Just As If Nothing Ever Happened

I’ve made a new friend recently.  That’s not altogether unusual… I think we all continue to acquire friendships throughout our livelightstock_181315_small_helena_s as we engage in new activities or jobs; relocate to new communities or finally have a conversation with someone we had as an acquaintance for many years.  But making this new friend is something rather special.  Something that taught me again that…

  • God’s Way Works

Several months ago I attended a ministry meeting at church.  During the meeting the group facilitator asked a question and I gave a heartfelt answer stemming from my personal experience and relationship with God.  Within moments a woman sitting next to me intervened.  She said for those in the group who had not had the “spiritual experiences” I had, she needed to restate the answer… give an answer she felt was more suitable to the group.  Her comments stung!  They felt critical, sarcastic and embarrassing.    And I was confused… this woman had never actually met me.  Why was she so critical of what I had said?  She didn’t even know me. If I could have escaped the room I would have run and hid.

I ruminated on the words the woman said for several days.  The incident had taken me by surprise.  I was also frustrated because I had been so shocked by her comments I no longer remembered what I had said that sparked them.  Had I really been so obnoxious about my “spiritual experiences” that a round “put down” was called for?  Why did someone who didn’t even know me lash out… especially at a ministry meeting in front of a group of people?

  • God’s Instructions

As I listening to God’s still small voice I wanted to ignore Him.  I felt hurt and angry.  But His instructions were so clear and direct and compelling…

“Go on interacting with her just as if nothing had ever happened.  There’s more going on than you see… trust me, forgive and treat her as a friend.”

I wondered at the time about going to her… sharing with her that her words had offended me, possibly asking what it was all about.  Doesn’t the Word instruct us to go to the other person when we are offended?  But that was not what I felt God was telling me to do in this case… he wanted forgiveness without explanation or confrontation of any kind.  His instructions said to let go of the offense and release any hard feelings I had toward this person.  He wanted me to be ready to greet her warmly, as if she had not given me any occasion to complain about her; to treat her kindly as if she had not injured me… He reminded me that is how He treats me when He forgives me.  It was a tall request God was asking… one I was not sure I could fulfill.

It was a couple of weeks before I saw the woman again at church… I thought to slip by her and act as though I never saw her… but the catch in my spirit said, “NO… go greet her!”  I complied and greeted her warmly then moved on.  Nothing happened; it didn’t fix anything.  Her words still stung but I reminded myself of God’s instructions… “Just as if nothing had ever happened… treat her as a friend!” Time went by… I refused to nurse the offense as much as I actually wanted to.  The Lord had just been so clear, so compelling and somehow at the same time comforting.  So I put the offense out of my mind… “Just as if nothing had ever happened.”

Fast forward several months…

I had occasion to spend several days in close proximity with this nice lady… and that’s exactly what she was – Nice!  We chatted and got to know each other… found we had some things in common.  In the next couple weeks I invited her to my home and we talked and prayed together… found even more common ground and I experienced the powerful ways God uses this new friend to minister to others, including me.  I asked God, “What’s up with this?  She’s really nice!  I want her as a friend for many years to come Lord!”

  • A real, biblical friendship is born…

Just a few weeks ago I finally shared with my friend the struggle I had with our first encounter.  Honest and tender feelings were talked about; prayed about; forgiveness was cemented in my heart.    I openly admitted that in the time since the incident I realized that deep down I knew my friend had not meant to be critical or in any way hurtful… it was my bruised and defensive ego that had gotten offended when it really didn’t need to be.  My friend openly admitted that sarcasm is a problem she struggles with… she was quick to ask forgiveness and I felt her deep sorrow for what had happened.   We both understood that we have a real spiritual enemy out there and from the first time we met he did not want this relationship to happen.  But now the victory was ours.  We walked away from each other full of peace and joy.

So I have a new, wonderful and precious friend.  And in my heart and in my mind… Nothing ever happened!

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  Col 3:12-14

A Prayer

Father God I thank you for my precious friend and her soft and caring heart.  I thank you for your instructions… for your comfort and for your love.  Show me when my bruised and defensive ego chooses offense over forgiveness.  Continue to teach me to forgive as you have forgiven me… pure, simple forgiveness just as if nothing had ever happened.  And above all help me to put on love, which binds us together in perfect harmony.  Without You Lord just think of the friendship I would have missed. 

Goodness

I crack my eyes open to the dusty light… stretch beneath the comforter and yawn, filling my lungs with the cool, crisp air of an early morning.  Slowly, I become aware of the creaking, murmuring noises my husband makes as he brews coffee and tends our wood-burning stove.  I’m not alone… glancing at my canine companion I see her stretch… and roll… stretch again in her own fleece lined dog bed.  I’d like to remain there… snuggled in sweetness and warmth.  Thank you Jesus, for the goodness of the morning!

