Arming Not Alarming Women of Grace

Wonderland

March 27, 2017

This past weekend our church had our Women’s Tea.  It was a lovely time of fellowship and yummy food.  This was the message I had the honor of sharing.  It starts with a story…

Once upon a time, there lived a little girl.  At birth, she was displaced, living estranged in a foreign land.  This land offered her visions of awesome mountains, vast seas, flowers fragranced with springtime itself, the bluest of skies, trees aflame with color…beauty displayed in abundance.  The land was a wondrous land to be sure.

In the pocket of her heart, the little girl carried a note…a love note from the King, declaring her loved.  Declaring her worthy.  And in this note, the King explained everything to her.  But in this land, there prowled an evil.  This evil called herself the queen, and though not the true queen of the land, she was indeed the queen of deceiving hearts, and had deceived many walking through wonderland.  And hidden along the paths were her soldiers, looking to ambush the unprepared.

Yet the girl could still be safe.  You see, the King had sent His Son, the Prince, to clothe her and arm her for the journey, and to be her guide.

She kept the Prince close-by as she traveled through this wonderland, but hesitated accepting the robe He held out.  There were others traveling through wonderland, who had accepted His robes, and she noticed that though they came out victorious, it did not save them from being attacked.

So she glanced away from the Prince…

A smile caught her eye…and she ignored the discomfort it gave her to look upon it.  The smile danced above the ever abounding signs and directions, promising this road to fame; that road to money.  Over here, pleasure.  Around there, glory.  U-turn to security.  And straight ahead to independence.

Laughter lilted from amongst the trees, drawing her curiosity.  Surely a peak wouldn’t hurt.  “This way” led into the woods…beyond the safety of the path.  And yet…where were the queen’s soldiers?  Not to the left.  Nor to the right.  But just a bit further there lie a tea.   And oh what a sight it was to behold.

A table of splendor arrayed for any who beheld it.  Table cloths and napkins spun in the brightest colors, looking of the softest of fabrics.  High-backed chairs with polished oak carvings and over-stuffed plush cushions.  Drinks served in ornately painted urns and pots, sipped from silver and gold, delicately shaped into the daintiest of cups.  Treats temping the tongue to partake and taste the tantalizing flavors piled high on tiered platters.  Piped onto one, Eat Me.  On another, Try Me.  And the other guests had obeyed, eating and drinking to more than their fill; each drink enchanting them…each bite bewitching.  Their cackled laughter carrying across the wood.

Whispers began to register in her ears.  Eat me….Try me…

She moved to reach out, but her spirit recoiled, and her hand hesitated.

From where did these voices emanate?  Her unease grew…  This wasn’t right.  Something was off.

Louder they called until their cries overtook her senses.

How could these people be laughing?  This was shear madness!

Desperate now, she looked for her Prince, but before her foot could take a step, cold iron clamped down around her ankle.  The queen’s men were upon her.

She cried and she clawed, but these men were trained, experienced at taking captives.  All too easily, her battle was lost; and tightly bound, she was pulled deeper into the forest.

I belong to the King! She tried.  She’d seen it work before.  In His name, Unhand me!

You hold no authority, they sneered.  You belong to the queen.

Her pleas continued all through the night, until her eyes beheld the guillotine awaiting her, and fear paralyzed any thought of escape.

No trial was offered as they strapped her neck to the wooden plank.  The queen stood by watching with sheer delight.  Turning from the sight of her, the girl’s eyes found the Prince.

Tears streamed down his face.  He still held the robe.  Why had she not taken it?  Why had she questioned her need for him?

With every ounce of strength she could muster, she cried out to the Prince.

I am so sorry, she wept.  He had always been so kind to her.  He’d never turned a deaf ear, never grown tired of offering her help, of offering his robe.  Fear of her death suddenly paled in comparison to the pain of causing her Prince grief.  Forgive me.

The queen’s shrill voice rang out: OFF WITH HER HEAD!!!!

The guillotine came down.  She felt the wind of it.  Heard the thunk against the plank.  And she took another breath.

She was alive!  Standing, somehow free of the bondage that moments ago had held her captive to death.

She glanced down and saw the folds of the Prince’s robe hanging off of her.

How?

The Prince smiled.  You’re a daughter of the King now.  The queen’s guillotine cannot touch anyone wearing this royal robe. 

She silently pondered these things as she followed her Prince.  The queen and her men stood by, unable to accuse her, unable to attack her…for she walked with the Prince.

Amazing peace washed over the girl as they stepped out of the woods, and the familiar crunch of the path sounded under her feat.

You’ll still have to fight.  The Prince told her as they entered a small, humble building; almost a shack, really.  But an armory awaited them inside.  Armor of every kind.  Swords.  Shields.  Spears.  Arrows.

Clothe yourself in these, the Prince instructed.  Take up my sword. 

But I don’t know how to fight, the little girl stuttered.  How will I learn?

Kindness and love poured through the Prince’s eyes.  Practice.  Though she will never claim your life, the queen will hunt you still.  Watch me, and learn.  Listen to me, and learn.  Then fight.  Not just for yourself, but for others as well.  You are a daughter of the King, so fight in His name.

 

So why a story?  Well, instead of essays and well-structured sentences, God created me to see scenes played out in my mind.  And as I sought God’s leading, I saw twisted signs, tea parties in elaborate colors and décor, and battle scenes played out…

But though I do hope you enjoyed the story, even if just a little, what I hope you got from it is that we live in a wonderland.  Just like the original Alice in Wonderland, all the versions given to us by Disney, and the one I just described, Wonderland is beautiful.  There are many grand things to behold.

Just like the little girl, we have a King.  A wonderful King, the Creator of our wonderland.  A King who declares us loved.  A King who did not spare even His own Son, but sent Him to die on a cross and raised him again on the third day, giving us a right standing with himself.  (Romans 8:32-33).

But in this land, we too face a dangerous enemy.

Unlike the little girl in the story, we face a much greater enemy: Satan.  In the New Living Translation of 2 Corinthians 4:4, it refers to Satan as the “god of this world”.  Ladies, he does have power.  He is familiar with the terrain he wages war on.  He knows his kingdom.  And he oppresses it.  If it weren’t so, the Bible wouldn’t say so.  1 Peter 5:8 warns us, telling us to “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil.  He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

These days, doesn’t it seem like the devil is “the one that shall not be named.”  We try to keep him as just a character in these Bible stories, and pretend that all we have to do is keep away from “the world.”  Now yes.  The world, and we ourselves, are fallen.  Sin has entered both the world, and our own hearts, and we do have to resist those things.  But Satan is real!  He’s horribly aggressive, sneaky, and not just seeking – but plotting our destruction!  And he’s hungry!!!

