Promised Acceptance

Sandra sank to the floor near her bed in exhausted desperation.

The irony of the spot hit her full on. Years ago, as a child, she would kneel here before bed, conversing with God, just as Mama taught her.

But Mama died. Sandra hadn’t spoken to God since. After years of silence, she cried out to Him but heard no reply.

She was seventeen.

She was pregnant.

She was utterly alone.

God, where did it all go wrong?

All her plans for the future were futile.

Her life would never be the same.

She would never be the same.

Mama would be so disappointed in her. “Don’t let your mistakes define you,” Mama’s words ran through her mind, “instead let the fulfillment of God’s promises define your life.”

As a child she couldn’t comprehend what Mama meant. But now, she pondered…

God, do You still have plans for me, even now? Do You still love me?”

Of course, my child.

“Lord, I’m so sorry for my disobedience, my sin. I want to turn things around, Oh Lord, help me turn things around.”

Six years later, that single mom was waving good-bye to a , blue-eyed, blond haired, excited kindergartener at the bus stop.

As that big yellow bus pulled away with her precious daughter she thought again of her mama’s wise words.

She had not’ let her mistakes define her. She had graduated high school, than beauty school. She had found her way back to God, into His word. She had allowed her heart to soften and grow her childhood faith.

She loved her little girl fiercely. She prayed with her, read the Children’s Bible with her, and took her to church. Her own faith grew as she shared God’s word with her daughter.

It had certainly not been easy, but she had not allowed her mistakes to define her or to rule what she did with her life.

Instead, broken-hearted, soul shattered, she’d held those tattered pieces of her presence in an open hand before the Lord, trusted Him, and relied on Him to carry her back to the good path He had for her.

And He had.

He had redeemed her. He didn’t look at her with contempt or resurrect her sin-stained past when she talked to Him. He saw her heart, a heart cleansed by Jesus and beating for her Heavenly Father.

Each of us has something, or maybe a few somethings, we are ashamed of.

But hiding it, not talking to God about it, pretending it’s not there isn’t the answer.

You see, those negative things we bury deep inside refuse to remain hidden.

Those fragments form a growing shape.

That shape festers until one day it can’t be contained any more, and like lit fireworks, those emotions come bursting forth in an explosion few are likely to forget, least of all the one who lived through the shameful exclamation demanding an explanation.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. No matter what we have done, we can approach God. Like Sandra, we can come before Him broken-hearted, soul shattered, and honestly admit, ‘I have no business being here, but here I am, in a huge mess and I don’t know how to get out. Please change me.’

He can, and if we ask, He will.

He certainly can move heaven and earth!

Dear Heavenly Father, You search me and know me. Please reveal to me anything I’m bottling up or pushing down. Please give me the courage I need to come to You and to find any help necessary. Thank You for the promise of Your faithful love, in Jesus’s name, Amen.

 

 

Coming Clean

“Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7 NIV

“What does it mean to repent?” I asked the sweet ten-year-old girl before me.

She glanced thoughtfully toward the ceiling, and after a moment’s consideration answered both thoroughly and succinctly, “Coming clean.”

Wow. How right she is.

Repenting is confessing a wrongdoing and being truly remorseful for doing it. God already knows what we did, you might astutely point out, so why do we need to rehash it?

He knows it is good for us to name it. Verbalize it. Hear it aloud.

Voicing our sin can give us a different perspective – any enticement and enjoyment we get from sin will suddenly ring hollow when we talk to God.

When our repentance is driven by remorse we throw open the gates to God’s grace and invite Him to break the steel hold sin has on our lives.

When we are truly ready to bare our hearts and souls before God, admitting to Him our deepest and darkest secrets, true cleansing begins.

His love, His grace, and His mercy all wash over us as we recognize our desperate need for Him.

We acknowledge who we have the potential to be without Him in our lives and get honest with Him, and with ourselves.

It is Jesus’ sweet sacrifice that cleanses us and allows us back into reunion with God.