Not all my days begin with sweetness.  The alarm clangs; the dogs whine and bark; the phone shatters the stillness or the door slams shut as my husband exists for work.  Instead of the gradual stirring of thankfulness, my thoughts assault me with expectations.  The day looms with tasks to be completed, frustrations to be faced, and temptations to be resisted.  I must rise and sort out all the “what’s next… what if… why does it have to be this way” questions that din around in my head.  I’d like to bury my head beneath the covers and shut out the day… sometimes my heart prefers darkness to light, foolishly thinking I’ll find refuge there. Help me Jesus, to face this morning!

  • The goodness of Jesus prevails

No matter how I experience the morning, God promises His childlightstock_251401_small_helena_

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:6)

God’s goodness is simple and awesome; majestic and comforting all at the same time.  God’s goodness has poured out of Him from the beginning of time; His goodness is the essence of all creation.  Goodness inhabits the starry sky, towering mountains and massive seas… all because He called them good.  Overcoming our sin, Jesus is the redemption of that good.  Bright sunshine and moonlit nights proclaim… the goodness of the Lord will prevail.

  • Goodness is intentional… not accidental or natural

Too often I forget the goodness of Jesus living within me.  My view of Him is clouded and distorted by… well, by me!  I’m focused on my past failures or my present circumstances.  I remember the false excuse I gave, the food I couldn’t resist and the anger I unleashed… it’s easy to see I’ve been anything but good.  The moment I forget about His goodness and begin relying on my own I’m in trouble… there is only one who is good, Jesus.  His goodness and His love are intentional and he demonstrates them to us every moment of every day.  No failure or disappointment will cause Jesus to remove it.

  • God’s goodness leads us to repentance.

It’s easy to see the turmoil in every part of the world today… it’s all over the news.  I experience fear and uncertainty, anger and frustration, greed and lust splattered everywhere around me.  Sometimes I want to tuck my head under whatever is handy and shut out the day… maybe I can find refuge in food, drink or Facebook… only to have my heavy heart get heavier and my dim spirit struggle against the darkness.  But Jesus is light.  If instead I focus on Jesus goodness He warms my heart and comforts my soul.

Jesus was focused and intentional when He suffered and died for the everyday sins that I commit.  The mark of His life within me is His goodness.  Goodness deliberately, intentionally prefers right and resists wrong.  There is always the opportunity for wrong… goodness is the choice to reject wrong in favor of good.  An easy example… it’s my choice to reject the hurtful words I want to say in favor of good, uplifting or forgiving ones.  When I focus on all the ways Jesus has been good to me today I have the opportunity to allow the goodness of Christ to reign in my heart.

  • The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble…

Without a sense of God’s goodness I struggle to experience His love – that’s why the devil uses my bad to convince me how unlovable I am.  It is the realization that even when I’m not good enough… “Jesus in me” is my good enough.

Every evening we have a routine… my little, aging Chihuahua needs to be placed in her spot to sleep.  It has to happen or she will wander, whine and create a fuss.  For a tiny dog her yowl can be ear piercing.  She demands our attention, refuses to settle herself and shows no appreciation for anything we have provided that day.  No one is going to rest in the house until she is tucked securely in her spot.  First we lay a polar fleece baby blanket at the foot of the bed, place her gently on top of one half and fold the other half over her.  Then, a second fleece is laid over her to form a cave… a refuge from the night air… a place she can burrow and tuck her nose for warmth.  Quiet and goodness rest there all night.

That is the picture of God’s goodness caring for you.  It is goodness and love coming together in you… to create your relationship with Jesus.  He is your refuge… your goodness… and every day you can trust in Him.  In the midst of your busyness, frustration or pain; God’s goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Scripture: Psalm 23:6; Nahum 1:7; 2 Peter 1:5

A Prayer

 Thank you Father, that your goodness and love truly follow me all the days of my life.  In Christ I find refuge from the struggles of life; His goodness reigns in my heart.  You pour out your love and comfort; you quiet me and give good gifts to me.  Help me open my eyes to see you are the source of all good things… every morning.  Help me rest in the power of your great love forever.

Please feel free to contact me by completing the “prayer request” form or the “contact me” form.  Both are confidential and are not posted on the webpage but are emailed directly to me.  You may indicate if you would like an email response from me.  Or… you can simply add a public comment below and post it to this blog.

