstances.

Our environment and life events do affect us, but at some point we need to accept our role and responsibility in the circumstances of our life.  Not everything that happens to us is someone else's fault. If life has dealt you a bad hand, you have to decide how you're going to play it.

The victim mentality says, "The world revolves around me."  

I believe we've forgotten that we are to live a sacrificial life and serve others.  This is the example Jesus modeled for us.  The key to having JOY is to think of Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself third.  J-O-Y....JOY!

Have we, as a society, gotten this backwards??  YOJ??  Have I gotten it backwards?  I'm in this society.

The victim mentality overlooks God's blessings.

When we live our lives to an audience of One and seek the approval and favor of God and not man, it's amazing how we are then able to CHOOSE not to be offended and instead, choose gratitude.  We can opt to be blessed vs. continually offended. 

There was something to be said for saying the Pledge of Allegiance in our classrooms.



It reminded us that we are One Nation Under God... not warring factions looking out, only, for ourselves.   

We are to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)

I don't know about you, but I keep running into a lot of angry people.  People who are easily offended.  People who desperately need to find their faith and their identity in God.  I am guilty as well.  We need to turn from our evil ways. God's word tells us how He loves a humble and contrite heart.

God has been calling to us from days of old:

I [Lord] said, "Here I am, here I am," 
to a Nation that did not call on my name.
"I spread out my hands all day long
to a rebellious people
who walk in the path that is not good,
following their own thoughts..."
(Isaiah 65:1b-2)

God is always there waiting to welcome us back into his arms, continually wooing us with His love.  He's ready to wrap us in His loving comfort and let us know that He is our God if we'll have Him.  He is patient and longsuffering - not wanting for any to remain lost. 

Come...there is a healing balm in Gilead that frees the sin sick soul.

Dear Heavenly Father,  Forgive us O Lord for our evil ways.  May we turn away from our sins and return to You.  You alone are our rock and our salvation.  Let us find our joy in knowing we are your beloved and you sent your Son to die for us.  Let that knowledge wipe away any offense from our minds and hearts.  Lead us on the path that leads to life everlasting.  Let us be a people that are for you and for others - not just our own vain pursuits.  Let us love others like you first loved us.  Give us the grace to take ourselves lightly.  Humble us. We praise you for you are merciful, indeed.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

What about you?  Are you easily angered?  Easily offended?  What do you think is at the root of our prickliness as a society?  What can you, as one person, do?
Will you share your thoughts?

Be blessed...



ps.  If you appreciated what you've read here today, might you want to SUBSCRIBE to my weekly blog posts (and nothing else)?  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above and fill in your contact information.  Be sure to look for a CONFIRMATION LINK in you email inbox.  Check your spam filter if you don't see it.  Thanks for reading!


Sunday, February 2, 2020

Does God REALLY Love Me?

Hey Friend,

I can vividly remember the pages in my childhood Sunday School books and bibles.  There were pictures of Jesus, arms outstretched, beckoning the little children to come to Him.  A warm sunny halo surrounded Him and there was a tender, welcoming smile on His face.  I felt like Jesus really loved me.  I could sing these words and mean it:

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
The Bible tells me so.



But God loving me?  That was a different story.  In this triune Godhead, I could relate to God the Son (God made man), but God the Father intimidated me.  I viewed God as this mighty, powerful, omniscient, authority figure who, quite frankly, always sat in judgment and scared me more than a little bit.

I was in awe of His Creation, but from early on when He caught Adam and Eve in their sin in the Garden, to wanting to destroy everything He had made in the great flood, to causing a long list of plagues, I wasn't so certain that I could cozy up to God. More than anything, I think I feared Him.  I was certain that He was disappointed in me...all the times I'd failed.

For many years, God was just kind of there, on a shelf, in the bookcase of my life.  That was until I found myself face down sobbing in my pillow and writhing with anxiety and depression.  

Deep down, I was mad at God.  I wanted my first baby so desperately, but I couldn’t enjoy her.  Anxiety, along with fear, worry, and depression had a stranglehold on me.  The family doctor said it was most likely post-partum depression and, given time, it would pass.  It didn’t.

I could call out to Jesus, but I couldn't bring myself to call out to God.  God still remained this aloof, judgmental father figure that I just couldn't relate to. More than anything I needed to know that He loved me.  I needed Him to wipe the guilt and shame from my life.  I needed to know He wasn't disappointed in me.  I needed the assurance of His love.



