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Cardboard Box

cardboard box

I felt led to revisit this old post and share it again.  Perhaps I’m not the only one who needs this today.

If you’re following God’s plan for your life, Satan, the enemy of your soul, is going to attack you in any way he can.  He wants to discourage you, squeeze you into a place of depression like a smelly cardboard box, and fill your head with lies about you and your future.  Remember, lying is not only what Satan does, it’s who he is.

But God is with you, and He never lies.  He said He’ll never leave you so hold that promise in your heart and visit it as often as you need to.  You’re not alone.  You’ve never been alone.  You may feel like it, but that’s part of the box, the trap the enemy has set for you.  If you feel alone, you’ll act desperately.  You’ll do things you know you shouldn’t do.  You’ll go somewhere you shouldn’t go or try to reconnect with someone God told you to stay away from.  What you think is a punishment or harsh discipline may instead by God’s hand protecting you.  He has so much more for you.  Don’t go after what He doesn’t want you to have.

But if you’ve fallen into the trap, if the enemy has already tricked you into that box, call out to God.  Just whisper the glorious, powerful name of Jesus.  Let His name come from your lips and flow from your spirit in adoration and trust, and He will come to you and rip that box to shreds!  Then you’ll rise from those scraps to sing praises to Him, slide around on the kitchen floor in your socks, run outside and let the rain fall on your face, and shout with joy because victory is yours through Jesus!

Then you can just toss what’s left of that box out to the trash.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  (James 4:7 NIV.)

An Old Pair of Shoes

shoes

Are you still doing what God called you to do because He wants you to stick with it or because it’s comfortable like an old pair of shoes and you just don’t want to change?

Think about those old shoes for a minute.  They feel the same way when you slip them on, you know what to expect, and you remember the holes in them so you know to watch for puddles after it rains.  They’re predictable and safe.

But are they the best for you?

Are they the shoes God wants you to wear today?  Are you doing what God wants you to do today?

Perhaps He has something new for you.  A new calling, a new pair of shoes you’d never consider trying because they’re not your favorite style or color and you don’t feel like you can be you in them.  (And really, you know, they’ll probably be a little uncomfortable at first.)

But God knows you.  He knows every talent you have (He gave you those), every weakness (He’s allowed those too), and He’s well aware of that quiet dream deep within your heart that you keep tucked away.  (He knows how that dream scares you and excites you at the same time.)

God also knows when it’s time to take off the old shoes and wait for the new ones.

Does that mean you will be barefoot at some point in time in God’s calling on your life?

Possibly.  If He’s told you to take off the old shoes and He has yet to provide the new ones, then yes.  And while you’re waiting on God for those new shoes, for Him to lead the way into something new for your life, you have to sit down and wait for Him.  Your feet will be in no shape to travel any great distance or along razor-sharp terrain; you wouldn’t know which way to go anyway, would you?

So you sit and wait on God.  How long is this going to take?

As long as God wants it to take.

But some of it depends on you.

If you’re impatient, trying to hurry God, or you set out on your own, barefoot, it could take longer than if you just waited on Him.  Not to mention it could be very painful.

And those around you may not understand what you’re going through.  They may wonder what in the world you are doing, why you are doing nothing (waiting really IS doing something…it’s trusting God right through those cravings of wanting to do the old things), and why can’t you just keep doing what you’ve been doing?

If God tells you to slip off those old shoes, don’t put them back on because someone else believes you should or because someone hands you a lovely portrait of you doing those things you used to do.  Look carefully at that painting.  Do you see the cracked paint, the faded colors?  And if you reach out to take it you’ll realize it weighs a ton; the frame is made from pure guilt.

You need to leave it behind and walk away because you know you are to listen to God, not stare back at a picture of your old self and try to figure out your next move.

God will let you know what He wants you to do.

And when His timing has arrived and He provides the new calling, those new shoes, just think how amazing it will be to slip them on.  You won’t even notice if they’re a little uncomfortable because you’ll be focusing on the righteous right hand of God that is holding your own, leading you down a new path as you leave that old pair of shoes behind.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”  (Isaiah 43: 18-19 NIV.)

 

 

When “Christians” Throw Stones

stone

Have you ever been hurt by a Christian?  Me too.

The truth is Christians are also human.  We’re going to make mistakes.  We’re going to really mess up and hurt people.  And when we do, we need to say we’re sorry.

But that’s not what I’m talking about here.

I’m talking about those who call themselves “Christians” while lashing out at others, using the title as a form of entitlement to criticize, judge, and sometimes even belittle others.

They sort of remind me of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.

They like to put on a good show and brag about their giving and serving.  In anger, they throw Scripture at you like stones when you sin instead of speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).  They will show you everything you’re doing wrong in a way that makes you feel so beneath them that you may even wonder if you’re worthy to be loved by God.  Am I good enough? Am I doing enough?   Lord, what’s wrong with me?   

