Bitterness…you must let it go…

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:15

“What if you woke up tomorrow, and from the moment your feet hit the floor, you chose to release all anger and bitterness.”

I sunk down a bit in the pew as my pastor spoke these words. Was this even possible? From the moment the alarm goes off I am angry. Angry about having to go to work. Bitter towards my husband. Hating myself for everything I have done and will do wrong. Bitterness was my way of life. The root ran deep.

Hebrews 12:15 tells us that a bitter root grows up to cause trouble. It’s like the class bully. When we are bitter it affects everyone and everything around us. A prime example of this was my relationship with my husband. I was impossible to please. He would do the dishes and I would be angry that he did not spend more time with the children. He would leave me sweet notes on the bathroom mirror, and I would rip into him explaining that sweet notes couldn’t undo the hurt of the past. Bitter goggles colored everything and everyone in my world.

Not only did bitterness cause trouble in my relationships, it also defiled them. Defile is a word that means to make dirty or pollute. When we allow bitterness into our hearts and minds we are like hazardous materials. Rather than a display of His grace we become a display of hypocrisy and inappropriate, unfair judgment. Going back to the relationship with my husband, I bashed him for not being a better spiritual leader for our family. I actually felt hatred towards him. And the harder I pushed and the angrier I got, I watched my husband fall further and further away from the Lord. He did not have any desire to be part of spiritually leading me. In fact, if I was an example of a “good” Christian wife, I am sure he was terrified of what my version of a “good” Christian husband would actually look like.

It was not until my husband and I were facing divorce that I knew something needed to change. And that a huge part of that something was me. I began to wonder what it would actually look like if I did choose to let go of anger and bitterness. I thought about it for a while, and then I realized that thinking about it was not an option. This would have to be something that I just chose to do, an action completely dependent upon the grace and mercy of God.

That morning I woke up. Moment by moment, minute by minute, I intentionally released my negative emotions to the Lord. I was initially shocked at how much negativity had infiltrated my life. As my husband did things that irritated me throughout the day, I chose to hold my tongue and love him anyways. I was tempted to stew over what I saw as his incompetence, but rather I thanked the Lord for giving me the blessing of his quirks. And with time, the strangest thing happened. Grace appeared, and I fell in love with my husband all over again.

It wasn’t long after that a mentor came into his life, and God transformed him before my eyes into the spiritual leader I had always wanted and envisioned. I am more in love with my husband today than I ever thought possible. I owe it all to Jesus.

What if you decided to let go of your bitterness today? Would it transform your life and your relationships? I believe it can, because when we are obedient to the Lord, good things happen. Try it. Let it go…just for today…and then tomorrow…and let’s just see what the Lord can do…

Bitter root pucker face…

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:15

I know a bitter cup well. Many years were spent with my face puckered up over the past. It’s a wonder it didn’t get stuck that way, lips pursed and forehead wrinkled. Bitterness is not a flattering expression.

When it comes to our relationship with The Lord, bitterness is like a tainted lens. Every time life passes by and wags its tail in the wrong direction we are faced with confusion.

How could a God who loves me let this happen?

At times it seems easier to pretend He doesn’t notice. Surely He must not see the pain and suffering or He would intervene…right?

Wrong. He sees us, and we need a God who sees our pain. But our fleshy minds cannot comprehend the greater breadth of suffering, and so we mentally compromise.

Take Job for instance. God saw Him suffer. He even gave Satan permission to afflict him. How could a loving God do such a thing? It seems so wrong….so why?

Because He understands the full weight of suffering. The discipline, the faithfulness, the growth that can rise of it all. And because I don’t understand, if we don’t understand, we are left with bitterness as an option.

Why not just get dang mad and ticked off at God? He knows it hurts…He could stop it… And He doesn’t! Those are the kind of statements that turn a small bitter root into a life depleting tap root.

If we choose bitterness when faced with adversity, we will be unhappy. We will be angry. We will block Gods growth, our Father planted tap root, and replace it with anxious suffering. A bitter root breeds a stagnant broken weeping heart.

But if we choose faith – If we choose Truth over feelings – and Faith over circumstance, God’s splendor will prevail. The heart born of suffering will find peace and joy once again.

Ate you bitter towards The Lord? When did it begin? Are you angry because He exerted His greater will over your anxious desires? Only you can decide if you will trust Him in the dark. If you will choose bitterness or joy…it’s tour decision… it’s time to move forward.

