Tag Archives: Pain

Full of Surprises

“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” C.S. Lewis

I met with a sister who is new to the area for tea the other day. We opened the lines of communication by learning a little about each other’s backgrounds. As she placed a few pieces of the puzzle of her life face up on the table, I began to recognize some of the name brand barricades in the backdrop.

Like all of us, she is a ball of yarn that will take time to unravel. She is colorful and flexible and is a critical thread in any fabric that is woven with her. Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize it. She sees the face of God from a distance but can’t feel His real proximity. She moves about on her path never observing the safety warning that says, “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” She toddles along believing that she has many miles beyond the horizon to go before she can reach her Lord and Savior and constantly collides with clearly marked obstructions called unforgiven, unloved, and undeserving. All creation cried out with longing, with groans only You could comprehend; and with wisdom, You always answer and give the words of life so unfailing.The Way by Jeremy Camp

As we continued to talk, I learned we have a lot more in common than meets the eye. I learned we both gain our energy from within, we are both guilty of the sin of too much self-reliance, and that the nightmares of the ugliness of others still creep into our days. We find great comfort in concepts such as mission, battle rhythm, and stronghold. We push forward and are always willing to lead the way into unchartered territory – unless that exploration requires an examination of the dark places where our points of pain lay. Then it’s time to rip the cord out of the wall, stopping the music and the madness. We do that by repressing those ghosts of experiences past deep into closets we mistake as graves.

As I began to scratch the surface of the places that lead to her darkness, her eyes welled up with tears. We skirted near the shallow fields of a few more skeleton crypts and the daunted, dazed, disbelieving girl of years ago came screaming from the darkness of the past into the now. As she sat quietly, taking in everything the spirit was saying through me, I reminded her of a great lesson I learned from a mentor on my journey. It is “that which we repress comes back to the party in a different dress, just at a time and a place that is not convenient or of our choosing.” The good news is that treasures are hidden in dark places. If we rely on Him, He will lead us to our trove of prizes; our paragon full of surprises. John Chapter 1:1-5 (NIV) tells us, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” And Your glory shines all around us; Your faithfulness shown for all to see. When we think of all of Your wonders, the beauty of Your plan that’s been revealed, we walk in Your light. We walk in it. Shine bright. Let Your glory fill this land; lift high, the King of Kings and great I am. Jesus, You are the way

I shared some of the nastiness I used to hide behind a façade. We talked about a few bones that used to fly out of my closet as soon as the door cracked ever so slightly. We chatted about our pursuit of peace and quiet. We discussed our inner desires to be strong and others’ reliance on us to be the tie that binds the unit together. Her eyes locked onto mine as if to say, “you too?” As her eyes filled with tears again, there seemed to be a sigh of relief that came from our common connection. I shared that I learned the hard way that to truly be undaunted, unflappable, and unchained, I had to become vulnerable. I had to be willing to expose the nerve endings of my pain and the full extent of my weaknesses. Through that discomfort, He gave me the courage I needed to enter those dark places. He, The Light, illuminated my treasures. My power and gifting were then birthed through the womb of vulnerability. Through the journey, His brightness shone through the crevices of my weaknesses and pain. I also shared these three things I have learned in the process:

  1. He has forgiven me for all that I have done wrong.
  2. He loves me even with my breaks and cracks.
  3. He has taught me that His grace is His eternal gift to me without regard for what I deserve.

My reflection on my tea time has me here:

It is in my many moments of complete emptiness that God says, “Here I am…Walk with Me. Your strength comes from Me, and Me alone. If only you would take my hand, I will take you to heights beyond the farthest boundaries of your imagination. Hold back, and you will forever remain in the middle of this mess. I am full of surprises! Come with me so I may show you your treasures. I am The Light. If you stay with Me, there is no reason for you to ever be afraid of darkness.”

I am looking forward to exposing many more of my cracks to this sister in hopes that she will see His light shining through them. Until then, my prayer is that she becomes mindful that the cold canyon that contains the anguish, agony, and ache of tortured ghosts from experiences past, is best crossed on a bridge named vulnerability with a guide called God. She is a beautiful sister with unabridged potential. Her happiness is His truth. I can’t wait to see His greatness unleashed through her. Her treasures are there for the taking; full of wonder, amazement, and surprise. We can see the works of Your loving hands with a hope and peace not made by man. When You poured out Your grace and Your mercy and You held out Your arms so we could see You bled for all mankind and set the captives free.