You may start to feel like you don’t belong, even in Church. Maybe especially in Church.

It hurts a lot.  Doesn’t it?

Jesus sees it, and He’s not happy about it either.

Remember when Jesus served His disciples by washing their feet?  Do you think He slammed them for having dirty feet, scrubbed their toes until they bled, or belittled them for not taking better care of their feet?   Of course not.  He lovingly washed them as a servant.  Can you imagine Jesus kneeling at your feet, looking up to you (wow!) as He washes and cares for your feet?

Love.  That’s what that is.

I’m not talking about the kind of love like, “I love French fries at the fair during a warm summer evening.”  I’m talking about the love you give away from your heart when you serve others.  You want nothing in return.  You just want to reflect the kind of love that was reflected in Jesus’ eyes when He was kneeling there washing feet.

How do you love like that?

When you give someone a ride after his car breaks down, when you spend time with those who are lonely or discouraged, or when you send a card to let others know you’re thinking of them.  You love by not only offering to be there for someone but by showing up when the time comes.

You love like Jesus when others fall and you offer to help them up.  You tell them you’re praying for them because you really are praying for them.  And yes, you offer God’s Word to show them that He has so much more for them; He doesn’t want them going the wrong way down a treacherous path of sin that takes them further and further away from Him.  God wants them safe, with Him, right in His arms.  And you want that for them too because you know it is the best place to be.

The place NOT to be is towering over others, pointing an accusatory finger and bashing them verbally.  (Not Christ-like behavior.)

Remember how the Pharisees wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery?  Jesus said, “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7 NIV.)

Hmm.  Not a single one of them was able to throw a stone.

What if you were the one in the dirt having those fingers pointing at you?  If you’ve experienced some sort of attack like this, I’d like to say on behalf of all of us imperfect followers following a perfect Jesus Christ:  I’m truly sorry. And, please don’t take it out on God.

You see, God’s the One who led me to write this today so you’d know that just because someone claims to be a Christian, doesn’t always mean they are really doing what God wants.  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 7:21 NIV.)

And I believe God also wanted to remind you today that He loves you.  That is why He doesn’t want any of us to continue down a path of sin that will surely trip us up.  Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11b NIV.)

Just remember, you don’t have to be perfect before God will love you.

God already loves you because HE is perfect love.

So focus on that fact, on Jesus dying for you, and the privilege you have to know Him and to love like Him.  Yes, focus on Jesus instead of those who masquerade as His followers clutching a stone in each hand.

And don’t forget to forgive those who’ve already hit you with one.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1 NIV.)

 

Breadcrumbs

breadcrumbs

Are you trying to figure out where to go from here?  Maybe you just went through a rough patch and you’re excited to run from it, to get out of there as fast as you can.  Or maybe you sense something wonderful in your spirit, something thrilling and spectacular is just beyond the bend in the road and you want to run to it.

Here’s the word I write so often: Wait.

Such a sense of pain can come from that tiny word.

Anticipation.  Longing.  Desperation.  A you’re-about-to-burst-out-of-your-skin kind of feeling.

But there is something to do while you’re waiting:  be on the lookout for breadcrumbs.

What in the world?  Has this just become a cooking blog?

No, my friends, it has not.

Breadcrumbs are those tiny little indicators, gentle specks of God’s guidance.  Confirmations to help you along the way that nourish your spirit, letting you know God cares, that He is leading you and you’re on the right path, and that you’re not alone even in the darkest of forests.

You see, God doesn’t want you wandering around, lost and frantic in the woods, nor does He want you to continue waiting when He tells you to move.

This is the essence of the breadcrumb.

You move along in the direction God leads, you find the breadcrumb and you pick it up, talk to God about it (remember He’s right there with you), and you listen to Him as He teaches you.  This can be a painful lesson, something you needed to learn the hard way or a blessing all on its own.  But it can be awfully tiny so you need to watch for it, watch for Him and what He’s doing in your life.  And remember He is always doing something even when you can’t see it.

Breadcrumbs can be His protection, to stop you from going in the wrong direction or those He wants you to stay clear from.  Breadcrumbs involve His timing.  Breadcrumbs involve obedience that lead to blessings.  So you feed on the one He has given while you wait on the next one.

That’s right.  You wait until you see another breadcrumb before you.  You don’t run ahead because you think you know the way or you have all the answers or because you think this waiting stuff is going to kill you.  You wait on God.  This can be any length of time.  But don’t panic.  You’re traveling with the One who created time and can stretch it like you’ve never imagined.

