God Will Meet You Where You Are

Beauty For Ashes APR 2010 Header

 If I was stranded on an island and offered only one book from the bible, I would choose the prophecies of Isaiah.  Within its pages are beautiful promises on the character and nature of God.  It is full of the decrees that Jesus would accomplish while walking on this earth.  One of my most favorite passages in Isaiah is chapter 61.  We are told that Jesus, the Messiah, would heal our broken hearts and give us His beauty for our ashes.  Most of us love this promise, but soon get frustrated when we don’t see everything become pretty all at once.  I have found, when this has happened in my own life, it is because I am hanging onto some of my ashes/mess.  Sometimes I am just not willing to give them to the Lord because holding them close gives me the feeling of being powerful.  Perhaps it is too scary to let go of all the pain, hurt and frustration.  Possibly, carrying your ashes brings you a level of comfort.   Or, it could be, that no one has ever taken the time to help you unload the weight of what you have been bearing.

I want to share with you an encounter with God’s word that helped me unpack the load I had.  One day I was reading in the 8th chapter of the book of Matthew.  Jesus is ministering to the people who had come to hear him speak.  The text tells us that Jesus “cast out unclean spirits with a word and healed them of their sickness.”  The passage goes on to quote a scripture from Isaiah 53:4, saying all of this had to be fulfilled in order for the prophecies of Isaiah to be true -“He Himself would take our infirmities and bear our sicknesses.”  Immediately, I turned to Isaiah 53:4 and read, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…..”

Two words caught my attention – infirmity and grief.  I looked up both of these in the concordance and the definitions:  Infirmity – feebleness of mind and/or body, malady, frailty.   Grief – to be rubbed or worn down; to become weak; to be grieved or in pain; sore, anxiety, calamity.

I recognized that part of Jesus’ mission towards us as His body, was to minister healing to our emotions and soul.  Jesus understands what it means to be worn down and rubbed raw from painful experiences.  He knew that our souls needed to be restored so that we could have a better relationship with the Father.  While on this earth, we will have trials, suffering and pain, but Jesus came to return your soul back to a place of health and vitality.  One of my favorite Psalms reminds us that God is our good Shepherd and He restores our souls to places of stillness and calm.

Where are you today?  Are you lost in tragedy, problems or even sin?  Are you sick or lonely?  Are your emotions a mess because you have been abandoned, betrayed or rejected?    Maybe you are living the results of all your mistakes and you don’t know what to do.  Are you ready to let go of all your ashes my friend?  If so, cry out to your heavenly Father and He will meet you right where you are.  You may not know where you are, but God knows and He will come and find you.  You are never hidden from His sight!  The best prayer is sometimes the simplest, “Father God help me!”

 

“Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Matthew 11:29

 

“How Can I Trust Again?”

2sad eye

The most common question I hear when supporting women whose spouse has sexually betrayed them is, how will I ever trust my spouse again?  Usually, this question comes as a result of repeated betrayal from their mate. As a result, the marriage finds itself completely broken down, with no safe borders of trust found.

As I began to think about how to answer this appropriately, I realized that trust is bigger than I first realized.  Trust has many components and when we take the time to break it all down, I believe we can all find the answers on how to trust again.

First of all, trust is built in small increments, in the very smallest of moments.  When you have a moment to build trust with someone and you choose not to, that moment can become an act of betrayal to them.  For example:  if I see my spouse visibly struggling with something and choose not to take the time to go and sit with them and invite them to share with me their heart, then I send the message, “you are not that important to me.”  That may not be your intent, but it is the subtle idea that is given.  In that moment, I have said volumes.  And I can promise you, that your spouse is picking it up.  The exact opposite of that situation would be if I stopped what I was doing, went over to my spouse and with love and genuineness let them know that I see their frustration or pain and would like to listen if they are ready to talk.  In that moment I have sent a powerful message.  One that speaks,  I am aware of you and I want to help in any way I can.  I have now shown myself as trustworthy.  When we prefer others over ourselves, in essence, demonstrate unselfish behavior, we have allowed ourselves to become trustworthy to others.

