Is God Warning Us of Things to Come? Who are Prophets Today?

Recently, I wrote about a revelation that I received from the Lord several months ago, regarding suffering.  He asked the question “Do you want to know why I allow babies to get cancer?”  The answer wasn’t a precise jumble of words – it was more like a vision of how we live our lives – distracted by a delusion of time remaining in our future.  He showed me that our system of things is a lie.  We rush through each day, chasing after the next goal – the next accomplishment – the next 3 years or 10 years, never realizing that tomorrow isn’t even promised to us at all.  He was explaining to me that our expectancy in waiting until we’re old and retired to get to know Him (truly know Him), and put him first in our lives, was walking a dangerous tight-rope, gambling with our eternity.  In essence, children getting cancer doesn’t make sense.  It seems out of line with our expectancy to live long lives and only face illness as we enter our elderly years.  So what is the purpose of it?

I was first led to the book of Ezekiel in researching “stroke in the bible”.  Like many people, who endure great tragedy, I wanted to know what the Lord had to say about our circumstances.  Was there anyone written of in the word of God that had experienced similar circumstances to us?

Through a deep study on the book of Ezekiel, I’m now pondering a potential connection in the trials of our personal lives, with the story of Ezekiel, and with the revelation the Lord gave me about illnesses that come upon our children – which seems to be widespread and more frequent in the days we live in now.

Ezekiel is believed to be the first prophet chosen by God outside of Israel – sent to God’s people as a WARNING of things to come.  He didn’t come here to live it up and have a party on earth.  In fact, his life wasn’t a journey that any of us would likely choose.

Ezekiel’s assignment on Earth in a nutshell….

Encounter the living God and receive prophecy of destruction to come.. Deliver God’s messages to people that won’t listen to you, then lose the ability to talk as your tongue cleaves to the roof of your mouth and you’re bound to lay on one side for 390 days (endure a stroke for the days that represent each year of Israel’s sin), as you drink water in measures and eat soup prepared in cow dung, then do it again (endure another stroke) this time laying on your right side for 40 days in demonstration to Judah’s 40 years of sin…. then shave all your hair off, separate it in 3 portions to show what will become of God’s people (fire, famine and a remnant).. then when your wife dies, speak to God’s people without mourning her death to demonstrate that God will not mourn the destruction of his bride that betrayed him.  

What is a prophet of God?

So many people today claim to be prophets, (just as Jesus said this would happen).  But what is a prophet?  I’ve read over the book of revelations so many times – wondering about the martrys and the saints and the 12 tribes and the elect ones.  And while my theories are severely flawed – which I openly confess in a deep understanding that I’m just a child, being raised and taught by our Father in Heaven – I can’t help but ponder why the martyrs are the ones standing at the throne of God when the sixth seal is opened.  And even more intriguing, is my fleshly desire to not be in that group.  No one in our carnal minds, wants to be brutally killed, right?  Yet, that group of people are standing at the throne.  So my second question to myself is, Do I want to be a prophet?  It sounds really cool to be “chosen by God” to deliver an important message to the world.  But what kind of qualification does that assignment require?  What if being a prophet has little to do with our words, and everything to do with how God uses our lives to WARN others – as Ezekiel was sent to perform demonstration as warning to Israel of destruction that was coming upon their land.

In conclusion, I don’t know for sure that Ezekiel’s symptoms describe a stroke.  It certainly appears that way to me – forced to lay one side (because half of his body is paralyzed?) – he’s made dumb and his tongue cleaves to his mouth as he’s unable to speak, (Josh went through that stage and it sure sounds like the immediate effects of brain damage).  But the importance here is the lesson of Ezekiel’s life – the life of a prophet of God.

Who are the prophets of God today?

In the book of Acts, verse 2:17 says, “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.  Let’s examine this!  God didn’t say the old men, or the preachers or the elders of the church or the wise men (or elderly) would prophesy.  He said “your sons and daughters will prophesy”.   Is this not the young people – the children?  If we take this text and relate it to the life of Ezekiel, is God implying that our children (sons and daughters) will suffer various forms of illness as a demonstration of what is to come?  – as a WARNING of the lies we live inside of – believing in a time-line that we simply don’t have? 

How does this link to the question the Lord asked me, “Do you want to know why I allow babies to get cancer?”  How does this make sense with my own life – watching my healthy, (not a candidate for stroke), husband, fall into such horrid disabilities in his thirties?  And is this entire process, a purposed path for the Lord to use our lives to minister and warn others? – not through our words, but through demonstration in our lives, serving as a reminder to everyone that sees us that tomorrow is not promised

Gosh, I wish I had all the answers….  The Lord certainly knows.

 

Truth in Loss

Just learned last night that a friend of ours lost her young husband… I can’t help but cry and feel heartbroken for her and her family… I want to share something… Last year, there was a period when I felt completely surrounded by loss and bad news, not just in my life but in those around me. It seemed like everyday was full of sadness – loss of life, friends finding out they had cancer, etc.. I prayed nightly for understanding – meditating on Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3..

We were sitting outside of Wingstop one day in my car, waiting on Lil Josh to pick-up his order. God asked me, “You want to know why I allow babies to get cancer?” It’s odd because I’d never asked that specific question, but it was certainly something I couldn’t grasp. Little ones suffering from anything never made sense to me, especially if we “reap what we sow,” (which I misunderstood)… Anyway, I started typing the message in my cell phone.

Basically, the Lord explained that our system of things is a lie. We adapt to stages of life that are taught to us and look forward to them with expectancy, (when the Lord taught to look forward to HIM with expectancy). I guess my stage of expectancy was in focus of my career and getting my kids through high school. And that’s OK, but there’s always a next item.. until we get old and retire and the world’s to-do lists aren’t so hectic. And only then (if I’m being honest with myself), would I have found the time to put God first. He would have taken a back seat to my stressful schedule and never-ending to-do lists, which would’ve probably continued another 40 years from now. That’s the lie he was showing me – I don’t have 40 years to reach for him. I’m not even promised 40 minutes. Somewhere deep down I always understood that death was part of life – just not part of my life. I felt invincible and guaranteed the statistical averages (60 to 80 years or more).

Anyway, in loss we’re taken out of the world for a moment in time. We reflect on the big picture – why are we here? what’s the purpose of this all? In loss, the stuff that used to matter is meaningless. The bible teaches us to seek Jesus with our whole heart. It’s easy to say but not easy to do…. I first learned how to do that when my tomorrow didn’t make sense anymore – when my heart was broken into so many pieces, I knew I wasn’t capable of putting it back together again. In loss, God is closest to us, holding out his arms with an invite to come to him and to get to KNOW HIM. In loss he taught me that the HERE AND NOW is just a vapor – over in a flash, like a short pit-stop before eternity begins. In loss he taught me that this place isn’t home.. HE is my home. As painful as it may be, loss is sometimes the necessary reminder – a walk through the fire that leads to life – real life. Like a wake-up call from Heaven, tapping me on the shoulder and exposing the lies of a broken world in order to reveal purpose in who I really am… a child of God destined for something much greater than this temporary home.