And because he is real, the battle he wages is real too.  We cannot be blind to that reality.

Now we need to take a moment to remember the end of our real-life story.  Spoiler alter: God wins!  John 16:33 and Romans 10:9 tell us that Jesus has not only overcome this world, but because of His love poured out through the cross, He defeated death and its grip on those of us who confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead!  For those of us who belong to Jesus, we have nothing to fear.

But the devil does.

The day is coming when Satan will be destroyed.  Revelation gives us a window into the end days, when the devil will be thrown into the lake fire to be tormented day and night for all eternity.

He knows this is coming.  He knows his days are numbered.  And he’s going to fight until his dying breath.

So here we are, living in the battle that is waged in the days between the cross and bye-bye satan, and hello God forever and ever!  And we have to figure out what to do with our time.

My suggestion: we fight.

Now in our story, once the little girl accepted her Prince, she had a few things in her arsenal…a robe, armor, a sword, and shield.

The robe identified her.  She belonged to the King.  She had the robe of royalty.

The armor would protect her.

The sword and shield would allow her to fight back.

And guess what?  Just like the little girl in the story, we have a well-stocked arsenal.

We too have a robe!

…For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness… {Isaiah 61:10}

And yes we have armor, a shield, and a sword.

So let’s look at Ephesians chapter 6, verses 10 through 18 and check out this arsenal we’re given.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. {EPHESIANS 6:10-18 }

So yes, if you’re wondering, you have indeed been invited to a tea, to talk about suiting up for battle.

There are two things about the armor I want to talk about today.  The Sword, and the back of our armor…or lack thereof…

First, the Sword.

Ladies, I want you to imagine yourself in wonderland.  You’re in a field, holding a sword, and all around you is a forest.  The sword is heavy.  Sharp!  It sits awkwardly in your hands.  Now look around you at the woods.  Shadows shift, sticks snap…the enemy is close.

2 Corinthians 10, verses 3 – 5 tells us that “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”

God’s Word…the Bible…is our sword – one of God’s mighty weapons.  Just like a made-of-steal sword, it can feel really awkward learning how to wield it.  But we must!  And how do we learn how to use it?  You guessed it…by using it!  Opening it up.  Reading it.  Meditating on it.  Memorizing it.  Speaking it out loud!

Now I know, it can be really embarrassing letting people see us stumble around trying to find where the books of the bible are.  Or reciting verses to each other that we’re trying to memorize.  Or, standing up in front of a bunch of ladies and sharing the message God’s put on your heart.  But God’s Word is life-saving, and can give lethal blows to the attacks of our enemy.  Our sword is a sword of truth, and it’s the only Truth that can fight the lies of our enemy.

I’d like you to imagine yourself in wonderland one more time.  You’re exactly where we left off…in the field, holding a sword.  Now look down, and I want you to visualize a young child next to you.  If you’re a mother, picture your child.  If not, picture your niece, nephew, friend’s child, neighbor down the street…any child you cross paths with.  Now glance back to the woods and see the enemy as wolves, waiting just at the edge of the field, teeth bared, salivating at the sight of the child.

My guess is that any one of us would cast aside the embarrassment of letting that child see us stumbling around with this sword and we’d practice!  We’d practice using it day and night!  It’d be with us always!  We’d even set it in the child’s hands and let them get used to holding it…learn some basic defensive moves with it.  Because it’d be a matter of life and death…

Do you get what I’m saying ladies?

Some of our little ones are just outside those doors, doing crafts and having a great time.  Just like us, they need to know God’s Word.  They need to know God!  Their salvation is not in our hands, but that does not mean we sit back and do nothing.  They need to see their mommies and the women in their lives valuing God’s Word.  Not just being sent to Sunday School or being told to read their Bibles…they need to see that God’s Word is PRECIOUS to us.  They need their mommies, and every other Christian they know, showing them how to use it!  How to fight!

And ladies, this doesn’t stop at the concept of kids.  There is a world of lost people who need to know there’s power in God’s Word.  And believe it or not, there’s not a short supply of believers who are young in their faith!  Proverbs 27:17 says one friend sharpens another.  So don’t think age has anything to do with this concept.

How do we do this?  How do we learn to use our sword, while simultaneously equipping and sharpening others?

Lucky for us, the Bible tells us!  One way we do this:

“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.  Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 11:18-20)

For a lot of us, that will be so awkward, it might even be painful.  But we have to do it.  We’re told to do it.  If you don’t know how to do this, ask.  We have a number of women who serve in Children’s Ministry who are blessed with the talent of teaching children.  Talk to Dana, Marin, Brittany, Kristen, or Vanessa…to name a few!  We each have different talents, and it’s not shameful to ask for help…it’s wise!

So no excuses.  We just have to do it.

And as we learn to use our Sword, and teach others to use it – adults and children alike-, we receive the amazing blessing of getting to know God himself!  No other sword, but God’s Sword of Truth, lets us know The Maker.

Now let’s talk about this whole, nothing on our backs situation.  As we venture into this concept, let me clarify that this is a Janna-Thought…not biblical insight.  Some translations read “body armor”, but I’m looking at the NIV translation of Breastplate of Righteousness .

But I think perhaps we weren’t given back-armor… because just maybe, we’re supposed to be that for each other.

As I was reading about the armor of God, my mind wandered to 1 Samuel 14.  I’d like for us to jump over there for just a moment so we can take a look together.

One day Jonathan son of Saul said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate treein Migron. With him were about six hundred men, among whom was Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod. He was a son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh. No one was aware that Jonathan had left. On each side of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine outpost was a cliff; one was called Bozez and the other Seneh. One cliff stood to the north toward Mikmash, the other to the south toward Geba. Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.” “Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.” Jonathan said, “Come on, then; we will cross over toward them and let them see us. If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the Lord has given them into our hands.” 11 So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost. “Look!” said the Philistines. “The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.” 12 The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, “Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.” So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Climb up after me; the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.” 13 Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him. 14 In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre. 15 Then panic struck the whole army—those in the camp and field, and those in the outposts and raiding parties—and the ground shook. It was a panic sent by God. {1 SAMUEL 14:1-15}

 

I’ve read this passage quite a few times, but until I began working on the tea, I had always kind of read-over the armor bearer, because I love Jonathan’s story!  But this time around I was so struck by the image of the armor bearer.  Now I’ll confess to you that the first thing this passage did was convict me as a wife.  This, along with a verse we had studied in our Monday Night Bible Study set off the motion-picture in my mind, and I saw me and Russell – husband and wife – stepping into the battle of life together: And as Russell led us into battle, instead of being a faithful armor bearer and defending him from behind, well…I just turned around and started giving orders, leaving both of us open to attack.