“Simeon was there and took the child in his arms, praising God. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘now I can die content! For I have seen him as you promised me I would. I have seen the Savior you have given to the world. He is the Light that will shine upon the nations, and he will be the glory of your people Israel!’” Luke 2:28-32 (TLB)

May you always be willing to ask for Him and take His hand. May His light always shine through you.  Come along side someone else and share your story. Be the love!


Getting Right with God

This message is a re-print in honor of the one-year anniversary (September 19) of the kick-off of the Celebrate Recovery ministry at my church.  The ministry is made up of regular folks like you and me who are on a journey toward wholeness. 

Celebrate Recovery is a bible-based 12-step program designed to celebrate God’s healing power in our lives through eight recovery principles found in the beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12.  The scripture states: 3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and his rule.  4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.  Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.  “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less.  That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.  “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God.  He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.  “You’re blessed when you care.  At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.  “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right.  Then you can see God in the outside world.  “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.  That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.  The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. (MSG)

I was one of the 151 people who attended my church’s launch of Celebrate Recovery – a clear admission that I have unaddressed hurts, unresolved hang-ups, and habits that no longer serve me well.  I came with an open mind and heart to see what God was leading me to do.  I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people and realized that the need for the ministry is great.  Although I spent a lot of time in my own thoughts, I quickly realized that I am not alone in this broken world and that hope is alive.  1 Peter 4:12-13 was the scripture that first came to mind – “12-13 Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job.  Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced.  This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.”  (MSG)

I was so excited to see a few familiar faces but must admit that I thought to myself, “Wow!  I have to make it a point to diversify the services I attend because there are a lot of people here I don’t recognize.”  The Holy Spirit sternly told me not to judge others in the room as I was in the same space with them for a reason.  He told me, “The label or stigma of the specific addiction, habit, hurt or hang-up is not important.  The fact that their owners want to resolve them is!”  He then led me to meet and greet both the familiar faces as well as the friends to be.

As I was mingling at the pre-service gathering, I noticed a gentleman standing in the atrium, alone and seemingly unattended.  He appeared to be deep into his own thoughts and perhaps unaware of the positive energy building around him.  He was holding a drink cup in one hand and was continuously wiping his eyes with the other.  I walked up to him, exchanged introductions and asked him which service he attends?  He told me that he was a first-timer.  As he continued to wipe the tears from his eyes, he said he was struggling to cope with his wife’s death.  He said he works with another church member who encouraged him to come to Celebrate Recovery.  I hugged him, told him I was happy he came and offered to introduce him to a few folks.  He declined the offer.  I hugged him again and told him I was so glad he took the time to come.  I then used a lot of energy to hold back the tears of pain transferred from him to me.  I thought “My God! His pain is incredibly deep.”  I prayed, “Please Lord, help him through this tough time.  Please help him to endure these difficulties.  If he has not dedicated his life to you, please move him do so to give him the hope of seeing his wife in heaven.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-5 reminds us “All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah!  Father of all mercy!  God of all healing counsel!  He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.  We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.”  (MSG)

I went into the auditorium, enjoyed the musical worship, and the explanation of what Celebrate Recovery is.  The leaders explained the 12 steps, the 8 principles and the rules of confidentiality.  There is a part of the service where people are invited to make a change in their lives.  For those who are interested, they can come to the stage and get a chip to celebrate anywhere from the first day of change to multiple years of recovery.  It was then that I noticed the miracle of the God of Hope beginning – I was allowed to witness the gentleman from the lobby get a chip to begin making Godly changes in his life.  Isaiah 56:1-3 tells us, “Guard my common good: Do what’s right and do it in the right way, for salvation is just around the corner, my setting-things-right is about to go into action.  How blessed are you who enter into these things, you men and women who embrace them, Who keep Sabbath and don’t defile it, who watch your step and don’t do anything evil!  Make sure no outsider who now follows God ever has occasion to say, ‘God put me in second-class. I don’t really belong.’ And make sure no physically mutilated person is ever made to think, ‘I’m damaged goods.  I don’t really belong.” (MSG)