I had tried to get to know God in my own power, in my own way.  I went to church.  I worshiped Him. I sang about Him.  I studied Him.  I served Him, but I don't think I loved Him and I wasn't sure if He really loved me and I desperately needed to know that He did.

That's when I heard God speak.  Not audibly, but a voice rose up in my heart and, with a solid nudge, urged, "Just ask."

I don't remember the exact words, but my prayer went something like this...

"Dear Heavenly Father...ummm...no...Dear God,  I want to know you.  I need to know you.  I need to know you love me.  I've tried, but I can't muster up a feeling of you loving me.  I need YOU to work that TRUTH deep into my soul until I know without a doubt that your love for me is furious, tender, and unconditional. I can't do it on my own.  I need YOU to do it.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen."

That simple, gut-wrenching, heartfelt prayer was the catalyst that began to change my life.  It wasn't instantaneous.  It wasn't over night, but I know that prayer opened the door for God to do a mighty work in my life. I began to discover and live out the sole reason and purpose for God creating me...to be in relationship with Him.

Thus began a tender love story... 

I learned that Asking God was not a sign of weakness, but one of strength and faith.



I had invited Jesus into my life to be my Lord and Savior some twenty years before, and now, for the first time, I was asking God in to be with me and work in me.  I needed His enabling strength and power. I wanted to REALLY know Him.

"ASK" was the verb that I had been needing to employ all along.  

Verses like these began to spring off the pages of the bible to me:

Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say,'Show us the Father'?"  (John 14:9)

I needed to stop striving, performing, attempting to earn God's love.  Instead I needed, simply to abide in Him.  

"Abiding in Him is not a work that we have to do as the condition for enjoying His salvation, but a consenting to let Him do all for us, and in us and through us.  It is a work He does for us - the fruit and power of His redeeming love.  Our part is simply to yield, to trust, and to wait for what He has engaged to perform."  - from Abide in Christ

It's been over twenty-five years since I called out to God and asked.  He's been working the TRUTH that I am dearly loved into my life ever since. Like a baker, He's been kneading His love into the dough of my soul. It hasn't been easy.  He's had to toss out a lot of guilt and shame.  I've had to wrestle with doubt and disappointment.  I've even cursed Him a time or two, but I have learned that my God, is the God who stays.  No matter what.

The life lessons in faith have been many and the road, long.  I am working on a book that highlights my journey that has brought me to, and helped me over, hurdles like: learning to see God, and His love, through Jesus; discovering the reason I was created; overcoming guilt and condemnation; living victoriously with physical and emotional suffering; surviving divorce; kicking the enemy to the curb; conquering pride, perfectionism, and people-pleasing. There is power in knowing God's great love for me - power to cast out fear. I've been learning to live with abandon and walk in freedom. 

Victoriously hurdling these obstacles has always been propelled by the same word - "ASK."  

I'm asking YOU, my reader, if this is a book you would want to pick up and read? It would be the antithesis to any "self-help" book since it would be a "God-help" book. Have you ever been plagued by this same question - Does God REALLY love me? Do you struggle with how to harness the power of His love?  Do you long to enjoy God?

Would you like to be better able to deal with the trials and struggles in your life? What do you struggle with most? Would you like to know how you, too, can tap into God's love in order to cast out fear, transform your life, and live with abandon? I could really use your input. Would you share? 

Please leave a comment or feel free to email me:  bevritter413@gmail.com

I'd love to hear from you...be blessed...

ps.  If you have enjoyed what you read, here, today, might you want to SUBSCRIBE to my weekly blog (and nothing else)?  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab, enter your contact information.  Be sure to check your INBOX for a CONFIRMATION EMAIL with a link to confirm your subscription.  Check your SPAM filter as it may get caught in there.  Thanks for reading...

Monday, January 20, 2020

Do You Have "Older Brother Syndrome?"

Hey Friend,

Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with the parable of the Prodigal Son.  Jesus told this, and other, parables to the crowds that gathered, but his main focus, with this parable, was the Pharisees.  

The Pharisees were not unlike the older brother in the Prodigal Son story.  The older brother is bemoaning the fact that his younger, reckless brother went off and squandered his share of the inheritance on wine, women, and song.  

