Friday, April 2, 2021

Good Friday Confessions of a "Good Girl"

Hey Friend,

The scripture from Matthew, detailing Jesus's crucifixion on Good Friday, echoed off the battleship-grey cinderblock walls. I secretly watched the women seated around me squirm in their metal folding chairs as our Bible study leader read the searing words aloud.

These were convicting words being read to convicts. Their crimes ranged from drug offenses, to extortion and fraud, all the way to aggravated assault and homicide. But, the extreme beauty of these women is they knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, they needed a Savior. Meeting in a Bible study, made possible through Prison Fellowship, was their lifeline to confronting, and moving beyond, their past.




I'd heard the Easter story every since I was young enough to attend Sunday School class. Visions of felt board characters showing Jesus in the garden, Jesus on the cross, and Jesus risen from the empty grave meandered into the forefront of my conscience.

As I listened to the inmates share stories of abuse, abortion, and missing their babies outside the prison walls, I realized what a stark contrast lay between my conscience and theirs.

You see, I pretty much played the role of the "good girl" in my early life. I was the consummate people-pleaser. I colored inside the lines; stayed out of the principal's office; didn't curse, drink, smoke, or do drugs. So when the subject of Jesus dying for my sins came up, I secretly had this notion He died more for other people's sins -- the really big sins like adultery, robbery, and murder, than for mine.

Maybe that's why Good Friday didn't really undo me and then leave me awestruck until I was quite a bit older. I was forty-three when I saw Mel Gibson's very graphic depiction of Jesus's crucifixion in The Passion of the Christ.





Watching spikes (not nails) being driven into the sinewy flesh of Christ's hands and feet, and blood-laced sweat pour from His brow; witnessing the raw skin and bone torn open on His back -- that's when I saw my sin for what it truly was for the very first time, and only then did I feel the tremendous weight of my transgressions which ushered in the utter sweetness of my salvation. 

Crouched and hidden in a dark theatre, tears welled up and then burned down my cheeks as this self-described "good girl" took inventory of the sin she had glossed over for so many years. Conviction grabbed hold of my heart and made it impossible for me to believe Christ died only for those with sins more grave than mine. My sins had broken His body -- not just someone else's.

Daring to look more closely, self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, as well as endless earning, striving, performing, and people-pleasing jumped out like a glowing neon sign -- PRIDE! I think pride is perhaps the ugliest sin of all -- when we think we can be like Jesus without Jesus.

And what about the times I had heaped guilt upon myself when I said or did something I regretted. Me, beating myself up, was not God-honoring -- just the opposite. It was like I was saying Jesus paying the price for my sin was not sufficient, and therefore God needed me to do something above and beyond what Christ had already done for me. Pride, once again, reared its ugly head.

And then there was the perfectionist/controlling part of me. I thought I was in God's good graces because I tried extra hard to be perfect and I sought to have control over my life. I had missed, or perhaps skimmed over, the verses that said:

For ALL (emphasis mine) have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)  

And this:

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do NOTHING (emphasis mine)." (John 15:5)

And finally:

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6)





I was not unlike the women I met with, and set myself above, in prison. In fact, they were far ahead of me because they realized how desperately they needed a Savior. I was still being made a prisoner by my own pride.

Until His sacrifice met me where I lived, until I recognized I was a rebel and a far cry from felt-board Jesus, I was unable to understand and claim the grace and power which defied death and overcame the grave.

Jesus didn't go to the cross for good girls and boys. He went for sinners -- sinners like me. Grasping the depth of His love which paid a debt I could never ever pay humbles me and brings me to my knees. 

Oh, what a Savior, oh what grace that saved a wretch like me...





Dear Heavenly Father, Please forgive me for my arrogance and pride that kept me from knowing the utter sweetness of my salvation. You laid down your life for me -- for my sins. Thank you loving me so much you couldn't bear to live without me. Let that sink into my stubborn spirit. Thank you for declaring I belong to You. What a friend I have in you, Jesus! I praise you nothing can change the way you love me -- nothing can separate me from your love. You broke the chains that held me. Your forgiveness is like honey on my lips. Let them declare your love, power, and glory all of my days. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you? Have you ever taken Jesus death on the cross for granted? Why is that? How can you go forward and live a life that points others to Jesus? How does Good Friday and the power of the risen Christ change your life? Your outlook? Will you share?