I confessed right then to God, and that night to Russell, asking for his forgiveness, and he graciously gave it.  But I think that picture holds true for us women as well…as a community of believers.  Regardless of whether or not the breastplate of righteousness wraps around to our backs or not, we should be defending each other.

Like the familiar verses of Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 state, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

What does this look like for us?

I think this could look like our tea party…us ladies coming together to gather in fellowship and worshipping our God.  It could look like our Bible study groups, digging in to God’s Word each week together.  It could be holding a friend’s hand as they weep.  Praying over her through her struggles.  Speaking Truth into a difficult situation.  Rejoicing with her in victories and celebrations. Sharing verses with her as God brings them to our minds.  And simply going to church each week…encouraging others simply by our faithful presence.

Verse 18 of Ephesians 6 that we read earlier tells us to “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.  Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”

Even if we can’t be physically present to fight alongside each other, we can and should pray!  God is the ultimate Commander in Chief…He’s the Commander of Heaven’s Armies!  And He invites us to bring our cares to Him, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  Jesus taught parables about knocking and seeking, telling us that our Heavenly Father delights in giving us good things.  So let’s do as Hebrews 4:16 says and boldly approach the throne of grace.

And as we do so, let’s remember that the battle is the Lord’s.  If I’m going to fight, I want to be as close to the Guy who wins as possible!  And God wins…so He’s the guy to stick close to.

So let’s sum things up here.  We live in a wonderful world…that has lost its mind and gone absolutely mad.  Our enemy is fighting, but God wins.  And while we wait with expectation for the end of our enemy and eternity with our God, we have some armor to put on, a sword to learn how to use, and much shielding and praying to do!

And above all, let’s remember who’s King.

Arming Not Alarming

Beauty…A Heart Condition?

July 23, 2016
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world,
but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
~Romans 12:2

 

I have a confession.  Sometimes I forget this.

Yesterday I had a bit of a “Janna-Fail”. You see, God is so gracious to call me to meet with him every morning. He’s affirmed the importance of that precious and oh-so-needed time with him time and time again…and yet yesterday, well, I opened my Bible, got distracted, and allowed other stuff to get in the way of sitting and listening to my Lord. I closed my Bible and walked away…and didn’t return to it for the remainder of the day.

God knew I needed that time yesterday. You see, yesterday the enemy was coming at me.  And I stepped away from God’s Word, effectively sheathing my sword of truth, to meet the enemy unarmed.

What form did this attack on me take, that then triggered a snow-ball effect, pumping frustration and anger into what seemed every corner of my heart? Putting on a pair of pants. (And yes…that’s more than a little embarrassing to admit).

This pair of pants I’ve held onto just because…well, I’m not sure why; because a couple months ago they were too big! They fit yesterday, and there began the downward spiral of not-so-great thoughts. I was conforming to the behavior and customs of this world, instead of letting God transform the way I think. I bought into the lie that my physical appearance made up who I was. And from that question of “what happened to my boot camp body?” bred discontent into everything: my family, my house, my friends…and the list goes on.

Well, if I had read my Bible and done my devotional for the day, if I had done as Psalm 119:11 says and taken time to hide God’s word in my heart, I would have read what I read today…a devotional filled with scriptures about what God sees as true beauty. And I can tell you, it is NOT my outward appearance. (And I’m not even going to get into the concept that my looking down on my appearance is looking down on one of God’s creations!)

God knew I was going to need a reminder yesterday. He knew the enemy was on the prowl and that my heart was weak against those lies. Satan is not stupid. He knows when we are weak and he pounces.  But God is faithful, and He never, ever, will abandon us! He called me to him yesterday, and it’s embarrassing to say…I ignored him. And what were the results? Self-induced pain and ultimately doubting my value as God’s daughter. I let something as petty as a pair of jeans fitting blind me to God’s goodness, and His truths.

True beauty isn’t a particular size, a weight, a hair color, an age.  It’s fearing Him (Proverbs 31:30), being obedient in bringing His Good News to others (Isaiah 52:7), a gentle and quiet spirit, trusting Him (1 Peter 3:3-5).  True beauty is a condition of the heart…it’s a heart submitting to God’s Will and His Love.

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As always, God is so good!  Even in light of my pathetic face-plant, He is so merciful.  I imagine Him, as my Heavenly Father, looking down and saying what I say to my daughter:

“Oh daughter.  There is nothing you can do to make me stop loving you.”

He picked me up, dusted me off, and set me on a firm foundation: Him.

So hopefully I’ll take this grace-filled reminder to heart and remember it the next time I’m tempted to let other stuff distract me from my time with God.  May you and I both take time each day to sit with God and let Him transform us into knew people by changing the way we think.  And may we learn to know what God’s will for us is, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

 

Women of Grace

Who Are You Urging Away?

July 11, 2016

“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods.  Go back with her.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.             ~Ruth 1:15-18

Not many of us have been in the situation that Naomi found herself in. Widowed, childless, in a foreign country, and with daughters-in-law to provide for in a world where women were very dependent upon a man for survival. Not only that, but she decides to go home, to travel alone, during a time when “everyone did as they saw fit,” (Judges 21:25). If you’d like to see a rather descriptive example of what that means, read Judges 19.

Often times I’ve wondered why Naomi would urge her daughters-in-law away from her. To encourage them back to their families – ok, that makes sense. But back to their gods? Even if she hadn’t brought up their gods, sending them to their families was sending them back to a culture of false gods. But in light of what their journey could have held for them, it’s a bit easier to understand. Horrible dangers faced them either way!

And then those thoughts got turned on myself.  Who am I urging away?

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I think I can safely say we all have those people in our lives that we urge away from us. We think we’re being responsible, or sensible, in our actions. We just don’t click.  We don’t have the same lifestyle. They don’t really need our friendship. They’d never want to go to church with me. They don’t want to hear what I have to say.

And then there’s these: I just don’t have time for another friendship. I’m done investing in relationships that I’m not getting anything out of.