And no sin is too much for Him. Nothing, no thing can separate us if we truly repent.

No words can stain our lips, no deeds can permanently darken our hands. No emotion can render our lives useless. No amount of apathy can completely stall our souls.

He promises this cleansing forgiveness is available to each and every one of us, if only we ask.

No matter how faithless our lives may look when sin blots us from God’s sight, He is forever, faithfully ours.

 

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for always being there. Thank you for always offering full forgiveness when  I sincerely repent. Thank You for never giving up on me, even when I was ready to give up on myself. May my heart always be malleable and moved by you, not rigid and self-righteous. Thank you that nothing, no thing can prevent me from finding the perfect peace You so freely offer. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Lost Love

Do you get nervous meeting new people?

What will he think?

What if I inadvertently offend her?

First impressions matter, we’re told. Some claim employers have a good idea just 7 seconds into an interview if a candidate is a good fit.

In our feeble attempt to get the job, keep the job, give a great impression, or keep someone’s attention, we often attempt to show only a part of ourselves.

The best part.

The pretty part.

The pleasing part.

We hide who we are because we’re afraid we won’t measure up.

Maybe who I am won’t be enough.

Yet Psalm 139 reassures us, relieves us, reasons with us that One does exist who truly knows us. Truly knows our hopes and fears. Knows our bad habits and bad attitudes. Knows our not-so-nice qualities and the percolating questions we are too afraid to ask.

And, He loves us. All of us: the Good, the Bad, and yes, even the Ugly. He even loves the people who hide parts they think should never be seen.

The part which would banish us from the world if the world only knew…

He knows every thought, especially the runaways we fail to take captive.

He knows every word which escaped from an angry tongue.

He knows a hurting heart, hidden from a world we fear might mock, or much worse, not even care.

He knows how desperate we are for love, true love, because HE placed that desire inside each and every one of us.

HE knows us. Every part of us. Guess what? He loves us still!

HE doesn’t break up with us. HE doesn’t fire us. HE doesn’t gossip about us.

He imply, yet profoundly loves us.

You see, He understands.

For we do not have a high priest who doesn’t know our suffering.

Read Psalm 139. Let His words wash your wounds. Let them soak into your soul. Then allow yourself to feel love. Unconditional love. Love that never ends.

Don’t let the enemy try to tell you all the reasons you aren’t worthy. Don’t let him list your faults or indiscretions, or mistakes.

You see, God already knows. HE’s asking you to ask forgiveness, and then He is asking you to forgive yourself.

HE wants to embrace you, yes you! HE wants to whisper “you are forgiven.”

We just need to be honest with Him.

Allow yourself to be loved, truly loved.

 

 

A Crack in Armor

The three-year-old giggled as she descended the stairs and twirled before her Daddy. From a young age, it was in her heart to find her own knight-in-shining-armor.

David was such a man.

He was chosen. He walked with the Lord. He waited on the Lord. He would be recorded as a man after God’s own heart.

He made lots of rights choices. He made many, many decisions which pleased the Lord.

Until one day, he began a journey down a road making not-so-good choices.

When kings went off to war, he sent his troops without him.

He saw a woman and upon learning she was married, disrespected her in the worst way.

He then tried to conceal his wrongs by finagling and manipulation.

When his plot failed, he then tried to cover his mistakes by sending her husband to certain death.

David, our white knight, had a crack in his armor.

What had happened to this man of God?

Had David let his reputation go to his head?

Had he tired and disengaged from God?

How can people of faith fall so fast?

They are not where they should be.

David should have been out fighting with his troops, instead, he stayed behind.

They are not doing what they are called to do.  Obedience is key to a close relationship with God. (David as king had a task to lead these men – instead he shirked his responsibilities.)

When faced with temptation, he lingered. (David allowed his gaze and thoughts to stay on Bathsheba. He did not leave the scene and even authored his own interaction with her.)