One of the definitions I like on trust is:  Trust is choosing to make something important to me, vulnerable to the actions of someone else.  When I open myself up to you as a friend or spouse, and allow you to see inside of me, I am giving you permission to show yourself trustworthy.  Distrust is when I have shared with you what is important to me, and I realize it is not safe with you.  Have you ever had a friend who repeatedly told you “the scoop” on someone else and it left you wondering…..if this person can’t keep the confidentiality of that friend, then how will she keep what is safe to me private.  That person is letting you know they are not trustworthy.

Since it is very difficult to have connection with someone if we can’t trust them, how do we begin to trust?  The first thing to understand is boundaries.  There is NO trust without boundaries.  This was a lesson I learned early on in my own healing journey.  I can trust you when you are clear about your own boundaries and you hold them.  AND when you understand and know my boundaries and keep them.  When we practice sharing what our boundaries are with those we are in relationship with, we give them a clear picture of who we really are and what is important to us.  We empower ourselves and this builds confidence and strength –something I believe that is vital in building trust.  It is difficult for anyone to trust someone who is “wishy washy” and that comes across as wimpy!

The next important piece in building trust is personal responsibility.  It becomes easy for me to trust you when you make a mistake, you own it for what it is, apologize, and make amends.  This requires a great dose of humility, but I have seen this principle work powerfully in my own marriage and family.  When we are accountable for our actions, we are telling others, I am a safe and mature adult.  I see these two pieces going hand in hand – coupled together they paint a portrait of health and vitality.  I can certainly respect and trust someone that is growing and demonstrating these qualities.

What about reliability?  How is that related to trustworthiness?  Trust happens between two people when you do what you say you are going to do.  Not just once, but repeatedly.   I prove myself to be a trustworthy person when I show consistency with my words and actions toward you.  Hopefully, each of us has at least one friend whom we can call on in times of trouble or crisis.  The friend we know will be there, no matter what time it is.   When a spouse demonstrates to their mate that they have the ability to be present in whatever situation and offer a hand of support, then that spouse has just built an entire layer of trust in their relationship.  Marriages with this level of commitment and trust will grow and flourish.

I see trust as a wall or border around individuals in relationships that keep both parties safe and whole.  It is not an impenetrable wall, but something that is flexible and pliable.  Picture a structure that can grow and be built upon repeatedly.  Building trust takes time and lots and lots of patience.  I like to use the word long-suffering to describe the process needed.  As we determine and choose to work trust into our relationships, we WILL be challenged.  However, when we are intentional every day, it will help us get further along the road to trust faster.

Lastly, self-trust is of utmost importance in creating trust between you and another person. If you can’t trust and love yourself, then it is going to be very challenging for others to trust you. If you make a mistake or fail miserably, forgive yourself and reevaluate your own boundaries. Explore within yourself what steps led up to the mistake and learn from them. Much growth will come to you as a result.  None of us are perfect and we will have days when we stumble and fall.  However, it is how you get up that makes the difference.

Every person has a deep desire to connect with others. I believe we are actually hardwired for this.  First and foremost, is the connection needed between ourselves and our Creator.   As we learn to trust Him, it becomes easier to trust others.   As we build our relationship with God and connect with Him first, we are then able to walk in the power that He has given us to love, cherish and protect others.  When we choose courage over comfort and choose to do what is right, instead of what is easy or fun, integrity is built inside of us.  With this trait possessing us, we become a trustworthy person towards others.  Perhaps you may not be aware of this, but you are always communicating to others the type of person you truly are.

Do not grow weary my friend, becoming a trustworthy individual is a process. But I can guarantee you that it will pay huge dividends in possessing strong, healthy relationships that will last a lifetime.  One day you will look around and recognize that many valuable people surround you and enhance your life.  These relationships will be the greatest riches you possess.  Remember, it is in the smallest of moments when trust is built.  Challenge yourself to slow down and open your eyes to new and powerful ways to create trust between you and those whom you love.  I promise you will not be disappointed.

Lisa and her husband, Bill, have been married for over 27 years and raised 3 daughters.  They live in the greater Houston area.  Their passion is to mentor and disciple marriages so that couples can experience true intimacy, wholeness and healing.  Visit their website at powerofhislove.com

 

Who Are You Leaning On?