Hug today like it’s fluffy…

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. Psalm 46:4-6

He sits plump in a lawn chair. Gazing at the fall leaves. They seem to fall faster these days.

She drives to the gym. Eagerly seeking reprieve from the anxiety that haunts as she looks in the mirror.

He lays steadily, gaze pointed towards the television. Hoping numbness will set in soon.

She creeps slowly into the hospital room. Maybe good news will come today.

He rises once again to the pulpit. God’s Word thick upon his heart and breath. He prays, “please Lord touch these hearts.”

Different people in different places. With different praises and different prayers. Separate anxieties, their own numbing fears, hoping for end from separate sorrows. Joyful praises departing at different moments but all bound for the same King.

Sometimes I long to be more like him. Or to look more like her. That my actions would seek a different direction, something other than my own. That God would have fashioned me a bit different, a bit better at this or that. But I do Him such disservice when I long to be someone other than my own.

My breath, my life, exhaled from Him into me so that I might know life. My life, His life, Him in me. It’s not my mission to look as good as my neighbor or play as hard as my best friend. It’s my mission to run after Him.

Living life in a wheelchair when I’m old, or running a marathon when I’m young. Tapping a message on my computer or scrawling it on the pages of my journal. God stands by me the same. He is my safe. My place. My always. It is well with my soul regardless of circumstance.

So I will gladly rise and meet today’s mission. Loving all I can where I’m at. It’s a privilege only I will have. No one else can love my children, sing praise to the King on my behalf, sweat at the gym for me, do my laundry, pen my blog, or take my daughter to dance rehearsals. God saved these beautiful things for me.

He saved the beauty of your day for you. Lets hug life like it’s fluffy, our life, your life, His life in you – right where you are and always striving for more of Him.

Don’t pop my happy bubble….

So it’s good, this life I live. Really good. And I’m reading the book of Job. The man who went from really really good to horribly bad. My gracious, Does it get worse than what happens to him?

Unprovoked and seems unfair. It baffles my feely good vibes. Fear creeps in and I wonder if I’m next? Is God going to let Satan pop my happy bubble?

Fear is a big stronghold of mine. It often motivates my behavior without me even realizing it.

I act like a momma bird eager to protect her babies. My life is stable. It is good. And I would do just about anything to protect the balance. If it was all snatched away, I don’t know how I would react. Would I praise God in the storm or curse the painful acts and bid God let me die…

So fearfully, I protect my bubble. I do nothing seemingly “bad” to the outside observer. But inside, I refuse risk factors. If I’m not certain, I say no. I choose to protect myself from possible mistakes by never acting in the first place. If I tamper my God passion to a low whisper maybe it will also quiet satan’s desire to let out a nasty roar.

As I enter a time of “narrowing my calling” of sorts, I’m tempted to take an easy road. Seduced by laziness, I think maybe I should just ease up. But I find easing up means less time in my Bible, although that was not my intention. Fear says “just be normal…a middle of the road God girl”. And then thankfully God snatches my heart back and says “no”.

I know passionate love is consuming. Loving God crazy is risky business. Not because He won’t love me back. No…He loved me first. But because at times, things may hurt. God may grow my faith through pain, and He may not, but I’m choosing to be okay with either.

God took care of Job in the end. Even though I pray my happy bubble stays neatly in tact…God knows how to protect me even if it pops. And that goes for all of us.

So we can risk it a little. We can have a life of passionate love for Him. He’s going to keep everything okay. He will provide. Even if your going through the depths of a Job moment. Hold fast. God’s got it. Of that I’m 100 percent certain.

Please pray for the Milsow family…

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. Job 23:10

Spaces inside of us that make a little “eeeeek” when they are touched. The things people say that they did not mean offensive, but split open old wounds. We all have them. The places we thought we had healed from. And perhaps we have. Healing doesn’t negate the emotional damage or sever off an old wound, it simply teaches us how to cope…how to thrive…how to move forward despite the bumps and bruises of life.

I have been thinking lately about Job. About how he was a good man. About the things that happened to him. Why bad things happen to good people…

Job had to have hurt places. Places of emotional vulnerability. What he went through seems so unfair…

But fairness flies out the window when hurt comes knocking at the door. It does not discriminate and move past the “good” people. And according to God’s perfection, who of us can be can be counted “good” minus grace anyways? Anything good inside of us comes birthed from our relationship with the Lord. His presence in us IS our good.