I left the auditorium and went to the issue-specific breakout sessions with the following on my mind:

  • Rid myself of arrogance
  • Totally submit my life to His ways and teachings
  • Get real, get honest, get on my knees, and get in his word
  • Make peace where peace can be made
  • Be willing to be used for His will

The breakout sessions involved introductions, issue identification and opportunities for individual uninterrupted expression in a safe and confidential environment.  The expressions required introspection and an acknowledgment from the speaker that “you are only as sick as your secrets, but the Lord heals as he reveals.”  The experience left me with this:

  1. You cannot enter a space and leave it unaffected. The only question is whether your impact was positive or negative.
  2. Compassion is the understanding that things run deeper than the observer can see
  3. Anonymity and confidentiality do not create caves for secrets
  4. There is certainly an inner joy and peace that comes from being right with God.

It has been almost a year since the Celebrate Recovery kick-off.  There are still people checking it out.  If you are interested, the meetings are held at the church on Friday nights from 7-9.  If Celebrate Recovery is not for you, please pray for the many who will benefit from it.  Each day, as I interact with others professionally and socially, I remember my experience at the kick-off that people who go to Celebrate Recovery or similar meetings run in many of the same circles I do.  There is no room for judgment by age, occupation, class, issue or anything else, because we all live in the same broken world.  Some are simply courageous enough to seek help and receive hope.  As Casting Crowns says in their song The Voice of Truth:

Oh what I would do to have the kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I’m in, onto the crashing waves; to step out of my comfort zone to the realm of the unknown where Jesus is.  And He’s holding out his hand, but the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me; reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed.  The waves they keep on telling me time and time again, ‘Boy, you’ll never win! You’ll never win!”  But the voice of truth tells me a different story and the voice of truth says “Do not be afraid!”  And the voice of truth says “This is for My glory.”  Out of all the voices calling out to me.  I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

1 Thessalonians 1:2-5 tells us, “Every time we think of you, we thank God for you.  Day and night you’re in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father.  It is clear to us friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special.  When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn’t just words.  Something happened in you.  The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions. (MSG)


The Promises, not the Problems

It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light – Aristotle Onassis

The past few weeks have been some of the most interesting times of recent memory.  I departed the US on a high with enough fire in the belly to believe I could boil an ocean.  As I travelled abroad, although the oceans stayed below 212 degrees, I set every beach ablaze I encountered.  I took every opportunity I had to spread the good news in capital cities and remote villages.  However, over the days my body and mind grew tired even though I thought my faith was strong.

You see, through it all I maintained a mindset that the things that were coming at me were bricks not bullets and therefore would not hurt me.  My armor plates of faith and courage were on.  Nothing could penetrate; not the intensity or diversity of my work, the miles travelled, the short adjustment periods, the domestic issues, the death of a matriarch, or the health concerns.  Brick…by…brick, each issue fell in front of me.  Each one lay beside another across the road, then stacking one on top of another building a thick barrier that I mistook as a thin sheet. Without regard for what it really was or appeared to be, the best way to survive an ambush is to continue driving through it.  So I floored it, gaining speed in hopes that momentum would carry me through if all else failed.  The acceleration quickly slowed and eventually I came to a rest.  I was so intent on making it through that I crashed into the backstop on the other side of what I thought was the finish line.  When I returned state side, I realized I had hit a wall.  My only prayer in the moment was from Psalms 16 1 Protect me, God, for the only safety I know is found in the moments I seek You.  2 I told You, Eternal One, “You are my Lord, for the only good I know in this world is found in You alone.”