My prayer today is that all who are hurting can find purpose in their pain – and the empty spaces inside of their broken hearts will be filled with the love of Jesus, who has defeated death and set the captives free… He is life everlasting and the promise that we hold onto, knowing that in Him we will still have heartache and many trials in this temporary place, but it’s all just temporary… One day soon, he will wipe away all of our tears and raise us from these corruptible bodies into a beauty that we can’t even yet comprehend….. “And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” – Hebrews 2:15…. God bless you all today in Christ Jesus <3

The Lord is my Portion – We decrease so that He can increase

After so many years in the corporate world, working for big business, I just loved working in real estate.  I love that I can do a job that focuses solely on impacting a family or an individual throughout one of the biggest decisions and milestones of their lives.  It’s personal.  It’s rewarding internally.  But it’s also highly competitive –  bringing out a not so pretty side to people working in the business at times.

I just completed a bible study on Psalms 119.  In the midst of David’s trouble – almost a bipolar reaction to God, He praises the Lord and thanks him for help – then cries out for help, over an over again throughout this Psalm.  So in one of the texts, where David appears to be in a troubled state he says, “The Lord is my Portion.”

In pondering what this text means, I felt a relation yesterday on the subject of real estate that tugged at my insides.  A friend tagged me in a social media post, in response to a neighbor that was looking for referrals for a good real estate agent.  Throughout the day I continued to get updates on this post.  I’m still getting them even today.  I mean, there must be hundreds of responses – most of them are not referrals but instead are agents leaving remarks in attempt to sell themselves to this lady.  It looked like a pool of desperation sounding off the plea “pick me!  pick me!”  And, as I read through the comments, I felt guilty.  I felt almost ashamed of what I do for a living – to be in the mix of a game we play in kicking down the little guy to gain more for myself.  I thought about all of the success I’ve had in the past, in this extremely competitive industry that honestly seemed to come pretty easy for me – and I thought about all of those that were struggling just to catch a crumb dropped on the floor.  In the book of Mark, a lady wanted the Lord’s help and he said “it’s not right to take the children’s food and toss it to the dogs”.  She replied, “Yes Lord but even the dogs get to eat of the crumbs they drop on the floor.”

Even in my current state of struggle, (sometimes feeling like it’s my turn to be a dog on the floor searching for crumbs), I felt myself silently cheering for the little guys as I read that post yesterday.  I know the big names – I’ve worked many deals with the same real estate agents over and over that hold most of the market share in our area.  And yes, they were there too, (with a I’m better than everyone else attitude), pridefully stating claims of their success in a sales pitch to this woman.  I felt the compassion of the Lord, who granted that woman her wish for her daughter to be healed in the text of Mark.  And I secretly wanted to say, “Give this one a try – she will work hard for you because she really needs the business.”  But, that’s just not how our world works – ran by the prince of the air.  Success is a perception that breeds more success.  And it’s not always based on skill or ability – many times its just based on perception alone.  Some of the best agents I’ve worked with – I’m talking agents that bent over backwards for their clients, never make it to the top of the charts.  While other agents that hardly find time to return phone calls are sitting on a mountain of success.  And I’m seeing both sides of this with a little bit of sadness – yet realizing again that all of things are purposed.

What if removal from the successors is a blessing in disguise?  What if Paul spoke of his understanding in what it means to have plenty and what it means to have nothing, as a qualifier that gave him knowledge on his ability to endure – doing all things through Christ who strengthens him?  What if we have to experience being a dog under the table, begging for crumbs in order to understand the desperation of that woman who pleaded with Jesus for his help?  What if humility is a building block for compassion?

And I ask myself today, if everything I have is removed from me in this world, where my portion once seemed plenty, is Jesus enough?  Can I see through the stress and fear and worry like David did and lay down my troubles with Joy in my heart saying, “The LORD is my portion.”

This place is so centered on the object of money and success – acquiring treasures of the here and now.  And we don’t know what we do.  But in the essence of truth, I’ve found great sorrow in my own heart – repentance for all the days I’ve walked in self-absorbance, prideful, unappreciative of the Lord and unwilling to throw crumbs at “the least of these” – as described in Mathew 25.  All the days I’ve walked with my sights set on serving myself, instead of serving the Lord – lacking compassion for those who are oppressed – lacking a “meek and lowly heart” are illuminated in a heart-felt sorrow of the old man in my own life.  This isn’t a good place to be mentally for business reasons, I realize.  And maybe I’m no longer capable of being the highly competitive business-woman I once was, willing to shred another in order to prop myself up on a mountain.  But as my worldly portion decreases, my love for others increases.  And a little voice deep inside of me whispers the name of Jesus, as a constant reminder that in all things I face, He’s finishing my faith and working out the details of my life for the sake of my soul – not my comfort here in this short stay on Earth.

In conclusion, maybe it’s OK to not win.  Maybe the temptation of pride that was set before John is the walk all of us must take at some point.  John declared in chapter 3, “I must decrease and HE (Jesus) must increase.”  Maybe my portion was hollow and empty, in order for me to seek and ultimately find my real portion – at the cross of Jesus Christ.  We have different seasons for different stages of growth needed in us all.  But the Lord promises to never leave us in a state of despair.  He brings down the pride and he exalts the humble and lowly.  It’s a cycle that is sometimes hard to understand.  But you can rest assure that if today you feel like that woman did, calling herself a dog searching for crumbs, He knows and he’s not going to leave you there.  Trust in him and believe that your day is coming!

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls.” – Mathew 11:9

For all of my realtor friends (and all of my friends) that feel like you’re begging for crumbs in a world that seems to overlook your talents, your efforts and your struggles.  Never stop begging the Lord to give you your portion.  He sees your heart and He will answer you.  Your days of little will become days of plenty in his perfect timing.

Worry and Fear – Take Captive Your Thoughts

My mind is like a system that never shuts off – working to process thoughts of worry.  As one item is handled, another one surfaces in the never-ending list of objectives to be resolved.  Through computers, text messaging and social media I’m bombarded with information of what I don’t have, what I can’t achieve, what I’m delinquently failing at and what I may lose.

Recently I confessed my struggles with panic attacks and anxiety to a small group of women in a Christian chatroom.  One of the women reached out to me by email to tell me about her own struggles with anxiety and fear.  She said, “Whats the worst that can happen?  We die and get to go home?”

I’ve thought about this question a lot over the last few days.  I’ve tried to pin-point the exact source causing my illness and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not scared of dying.  I believe with all my heart that when I take my last breath on this earth, my next moment will be glorious – freed from the challenges of this life and welcoming an eternal life without pain and suffering and worry.  So then what am I scared of?

I’m scared of him leaving me.  I’m scared of the Lord allowing more trouble into a place that’s already so broken and devastated that I can hardly catch my breath at times.  The book of 1 John says:

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

This promise sounds comforting and peaceful on the outside, but as I meditate on its meaning, I realize how imperfect I am in the pursuit of Love – real love – God’s love.  I’ve witnessed the transformation in trials and the goodness that can be found in the middle of a situation so horrible, it seems impossible to find any good.  And as I plead with the Lord to deliver us from the afflictions we have faced and continue to endure, I struggle with the idea of receiving what I don’t deserve.  I deserve bad things.  After all I’ve been through, I still worry.  I still faint in my fear and battle with faith, trying to figure this all out by myself with the lingering questions, What if he doesn’t help me?  What if I’m not in line with His will for me?  What if he allows more bad things to happen because I don’t deserve deliverance?