There’s an unending list of excuses of why we urge people away from us, but what happens when we do that? Are we not essentially saying, “You’re not worth it”?

I’m not saying that we need to be BFFs with everyone, or that we’ll even be friends with everyone. But I am saying, we all have Ruths in our lives, women who have been strategically placed in our lives by God, that we push away because we decide that it’s best.

But it’s not.

Sisters, I encourage you – and I’m urging myself – to not do what you see fit.  Do what Jesus calls us to do: Let’s fulfill the great commission, and let us be the good Samaritan, (Luke 10:25-37).  Don’t turn away from ladies who are different, who you think you can’t help or protect. Just invite them to walk with you as you walk to Jesus.  That’s all any of us can really do.  Jesus will do the rest.

Naomi and Ruth’s story journey, and the safety & blessings God gave them, astonishes me entirely. In a world hostile to all things pure and good, they remained safe. Widowed and childless, they were provided for, protected, and Ruth was blessed with Boaz.

It all started with a girl willing to leave all she had ever known to stay with her mother-in-law, and a mother-in-law who finally understood she was determined to stay.

So let’s be Ruth, and let’s refuse to leave one another. Not just for blessings, not just for friendship, but because salvation could be at hand.

Personal

It’s Just A Cat

January 5, 2016

She was just a cat.

That statement could receive two different reactions.  The reaction of the animal lover: Pet’s are family too!!!  And the reaction of the apathetic: Yeah, it’s really just a cat.

I carry (quite proudly) the name of “crazy cat lady”.  I love cats!  Specifically, I love my cats.  Furgie and Figaro.  My cats are just the best.  But, unless you’re a cat fanatic as well, you won’t appreciate Furgie.  She’s feisty with a “my way or the highway” attitude.  Put her around a baby, and she transforms into a baby guard-kitty!  No one’s gonna mess with her babies!

Everyone loves Figaro.  And I mean that.  Everyone.  People who are allergic to cats still like her.  Sure, she’s picked fights with all of the neighbor cats; but if you’re a human, then you love her.

Thursday, December 31st, 2015, we had to put our little Figaro down.  She had a blockage in her intestines, and all signs were pointing to cancer.  We did not continue with testing to confirm it, because whatever it was, it was a death sentence.  Perhaps the surgery we could not afford would have bought her a couple more months; but the truth was, her time with us was at an end.  And I was crushed.

As I struggled with the loss of Figaro, an old familiar dialogue struck up in my mind:

 

I hurt

It’s just a cat.

My Cat!

Suck it up, buttercup.

Don’t I have a right to be sad?

It’s not a salvation issue.  Get!  Over!  It!

 

A massive headache quickly ensues after this inner dialogue of madness.

However, it did spark a thought which inspired deeper reflection.

I don’t mourn.  Or rather, I don’t give myself permission to mourn.

Really, Janna?  You got that over a cat?

Yes.  I really did.  I began thinking back to other times I had cried so hard I wanted to throw up, and hurt so badly I just wanted to shut off to the world and everyone in it.  Most recently, that has been my two miscarriages.

The thing about miscarriages, at least with mine, is that you’re not in control of any of it.  And with the first one, I had no idea what to expect – emotionally or physically.  I knew my baby had died.  I knew I would miscarry.  I knew I had another doctor appointment scheduled to make sure everything happened as it should.  That’s what I knew.

I wept the day I found out we had lost the baby and the day I actually miscarried.  Horrible heart-cry tears of hurt, pain, and loss.  It’s unfair loosing your baby.  The doctors had no answers for me as to what happened to cause this.  It was what it was.  So I cried, and then I was done.  The day we buried her brought fresh tears, (it was very too early to know what the baby’s gender was, but we called her Dot and thought she was a girl), but I did not want to face the pain again, and after Russell prayed, I pushed the pain down.

I would not allow myself to feel as deeply as the pain cried out.  I had Christmas to plan for, a church dinner to set up, and my sister and best friend were about to have their babies.  I needed to get my head clear!  So the day I miscarried, we called our best friends and invited them over, instructing them to behave as if I had never been pregnant and all was just fine.

My second miscarriage was almost exactly a year later.  This time I knew what to expect.  It wasn’t my first rodeo after all.  I cried at the doctor’s office at the confirmation that my baby had died, told the ultrasound tech “It’s okay” because I didn’t want her to feel bad, and then rather hostilely told my sister not to touch me as she tried to comfort me on the drive home.  It was what it was, and that was that.

The day I miscarried, I looked at it and said, “I don’t have time for this.  I’ll deal with you later.”  I then proceeded to host a planning meeting for church, and never looked back.  Because like the year before, there were things that needed done.  I had my daughter’s birthday to host and I had a church dinner to plan.  There were bigger things going on than my pain. (Or that’s the line I fed myself).

I trusted God’s wisdom through those miscarriages.  I still trust His wisdom.  I know the prayers of my heart, and though perhaps not fully, I see His answers and I see His mercy.  And I am grateful.

But I hurt.  And in those moments of pain – very valid moments – that inner dialogue was there.

 

I hurt.

It’s not that bad.

I lost my baby.

You miscarried early.  People have it worse than you.  Be grateful.

Don’t I have a right to be sad?

It’s not a salvation issue.  Get!  Over!  It!

 

So I told myself that trusting God’s wisdom was the same as giving Him my pain.  I dried my tears and wiped my hands of it, shutting down my mind to emotions.

Then this phrase kept dancing around: “Lean into God.”  It’s on the radio, it’s in conversations with women at church, in conversations with women I’ve just met!  And I’ve gotta tell you, I didn’t get it.  I thought I did…I was wrong.

The revelation happened the other night when I was working on my fiction writing.  One of my strong female characters needed to rid herself of pride and allow someone else’s strength to be enough to carry her through, physically and emotionally.  She needed to lean in to the other person, literally.  Like tuck in and just be held kind of leaning.

Sometimes I think God has me write fiction so He can thunk me over the head.

I don’t lean in like that.  Not with my pain.  I desperately want His will in my life.  I desire to know His heart and hear His voice.  I know He is my strength and fortress.  And I trust Him with my life.  But when it comes to that makes you want to cry so hard that you want to throw up, and hurt so badly you just want to shut off to the world and everyone in it kind of pain…I squirm.  I don’t want to be held just so I can weep in safety and rest in His love.  I want to show God that I’m brave; that I won’t let these things break me.