And while you’re waiting, just think:  you have the privilege, the high honor of spending time with Almighty God and resting in His presence.  Sit down.  Read His Word.  Talk to Him.  Listen to Him.  And then look around.  You may see more of Him in your surroundings.  You may feel the warmth of the sun on your head.  That’s His touch.  You may feel a breeze brush your cheek.  That’s His breath.  Perhaps you may even hear His voice speaking your name.  Can you imagine?

He may even lead you to a small pond where the wind forms ripples and the sun ignites them.  And when you look up, you see the very face of Jesus Christ; His eyes shining brighter than the reflection of the sun on the water’s surface and His presence warming your face.  It can be the image that you keep close to your heart, the one that tucks you in each night.

You never know what you’ll see while you’re waiting with God, waiting on His breadcrumbs, His gentle direction for the next step in your life.

Just know that waiting on Him and with Him is never a waste of time.  It’s His way of nourishing you for the road ahead.

“The Lord says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.’” (Psalm 32:8 NLT.)

Heart Blessing

heart

I can think of a thousand blessings in my life, and I’m sure you can too.  But what about those that line up with the desires of your heart; those blessings God withholds until you’re ready for them, those that bring Him honor and glory and leave you in awe that you, little old you, got to be a part of something so grand?

This of course is different for each of us.  That sort of overwhelming blessing, I’ll call it a heart blessing, can be finding the spouse you’ve wanted to find for so very long.  Or it may be to hold your child in your arms, inspecting those delicate eyelashes as tears rush right through your own.  Perhaps it’s finding your purpose and standing right there in the middle of it all, you find yourself almost shrinking into yourself as you realize how important, how massive this moment is in your life.

Heart blessings.  The desires of your heart become living, breathing realities.

God gives us more than just one.

I mean, our hearts are full, if we allow them to be, and over time they grow-up like the rest of us and our desires change.

When I was little, I wanted a pony, to be an astronaut, and to be a belly dancer (this one still makes me shake my head and laugh, especially when I pair it with “astronaut”).  I wanted to be and do so many things, and as I look back, I thank God none of them happened.  If they had, I may have been too busy dancing in outer space with my space pony to find two enormous heart blessings God had for me:  my husband and our daughter.

And yet I find I’m nervous.  Is it too much to keep dreaming?  Too much to keep hoping for another desire to come to fruition?

It’s like I see this blessing I’m praying for as a firefly.  It’s so close, so very real and lighting up before my eyes, but I’m afraid to touch it or my clumsy hands might hurt it or crush it.  And once I get it, then what?  Will I know how to handle it?  Will I try to cram it into a mason jar and forget to take care of it, forget to poke holes in the lid?

That’s why I’m praying:  Something so close and embedded within my heart needs God.  He’s the One who can bring that delicate blessing right into my hand when it’s the right time.  And if He chooses not to, I’ll trust Him.  (He kept me from orbiting the earth with my tummy hanging out…why wouldn’t I trust Him?)

I smile as I think about the years I’ve chased thousands of “fireflies” and how I tried to grab them, jumping and reaching. Not yet, God must have whispered.  And so the little girl in me, with chubby cheeks and pouty face, probably fought to hold back the tears.  But I kept going outside.  I kept watching and waiting for God to tell me when.

And now that I’m a grown woman, I’m sitting outside with God in the cool of the evening watching those fireflies.  I’m enjoying just being in His presence, listening to Him whisper my name and laugh as I am still, and forever will be, the little girl who smiles at butterflies on my hand, deer coming close, and the way leaves sound when they applaud the wind.

I do hope for another heart blessing.  One that has been with me since I was eight years old.  But I’m learning there is another heart blessing that’s been a reality my entire life:  my Heavenly Father.  He loves me, knows me, and cares for me uniquely, powerfully, tenderly, and boldly.  And knowing Him is the truest, deepest heart blessing any of us could ever have.

Funny, we can have that blessing whenever we want it.  No chasing it down and trying to force it.  All we have to do is ask, and God is there.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4 NIV.)

 

Stop Beating Yourself Up

beating

Stop beating yourself up.

That’s right.  Stop being so hard on yourself for that mistake you made in the past; the one you can’t go back and change and really, do you even want to?  That mistake has made you stronger, better, and maybe it’s even shaken you awake to how much God loves you.  Maybe that was the lesson you needed so you’d realize, “I just really goofed and God is still hanging around.  Wow.  He must really love me.”

Yes He does.  He loves you in all your “imperfections.”  He loves the color of your hair as it begins to gray and has each one numbered.  He smiles when you snore in your sleep, even keeping the dog awake.  He loves how your eyes get that look somewhere between shock and sparkle when He answers your prayer and you “get it” that it’s Him. You’re welcome, He whispers.  And He loves to hear you laugh when you’re running in the rain or playing in the snow.  Yes, He loves every bit of you.