The bible says to take captive my thoughts…

Lord, help me to do that today.  Father, please let me feel your perfect love that casts out all fear.  Heavenly Father I know you love us so much to have sent your son to die for us.  Why do I feel unworthy?  Please God show me how to be delivered by your perfect peace.  Build my faith in the wake of feeling helpless and worthless today.  Please grant me the perfect peace of Jesus that surpasses all understanding.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

 

My friend Danielle, just posted this message on facebook….  I needed it today…

For you when you need Him this week:

WHEN YOU ARE STRESSED

Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Psalm 55:22
Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
Psalm 118:5-6
Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?
Proverbs 12:25
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.
Romans 8:28
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
James 1:12
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
Matthew 6:33
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Luke 10:41-42
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Psalm 37:7
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!

 

 

 

CRISIS – Christ is

I recently met Lisa Aldrin through my Crisis.  Her writing this morning spoke to my heart.  And if you’re in a crisis, you need to hear this message!  Thank you Lisa for letting me share your heart this morning.  Here are the words of this beautiful woman of God on the subject of #crisis.

Websters dictionary defines crisis as a time of intense difficulty, trouble or danger.
It’s a”turning point” or a crossroads.
A sequence of events that the trend of all future events is determined.

They say that “Crisis comes at the curve of change”.
I know this to be true in my life. Every time I had a major crisis, God was changing the direction of my life.
When God’s about to change your life, all Hell breaks loose.
Its Chaotic and crazy.
You thought your life was fine the way it was going. Then he took your life in a whole different direction you never expected.

He will change your friends, Your job, your work, your church, where you live…Everything!
Before God moved me to Texas all hell broke lose in California.
In my family, my church, My parents, my friends, everything was turned upside down. That’s because God was trying to move me out.
California was my “comfort zone” It’s what I was familiar with. I knew the roads, the towns, the cities, the laws, the people and Business.
But when God’s trying to do a New thing in our lives, he takes us out of our element.
And in order to get us to move forward and grow, God has to stir the nest and push you out!

God illuminates things in a crisis. The people you thought were “FOR” you, were shockingly against you.
He exposes the hearts of your friends and relatives. He removes wrong people out of your life and replaces them with “right people”.
Everythings turns upside down in a crisis.

1)Crisis reveals #YOUR True heart. And exposes your faith or fear.

2) Crisis reveals “#otherpeople’s” true hearts.

3)Crisis dosent “make” who we are. It #reveals who we are.

When Crisis came to Jesus, he was about to go through the trial of his life, his whole life’s purpose was wrapped up in “#DyingToLive
so we could have eternal life.
And in his time of crisis (going to the cross) it revealed his disciples true hearts.
Peter was cutting people’s ears off. Fighting the will of God. Trying to tell Jesus that he didn’t need to “lay down his life” but rather fight for it?…
Jesus asked Peter, do you love me? Peter said Yes Lord, you know I love you. Jesus asked him again, Peter do you love me?Peter responded: Lord you know I love you!!♥️
Jesus knew that Peter loved him. But his love was shallow.

Jesus said If you love me Peter, then #Prove it to me and “feed my sheep”…
3’x feed my sheep. (John 21:15-22)
Jesus knew Peter needed to grow up. He wanted action behind Peters love. Not just lip service. He knew Peter would deny him.
Jesus told Peter your going to deny me, Before the cock crows you will deny me 3 times.
Peter said Lord I will #never deny you…(but he did)
Because when everything gets messy, that’s when we see how strong we really are.
It’s shows where our faiths at. Do we have real sustaining faith in the trial or will we cave into fear?

In the crisis Peter was double minded. He was unstable. He said one thing, and then did another.
Peter thought he was strong, but when the pressure hit he couldn’t stand up for Christ. The one that he said that he loved and believed in.

Jesus asked his disciples: To Pray with him in this horrible trial he was going through but his disciples caved in.
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
Christ asked them: Could you not tarry with me one hour?

Jesus was also at a crossroads, a point of surrender.
God the Father was working on his heart seeing if Jesus would surrender to God’s will, even when it cost him his life.
Jesus asked the father, if this cup could pass from him? He didn’t want to go through the pain of God’s perfect will. (Who does???)
But ultimately Jesus let go of his will and surrendered to the father.
This is what happens to us in a crisis. It’s the fight, the struggle of what WE want, oppose to what Christ wants to do in us.

God’s ways are higher than our ways. We THINK we know how God ought to do things. We think we know what’s best for us and everyone involved.
WE think God should do things our way.

It’s the point of faith and trust in God.
God always has the final say. And one day we will understand why as our destiny unfolds in him.
It’s a #Glorious Life💕
Lisa Aldrin~

When I read Lisa’s words this morning I could feel the Holy Spirit strongly speaking to me about the definition of CRISIS….  In your CRISIS.. {Christ-Is}

Why do Christians do this?

Over the last few days, I’ve felt more vulnerable than ever before in my life.  Maybe not on the grand scale of what “we” have endured – but as an individual, crying out for help.  Admitting that I’m just not that strong – laying my heart down regardless of what that looks like from another’s point of view.

Over the last few days, I’ve felt overwhelmed by the conversations I’ve had with people I don’t even know.  Then today, I remembered a guy that I met while we were living in the hospital named Raymond.  He was all alone sitting outside in the courtyard in front of TIRR, flicking a cigarette over the side of his wheelchair.

“How are you today?”  I asked him.  His eyes lit up as he turned around to look at me.  A few minutes later we were caught up in a deep conversation about his life story.  Raymond told me about the tragic accident – he’d went in for a surgical procedure and woke up paralyzed from the waist down.  His wife left him shortly after.  He had no friends or family to care for him.  Then he turned to alcohol and drugs and became homeless.

I remember praying over Raymond as this bald-headed, tattoo’d, tough looking guy cried out-loud like a baby.  And when I was saying goodbye, Raymond asked me.  “How do you know God loves me?”

At the time, I was caught off guard by the question.  I didn’t know how to speak for God.  I knew that God loved Raymond.  I knew that Raymond’s life had a very special purpose – that he’d not yet found.  But, who was I to speak in place of the Great Almighty?  “Raymond, he’s got you here for a reason.” I explained, half-way avoiding the question to deliver the only truth I was given in that moment.

In the last two years, I’ve experienced God’s love.  I’ve felt His presence and felt the fear too – of feeling like He had left me.  I’ve had encounters few would believe.  And I’ve had messages from Heaven delivered in ways I would never have expected.  I know GOD.  But, how do I convey that to others?

Others say, “tell people about Jesus!  Spread the good news.”  For many months now I’ve struggled with what it means to carry my cross and follow Jesus.  I’ve spent moments of weakness hanging onto his words – seeking his truth and begging him to tell me my purpose.  What do I do God?  How do I serve your kingdom?  Please, just tell me what you want me to do!

I try to look for opportunities to tell people about Jesus.  I research prophecy and follow a number of speakers who hold sermons to talk about the Bible.  The more I learn, the more I want to share.  But those moments of revelation, when I feel something stirring in my own heart, never seem to carry the power of the Holy Spirit when I regurgitate the things I learn.  Until I started writing – not about bible verses or prophecy or lessons I carry away from studying scripture.  I started writing about my life.. my testimony.  My book suddenly started pouring out effortlessly.  And then, I started this blog.