I get so caught up with wanting to be a “big girl”, I forget my identity as His daughter.  I forget He wants me to lean in.  Like tuck in and just be held kind of lean.  Just so he can hold me.  Because He loves me!  Pain, tears, struggles, failures, and all.

So I’m gonna lean in.  I’m not going to be ashamed of the tears that come, and the pain that overwhelms.  And as I lean, I want to remember these things, in my heart and in my mind:

  • God is good

“O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.” {Psalm 86:5}

  • God sees my pain

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” {Psalm 34:18}

  • God blesses the mourning

“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” {Matthew 5:4}

  • God is my comfort

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.  For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.”  {2 Corinthians 1:3-5}

  • Jesus is my peace and He has overcome the world

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” {John 16:33}

  • God loves me a whole lot

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” {Romans 5:8}

 

It’s Satan who whispers those lies that tell me to take my hurt and hide it down deep where it won’t bother anyone.  And I’m done listening to the enemy.  If…when…that old familiar dialogue strikes up again, I’m just gonna tell Satan to shut up, and I’m gonna go snuggle with my Daddy.

 

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All these things are gone forever.”

{Revelation 21:4}

 

…Yep…All that from a cat.  She was a special cat 🙂

 

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So In Love

Beauty Singing His Praise

December 31, 2015

I sat in the driver’s seat while Jennae, very patiently, braved the task of copilot as the car wove it’s way down a long stretch of highway.  Leaves danced in the warmth of a summer breeze.  Vibrant shades of green adorned every bit of earth and branch but for the thin stretch of road we traveled down, kept at bay only by the constant commotion of cars.  A watercolor display of blue was painted magnificently across the sky.

Beautiful.

A masterpiece blessing this museum called earth, designed and gifted by the Artist who placed the stars in the sky.  Seeing it was like falling in love.

Psalm 19 says:

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth.”

This passage moves me to tears.  It’s beautiful.  Can you see it?  The miracle that nature is, and the Glory it gives praise to?  But if we would be like the trees, like the sky, earth, and waters, sun, moon, and stars.  Created.  Finite.  Having a beginning and an end.  Yet singing out, unashamed and unabashed, to the Creator.

“They have no speech, they use no words”…”Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

As I drove that long stretch of highway, and any time I take the time to look up, to look around, nature sings its song of praise to God, even as God uses it to sing a love song over me.  And I fell in love all over again.  That’s what the beauty of nature inspires in my spirit.  That overwhelming, joyous, uncontainable experience of falling in love.  And I marvel in it.  That God, the Creator of the universe, our Comforter, the Prince of Peace, our Champion, would love me so much to send me love notes through all of creation.

But He is not simply a God of pretty words and nice gestures.  My King died for me.  He gave his very life, for me.

“Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”  {Hebrews 12:2}

Is there anything more beautiful than that?  Anything more precious?  Oh, may my Lord find beauty in my praises, and that my life would bring Him joy.

“Not to us, Lord, not to us
    but to your name be the glory,
    because of your love and faithfulness.” {Psalm 115:1}

Women of Grace

Of Some Good

November 14, 2015

 

I recently joined a gym.  (Kind of a lame way to start a blog post…I know…but, goodness me, I can’t figure out a way to start this thing in a captivating way!)

Anyway, I joined a gym.  A girlfriend and I saw an advertisement for a boot-camp program on Facebook and decided we were going to do it.  So we drove ourselves down to the gym, met with the owner, and signed up!  Six months of training…here we come!

About thirty seconds into the first day, let’s just say I had a wake-up call.  Now if I’m being honest, the scale isn’t my enemy.  My pants aren’t loose, but they fit fine.  From an outward appearance, I looked healthy.  I even eat healthy…with the exception of my weekly donut (Yes, my donut shop friends know me by name.).  But looking healthy and being healthy are two different things.  And my wonderful trainer quickly helped me see how weak I was.

It was a good place for me, knowing my weakness. It’s still a good place for me.  I know I’m weak, but I’m getting stronger.  I look forward to our early morning sessions, to seeing the group I work out with and experiencing the encouragement from and with them, and the confidence in knowing that the person leading us knows what he’s doing!

And I can see getting lost in it.  In the idea that physical strength is what is important.  In the lies that the TV and marketing tell us that it’s all about looking good in that bikini, or dress, or Facebook picture.  Insecurities are ready to jump into our hearts and minds about our bodies at every turn, even at every moment of strengthening our bodies!  But is our physical appearance or our physical abilities really the root of our deep-seeded insecurities?

Reality is that our frustrations and insecurities are founded in our own broken relationship with our Creator. God created us to know no shame (Genesis 2:25). God made us in His image, male and female, and said it was very good. He created us to walk with Him daily in paradise. Yet shame, insecurities, and frustrations are our constant companions.  And though we are still made in God’s image, sin has made its home in our hearts and we are separated from our Creator because of it and are exiled from our home until death or Christ’s return.

Yes, I’m saying that our modern-day insecurities and self-centeredness all started at the beginning of time, with that forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and Eve.  At that moment of “first sin,” shame entered our world. John Piper addresses shame in his book, “This Momentary Marriage,” (which I highly recommend to EVERYONE), when he says, “Why then the shame? Because the foundation of covenant keeping love collapsed.”

You see, by declaring their independence and deciding that their desire to eat of the fruit was more important than God’s command, Adam and Eve shattered the covenant love relationship.

It, of course, is not something that only Adam and Eve did. We do this daily in our own hearts. We make ourselves the judge and jury, writing and rewriting the laws in our hearts according to our convenience, we set ourselves up as our own god. We want to be strong in our own strength.  We want to be noticed for our glory.  And the further our hearts are from the true God, the deeper our frustrations and the more devastating our insecurities.

We have it all backwards! 1 Timothy 4:8 says:

 “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”

Physical training is good…very good! But let’s use it as it’s intended: to give ourselves a physical example of perseverance, to use the pain of sore and strained muscles that are every day being torn down to accomplish physical strengthening, and to see the habit of waking up early to train our bodies, as a physical example of our faith (1 Corinthians 9:27).

Faith is persevering through the pain and heartache that goes beyond the pain of physical exertion.  Setting aside our first moments of the day for exercise is good. Setting aside our first moments of the day for God is great.

We need to be healthy. Proverbs 31:17 says that a wife (may I substitute woman?) of noble character’s arms are strong for her tasks.  Let’s become physically strong so we can set about the tasks in our lives with strength and confidence.