Feeling tried and extremely overwhelmed, the bricks just continued to pile up.  The wall grew higher and higher.  Day after day, my heart grew more and more heavy and weary.  With every step I took, I prayed “be with me Lord!”  Yet with each passing moment, I felt more and more alone.  Last night, I finally buckled under the pressure, fell to my knees, and in full surrender I cried out.  God then held me close and said, “This is the way you stand the tallest and the strongest – when you are most dependent on me!  Yes I built you to be resilient and gave you a spirit of courage but it is wholly contingent upon the two of us walking in lock step.  The moment you begin to operate independent of me, you lose your armor and you don’t even realize when it is slipping off.  I am with you and always have been.  Look back and see the single set of footprints.  You are the only one who was somehow lulled into thinking they were yours.  Listen!  With great championships comes great adversity.  But my people stand tall.  Now dry your eyes and straighten up your posture.  Look in My word to locate your faith and let’s go together to find your courage because evil is powerless only when the good are unafraid.  Remember your name and remember that I have never reneged, not even once.  We can solve these things together if you are willing to look to Me first.”  Suddenly my heart broke out into song, You stood before creation, eternity in your hand.  You spoke the earth into motion, my soul now to stand.  So what could I say and what could I do?  But offer this heart, Oh God, completely to you.  So I’ll walk upon salvation, Your spirit alive in me.  This life to declare Your promise, my soul now to stand.  I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned in awe of the one who gave it all.  I’ll stand my soul Lord to you surrendered.  All I am is yours.  Hillsong United – The Stand

At that point, the wall came tumbling down.  I drifted off to sleep in thanksgiving.    Psalms 16 continues with 3 The beauty of faith-filled people encompasses me.  They are true, and my heart is thrilled beyond measure.  4 All the while the despair of many, who abandoned Your goodness for the empty promises of false gods, increases day by day.  I refuse to pour out blood offerings, to utter their names from my lips.  5 You, Eternal One, are my sustenance and my life-giving cup.  In that cup, You hold my future and my eternal riches.  6 My home is surrounded in beauty; You have gifted me with abundance and a rich legacy.  7 I will bless the Eternal, whose wise teaching orchestrates my days and centers my mind at night.  8 He is ever present with me; at all times He goes before me.  I will not live in fear or abandon my calling because He stands at my right hand.  9 This is a good life—my heart is glad, my soul is full of joy, and my body is at rest.  Who could want for more?  10 You will not abandon me to experience death and the grave or leave me to rot alone.  11 Instead, You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life.  As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending, and I know true joy and contentment.  The Voice

The first thought on my mind this morning was this: The anguish I had felt all week long was finally relieved.  Whatever I will face moving forward is with Him on my side. Imagine the possibilities if we were willing to live our lives with the constant knowledge that we have the full faith and backing of our God.  The possibilities would be endless.  We would openly and willingly tame the tiger of racism, close hunger’s hippo-size jaws of death, eradicate the venom of domestic violence, etc.  There would be no fear in the alley after dusk because we would know the truth – that what is in the dark also appears in the light.  Love would fill our hearts, houses and homeland.  Our focus would forever be on His promises and not our problems because we would understand the He is bigger than any hurdle we could ever encounter.  Oh what an awesome God we serve who loves and cares for the sheep He shepherds no matter how often or far they wander!

Dear God, as I walk through this day called today, may I align my sights on You to keep Your perspective as the way I see things.  I am grateful for the energy and strength You have given me, but may I be constantly reminded of their source.  Thank You for returning my spirit of courage to me, as we both know I had lost my way.  I know these current battles will be tough but I also know You are with me and will always remain by my side, carrying me when I don’t have the strength to continue on.  You alone have the solutions, oh mighty God, and will resolve the issues in Your time.  Thank You for the rain and the joy that follows.  Amen

Bring me joy, bring me peace.  Bring the chance to be free.  Bring me anything that brings You glory.  And I know there’ll be days when this life brings me pain.  But if that’s what it takes to praise You, Jesus bring the rain.  MercyMe – Bring the Rain.  Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity and innovation.  You can have comfort or courage but you can’t have both. – Brene Brown


Where is God?

Suffering is a part of the human condition. Hope is a virtue necessary for survival. To have hope, one must have faith – in something. For many of us, faith in the good news of the gospel is what we grew up with and what we crawl back to in times of suffering. Perhaps we were heavily churched and always in a relationship with Christ. Maybe we knew of Him, were on the edge of discovering Him, the verge of knowing Him, or the fringe of a relationship with Him. Perhaps we deliberately left Him in defiance or in search of ourselves only to discover that since we were made in His image, finding our true selves is completely dependent on communing with Him. Whether it was our desire to alleviate the emptiness found in the foxhole of overindulgence, the anguish ignited by the wars of jealousy and oppression, or our realization that God’s good living is better than the best of our own ways, we are with Him now. Our faith in Him gives us hope for a great today and a better tomorrow. We all go through this thing called suffering and are typically better for it on the other side. Three years ago to the day, my sanity slowly slipped away; not rooted, I fell into the gray; an in-between, unfamiliar place. I was floating. Uncertain, yet not so unaware; the answers were begging to be shared; everything reflected everywhere; and I was blinded by the glare. Misread, misunderstood. Welcome to the human race! The starting line appeared without warning. The gun was shot, but the sound was much too faint. Now I, I’m in the human race. (Janna Audey – Human Race)