But I felt guilty, realizing that my life looks nothing like the people smiling and singing and clapping that I meet at church…  (and i really worried that I might be upsetting God) – What I’m writing goes against everything I’ve been taught about what a Christian life should look like.  Something inside of me starting stirring, like a voice that was screaming out “stop pretending you’re OK!  Tell the truth. Tell your testimony.”  Yet another voice said, “How can you bring people to Jesus if you look like this broken down rag?  Who could possibly want what you have?”

God will not let his children by hypocrites.  I’m going to type that again because I’m speaking right into my own heart.  GOD WILL NOT ALLOW HIS CHILDREN TO BE HYPOCRITES.  Jesus cried. Jesus sweat blood from his body as he begged and prayed in terror (trembling),  “Father if there is any way possible, please take this cup from me!”  Jesus knew sorrow.  He knew fear.  And Jesus even knew temptation…

Why would it be written that he was tempted of the devil TO JUMP?  Seriously consider this….  A temptation is something extremely difficult to overcome – yet I’ve glazed over that story so many times never asking myself, “Why would satan tempt Jesus to jump?”  He said, “If you’re the son of God, you know that He will send his angels to catch you.”…  so….. is that a good enough reason to jump? No, it’s not.  Why would Jesus even be in a position to consider jumping off that cliff?  Does the son of GOD, Jesus Christ of Nazareth not understand what it’s like to feel so hopeless, and so sorrowful that he could be tempted with the idea of just ending it all?

I’m just going to leave that out there to linger, and quote Hebrews 4 – “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”  Jesus knows how we feel.  In the darkest hours of our lives when we can’t even bear the thought of seeing the sun rise on another day, HE KNOWS.

So why do Christians pretend life is so great?  Why do we walk through our days, smiling and quoting scriptures – teaching people but refusing to let the Lord teach us – which can only take place when we surrender everything we are at the cross.  I just can’t do it anymore.  I just can’t live a lie under the eyes of the Almighty Father in Heaven that knows I’m not at all as put together as I try to pretend I am.  He knows I’m tempted. He knows I’m broken and suffering greatly. He knows, and if He’s the only one I have to answer to, why would I hide what I really am to try to impress other people?  Am I afraid of what the world thinks of me, when the word of God says “To love the world is to have enmity with God?”

Laying myself out there is proving to be an experience that the Lord requires of me at this stage in my life.  It’s hard.  But it’s also freeing.  And most importantly, He’s using my brokenness to bring people to Jesus.  In just the last few days, I’ve had meaningful talks with people that need hope.  They don’t come to me because I look like my life is perfect.  They’re coming to me because I’m bearing my cross and admitting how much I hurt.  They know that I understand they’re pain, (and people want to know they aren’t alone – they want to fellowship with someone who can relate to their anguish).  I can’t even get through the first 2 minutes of these stories without bursting out into tears – wanting to smother these people with love.  I thank the Lord for choosing me to minister to others – that through Him, I can be important to his kingdom, even when on the outside my life looks like a shattered mess.

Raymond asked me.. “How do you know he loves me?”  I wish I could talk to Raymond again today.  I wish I knew how to reach him, because I finally have the answer to his question.  I know God loves Raymond because I love Raymond – and HE who now lives in me, showing me HIS love – allowing me to witness his love first hand, through the eyes that he’s given me to see, HE WHO LOVES RAYMOND has given me the ability to love all the Raymonds out there in this broken world.  God is love.

Nothings great.  Nothings fixed.  Life is hard.  But I feel like the Lord is really using me right now for HIS glory, and I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.  In fact I wish I could share it with everyone.

So my question is, why do Christians do this?  Why do we hide away our brokenness and pretend our lives are so perfect?  For me, in this season I’m learning to let the world see my weakness, (as Jesus did), and let GOD do the rest…

“Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are wayward; for he himself also is beset with weakness.” – Hebrews 5:2

When your family lets you down

The Lord put it on my heart awhile back to pray and intercede for others.  And in starting the new prayer services on Thursday, I now look for situations to add to my prayer list throughout the week.  Some people message me (privately) with prayer requests – others share their burdens outwardly posting on social media and asking all of their friends to pray for them.  I document those too.

Over the last several weeks I’ve noticed a trend in people who are hurting as a result of various situations dealing with family.  Some of these folks I’ve spoken to directly.  Others I’ve watched – only reading about their sorrows.  Recently, texting with a woman, she poured her heart out about the crazy (honestly it’s pretty crazy) things family members have put her through.  From lawsuits to unthinkable burdens that have been placed on her and her children as a result of family disputes.  I felt a feeling of sadness come over me because I had no advice for her.  I don’t have good news about divorce, I’ve never been through lawsuits with people in my family.  Her story wasn’t my story and I know the Lord doesn’t want me to testify on subjects that he didn’t give to me. But, this subject keeps coming up – like the faster I run away from testimonies of family issues, the more God is putting this in my face.  Then, as we were speaking something amazing happened.

In prayer, (yes i went straight to Him, before reaching back out to her),  I was given remembrance of words that Jesus delivered to a crowd of people, (a scripture I’d read many times, never understanding the meaning).  A question raised by the son of God himself – WHO IS MY FAMILY?  In the book of Mathew, someone said to Jesus, “Your sister and your brother are waiting outside.  They want to speak with you.”  Jesus gave a strange reply – as he answered and addressed the crowd.  He said, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?”  Then he stretched his hands out toward his disciples and he said, “Behold, here are my mother and my brothers… For whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven – they are my mother and my brothers.”

I remember reading this scripture many times before, thinking to myself, That seems kind of harsh.  Why would Jesus deny his mother and brother – leave them standing outside as he basically said to the crowd, “they aren’t mine, the ones that do the will of God are mine.”  The actions of Jesus seemed to go against everything I’ve been taught about family – that family (blood relatives) are to be our lifeline of help, our source of LOVE .  And even the Bible gives warning about the importance of caring for your family and tending to their needs.  In 1 Timothy it is written, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”  Are the messages of Jesus denying his mother and brother and the warnings in Timothy conflicting?  I got my answer.  NO….  In that moment of prayer the Lord pieced together a puzzle that I’ve never before been able to see completely.

In understanding that God knows the beginning from the end in each of our lives, HE KNOWS we will face heartache in family matters.  He knows that brothers will betray bothers, mothers will betray children and children will betray fathers (also written in Mathew and Luke) – families will face division and will hurt one another in a variety of ways.  They will hurt you.  They will abandoned you.  They will let you down even when you need them the most.  So how do we deal with the disappointment when loved ones throw us to the wolves?

I thought about another recent conversation I’d had with a man who was suffering through devastating circumstances.  Unlike the woman from the text messages, his family had nothing to do with the original source of his pain.  They weren’t taking him to court or placing burdens upon his children.  It’s what they didn’t do that had become the source of his pain.  He felt abandoned by the ones he loved most, in a time that he needed them.  He spoke to me about his mother – telling me how close they once were.  He said, “She was the one I thought would stand by my side no matter what.  I was wrong.”  As the man poured out his heart to me, I could feel his pain and his anger too.  And I myself felt angry, thinking about my own children and asking myself the question, What kind of mother disappears when her children need her?  And the Lord said, I am love.