Dry desert

“Who is this coming out of the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?” Song of Solomon 8:5

Have you ever felt like you were in the wilderness? Has there been a time in your life where you may have felt isolated, rejected by those you love, or felt like you were drowning in grief and sorrow?  Maybe you could not sense God’s presence or see Him working in a difficult situation.  If you have walked through this life for any amount of time, you have certainly felt some of these emotions.

I was reading Psalm 78 one day and came across a verse that literally leapt off the page and hit me in the face. The Psalmist is remembering Israel’s history of coming out of slavery into son ship.  The author begins by recounting all the experiences that the children of God encountered.  Marvelous events had occurred with dramatic signs and miracles.  But unfortunately, we see the children of God whining and complaining.  Not finding any satisfaction, they dared to ask, “Can God prepare a table for us in our wilderness?” They begin to question God’s character and goodness.  Doubt begins to grow inside their heart and they don’t believe He can provide them with the rest and provision they desperately need.

A table is a place where sustenance is found – where nourishment and strength can infuse our inner being. Oftentimes, a table is a place of beauty where we can relax and enjoy family and friends.  The idea found in this beautiful Psalm is that in the midst of what may appear to be a dry and barren situation, where you may feel all alone, God is most certainly capable of preparing a table for you there.

In Psalm 23 David remembers that God even prepared a table for him in the midst of his enemies. Have you ever felt surrounded by people that acted like your enemies?  I love to stop and meditate on the truth that God is always aware of my reality.  Friends, in whatever situation you may find yourself in, ask your heavenly Father to show you the table He has prepared for you.  It is most certainly there, of that I am sure – God always goes before us and prepares.  Isaiah 45:2

May we not be like the children of Israel who did not trust their God. They did not remember His power and actually limited His hand from reaching them due to their unbelief. Psalm 78: 41-42  In those dark and difficult situations,  I encourage you to lift up your eyes, call out His beautiful promises and find your table of provision waiting for you.

When we fully understand and know the LORD as our good Shepherd, we will not even notice the wilderness. We will rest in the fact that He guides us into good places where we lack nothing.  Our table will be so full that it will overflow and we will have enough to share with others.

Dear Father God, open the eyes of your sons and daughters. May we see the bounty of your daily provision for us.  Heal our hearts so we can trust You in all things.  May we always believe in Your wondrous works and remember that you are our Rock and Redeemer.  You are the One with the strength and faithfulness to lead us out of our wilderness. 

 

Are you Living STRONG?

Livestrong photo

Did you know that you have an open invitation from the Creator of the Universe to come to Him for everything you have need of?  It is true, but sometimes we need a daily reminder.  Our lives get so busy and the hustle and bustle of the 21st century run us down so that we forget where our true sustenance comes from.

My reminder came this morning as I was pounding away on my treadmill.  The words at my feet scream, “LiveSTRONG”.  The catchy phrase that Lance Armstrong has made millions from, could also be an open call from God Himself to you and I to live STRONG.

God spoke this message in times past through another man, the prophet Isaiah.  In chapter 55, God calls out, “Ho!  Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat.  Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price”.  God is imploring His children to come to Him for all their satisfactions, come to Him for their daily provision.

The great culmination of this invitation comes when God invites us again through the life of Jesus.  On the great day of the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus stands in front of the people and calls out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink deeply”.

Close your eyes with me for a moment and can you just imagine this scene?  Jesus is in the temple and He is raising His voice above all the others.  Wanting to gather everyone’s attention, He calls out this powerful invitation.    As Jesus must have looked out over the sea of faces, His heart must have tugged deeply for the hurting and brokenness of mankind.  He knew that the only satisfactions that their heart craved could only come from Him.  He was the expression and fulfillment of all of the Father’s heart.

As I daily meet people who are hurting and confused, I hear the Father say “LiveSTRONG”.  As I sit across my kitchen table and hear a 40 year old man tell me of his tragic and devastating childhood, his life now falling apart, I hear the Father say, “Come to Me”.  As I see people running around buying and spending money on things that will never satisfy, I hear the Father say, “Come to Me, I am free!  I have everything you need”.

God is all we need to get by in this world my friends.  Today, if you feel the sadness and frustration of  realizing that perhaps you have substituted other things for the living water that Jesus offers, simply reach out your hand to Him and He will come!  Allow His deep love to crash over you and rush into your being.  The result will be a beautiful filling up and then you can go and pour it out over everyone else that is thirsty!

