He’s my profession…

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For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. Hebrews 4:12-13

So many things that The Lord is. Not the least of these, He is my profession. My faith. My Savior. I’m an eyewitness account of His saving grace. I have seen it for myself. He daily bears the cross I bear no more, and simultaneously, it is complete and finished.

Wisdom comes from above but when I look into the heart of it all I find I often misunderstand what The Lord is and what He has the power to do. I forget that He is my wisdom. My one profession. It really doesn’t matter what I do with my day job, in the sense of what earns me a paycheck, what matters is that I spend my time no matter where I am at, choosing to constantly be a reflection of His redeeming grace. It is not my profession that matters, and yet my profession of faith is everything.

Our profession by definition is the public confession that Jesus is our Lord. That God is our God. And that God became flesh to live amongst us and save us. That He rose again. And that we will choose to live by His Word. The Bible. Living and active. The Word is Him and He is The Word. Every scripture, every noun and verb purposeful, powerful, and living. Breathing life. Given to us that we may find His instruction in every trial and temptation. Every circumstance and joy. His Word, our profession, is perfect-complete-wholeness.

Redemption fills us with His glory and day to day menial tasks can be treasures. We plant His Word in every season with every action, even while still in the flesh, and The Lord reaches down and has the seeds to grow. Passionate and purposeful in His will, we become harvesters reeling the joy of His salvation given freely to us amongst others. It stands alone and stands still as our purpose.

Redemptions hill as a display of His splendor. And so He lives. And we live out our profession. Like a well balanced body each with our parts and purposes as defined in The Word made flesh. His will redeeming even our most human of actions and making them Holy and bountiful. Full of grace and charged highly with discernment and wisdom.

And the gift of His Word stands far above us all, yet tucked neatly in our hearts. The sharp uniting profession of faith exuding love across parts-purposes-and professions. Reaching into the soul and dividing the sinful nature from His true desires as we dwell with The Word. The Word flesh, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Redeemed.

Blessed, in, by, and through Him.

The silent hit list…

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“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

Love. The ultimate eraser. The gigantic slate cleaner. The one thing that saves us from hell and gets us to heaven. Christ’s love. The ultimate leveler of the playing field.

I want to love others like He loves me. With no record of wrongs. No silent hit list in my mind delegating who is worthy of my affections. But it can be difficult. Loving without boundaries. Not that we live without life boundaries, that is different, but we can love without boundaries.

Sometimes life boundaries call us to distance ourselves for a season, or even to step away from a relationship all together. And this is good and right. However, love must choose to remain. Even if that love that looks like absence. Love is still present if we choose to step away without hurting others or holding anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness inside of ourselves. Sometimes loving someone means stepping away.

Sometimes love means staying even when we don’t want to. Sometimes love means turning the other cheek. Sometimes the choices we make are to love in spite of our circumstances. Like when my husband and I were going through a very dark season. I didn’t feel love towards Him. I had a list a mile long of all the wrongs he had hurled my way, all the while ignoring my own wrongs. It was difficult to love during this season. I wanted to return hit for hit, but God called me to do the opposite. To control what I could. And what I could control were my actions and my heart. I could choose to love him with no record of wrongs. And so I did, as did my husband, and over time God healed our marriage.

At times I place people on the unlovable list because they have hurt me. It’s kind of like giving the cold shoulder. Rather than confronting the issue in a loving way, talking things out, and moving forward – the mean jeans – the ignoring – the dirty looks – the snide remarks – those thing sneak out. And this is not love. Even with our enemies, we are called to love.

Today I challenge you to love everyone you come in contact with – even the ones on your love barren hit list. Love them anyways. Love them in a way that puts and keeps appropriate life and relationship boundaries in place. But love them like Jesus loves them, boundlessly and endlessly. Find the middle ground with your enemies. You probably have more in common with them than you might think. Try and empathize with them. Scoot pride out of the way, and let 1 Corinthians 13 rule in your heart and mind. Stop the clanging gong of pride, envy, jealousy, and anger from banging around and replace it with the pure true resounding song of love.

God is here…

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I am enough for you today.

I remember scrawling these words in my Bible. It’s funny how such a simple phrase could mean so much. And perhaps it will never mean as much again as it did that day. But that day, in that hour, I actually felt Him as my savior.

I was drowning in a sea of self-doubt and uncertainty. I felt alone and afraid. Abandoned and broken.

You would think processing through a traumatic event that happened years prior would be simple. But it wasn’t. Processing through it made it real again. As real as the moment it happened. Real enough to shake the foundation of my heart and sanity. Real enough to send me into a quickly spiraling anxiety toilet. Around and around I went until I finally reached the bottom of the bowl. In one last ditch effort I reached out my hand. I wasn’t sure there would be anything to grab onto. But He was there.