Let me try to break this down the best I can.  Not all of us came from beautiful brady bunch families.  Some of us were victims of divorce, and strife within the system of “family” at very young ages.  Some of us were shown that love is screaming and yelling – even physical violence.  Some of us were shown that love is “me first” – mothers that seek companionship from a man rather than putting their children at the top of their priority list.  Fathers that do the same.  So many daddy’s leave.  Parents die in tragic accidents.  Parents struggle to deal with their own lot and turn to things like alcohol and drugs – leaving their kids in a sense of loneliness.  And this is only the short list of generational curses that plague families in so many ways today – resulting in a domino effect of children who don’t know love, then grow up to be adults that are not familiar with true, unselfish love.  But GOD is love.

Friends, we don’t all KNOW GOD – at least not yet.  I certainly didn’t now Him most of my life, despite claiming that I was a Christian, saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.  But just like I was in darkness – led to the light, I believe all who belong to him will experience that same process at some point – at the Lord’s appointed time.  And sometimes that process in others will lead to God workting through YOU to be the light that loves someone else, teaching another true love – His love.

In both stories (the woman with the family burdens and the man that felt abandoned) I could sense bitterness in the pain.  I even felt it creeping into me, wanting to reach out to these people and say “Are you crazy bringing a lawsuit against your family member?!”  or wanting to reach out to that mother and ask, “What kind of mother isn’t there for her own son when he’s in need?”  But God said, I am LOVE.  See, if God lives in us, then we are the light in the darkness.  And even though that darkness may not comprehend the light right now, if God sends YOU to be the light at his appointed time, you will be the very one that introduces REAL LOVE to those who were placed in your life for his Glory.  And that’s where we have a choice:  Seek God to work in us even through our pain.  Or, pass the baton and the generation curse moves on to the next victim.  Saying, “I’ll show them.” isn’t being the light.  Saying, “I’ll get them back – I’ll show her the same cruel treatment she showed me,” isn’t being the light.

Hear me out on something – we all have a testimony on this subject, even I didn’t realize it until the Lord revealed this to me.  I didn’t know love either – didn’t have a dad (lost both of my step-dads) and felt like a burden that would never live up to my mom’s expectations.  Fast forward and I grew up to be a pretty awful wife to my husband, and mother to my kids.  And Josh wasn’t good to me either.  He has hurt me in the past in ways that are difficult to talk about.  He’s made me feel unimportant, worthless.  He’s broken my trust time and time again.  But today, everything I once thought I loved about my husband has been taken away.  He isn’t the tall, muscular handsome guy that used to make me feel safe, (yes, I loved feeling safe having a big strong guy around to protect our family).  He isn’t the 6-figure earning breadwinner of our family anymore.  He isn’t the father that relieves my stress with tough love as the disciplinary of our children – they no longer fear him, which puts pressure on me to be the nurturing mom and disciplinary dad at the same time.  Yet, I love my husband today more abundantly than I ever could have in the past.  Because loving him for what he can give to me is NOT TRUE LOVE.  And I know it’s not my doing – the love I have now, I’m not capable of without God living in me.  This isn’t my love at all – it’s the Love of He who lives in me.

I know my husband did nothing to deserve for me to love him the way I do today – to sacrifice my life in order to take care of his needs.  Just like I don’t deserve for the Father to love me and forgive me by the wrath that was poured out onto his only begotten son Jesus.  This unselfish, un-expecting, unconditional love I have today for my husband is a gift from God because he chose me to be the light.  He is using my vessel, to be the one (in an appointed season) to show my husband what real love is.  Love that forgives.  Love that can’t be earned.  Love that can’t boast in pride.  Love that gives everything, expecting nothing in return.  Josh can probably never repay me for the sacrifices I’ve made for him – and that’s just beautiful to me because I need nothing – JESUS IS ENOUGH.  Just like I can never repay my Heavenly Father for sending Jesus to shed his holy blood for my salvation, (when I deserve death).  So instead of asking yourself, “What is my family not doing for me?”  Ask yourself how the Lord might be using your trials to be the light in the darkness for them, or for someone else – remember who are true mothers, brothers and sisters are.

Jesus gave the answer when he delivered that question to the multitude, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?”  In simple terms, we open our eyes.  We stop placing expectations on people we THINK the Lord sent to love us and care for us in our short lives here, and we allow the spirit of God to show us the ones he HAS sent to love us and care for us during seasons of difficulty.  That also can mean letting go of pride.  Maybe your mother or brother won’t help you but someone else is standing by – waiting for the Lord to send them to you.

I’ve done this thing called “privacy” my whole life.  I share my deepest sorrows only with those who I call family, while placing a false image of completeness in front of everyone else in my life.  A stranger asks, “How is your day?” I answer “Great. thank you.”  A family member asks the same question and my answer is very different.  I rely on family to feel my pain and CARE about my needs – to help carry my burdens.  I confide in family and lay down my sorrows in front of them, expecting them to care.  Why do we do only depend on blood relatives, and hide our real-selves from the rest of the world?  For me, I think the answer is pride.  Foolish pride.  And if I’m being honest, that makes me a liar too.  If a friend asks, “Can I do something to help you?”  Why would I answer with “Nah, I’m good,” then hang up the phone and call my mother to tell her how much help I need right now.  Am I denying God the testimony he placed in my life while closing the very doors that he’s opening for me?

Look, I can’t deny that we live in a time of great selfishness.  I also don’t think we know what we do.  We’re all like rats in a cage running as fast we can to keep up with that image of what we think our lives should look like.  We don’t carry eachothers burdens as we should.  We don’t look for ways to enhance another’s life – we look for ways to enhance our own lives.  We need bigger homes, faster cars, better electronics, more luxurious vacations and more advanced cell phones so we can post wonderful pictures of our “blessed lives”.  Notice, when the lights went out and flood waters rose in Houston – when people were removed from the rat race, though only for a few days, we CARED.  Our true character was revealed when the world stopped spinning in Houston, (there was nothing to go achieve, nothing to go buy, nothing to seek in advancing our own lifestyles during those days), and all we could see was an opportunity to help our brothers and sisters.  Flip the switch back on and everyone returns to the rat race.  We know not what we do.

And then, there’s the other side of these generational curses.  I spoke to a woman last week who was confessing something very painful to me.  She recently lost her mother.  And she told me about a time her mom had reached out to her for help.  The mom had recently been forced to file bankruptcy and needed a car.  So, she reached out to the daughter (the woman telling the story), and asked her to co-sign a loan to help her buy a car.  “I told her I couldn’t help her because I couldn’t put anymore debt on my credit.”  She explained.  The woman sobbed as she confessed her heartfelt hurt, “I’d do anything to go back to that day and say yes to my mother.”  And today, this woman is a Godly woman (brought out of darkness into the light of Jesus Christ.).  Sometimes repentance doesn’t come until we lose something very valuable that we can’t ever get back. Sometimes we don’t realize how meaningless things like money or credit scores are until we suffer true loss of things that really matter to us – like the lives of our loved ones.  Even in those situations, God is glorified because the pain that leads to repentance, and realizing our shortcomings and mistakes, leads us to the cross of Jesus Christ.  Hurt is not easy, but it can soften our hearts if we just let God into our pain.  He gave us everything (forgiveness), when we deserved nothing but death.  And through that process, he leads us to the light.  Trust his process in your life and in your loved ones lives.  Pray for them and love them, while refusing to pick up the baton and carry bitterness to the ones who are watching how you respond to hurt, hardship and situations that you face.  Choose love..  Choose forgiveness..  Choose to let GOD be GOD, and trust his process (not our own process).

