Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens., Photography

Open Heart Surgery

I’ve been sitting here trying to think of a cutsey, eye-catching way to draw you in and wow you with my 2 w’s. Wit and Wisdom. But I can think of nothing at all witty or wise to say so I’m just going to jump right in with both feet, since that is typically how I roll.

Have you ever had one of those times where the hits just keep coming? You’ve barely recovered from one hit when the next one comes. Or maybe it comes as you’re still reeling from the pain of the last encounter?

You’re left breathless and feeling more than a little like you’re coming apart, only it’s not a nice neat coming a part at the seams. No, it’s a big, ugly hole in the middle of your dress. It’s the sting of the loose string someone pulled and now you’re being exposed.

And it’s cold.

20171003_053253

20170704_100314

DSC_0102It’s the words someone says to you that are true. And you know they’re true. The words being spoken to you about you are all very true, and you know you never claimed to be the opposite of the words, but there they are all up in your face. And you’re left feeling like a liar at best and a more than a little wounded as you puzzle over why on earth they thought the words needed to be said at all.

Because you never claimed to be what they are telling you you aren’t. Not once. In fact, you never even had the thought that you were or could be until they asked you too be it or do it. Until they led you to believe you could be something you weren’t.

All their encouragement and tenderness as you tried on the new and found a passion that lit the fire of your soul now feels fake and like a lie from the deepest pit of deepest hell.

And you never claimed to be good at it. You never claimed to be a professional. You never even knew you had the skills they claimed to have seen. You never would have attempted it without their encouraging.

And now here you are, months later, once again finding yourself horribly inadequate, unwanted, unneeded, unnecessary, cast aside, rejected yet again.

You never claimed or wanted any of that. But here you are. Reading words that bring a quick sting of tears to your eyes and nose, the quick intake of breath before your face involuntarily crumbles as your body convulses with sobs and you land in a shattered heap on the floor.

20141118_10230420140422_11590120140422_114758[1]

100_7889

You ask over and over, “Jesus! What? What does this mean? Why did You allow this? Why?”  You pray for eyes that are open to His answer, ears that are attentive to hear His voice whispering in the midst of your pain-filled sobbing.

You long to run. You want to be anyplace but here. But right here is where you are and you know you can’t escape. You must stay here in the agony of the hurt. You must stay right here in the painful place and wait for His voice, you have to, as my friend says,  “embrace the pain.” All you really want to do though is shove it way, make it stop. Run far and fast. So far so fast in ten years time you’ll still be running.

Over time your prayer changes to “What do you have to teach me, Lord? And can You teach me quickly?” Because you’re still about avoiding the pain.

Your friend threw an arrow and it hit its intended target with deadly accuracy. You pray, “Lord, yank it out! Yank out that arrow, even if it means I bleed to death, yank it out because it hurts too much. Yank it out, please!”

Job 23:10 runs laps in your mind:

“But He knows the way I take, and when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

And you chant this as if it was your new mantra. You pray it back to Him as you bleed out your heart to Him. Every breath a new agony, every breath a prayer.  A prayer just to keep your lungs taking in oxygen and giving off carbon dioxide.

Breathe in, breathe out. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Breathe in the Life of Him, knowing it is only His Life that is keeping you alive. Breathe out His Life. Choose to fixate your gaze on Him and not on those who would hurt you.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

And in that moment you know it’s only His life and His grace that is keeping you alive at all. You know fully now that if you can only cling to Him in this painful place you will find Him fully capable and more than willing to take your painful heart and heal it.

You begin to see that He was treated this same way by His friends. They all left Him and fled in His greatest hour of need. And you wonder how on earth He could have managed the cross all alone.

And I mean, all alone. Because not only was He alone on the cross, all His friends had fled, but His Father also left Him alone. The greatest hours of darkness this earth has ever known were that Friday as Jesus hung on the cross.

And He hung there. For love. For the love.

20170715_06575020170520_08192520170603_135737DSC_0191 (2)20161119_124535

For the love, He hung there for me! For you.

