Turn Around

turn around

Imagine that you’re staring down a closed door. You knock and knock hoping the door will open.  But it doesn’t.  You feel stuck, your face against the wood, your breath returning to you.  You whisper up a prayer for the door to open.

But it remains shut.

What’s on the other side of the door? It could be an opportunity you’re hoping will open up to you.  Or it could be a person.

A person?

That’s right. It could be a person you’ve been wanting to talk to, someone you’re wanting to walk beside and help carry the load, or someone you’ve drifted apart from. But this person simply won’t open the door.

You stand there staring at the door, waiting to see it pull away and open, waiting to hear the click or movement on the other side.

But there is only silence.

You pray and ask God for wisdom, to help you understand this closed door. And when you do you hear, “Turn around” gently whispered to your heart.

Waiting behind you are the people longing to be with you. They are the ones God blessed your life with and they’ve been waiting for you to turn around. You can hear them, but you’ve been too busy focusing on the door to really see them.

So you turn around and you step away from the closed door, away from the opportunity or the toxicity of a relationship beyond the door that God is trying to protect you from. Perhaps you need to guard your heart from what’s beyond the door. And trust God and His plan. He knows what He’s doing.

God doesn’t want you banging your fists, bloodying your knuckles on a door He’s keeping closed for your own good.  With His help you can turn around, walk away, and let go of what you think you should be doing or who you think you should have a relationship with.  And while you’re walking away, pray for the situation.  Pray for the person.

It’s time to let go of the guilt that was never yours to hold onto in the first place and extinguish those flaming accusations of a liar who wants nothing more than to render you useless. Satan would be thrilled to see you standing like a little kid in time-out with your nose stuck to a closed door.

But you are not in time-out. Actually, you need to get ready.  A new plan is in the works.  New and exciting times are coming.  And if you’ve got your face stuck to a door, you’re going to miss it.

Let God protect you, my friend, and enjoy the life He has waiting for you. Love and cherish those He’s brought into your life and let them love you back.

It’s time. Turn around and walk away from the door.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23 NLT.)

A Prison Cell

prison cell

When something takes place in your life that really hurts you in the core of your heart, it can be devastating. You feel trapped in the moment, stuck in the pain.  You try to move past it.  You try to let go of it again and again and wonder why it still lingers, like a penetrating ache in your chest.

You realize the pain has walled you in, becoming a prison cell. At first you find comfort here:  the walls protect you from being hurt again.  They keep people away.  But soon you learn you’re only free to walk around in the confined space, reliving the conversations, the crushing moments, and the devastating blows to your spirit.  You relive each failure in your mind, the guilt and shame wrapping itself around you like the cold, musty air in your cell. And you can’t see anything new, nothing to hope for because the one window is boarded up, leaving only a crack of sunlight to shine through; that sliver of light hurts because you know the world is moving on without you.

You hear muffled sounds of laughter, joy. It stings because you can’t remember the last time you laughed a genuine laugh that welled up from within and spilled out; not the laugh you force because no one knows where you really are and you don’t know how to ask for help.

But maybe you finally do ask for help because you’re so tired of scratching the walls, of trying to dig your way out. You’re lying on the floor, exhausted from picking yourself up.  You cry out from your prison cell only to hear silence from beyond the bars.  You stare and wait.  But no one reaches in.

You fall to your face and beg God to help. You’re too tired to fight the darkness, the depression, alone.  The burden is too heavy to hold any longer.  A part of you breaks open and spills onto the floor.  You can’t do this alone, not this one.  Not this time.

You need God now more than ever and you tell Him. And when you admit it, when you speak it out loud, God holds you and whispers to your heart, “Let Me have it.”

Your first reaction is anger. You want to yell at God, argue with Him that you have already done that.  You’ve already given Him the entire situation again and again and He should know.

But He gently whispers, oh so gently to your wounded spirit, “Let Me have what’s in your hand.”

You notice your hand, the one you weren’t using to try and claw your way out, is tightened into a fist. And when you finally relax it, finally open it, you find a key.

You drop the key into God’s hand knowing you can trust Him and that He will protect you. As He unlocks the door and carries you out and into the light of a new day, you thank Him for rescuing you.  And you continue to rest in His arms as He holds you close and carries you forward.

“O Lord, I have come to you for protection; don’t let me be disgraced. Save me and rescue me, for you do what is right.  Turn your ear to listen to me, and set me free.”  (Psalm 71: 1-2 NLT.)

