Friday, March 16, 2018

Bushwacking, Backtracking and Bumbling

Life is not lived in a straight line.  While I have had a few moments in life that felt like I was walking on a well made trail, I've had many more that felt like I was hacking my way through brambles and tumbling down sharp hillsides screaming "as you wish".  Smooth trail or bush choked path, none are straight.  They follow the lay of the land and generally curve to avoid the impassable or dangerous.  We expect it while we're hiking, rock climbing or trail meandering.  Paths curve, the best route must be considered and thought out and sometimes you have to climb down to find the way up.      

I've been feeling that way recently.  Slightly lost, unsure and trying to convince myself that this couldn't possibly be the right way to go.    Life sometimes feels like that.  We are staring at a crossroads, unsure if which path to take.  So we pick a direction only to find pitfalls, quicksand and maybe some ROUS's.  Emotionally, these set backs or challenges feel like failure.  So we turn around and trudge back to the crossroads feeling defeated and disheartened.  It can paralyze us into curling up in the middle of the crossroads and stop moving to avoid making the wrong decision.  I've been doing the new Beth Moore Study "The Quest" which has been right where God wants me right now.  He knew that the adventure He has me on was going to come with a lot of curves but Beth Moore's study reminded me that Quests are full of question marks and that the very nature of their shape reminds us that the path will curve unexpectedly and require some leaps of faith to get to the point.  

Sometimes we have no choice but to scale the cliffs of insanity or brave the fire swamp. Sometimes we will stroll leisurely down a well trod path.  All paths will curve and most will fork.  Just don't freeze in fear of the unknown.  So what if that last fork didn't get you where you wanted to go.  You have a choice in how you view that truncated path.  Did you make the wrong choice or was the dead end part of the adventure?  God is always teaching us something.  No matter what your adventure brings you, you can think of it like an important plot twist. It's where God teaches the hero (that's you) something important.  So whether you use that to shrug off the feelings of failure and defeat or whether you use it to search your circumstances for the hidden gems and pieces of the puzzle, you can choose how you see the dead ends, pitfalls and strategic retreats.

Treasure maps are often full of loops, roundabouts and arcs before you reach the "X" which marks the spot.  Why do we forget that will be true in our own adventure.  If my hiking path bends and dips and forks, then why wouldn't my life's journey?  So, what are you going to see as an adventure today instead of a mistake?

Link ups this week:

Friday, March 9, 2018

God Holds my Purpose

For the last few months, as God has asked me to rest and as He's given me hints that He's preparing me for something, I've been thinking about my purpose.  I've been thinking about it because the enemy and my own rebellious flesh have been whispering doubts to me.  Who are you?  What could you possibly offer? What are you even for?  You have no purpose!  

Doubts are poisonous little things.  They worm their way into your thinking and deep into your heart and from there your actions and words flow.  

You act under the assumption that your doubt is based in truth.

I don't know about you but for me my doubts, upon examination, tend to be broad.  They're broad because being specific wouldn't allow my mind to blanket attach "proof".  See, you failed that one time, so you're a failure.  See, you haven't done anything meaningful with your life.

Big questions like "Who are you?" and "What is your Purpose in life?" are the wrong kind of question.  They can be answered but only with the broad type of  answer that the questions demands.  Who am I?  A daughter of the King.  Who am I? Loved by a God who calls me by name.  What is my purpose? To go and make disciples.  What is my purpose? To glorify God.

If I'm being honest, I find those kinds of answers wholly unsatisfying when I'm in the grip of doubt.  They feel like Sunday School answers.  Empty and flat.  Something learned by rote.  They are absolutely true and I know they are, but it feels so inadequate and small.  So, how do you combat that feeling?  How do you find God, real and present, in your journey when doubts are being spit at you like jungle darts from the shadows?

You investigate of course!  At least that's what I've been doing.  I ask God a lot of questions.  It's just in my nature to want to understand and I have been delighted to discover that asking God questions does not mean I question His holiness or sovereignty.  I have been even more delighted to discover that He hears me and answers!  

