Finding Your Identity In Who You Are In Jesus Matters

20170716_12142520170708_161532The summer sun was bright and hot as it poured in the windows as I drove down the nearly deserted interstate in northern Wyoming. Under the shade of an overpass I heard Jesus speak, “Turn off the music.” When Jesus speaks like that, you obey no questions asked.

In the ensuing silence I began to pray and He brought a conversation I had had with a friend to my mind. “Virginia, Jesus calls me Stephen The Redeeemed.” When he told me that I was instantly jealous. Why did he get a “the” in his name and I didn’t? It wasn’t fair. It smacked of him being Jesus favorite and I was somehow less than. I knew Jesus didn’t love me less but it felt like it.

I began praying, “Jesus, what is my “The”? Can I have one too?”

I heard the unmistakable voice of my Jesus as He said, “Virginia The Joyful.”

A few weeks or months ago, I wrote about finding a treasure in the Old Testament book of Ruth. We discussed that we are not a What but we are a Who. We are not what we do because we are human BEings and not human DOings.

Everything that follows our The is our identity. And, friend, please hear my heart so loud and clear, your “the” matters because your Identity Matters.

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You might think your identity is in being a hot mess, a screw up, a failure, a bitter woman but, friend, if you are in Jesus that is not who you are because that isn’t who Jesus is!

If I could encourage your heart, it’s with this. Don’t give up. Don’t settle for what the enemy whispers in your soul about who you are. Cling tightly to Jesus. Hold fast to His life living in and through you.

When we find, believe and live out our identity in and because of Jesus life, we see life through a whole new lens. We are free. Free to love, free to rejoice, free to live.

 

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Commercial Silk Plants Direct, A Review

Friends, I’m going to switch things up a bit and do something new and incredibly exciting! I’m going to review an item that is not a book. Not even close to a book. Are you ready? Good, because here we go.

A few months ago I was contacted by an individual with Silk Plants Direct about reviewing one of their items on my blog. If you’ve been reading here much at all, you know I love to post reviews. So I jumped at the chance. I also might have jumped at the chance because I’m crazy about plants positively nuts for flowers.

I love to be outside puttering in the yard, tending to my flowers, or just sitting, enjoying the sunshine and a good book. But I work in an office all morning and my boss would like me to stay there and not move it all outside. So as you can see in the picture below I’ve brought some of the outside in.

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Isn’t that gorgeous?! It’s from the Commercial side of Silk Plants Direct and I’m in love! It really brightens up my office.  It has gotten a lot of compliments and most people are surprised to find out it’s silk.

Now, I tend to like real plants over silk but I don’t have to worry about forgetting to water it. It also won’t need to be transplanted.

Silk Plants Direct also sells indoor/outdoor boxwood and hedge panel related products. If you need a silk tree, they can have what you need. If you’re looking to spruce up your office, or your home with some never-need-watered-always-look-great plants, follow the above link. They have a variety of items and prices, and if you need to decorate a large space you can check out their other website, Commercial Silk International.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a sponsored post. The company who sponsored it compensated me with some form of payment or service. My review and my opinion of the item(s) reviewed are my own. I was not required to give a favorable review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Friend You Need To Hang On To.

pexels-photo-131043.jpegI thought she was someone who had my heart and who had given her heart to me. I thought we had exchanged the sweetest of gifts, the gift of friendship. But her letter to me proved my thoughts were faulty.

No, she didn’t specifically say to go away and leave her alone but that message came through her words. Her words pierced my heart, where once I felt the soft, sweet kiss of friendship; now I felt only the hard slap of rejection.

Until this moment, I’ve only told two people of the loss of this friendship. Both of them immediately asked if it was a permanent break of friendship or if there was any hope of restoration. I was taken aback by the question. Didn’t they hear me? I said I had a lost a friend. When you lose something, you lose it and you don’t get it back. It’s gone for good, gone forever.

At least that’s what we’re taught. If someone tells you to leave, you obey and you leave. And when you leave you don’t ever come back. You don’t come back because you can’t come back. Rejection is final because rejection is fatal. It’s fatal to your heart and fatal to your friendships. Once you’re rejected, or you reject, you can’t trust.

And if you can’t trust, you can’t have friends because that relationship has at it’s very core, trust. If I can’t trust you to not reject me, I can’t trust you with my friendship.