And let’s get healthy together!  There is amazing encouragement when a woman is weak and her peers cheer her on, the accountability of knowing someone’s going to ask “Where were you?” if you miss a session, and the blessing of having someone stronger to look to as an example and help steer you onto a healthy path.  But I don’t want that just in my physical training.  My spirit begs for that for my faith and relationship with Jesus.

Can you imagine if we took the truths of working out and applied them to our faith?   Knowing accountability is crucial (Galatians 6:1-2 & Proverbs 27:17), that we are stronger together (Ecclesiastes 4:12), and the amazing benefit and grace of mentor-ship & discipleship (Matthew 28:19-20 & 1 Corinthians 11:1).

The solution to our frustrations and insecurities is not found in a gym.  It’s not in that pair of running shoes, or that magical number on the scale, or that perfect pant size.  The solution is to run straight to the cross and find our identity in a God who loves us so much that He sent his son to die on a cross, a God who is so strong that death could not defeat him, and a God so glorious that His Son rose again, defeating death and offering eternal forgiveness and salvation to everyone who believes in Him.

I’ve admitted my physical weakness, and I refuse to be ashamed of it.  Because I am seeking strength.

And I confess my weakness of faith.

But you know what?  It’s a good place for me, knowing my weakness.  I know I’m weak, but I’m committed to getting stronger.  I look forward to my early morning time with Jesus, to seeing the group of girls I do life with and Bible study with and receiving encouragement from their faith, and I rest in the confidence of knowing that the God leading me knows what He’s doing!

And let’s be honest, it’s not my strength anyway.

“‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” {Zechariah 4:6}

It’s Christ in me.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. {2 Corinthians 12:19-20}

Personal

The She Speaks Adventure

September 27, 2015

First morning of the conference

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:35

It’s been over a month since the conclusion of the She Speaks 2015 conference and, well, I’d say it’s about time I write this wrap-up.  It hasn’t been intentional procrastination that has had me put off writing about it, it is simply that there is so much to be told.  But who wants to read a blog that goes on, and on, and on…and on?

I found that every time I have sat down to write something, or when I have thought back on the conference, or someone has asked me about it, it’s the people’s faces – my sisters that I finally got to meet – that flash in my mind’s eye.  As I was praying about what to write about, John 13:35 jumped into my head, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  And it hit me.

From the moment I opened the email from my pastor’s wife about the conference, I have experienced the love of others – and through them, the love of Christ – in a new way.  An amazing, powerful, and humbling way.  So I’d like to tell you about the love of my family, the family of God, introduce you to some of my sisters, and thank each of you who have loved me so well.

As I stated in my first blog, the thought of attending – and paying for – She Speaks 2015 was a mountain before me.  We all know the verse, Mark 11:23, “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”

Mountains were moved!

I cannot claim the faith that moved these mountains.  It was friends like Ashley (also my sister!), BaCall, and Cara, who took the time to read my 100,000+ word manuscript and told me they believed in what I had to write.  They were Proverbs 16:24 to my doubt-and-fear-filled-self.

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

It was friends like Kati, who stepped out in faith for me, giving me the encouragement and also, yes, told me what steps I needed to take to move forward with my writing.  One thousand dollars were raised through the Gofundme site she set up for me!  Seriously?!  One-Thousand-Dollars!   

Friends like Luke and BaCall who helped me with all things technical, helping me with my blog, facebook, twitter…all of it!  And let me not forget to mention that they stayed up waaaayyy late, just a few nights before the conference, while I was in tears because I decided that my book proposal was just not good enough and helped get it looking like something I could be proud to present.

They were my Calebs & Joshuas as I faced a land of giants, reminding me that with the Lord:

“we can certainly do it.”

It was my incredibly generous mother and father-in-law who graciously gave hotel, air, and rental car points to me for this trip, totaling well-over one thousand dollars.

Friends donated money, donated items to be auctioned off, took me shopping, loaned me clothes (because this stay-at-home mama didn’t own any professional clothing!), invited me to a weekend away to write & prepare, shared my blogs, liked my Facebook page……and even more so, they prayed.  It’s amazing what God does through prayer.

This is how my She Speaks journey began, being flooded with a mighty love that God used to moved my mountain and get me to She Speaks.

Now let me introduce you to my She Speaks Sisters:

Jennae “Mimi” – “God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.” {Matthew 5:8}

(In the airport, on our way to She Speaks)

Jennae (affectionately known to my daughter as “Mimi”) has been there from the very beginning.  We’ve been friends since 2004, when we served on Jr. High staff together at our church.  From there we’ve shared many adventures together, and have dreamed about even more.  When I signed up for She Speaks, I knew she needed to be there too.  You see, Jennae is one of those ladies that comes to mind when you think, Hmmm, what does being a woman of God look like?  Because it’s her!  Her life is a beautiful example of 1 Corinthians 11:1, when Paul says:

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

You’ll have to wait for her to start a blog (Jennae, hint hint!) to hear her full story, but I can tell you this.  Jennae is steadfast: in her faith, in her love, in everything she does.

Thank you, Jennae, for being my friend, for being Mimi to Faye, for your faithfulness to God, and for spurring me on in my faith as well.

Lisa & Ed – “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” {Matthew 25:40}

I wish I knew their last name!  Lisa and Ed were are guardian angels that first night in North Carolina.  We met them in the elevator down to the hotel lobby.  It was a two-minute, we’re-excited-for-the-conference, hope-to-see-you-later conversation.  The elevator doors opened, Lisa and Ed headed towards the parking lot, and Jennae and I proceeded to the front desk to inquire about restaurants within walking distance.

Our unsure evening turned into one of humbling blessings.  Ed and Lisa had lingered to ask us to join them for dinner.  At our acceptance, they gave us a tour around the NASCAR track, chauffeured us to a Mexican restaurant, paid for our meals, then took us to Walmart where they then proceeded to buy us snacks for our stay at the conference.  These people were strangers to us, and us to them, yet they saw our need and didn’t just meet it, they truly poured the love of God over us that night, making us feel loved and taken care of.

Lisa and Ed, if you find your way to reading this, let me say thank you so very much for being Jesus to us that night.

Sticky Fingers Sisters – “Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” {Matthew 12:50}

Dinner at Sticky Fingers BBQ

                 Dinner at Sticky Fingers BBQ

Night Two: Girls’ Night Out, She Speaks’ Style!  I was thrown into a car with these three lovely ladies, having no idea of the sisterhood that would follow it.  Heather, Helen, and Liz are the sisters I didn’t know I had, and am so blessed to know.  Each of these ladies love Jesus so much and their hearts for Him shine through radiantly.  In three days time, we laughed together, cried together, rejoiced, worshiped, and shared meals together.  Three days was all it took for my life to be impacted forever by these women.  