I don’t know if this post will help anyone today.  But I feel the Lord putting this subject in front of me repeatedly for a reason.  My hope and my prayer is that we can all learn to love our family and pray for our family – while removing the expectation that they will love us back.  I pray that we can learn to not judge one another, remembering that all of us were in the darkness – only finding the light when Jesus stepped in at an appointed season to open our hearts and teach us what LOVE really is – teach us kindness and selflessness – teaching us how to love our neighbors and even our enemies too.  My prayer is that we can let down foolish pride and be honest when we’re not OK – not just to family but look for the ones GOD is sending to be the hands and feet of Jesus during our storms.  I pray that we can learn to be that for someone too – walking out the instructions of Jesus (not by our own choosing), but asking Him to guide us as and show us how to full-fill the purpose he has for our lives.  And remember, needs come in different shapes and sizes.  Not long ago I thought money was the only way to help people.  If I had it to give and the Lord showed me someone in need, I went to work trying to help them.  Today, I don’t have money and the Lord is showing me a new way to help people.  Everyone’s not poor.  Some are sick, some are imprisoned, some are suffering great loss and some are heart broken and hanging be a thread – looking for HOPE in impossible situations.  The Lord is showing me how to be a sister to those I may hardly even know (and let them be there for me too).  To listen to people.  To cry with people.  To love people as my own blood, expecting nothing in return.

In closing, I don’t believe Jesus was being harsh – he wasn’t denying his brother and mother.  He was teaching us that family has a much broader meaning than what the world teaches us.  That FAMILY has little to do with our blood, and everything to do with His blood.  My hope with this ministry (this calling upon my life) is that I can have the opportunity to be your family.  And I sincerely mean that.  If you need prayer, please let us pray for you.  If you’re struggling right now with something in your life, write us and tell us about it.  Josh and I want to love you.  We want to be your brothers and sisters and carry our cross for a purpose that glorifies our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I love you guys very much.  Hope you have a blessed day in Jesus Christ.

Father, I ask you to forgive us and I thank you for your grace as you know our true hearts, that we don’t always allow you to lead us and as we’re caught in this world ruled by the prince of the air, sometimes we don’t know what we do.  Please cover all those who are hurting today and heartbroken with your love and peace and understanding.  Help us to see through the pain at the beautiful testimonies you are working inside of our lives and to embrace the tears as a qualification to be gifted with your compassion toward others who are hurting too.  Please continue to show us what it means to be the light, help us to overcome bitterness and fill us with your true love – unselfish and unconditional love.  Father, I thank you for your grace and mercy. I thank you for the many brothers and sisters you give us all over the world and I thank you for tearing down our walls of pride and helping us to see that YOU are where our help comes from.  Thank you for building our faith and helping us to trust in you even when things seem impossible.  Thank you for giving us truth, and help in breaking generational curses upon our lives.  I love you Lord and I thank you with my all heart for the salvation of Jesus Christ.

In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.

Forgiveness in the bitterness

I met with a very special woman this week for coffee – a woman that I never had the chance to get to know in the past, and hadn’t been very kind to.  Sometimes our surroundings and circumstances choose for us which group we belong to and who we just don’t care for much – a silly and shameful process of division that I’d bought into throughout stages of my life.  The Lord put it on my heart a few weeks ago to apologize to this woman.  And I’m so glad He did.

We sat in Starbucks, trading turns telling stories about our kids and about our hardships, when a topic came up in conversation that made my insides churn – people who abandoned you in the storm.

While we are enduring very different trials, both of us have experienced great loss.  And, both of us are still very seated in our journeys through the storm – paddling our way through rough waters toward a hoped for place of normalcy up ahead.  This woman had lost everything in Harvey – their home and all of the belongings they’d accumulated throughout their lives, save her precious family that was rescued by a canoe leading them to dry land on the night the dam waters came rushing into Kingwood.

She asked me, “Are the people you thought would help, there for you through all of this?”  I fought back tears as I sorted through the truth of that matter in my mind – something I do often, but feel ashamed to admit out loud.  Bitterness is like a shadow that follows me around.  I will myself to lose that shadow, and I ask the Lord to take it from me, but it has reared its ugly head lately, more than before.  Throughout my life I’ve learned to ignore that feeling of being let down by people I love – clinging to a self-made motto of independence.  I would tell myself I don’t need anyone, I can get through this alone.  But a different side of bitterness is found when you see those you love most hurting because of the actions of others.

This woman spoke about her closest life-long friends that never even called to ask, “What can we do to help you?”  And then the other side of the spectrum in God’s beautiful puzzle pieces – she told me about a man she’d never met that showed up to assist her family in finding safety that night in the little boat.  I was reminded of a high school friend that did a beautiful thing for us when we were in the hospital – Josh fighting for his life.  I told the woman, “We haven’t even spoken to her in decades, yet she treated us like close family – coordinating prayers for us and setting up a page to collect donations to help our family with the astronomical medical expenses we would soon face.”

As this woman spoke deeper about her own burdens and the subject of her children surfaced, I could feel the deepest parts of her pain – the hurt on behalf of the ones she loves most dear.  The same place my deepest sorrows are found.  I think through all that my husband has been through and this most difficult fight that he fights now with each new day – feeling abandoned by so many, and searching for purpose here on Earth, the “what’s next” in a place of forgotness.  I think of my kids who have no choice but to swallow this pill of a new normal – and the overwhelming impact on their young lives.  They all appear so strong on the outside but I see the tears that no one else does.

Leaving this coffee shop conversation, I spent most of the rest of my day facing my bitterness.  I asked the Lord “Where does my help come from?”  And a scripture I know well immediately entered my mind.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121

Sitting alone on my back patio, I cried harder than I’ve cried in a long time.  I thought about a quote that I’d recently read in a book written by a mother who’s only son was sentenced to life in prison without parole.  Paraphrasing, she said, “Every person that walks through the unthinkable circumstances of great loss, needs at least one person to walk with them.”  The Lord reminded me that he moved my mom across country (in a move that made zero sense), into the home directly behind me just a month before Josh’s stroke.  She may not have the means to help in everything that we struggle with and face, but she listens and she cares.  My mother calls me every single day just to ask the question, “Are you OK?”  I bowed my head and thanked the Lord for my mother.  Then, I asked, “What about Josh God?”  Who’s there for him?  And the Lord said, “I sent you.”

Sometimes the heaviness of all the weight I feel on my shoulders is too much for me to take, and those are the times when I let bitterness creep in.  I scream out “I can’t do this by myself!  Where is everyone!”  I look at my family through a lens mixing self-pity with love, whispering, “I will be there for them until the day I die.”  And I mean it.  But I wasn’t always this way.  I didn’t always carry the unselfish love of Jesus Christ in my heart.  In fact there were times I was an absolute horrible mother.  I was a dreadful, self-centered wife and I spent more days thinking about what people didn’t give me, instead of what I was giving to them.  I’ve lived in dark places mentally – and I was not the one that broke that chain.  God did it.

These trials we face offer a choice.  And I’ve faced trials of much smaller magnitudes my whole life, making the wrong choice – to turn a cheek or to carry-on with the mindset of “what’s best for me.”  It took a big one – a trial that sent me to my knees in unspeakable pain and hopelessness for the Lord to break my heart open and fill it with unselfish love.  He changes us when we say “Yes Lord.”  He gives us purpose to be “that one” someones needs – like a lifeline in the midst of everything shattered.