When You’re Standing All Alone

narrow path

Life can get lonely. Friends move on, family members move away, and some relationships you once treasured lose their luster and become like driftwood a rip current has pulled out to sea.  Before you know it you’re standing all alone, the water no longer kissing your toes and everyone you know has gone.

You can sit on the beach and blame yourself, go over and over in your mind all you did wrong or you can blame everyone else; point out their flaws and shortcomings. You can sit there and cry, sulk, beat your fists into the sand, and refuse to get up even though the sun is toasting your skin into a nice shade of lobster red.

Why bother. I mean, there has to be a reason you’re alone, right?  Like this is some sort of punishment for bad behavior or something.

But what if that’s not the case at all. What if there is a reason God has placed you on this beach all alone.  Not as punishment but as a blessing.

Maybe you’re wondering how this deep-within-your-bones loneliness could possibly be a blessing.

Why don’t you stand up, brush that sand from your backside, and stop pining for and gazing at what type of life you think you should have right now. Turn around.  Do you see that forest behind you, that gap in between the trees?  Go check it out.

The break in the trees is the beginning of a narrow path leading into the forest. You realize there is enough light to see, but you can’t see everything.  And as you move into it, the tree limbs brushing your arms and weeds tickling your legs, you quickly learn the path tapers with each step you take.

Yes, it’s a very narrow path. Just enough room for you.

And God.

You see, God has more for you than all the vast sea, that broad path, has to offer. You may think you’re missing out on some grand adventure, but God has better things here on this narrow path for you if you’ll trust Him.

Sure it’s tempting to follow everyone else because you’re lonely. But isn’t God enough for you?

Of course He knows you’re lonely; He sees your tears even though you try to hide them, when you put on your “I’m fine” face. Remember, He can look right into your heart.

There are others on this path up ahead some distance and even some who will begin after you. Some of your family and friends will find their way here.  They’ll also have to walk “alone” for a little while.

This is the time when you break apart from what everyone else is doing to follow God. Sure it’s hard.  No, there are no shortcuts.  Yes, you will make it because you have the best Guide possible.  No, you’re really NOT missing out on those adventures at sea.  Many of them will be lost out there.  Don’t be fooled by the soothing sounds you heard while you were sitting on the sand, those smiles as you watched everyone leave.  It’s really not some great party out there.  Not at all.

Actually you are the one heading to the real celebration on this path. You see, this narrow path will allow you to focus on God, to draw closer to Him, to hunger for Him like never before and to feed on those words He gives you, filling you fully.  He’s jealous for you and wants your full attention, your deep devotion, and He wants to spoil you madly with His love.

The path will be bumpy of course but you’ve got God’s hand to steady you. If you’ll just keep going, He will bring you all the way through into a glorious clearing where there will be others who chose to follow Him too, just waiting to welcome you home.  Again, some family and friends will be there.

And Jesus Christ. He will be there too.

And you’ll never be lonely again.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV.)

 

 

 

When God Renovates a Broken Spirit

renovation

It’s a great feeling to scrape off old paint and watch the thirsty wood drink in a fresh coat or to demolish an old deck that was nothing more than an eyesore and a disaster waiting to happen and watch as new boards begin to reach into the backyard.

Renovation.  Taking the old and broken and restoring it and making it new.

Is God renovating your broken spirit?

Perhaps your spirit is a like a run-down house that’s falling in on itself, and it’s exciting and uncomfortable at the same time to watch God work; He may be doing things you don’t understand or things you’re not sure you’re going to like.  But you gave Him permission, even cried out to Him when you were in trouble when your spirit, your house, was crumbling.  No matter how hard you tried to fix it, you couldn’t.

So you step aside and take a seat on a hillside not too far away.  The scent of the sun warming the grass and the cool breeze on your skin comforts you as you rest and watch God work on you.

Still uncomfortable because change makes you squirm? Remember, this is God.  The Creator of all things, and He knows how to build you.  He did it in your mother’s womb, and He can do it again.

Only this isn’t like creating or building you for the first time.  This is rebuilding you.  Renovating, remember?

He’s going to pull all those rusty nails, so He can design something new.  He’s going to scrub away the dirt from your past, scrape off the peeling paint of your failures that you keep focusing on, and rebuild your brokenness; He sees how others have hurt you and He’s going to permanently fix that crack in your heart that you keep trying to patch.  He’s going to wash away the black spots, the anger and bitterness, to stop them from spreading.

And when the demolition is complete and there’s nothing left but a mound of rubble, you can take a good look at your own hands and admit you can’t rebuild by yourself.  You need God.  You realize your sad attempts were like building a house out of wet cardboard and tape.