Ryan’s teacher this year is such a good person. So good that I know her relationship with the Lord is strong. He is written all over her face, her smile, her actions…she is truly a display of his splendor. And yet the cancer came knocking. I could go on and on about how it seems unfair. It IS in fact unfair in my eyes. But beyond that issue lies grace.

There is enough grace for Darcie. There is enough grace for her family. And there is enough grace for her friends…her students…everyone her life touches. She displays that grace in particularly for my son. Sharing his first day with me. Emailing me to reassure me that he is okay. Loving him even when I know she has no energy left to give. She is God’s grace to my child. And I wish I could do so many things for her. But perhaps the most I can do…even though flesh tells me it is insignificant…is to pray for her. And to ask you to pray.

Here is a link to her Caring Bridge Website. I hope you will stop by because her picture will shine a little Jesus on you today, and we can all use some more Jesus. I hope that even though reading through her story may touch a few places of emotional vulnerability, you will go to Jesus with these wounds and seek even further healing on your own behalf.

And I hope you will consider donating to this family. Healthcare is expensive. Children are expensive. It’s Christmas time. I want to bless this sweet family’s socks off, just as they have blessed our family and so many other families.

And finally, thank you. I am so thankful for each and every person that finds themselves on the pages of this blog. God is so faithful, and it is my prayer that you will find Him here when you take the time to stop by. Each and every one of you are a blessing to me this year…and I pray that you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Breathy exaltation…

I wish I could blow the drowning waters of shame far away from her nostrils. So she could breathe. I wish I could blow away the cycle of poverty that seems to surround their family. The financial burden that continues to leave them drowning in medical bills and too little income. I wish I had powerful breath that would soothe their pain in a mighty way.

Like exiles in a foreign land, the Lord whispers to their hearts that He knows the plans He has…but this plan doesn’t look inviting. Sorrow that breeds pain is never taken lightly. God does not ignore empty yearning hands. But His timing sometimes leaves us feeling otherwise.

“Then at your command, O Lord, at the blast of your breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare. He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters.” Psalm 18:15-16

Revived.

As sure as He parts the waters and lays the foundations of the earth we can rest assured that He will rescue us from the deep. Exiled for a short time, yes, but never abandoned. Forced recklessly to leave our homeland. Our land of comfort. The peace of happiness that we have known, if only even for a short time, and sent away into this pitiful realm of sorrow. Where things don’t make sense and the world seems to slow to a sudden stupor.

And yet in this time the foundations are laid so that when His mighty wind comes for a rescue the ground will not shatter beneath us. We will have a stable and fresh place to stand that resists all circumstances and withstands the pain. The place where His love runs deep into the marrow of our bones. Love that no wind can wipe away. Love that pulls us safely home and lands us eventually back in the land of peace.

There are not promises that life will come and go without pain. It may end in a writhing battle on earth. I watch a friend struggle with cancer and her battle seems unfair. And yet I know that when His breath takes up into His lungs the harnesses will shatter and she will be swept home. Away from pain and circumstances that bind her. And you will too sweet sister. His breath is for you too. One little dust of wind and you will find yourself at home.

Rejoice if you are exiled for but a moment, because God is building the foundations that will soon lead you home.

Altars of thanks…

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The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him. Genesis 12:7

Building an altar to the Lord. A purposeful declaration of thanks. Not only an inward confession of His grace, but an outward sign that it exists.

What I love about Abram is that at this point he really had no hope of children. He was old. His wife was old and barren. Yet when the Lord spoke these words to him, he didn’t argue. He didn’t remind the Lord of how impossible the situation seemed. He built an alter of thanks to the Lord who had appeared to him.

As time passes by, I can be quick to dismiss the promises of the Lord. Anxious for them to happen immediately, it is easier to pretend they don’t exist rather than wait in confident expectation. And I know the Lord is good. If He promises me something, He will make good on it. I don’t have a hard time trusting God for who He is. I do have a hard time trusting God because of who Satan is.

The sneaky one that pops up along the way and makes the miracles seem impossible. The one who whispers to me that things might not be okay, and what if my trust was in fact misplaced? What if my will would in fact serve me better than His will?

I know these things are not true. But questions race through my head regardless. I find myself focusing on my questions rather than His sovereignty.