Be blessed....




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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Open House, GIVEAWAY & Upcoming Posts

Welcome to my Blog Open House...





I've been doing some major spring cleaning and sprucing up. Like my home spring cleaning, this was long overdue. Funny how we said if we had more time we'd get to all those little unfinished projects. Then, COVID hit. We had more time on our hands, but ironically those projects -- at least my projects, still remain on the "to-do" list. 

So, here we are...here you are...and here are a few things to check out while you're here:

WELCOME TO MY "NEW AND IMPROVED BLOG!!" Check out the updated info on all the tabs above. This is what makes me want to get up each day. Read about a ministry in "Missions" that is shining a bright light in a dark corner of the world. Click on the two devotional pictures on the sidebar and you can easily order a special devotional gift for someone for Easter or Mother's Day!!

WRITER FRIENDS - CHECK OUT THE BLOGS I FOLLOW - YOUR BLOG MAY BE FEATURED?! I love sharing your words with my readers. If you aren't on the current "Blogs I Follow" list, email me and let me know you'd like to be added to the rotating list. I want my readers to be encouraged at YOUR site! We're all arrows pointing to the same Lord and Savior.

GIVEAWAY TIME: 

SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG OR leave a message on Facebook or Instagram and automatically be entered to win a copy of Take Heart - 100 devotions to seeing God when life's not okay. (US and Canada only) Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above. Go to CONNECT WITH ME to comment on Facebook or Instagram. Good luck!
 
 



Look for upcoming posts in this series:

~What to Do When God Says, "Wait"     

~When God Finally Says, "Go"

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Thanks so much for stopping by...

Be blessed...





Sunday, February 28, 2021

When God Says, "No" - Plus GIVEAWAY

WELCOME TO MY "NEW AND IMPROVED BLOG!!" Check out the updated info on all the tabs above. This is what makes me want to get up each day. Click on the two devotional pictures in the sidebar and you can easily order a a special gift for someone for Easter or Mother's Day!!

WRITER FRIENDS - CHECK OUT THE BLOGS I FOLLOW - YOUR BLOG MAY BE FEATURED. I love sharing your words with my readers. If you aren't on the current "Blogs I Follow" list, email me and let me know you'd like to be added to the rotating list.

Grab a cup of java and read one of my recent posts below. I'm so glad you're here. 

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Hey Friends,


I had been gathering "life research" for almost sixty years. I'd journalled, written blog posts, and stored up experiences and lessons in my mind, all the while asking God, "Is it time, yet?" To which He'd whisper to my heart, "Not yet."

So, when I got this undeniable nudge, from God, in the early months of 2020 to begin writing the book which had been churning around inside me, this thoroughbred hit the dirt running as if the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby had suddenly been thrown open.

COVID-19 hit and I buckled down even more - almost glad to have more time to write without distraction. I was blessed to participate in an awesome but grueling book proposal bootcamp. For months, I forgot to eat meals and the hours flew by as I hunkered down writing words I was certain God ordained for me to write. 

I'd dreamed of being a writer since I was a little girl and here, just before my 60th birthday, it was going to come true. Except it didn't. Ultimately, seven writers' proposals were chosen for potential publication. Mine wasn't one of them. 

"Why, God?" I whined. That's not fair I thought to myself. I'd sacrificed a lot and had put many important relationships on "hold" to pursue what I was certain was God's calling. It made no sense. Why would God call me to it only to just say, "No?"




When God says, "No," our reaction is to think He's not being fair. 

As my dad used to say, "Fair is where you go to get cotton candy." (grumble, grumble)

If I was a writer for a magazine and my editor asked me to write a story for the upcoming edition then told me she wasn't going to print it, I would be justified in saying, "That's not fair."