 

Rest

lightstock_81985_small_helena_ (1)   (excerpt from Boot Camp Workbook)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

-Matthew 11:28-30

Not many people use innter_athlete_stresswords like “weary” and “burdened” in their everyday conversations these days. But what about a word like “stress?” I’ll bet you can’t find a popular magazine without at least one article about stress – how to cope with it, manage it, survive it. We can stress about our stress, which often leads us to another frequently used word in our society – “depression.” Anti-depressant medications are one of the most often prescribed drugs in the United States right now. Depression is all too common. How about “anxiety,” “hopelessness” and feeling just plain “down?” Have you gone home recently and decided to just “veg” on the couch because you were exhausted from your day, or do you often wish you didn’t have to get up in the morning?

When Jesus was speaking the words in Matthew 11:28-30, was he speaking to us?   Of course He was. We all need rest. There is no one living, so at peace with God, himself and others that they are not “heavy laden and overburdened” at times. For many, this is the case most of the time. We all need rest… How do we find it?

How do we find rest?

The book of Hebrews states that the work of a Christian is to enter into God’s rest. lightstock_136893_small_helena_(Hebrews 4:1-9) For many of us this seems an impossible contradiction. How do we enter or find God’s rest? Do we stumble across it or strive for it? Is it something we must create or manufacture for ourselves?

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest – I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.

Rest…ease and relief and refreshment of our souls. Wow, are we ready for some of that? Jesus wants to “give” it to us. In fact, the Amplified Bible indicates that the direct outcome of coming to Jesus is REST! Jesus says He will cause the rest – we don’t manufacture it ourselves. As we receive His gift, we rest.

As we explore Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus invites us to join Him in that place of rest.  The entire teaching of this verse in found on the resource page under Boot Camp WorkbookRest.  Learning to enter into God’s rest will bring tremendous change in our lives… one that only Jesus brings.

Stepping Stones… Revealing God’s Plan

“Lord, your word says you have a plan for me… a good plan… for my good and to give me a hope for my future.  Lord, what is that plan?  What does it look like exactly and how and when will I see it fulfilled in my life?  I want to know Lord!  I thought I knew Lord… I thought when I stepped out and started that business, or when I got involved in that ministry, or when I married my husband and we started our family that I was doing what you planned and that it would definitely lead me to a future filled with hope and joy.  But God, now I’m not so sure.  I look around and my current life doesn’t look like what I expected… we’ve lost the business, the gift and talent you placed in me hasn’t been fulfilled in ministry; my husband and I are uncertain about our future.  What is happening God?  How can I know I’m following your path… your plan?”

I recently said a prayer that sounded very much like this.  It was closely followed by several conversations with women who were asking themselves and God the exact same questions… each of us struggling with uncertainty; struggling with the pain of disappointment over the past; struggling with big questions about our future.  God’s grace and His word speak truth in response to our heart felt questions…

The struggle happens when I view God’s plan as a specific role, position or achievement in life that, once reached, will somehow secure my future.  I want an “X marks the spot” and a map of how to get there.  I want God to specify my job or my ministry, where I live, who I marry or how many children I have.  Now, I know absolutely that God knew all those specifics about my life long before I was born… but still, they do not constitute God’s plan.

  • From the moment I turn my back on my old life God’s plan is for me to participate in the life of Jesus.

God’s plan is to renew my mind; mold my heart and transform my life into the glory of His son… Jesus Christ.  God’s plan is not a destination but a moment by moment journey.  Are there specifics along the way?  Sure there are… but they are not the goal or the thing by which God brings us into His kingdom.  The picture here is of Jesus leading and directing me on His path; where He goes… I go.  What He does… I do.

  • Jesus lives in me… I want to build on what I have been given.

Everything that goes into God’s plan for my life; into pleasing God, is given to me as I get to know Gargrave_stepping_stonesJesus personally and intimately.   God has laid stepping stones that clearly show me His path.  Jesus leads me… one step at a time.  And as He shows me what to do He also shows me how to do it… what my heart attitude needs to be.  As I walk along with Jesus I imitate Him… honesty – displayed in my business dealings, gentleness and patience – shared with my family, strength – shown to the doctors in the hospital, trust – when I lose my job, my retirement and my home.  Jesus teaches me to add to my faith… the qualities that enhance my effectiveness in sharing Him with those around me.  God’s plan for me starts the moment I surrender my life to Jesus and continues as I increasingly participate in His life and in His character.

  • Looking at my circumstances… focusing on my feelings… hanging on to what I expect or want life to look like means I lose sight of God’s direction for today.

It’s easy for me to blindly go through my day oblivious to the fact that Jesus wiped all my sins off the books and that he holds nothing against me that will separate me from heaven.  My perspective becomes narrow and my focus is on me… no rejoicing in my salvation, no thankfulness for Jesus… sometimes I just want what I want, when I want it.  That’s why it is so important that I commit my day to the Lord in prayer first… early in the morning… before I start anything else.  He gently reminds me of His presence and His everlasting love for me.  He infuses my spirit with His Spirit through His Word.  Jesus takes up His position… He leads, I follow.

  • Do what God sets before me to do today.

What I do today is not insignificant, not good enough or a waste of time. It is where God has me for today.  God doesn’t waste anything!  The way I conduct myself with my family, in my job and out in the community is important!  Jesus is always teaching me something… warm friendliness, passionate patience, sure determination, gentle acceptance, and generous love… these are the character traits that lead to excellence and integrity.  They are what I learn from Jesus when I participate in His life in and through me.

  • Find joy in the moment… no day will pass without my experiencing the life of Jesus within me.

I realize that with each moment comes an opportunity to take my time with what I am doing, time to explore and get the most out of whatever it is.  It is all important, and the joy of seeking and hearing the voice of the Lord in the moment fills me.  In Christ I avoid the trap of thinking that what I do today is the only thing that determines where I will be down the road.  It is “a” step… not “the” step.  Sometimes I put so much focus on individual situations that I either try too hard to do it perfectly or I get overwhelmed at its importance, get discouraged and quit.

  • Jesus keeps moving forward… He doesn’t stop and He doesn’t look back.

Do what God sets before me to do tomorrow and each day thereafter. When I look back I focus on my failures or miss-steps.  Jesus says, “Keep going.”  If I stop I guarantee much time will be wasted… He tells me to stick with Him.  I’m on firm footing, solid ground; a path leading through my circumstances, no matter what they are.  With these qualities growing in my life, He will use them to mature and complete me… according to His plan.

 Scripture: 2 Peter 1: 3-10

 A Prayer

 Father thank you that your plan for my life is for me to fully participate in the life of Jesus!  You have given me everything I need for a godly life through Jesus when He called me by his own glory and goodness.  My hearts desire is to increasingly walk in His character.  Every step I take with Jesus is an opportunity to add to my faith… goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love in increasing measure.  These are the things that bring peace and joy in the midst of my days, despite my trails and oblivious to my failures.  I thank you Father, the in Jesus I will not stumble on your path… I see your plan for my life fulfilled!

 

House on a Rock

I love Wyoming, especially the area around Green River and Rock Springs.  It is high389229_395b_1024x2000 desert, 6000 feet above sea level.  It is dominated by wide expanses of sage brush and rock, as rough a terrain as any you find in the United States. It’s dry, dusty and windy… completely gray/brown for eleven months of the year.  There are many miles of high desert that are uninhabited.  Visitors are constantly warned not to venture off the road, in fact they advise never traveling without a provision of water, extra warm clothing and other survival supplies – even when you stay on the roadway.  It is wise to heed the warning… cell phones are of no use across the Wyoming range.

Yet there is a beauty and majesty in the midst of this place.  A marvelous herd of wild horses roam freely, their coats gleaming in the sun when you come upon them.  Deer, antelope, elk and other animals find both water and sustenance on this seemingly barren terrain.  They graze on the sage brush and shelter in the ravines and rocky cliffs beside towering buttes. In fact they not only survive… they thrive!  No matter how inhospitable and lonely the Wyoming range may be… God’s creation is cared for.

All of us experience dry, windswept, lonely times in our life.  As I pray for the women I personally share the Word with each day I am acutely aware that each one needs the living water and sustenance that can only be in Jesus Christ.  Some are raising young children; some have an illness or injury that they struggle with across the terrain of their day; a few have suffered great loss recently; some are quiet, strong women who graze on God’s Word and seek to drink in His life giving presence so they can overflow into the lives of those around them; some are searching for a deeper, more meaningful, and more “real” relationship with Jesus as they are just starting out on their journey across the wilderness of life.

  • One thing…

Although many things are needed to survive the high desert there is really only one thing that is absolutely crucial – water!  Water is the vital necessity that, if you are caught, broke down on the range; your survival would depend on it.  Jesus is that one thing in all our lives, He is our living water.  First, it is necessary to surrender to Him as Lord; then we need complete dependence on Him and on His Word. All the tasks of the day; the difficulties in our relationships; the rough decisions; the feelings of inadequacy or rejection – they all expend tremendous energy and require sustenance.  Have you sat and drank deeply of God’s Word before venturing out and tucked a verse in your pocket to drink from all day long?

  • Beauty in the wilderness

God takes the harsh, rocky and windswept days of our lives and causes them to blossom.  There is nothing more beautiful than an ocean of sage brush in bloom!  It is purple across the range with a sharp, poignant smell.  Steve and I once came upon a magnificent stallion standing at the ridge of a huge valley… ears perked and muscles tense and rippled beneath his gleaming coat.  Possibly the perfect mount for Jesus when He returns.  My heart pounds with anticipation at the thought of that day.  So too, God gives us beauty in the midst of our struggles.  Jesus gives us strength and fortitude when we have none.  He sends the love and comfort of friends when we are weakest, ripples of laughter to sustain our joy, peace and quiet that can only be found in the wilderness.  Do you see the beauty of the Lord today?

  • High upon a rock
IMG_0774

The tiny figure is my son Jack, the valley drops off hundreds of feet below him.

To live at a higher elevation means to live in rougher terrain.  It also means to experience the awesome power of God to carry us through the wilderness and shelter us from harm.  Along the sides of ravines all across the Wyoming high desert are outcroppings of rock… towering hundreds of feet above the valleys below.  Once, when my son Jack was visiting us in Wyoming we stopped our truck atop White Mountain to see the view of Green River far below.  Jack decided to climb one of these outcroppings.  I could barely watch… he says it was the scariest thing he ever did in his life… also the most magnificent.  I thank the Lord for his safety that day!  But with Jesus we can dwell… that means we live each day… atop just such an outcropping.  We can live high above the valley… and it is the safest place in the world.   Jesus is the rock we can depend on; drink from; rest in His shelter.

Psalm 27:4-5 NIV

 One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.  For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.

What an awesome picture of what it means to life in the presence of God through Jesus.  Have you allowed Him to take you out of the valley and set you high upon His rock?

A prayer

 Father God I ask that I may dwell in your house, in your presence today and everyday.  I will seek you with all my heart… in all my decisions… for you wisdom and guidance… for all my needs.  My heart pounds with the joy of living my life atop the rock that is your son Jesus.  That He may be glorified in and through my life.

Please feel free to contact me by completing the “prayer request” form or the “contact me” form.  Both are confidential and are not posted on the webpage but are emailed directly to me.  You may indicate if you would like an email response from me.  Or… you can simply add a public comment below and post it to this blog.

Tug of War

Have you ever been in a tug of war?  You know the game you play whe8686830726_57fac80c1c_bre you use a great big rope that fills your hands and is a challenge to grip.  You are the person right up front, with a six-foot expanse of goo-ey, wet mud between you and the opponents on the other side.  Losing means being dragged in.  Wet, cold and dirty!  Winning takes strength, determination and perseverance.

The second chapter of Boot Camp is about just such a tug of war!  Losing is messy, cold and painful.  Victory is sweet!  Who is the Enemy teaches a foundation scripture. Yes, there is a tug of war.  It takes place in our lives every day.  Only in this tug of war we get to choose whose team we wish to be on.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. ~ John 10:10

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” 

Who is speaking? Jesus.  In the Amplified Bible it reads, “till it overflows.”  Do you have an idea of what abundant life looks like?  If you close your eyes and allow God and your God-given gift of imagination to day dream… what does an abundant life look like?

In my thinking true abundance is peace.  It is an overwhelming sense of peace and joy; love for one another.  Abundance includes the ability to work and prosper; relax and have recreation and fun; an end to strife in relationships; an end to the pain and struggles so many people go through physically, mentally and emotionally.  My loved ones, friends, neighbors will come to know the Lord and walk in the mercy and grace of Jesus; assured of eternal life… that’s the ultimate abundant life.  That’s what an abundant life looks like.  That’s what Jesus comes to give us.

I have mentored people and when I ask them what an abundant life looks like they sit and hang their heads and look down at their feet and they don’t have any idea… My heart cries out to those that are so down trodden, so oppressed and depressed that they don’t know, can’t even imagine. We need to know that Jesus came to give us an abundant life. If you are able get a glimpse or a glimmer of Jesus abundant life, then… praise the Lord.  We need to be able to do that.

That’s one side of the tug of war.  Go to our resource page and read Who is the Enemy, the second chapter of Boot Camp to learn who is tugging the other side of the rope; what he does and how he does it as he tries to pull you through that mud puddle.

A Prayer

 Father God I thank you for the great abundant life Jesus secured for us by His amazing love and sacrifice.  He came to give us that life both now and for all eternity.  Help me to understand what happens to bring destruction into my life instead of abundance.  In the tug of war that goes on every day… thank you that in Christ I have victory.