When he realized his mistake, he did not own up to it. In fact, he desperately tried to conceal it. God wants us to obey Him. When we make a mistake, He wants us to have our hearts break with what breaks the heart of God. He wants us to openly repent and mend our relationship with Him.

He relied on himself, not God. He determined to dig himself out and not turn back to God, at least in the beginning.

David did eventually repent and would come close to God once more.

But sometimes that crack in armor is not so easily mended by the choices we make.

What if we never return to God? How different might our legacy be? How different might our children’s and grandchildren’s lives be because we never owned up to our mistakes?

We must not allow a crack in armor to become an infectious rust, tarnishing everything in our lives.

David, in his wisdom, after his moment of weakness, did return to God.

God responded to David with consequences for his actions and with love and forgiveness.

Just as He will with us as we sincerely repent before Him.

For the full story, read 2 Samuel 11-13.

 

 

 

 

CPR for the Soul

As she steered into the street, her thoughts got away from her.

It was a mess.

A royal mess.

She never intended for the white lie to grow as it had.

Now what? she asked herself as she drove to the next errand.

She sighed.

She knew the answer.

But knowing didn’t make it any easier.

No wonder God felt so far away. All sin matters to Him.

He must be up in heaven, so disappointed, she thought as she pulled into the parking lot, wallowing in her sorrow.

I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah 57:15b.

He’s not just sitting up in heaven judging me. He is here with me trying to revive my heart for Him.

She had done something to halt that heart. Her choice of sin had built a barrier between her and God. But God knew she was sorry and she knew she was sorry.

Leaning over the steering wheel she verbalized her apology to her Heavenly Father who was waiting with open arms.

As she lifted her head and focused out the windshield, her heart and soul felt lighter. Her heart and soul were revived.

Jesus had jump started her heart.

Her soul soared as it no longer searched for a far-away Savior.

He was here, with her, the whole time.

She had just needed a little spiritual CPR to align her hear with His.

 

A Heart Hearing

Waking the next morning before dawn, Marcy silently slid out from the covers. Christmas day! The house was quiet and a cup of tea sounded inviting. Moving slowly and quietly through the kitchen, she prepared her cup and her heart a she reached for her Bible.

Sitting down in the old rocking chair at the big picture window, her back to the Christmas tree, her eyes gazed into the dark as her mind contemplated the last few months.

Always under deadline, she never had a moment of peace. A time where she could just sit and think about and pray to God.

Lord, I believe You have called me to this. But how can I have a better balance? I feel like I’ve slipped away from You. Something I never intended.

She reflected on a sermon she had heard a few years before. “We don’t often intend to wander away from God,” the pastor had said, “but we often allow other things to distract us from Him.”

Indeed.

Lord, forgive me. I never meant to become so consumed with school and overwhelmed by the suffering I see. Show me where I should place limits, where I don’t have to do everything. Show me where to carve out time for You. I am so truly sorry.

The last sentiment was accompanied by a single tear trailing her check as the gravity of what she had done began to dawn.

As the day broke and light began to cross the mountain and brush the fields outside the window, her heart lightened as she remembered God’s open arms always available whenever one of His children came running back.

Draw nearer to me and I will draw nearer to you, was his promise in James.

She knew what she needed. A specific time every day to spend some time with God. Rising fifteen minutes earlier would not take a toll on her sleep but she instinctively knew would ground her feet for whatever the day might hold.

She knew she could face anything as long as the Lord went with her.

She also knew she needed to watch herself as she went forward into another semester. It was so easy to focus on all the requirements of school and forget about anything else.

She knew she needed to have someone who would keep her accountable to herself, to her faith, to the life she knew she was called to live as a daughter of the King.

She knew just the friend. A friend who faced the same struggles but had a stronger faith and a gentle heart.

A soft purring filled the air as Marcy felt Taffy brush up against her leg. She stooped over to scoop up the warm cat and settled back into the old rocker. Yes, her heart was light again. She smiled as she determined how next semester would go. In the midst of the classes, the clinicals, and the chaos, she would make time with God each day.