God has so much more for you than the soggy shoebox contraption you’ve been fixated on and tried to maintain.

As you trust Him to keep working, to gather the materials He’s going to use to rebuild, He will also dig up the painful things you have buried deep in the soil right outside your door; the place where the brown grass crunches underfoot.  That’s where you buried all the junk you didn’t want to bring into your house but couldn’t stand to look at anymore.  You know, the stuff you needed to deal with but didn’t.  God’s going to touch and heal that spot and plant a brand new seed.

And when He’s finished rebuilding and you stand from your place on the hillside to move in closer to see all His handiwork, you’ll realize all the brokenness and ugliness have been replaced with many wonderful changes and exciting, fresh starts.

And just wait until you see what He’s planted outside your door.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 NIV.)

A Pebble in the Trench

Pebble

When I was a little girl, I loved playing in mud puddles after a hard rain.  There was nothing like the squishy, oozing feeling between my fingers and against the palm of my hand, the way the cold mud would encase my hand like a glove when I pressed it down as far as it would go, and the sucking sound when I pulled it free.  And I loved making a little trench between two mud puddles, watching the water flow and then adding pebbles to steer it where I wanted it to go.

God steers us in a similar way.  He’s not a puppet master, forcing us to do this and that, nor is He waiting with a lightning bolt to zap us when we make a mistake; thank goodness for that or I’d be so electrified I could light up the night sky for miles around.  But God loves us enough to steer us away from danger and to the life He has waiting for us.

So if you’re sailing along from one mud puddle in the hopes of reaching the next and you see a big fat obstacle blocking your dream or goal, maybe God set up that pebble in the trench so you’ll wait on Him to make another way to get there.  Perhaps He’s protecting you from danger or maybe the timing isn’t right.  Or maybe He has something different, something better for you altogether.

So what do you do when you’re face to face with the pebble blocking your way?

You wait.  And while you’re waiting, God is working.  (You may not see what He’s up to, but He’s always working.)

But maybe you don’t want to wait.  Maybe you think waiting is a waste of time.  Well, you can always abandon ship and walk around to get where you want to go.  Just don’t be too surprised if your feet get stuck in the mud. Really stuck.  Then you’ll be cold, wet, and tired from trying to pull your feet out.  Only you won’t be able to so you’ll be forced to stand there in the mud that is now up to your knees as you wait on God.

Or maybe you like the idea of moving that pebble.  Ha!  Did I mention that in God’s hands it IS a pebble, but in yours, it’s more like a boulder or the moon?  Good luck.  Hope you don’t throw out your back.  But if you do, you can just rest your hand on that boulder and wait until you can stand upright.

Again, the waiting!

So it seems instead of getting stuck and wearing yourself out by hoofing it in your impatience, or instead of hurting yourself by trying to do the impossible, you can trust God when He uses a pebble (or in your case, a boulder) to block your path.  He knows what He’s doing.

Then finally after all of your waiting (which could be mere hours or many years), God shows you another way.  He’s been busy making a new trench, a new stream that flows easily down and into this amazing pool of fresh water; no more dirty water!  And here, the sun reflects off of the water like a thousand sparkling diamonds and there are enough cool breezes to help you catch your breath.  You close your eyes and thank God for putting a pebble in your trench and forming a new stream that led you to this place where you know you are about to do what you were created to do alongside the One who created you for such a time and place.

“Trust God from the bottom of our heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.  Don’t assume that you know it all.” (Proverbs 3:5-7a The Message.)

Still Eating Sand?

mud-pies

Have you ever been excited about something new? Ah yes, that new car smell comes to mind.  Or maybe a new job has your mind spinning and pumping with adrenaline.  Or perhaps something like a new hairstyle and a new pair of boots has you grinning a little bit more and walking a bit taller.  “New” does not always mean “stuff.”  In fact, I like it more when “new” is from God:  a new approach to someone who’s grumpy, a new and exciting task we never thought we could accomplish, a new door we never noticed.

So what’s our part in “new” when God’s at work? Wait and pray.  Watch and be excited.  (This is coming from God…it could be anything!)  And be willing to accept change.

Wait a minute. Change?  What if we don’t want to change?  What if we like things nice and comfy and predictable?   Do we really have to change?

If you want something new, yes, you need to be willing to change. I need to be willing to change too.

I mean, I used to eat mud pies and crunch on a little sand from time to time in our sandbox in the backyard when I was a little girl, BUT thankfully God lifted me up, wiped the mud and sand from my face, and guided me through years of changing from that little girl into a woman who wants to make Him smile; my heart set on Him and my eyes fixed on the horizon for whatever He doesn’t want me to miss.