But when you hurt over your mistakes, really taking them in and holding onto them like you can never let go or never be forgiven, it’s like you’re telling God He’s not compassionate enough to understand, not loving enough to forgive, and not wise enough to help you through it.

You and I need to stop doing this.

Mistakes are just that. Mistakes. And trying to avoid all mistakes by tiptoeing through life, trying to be perfect, will only set you up for another round of disappointment on your way to crazy town while your family and friends ride in the back.

The only way to live at peace with your mistakes is to take them to God.  Seriously.  Oh sure, you can try to trick your mind into forgetting by venturing off into a bottle for some mind-altering escape, but eventually you’ll come back.  Or you can run away, treat the mistake like a grizzly bear following you in the woods.  But eventually you’ll get tired of running and that bear will catch up after he’s hibernated.  And you’ve probably heard how hungry a bear is after a long nap.

So grab onto that mistake with both hands, stare it down and admit what it is, what you’ve done, and lift it up to God.  Tell Him you’re sorry, confess what you’ve done and ask Him to forgive you, ask others to forgive you if you’ve hurt them, and then MOVE ON.

You see, God wants your mistakes.  He wants to take them off your hands because He has more important things for you, better things for you to do than wallow in your guilt like a pig in slop.  Of course this is where the enemy wants you to stay, and he will lie and tell you that’s where you belong.  But your Heavenly Father is the One who loves you, who wants to clean you up, and He is the One you need to listen to.  And He has so much more for you than a filthy pigpen full of lies.

Stop listening to the lies.  Right now.

And start believing in the truth:  You ARE worthy of the blessings God has for you.

Not because you are perfect, without mistakes, but because Jesus Christ is perfection and He loves you perfectly.  He’s got you covered.

So get out of His way, already.  Let Him bless you.  Stop trying to sabotage it all because you’re afraid; afraid you’ll somehow mess it all up.  God will be there in the midst of the blessing to help you.  He’s promised He will never leave you, right?

Then trust Him.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV.)

 

There is Screaming in the World Today

screaming

This world can be a painful place.  Cancer is ravaging are loved ones.  Alzheimer’s attacks without mercy.  Heroin torments and often kills.  And children are suffering from hunger, neglect, and all sorts of horrific abuse.

Somewhere in all of this, there is screaming.

Can you hear it?  If you quiet yourself, you can.  Those suffering are screaming from the pit of their souls, crying out for help.  Just a touch or a word.  Something to give them hope that it will get better, that there is more to life than pain.

That’s where God comes in.  Only sometimes He chooses to use your hands to touch them, your mouth to encourage them, your time to spend with them, and your money to provide for them.

Are you letting Him?  Or are you keeping your mouth shut when you should speak up?  Are you keeping your hands, and the rest of you, so busy that God can’t possible use them or you? Or maybe you’re keeping your hands wrapped so tightly around your money that He can’t use that either.

“It’s mine,” you say as you dig your nails in deeper, forgetting that God is the One who blessed you with it.  “And I don’t have any time.  I’m too busy.”

So while you’re busy keeping quiet, busy holding on to your checkbook, someone else is screaming in God’s ear.

What does God see in all of this?  Everything of course.  He sees His children, one hurting and crying out for help while the other with a heart too hard, too stubborn and self-absorbed to help.

Which child are you?

There is so much screaming in the world today.

Are you one of them?

My dear friends, let me pray for you now:

Heavenly Father, You see those reading this, right now, right where they are. Father God, You are an amazing Father, so loving and so faithful.  I pray You reach them in whatever way You choose.  I pray You call upon those You want to use to bless them in their need, and I pray You help them to hear You and be obedient.  Lord, I pray You ease their suffering and You comfort them while they are alone, while they are in a crowd trying to put on a good face.  I pray You come along side of them, making Yourself so very real to them that they can’t help but know You even more through this pain.  Lord, I don’t know their needs.  But You, Almighty God, You know everything and NOTHING is too hard for YOU.  So I pray, Lord, for Your mighty hand to touch, to heal, to comfort, and to hold them.  And Lord, I pray You teach them through it all to call upon You.  That YOU are not ignoring their pain, that You see them when they cry, and that You are the One who can dry each tear they try to keep silent.  With you, Father, we are safe and loved and protected.  Please Lord, touch them now.  It’s in the precious, holy, and powerful name of your Son, Jesus Christ I pray these things.  Amen.

Perhaps your voice is not one screaming.

Surely you can hear those who are.  And surely you can help by allowing God to use your arms to hug someone discouraged, to speak encouragement and hope to someone struggling, to provide financially for a need, or to pray for someone suffering a physical devastation, linking them to the One who can comfort and heal.

Will you let God use you today?

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16 ESV.)