Doubt settles easily on our shoulders and causes them to droop and hunch in defeat.  It feels so much easier to give up than to fight and fight is exactly what you have to do!  Fight out of the bog and mire.  Fight to push aside the lies and accept the truth.  To believe despite our doubt.

As I was reading Scripture this past week I discovered two amazing verses that I had never noticed or thought of in light of doubt and purpose.  

Matthew 28:17 New International Version (NIV)

17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

Did you catch that?  The disciples are gazing at the transformed and resurrected face of Jesus the Christ, their Messiah, and still some of them doubted.  He was caught up to heaven before their very eyes and they stood staring at the clouds until angels came and asked them what they were looking at.  God doesn't condemn us for our doubt.  He knows we will have them.  He does encourage us to choose instead to believe.  

Here's the best part!  Doubt doesn't change the outcome because it's not us who is attaining our purpose or earning our value.  Who I am does not change.  I am a servant of God.  In that knowledge, doubt has less power over me.  If I can't "do it wrong" or "mess it up" (no matter what "it" is) then I don't have to doubt myself.  It now becomes a question of if I believe God will do it.  I can tell you I trust God WAY more than I trust myself.  The scripture is full of reminders that God NEVER fails to accomplish what He says He will do.  

So how does that help me in my search for purpose?  Oh my friends, the lover of our souls is very good!  After God delighted me with the reminder that even those who walked with Him sometimes had doubts, He brought me to a passage in a translation I don't normally read. 

Psalm 57:2 English Standard Version (ESV)

2  I cry out to God Most High,

    to God who fulfills his purpose for me. 

I can tell you this verse hit me like a hallelujah chorus!  God fulfills His purpose for me!  The NIV uses the world "vindicates" in the place of "fulfills his purpose".  Strong's Concordance  tells me that the word means completes or come to an end upon.  It is a beautiful assurance that It is not me but God who accomplishes, who completes, who fulfills.  In light of the doubt that has hung upon my shoulders I see that word "vindicates" as a direct smack in the face of my doubt.  "Oh, you think JD doesn't have anything of value to say? *SMACK* Well I do!"  "You think JD doesn't have any real purpose? *Smack* Well I do!"  It's not that God believes that I can do it, no.  He knows He can do it!  

It feels like freedom, shrugging off the weight of doubt.  

Not only do I have a purpose, God will make sure that it is accomplished.  Do you need some freedom from your doubt?  Know that whatever is being whispered by your doubt can be fought with examination and truth.  Figure out the root of the lie and replace it with truth.  It takes practice, and it certainly isn't a cure all for the rest of your life, but knowing what is happening and how to combat it can mean the difference between winning the battle and being defeated before you even begin.  

 Linkups I'm participating in!  Check them out!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Watch for traps

I’m an action comedy kind of girl.  When I watch a movie I want it to thrill and delight me.  Luckily, my hubby is the same way.  Our favorite is the Princess Bride and I’m sorry but we can’t be friends if you don’t agree.  ;)  I was thinking about some of my favorite films recently and thinking about the fact that the hero always seems to have some inexplicable immunity or special skill that just so happens to meet the requirements of any given situation until the story needs to give the sidekick something to do.  Have you ever noticed that? 

Life doesn’t work like that!

In fact, it's the exact opposite.  The pitfalls and traps in life that cause us to trip up, fall down and spin about are insidious.  Unlike an action movie where the hero encounters generic traps in which they are naturally skilled, our traps are specifically tailored to our weaknesses.   

The traps are so specifically tailored that I often feel that I will never be able to overcome the pitfall.  I think we can all admit that there are some weaknesses we have struggled with our entire lives.  If God is growing and changing us, why am I still struggling with a specific area of sin?  Why does that trap always seem to work?  

It may be because God is not General Akbar yelling from His throne “IT’S A TRAP!”  Or does He?  Maybe He does yell from His throne that it’s a trap.  So often we are drowning God’s voice out with other things so we can’t hear His warnings. 

Maybe it's because God is trying to make us aware of our shortcomings so we can learn to overcome them.  I often find that I'm unaware of an issue until someone or something points it out to me.  