A quick look at the book of Ruth throws this whole mindset under the proverbial bus. It debunks it for anyone with an open eye to see.

“And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. Then she said, ‘Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.'” Ruth 1:14-15

First Naomi took both Orpah and Ruth with her as she headed back to the Promised Land of blessing. Then something, maybe bitterness of soul, happened to make Naomi tell both of them to leave her and return home. Initially they both told her they would not, but when she insisted, Orpah kissed her and returned.

But Ruth clung to her. In the face of rejection, she clung. In the face of being pushed away, sent back, unwanted, abandoned, she clung to the very one who didn’t want her any longer.

Clung is a verb meaning, to adhere closely, stick to, to hold tight by grasping or embracing. Can’t you just picture this? Two women in the desert. One is casting a pointed finger indicating the other one should leave. But the other one isn’t looking in that direction, she is clinging in a tight embrace to the one with the pointed finger.

I can hear the heart and see the tears in Ruth’s next words. See if you can too.

“But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.'” Ruth 1:16-17

So often used in a marriage ceremony. But these words are not spoken to Boaz. They are not spoken to the one who wanted her. They are spoken to the very one who was rejecting her heart, her offer, her friendship.  Naomi is stiff-arming her, saying “Go away. I don’t need you. I don’t want you. You’re not welcome. Go home. Go back. You’re not wanted. You can’t come. You aren’t included.” And what is Ruth doing? She is holding Naomi in a tight embrace saying, “Don’t make me leave you.”

And something in her words, in her plea, maybe in the tone of her voice, gets Naomi’s attention and breaks down defenses. The two of them continue on the way the promised land.

The shot of hope this passage blasted into my veins can’t be explained away.  Jesus spoke to the soul, the heart of the matter, “It’s not over. There is hope. Cling!”

I know I’ve talked here about needs and our need Meeter being Jesus and He is the One to whom we are to cling. Sometimes though, we forget that we get to cling to His blessings as well. Apart from His life lived and given out for me I can think of no greater gift than the sweet gift of friendships. We learn so much about Jesus through our friends.

So how can we cling to a friend who is rejecting us? How do we know when to cling and when to let go and walk away?

Pray.

Trite and possibly a pat answer but it’s the truth. Not every friend is to be a friend forever. But some of them are. Not all friendships that end are over for always. Some of them are.  How do we know the difference? We listen to Jesus. We cling to Him, we bind ourselves to Him, we go where He tells us, we say what He tells us, we love who He tells us to love, we give what He gives to us.

It might take some honest asking for wisdom.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who give to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

Ask Him. And then cling.

The Friend Your Heart Really Needs

20170716_175943I had a nightmare when I was 5 and I still remember it; I still picture it vividly in my head. My friend lived in the trailer house next door to me; one night I dreamed a monster took her and carried her off to the horizon. In my dream I gathered everyone in my family and we all watched this thing take my friend away.

It’s been a long time since I had that dream. There are still times when I’m driving at night and I’ll think, “It was just like this in my dream.” And I’ll live it all all over again.

In a few short months, my friend was taken away, but not by a monster but by her family when they moved across the state.

I’ve spent many years wondering about friends and friendship. What is a friend? What make a friend a friend? There are a million different answers to those questions. If you asked ten different people you’d likely get ten different answers. I’d be the first to admit I have had a skewed view of friendship.

I’ve been reading the book of Ruth for the past few months. That is a book with a well-known story. The love story of Boaz and Ruth. He was the kinsman-redeemer. The man in the white hat who rode the white horse. All of this is true. It is the story of the redemption of Ruth and Naomi. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a story of loss and blessing. Of love lost and love found.

But it’s also a story about friendship. Specifically the friendship of Naomi and Ruth. Unlikely friends.

Don’t plead with me to abandon you or to return and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me, and do so severely, if anything but death separates you and me. (Ruth 1:16)

These words are so often used in weddings. But they aren’t spoken to a spouse but to a friend. But an interesting friend. Naomi was attempting to push Ruth away, to abandon her. She is pushing Ruth away, “Don’t come near me. Don’t come with me. I don’t want you.” But Ruth kept pushing in, walking closer. Until Naomi gave up and gave in. She welcomed her on the journey back to the land of Israel, back to the land of blessing.