After finding himself out of cash and out of luck, sitting among the pigs, the younger brother decides he needs to humble himself and come on home.  He barely turns the corner to head down the road to the house when he sees his father running toward him.  (Jewish elders never ran).  His father calls for a beautiful robe for the son who has returned.  He orders that the servants kill the fattened calf because they are going to throw a BIG party!



Meanwhile, older brother who is sulking, questions his father, "What about me?  I've been here all along.  I never ran out on you or deserted you.  I've followed all the rules and have adhered to your commands. I've never strayed.  Where's my party?"

I have to admit my guilt on this one.  I've caught myself moaning to God..."What about me, Lord?  I've faithfully read your Word and I've always tried to follow your precepts.  I haven't committed any major sins and I follow your commands.  Where is my blessing?"

Then comes the one upping my neighbor.  "Lord, look at my neighbor he/she has all sorts of material blessings.  Her family is perfect.  They have no illness to battle.  He makes enough to have a house at the beach and they don't even go to church.  They don't even volunteer in this community.  What's with that?"

We tend to rate sins.  On a scale of one to ten, murder is a #10.  Adultery, perhaps an #8 or #9.  Lying is a #2.  Idol worship may be somewhere in between.  

Where does the sin of "pride" come in?  

We tend to rate the sin of pride as a #2 or #3 at the most, but I think God sees it as a #10+.  It is a sneaky and insidious sin that entraps most of us at some point.  

Whoever keeps the whole law, but stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.  (James 2:10)

Similarly, if we have a long line of chain links connected together, we could say that the prodigal son was guilty of breaking many sins (or links) in the chain.  He broke the line in many places.

But if we only break one link (sin) in the chain, is the whole chain still not broken?

Pride is a chain breaker.  

As we celebrate this Martin Luther King day, our "Older Brother Syndrome" can transition from our "sins" to our "prejudices".  We may think that we are better than others when it comes to our prejudices....at least I don't ________.  I've never __________.  I don't show hatred like the other person does.  



I dare you to take a long hard look at yourself. I've been doing this.  Is your pride showing?  If you think your color is better than someone else's, if you think your political affiliation is better than someone else's, if you think you are, in any way, better than someone else, then perhaps you're suffering from "Older Brother Syndrome."

Pride is probably the most insidious of all the sins because the tendrils of self-righteousness easily ensnare us.  Oh how we like to think we are "better than," or "would never _______."

I know I've been guilty, and I continually need to come before the Lord and ask Him to wipe the ridiculous smirk of pride off my face and open my eyes to loving others as I love myself.  

God created such beauty and diversity.  What joy we have to take it all in and learn from each other's paths.  In doing so, we usher in God's Kingdom here on earth.

Happy Martin Luther King Day.

Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for the sins I've committed - especially the sin of pride.  Help me to see that I am loved no more or no less than any of the other people you have created. Cleanse me of all self-righteousness. It is ONLY through the cleansing blood of your Son that I am made righteous in your eyes.  In your mercy, you attribute to me, the righteousness of Christ Jesus.  Enable me to take a long hard look at myself and if there is any way that I think that I am "better than"...nip that pride in the bud and forgive me for the error of my thinking.  Let me sow seeds of love, not hatred.  It is in Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Do you have "older brother syndrome"?  Is your pride showing?  Might God be calling you to repentance?  Why is it hard for us to humble ourselves?  What's your takeaway from this post?

Be blessed... 

ps.  If you have enjoyed what you've read here today, might you consider SUBSCRIBING to my blog?  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above, enter your contact information and then BE SURE TO CHECK YOUR INBOX for an email with a confirmation link that you need to click on to finalize your subscription.  You'll only get my weekly blog post and you can cancel at any time.  Thanks for reading!!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A Tale of Tears and Timbers

Hey Friend,

"The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.  So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth.  It broke his heart.  And the Lord said, "I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth.  Yes, I will destroy every living thing - all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky.  I am sorry I ever made them."  But Noah found favor with the Lord.  (Genesis 6: 5-8)

It occurred to me that ever since I was a little girl and heard the story of Noah, I had fixed my mind on the fact that God wanted to destroy every living thing.  If you really wanted to sum up the story...I may have told you, "The whole world was wicked and so God wanted to destroy it all." 

The part I kept overlooking was the sentence, "It broke his heart." 