No matter what God ordained reason for the trap, I know why I fall for them.  I get caught in these traps because my hand is reaching out for something it shouldn't.  I don't know about you but the traps I seem to fall for are not subtle once you notice they are always there.  

The third Indiana Jones film is my favorite (I know, not a popular choice) but one of the reasons why I love this film is the theme of focus.  Good guys and bad guys alike are after the "holy grail" but their intent and motivations are different.  After being told the grail can't go past the seal, the femme fatale takes it past the seal.  Consequences ensue.  The hero saves her from falling only to have her pull herself out of his grasp as she tries to reach for the grail.  This leads to his fall, which is halted by his father.  Now stay with me here.  This is our moment.  While hanging there, the hero takes his eyes off his father and onto the grail.  He almost makes the same mistake the femme fatale made.  The grail isn't a bad thing.  Most of the things that cause us to fall into traps aren't.  It's taking our eyes off God the Father for any reason.  Sometimes it's because He's holding on to us to prevent a fall.  Sometimes it's because anything less than God is an idol.  We pull ourselves out of the grip of a God who is leading us by his strong right arm to grasp hold of something else.  Whether that thing is good or bad the point is that it is just a thing.  It's a creation, not the creator.  

So what are you reaching for today?  Is it your Savior or something else?

Linking up with: #freshmarketfriday, #destinationinspiration, #faithnfriends

Friday, February 23, 2018

When the Joy Fades

Something hit me this week.  I almost forgot I was living an adventure.  It's so easy to do in the midst of the every day but in that moment I recognized I didn’t have as intimate a relationship with God as I had been experiencing.  If you’ve been following my blog you know I was on a high of epic proportions.  I was having such an amazing time of intimacy with the Lord I was giddy with joy and it was intoxicating.  In that state I asked God if I was not obeying His direction to clear my schedule of tasks and just rest in Him.  In response I delayed one of my Bible Studies and two of the others canceled their meetings for the week due to weather.  I thought to myself, this is a direct reflection of how much God loves me.  He cleared my schedule,  I didn’t have too.   I found myself in the glorious place where I had no Bible study homework for a whole week!  Then one of my studies canceled again and I walked into that next week without opening God’s Word at all.  I had forgotten Him, let my mind wander to amusements to occupy my mind and mundane tasks.  I no longer was full of joy, exuberant with energy as I went on the treasure hunt to find God.  I can feel the difference to my very core and the loss was...profound.  That time of intimacy is over...for now. 

It seems so innocent now.  God gave me a gift which I loved and cherished and then let that gift take my eyes off of my Savior.  I slide away because I wasn’t spending time with God.  Was it a sin to take a break from so many Bible Studies, no.  Was it a sin to make that gift an idol that replaced my God, yes.  I knew that time of intimacy with my Savior would come to an end some day and God had already planted the seed to create a reminder of that time.  My mother used to tell me when I came back from summer camp all jazzed up and on fire for the Lord that not all of life was a mountain top experience.  (Mine were literal and figurative) We will have troubles, we will pass through valley’s and we will have the treacherous climbs up and down those breathtaking peaks.  Our lives are a series of different seasons.  They flow and ebb and change. 

The treacherous climbs and dark valleys are part of the journey.  God doesn’t sit us on the mountaintops forever because we won’t grow.  What I learned during my time of intimacy with God will bolster me on the road ahead and give me the foundation which God will test and try as He sets it firmly in my soul.  He will hammer and shove and shimmy that stone until it is level.  

I know I’ll get back to that time of intimacy.  I know God will continue to teach me.  Preparing my soul for the next climb up to the mountain top where I will once again gaze lovingly and uninhibited at my Lord’s face.  I hope it’s soon.  I miss that giddy sensation but I know eventually that “feeling” would become an idol as well.  If you haven’t been feeling as close to God lately, search for why.  Is it because you have forgotten Him in the midst of your everyday, is it because there is a blockage, is it because God is trying to teach you He is still present and you just have to trust and believe?  Start searching for Him again.  You will find Him and every new discovery will bring you closer to recognizing Him in your every day.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Temper Tantrums

I was thinking about how rebellious we are as a species.  No matter how young or old, we all have moments where we have temper tantrums.  It came up as I was talking with a friend about health and the little ways we sabotage ourselves.