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest”.  Matthew 11:28

Fixing Our Eyes On Jesus, the Author and Finisher of Our Faith!

I have an eight year old Australian Shepard, who undisputedly, is the smartest dog I know.  When we purchased “Janie” all those years ago from a local breeder, it was because my daughters had been begging for a dog for a couple of years.  I finally relented, but considered that if I was to get a dog, I wanted a breed that was smart and would obey me!  So, I did lots of research and the general consensus of everything I read, stated that Aussie’s were one of the smartest dogs around.

After we picked Janie out of the litter and brought her home, the long, arduous task began of training this cute, furry puppy.  Guess who that task fell upon – you guessed it…… ME!  Although my girls tried their hardest to train and build relationship with their new family member, I noticed that little Janie followed me around the most and looked to me for all of her needs.  After all, I was the one feeding her, bathing her, cleaning her and buying her all those fun toys!  Therefore, I had officially become her new master!

Over the years, I have worked tirelessly in order to train Janie to be an obedient dog.  The main reason I was so concerned over this fact was that if I could get her to obey my voice instantly, I knew it would keep her safe when we were outside walking or jogging – something Australian Shepherds LOVE to do!  Since Aussie’s have lots of energy, sweet Janie needed to be walked every day.  The dangerous element of this would be is that Janie continually pulled herself out of her collar and leash to go chase cars, squirrels or little kids on bikes.  It took months, and months to break this very, bad habit.

Over the years, I have slowly weaned Janie off of her leash and now we can go anywhere and she will follow my commands by voice.  Over the past 3 years or so, as Janie has matured, and when we go for a walk, she will stay in step with me and keep pace without me having to guide her on a leash.  I trust her to listen to my voice and obey my commands.  After all, most of my commands are given to protect her and keep her safe.  I love her dearly and want to make sure she is protected and out of harms way.

Lately, I have noticed that as we are going on our walks, she is constantly looking up at my face.  Ready and waiting for me to guide her.  If she gets ahead of me, she will continually turn, pause, study my face and seem to wait on me so she doesn’t get too far ahead.  I have also noticed that I can communicate with her without using my voice.  I can look at her a certain way, tilt my head in the direction of a turn or snap my fingers, and she will know which direction to head in.  As our relationship has grown over the last 8 years, we know one another, and trust one another.  I trust her to listen, watch and wait for me and she trusts me to guide her in the correct direction of our daily walk.  It brings me great pleasure to know that Janie has developed a wonderful habit of studying my face in order to be told what direction to move in.

One day, before our daily walk,  I was reading Psalm 32, and I stopped short when I read verse 8.  In the previous verses, David had been pouring out his heart to God and then you see at the close of verse 7 the word, SELAH.  The word selah in Hebrew means to pause and/or meditate.  So, as David is pausing and meditating on what he has just said, God enters the conversation and  says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye”.  I slowed down and read this over and over many times until these words got down deep inside me.  My first response was, yes God, I want you to guide ME with Your eye!   And then my next thought was, how interesting and peculiar that God is able to guide His children with His very own eye – how does this work?

As I meditated on these verses over the days and weeks, one day it dawned on me!  Just as I am able to guide my furry, four-legged companion, Janie, with my eye and facial expressions, our Heavenly Father does the same for us.  The important part to understand in all of this is relationship.  Just as Janie and I have spent hours and hours together over the last 8 years, developing a close relationship, we must do the same with our Father God.  The more time we spend with God, studying His face, His nature, we know who He is and we learn to trust Him explicitly.  He is then able to guide us with His eye and move us in the direction we are go.  He loves to do this, in order to keep us safe and out of harms way.

My relationship with Janie has actually taught me a lot of great life’s lessons.  This one has been one of my favorites thus far.  The time I spent pouring into my relationship with Janie over the years has produced a beautiful connection between us.  We have a mutual understanding between us and she is completely devoted to pleasing me in all things.  I really believe that is the main reason why she studies my face, waiting for my eye to guide her.  She wants to please me because she loves me and trusts me.  She wants to do my will.  I am her master and she knows that I only have her best interest at heart.