What if instead of listening to the voices of impossibility, I built an altar of thanks?

He promises to love me, and that is enough. I can give thanks.

He may plow through my impossibilities with a mighty hand, or he may let me sew through them slowly – reliant on His grace. He may show me a completely different way. But when He shows His presence in an obvious way, I want to mark it with an altar of thanks. Even if I don’t completely understand what He says.

Thanks for the good. Thanks for the bad. Thanks that He is a God who sees and hears me…and thanks that He is enough.

Victory…

So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. 1 Samuel 4:10

Nobody likes to lose. We may smile to save face. But losing is hard.

When the battle lines are drawn and the fight begins to sway in the direction of competition, a winner is chosen and the loser is often left licking wounds in the dust.

Not a pretty picture. In today’s time and age we like to declare everyone a winner. But if we are honest and forthright in our thoughts we must acknowledge that someone always loses when playing a game.

If battle were only as simple as a game. But in battle, the stakes are high. Losing most likely means death and destruction. Winning means continued freedoms and way of life. A battle hard fought is never easily won and the sting of victory may even be painful if the cost of gain was high.

I don’t pretend to be a winner. Many battles I have fought have not been won. I lose more often than I care to think about. At times the stakes don’t seem high, but when lives, either physical or emotional, hang in the balance – we fight because we care.

If fighting for the mere sake of winning a prize we may as well not fight in the first place. The stakes are high for those who do not yet believe. They battle against the forces of evil daily with little to play defense on their behalf. And that is where we come in. We may lose the battle. We may win the battle. But a battle hard fought for the flesh of a soul and strength of a spirit brought and renewed in Jesus is one worth fighting for.

Sometimes the battle doesn’t make sense. People die and it may appear as though He is absent even though He is not. His presence is not dependent on an outcome of victory.

He is present and fulfilling prophecy regardless. We do not worship winning, but rather worship Him. And so we fight hard to bring sisters and brothers home. You may win. You may lose. But a battle fought in The Lord has an outcome that will eventually always be won.

And now to Him…

So many things seem definite. A diagnosis of cancer defined as death. A diagnosis of mental retardation defined as manual laborer. A diagnosis of mental illness defined as crazy. A diagnosis of laziness defined as failure.

We use a diagnosis (reason finding, meaning giving, words) to teach our brains the means of expectation. Somehow a define-it outcome is supposed to bring peace. More often it settles heartache. And so we must choose more. To move from what is definite to what is infinite. From what is now…now to Him…

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” Ephesians 3:20

A definite life is one structured by physical boundaries. Science at its best, however, has nothing on the greatness of our God. Even the vast expanse of an earthly mind made whole in Him cannot fathom His capabilities.

In-finite. Vast. Expansive. Yet alive in the finite, minute, details of a cell that needs mending or a heart that needs bending.

Infinite power…His power …at work in us reaches far beyond a definition or a diagnosis. Even the most brilliant human mind cannot account for the infinite possibilities of His love.

And so we have this choice of the now…of what we see…of what a definition holds….or of giving the now to Him…trusting in the greater…the things we hope for yet cannot see…where all is grace.

And so now to Him I give my worries. My prayers. My thoughts. My definitions and diagnosis…those that apply to myself and to others. Now to Him they belong and in His power they rest. What a gift…a blessing…a praise.

And now to you…sweet sister…what will you give to Him…

Am-ness and Is-ness

I wonder who I am. Looking to see what roles suit me best. Where a gift is best displayed, or an anthem most clearly heard. Seeking to find the depth of sorrow…the balance of pain…that makes suffering into beauty…and takes ashes beyond shame.

And I wonder who I am…

The ground trembles before me. I clearly hear His voice. Echoing His word to Moses…I AM who I AM.

I begin to wonder, “Who am I to seek this identity of mine?”

As if it was somehow imparted separate from His will.

I look to find it everywhere except where it is hidden. If He is I AM, then who can I possibly be apart from Him?

The very am-ness of life revolves around the breath of heaven – the AM-ness of Him.

Not only the AM-ness but the IS-ness.

Worthy IS The Lamb.

And if I truly accept His I AM as God, I shudder and shrink into a ball until I embrace the HE IS. Only in the Lamb’s sacrifice can I look upon, step near, or bow before I AM.

Spotless lamb…worthy IS…because HE IS I AM.

And here I stand…before His name…Lord You are I AM.