I am enough for you Stephanie. Enough to carry you through this moment. This hour. This day. Do you trust me enough to continue life balanced in my hand? Will you trust me to keep you safe?

And He has. He has been, and continues to be, more than enough.

Looking back as a counselor myself, I understand what my mind and body were going through. When we process through these pushed down, repressed, often very painful memories, our minds, emotions, and bodies relive the trauma.

But the beauty of working through your pain with a counselor by your side is this time…this chance…you have an opportunity to make it new. To process what happened not with fear and shame, but with hope and belief that God will bring good from this. You have a chance to rewrite your story.

I’m writing this post as part of a “blog hop” for the P31 Online Bible Study of Tracie Miles book “Stressed Less Living”. We are supposed to write about a time that we felt God close enough to touch. This moment when God rescued me with His soothing words was one of the closest times I’ve ever had with Him. And yet it was one of the most difficult times of my life.

I want to encourage you that if you are facing a giant in your past, something you are afraid to admit, process, or think about – God is here. It may be difficult to go back to upsetting places.

It will be difficult.

But God is here.

He will meet you there. And right there, in the middle of all the uncharted territory, is where He will help you rewrite your story.

Trauma becomes victory. Shame is undone. Letting go is possible. And moving forward is victory.

Today I encourage you to begin finding that victory in Him. Even if that means seeking Christian counseling…the time has come for you to be set free from your circumstances.

It’s not normal…

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“He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” Ephesians 2:17-18

It’s not abnormal to be restless. In fact, if we are talking about humanity in it’s basic state, it’s normal to be stressed. I even stress myself out about being stressed because shouldn’t I not be stressed? After all, shouldn’t I be at peace? Should these things really bother me?

The truth is it doesn’t matter if these things “should” or “shouldn’t” bother me…they either just do or they don’t! My circumstances and the ensuing emotions don’t pay attention to my expectations…they just happen.

And so when I came across Ephesians 2:17 today, something hit me. Jesus preached peace. In fact He is called the Prince of Peace. He is true peace. He is wholeness. And all that I am not…He is.

Most of us strive so hard to be a peaceful. We want God’s peace. And yet the more we strive, often, the less calm we become. It can be stressful trying to live less stressed! Not only stressful, but impossible if we try to do it on our own.

If we truly want to experience peace we have to stop trying to dig it out from under all our baggage, because that’s not where it exists. True peace can only be accessed through Him.

Peace is a fruit of the Spirit. A manifestation of God’s presence. It’s not about what we can do.

Can we make decisions that might lead to peace? Yes! Can we be mindful of our anxious negative thoughts and alter them? Yes! But all of these efforts will only be temporary bandages if we don’t connect our heart, soul, and mind up to the peacemaker. The Holy One. The ultimate peace pipeline that never runs dry. He is our one true peace.

As 1 Peter 3:11 says, “They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.”

We must seek and pursue it. What do we pursue? Jesus. The Prince of Peace. Without Him we are stuck with our normal stressed out humanity. Restless.

And so, it is indeed normal to be restless. But you my child are not normal. No daughter of the King filled with the Spirit of The Lord can be normal. She is blessed, lifted up from her stress, and given grace and mercy. Hidden in Him, yet lifted up as as a display of His splendor.

He came as peace, to be peace, and speak peace. Seek that peace sweet sister and you will never be normal again.

Worshiping the golden pizza…

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“You warned them in order to turn them back to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, of which you said, ‘The person who obeys them will live by them.’ Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen.” Nehemiah 9:29

I always think of Israel as some obstinate defiant people of the past. People I have nothing in common with other than serving the same God. It’s been my assumption that the Israelites didn’t really care about or want to do the right thing. That they were deliberately defiant towards God’s direction and will, and because of this, they struggled.

But what if they didn’t do it on purpose? What if they were like me and wanted to do good…yet they found themselves falling down and failing over and over again. I think this could be the case.

The Israelites saw The Lord part the Red Sea. The Lord led them out of captivity and provided for their every need while they wandered in the desert…and yet they wanted more.

They became frustrated with God. They grew tired of waiting and began to lack confidence in Him. They could not see Him, and out of emotional desperation and prideful arrogance, they built a golden calf.

It sounds so silly. That a people who had seen such miracles could doubt The Lord. Or does it?

I’ve seen some pretty substantial miracles in my lifetime. Most personal to me, when The Lord lifted me out of depression.

None the less, at times, I still doubt Him. I still wander in the desert wondering if He will provide.