She knew it would make all the difference.

Little Lies?

Cringing, she settled back into her chair. Replacing the receiver, she knew she had to take a break.
Now.
Walking out of the office down the corridor, she locked herself in the ladies’ room.
How had this happened?
Lord, forgive me. I just lied.
The fact that many would consider it a white lie didn’t ease her pain.
The fact the she would probably never be found out didn’t assuage her dismay.
The fact that she knew and God knew heaped conviction onto a heavy heart.
She recalled a Bible verse recently read, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murders, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, and all the liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” (Rev 21:8 NIV)
She felt sick.
But she knew how to find the cure.
Repent.
Accept His forgiveness.
Then, guard herself against it happening again.

Days later she replaced the receiver and bolted down the corridor to the ladies’ room. It was a busy day, but one in which she felt light-hearted and free.
She hadn’t allowed her sin to separate her from her Savior.

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Your word to convict and restore me into Your arms. Remind me not to rank my sins, not to minimize them according to the worlds’ standards. Sin is sin. It can separate me from You. Remind me to restore myself to You through repentance. Thank You for You forgiveness and love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Unconditional

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20b (NIV)

8:00 Monday night. Sighing, I slowly pulled into the garage and turned off my ignition. There was a circus happening inside my house. Upon hearing my car pull in, Tipper, our 85 pound Rottweiler puppy, ran to the garage door. Waiting for anyone to open the door, she’d impatiently glance around, her whole black back-end wagging.

Easing out of my car, I reached into the backseat, withdrawing my computer bag.

A door squeaked.

A flash of black fur hurled at me. Before I could turn around, Tipper was “kissing’ my hand and dragging me by my sleeve into the house.

This dog dearly loves her people! As a work from home mom, I was generally home. Once a week, I would leave for ninety minutes. Once a week.

The other 166 hours I was generally there.

No matter.

Every Monday night I receive the same homecoming. She was ecstatic to see me! She needs to love on me and quickly corralled me into our home, where, once I removed my coat, she seemed satisfied I planned to stay.

Tipper’s forever ecstatic to see me. I can always anticipate receiving an enthusiastic welcome home.

God’s like that.

Even if we’re “there” most of the time. Even if we only left momentarily. He’s ecstatic for our return. He loves to reconnect with us after a separation, no matter how ‘short’ it may seem. He loves us, no matter where we’ve been, what we’ve been doing, and regardless in what state we return.

The important thing is we return.

There are very few places in this world where we can count on unconditional love from someone.

But a dog named Tipper and God are two guarantees!

 

Reflections:

Where have I found unconditional love?

Where am I guaranteed to find it?

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, sometimes when I return to You I am weary and burdened. Thank You for welcoming me home with a loving embrace. Thank You for never closing the door on me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Thank you for reading! Please return by Friday, July 29, for the next post!

 

The Power Of A Woman, Part VI

Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in the house shall live because she hid the messengers whom we sent.” Joshua 6:17b (ESV)

Opening the door to her well-known if not well-despised inn, Rahab spied the foreigners.

Terror-filled eyes searched the room for safety.

Somehow, something inside her knew these men. This was drastically different from how she usually knew men; this was a spiritual revelation.

The cadence of running soldiers propelled her to usher them into the room and quickly close the door. She knew what was about to happen. “Quickly, to the roof, under the flax,” she instructed pushing them up to a hiding place.

The alarm in their eyes stirred her compassion as she confidently continued, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us and that all the inhabitants of the land melt before you.” (Joshua 2:9 ESV)

How did she know?

She had housed many foreigners. She had heard the stories of what Israel’s God had done. She also had her finger on the pulse of the people and knew they trembled in fear at the thought of the Israelites.

She believed in this God of Israel. If the Israelites were coming, she’d see certain death.  If the King learned she’d lied and concealed these men, she’d die for treason. Just about any outcome of this scenario ended with Rahab’s death.

Yet, “she received the spies in peace.” (Hebrews 11:31 ESV)

Peace, what peace?