But, God is not my employer and I'm not His employee. He is my Father and I am His child and that changes things dramatically. Sometimes Fatherly love and wisdom together equal a "no." I need only remember times Ive said "no" to my children - not because I wanted to steal there joy but because I saw the bigger picture. Perhaps I was protecting them from something, or perhaps my "no" was leading to an even more important "yes." I knew better because I was the parent.

As God's children we don't get everything we ask for because we don't really know what's best for us. 

Here are a few categories in which God says, "No.":

1. Sin: God will always say "no" to sin. We're not just talking about the "big" sins like murder, stealing, or adultery. Actually sin is sin and it's the more insidious sins like jealousy, pride, anger, or wrong attitudes that trip us up. It's not a sin to experience anger, but if I lash out at my husband because of how I feel, that's sin. Or, if someone wrongs me and I harbor unforgiveness because I feel justified in clinging to my grudge, I'm sinning. 

God gives us the guardrails of His Word. When we obey and stay within their confines we experience joy. 





When God says, "No" to our sin, He is fighting for our ultimate joy.

2. Comfort: God often says, "No" to our comfort. We are to make ourselves "living sacrifices" according to God's Word (Romans 12:1). I admit I have tried to wiggle off the sacrificial altar a time or ten. When I have to choose between my comfort or dying to my comfort, it's not fun. God is asking whether I will choose self or am I willing to dye to self? Sacrifice is not comfortable.

I can relay many stories about experiencing anything but comfort. If given a choice, I imagine few of us would choose pain and suffering over comfort and happiness. Hindsight is 20/20. When I look back over those times, it is clear God was in the process of humbling me or transforming me. In Luke 9:23 we are encouraged to take up our cross: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Taking up our cross will not be comfortable.

We won't experience true Life unless we die to self.

3.  Dreams: God will occassionally say, "No" to dreams. When this happens, like it did to me, we want to shout, "Why?" - especially if we feel we are in line with His will. This is when we have to embrace perhaps the hardest challenge - to look beyond the "WHY" and focus on the "WHO" saying, "No." 

Why? = Focus on me.      Who? = Focus on God.

When I focus on what I don't get, I've forgotten about what I have already received.

I have received the very best "YES" - my salvation which I did not deserve.

I deserved death, but God said, "NO" to death and "YES" to life for me.

Jesus, literally sweating blood, begged His Father to be spared from the cup of a tortuous death on the cross and God gave a "no" that forever changed the world. We can measure God's compassion by the cross - the seizmic "no" that threw open wide the gates of heaven for us.





God doesn't need to explain Himself to me. Perhaps I need to embrace the answer I didn't want because it is leading to joy beyond my wildest imagination. Or maybe, I need to embrace the "no" because I am being transformed into Christ's image and He accepted the greatest "no" that was ever given...for me.

Dear Heavenly Father, You have given me so many blessings. Enable me to accept the "no's" graciously. I praise you I have an eternal "yes" because Jesus accepted the greatest "no" in order to save me. Teach me to respond as Jesus did, "Not my will, but Yours be done." Let me dwell in your Word so that I may be obedient in obeying your commands and run from sin. Help me not to value my comfort too greatly and be willing to serve others by sacrificing my time, talent, and treasure. I acknowledge your "no" may be paving the way to a greater "yes." But, even if not, let me humbly accept your sovereignty, mystery, and unfathomable goodness, even when my dream is not answered in the affirmative. Let me lean into the "Who" and forget the "Why?" It is in the precious name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

What about you...has God ever said "no" to you? What was your reaction? Was God trying to protect you? Transform you? Humble you? Do you ever squirm under the call to be a living sacrifice? Any lessons you've learned that you'd care to share?  

Be Blessed...

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Thursday, February 11, 2021

How Can I Smile at the Future?

Hey Friend,

For several months I've felt like the character Tom Hanks plays in the movie Castaway. Hanks, a FedEx troubleshooter stranded on an uninhabited island after his plane crashes in the South Pacific, has one friend on the entire island - "Wilson" - played by a Wilson volleyball.