We need friends like Ruth. Friends who push in close and closer when we’re bitter and reject them. When we want people to just leave us alone, we need those friends who stay by our side.

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To too many people this is a friendship, “This is how you are and I don’t like it about you. So until you change to suit me, I will not be friends with you. I know you, your heart and motives, your attitudes more than you. I am right. You are wrong. Change your behavior to suit me and my needs. I’m only saying this because I love you and I want what is best for you. If I didn’t love you I’d let you continue to be stupid.”

That isn’t a friendship. It’s a dictatorship. It’s also not love. Yes, corrects and so do friends. Friends get to point out wrong or hurtful behavior, they get to point out sin. But it is always done to make you a better person and it’s not at all about our own comfort and feelings. Friends hear and discuss and believe each other. They unite together against the world and not with the world against their friend.

  • Friends respect boundaries.
  • Friends cling to one another.
  • Friends provide for one another.
  • Friends protect one another.
  • Friends share with one another.
  • Friends pay attention to one another.
  • Friends desire the best for us and from us.

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Not everyone who starts a journey with you finishes the journey with you. Sometimes we have to let those we love walk away and sometimes we have to be the ones to tell them to walk away.

Not every person we meet has to be our friend and we don’t have to be everyone’s friend. Being a friend is a privilege and a gift. We get to be choosy about who gets the gift from us and from whom we receive the gift. Not every gift is meant for us and not every gift is meant for us to keep forever.

When I look back on the friendships I’ve been blessed to have over the course of  my life one consistently rises above the rest. This person has been in my life for decades and that feat alone elevates them to best friend status. This person consistently speaks truth, both hard and easy truth. This person encourages me, pushes me to be better, to love Jesus more, to surrender to His life living in me. This friend isn’t afraid to get all up in my face and business when I’ve screwed up, but neither are they afraid to get all up in my face and heart when I’ve done something right. This is the friend who gets in my business, accepts my flesh-response of a flash of anger with words like, “You need to go pray about this.” Then accepts my apology and we move on. Then weeks later will receive a text like this from me, “Hey do you remember that time you said this and I got angry? Well Jesus just showed me that I had taken all of your kindness and friendship and I’d angrily thrown it back in your face. I am so sorry! Please know it will never happen again.” We were good before, but now we’re great.

This is the kind of friend our hearts need. And the kind of friend we need to be. We can only be this kind of friend when we rest secure in our love affair with Jesus. He alone knows the gifts we need to keep and the gifts we need to walk away from. It might be a cliche, but honestly the only true friends are those who have their individual hearts anchored deeply in Jesus and live out His life.

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That is where we find the friend our heart needs. In Him. In His life. In Him.

Why you need to persevere when God seems silent

20170716_203416The past few days or weeks I’ve felt like I was getting the silent treatment from Jesus. I just wasn’t hearing His voice as clearly as I had been. I’d prayed about it. I cried about it. I’d wept over it. I’d begged Him. I’d even gotten angry at Him. I’d thought and even said to Him “You failed!”

I’m not justifying my anger or the words I shouted at Him in my place of pain over His silence. I’m not even recommending you try it at home. I am only saying there is something so sweet, so gentle, so kind, so wonderful about having the kind of relationship with Jesus that allows you to spill your guts like that and know He is not going to leave you. He knows that even as you shout it you know deep in the marrow of your soul that it isn’t true, it only feels true.

You know beyond any shadow of any doubt that as your tears run rivers down your cheeks as you say “I’m sorry” over and over that you are completely forgiven already. That your angry outburst did not deter His love for you nor did it surprise Him at all.

I have a friend (probably several of them actually) who would be so shocked to know I dared voice that to Him out-loud. It just isn’t an acceptable thing to do or admit to. But I ask you, why on earth not? Why not admit to having doubts? To doubt His goodness and His faithfulness? He knows us so much better than we know ourselves. We aren’t hiding anything from Him.

This morning my prayer was very different than it had been. This morning all I heard in my head was the voice of my own flesh and enemy taunting me as I prepared to spend time with Jesus. They told me loud and they told me long that it was a waste of time, because He isn’t speaking to me anymore. I’d blown it. Long before my shouted “You failed!” I’d blown it and I’d only been pretending to hear Him. I had made it all up.