I heard two stories of suffering this week that touched my heart to its core. One was of an unforgettable boy who lived in an always forgotten spot up in the darkest cut in the deepest, most backwoods part of the hood. The other was of a memorable boy who lived in a beautiful home in a prominent suburb with all of the amenities one could desire. The two are stories of innocence lost in tragic events that changed the trajectory of both of their 3-year old lives. Faith makes me believe that there will be hope for the future in the first instance and belief in God’s faithfulness to His people that hope is alive in the second case.

The first story is that of a little boy who lived in a local inner city multi-family block of buildings – a place riddled with aggression, violence and gang activity. The complex is so negatively intense that pestilence, misery, brutality and savagery are pillars so strong that they can be felt like static electricity in the air. There is a one-way descend in and a one-way climb back out. On approach to the entrance, the sensory overload of screaming voices, slamming doors, drug-scented air, gun fire in the distance, and rodents rustling amongst the masses, can be overwhelming. Yet inside, infants and toddlers crawl and amble through the fierceness of these forces; sometimes cared for, other times not even noticed. Sometimes the sounds of their innocence (crying) disturb the hostility masquerading as peace simply because there is sixty seconds of silence. A little boy passed away. His cause of death was blunt force trauma and his body was found in a nearby dumpster. A father figure member of his household is allegedly being sought for questioning. Where was God that night?

The second was the story of a little boy who was enjoying the company of extended family on a sunny summer weekend in the comforts of his beautiful suburban home. The accidental spill of gasoline in a utility room and his relative’s attempt to clean it up without noticing that there was a gas powered hot water heater nearby, caused an explosion. The fire that followed shorted out the house’s electrical system and trapped his relative inside. Although his father was able to move him to safety, the little boy watched him break windows with his bear arms in futile attempts to save the relative’s life. When his father finally reached their relative, it was too late. The boy not only lost an intimate loved one but was also left to hold his father’s sopping crimson-colored fileted arms together until emergency personnel could arrive. Where was God that day?

Matt Redman’s lyrical version of Job 1:21 gives us guidance during those times: Blessed be Your name. When the sun’s shining down on me; when the world’s ‘all as it should be, blessed be Your name. Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering. Though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your name. Every blessing You pour out, I’ll turn back to praise. When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say blessed be the name of the Lord. Blessed be Your name. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Blessed be Your glorious name. You give and take away. You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your name (Blessed be the Name of the Lord).

Where was God in the life-altering experiences of these two boys? I do not have the answers to what He was doing or why, but I believe that both events were always a part of His plan to pursue His lost people and bring them back into a relationship with Him. He was there – with the knowledge that the anguish suffered was not eternal, but the life given as a result would be. Although very difficult to understand, in the squalor as well as the sunshine, these two boys were counted worthy by Him to serve a heavenly purpose. While one’s innocent soul has been lifted up and is permanently residing with the Father, the other has become a Godly man who is living out the gospel through his ministry of music with his earthly father. Grant it, God did not cause this wretchedness and despair to occur, but he did allow it to happen in furtherance of His kingdom and will use it for the good of mankind. In the book of Job, Job questioned God about why He put him through so many difficulties and hard times. God listened to Job for a while and then reminded him that He is God and there is a plan. As Job heard God, he understood and repented. God – “Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about? Pull yourself together, Job! Up on your feet! Stand tall! ‘Can you catch the eye of the beautiful Pleiades sisters, or distract Orion from his hunt? Can you get Venus to look your way, or get the Great Bear and her cubs to come out and play? Do you know the first thing about the sky’s constellations and how they affect things on Earth?” Job – “I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’ I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’ I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise!  I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.” (Job 38:2-3, 31-33 & 42:1-6 – MSG)

My reflection on the two events has me here:
1. To be hurt is to be human
2. Suffering is all around us
3. Sometimes the most innocent are the hardest hit
4. Through tragedies come great triumphs
5. Regardless of the circumstances, God is always there.