The most pronounced struggle in my life right now has to do with food! I’m starting to empathize with the Israelites as every time a slice of pizza or a sugary treat enters my line of vision, I can’t resist! I might as well erect an idol to these unhealthy inappropriate foods and worship them!

And it’s not that there is anything wrong with these foods. They aren’t the problem. It’s my attitude towards them that is the problem.

It’s the fact that I have 28 pounds to lose, not to be skinny, but to be healthy, and I can’t resist the things that are leading to my deterioration.

It’s the fact that I would hide if I could and shove these foods in my mouth until Jesus comes back, maybe even longer!

It’s the fact that I can’t seem to turn myself from these foods and take care of my body like The Lord desires for me to do.

I am worshiping them and the way they make me feel with no long term thoughts or cares about the consequences. I am worshiping the golden pizza. And that my friends, is a problem.

So what do I do then? What did the Israelites do? The way I see it, I have two options. I can continue to bow at the feet of my cravings. Or I can choose to bow only at the foot of the cross.

It may seem silly to spiritualize this battle with food, but when we take it to the core, the battle is very spiritual. It’s about so much more than food. It’s about, as Lysa Terkeurst wrote in Made To Crave, craving God-not food. It’s about satisfying my desires with Him rather than a donut. It’s about celebrating my victories in new ways other than with food. It’s about choosing to swallow my pride and get real with God about the sins that are depriving me of much desired intimacy. For me, my food addiction is about so much more than food. And maybe it is for you too.

So rather than being stiff necked and backing myself out of the blessings The Lord has for me, I will choose to turn from my idol and run to Him. Every time I’m tempted I am going to visualize myself bowing down to the gigantic golden unhealthy food, and rather than bow to my cravings, I will turn and bow to Jesus.

Will I make mistakes? Most likely yes. But each time I choose to glorify God with my body and healthy choices, the food idol falls away a bit more, and God chisels my mind-body-and spirit to be the woman He has called me to be.

And she says…

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And he said:“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer” 2 Samuel 22:2

The things I say carry power over my heart and mind. Speak good things and good things are what I will see. Shift my focus to the bad things and I will become lifeless and depressed.

And so in our minds we set up a claim. Either a claim to the throne of grace or a claim that denies its power. We can either claim the truth of forgiveness or overlook what the Lord has done on the cross and claim our own guilt and shame.

And yet the deliverer stands ready to redeem us, calling us by our name.

Will we take his hand?

He waits to be our everything. My everything. Your everything.

I don’t want to make Him wait any longer. I will chose to accept His deliverance. The deliverance that is given is given in totality. Suffient for all and everything I will ever need. And as His grace flows through, the sting of death let’s go and all we can see is a beautiful claim of what the Lord has done.

The rock. The redeemer.

And she says,

He is my Lord. My safe place, the one who carries me off to safety. My deliverer.

Asking for wisdom…

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If you don’t have all the wisdom needed for this journey, then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking. The key is that your request be anchored by your single-minded commitment to God. Those who depend only on their own judgment are like those lost on the seas, carried away by any wave or picked up by any wind. Those adrift on their own wisdom shouldn’t assume the Lord will rescue them or bring them anything. James 1:5-7 The Voice Translation

Wisdom often goes unappreciated. A close second to personal desire, but second none the less. We would rather be content with fulfilling the immediate needy plead of our hearts, than to seek a wise decision that might not provide such immediate satisfaction.

I have jumped into a decision many times without stopping to think about or consult the Lord for His wisdom. And yet His Word tells me that if I would just ask, He would give it to me.

I love what the book of James says: that we ask for wisdom, but the key is that our request be anchored in our single-minded commitment to God.

All too often I ask for wisdom, but what I’m really seeking is confirmation from God that what I want is okay with Him.

Rather than seeking His wisdom I am seeking His approval. And don’t get me wrong, His approval is a very good thing, but I want to go to Him with a mind open to endless possibilities. I want to offer myself in a humble place of complete surrender so I can hear what He has to speak to my heart.

What if there is something He wants to show me that wasn’t even on my radar? If I am looking for confirmation I might miss the blessing He has waiting for me. But if I am seeking His wisdom, plain and free of selfish motives, my ears are opened.

And just as I don’t want to presume upon the Lord to confirm the decisions I have already made, neither do I want to presume upon Him to take me out of dangerous situations and protect me from fires that I have lit myself.

It’s like texting while driving, and then expecting the Lord to protect me despite my gross irresponsibility. Perhaps He will protect me, but when I make decisions that are not wise, even something as seemingly unspiritual as texting and driving, I cannot expect Him to protect me. I hope He does. But He might allow me to experience the consequences of my irresponsible actions.