My situation hasn't been that dire, since the refrigerator is only steps away, but I have been alone with "Dell," my laptop, in my writer's world - gritting it out in a book proposal bootcamp. I developed a pinched nerve in my elbow from all the clicking away on Dell's keys. I haven't seen or talked to friends in months. It's been a focused, awesome, grueling, lonely existence.

After going from 1000 to 100, I found out on Monday that I didn't make the final seven who will most likely go on to having their books published. I won't lie - the disappointment hit hard especially due to the sacrifice of missed time with those I love. 





I'm leaning in to find out what God would have me learn from this whole experience. Afterall, it was at His nudging...no...His shoving that got me started writing this book in the first place. What up, God?

Most of my life, I have entertained the notion that I've got to be continually on the move building God's kingdom. Everything I do has to have an eternal good purpose. Talk about self-pressure?!

I can't remember the last time I read a fiction book for pleasure. Is this what God wants for me?

I also admit to feeling an urgency in sharing the hope that is in me because I believe the days are evil and numbered. I don't see the rapture being some far off event seen only in the distance of the high beams. 

Jesus implores us to be ready for His coming which could happen at any time (Mark 13:33-37). What response are we to have? This is what I gleaned from a recent rereading of Revelation:

1.  Obedience: We are to be living in obedience to God's word. We are to not only be hearers of His word, but faithful doers. This chaotic and lost world is watching us and we need to live in such a way that we are not ashamed of our behavior. How would you appraise your behavior in terms of obedience...my will or Thy will?

2.  Worship: God has provided a way to escape His end-time judgments - His free gift of salvation offered through Jesus. Our job is to receive His salvation and live in gratitude before Him. Our worship on earth will one day become worship in heaven. What song are you currently singing?

3.  Proclamation: The message of God's gift of salvation through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, and the truth of His second coming need to be proclaimed for all to hear, especially to those who don't yet believe. We must give everyone the chance to turn to God, repent, and be saved. Revelation 22:10 says, "And he said to me, 'Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.'" What are you doing to proclaim this life-saving message?

4.  Service: As believers we should be diligent about carrying out God's will and performing good works. Yes, this has become more challenging during COVID distancing, but there are creative ways of serving others. We do not enter heaven based on our works, but 2 Corinthians 5:10 says this, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." You are saved by grace, but what will God say about how you used the gifts given to you?





No, this is not meant to be a giant guilt trip. I have always taken these precepts a little too legalistically which is not God's intent. I need less guilt and more joy in my obedience. 

I felt a certain urgency in proclaiming God's love and faithfulness through writing a book. I have served others by founding a Christian non-profit which brings the Good News to a dark corner of the world. Those are big things, but maybe, my obedience, worship, proclamation, and service need to be based more on the everyday right now?! How can I encourage someone who is discouraged and downtrodden by this pandemic? How can I be a friend to someone who is lonely or suffering? How can I serve those I abandoned while chasing the grandiose?

Maybe, just maybe, I need to get back to basics - loving those around me in my everyday world. Let my life-arrow point to Jesus in the grocery store check-out line, as I walk my dog and greet my neighbors, in lifting my voice in worship as I wash the dishes. 

Sometimes God calls us to extraordinary challenges...and sometimes He calls us to simply know and love Him and love our neighbor as ourself. If I know God - I mean really KNOW Him because I've spent countless hours with Him to the point that thoughts of the future bring eagerness and comfort, then I'm walking in His will and can smile about what is to come. Second, what have I done for my literal neighbor lately? 

I'm going to bake something and take it to my nextdoor neighbor. I'm going to write a note to my other neighbor battling pancreatic cancer. I'm going to pick up some flowers for my elderly neighbor who lives alone. I'm going to think of creative ways to be Christ to the next person with whom I come in contact. What about you? How do you plan to be mistaken for Jesus? How might this help you smile at the future?

Will you share some ideas you've done or want to take on to pursue obedience, worship, proclamation, and service?


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Friday, January 29, 2021

Will You Settle for "Return to Normal?"

Hey Friend,

"I just want things to return to normal," I heard the woman lament as she stood six feet in front of me in the grocery checkout line.