Most women in Rahab’s occupation know fear – fear of personal safety, fear of dealing with someone physically stronger than herself, fear of who might enter her door. She didn’t have any protector.

Here, with spies hidden on her roof and a King’s demand on her doorstep, Rahab could confidently face death knowing she now believed in Israel’s God. She now had the Greatest Protector.

She wasn’t alone. For the first time, she was not alone.

After the imminent danger had disappeared, Rahab bargained for not only her life, but also for the lives of her family members. Although she probably knew slavery to others, she herself acted selflessly.

Rahab’s deep faith in God gave her the power and strength to save the spies and the confidence of cleansing through God’s grace.

She knew God. She believed in Him. She believed in what He saw in her. She didn’t see herself as only a scarlet woman tying a scarlet cord to save her life.

She believed in the grace of God: she had a right to ask for her life to be saved.

God saved her life in two ways. First, her life was spared when the Israelites came and conquered. Second, her way of life was forever altered. She was no longer a condemned prostitute, but she became the esteemed wife of Salmon and would have her name in the lineage of Jesus Christ. (The power of God’s grace!)

This astute business woman didn’t buy any lies that she was “just this” or “just that.” She didn’t buy into the lie she wasn’t “good enough” or that she “could never change.”

Rahab possessed the power of a simple, sincere faith that promised God could do anything.

And He did more than she ever could have fathomed.

 

Reflections:

What lies do I “buy into”?

What truths from God’s word reveals those lies for what they are, lies?

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for Your power, the power to propel me to live the life You authored. No matter where I’ve been, no matter what I was, You can change all that with Your amazing grace. Please help me to focus on You and who You are and accept forgiveness from You. Please help me to fix my eyes on You and the future You have planned for me.  Remind me not to stare into the rearview mirror as I live my days for you. Thank You for Rahab’s example; Your love and grace are truly all I need. Thank You, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, May 30, for the next post.

Servant Leadership, Part I

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

 

Zane stared aghast, his mouth gaping open.  His wife of more than a decade stood before him, confronting him with such grace, you would have thought it was a business transaction.  This, this reaction was the last response he’d expected.  Bracing himself against the door frame to their little yellow house with the picket fence, he now counted what he had chosen against.

She had caught him red-handed and red-faced.  She now knew the truth behind his ‘extra hours.’  He sure was putting in time, but spending it with whom he had no business.

Shockingly, his wife did not scream, cry, or toss him to the curb, where he probably now belonged.  No, she’s offered forgiveness. Forgiveness plain and simple.  He needed to change his ways.

In John 8, Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees who were maliciously launching an assault on an adulterous woman.  She too had been caught red-handed and probably red-faced.

The Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus and make an example of the woman.  They quoted the law to Jesus, imagining how they could bring down this man’s popularity.  He would need to enforce the law, and to do that; he would sentence a woman to death.  Blood on his hands should quiet the crowds, still them from shouting his praises.

Jesus responded with, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Jesus’ simple statement diffused and dispersed a deadly crowd.

But then, after all had had to leave and just the two of them remained, how did Jesus himself react to her?

Jesus was the Son of God.  He was truly without sin.  He could have cast the first stone.  And the next.  And the next…

Instead, he chose 1) to extend her grace and not give her the consequences her crime commanded.

2) He refused to judge her.

3) He commanded her to correct her behavior. “Go now, and leave your life of sin.”

Not the reaction the Pharisees were expecting but the reaction we should study. What would the world be like if we each extended grace, refused to judge and sought to correct behavior, beginning with our own?

Reflections:

What leadership style did Jesus exemplify here?

How could I implement His example into some of my reactions?

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for Your guidance and wisdom.  Thank You for the example of Jesus demonstrating grace.  How easily we judge one another, yet to be Christ-like, there are times when we need to extend grace. Please help each of us to distinguish when we are in one of those moments. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thank you for reading! Please return by Monday, March 16, for the next post.