Thank you ladies, for being my sisters, and for being faithful as you continue to write and speak for Jesus.  To Him be the glory!

Kenisha – “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” {Isaiah 26:3}

Have you ever met someone, and just upon meeting them, the peace that resides in them overflows to you and you are stilled?  Kenisha is that sort of soul.  I was blessed to meet Kenisha before my first meeting with a publisher.  Needless to say, I was nervous.  Shaking, slightly nauseated, nervous…though, I like to pretend I had my game-face on.  Kenisha was sitting at the table checking people in for their appointments.  She had a gentle spirit as she took my name and gave me instructions for how things would proceed, and I expected that to be it.  But no.  She took the time before my appointment to speak peace into my heart and mind.  Over the next couple days, I got to speak with her a few more times.  In the hustle and bustle of working the She Speaks Conference, and through a few bumps and bruises of her own, she brought peace to the hearts of us who were attending.  She was a fierce weapon against the attacks Satan was waging on our hearts.

Thank you, Kenisha, for protecting my heart and mind in Jesus’ truths!

Kelley – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” {2 Timothy 1:7}

kelley

It was in our peer critique groups where I got to meet sweet-spirited-Kelley.  As my fiction writer’s group finished the session, sweet Kelley came over with paper in hand.  Kelley writes non-fiction, but had begun a novel and wanted to know if we would take a look and give her our opinions.  Let me say, WOW!  Each of us in the group loved what we read.  But it wasn’t her talent for writing that touched my heart that day.  It was her gentle courage.  It is intimidating enough to invite critiquing on something that fits in your familiar genre.  It’s flat out scary seeking it out on a project you’re just beginning.

Kelley didn’t stop there.  We ran into each other throughout the remainder of the conference and smiled and chatted, and she was just as gentle and gracious in her encouragement to others as she was in seeking feedback.  She was the vessel God used to confirm one of our lovely She Speaks Sisters, and I have no doubt it was because of her faithfulness to the calling in her life, and because of her gentleness in spirit.

Thank you, Kelley, for being brave and for your faithfulness to write and speak as God calls you!

Debbie – “Say to the nations far and wide:
    “Get ready for war!
Call out your best warriors.
    Let all your fighting men advance for the attack.” {Joel 3:9}

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And then there was Debbie.  When Jennae and I met Debbie, I walked away thinking, I just met a commander in the Lord’s army!  She arms women with the Word of God!  She speaks encouragement and truth into lives.  She pulled us into prayer for each other, she connected us with the others she met, and she carried scriptures printed onto business cards to place in our hands when we needed to hear Truth.

I think Debbie understands true reality, that life is so much more than just what we see, and that God is a real, all-powerful, loving God.  She gets it.  And she’s arming us for war – the spiritual war that’s all around us.  A war that yes, God has already won, but that we cannot sit by in as bystanders.

Thank you, Debbie, for speaking so fiercely into my life.  You showed me what strength looks like.  You are an example of relying on and knowing the Word of God.  And you literally put the sword of the Spirit into our hands.  Thank you for building us up and preparing us to fight in the Lord’s army.

There are so many other women who touched my life through this conference, who let God’s love pour through them.  Thank you, She Speaks Sisters.  Thank you for loving me.  Thank you for being Jesus to me.  I pray He blesses each of you as you seek to be obedient to His calling on your life to write and speak!

You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.”

{Hebrews 3:13}

 

 

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                       She Speaks

 

Early morning run

                              Early morning run

 

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                               Saying goodbyes

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                              Happy Birthday Toni!

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      Hearing from Liz Curtis Higgs

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                        Main Session

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(Table 25 Regulars)

(Table 25 Regulars)

Arming Not Alarming

We Have Armor

September 3, 2015

I’m sad.  I’m just sad.

I’m sad because we live in a fallen world.  I’m sad because I don’t know how to live a life that is well-informed, but where I’m also guarding my heart and mind.  I’m sad because I know that for all that we face now, unless we see a revival my daughter will face worse, because our society is waltzing its way down history-lane to places such as ancient Rome, Nineveh, and Sodom & Gomorrah.

My bubble has to be popped…and I’m terrified about that.  There are scary people in this world that do scary things.  There are heartbreaking stories out there of people suffering in the worst of ways.  I do not know how to handle that!  And God knows I don’t know how to raise a daughter to handle that!

Proverbs 4:23 gives the declaration: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

But how do I guard it?  How do I expose myself to the worst of this world and keep my heart pure?  Or my mind??

Take heart!

I love that phrase.  Isn’t it beautiful?  You know there’s some troubling news that precedes that statement, but it offers such comfort while inspiring courage.  In John 16:33, we find Jesus telling his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Then Philippians 4:7, we read Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, encouraging them with these words: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Sisters, (and any brothers reading this too), these words are for our good too!  And this is good news.  Really good news!  Yes, this world is fallen.  Yes, there is sadness and evil.  And yes, Jesus has it under control!  Praise be to Him!!!

He has overcome the world!!!

I don’t need to know how to guard my heart…God’s got that covered.  I just need to take it all to Him.  Not just that, but I can have peace in Him!  And that’s the end of it.  Jesus did it.  It is done.  And yes, we can end it right there.

But, ya know, there’s another bit of scripture that comes to mind.  A bit that reminds me that not only can we have peace in Christ, and not only will He guard our hearts and minds, but our God does not leave us empty handed!  Our God is a proactive God, and He equips us with everything good {Hebrews 13:20-21}.

We have armor.

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil on.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  {Ephesians 6:13-17}

We have a full set of armor given to us.  Armor that we are given with the intention of us using it!  We’re in a war, waged on earth between heaven and hell.  The Bible doesn’t make light of this, but we are oh-so-good at ignoring that.  But we can’t.  Not any more.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” {Ephesians 6:10-12}

 We live in a fallen world.  There is sin and evil running rampant.  It is imperative that we remember who our enemy is, the reason we have been given our suit of armor.

So yes, I may be sad, but I will not be idle.  I will put on my armor.  I will pick up the sword Christ has given me – the Bible – and I will learn to use it, and use it well.  And with God’s help, I will teach my daughter to do the same. Because I’m in the Lord’s army! (Yes sir!)