I myself am quite the stubborn lamb.  As a sufferer from chronic health issues I have tried almost all the things.  I have tried to politely smile and thank well meaning acquaintances who ask if I've tried A, B or C.  I have tried to shake off the comments about my health problems being my fault.  I have tried enough mainstream and alternative medicines to "fix" my issues that I've developed a bit of a problem.  I will only give any new "cure" a month.  Some of the suggested fixes are quite unpleasant and for me having a set end date was part of my mental defense for giving solution "x" every chance to work.  I would do everything they asked of me....for a month.  And when it didn't work, because let's face it, nothing had yet, I wouldn't be surprised and I wouldn't have invested hope falsely.

Sometimes what health professionals ask of us sounds so ridiculous.  At least it does to me.  I honestly believe (and therefore act out) that what they're asking of me couldn't possibly make a difference. This is apparently not uncommon.  The training my friend is going through to become a therapist is asking some great questions of her.  She was stuck on a particular one when we met for tea and so she asked me my opinion.

"What do you say to a client who is clearly not doing the work at home that you have assigned"

I understand the question from the clients side and after talking it through, she realized she did too.  We all have things that raise our hackles and set our stubborn feet.  We all, at every age and type, have little temper tantrums when we say in the privacy of our own minds, "Well, I'll show you!"   It's counter productive in the extreme and doesn't help anybody.

There are many ways that my stubborn streak has caused me harm.  My health being one of the biggest areas it has effected.  In order to prove to the therapist and "everybody else" that I'm not lazy, lying or faking it, I do everything they tell me even when it is painful and causing more health issues.  I don't talk about it.  They didn't want to hear me when I told them it won't work, then fine.  I'll show them!  Sometimes I completely ignore health workers advice because it sounds so far-fetched.  Like eating at specific times of the could that possibly be the reason I'm not losing weight?!?

The real problem is that I have already decided that it's not going to work.  That belief effects the outcome.  It makes it more likely that I will not comply with what is being asked of me, either through omission or through stubborn belligerence.  It is ultimately a waste of my time and whichever health practitioner I am currently seeing.

Entering into any activity should always be done with eyes wide open.  Being on the lookout for red flags and warning signs is always wise.  We should be searching for God in the everyday and that means even the things we consider mundane.  It is always walking forward, searching actively....never with neck outstretched, heals dug in, weight shifting to our rumps.  Your stubbornness will never take you where you want to go.  It will only keep you where you are.

If where you're walking isn't working, then change your course, don't fight to stay where you are.

Jeremiah 7:24 ESV 

But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Secrets Revealed

Some time ago I vaguely hinted that I had been asked to participate in a secret project that I was very excited about.  It's about time I revealed it to all of you for two reasons....

  1. It's in print and available for purchase.
  2. It's launched a new season in my life.

What is "IT" you ask?  Good question.  

Introducing Overcomer, a Journal of Hope for Women who Hurt.

Kim has said this project was a God thing and it was.  Even the bits I got to contribute came from a heart prayerfully asking God what He wanted me to say.  I was blessed and excited to be a part of it and I am so happy to be able to share it with all of you.  Whether you need a place to work through your story of trauma or you know someone who needs it, I can personally recommend this book.  

My friend Kim is an amazing author but more than that she is an amazing woman of God.  Before I knew she was an amazing author she spoke God's truth into my new marriage and into my walk with Christ and she is one of dearest people to my heart.  I would encourage you to visit her website for many reasons, including her other books, but also for the information she shares about fighting human trafficking and struggling with chronic illness.  
(You can find her website here

Getting to contribute to this work has sparked a new desire to write.  You may have noticed an increase in the regularity of my posts.  I couldn't have had a better launching pad than this book.  So wait with me and see what the Lord does!  Let the Adventure begin because Overcoming obstacles is all part of the grand quest!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Striving and Surrender

I attend a Holy Yoga class by Beautiful and Beloved.  I adore my Holy Yoga class.  I'm not a fact I find it the most sure torture in the world for me, but Yoga is strength and stretching all at once and it's been a good supplement (as long as I'm mindful of not going past my limitations) to my exercise routine for many reasons.