Her words rolled around in my head and I admit part of me longed for the "good old days" simply because I'm frazzled, weary, and my fuse has grown short. But, her words contradicted what I had just read in Hebrews during my early morning quiet time.

God told Abraham to pull up stakes in his cozy little hometown of Ur. Why? Because God was going to take him to a place, a land rich with milk and honey, which would be his ineritance. 

Abraham, being a God-fearing man, agreed. The Bible says that Abraham "Went out, even though he didn't know where he was going." (Hebrews 11:8). Before he got to the land God had promised him, Abraham lived through some hard times - in tents mind you. His worries were greater than, "Will I be able to get toilet paper and hand sanitizer."





I'm certain Abraham had many doubts, even regrets about leaving his comfortable way of living behind for this? Yet, he clung to God's promise He was taking Abraham to a place God himself was preparing for him. Though his heart may have wanted a "return to normal," Abraham fixed his thoughts on the good God had promised.

Noah lived in a time, not too unlike today, in which the days were evil. While everyone around Noah made merry and indulged in every sort of wickedness, Noah, in faith, listened to God. He built the ark, laboring day after long day, as onlookers called him a fool. He, too, had no idea where he was going or how long it would take to get there.

When the rains came and after many weeks cooped up with the stench of animal dung, Noah probably wished things could return to normal. Still, he clung to God's promise despite what his circumstances dictated.

As I read through Hebrews, one by one famous names of the Bible were called out for living by faith:

By faith Abel...

By faith Noah...

By faith Abraham...

By faith Sarah...

By faith Isaac...

By faith Moses...

By faith Rahab...

By faith Gideon, Samson, David, Solomon, Samuel, Mary...

They were willing to trade in what was comfortable, accept that the interim would be terribly hard, but they knew, by faith, that God would lead them to their promised land. They trusted that God was good.

Right now we are living in figurative tents in the wilderness. We are sick of eating manna everyday, and we long for what was. We're weary, worn, and overwhelmed by life. We don't like discipline and times of testing. It feels like God is shaking the earth to loosen the junk so as to see what of quality remains. It's so easy to slip back into the old way of doing things simply because it's comfortable. If we go back, what might we be letting go of that lies ahead?

My husband ran cross country in high school and college. If you've ever watched a cross country race, it takes perseverance, endurance, coping with agonizing pain and still pushing through. Some runners fall down or have to bow out along the way because the course is too grueling. 





The race we are running right now is grueling, but there is a glorious prize at the end. You don't even have to win the race, you simply have to finish.

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

What are you willing to endure to experience the joy that lies ahead?

What did Christ endure to provide a perfect eternity for you?

Does it make a difference that others are watching to see how you react and respond to our circumstances?

In the Book of Life, do you want your name to fill in one of the blanks?

By faith (Your name)...

So, will it be "return to normal," or set your sights on what's to come?

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you and thank you that you have promised me a mansion in heaven which you are now preparing. I can't wait to walk the streets of gold and fall with gratitude before you. Forgive me for my grumbling and lack of gratitude. Give me your sufficient grace to persevere through the wilderness and keep running the race laid out for me. Even if each day looks like putting one foot in front of the other with your praise on my lips, then I will give thanks. Help me to see the bigger picture - to look through your eternal lens. Keep my eyes focused on you. This world is not my home, I am but a foreigner passing through, but as I pass through, let my life be defined by my faith in You.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you? Might you share your answer to one of the questions above? What keeps you going through these grueling days?

Be blessed...


ps. I've been on hiatus while I completed a twelve week book proposal bootcamp through COMPEL by Proverbs 31 Ministries, but it's good to be back.  If you've enjoyed what you've read here today, might you want to SUBSCRIBE to my weekly blog (and nothing else).  Simply go to SUBSCRIBE above, enter your email address and then be sure to check your inbox. There will be a CONFIRMATION LINK YOU NEED TO CLICK TO CONFIRM YOUR SUBSCRIPTION. You can always cancel at any time.  Thanks for reading...