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This morning though I was just done. I was done listening to the lies of the enemy. Done. D-O-N-E. Donedonedonedonedonedone. Have you ever been there? You’re just so done. This morning in my done-ness I prayed truth!

Jesus, I know You have something for me today and I’m done listening to the enemy tell me differently. Please speak Your Truth –  hard or soft, harsh or kind – to my soul.

The children of Israel knew well the silence of God. At the time of the judges, under the high priesthood of Eli, God was silent.

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord before Eli. And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent. 1 Samuel 3:1

The hopelessness of this verse is staggering.  The bleak outlook on life that must have been rampant. Proverbs 29:18 says “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained,” the King James Version reads it, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” I’ve been there. I’ve felt like I was perishing or would perish if I didn’t hear from Jesus, if I didn’t see Him. That is a very sad outlook on life. It is a very painful place to be living.

No word from the Lord, no visions. Just a silent heaven. God had spoken His judgement and plans against Eli and his family. Then nothing.

“And it happened…that the Lord called..” (1 Samuel 3:2,4) 

He came again to speak.  He didn’t speak to the obvious one, but to the new one. The one who hadn’t heard His voice before. Samuel didn’t know who was speaking, he thought it was Eli. Three times the Lord called and three times Samuel went to Eli. Three times Samuel was sure it was Eli’s voice calling to him in the dark of night.

And three times Samuel went to Eli. The Lord patiently waited for both the old man and the young boy to grasp who it was who was calling. He waited. He was patient with Samuel, as He had been patient with Eli.

The Lord then called a fourth time and the silence from heaven was broken. He broke the silence to speak to a little boy who had no yet learned to listen to Him, to heed His voice.

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What can we learn from this? Simply this: God is patient. He will keep calling. He calls us again and again. He calls us even when we confuse His voice with that of someone else. When we aren’t sure whose voice we’re hearing, when we think He sounds like our teacher. He will still call. He still reaches out. He waits for us to get it.

He waits even for those of us who have heard His voice before. He didn’t annihilate Eli when he didn’t immediately know it was the Lord’s voice speaking to Samuel. He waited patiently until Eli understood and gave Samuel the direction and the words to say the next time the Lord called.

The fourth and final time the Lord called Samuel’s name, the text says “the  Lord came and stood…”. I pondered the significance of that statement. Why was it important and what did it mean that this time He came and stood.

This time God made it personal.

When I need one of my children and I simply call their name to come to where I am, it gets the job done. They are in my presence and I am able to impart instruction. But it says something entirely different to them when I get up from where I am and go to them to impart the instruction.  This shows honor and value to the other. The Lord was saying, “Samuel, you might be a young boy but you have value in My economy.” He says the same to you when He comes to speak. “You might be (fill in the blank), but you have value in My economy.”

When life looks bleak and hopelessness reigns, hang on! The Word of the Lord is coming!

A Review: Julie by Catherine Marshall

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Welcome to the Julie by Catherine Marshall Blog Tour! Be sure to stop by each stop to check out what readers are saying about this New York Times Bestseller, plus you’ll get extra entry points for a wonderful Grand Prize!

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Title: Julie Author: Catherine Marshall Publisher: Gilead Publishing Re-Issued Date: April 17, 2018 Genre: Historical Romance FictionLinks*: Goodreads l Amazon l ChristianBook l Book Depository l Itunes
*A New York Times bestseller* Will the dam hold? Julie Wallace has always wanted to write. Trying to escape the Great Depression, Julie’s father buys the Alderton Sentinel, a small-town newspaper in flood-prone Alderton, Pennsylvania, and moves his family there. As flash floods ominously increase, Julie’s investigative reporting uncovers secrets that could endanger the entire community. Julie, the newspaper, and her family are thrown into a perilous standoff with the owners of the steel mills as they investigate the conditions of the immigrant laborers. As the Alderton Sentinel and Julie take on a more aggressive role to reform these conditions, seething tensions come to a head.
When a devastating tragedy follows a shocking revelation, Julie’s courage and strength are tested. Will truth and justice win, or will Julie lose everything she holds dear?

My Thoughts

Everyone, or most everyone, is familiar with Catherine Marshall’s book, Christy. It is considered a Christian classic novel. It has recently been released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of it’s first release.