I don't want this to turn into an advertisement for yoga but I do want to give you a few of the reasons why I, as a Christian, participate in a traditionally mystical practice.  I'm never going to be able to convince all of you that our intentions are an important factor in any endeavor.  I don't go to yoga to align my chakras or meditate on the universe.  I know some have argued that if that was and is it's purpose then that's it's purpose no matter what my intentions.

No problem, I don't want to cause anyone to stumble, please stop reading.

The world loves to remind us that holidays we celebrate, everyday practices, habits and tools we use, were once used for evil purposes.  If you look hard enough you can be offended at everything.  Don't get me wrong.  We should be mindful, and if Yoga raises flags for you, then don't do it.   For me, it's exercise and a time to pray and honor the Lord by working on paying attention to the temple He's given me to care for.  I've been lucky enough to find Godly people who are trying to do the same thing.

Believe it or not, I'm going to get to the actual point now. 😉

During practice, our amazing instructor reads scripture at various points and sets our intention of focus as we meditate on the Lord.  I'm not sure what it was that week but the Lord kept bringing to mind the idea of yoga being an example of striving and surrender at the same time and I thought that was an apt analogy for our spiritual lives.  When I got home I tried looking up that idea but all the searches brought me to articles that admonished people to stop striving and surrender.  I get that wiser heads than mine have wrestled with the issues of setting aside our need for control which is very true.  We shouldn't be trying to take control out of God's hands.


What if there's room in the definition of striving that is good and right for Christians to participate in?

What if striving and surrender aren't mutually exclusive?

As human beings we often tense up when we are striving physically.  Pushing a weight often leads to tension in parts of the body we aren't meant to be pushing with.  My trainer has had to tell me more than once to relax my shoulders while I'm doing a chest press.  I had a friend describe her labor to me in those terms.  She was trying, for the babies sake, to relax so she wouldn't hurt him as he was being born, while at the same time pushing to bring about the birth.  If that juxtaposition can be physically true, then why not spiritually?  While I am absolutely supposed to relinquish control to the sovereign God, that doesn't mean I sit like a lump until God drops things in my lap.  Life in Christ is a pursuit, an adventure and a quest.  I am to walk with God!  I am to seek Him, follow Him, pursue Him.  Those are not passive words.  There is a difference between seeking to get things done/make things happen and striving to see God in our every circumstance.  While I absolutely have to watch myself to avoid falling back into a to-do list toting "Martha", I absolutely should strive to become a "Mary".  In yoga, some of the most relaxed looking poses are the most active.  Every muscle is engaged.  That's what I want to strive for in my spiritual life as well.  Every fiber of my being engaged and focused, poised and ready for my Saviors call.
  • If you're unfamiliar with the Biblical reference then the short story is Martha was serving the household by making sure food was on the table, drinks were in the cups, stuff was cleaned and hostess duties were being performed while her sister let her do all the work while she sat at Jesus feet.  When Martha ask Jesus to make her sister help her, Jesus told her that Mary had chosen better.  Jesus wasn't saying that physical practicalities weren't important or necessary...just that they weren't AS important or necessary. 

I don't cease striving because God is in control, I continue striving because God is in control.  What I strive for changes.  I don't strive to make things happen the way I want.  I strive to pursue what God wants, which is for me to know Him and to help others know Him better.  While God doesn't need my help to glorify His name, I am going to pursue that goal with abandon.  I will strive to praise Him, to glorify Him and to know Him.

I admit this might be an argument of semantics but I honestly believe it's possible to surrender control to a Sovereign God and actively strive to pursue Him.  Are there areas in your life that you need to give up your control of the outcome and instead strive for peace, patience or gratitude?