Through this revelation in facing my own bitterness, I can’t say “yes Lord” for anyone else – I can only control my own choice of servitude to my Father.  I’m reminded of all the times I turned my back on people I loved.  I’m reminded that the LORD is the finisher of our faith and our stories.  And that glimpse of truth into my own walk with Jesus from the darkness into the light helps me to see bitterness differently – to see my own bad decisions, when the Lord gave me opportunities to be there for others and I chose not to.  I see my own ugliness and my multitude of sins all those times I let my kids down – forgetting that they were a blessing God gave me.  I see the disgust in me as I cursed the day I was married, caught up in heated arguments with Josh in the past, forgetting all the times I had prayed and asked God “Please give me Josh in my life.”  Yes, I loved that man so dearly when I was a teenager swooning over his dark eyes and dimpled smile.

God gave me a beautiful family.  He has gifted me with the very things my heart desired most and I failed HIM over and over again.  Realizing my own faults, he shows me where bitterness can end.  He shows me to stop looking around at everyone that has left us behind and to thank HIM that HE never will leave us behind.

Forgiveness is hard to find in search of those closest to us – because it’s easier for us, knowing their circumstances to justify all they should’ve done differently.  But pain is a part of life.  We will always be let down by other human beings, so long as darkness remains in this world.  And though we don’t always know how to face the one in the mirror in truth, we too have let many people down – even if we didn’t realize it.  God is LOVE and in understanding that, we can see the process of him pouring out himself into vessels (into us).  Through our trials.  Through our heartaches and pain, we can know that he will rescue us from ourselves, so long as we’re able to lay it all down and admit our own faults – asking him to forgive us for all our mistakes, and asking him to help us forgive others (who are just as imperfect as we are), because HE forgave us first.

In admitting my bitterness to God, He’s showing me how to turn bitterness into thankfulness.  Even if its just “one” that stands by your side.  That ONE is a gift sent by God to walk with you through the storm.

Who would’ve thought that an apology would lead to a heartfelt conversation with a woman I once thought was so different from me, but yet she faces the same challenges I do in heart-wrenching trials today.  Who would’ve thought that meeting this lady for coffee would lead to a new chapter of healing in my own life – learning to lay down my bitterness before the Lord – in a continued battle to forgive myself as I forgive others…. THANKING the Lord for the ones HE will send to help me, instead of being upset with those that he did not send.  Help doesn’t always come from the places we expect.  And in tragedy we find two cups with the choice of which to drink from “love” or “bitterness”.    I hope this helps someone today find forgiveness in their heart towards another who has let them down.  If you feel hurt, betrayed or alone today.  Its OK to cry.  It’s OK to be angry.  But as you wipe away your tears, don’t let them be in vain.  Ask the Lord to heal your bitterness from the root of where it comes from and to fill your cup with thankfulness, for HE will never leave you.

Lord, today I thank you for the strength you give me in Jesus to carry this cross as far as you may have me go.  I thank you for your gifts in these beautiful children I have and I thank you for my loving husband.  Father, he may be broken right now, but he has me, and I thank you for giving me a new kind of love in my heart – to never forsake Josh as you will never forsake me.  I thank you for planting that same seed in my mother.  You knew how much I’d need her now and you made sure that I would have that ONE person to walk with me through this storm.  Father let me never forget the power of ONE – as only ONE was required to save all, in the selfless act of Jesus Christ who laid down his life for me.  Father, I pray today that all who are hurting and feel abandoned by this cruel world can fill your hand in their lives, your ink on the pages of a story that you will finish and their purpose to carry on because they are precious to you.  I also ask you Lord to continue to give Josh strength, hope and most of all purpose, as he battles with hurt and disappointment that only you can truly understand.  Father, I thank you for showing me the root of my bitterness and the hypocrisy in my own thoughts.  Help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me.  Father paint beauty with my ashes and let this family’s suffering be a testimony that leads others to your beautiful son, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 

Can I be still in the face of the storm?

I see the thoughts of doom and gloom like whirlwinds encompassing me, luring me to run and take cover.  I’ve learned the art of survival through a lifetime of struggle – one problem is fixed just to bring me to the next obstacle that I must face.  But like a “do it yourself” youtube video with before-and-after pictures of a masterpiece that we desire, the results are never quite to par with our imagination of completion.  My way never works out to plan.

In the life of Jesus as he led his disciples, I’m reminded of the story of him traveling with them in a boat.  As the waves and wind and rain increased, the disciples became frightened.  Meanwhile, Jesus slept.  When absolute fear had overcame the disciples, they woke him up screaming, “Do you not care that we’re all going to die?”  Jesus replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”

Today I can almost place myself in that boat with them as I stare at this storm coming upon my family.  I see no shore in sight, (no way out, no answers).  And as my mind thumbs through possibilities, searching for solutions, my heart is continually crying out to the Lord “Where are you?  Save us.  Why aren’t you speaking to me and telling me how to fix this?”  He remains silent.

Like the disciples, I’ve seen the Lord perform miracles in our lives.  I’ve tasted of His goodness and His grace and His mercy.  I’ve witnessed His perfect arrangement of circumstances that are far too clever and purposeful to be considered coincidence.  Yet here I sit with my heart troubled, asking myself “Where did He go?  Did he fall asleep and forget about me?  Is He going to save me this time, like he has in the times before?  What if He doesn’t wake up in time?  What if these waves cause me to drown?

26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

– Mathew 26

The Lord said He will never leave us or forsake us.  He said all things work together for the good for those who are called according to his purpose.  So, then, why is it so hard to see through life’s storms and believe it won’t take us under?

Heavenly Father, today I ask you to give me eyes to see beyond the things that are troubling me.  I ask you to help me to rest in faith, remembering all the times that you have helped me and believing that you will help me again.  Lord I know that you can make a way, when there is no way, but help me with my unbelief.  Even if I can’t hear you, even it seems like you’ve fallen asleep, remind me always that you’re right here next to me in this boat and that you will not let me drown.  Father as I tell myself to “be still and know that you are God”, please give me the patience and peace and faith that I need to make it through this storm.  I pray that your will be done in our lives and that our purpose you have called us to will bring glory to your name.

In Jesus name… Amen.

 

 

 

Carrying My Cross

When I opened a small marketing business many years ago my company slogan was “image is perception”.  I’m not even sure where I came up with it idea, but the slogan has proved to play a role that deeply has ruled in my life.  I guess I’ve always carried the ability of “make believe”, or “fake it until you make it”.  I bought into a philosophy that if we project success we will find success.  Even now, nearly two years after Josh went down, sometimes I feel like a broken record feeding the same answer every time someone asks, “how are y’all doing?”.. I say “great!”..  Then I change the subject to take the focus off of me.  My Granny was like that.  Right or wrong, she never wanted people to know when she was hurting.