I encourage you to read all of Psalm 32.  In the passage after verse 8, God exhorts us as His children to NOT be like the horse or the mule, who have no understanding; for they must be harnessed with bit and bridle, lest they will not come near.  God desires us to come near unto Him.  He wants to instruct us and guide us but, he is only able to do this to the degree we submit to Him and know Him.  When we spend time reading and treasuring His precious word daily, we become so familiar with His ways and thoughts.  It is then, that we can actually begin to feel His eye upon us, guiding us and moving us in His perfect will.

Study His face my friends, gaze into His beautiful eyes and allow Him to teach you. For in Him are all things beautiful and He is full of light!  Your path will never be darkened and you cannot stumble, for He will illuminate your path with the radiance of His glorious face.  His eye is ever on you!

I will NOT stay silent!

This morning I got up early!  Even though it was a holiday, my body is programmed to wake up around 6:00am.  After my first cup of coffee, I settled into my daily routine of reading through the gospels.  Currently, I am in the book of Mark.  I have been reading the four gospels over and over repeatedly for the past eight months.  When I finish the book of John, I start back over at Matthew.  I have lost accurate count but, I think I am on my 4th rotation of reading through.  That may not seem like much but, I travel slow!  I often get side tracked and start reading footnotes or I look up a certain passage that Jesus quotes or refers to from the old testament.  Before I know it, I have spent 30 minutes reading from the book of Isaiah because I get so enthralled at what is being said.  I confess, I loose track of time.  Spending time in God’s word is like that.  Time seems to stand still.

So today’s reading was Mark chapter 10.  As I was reading along, I got to verse 46, and blind Bartimaeus is introduced.  Seemingly a random insert into a glimpse of time outside the town of Jericho.  Suddenly, I was on the edge of my seat!  I had read this story many times but, today it was if the words jumped off the page.   Bartimaeus is on the side of the highway begging, and he hears that Jesus is walking by.  Immediately, Bartimaeus begins to call out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”.  As soon as the others hear his cries, they begin to hush him and rebuke him saying, “be quiet!”.  Bartimaeus  ignores the crowd shushing him and continues crying out to Jesus.  So much so, that Jesus stops, turns and commands Bartimaeus to be brought to Him.  Are you ready?  This is where it gets real good.   Jesus asks Bartimaeus what exactly does he want.  Remember, the man is blind – no sight!  I am sure that Jesus can notice this fact and I find it very interesting that Jesus asks anyway.  I have realized that sometimes, God wants us to simply just ask……in doing this we admit that we are needy.  When we acknowledge our needs, we set ourselves up to receive!

Bartimaeus humbly asks Jesus, that he might receive his sight.   Without hesitation, Jesus grants his desire and Bartimaeus is healed.  Where he once was blind, he now has sight!  Amazing!

As I stopped and pondered this account, I was struck with the fact that blind Bartimaeus did NOT stay silent!  Even though the crowds tried to silence him, he continued to cry out to the One whom He knew could provide what he needed.  My mind began to race….what if Bartimaeus had listened to the people?  What if he had obeyed them and silenced his own cries? What if he allowed their opinions to matter?  Would Bartimaeus have received his miracle?

You see, I am convinced that if Bartimaeus had given in to popular opinion, he would not have gotten his sight!  I know that if Bartimaeus had remained silent, he would still be sitting by the roadside, blind and begging.  I believe that if Bartimaeus had not kept pursuing his one desire, he would not have obtained the thing that mattered the most to him.  When we can push past the crowds and keep crying out for an encounter with Jesus, then I promise our miracle is just on the other side.

So, today I made a declaration.  I will NOT stay silent!  I will not listen to my peers, or even my foes, who try to silence me for telling the good news of Jesus.

Blind Bartimaeus inspired me today!  I want his courage, I need his stamina.  I desire his passion to encounter Jesus, even if it means crying out and looking foolish to others.  Because I am convinced, just as Bartimaeus was, that Jesus is good and that when I capture His attention, it is then that I am fully satisfied!

Isaiah 62:6 – “I have set watchman upon your walls Jerusalem, they shall not hold their peace day or night; you that make mention of the LORD, do not stay silent”.