I can think on times as a parent that my children, whom I love dearly, did things that broke my heart.  It wasn't that I was angry with them, it was more that I wanted the very best for them and by their disobedience they wound up doing things that ushered in harsh consequences.  It was at those times that my heart grieved. This wasn't what I wanted for them. I wanted so much more. My heart of love wanted abundance for them.

I am learning that God has a heart...and it hurts.  It hurts with what hurts us.

Perhaps the Great Flood was millions of tear drops of sacred ache.  Maybe the expanses of water that covered the whole earth were slow drips of sadness from the omniscient eyes of God.  Perhaps the floodgates of God's grieving heart burst open and every crevice of the earth filled with the sheer weight of His brokenness. 



The Flood was the flood of God's grief born of love.

God in His love and goodness, had mercy on His creation and so He made a way with the rough hewn timbers of the ark for Noah, his family, and two of every creature He'd created, to find their way to safety and salvation.  

God's love outlasted His grief.

God could have wiped the world clean and washed His hands of the mess, but He chose to keep suffering along with His creation.

God then gave His people the Covenant of the Old Testament.  On tablets He gave His people laws to obey that would lead to freedom.  Keep the ten commandments and be able to live in communion with the Alpha and the Omega.  

But no, His people grieved His heart, not once, but many times.  God, instead of sending an ark, fashioned a cradle of holy timbers that would hold this God-made-flesh Savior in its arms. 



God looked at the world and once again, His heart broke.  Tears fell and He knew He had to bring heaven down to earth.

God chose to come and live among His people as Jesus Christ the Son.  He put on human flesh and He endured human pain and suffering.  As an infant Jesus wept.  He knew pain from hunger and cold.  He grew to know the pain of being ostracized and hated.  When His friend died, Jesus didn't preach...He wept.  

In His ministry Jesus was mocked, betrayed, lied to, forsaken, abandoned, beaten, broken, hated, forgotten...He experienced heartbreak from a complete human perspective.  He cried real human tears.  

God the Father grieved once again.  He had sent His Son, but the world rejected Him.  He sent a Savior and the crowds yelled, "Crucify Him!"

Jesus was stripped, beaten, flogged and inhumanely nailed to the timbers that made the cross.  While His Son died the cruelest death, God wept.  The love that poured down from God's broken heart was like holy water to our parched souls.  The flood of Christ's blood made white our sinful stains.



Ann Voskamp writes, "On that Cross, they speared His side and pierced straight into His heart, filled with pain, and it was the water and blood of His broken heart that gushed right out, a flood of love."  (excerpt from "The Greatest Gift")

In everything God has done, the motivation has always been love.  Love that came not in sparse drips, but in raging and fierce floods.  Because we broke God's heart, He opened up the ark, the cradle, and the cross.  Because He loves us so much He allowed His holy heart to break in two and make a way for us to draw near.

It's a tale of tears and timbers from a God of love who cannot deny Himself.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your heart of love for me.  Thank you for hurting when I hurt.  Thank you for being willing to grieve the loss of your precious Son so that I could be with you forever.  Forgive me for thinking that you are an angry God that keeps score of my sins.  Let me see the God of love that would flood the earth with water and flood the souls of man with Christ's blood so that we would be saved.  From the cradle to the cross nothing can hold you and no expanse is too great to encompass your great love.  Let my own tears remind me of all the tears you've shed over me and lift my head to gaze into your eyes of love for me.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  What misconceptions have you had about God?  Do you see Him as a God of anger or a God of love?  Do you believe that God grieves over you and all of creation; that He endured the pain of sending His Son for us because of unfathomable love?  How does that change you this Christmas?

Be blessed...

ps.  Congrats' to Amy D. and Judy K. - winners in the "Women of Courage" book drawing.  It's still not too late to give the gift of love, joy, and hope to the children of Redeemer Christian School.  No amount is too small to make a huge impact.  Visit our Giving Page...thank you.

http://bit.ly/FirstFruitsRCF












Have you enjoyed what you've read, here, today?  Subscribe and get my weekly blog (and nothing else).  Just click on Subscribe above.  Enter your contact information.  Then be sure to click the CONFIRMATION LINK that will come in email form (check your spam filter if you don't see it).  You can unsubscribe at any time.  Thanks for reading...Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 2, 2019

My Heart Yearned For the Light

Hey Friend,

I checked my gear one last time, switched on the lamp on my helmet, and glanced back over my shoulder one last time, squinting at the sunshine streaming into the entrance of the cave. 