And so I want to seek Him on my decisions. Not just for confirmation but for wisdom. And I want to know He will rescue me. Because when I am in His will and dependent fully upon Him for wisdom, I will endure trials, but as a result my faith will blossom and grow. He will not allow the waves to wash over me or the fire to burn me.

And so if you are in a difficult time, and you don’t understand what is going on…you feel like your life is out of control and you need wisdom…ask the Lord. But ask with a spirit that is willing to stomach what He has to say. Leave your options open and surrender your heart in obedience to His Words and truth. Don’t let yourself get caught in a selfish decision trap that leaves you swimming without a lifeguard. And if you find yourself there, it’s never too late. Repent and seek His wisdom. The beauty of the Lord is that He is the God of second chances. When we mess up we are forgiven and can try again…and again.

Seek Him first…and you can more than assume He will have blessings in mind…even in the darkness.

The Healer beyond the healing…

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“Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything” Hebrews 3:3-4

I am cold this morning. Chilled to the bone. Afraid of what will become of me and what will become of my children. It’s not always easy being a mom. Sometimes circumstances get the best of us and we feel overwhelmed at the weight and encouraging responsibility of it all.

Sometimes we feel the need to turn to the Son as last resort. In desperate pleading of our cause.

Lord please help me to move past unbelief. I cannot see what is in front of me, but I’m trusting you for the difference. The spaces I can’t see will be filled by you and the things I don’t understand can be unbound in your presence.

And so I sit undone at the foot of the cross. Anxiously awaiting my time and explanations. To understand it all that I may move forward. Stuck in a landing of pride and arrogance still touching and holding onto this will of myself undone and unbound.

And the liberties of this life are far from freedom. The healer can take us where we need to go but before we receive the healing we must first be willing to cross the Red Sea.

And not by my might, but yours Lord, will the waters part. And yet I must be willing to slam my staff down with confidence into the ground before me. And ask for what only is my row to hoe. My garden to toil in. My sea to cross.

And the staff slams down, the waters part, and here is where the real toiling begins.

To part the waters is one thing. An act of confidence and trust in The Lord. To walk past the impending waves into freedom is quite another. And sometimes we get to the other side only to realize freedom has not yet been found. We have more wandering to do. Wandering with provision. But wandering none the less.

And so The Lord gives and takes away. He provides healing in the midst of bondage and freedom where no ending seems possible. His hands are torn from a battle hard fought but easily won.

The victory that is His can too be ours if we are willing to seek the healer beyond the healing. Even if he doesn’t heal us in the ways we might have thought about or imagined, we seek Him above all else. Even in the shame of what can feel like a prayer unanswered by unsystematic grace.

His love is pressure cooked and exploding with enough for me. Even if I don’t understand all the pain or circumstances. Neither did Moses. But Jesus does. And I will choose to seek the art if the healer beyond and above the healing.

Photo credit: http://society6.com/PocketFuel/Hebrews-317_Print

Even in the silence…

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God seems silent lately. I’ve felt alone. I spent the last week doing home visits to places that no one should have to call home. I have prayed. I have gotten on my knees before The Lord and yet the silence stands still.

I try to have brave hands and keep working. I try to understand why we must endure this or that. The greater good of it all that lies just beyond my grasp of understanding.

And I haven’t felt up to writing, and so in my silent times with The Lord I have rather soaked up His rest. Mindful of my own depravity and resting in the grace.

My heart departs to lonely places seeking an inviting refuge of solace. And yet the pace will not let me and I am drawn into one more situation where I feel hopeless, lonely, and afraid.

And it’s not that I am helpless or hopeless. I am not. But my heart empathizes so deeply that I can’t help but feel sucked deeply into the pain I witness. Hearts are broken and I break myself again at the foot of the cross exhausted by the weight of so many hearts in continued pain. And so He gently reminds me this is not mine to carry. Even in this, with Him, peace remains.

Meditating on this verse throughout the week has brought my heart understanding…

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2

I am amazed that we have access to the throne room of grace. A place where we can safely stand and present our hearts, so deeply cleansed we need not fear judgement. We can stand by faith amidst His hope and glory even though our hearts may feel alone. Peace comes when we remember this. We are with Him. He is with us. That is our constant, unchanging, beautiful existence. Nothing is carried on our own.

I’m far from perfection. Miles away from adequacy. The glory and mercy of God is my only hope. But I must choose to depend on it rather than throwing my hands up in frustrated hopelessness. God’s justification is the ground where I stand. And my loneliness is a feeling rather than a manifestation of guilt and shame. Push through…and the light of the Son will shine on my face again. I will see Him and the purpose of a difficult week. So Lord here I stand, with You, hands open and ready for Your teaching.