As I write this entry with a heavy chest and a face full of tears, I ask myself what I’ve gained by pretending to be OK.  Will I keep pretending I’m OK if we lose our home? – which seems to be unavoidable at this point.  And I search to understand what purpose would that serve?  I have two teenagers and a disabled husband with special needs.  What does a homeless family of 4 (already broken physically and emotionally) look like?  Why would God allow this to happen to us?  Haven’t we been through enough?
I know without a doubt that by His grace and His grace alone we’ve made it this far.  Josh lost his job immediately when he had the stroke – living in a hospital unable to speak or think or even raise his head up – let alone pick up his paralyzed body to drive a truck to work and support his family.  Right away Perry Homes put Josh on unpaid leave, then terminated him 6 months later.  They didn’t give him the bonuses he’d earned up that point – they didn’t even send a card to the hospital.   It’s just business I guess.  Then, they dropped our insurance.  And as we were sent home with no help, I had to care for Josh 24/7 – so I didn’t have many options.  But I had a wonderful idea how to make it work!
I worked fast while we were living in the med center to form a plan to keep my real estate business going – putting together a team of family to handle my clients while I couldn’t.  In the following months the Lord gave us so much help – selling all of my accrued listings and giving us income to stay afloat.  I re-branded my new team “79 Luxury Homes” in honor of the place where I’d found the Lord – in Josh’s ICU room (room # 79), and I had so much hope and excitement about the new business plan.  I had decided that I would take all of the compassion I’d been given through our trials and truly love my customers – work from my heart, not motivated by the money, and I’d care about their lives and their needs on a level I wasn’t able to before.  I’d take that the testimony of our troubles and turn it into a success story of making it through even the most impossible circumstances.
It all sounded so great, (my plan).  When I got my first listing call after Josh’s stroke, my mother-in-law sat in for me with Josh so I could take the appointment.  It was a referral from a previous client.  The couple was really nice, they went on and on about how highly their friend had spoken of me.  I got my mom to help out while I worked with stagers and photographers to get the house listed.  Then, less than a week after the listing went public, the home owner called me to tell me that her and her husband had decided to fire me because of my husband’s stroke  – she said that they felt I should spend my time caring for my husband, instead of trying to sell her home – despite the work was already done to list her home at that point.  I tried to explain that I’d already launched everything necessary.  I also told her that I was our only source of income now and I desperately needed the business – I promised her that I would work very hard for her.  But, she cut me off in mid sentence and said, “I’ve prayed about this and we’re firing you.”  I asked her, “What about all the money I just invested in your home?  Will you at least reimburse my expenses spent on you?”  She said, “Well, we never gave you back the signed contract so we have no obligation to pay you anything.”
I fought back the tears that were clearly hindering my ability to speak and whispered, “ok, God bless you,” then hung up the phone… I sat there holding my phone, crying on the floor asking the Lord why this was happening.  I thought about her answer, which made no sense to me.  She prayed and then decided to fire me?  Was she suggesting that God answered her prayer by telling her to stiff me for $1,000 I’d spent to list her home and then fire me for no reason?  She didn’t even give me a chance – how come the Lord didn’t tell her how amazing I am at real estate?  Didn’t she read my reviews and research my success in this business?  Didn’t she listen to her friend that had referred her to me in the first place?  “No one works harder than me God.   I never lose clients.  Why would this happen to me now?”
That was only the beginning of a theme I would soon get used to in the months to come.  I’ve met some wonderful people and had a few closings here and there – clients that are now my friends.  Some of them even call me occasionally for advice and to talk about God.  But the little business that I’ve been able to mustard up was just enough to tread water and buy us a little time.  For the most part, I’ve painfully watched my vision of 79 luxury homes (named after Josh’s ICU room number), dwindle away to nothing.
I guess I was onto something back in my 20’s when I came up with the slogan “image is perception.”  The image of what I used to be is what people wanted – to say they’ve hired the realtor that had a picture-perfect life – the successful, top of the charts lady that didn’t wear any flaws for the world to see.  Now I’m the lady with a broken life that brings her husband along to showings in his wheelchair.  I guess this isn’t the image of success that people are drawn to.
Folks in this community used to look at me with such respect.  They’d say, “oh you’re Jodi, the realtor that sells all those beautiful luxury homes.”  Now they look at me like a wounded bird to be pitied from a distance.
Jesus told the disciples “the world will hate you because it hated me first.”  I used to read this and visualize people spitting and screaming and throwing stones at his disciples as they preached the Gospel.  But as I sift through the ruins of our life today, His words reveal new meaning to me – I see us, as a modern day example of those rejected by a world where we just don’t seem to belong anymore.
People used to invite us to parties and gatherings.  We would show up to our son’s games and parents would come sit with us (people loved to talk sports with Josh, especially as he coached many of these boys since they were little).  Now when we go out in public, we just get stared at like we’re of another species.  Josh tells me sometimes how uncomfortable it makes him the way everyone stares and whispers as we go by.  And when we’re not in public, it’s like we no longer exist at all.  None of our old friends call us anymore.  No one checks in to see how we’re doing.  Even our own family seem worlds away most of the time.  If our phone rings it all, it’s usually our kids – with the exception of my mother.  She checks on me every night before she goes to bed.  I thank the Lord daily for her support, her comfort and love.
The word of God says to carry each-other’s burdens.  But living in a broken world, the evidence of Christ in us isn’t always easy to see.  I think about the crucifixion of Jesus and I’m baffled by it, I really am.  How could all those people (even the ones he taught, and fed and healed them of sickness), stand by and watch him go through such anguish – many even cheering on his demise.  Not one stood up for him – even Peter denied him 3 times.  Yet he loved us anyway.  He died for us anyway and He even begged the Father to forgive us in the midst of his suffering.

Jesus said to follow Him we must pick up OUR cross.  I’ve heard that said so many times as a point of instruction.  “Well, just pick up your cross and follow him.” – sounds so simple when spoken without context,  but what does it mean really?  And why did his death have to be so cruel and so publicized for all to witness and take part in the story that would be told for the next 2,000 years? What if taking up your cross is to walk in shoes of utter distress, accepting the rejection of everyone around you – while speaking the words, “forgive them Father.”  What if taking up your cross is accepting that no matter how much it hurts, it’s purposed for His name’s sake?  Jesus said what we do to the least of these we do to Him.  I guess “the least of these” has to be someone…  I just never thought it would us.
 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Paul didn’t write letters saying “hey look, I’m following Jesus and everything’s great!”…  He told the truth.  He told about his beatings, he told about those who opposed him and he told about his struggles and his persecution and his imprisonment.  He didn’t hide his cross in some make believe fantasy that would make him acceptable to the broken world that rebuked his very existence.
As I ponder these things, I ask myself, “Who I am to pretend everything will be ok – to hide my cross from the world?”  And I wonder, why do I keep making plans to fix something too heavy for me to bare?  Why do I feel so defeated that 79 isn’t working out like I’d hoped?  Why do I struggle to hold onto things that my hands aren’t big enough to hold?
I know there are people all over this world today hurting.  There are people starving and thirsty and cold.  There are people hopeless and defeated, drowning in great despair.
Lord I pray that I’m strong enough to accept your will for my life, no matter how hard this cross may to carry.  I see that every plan of mine has failed, over and over again.  And here I sit, reminded that I have no control over my life.  You know how much we’ve hurt and how much we’ve lost.  If I am to lose more, help me to do it with love in my heart.  Help me to never let this world turn me bitter and to keep surrendering all of me until I have nothing left of me, and am filled with only you.  Jesus you are the author of my story and finisher of my faith.  In you, I will trust.
In Jesus name.  Amen.