Not quite as well known was a follow-up novel titled, Julie. This is the story of  Julie Wallace, a young woman in the 1930s who dreams of being a journalist. Her family moves to Alderton, Pennsylvania where her father purchases the Alderton Sentinel.

As with every novel, there are bits of mystery and threats of disaster. And you’ll find no spoilers here, because as we all know that’s not how I roll. If you want to know if the disasters are averted or not, if she marries or not, and if the big flood happens or not, you’ll have to get the book and read it for your big boy/girl self.

Julie was first published in 1984, republished in 2001 and recently released again as a follow-up of the re-release of Christy.

The thing that interests me the most about this book is not the chance to re-read it, but to see how life in the literary world has changed in the past 34 years. When this book was written and then finally published it was a different, much more forthright world.

When this book was first released I read it and, to be honest, I didn’t like it much. I was interested in journalism at the time and I thought I’d love it. This time around my reaction was much the same. Just another okay book written by a well -known author.

Never fear, dear reader, it’s a good, wholesome book. Catherine Marshall knew how to weave a good story and used works of fiction to teach us important life lessons. Just because I wasn’t a fan of this particular book does not mean that you won’t be. It might be just the very book you need. So go to amazon.com, your bookstore, or your public library to get a copy and read it for your own self. Then when you’ve finished, come back here and let’s chat about it some more.

I received a free copy of this ebook for the purpose of review. I did not have to give a positive review. All opinions in this review are my own.

What You Need to Know When God Seems Far Away.

pexels-photo-1023159.jpegThe past few days I’ve noticed a certain silence from Jesus. I’ve gone through the usual thought processes we all go through when we can’t sense His real Presence. I’ve pondered which sins I’ve committed and when none came quickly to mind, I prayed that He would reveal them to me so I could confess them.

Nothing happened. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I just couldn’t seem to focus on Him, everything seemed to crowd out my ability to hear His voice so clearly. Now there only seemed to be silence. I thought back over a few circumstances and prayed that He would show me where I had gone wrong. Because obviously if I’m not hearing Him, not feeling Him, I’m the problem, right? We’ve all heard that saying, “If you feel far from God, guess who moved?” And we all know the answer to that isn’t Jesus.

I thought on one particular situation because if I screwed up anywhere that was where I knew Jesus would reveal my sin so I could confess and turn from it, and life could get back to normal. But instead I had a sense of “I did it right! I obeyed when I said that.”

I don’t want to be one who only looks to Jesus when life is hard and hurts. I want to rely on Him and His voice leading and guiding me every day. In the good and hard times I want to rely on His life living in me.

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pexels-photo-131043.jpegI believe in a time of not hearing His voice He directed me to read Psalm 73. He reminded me that He is good to us (verse 1) and that we are not to be jealous of the wicked. This life is all they have, all they can hope for, but we have untold treasures forever. We can’t even conceive of what awaits us in heaven.

He stopped me cold when I read this;

“But as for me, the nearness of God is my good…” Psalm 73:28

His nearness is our good! He is near–in our pain, in our comparing, in our almost slipping, in our brokenness-He is near and it is our good that He is.

Our sin does not keep Him away.  He is near and it is our good. This is how and why He can say, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5) and “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) He is always near. He doesn’t move, doesn’t leave.

In our sinful state He drew us near and gave us His goodness. He is good and He is near no matter what we feel, what we do, or what we face. He is near and He is good. Because He drew us to Him when we were sinners, our sin now does not push Him away.  We can’t, by our own inerrant goodness keep Him close.

pexels-photo-983493.jpegOur sin doesn’t affect His position at all. He is not remote. We don’t have to be perfect to keep Him close at hand. He is close and He declares us perfect.

If our goodness didn’t bring Him close, our sin won’t push Him away.  We can neither bring Him near or push Him away. He draws us to Himself when we’re evil and hate Him. So why do we think we must be perfect for Him to speak to our hearts?

He is near and He is always near. He is never in our control and never in our strength. He is our strength! We simply are not strong enough or bad enough to push Him away.

pexels-photo-1008239.jpegSo, dear reader, take heart. In those times you’re struggling to feel His presence, to hear His voice, He is near. He still cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).

I am not at all saying we can live however we please and expect Him to bless us. Life doesn’t work that way.  While He will not bless our sin, it doesn’t push Him away.