The experiences of these two boys unfortunately are not too uncommon. Some events are notorious while others are not deemed news worthy. As believers, we are summoned to be fishers of men who were called to make a difference. Whether we teach the first boy’s villagers how to pray, or we take a few minutes to pray for the ministry of the second, action isn’t optional. We are all in this together, hand in hand, as He called us to be; to bring the good news that builds faith, instills hope and fosters the belief that He is with us and will never forsake us. “Knelt down by the Oceanside, contemplating death and life; Connected to the man by my side; knew little of the thoughts in my mind, reached in and touched the waves. The baton was handed to me. And no one’s ahead of me, yet I’m not alone in this race…(Human Race)


Storms of Life

“Life is pain and the enjoyment of love is an anesthetic.” (Cesare Pavese)

The past week was a fast-paced, energy intensive, dynamic ride that oscillated between the immediacy of now and the aloofness of the distant past.  It was filled with continuous meetings and phone calls related to the perpetual alignment of allies, positioning of and listening to opponents, identification of friends and enemies, while measuring the strength and direction of the wind gusts to gain perspective on a predictable landing strip of the lukewarm and irresolute.  There were moments in the days that required enough quickness and acuity to shoot down incoming rounds just to create a limited lane of penetration, a place inside the paint where suppression fire could be laid down in intervals not to exceed three seconds.  In this instance, there was an unpredicted shift from visionary strategic governance to tactical survival.  Immediately, the Switchfoot questions of, This is your life.  Are you who you want to be?  This is your life.  Is it everything you’ve dreamed it would be, when the world was younger and you had everything to lose?”  This Is Your Life.

The experience required an extensive examination of me against the back drop of my desired transition from transactions to relationships.  Initially, I became upset with myself because even though I have worked really hard, I did not do as well as I believe I could have.  The experience exposed my root ball and uncovered the core of who I am – a work in progress.  God reminded me that He has something bigger in store for me; something much larger that He is grooming me for.  In a riveted split second, He whispered, “Relax my child!  It didn’t have to be you; it happened to be you that was chosen by Me for this specific and precious mission. I could have selected one of several billion other souls.  But I didn’t.  I chose you.  This is not about the physical realm.  Your body is only temporary anyway.  This is a spiritual battle.  We are talking about eternity here.  I have always delivered on my promises and this time will be no different.  I must equip you with what you need.  Your job right now is to keep your faith.  Remember, it makes things possible, not easy or perfect.  I am merely taking you through a few dry-runs to illuminate your developmental deficiencies and to hone the skills it will take to conquer modern-day Jericho when it is time.  You see, when my children are under stress, they cannot rise to the occasion, but will only revert back to their highest level of training.  Your training begins with spending time with Me every day and is practiced by remaining focused on Me throughout the day.  No matter what is thrown at you or what hits you, I am there with you and for you.  Put a prisoner in a suit and he is still an inmate.  I have released you from the cell block of your thoughts that tell you, ‘If I don’t, no one else will’.  Walk proudly and fearlessly in your freedom.  Your orange jumper is gone.  Jump with quickness into my arms and find rest while you are with me.  Be still and know that I am God.

His specific and personal words to me were electrifying.  They left me seized, dazed, and speechless.  The only option was to bow my head as if nodding to express “yes sir” and to otherwise be still because He is God.  Once I gathered my thoughts and wrapped my mind around what just happened, he said, “here I am!  I am with you.  Go!  Do my work, accomplish this mission, and live out your purpose.  Remember, you play like you practice.”  At that precise moment, I found respite in the divinely arranged encounter with a wonderful, kind-spirited, nurturing gentleman.  Even though exhaustion had set in, He pointed out this lovely soul and asked me to throw half of what I had left as light to his feet.  I dug deep, and the spirit handed me what was left at the bottom of the tank.  He handed me a heart with H.O.N.E.S.T. written across it.  God then gently said, “yep.  Now be yourself and get it done.”  As I began to engage with the brother, the message was revealed to me.  I was supposed to have an H.O.N.E.S.T.  heart attitude.  Be: Humble, Open, Nice, Eager, Strong, and Trusting in this engagement.  This is the toe lamp I was called to be.