One by one we headed into the opening in the rocks.  As a camp counselor at a Christian camp, this was a pre-camp opportunity.  I'd always wanted to try spelunking, but until now, hadn't had the opportunity.  I listened intently to our guide's instructions, lest I be labeled a "cave-buffoon" for doing something utterly stupid.  We would all have to work together.

We repelled down rocky crags that took us deeper and deeper into the belly of the cave. In some passages we belly crawled, like a long, slow moving centipede, snaking our way through the narrow tunnels.  We deliberately and meticulously chose our steps in order to push through tight openings.  




Just when I thought we had to be heading into a dead end, the narrow artery opened up into a huge vaulted chamber.  I pointed my headlamp around in order to take in my surroundings.  The clusters of sharp pointed daggers (or stalactites) hung precariously from the ceiling above me.  Millions of slow calcium carbonate drips had crystalized over time, forming these ominous structures.  




The waterfall-like limestone flows varied in size and looked eerily translucent and radiated a certain blue-green fluorescence when the light shone upon them.  

The presence of light illuminated this dark underworld and made the widely varying speleothem (cave formations) come alive.  Stalactites, stalagmites, gypsum flowers, helictites, cave pearls, water-filled sumps, popcorn, and a whole host of artistic creations left me breathless. 




At this point in our journey we took a break and our guide invited us to gather around in a circle.  His voiced echoed off the walls.  "One by one I want you to turn off your headlamps.  Go slowly," he directed.  

When only one or two lamps went dark, it didn't make a huge difference, but halfway around our circle of light-going-dark, the light in the cavern noticeably dimmed.  Finally we were down to one lamp still lighted.  As long as this lamp stayed lit, there was hope.  We could see our guide, each other, our way out.

The last lamp went out and our guide said, "You are now experiencing absolute and complete absence of light...utter darkness."  I felt my chest tighten a bit and my breathing became more shallow.  The longer it remained dark and I felt the nothingness envelope me, I heard mysterious sounds and began to feel discomfort that bumped up against fear.  My heart grew anxious for the light to return.  

Anxious anticipation grew into yearning and desperation for the light to shine once again. Seconds seemed like hours. How long was I going to have to remain in the dark?  I wanted the light.  I wanted it NOW!  

Our guide's deep voice broke the silence. He spoke deliberately, "Once again, Jesus spoke to the people and said, 'I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12) 

He continued, voice calm and authoritative in the darkness, "The Light shines in the darkness, and darkness has not overcome it."  (John 1:5)

"Know this," he continued, But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)


By this point, I was literally shaking.  I wanted the light back.  I yearned for the light that I too often took for granted.  It struck me that I have "The Light" (Jesus and His Word) always available to me, yet, I ignore Him and I get sidetracked and forget to pick up my Bible.  I choose darkness. That thought scared me.

I needed to yearn for "Jesus the Light" like I was yearning for light to break the unbearable darkness in the cave.

This Advent season, I NEED the light of Christ in my life.  I look around me and the world is becoming more and more like utter darkness and absence of light. The headlamps are going out.  I've become somewhat numb to the evil that prevails in our culture.  Wrong has become right, evil has become good, death has become life, and "true north" has ceased to exist. I need to do my part to not let the light be snuffed out...




Dear Jesus, please come.  Make your home in my heart and teach me to abide in You.  Teach me your precepts.  O how I long to dwell in your holy word.  Let me hunger and yearn for it like I yearn for the light in the darkness.  Your word is a lamp unto my feet and your love is hope for my dying heart.  Renew in me a spirit that is on fire for you and that revels in the joy that your salvation brings. Let me bask in Advent - the glorious moment before the miracle. Jesus, I adore you.  Have mercy on me.  Thank you for being God with me...Emmanuel.  It's in your precious name I pray.  Amen.

What about you? Are you actively choosing to live in the "Light"?  If not, what keeps you from doing so?  Do priorities need to change?  What does Jesus coming into the world mean to you, personally?  Will you share...

Be blessed...




ps.  If you have enjoyed what you read, here today, might you consider SUBSCRIBING to my weekly blog?  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above and enter your contact information.  Be sure to check your EMAIL for a CONFIRMATION LINK you will need to click on to confirm your subscription. Be sure to check your SPAM FILTER. Thanks for reading...

Sign up by Dec. 5th and you will automatically be entered to WIN THIS: