Tarnished Reality… Glorious Light

Its Christmas time and I am struggling with a bruised and battered heart.  As the season unfolds; my thinking bounces around… from the hurts of my past – to my inadequacy in the present – to the uncertainty of my future.  I run a gauntlet of thoughts that recount my failures… point out my broken relationships… remind me of all that is lost.

I’m struck by how our culture’s “Christmas decorum” is entrenched in my thinking. Images of Christmas perfection are projected unto the screen in my head.  While I cower among shadowy accusers… fingers point at me and then at the screen; voices call out and compare my tarnished reality with the angelic rejoicing I see there. I find myself trying to inject sparkle, glimmer and glitz in an effort to oust the darkness that has settled in my heart.

The battle is real… it rages quietly under the surface as I plan our family gathering, shop for presents and decorate my home.  It’s not new… or profound… or uncommon.  That’s why, in the middle of this season of joy I’m sharing with you the struggle within.

Because…

This Christmas, God is doing what God does… sending Jesus time and time again into my life to be the light that pierces the darkness of my thinking. He sends Jesus through my precious husband and son and daughters and through sisters in Christ who listen… and pray with me and for mBright lights with mangere.  He sends Jesus through his Word that speaks the truth I need to hear.

What do I need to hear in the midst of this Christmas struggle?

Jesus comes to me even when I am cowering in the darkness.  He shows me that tenderness and love overcomes offense and failure every time.  His poverty and frailty exposes the ugly pride and gaudy excesses that the devil uses to destroy me.  There is nothing more tender and helpless than a newborn baby.  He doesn’t point to a false perfection… He gently and tenderly heals and reshapes my broken heart.  God uses the birth of a baby to scatter my accusers and bring me into His glorious light!

A Prayer

Thank you Father for the gift of your son Jesus. You have fought the devils lies and accusations with the mighty force of a frail and tiny baby.  His light defeats the darkness… His comfort heals my broken heart… His love restores my soul.  All Glory to the newborn King!

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.

 

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
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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.

Discover Your Core

abounding in goodness and truth

I never thought I would have one of these but… I have a personal trainer.  Several months ago I began a physical fitness program.  At the time I started I was in pain throughout my body, had terrible balance, even the motion and effort required for everyday activities challenged me.  My poor condition was the effects of an old injury, an auto-immune disease and overall poor physical fitness.  I was desperate to feel better and I finally faced the fact that I needed to take a hard look at my physical fitness if I was ever going to see physical change take place. From the first day my trainer has told me… “It all starts with your core!”

I found out what he meant when I started the workouts.  I discovered my core… the abdominal muscles at the center of my body.  These muscles, when fit and strong, stabilize my spine; enable me to keep my balance; ensure that I move properly and protect me from injury.  Right from the beginning the exercises required me to use those core muscles.  I was constantly challenged by them… the exercises were uncomfortable.  The possibility of further pain or injury made me anxious… my trainer validated my nervousness and encouraged me to continue the exercise.  He told me to do them consistently, diligently and with a constant awareness to use proper form.  I finally decided that it doesn’t matter how I feel about the exercises… I just do them.  The result has been slow, steady improvement.

Just as my physical fitness stems from my core muscles, my spiritual fitness stems from my core beliefs.  When emotional pain and stress escalates my assurance of God’s promises wane; doubt and fear come in.  I get desperate for change in my life.  Three core beliefs must be strong to allow change to take place despite my feelings and circumstances!  I must decide what I believe in my heart!

  • I must decide to believe that “God is.”

As simple as this may sound – It is easy for me to give mental agreement to God out of habit, or fear or the fact that I have heard about him since I was a child.  However at my core I must decide that God exists, that He is real and no matter how I feel I refuse to let go of that certainty.

  • I must decide that “God doesn’t lie.”

Before Jesus, I had never in my life experienced someone who didn’t lie to me.  I had learned to lie too… for my own protection and then simply to get my own way.  I assumed everyone lied.  But for the Word of God to mean anything to me I need to believe at my core that God does not lie.  Only then I can take all the lies I hear… I’m not good enough; it’s never going to get any better… lies that steal my joy and peace – and replace them with God’s truth.  His word, His promises, everything He says I am is true.

  • I must decide that “God is good.”

There are times when my feelings all scream at me that this last one isn’t true… how could it be with everything that has happened to me in my life?  When I first surrendered my life to Jesus I was frightened and alone. (Life Saving Truth)  Yet deep inside I had a glimmer of something that said, “God is good.”  I didn’t understand where it came from and didn’t spend time trying to analysis it.  I just decided to believe it. We all have a glimmer of the goodness of God… He’s in sunsets, oceans and stars.  At the core of our hearts we must decide that God is good!

Those decisions to believe God still get challenged daily and I make those same decisions over and over again!  When I falter in them I struggle and my feelings grow monstrously dangerous.  Exposing my core to things that strengthen it can be uncomfortable – downright painful at times.  The awesome thing is that when I do I expose the lies that keep me from God.  Then, I can replace them with the truth!

When I settle on those three decisions I have a rock solid foundation.  I believe that what it means to surrender my life to Jesus is that Jesus is actually alive within me and He is Lord of my life.  From that foundation I begin to set my feelings aside and seek what I need from God… through His Word, through prayer and through the comfort and counsel of other Christians.  I begin to experience the goodness of God.  My core beliefs keep me stable and balanced… able to move forward as His loved and cherished child… not necessarily because I feel that way but because He says that is who I am.  The decision in my heart, to believe God, is my core.

Everything that happens in your life requires the same core beliefs.  Exposing your core to things that strengthen it can be uncomfortable – downright painful at times.  I want to validate your feelings and bring a measure of comfort and encouragement.  I also want to encourage you to discover your core.  Ask yourself in the midst of the struggles… What do I believe about God?

If you are struggling with any or all of these core beliefs, 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 comment below and post it to this blog.

A Prayer

 Thank you Father that I am who you say I am… your precious daughter in Christ Jesus.  Thank you that I can seek answers to my struggles and trials; wisdom for my everyday life; and comfort for the pain and turmoil this life holds at times.  Thank you Father – your Word brings peace to my heart.  I have decided to believe that everything you say is true and good.  Thank you Father for Jesus… he is the strength at my core! 

Scripture: Hebrews 6:18; Hebrews 11:6; Romans 10:9-10