Let me put it this way, you only have two hands. You can either hold a mud pie in one hand and clutch a handful of sand in the other OR you can drop them both and pick up the “new” God has for you, the “new” He has specifically designed for you at this very moment in your life.

If you’re trusting God and not running away from change and His “new” for you like it’s something dreadful lurking in the shadows, it may possibly emerge as one of the biggest surprises and blessings of your life. So don’t run away.  Just sit tight and wait on God to introduce you to this change, this “new” He has for you.  You don’t want to miss it.

I’m sure it will be a whole lot better than sitting in the sandbox eating sand.

“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.)

Crunch Time

crunch-time

Are you going through a crisis in your life? Or maybe you just have a lot of questions about the things you’re going through and you want answers, you need answers.  The right ones.

The Bible has every answer for every problem you have. That sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  But it’s true.  It’s not just for those individuals who were living during biblical times; it’s for us, you and me, right now.

Do you feel alone?

God says He’ll never leave you.  (Hebrews 13:5.)

Are you having marital problems?

God gives us a plan.  (Ephesians 5:22-33.)

Money issues?

Jesus taught a lot about money.  (Matthew 6:24.  This is only one example.)

Concerns about the lack of morality in the world today?

God explains.  (2 Timothy 3:1-5.)

Consumed with fear or discouragement?

God says He’ll be with you wherever you go.  (Joshua 1:9.)

Afraid to die?

If you choose Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, the best is yet to come.  (John 14:1-6.)

Don’t understand what you’re supposed to do with your life?

God knows exactly why He created you, and He wants to tell you.  (Jeremiah 29:11-13.)

Have serious trust issues?

God is THE One you can trust.  (Proverbs 3:5-6.)

Struggling with illness?

Go to God in prayer.  (James 5:14-15.)

Afraid of what the future holds?

God is always in control. (Isaiah 46:9-10.)

Feel like you’re worthless?

God made you. You have great worth.  (Matthew 10:29-31.)

Do you take the time to read the Bible? If not, why?  (I promise I’m not trying to badger you!)

Are you afraid to read the Bible because you think you won’t understand it? There are so many translations to choose from so you can find one that you understand.  (I use the NIV a lot.)

Are you worried about what other people might think; that you’re some fanatic or nut? Maybe they’ll think that and maybe they won’t.  But don’t worry if they do.  You’ve got a ton of people on earth and in heaven who know you’re very wise to read the Bible and will be cheering you on as you grow closer to God.

Or maybe you’re simply afraid you’ll have to change if you read the Bible. Just remember, the caterpillar changed into a butterfly.  So do you want to crawl around through life or feed on God’s word so you can soar?  Perhaps it’s crunch time for you.

Open up the Bible, my friend, and let it feed your soul.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8 NIV.)

butterfly

Remember

remember-3

I haven’t filled the bird feeders or given any corn to the deer in a long time and promised myself once November arrived, I’d start doing it again. So I threw on my old coat yesterday morning and loaded up the cup to fill both feeders, tapping it to make sure the birdseed slid out. That tapping is the same, hollow sound that’s been echoing across our property for years, one that announces, “It’s breakfast time” to all the critters.

I poured some fresh water into the birdbath and since I don’t have any corn yet, I dumped a little birdseed into the dish for the deer.  And that’s when I saw her standing in the front yard, watching and waiting:  a deer that knew the routine.

She remembered the tapping sound of my cup, the mound of corn or birdseed she’d find in the dish, and the gravely sound as I dumped it in.  I’m pretty sure she even remembered the crazy woman who waves at her because she stood and watched me as I did it again.

But more importantly, she remembered the provision.

Do you remember God’s provision? Do you remember all the times He provided a way out when you made a bad decision?  Do you remember when He provided a break when you were so desperate for one?  Do you remember how He sent someone, even a stranger, who smiled when you were feeling like no one cared about you?

Can you look back and see all He has done, all He has brought you through? Or have you forgotten?  Are you looking down at your feet right now wondering how in the world you got here, and why did God abandon you?

Take a lesson from the deer and remember.  Remember where your provision comes from and all God has done for you.  If it’s hard to remember, ask Him to bring it back to your memory, to sharpen your focus, so you can take a good look at it and understand all good things really do come from Him.  Don’t get stuck looking down.  Take a moment to remember and look back to see God’s mighty hand rescuing, providing, protecting, and guiding you.

And trust that He will provide again.

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.  Your ways, O God, are holy.  What god is so great as our God?  You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.”  (Psalm 77:11-14 NIV.)

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.)