The brother shared intriguing tidbits about his journey.  I could easily relate to many of his experiences in and sentiments about life.  Even though he let go of God long ago, we made a connection that created an aura that hope is alive even though life can be a bear.  The encounter reminded me of where I was when I started on my journey and made me smile about where He has called me to be today.  I smiled because I was able to suspend judgment against my brother as well as against me, my blunders, and unconventional lessons.  I was able to accept this as the place He has us now without reasoning about where He may want us next.  Sidewalk Prophets says it so well with, “If there’s a road I should walk, help me find it If I need to be still, give me peace for the moment.  Whatever Your will, whatever Your will, can you help me find it?  Can you help me find it?” – Help Me Find It.  Psalm 121 says, “I look up to the hills, but where will my help really come from?  2My help will come from the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth.  3He will not let you fall.  Your Protector will not fall asleep.  4Israel’s protector does not get tired.  He never sleeps.  5The Lord is your Protector.  The Lord stands by your side, shading and protecting you.  6The sun cannot harm you during the day, and the moon cannot harm you at night.  7The Lord will protect you from every danger.  He will protect your soul.  8The Lord will protect you as you come and go, both now and forever!”  (ERV)

I realize now that my disappointment with myself was from fear that I had lost ground with exploiting these always present, but only recently utilized, relational qualities.  Before, life was a tiger that I had caught by the tail with the intention of looking him in the eye before taming and laying him down.  Living on the adrenaline of my own energy, I was that self-made woman turned warrior who vanquished the forward deployed obstacles.  As Survivor says,   Risin’ up, back on the street.  Did my time, took my chances.  Went the distance now I’m back on my feet; Just a man and his will to survive.  So many times it happens too fast.  You trade your passion for glory.  Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past.  You must fight just to keep them alive”Eye of the Tiger.  Now, I am clay in the potter’s hands, being molded as my Maker sees fit.  Johnny Diaz gives the current truth with,There could never be a more beautiful you.  Don’t buy the lies, disguises and hoops, they make you jump through.  You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do.  So there could never be a more beautiful you”More Beautiful You.

My reflection on the week has me here:  I used to be a strong wind that could make a flag stand stiff.  He is training me to be the rising tide that raises all things.  He has given me His spirit, as my everyday companion, to lead and guide me through the uncertain waters to the other shore.  When exhaustion sets in from the battering of the wake of the change, the analgesic of His love and presence sedates my discomfort.  As it pleases Him, He may quiet the storm as I make this transition, or not.  Regardless, in the storms of my life, whatever they may be, He is there with me.  Falling on my knees in worship, giving all I am to seek your face.  Lord all I am is yours.  My whole life I placed in your hands.  God of mercy, humbled I bow down in your presence, at your throne.  I call.  You answer and you came to my rescue and I want to be where you are.  My life be lifted high…”  Hillsong United, Came To My Rescue

Thank you Lord for the storms, growth, redemption, presence and change.  May I always desire to be clay in Your hands.  Mold me as You will.


Let It Go!

As I sat in the garden, relishing the peace and serenity of the petite private grounds, amidst the conical wooded backdrop, I learned something.  I was in a place endowed with the beauty of ever-ripening mulberries, dangling from soft leaf-filled branches, when I felt something.  I was enjoying the subtle fragrances of lavender, mint, and rosemary when I smelled something.  I was watching the splendor of the color-bursts from the trumpeting pansies, while the squirrels took brunch from the branches, when I saw something.  I was listening to the orchestra of avian voices, in concert in the background, when I heard something.  God awakened my senses and I realized that this is Canaan – the land of milk and honey.  Where ever I am today, I have nothing to fear here because He is with me and His spirit is in me.  The treasures He has for me are mine for the taking.