 

A She Speaks Pondering:

As you know, I attended the She Speaks 2015 conference at the end of July, (and I am still working on the blog about it!).  At the conference we were each given a verse.  This was my verse:

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, And he saved them out of their distress.  He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, And broke their chains in pieces.  Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!” {Psalm 107:13-15}

I don’t think it was happenstance that this was the verse given to me.  God knows my heart, (as He knows yours), and I believe He is equipping me for His work.  I give Him thanks, for preparing me and for whatever lies ahead.

Oh To Ponder

Verdad. Vérité. Wahrheit. 真相. Truth.

July 1, 2015

It doesn’t really matter what you call it or in what language you say it.  Truth is truth.

…but what is truth?

Truth: the real facts about something : the things that are true… Yep, that’s helpful.  (Can you hear the sarcasm?)

Something I say to myself a lot is, “Just because you think it, doesn’t make it true.”  And ain’t that the truth?  But so often times we (yes we…ALL of us) forget that.  Instead, we think “Because I think it, it must be so.”  That’s a little pompous of us.

I started thinking about said thought again with all the hoopla about Friday’s Supreme Court decision.  Two sides.  Both think they’re right.  Both cannot be right.  But both can be wrong…interesting thought…  (And no, I am not writing about the decision that was made.  Simply sharing what provoked my mind to such thoughts.)

That’s how it is with a lot of things.  Multiple viewpoints.  All sides completely convinced that their way of thinking is the correct way of thinking.  And in America, “what’s right for you” might simply “not be right for me.”  Correct.  Right.  What about truth?  Truth doesn’t sway to popular opinion.  It cannot be coerced into capitulation.  It can’t even be forced into recanting its truth by threat at gunpoint.  The reality is, truth is out there.  Truth is real.  And you and I do not get to decide what it is.

Two weeks ago I started a different post.  I did not finish it.  I very much liked it, and I do plan on finishing it.  I can tell you, though, that it is so wholly not about what this entry is about.  It continued in the light of my other posts, giving account to my journey of writing and hoping to direct hearts to God.

I do not profess to be a scholar…of any sort.  I don’t even have a college degree!  But I do love to ponder (hence “Oh To Ponder”).   In my ponderings I was reminded that the thing that I believe to be truth is a debated thing.  It may be safe to say that it is THE debated thing.

As I shared in my first post, I’m writing to share how God is moving in my life.  In my second post I wrote that “He is the I Am”.   So before I write another thing, I thought I’d clarify (in case anyone was wondering) what I believe is truth.

John 14:6 says, “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’

There.  I believe that.  I believe there is one Truth in this world, and that is God.  I believe in the holy trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I believe the Bible when it says in John 3:16, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  I believe Jesus was crucified, taking on himself the sins of the world (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; Isaiah 53:5).  I believe He was resurrected, conquering death and offering salvation to all (John 11:25; John 6:40; 1 Corinthians 16:4; Romans 8:11).

You may be thinking, “Yeah, but you’re just quoting scripture.”  Well…yes.  I believe the Bible is Truth.  Living and breathing.

Would you like to know what else I believe to be true?  God is love. (1 John 4:8).

I’m writing…goodness, I hoping I’m living to proclaim God’s glory, and to tell you that He loves you.  God’s Word – the Bible – is an amazing love letter.  From the opening pages of creation to the last book of Revelation declaring “Yes, I am coming soon”, it declares His love…and it declares that He is!

“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,’ says the Lord God. ‘I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.'” (Revelation 1:8)

There is truth, and my belief in it is not what makes it so.  I have to share that truth.  Why?  Because “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (Galatians 2:20)  That Truth is the core of who I am.

God is.  God was.  God always will be.  Who is like our God?

 

 

Personal

Taking Steps

May 29, 2015

Proverbs 16:9

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”

Monday I received the much-awaited email from Proverbs 31 Ministries saying that it was time to start scheduling publisher appointments!  I have to admit, I squealed, prompting my two-year-old daughter too look at me and ask, “What happened?”  It warmed my heart that she was concerned about me, and I quickly assured her that it was a happy squeal.

The email listed the publishers and agents who will be accepting appointments, along with outlining what each required for their meetings.  Some want full book proposals, some want a one-sheet, some want nothing but a conversation and will ask for more via email if they believe your idea to be worth-while.  As I went through the list, there was one section that I read with a gut-sinking reaction.  The Not Interested In section.  The first four listed were not accepting fiction!  How quickly fear got its grasp on me!  But by the time I got to the fifth company, I let out a much needed sigh of relief!

After reading through everything, I selected five people I’d like to meet with, listing them from my first choice to fifth.  The She Speaks team’s goal is to schedule everyone wishing for publisher appointments with two to three of their choices.  So that leaves me to prayerfully wait for the next email – that will arrive in the first part of July – and that will let me know which appointments I will receive.  Oh the suspense!!

I’d be lying if I said I’m not battling anxiety.  In all honesty, anxiety is doing its best to sink its claws into my heart.  I’ve repeated Philippians 4:6 to myself over and over; “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.”  Anxiety persisted.  I am in this struggle, a very familiar one to my heart, which tempts me to step back, to not act…to give up.  But too often I haven’t jumped when I thought I was supposed to.  And I didn’t just not jump, I didn’t budge!  I was too terrified that I’d step out, just to find that I wasn’t supposed to.  I become filled with doubt.  How can I really know God’s will for me?  Doubt…anxiety…fear is paralyzing.  (It brings James 1:14-15 to mind).

But how sweet and how gentle are the soothing whispers of our Lord.  I read the words of Proverbs 16:9, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”  My heart heard, Daughter, do not fear.  Seek Me.  Take that step.  I’ll make sure your foot lands on the right path.  God’s Word is alive, breathing God’s truths into our hearts and souls.  It is also the Sword of the Spirit, a very real and powerful weapon against the strategies of the devil (see Ephesians 6:10-17).  Proverbs 16:9 was the strike that turned my battle against anxiety from defensive to offensive.  Verse after verse come to mind now, helping me fight this battle against anxiety as I rest in the peace of God, that peace Philippians 4:7 promises.

There’s no promise from this conference that my plans, or hopes, of getting published will at all come to fruition, but my peace lies in this: I love God and I desire His will in my life.  No matter my plans, He directs my steps; and His Word is the light upon my path (Psalm 119:105).  He is the I Am, and He “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose”.  May we, may I, invite His good into our lives, and not let doubts, fears, or anxiety steal it from us.

And I will keep taking steps…