And what a prize He got. He hung there to the death for His enemies. Because that is what I was. What you were. His enemies.

And we dare to compare our paltry little hurts from friends to His sacrifice. I can’t say I’d die for my friends, I know that probably makes me a bad friend. If I wouldn’t die for my friends, I sure won’t die for an enemy.

But He did.

For the love.

Advertisements
Posted in Book Reviews, Jesus, Life as it happens.

Know The Word Study Bible {A Review}

Diving deeper into God’s Word can be easy and rewarding if you break it down book by book, verse by verse, or topic by topic with the new KJV Know The Word Study Bible by Thomas Nelson. The book-by-book series of notes leads you through the main points of each book of the Bible. The verse-by-verse notes help you to dig deeper into God’s Word. The topic-by-topic articles, which cover 21 theological topics, guide you through a series of insightful notes and give you a thorough biblical understanding of each topic. With the beautiful and timeless text of the KJV translation, the KJV Know the Word Study Bible offers you choices of how to study Scripture and grow in your relationship with Christ.

This fall, become a regular student of the Bible and enter to win the Kindle Fire giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of the KJV Know The Word Study Bible
  • A Kindle Fire 7
  • A Kindle Fire case (winner’s choice)

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on October 31. The winner will be announced November 1 on the Litfuse blog.

My Thoughts:
First things first. The dust cover has the look of aged parchment with a black band around it near the bottom. It’s beautiful. Under the dust cover it is a medium grey cloth with gold letters emblazoned on the front and the spine.
I love that it has a presentation page. Most Bibles now don’t have this and I think it’s a necessary page. Especially if it was a gift.
It gives a list of the Topic-By-Topic Articles. These are broken down into major topics, like Trinity, Love, Obedience, Sanctification, and many others.
Each book of the Bible has a brief summary of the book and a section on how-to study that particular book.
There are also different devotionals scattered throughout on various topics, all are designed to draw the reader in and deepen their understanding of the passage given.
This Bible does not have center-column references, but does have study notes at the bottom of the page.
What I don’t Like:
I always hate to say what I don’t like about a Bible because it is a Bible. But here goes.
The font is small! My eyes are not the best, but even with new prescription lenses I would not be able to read this in church as the font is just too small.
It’s a heavy Bible also. Definitely not your sword drill type.  I know as a general rule hardbacks are heavier than leather or cloth back so probably in a leather cover this Bible would not be near so heavy.
Now this is going to sound very strange because I requested this Bible to review and I knew it was a study Bible. I’m not fond of the notes on the pages. I’d rather dig into the Word for deeper understanding but not everyone is like me. And I found no issues with the notes I read. (Obviously I did not read all of them.) What I would like to see is wider margins (which would of course increase the size of the Bible) to give the reader more room to write their own notes.
What I Like:
The cover is simply beautiful! The dust cover is made to look like parchment and has a black band across the lower portion. Under the dust cover the hardback is covered with a medium grey cloth. On the cover and the spine the words are in gold.
The extensive concordance at the back of the Bible! Wow! I love that!!
I love that the first time I opened the Bible the pages did not stick together. This is probably due to the hardback, but I’m a fan of that!
Again, this will sound weird but I liked the notes feature because not everyone is like me. Some people use them so having them available is a great thing!
***I received a free copy of this Bible from Litfuse for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.***

 

Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens.

My Life as a Buckeye

One of the special joys I’ve come to revel in lately is hearing Jesus speak to me. I love to hear His voice. At times He speaks and I hear His giggle.

Like the times I’ve been walking and I’ll hear Him say, “Look down!” And there on the sidewalk at my feet is a nut. You know the kind that goes with a bolt. And I hear His sweet laughter as we share a joke about finding myself on the walk.

Or there is the time I was praying for Him to give me my own special shape. The day last March I walked home from the coffee shop, stopped to tie my shoes and found a nickel there on the sidewalk. I heard His voice as clear as a bell on that cold, frosty morning, “This is your shape!” (You can read more of that story here.)

DSC_0156 (1)DSC_0158 (1)DSC_0160 (1)DSC_0163 (2)

There have been times He has spoken things that weren’t funny but were necessary to my soul. He has talked of truth and lies, He has shown me lies I’ve believed. And He has blessedly spoken His wonderful Truth into those lies and I’ve felt them release their death grip on me.

He has, at times, spoken words of correction. At times I’ve heard Him shout to get my attention because I dead set on doing things my way.  He has spoken sternly to me, but always with an undercurrent of love.

20170704_09212420170619_13182520170603_135737DSC_0098

So yesterday when I heard Him speak to me as I left the office it wasn’t a surprise. As I walked towards my car, one foot lifted, ready to take the next step when He spoke:
“Look down!”
I set my foot back down and cast a glance at my feet, there I saw a nearly perfectly formed buckeye.

20171003_123125

One day I had asked a friend of mine what a buckeye was exactly. He told me “A worthless nut.” You can’t do anything with a buckeye, you can’t eat them or make nut butter. The only thing a buckeye is good for is planting to grow a nice shade tree.

I stooped down, picked up the buckeye, and rubbed my fingers over it’s smooth surface. And I felt the presence of my Jesus well-up in me as I heard Him say, “You are a worthless nut who has found her worth in Me.”

And I couldn’t breathe for the wonder and the glory of it.

I am just a worthless nut apart from Jesus. I’m totally and completely worthless. I am a complete waste of cells, breath, life. I’m a worthless human. I’m no good to anyone for anything.  Completely worthless.

And so are you.

But in Jesus! Because of Jesus we have great worth! We aren’t worthless we have value because He has value! My value doesn’t rest in my address, my job, my family, my man, my children, or my friends. My value, my worth is only found in Jesus. I can look for it in other things and people but I won’t find it. I will push and shove and try to force others to make me feel valuable and for a time they will. Maybe. But it’s always only for a short time. And then they get frustrated or I get frustrated and I’m back to searching for my next value fix as I’m left feeling more like this:

20160829_09402520160829_09401320160829_094006

Broken. Forced open. And cracked.

When I think I need to tell someone what they mean to me, I’m really looking for them to meet some need in my life, probably to make me feel valuable. I’m demanding them to meet my need for affirmation, affection, admiration, and acceptance. Because when I feel these I feel valued, but when I don’t feel it my value dips.

I need–we all need–to look first to Jesus to meet those needs. And then from an overflowing heart that is fully convinced of it’s value in Him and His life, we are free to express to others our great affection for them without strings.  Because expressing affection to get our own needs meet is selfishly using others. No one likes to be used.

When we see ourselves as we are in Jesus, just a worthless nut who finds her value in Him we will rock our world. He will take us,

“and we will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers”. (Psalm 1:3 nasb)

How do we find our value in Him? First we must realize that apart from Him we can do nothing. We are powerless. We have no control over anything, not even our next breath.

We also must realize as much as we can His great love for us. I struggle to think of anyone I would willingly lay aside my life for and die in their place. Especially not a stranger and an enemy. But that is exactly what Jesus did. Not because I’m worth it, or you’re worth it. Because we aren’t! But because of His love, He chose it.

We also must choose Him. And we must choose to believe Him. Take Him as His Word. Believe it. Even when the truth of it sounds like a lie, we choose to believe the Truth that sounds like a lie over the lie that sounds like the truth.

To do that we must spend time with Him. We must submit fully to Him, His Lordship and His authority.  Oh how it’s hard. And oh how it hurts. But it’s the only way. It’s the way of the cross.  Yes, it’s in Ann Voskamp‘s vernacular “the broken way.” The only way to live broken is to be broken and offer up our brokenness, our broken pieces to Him. Sometimes we get to choose our breaking and other times life just seems to smash and break us. But we always get to choose our response to our brokenness. We can fight it, blaming God. Or we can run to Him with it and in it and allow Him to work through it for His Life, Light and Glory.

So I will choose to revel in my position as a worthless nut because I know my worth and value are found in Him alone.

Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens.

Trust

20170715_065750Lately Jesus has been talking to me about trust. In the words of Inigo Montoya, “I do not think it means what you think it means” has been what He has told me the most.

You see I always thought that trust was earned, easily broken, and nearly impossible to replace once broken. Trust was something you gave to only a select few and when your trusted persons quota was filled up you simply stopped trusting. There was no room for any more trust in people. If someone broke the trust you had in them, you were free to not trust anyone ever again.

Because it wasn’t worth the risk.

But then I met a woman who had written off people, mainly adults, as being completely untrustworthy by the age of 5. The age of 5! When she was in kindergarten she knew she couldn’t trust adults to care for her and had written them off, all of them. To say she had a chip on her shoulder in kindergarten would be an understatement.

The more I spent time with her the more I realized that she had much to teach me about trust. Something didn’t ring true about her feelings about trusting people. In her mind no one was to be trusted, not people and definitely not God.

Heaven forbid one should trust God. That was crazy.

Only it wasn’t. The more time I spent with this woman the more I realized the lies she was feeding me. Yes, to be sure there are people that can’t, or maybe even shouldn’t be trusted. But to think that no one can be trusted, and God can’t be trusted? What a sad, sad existence that would be.

I read on this on twitter the other day,

Maybe we can’t trust our whole lives to Him yet, but perhaps we can trust God with today & see what happens. Maybe we will be surprised. (Melissa Moore)

My thought and response then was, “I don’t know. If I don’t think I can trust Him with tomorrow will I really trust Him with today?”

So many of us have grown up thinking there is only so much love, so much trust to go around and when we’re out of it, we’re out of it. So we have to use it, give it a way wisely because you can never get it back.

Simply put, that is a lie. Especially for a believer.

dsc_0061

20161030_080225_optimized

20161106_182337_optimizedDSC_1062DSC_1044

Back in the 1980’s, musician Steve Camp recorded a song that became very popular, “Love’s not a feeling”. We all applauded the new thought that love wasn’t a feeling, but a choice. It was a commitment. Then DC Talk appeared on the scene with their song, “Luv is a verb”. That showed us love is action, it’s what we do not just what we feel. And we applauded some more.

Love is a choice. It is active, but it isn’t what we do, it’s WHO we are. Because Love lives inside of us if we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Love is our nature. Love isn’t a feeling. Love isn’t a choice. Love isn’t a verb. Love is a Person.  Love is Jesus.

Plain and simple. It’s Jesus.

So what does love have to do with trust? Everything. Just as love is a choice so is trust. We choose to trust. We choose to see people as trustworthy. Even after our trust has been broken or violated.

Trust is a choice. And we can make it as many times as we need to. Or want to.

The choice to not trust is also always ours. We don’t have to trust anyone. But why would anyone choose to live in that misery?

Not this woman. And not the woman I mentioned earlier. You see, she’s had a change of heart, a Jesus-sized change of heart.

But how? How could she just change her mind, her heart on the issue of trust? I’ve heard her story and if anyone should get a pass on trusting people, it’s her. But she chooses to trust. Over and over again. It’s hard, I can tell that by looking into her eyes, but you know what else I see mirrored there? A steely determination, the kind that only comes from knowing and loving Jesus. The determination that says the enemy has taken enough years, he’s devoured enough of her and with Jesus to lead her, to guide her, she will trust.

Because people are trustworthy? In her eyes that is almost laughable. No. Because Jesus is.

She can trust others because she trusts Him. She doesn’t need to trust others to learn how to trust Jesus. She knows that if she can trust Him, if she entrusts her whole being to Him, she knows she can trust people.

The only blind trust she has is in Jesus. And even that isn’t all that blind. He has walked with her, talked with her, and taught her so much, she trusts His heart.

She knows people will fail. They will disappoint. But Jesus never will. There may be times it appears He is, but she knows, loves and trusts enough to know perceptions can be wrong and they can and will change.

But this fact remains, Jesus never changes. If He is trustworthy today, He was trustworthy yesterday, and He will be trustworthy tomorrow. And a forever’s worth of tomorrows.

20170610_07114420170520_081925cropped-20170609_064056.jpg20170609_063710

Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens.

People

20170603_135737Frankly I just love people. I am a people-person to the core.  I love to be around people, they energize me. Yes, I know that makes it glaringly obvious to everyone reading this that I am, at my core, an extrovert.

Without people I would die. Literally. Everyone needs people, we need interaction with other humans because that is the way we created. We were created to crave relationship with others. That is what draws us to continue the human race and to continue to seek hard after Jesus.

Ultimately our searching for fulfilling relationship is found only in Him, but the relationships He gives us along the way are breathtakingly beautiful to me. The precious souls He has purposely put in my path are some of my greatest treasures.

I’ve noticed a recent change in some relationships that I’m not altogether happy about. Since I’ve changed prayer tactics and reclaiming ground lost to the enemy of my soul in the name and power of Jesus.  I’m declaring my family and my friends are off limits to the enemy.  We are not for sale, we have been bought with the blood of Jesus and we are His.

dsc_0061

20170704_095914

DSC_1044

20170715_065750

Jesus opened my eyes to see that since I’ve been praying this way certain friendships have struggled. There have been conflicts within relationships. But also some friends have experienced some very strange things, things that can only be attributed to the enemy.  While I’ve escaped somewhat unscathed.

Don’t misunderstand, what hurts my friends hurts me. No one is a fan of conflict and I am not exception. I’m used to conflict and so I don’t run from it, I’m not prone to squash my feelings to avoid conflict. Unfortunately my flesh tends to speak first and then think, which as, you know, causes conflicts and pain.

The enemy of my soul knows the great value I have in those I love. He knows this and he exploits this. He knows that he can get to me by getting to my friends. And he will use anything at his disposal, even if it is my own words and fleshly reaction. He will take a friend’s words to me (or my words to them) twist them into something they were not meant to be, then whisper them to me as if they were truth.

battering ram

He uses this to drive a wedge between my friends and I, because if he can get us to think the other one is the enemy, we will fight and devour each other.

Which is crazy because then we are doing his job! All he does is twist a few words, offer an alternate meaning and we’re killing each other. Stupid!

Ephesian 6:12 says we don’t battle against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of wickedness.

John 10:10 says the thief comes ONLY to steal, kill, and destroy.

But the thief has gotten us believing flesh and blood is the enemy we’re battling and so we destroy each other.

I think I’d like to get off that crazy train and go to battle against my true enemy.  But not alone. That is one battle we can’t do alone and we have no business attempting it on our own. Our enemy will eat us for lunch!

We do it by surrendering our will to the Father, the One who already won the war. The One who died to set us free from the power of the enemy. The One who says in Him we are more than conquerors. The One who says “Stand firm and see the deliverance of the Lord.”

I know I can be rash and have a huge propensity to be impulsive, and chances are you can be the same way too.  What if we decided to take our immediate, rash responses straight to Jesus, seek His face with the matter, ask for Truth to be spoken to our hearts before we just respond?

What if we did?

We would stop doing the enemy’s job. We would stop battling each other and join forces to battle the unseen enemy in the name and power of Jesus.  Instead of battling each other we would do battle FOR each other on our knees.

So let’s hit our knees and pray, first of all, confessing our sins of pride and unbelief, then begin praying for the one we’ve tried to annihilate with our words and actions. Then let’s seek to build up each other, spurring one another on in our faith.

We are so much stronger together than we could ever hope to be alone. We were made to be in real relationships with real people, to be mutually built up, not destroyed.

 

 

 

Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens.

Stuck Sweet In the Middle–Guest Author

Another guest author post!!

unnamed (1)

Stuck in the Sweet in the Middle

by Robin Steinweg

 

Do you ever feel you’re in that awkward, in-between stage? I sure do!

 

I recently spent years stuck in a crushing middle. Round and round I turned from the growing needs of aging parents to those of growing sons to those of work. I’d carve hours from sleepless nights to write, compose, or read. More often to pray. My husband accepted leftovers with grace and gratitude. Not just food, but time and energy. He was stuck in his own middle, caring for his dad and doing more for my parents than can be recorded.

 

Now our parents are gone. I’m living in the middle of grief, rediscovering who I am if no longer a caregiver. Looking to experience—and to pass on—the rich life Jesus came to give us (John 10:10). Know what? God shows me things I can do so He can help me move forward. I’m not stuck here. I get to be here, where it can be sweet in the middle!

 

If you’re in the midst of circumstances or even past them, it’s never too late to rediscover who you are. Try some of the following:

 

  • Develop friendships with people who will build you up.
  • Find ways to build others up.
  • Journal what you’re going through as a way to release feelings.
  • Photo journal or doodle journal.
  • Admit if you need help.
  • Get more color in your surroundings/clothing.
  • List your blessings.
  • Express more gratitude.
  • Find ways to expand or share your hobbies.
  • Join a book club.
  • Volunteer to help others.
  • If you have grieving to do, do it whole-heartedly. But don’t stay there.
  • Live fully. Enjoy what God gives you to enjoy.
  • Dream again. Don’t hold back—dream big. What does God have for you next?

 

These ideas have helped. Yes, I still pick up the phone to call my mom or find jigsaw puzzles for my dad. I still if wonder I could have, should have done more for them. Guilt and remorse creep in.

 

But I realize that’s the voice of our enemy, the accuser. So I intentionally turn to words of life in God’s Word. I leave my broken heart at Jesus’ feet. I embrace the blessings He sends my way.

I affirm this truth: It is Sweet in the Middle!

 

About the Author:

Robin Steinweg says life is like a sandwich-cookie. Whatever circumstances close in on us, it can be Sweet in the Middle. Her writings can be found in Today’s Christian Woman, Upper Room, Secret Place and The Christian Pulse. She also writes monthly for Music Teachers Helper blog.

Posted in Book Reviews, Jesus

The Bad Habits of Jesus by Leonard Sweet {A Review}

If you’re like most people I know and have talked to about this book, the title scares you. It probably conjures up thoughts like, “But MY Jesus didn’t have any bad habits! He was God!” And you are right.

Leonard Sweet is in full agreement with your statement, but in this delightful book he encourages us to look at Jesus in a different way. He wants us to take off the Sunday School glasses we tend to wear when we view Jesus and read the Word.

He points out that Jesus did things and said things that we would not dare say or do today because it is considered bad.  A few examples:

Jesus spit.  Think about that. He spit and made mud. If that wasn’t bad enough, He then smeared that mud on a man’s eyes.

Jesus procrastinated. His procrastination led to a man’s death, and He was completely unbothered and unapologetic about it. He simply kept on being God.

I loved this book. I have been reading Leonard Sweet’s books since “A Cup of Coffee at the Soul Cafe” was published in the late 90’s. When I see a book with his name on it, I gravitate towards it like a moth to a flame because I know I will be challenged by it.

This book, The Bad Habits of Jesus, did that. It challenged me to look at Jesus and what He did in a whole new way. I was encouraged to think outside of the box, or even to throw away the box, when looking at Jesus and the familiar stories. In a world full of fluff books that preach to the Millennial “me first” gospel, this book was refreshing in it’s simplicity but also in it’s meat. This is not a milk-toast, watered down gospel book. This book will require the brain to be fully engaged. Leonard Sweet does not offer milk, but steak and he doesn’t feed you.

I love the cover. I’m a Harley-loving woman and the resemblance to the Harley-Davidson logo on the front is eye-catching.

I received a free copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.