This sixty seconds of breathtaking and vibrant change of perspective on the life He has given me is one of the many treasures he stored up for me.  My purpose today is to love His people through the virtues of justice and peace.  In this moment, my power is influencing others; my gifting is inspiring them; my pain is fear and my weakness is speed.  However, when I slow down, we connect.  When I encourage and guide, He transforms hearts.  When I am fearless, bold, and courageous, miraculous things happen in His kingdom.  Romans 8:15-17 says, “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life.  It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”  God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are.  We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.  And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance!  We go through exactly what Christ goes through.  If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!”  This scripture gives us the confidence to move out on the certainty of His promises in pursuit of our purpose without reservation or fear.

As I have been on this quest to understand the correlation between pain, power, weakness, and gifting, I have engaged in a lot of introspection.  There have been moments when I sensed great movement and others when I felt helplessly stuck – confined, restrained, even imprisoned.  My jailer’s name is fear and he is my most formidable enemy.  Everyday, my captor tries to unbraid my nerve and rattle my faith.  Thankfully, he cannot touch my essence.  My spirit has remained strong and my courage must persist, intact, to allow me to serve my master fully.  In Mighty to Save, Hillsong United says, Everyone needs compassion.  A love that’s never-failing, let mercy fall on me.  Well, everyone needs forgiveness; the kindness of a Savior; the hope of nations…  So take me as You find me, all my fears and failures.  Fill my life again.  I give my life to follow everything I believe in.  I surrender…I surrender.”

My reflections on this made me assess what motivates me to give less than my all in every circumstance.  I realized the times when I hold back are because of avoidance of these emotions:

  1. Shame – fear of disconnection
  2. Embarrassment – fear of judgment
  3. Afraid – fear of danger
  4. Humiliation – fear of torment
  5. Defensiveness – fear of punishment
  6. Anger – fear of the needless
  7. Jealousy – fear of inadequacy
  8. Timorous – fear of failure

I realized that it is impossible to inspire and love His people and administer justice and peace as I am called to do when I have a spirit of fear.  I am not perfect and will mess up time and time again.  Pressing on in spite of the hurts, setbacks, and disappointments is what He asks of me.  Making the most of my talents is my direction while authentically embracing the other mortals around me.  Most of all, I am required to release the enemy among us – this spirit called fear. Just let it go and be me!  Casting Crowns says, “Is there anyone that fails?  Is there anyone that falls?  Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small?  ‘Cause when I take a look around everybody seems so strong.  I know they’ll soon discover that I don’t belong.  So I tuck it all away, like every thing’s okay.  If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too.  So, with a painted grin, I play the part again; so, everyone will see me the way that I see them…  Is there anyone who’s been there?  Are there any hands to raise?  Am I the only one who’s traded in the altar for a stage?  The performance is convincing and we know every line by heart.  Only when no one is watching can we really fall apart.  But would it set me free if I dared to let you see the truth behind the person that you imagine me to be?  Would your arms be open?  Or would you walk away?  Would the love of Jesus be enough to make you stay?”Stained Glass Masquerade.  God goes to work when we admit we are weak.  Christ is always in us and the spirit is always with us.  Therefore, we have nothing to fear; least of all those we are called to love.

2 Timothy 1:6-7 says, 6 This being so, I want to remind you to stir into flame the strength and boldness that is in you, that entered into you when I laid my hands upon your head and blessed you.  7 For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them.”

Look, listen, and feel – the squirrels flit about, the birds sing, the herbs disburse their scent, the efflorescent hues erupt from the floral arrangements on the small plot the Lord has lent.  Recognize them as His gifts.  Act – when you step out into the world today, put on your armor of courage and live this day fearlessly.  The captor’s shackles have been loosened.  His pessimistic voice has been silenced. Flex your muscles.  Be brave.  Go!  Run like the wind and try to outpace a speeding bullet.  You may not win the race but may discover a specialized use for metal or lead in the process.  Try to lasso the power of a barreling locomotive.  The rope may fall but maybe you will harness energy that provides electricity to the Serengeti. Try to leap small buildings in a single bound.  Perhaps the prosthetics you invent on the rebound will be legs for those who don’t have them.

We are free.  Only our jailer remains behind bars.  Smile, laugh, connect, inspire, influence, and love.  Holding back is no longer an option.  Your treasures are here and now, with so much more to come.  Pursue your purpose fearlessly!  As for fear itself, let it go. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt