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.)

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!

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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.

Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens.

An Eternity of Agains.

Yesterday my youngest and I were on a lonely, deserted stretch of I-25 in northern Wyoming. If you know anything northern Wyoming geography you know that between Casper and Buffalo there is a whole lot of nothing. And that is right where we were when the storms hit us.

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We’d been watching them build in the distance, and this storm loving woman was in her element, praying we’d run right into them.

And we did.

And I changed my mind very quickly when I started to hydroplane at 75mph and nearly lost control of Lucy. (Yes, I name my cars.) I looked out the window and could only see a wall of water the front tire was skimming off. And I knew we were in trouble.

We were heading south, the wind was fierce and blowing from the west. The water on the road was deep and rushing. It was almost like driving through a stream at flood stage.

Or maybe a river with whitecaps. The wind would push me one way, the water would push me the other.

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It was scary. My body was trembling with the exertion of just trying to keep us on the road. I knew enough to reduce my speed and turn into the hydroplaning swerves and not fight against that.

At one point I was driving 50 mph in an 80 mph zone. The water was so deep on the road I was having trouble accelerating.

I know our life was spared yesterday.

I also know I want to hydroplane in the sweet grace of Jesus. I want to know in the marrow of my soul that He is, that He is good, and that He is in control of life, because He is my life.

Then I want to crash headlong into His throne and say, “Whooooaaaaa!!! Jesus! What a crazy, thrilling ride that was!!!”

And then I want to do it again. And again. And all over again.

For an eternity of agains.

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Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens., Photography

God is no gentleman

Have you ever heard that saying? “God is a gentleman. He waits to be invited in. He doesn’t barge in where you don’t want Him.”

I’m convinced that statement is a lie. Yes, it’s true He does not force anyone to accept Him, so in that regard He is a gentleman. But I’m here to tell you, when you give Him your heart, He takes your life!

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Just take a look at this:

“Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:13-14 nasb)

We are redeemed and purified, why? To be a people of His own possession! He fully possesses us! There is no part of our body, no part of our life He does not see and where He is not! Every place we want to hide from Him because we think it’s too evil, to beyond the scope of grace, to beyond the reach of His blood, He is there! He possesses those parts too.

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The parts of ourselves that are hidden from us, the parts we aren’t even fully aware of are fully possessed by Him.

No, God’s no gentleman, but He is good. That is what we must realize and trust in. His very goodness. Because He isn’t a gentleman. He goes places we don’t want Him to go, He messes with things we don’t want Him to mess with, He changes things we don’t want changed.  Yes, we can resist Him and make futile attempts to thwart Him but guess what? He always wins.

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So just give it up right here and right now. That fight you’re fighting? Just give it up. Give in to Him. Partner with Him to work in you, even in those hidden places. You can’t hide from Him. He possesses you fully.

Let’s unpack this verse a little more. It is such a treasure trove of Truth!

It is the grace of God that instructs us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires. It’s His grace! We can’t do it on our own. He does it through us and uses grace to teach us! It teaches us how to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age. It points the way to the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus. His grace points the way to Him!

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And that is glory!

Jesus gave Himself for us to:

  • Redeem us from every lawless deed.
  • Purify for Himself a people for His own possession!
  • Possess us,
  • Make us zealous for good deeds.

This means we are:

  • Redeemed from every lawless deed and every violation of the law–wickedness. This means our old is gone (2 Corinthians 5:17) and our new is here. The old way was wicked and in constant violation of the law. Every intent of our heart was only evil all the time. But He redeemed us from that and He paid our penalty! We are no longer unwanted children, we are redeemed!  Camp on this for a pair of moments. He went to the slave auction of the enemy, and saw us there. We were over our head, drowning in a debt we couldn’t pay and He said, “I pick that one. I’m redeeming her.” He paid the price of our redemption. But He also paid the debt we owed that put us on that auction block in the first place! He paid our redemption and then He also paid the penalty, the debt we owed. Does anyone else want to shout, GLORY, or is it just me?
  • Purified. He not only redeemed our lawless ways but He purified us. He made us pure because He is pure. He didn’t just buy us from our old way of living, He stripped us and cleansed us completely! We are completely clean, undefiled before Him. We are no longer the bad girls (or boys!) we are purified as He is pure!
  • His own possession. He fully possesses us. There is no part of us that He does not possess–even those parts we try to hide because we think they are too wicked, to outside of grace for Him to see, too beyond the power and reach of His blood–He possesses those parts too. Even the parts we don’t know about ourselves, the parts hidden from our own eyes, He possesses them, because He redeemed and purified them.  We are completely clean before Him! We are completely His.
  • Zealous for good deeds. Our desire is to work for Him, not to pay for our redemption and purification because that just can’t be done and it’s a slap in God’s face when we try. Rather it is because of our redemption and purification, and being fully possessed by Him, that makes us want to work for Him. But it isn’t us working at all. It is Him working in and through us. He not only gives us the desire and the ability, He does the work. We just have to submit to Him.

Life is either a great adventure....Daybook!!