The First

I suppose this is how it’s supposed to work. First, we give birth and then we give wings. But it wasn’t supposed to happen this fast.

It was only yesterday, or maybe the day before, I stumbled up the stairs in sobbing tears because the baby I had just placed in the crib hadn’t burped. I knew I had failed as a Momma. I also knew she would be dead in the morning.

No. I’m not morbid much.

The happy news is she was very much alive the next morning. And this morning.

It’s not as if I didn’t know this day was coming. But until this morning dawned a cloudy, dreary, hopeless morning it was always some time out there in the far distant future. I could have a thought of it and think, “yes. It will happen but not today. Today we can laugh, joke, be silly, and drink our weight in coffee. We can binge watch NCIS, Simon and Simon, or whatever tickles our fancy. We can run errands or not.”

Now the day has come and I’m speeding down the interstate after leaving her in the big city. The big city of my birth but not my childhood, adolescence, or adulthood.

I lived the vast majority of my life without her, but for the life of me I can’t remember how. Life is supposed to,  and I’m sure it will, go on like normal. Tomorrow I’ll get up and go to the office. And then home. But it won’t be the same. It will be different. It will be hard, but it will never be the same.

I wonder still if I taught enough. Shared Jesus enough. Laughed enough. Did we live enough? Did we love enough?  Was there more that should have been said, more that should have been done?

And I’m writing all of this on my phone. And I hate to type on it.

A Soul at Rest (Psalm 46)

20180806_120324There is something so beautiful about a soul at rest, when all the frantic busyness stops, the angry activity ceases, the frenetic pace stills and the soul rests-safe and secure-not in its own accomplishments, but in the One who steps in and accomplishes it all.

There is something so peaceful about a soul that has finally found a place of true rest that has contentment and peace even amidst the crazy busy pace of life. The soul rests secure in the One who brings peace.

The contented soul is a soul at rest. Life is still crazy but they are not. Life can be stressful but they are not full of stress, because they know the One who is doing all their doing. It isn’t that they aren’t doing anything, nor are they the ones always saying “no” because they can and their plate is full already. It’s not because they know what they are called to do, what their spiritual gift is, or where their talents lie. But because they have surrendered all to Jesus and He is released to fully work through them.

It isn’t that they do what they do in His strength, it’s that He does it in His strength as they live fully yielded to the Spirit that lives within them.

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Until one lives this way they will never understand true peace and rest. Contentment to them will always be nothing more than than “happy with what I have but always willing to have more”.

When this peace and contentment comes, the soul will wonder and marvel over it. Things that before caused a reaction of anger or pain no longer does. Instead there is just a sense of His abiding Life and love.

The soul no longer strives against God to be god. The soul rests in God’s never ending ability to be God.

When we are striving against God, we cannot know Him as our refuge and strength. We do not see Him or accept Him as our very present help in trouble because we are too busy trying to do it all in and for ourselves.

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Fear is our constant companion. We cannot escape it. We might call it something different but it is always there–that nagging feeling that we don’t measure up; that this is all for naught and nothing we do is ever enough. That everyone else has what we want; so we exhaust ourselves in our endless pursuit of rest. We wear ourselves to a frayed edge doing it all because we are so very fearful of failing–of being found wanting.

We fear this is all there is, so we gobble it all up in a van attempt to see if we can get more out of life–more from Jesus. All the while we completely reject His peace and rest because we must keep busy serving Him.

We fall into bed each night exhausted, hoping tonight we will sleep but our frantic brain and soul keep us awake with our endless to-do lists running rampant in our minds. We continue to add more and more things. We rehearse every conversation over and over, reminding ourselves how right–how very, very right we were and how incredibly wrong and stupid they were. All the while we fear the opposite is far too close to the truth.

We think if God really is in the midst of her it’s a different her because all we feel, all we see is an endless condemnation and striving, endless work and no help.

Morning breaks and it is all we can do to get out of bed and do it all all over again. There is no rest, no peace. But we paste on the Good-Christian-Woman smile and tell everyone to just “Rest in Jesus”.

And we’re dying. Slowly or quickly, we’re dying all the same.

How do we stop striving and know He is God when we have so many spinning plates? How do we rest when life happens at breakneck speed and will not stop? We can’t possibly get up any earlier or stay up any later, and regular time with Jesus is anything but regular. It is the easiest and most often one thing that continually gets shoved off the list because who has time for that.

And it’s not like He’s listening to us anyway.

Oh, dear soul, He listens. He speaks. He still calls us to come away with Him, to take our weary, heavy-laden souls to Him and find rest.

He can but won’t make us do it. He stands and patiently calls and waits. But we choose to let our own sense of self-righteousness and importance dictate, instead of confessing our sin of pride and trying to be god to us and god to God.

When we go to Him, lay down our weapons, confess our sin, He is so faithful, just and forgiving. And in that we find freedom and rest. Peace. A refuge. Strength and help.

And six months later we look back on our life in absolute wonder and amazement at the work He has done and we were completely unaware of it all. The stress is gone. The worry lines around our eyes are but a faint memory. The anger, the fear, the insecurity have been replaces with peace and joy.

 

Psalm 46

The Reason Why

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I couldn’t really remember when I started blogging for the first time. It’s been so long ago now it’s but a faint, distant but happy memory. My girls were young, the baby was probably nothing more than a toddler really. A friend of mine wrote a blog and I was intrigued by it, so I jumped in with both feet.

I wrote about the funny things my children said and did. I wrote about the funny things I said and did. It was my first real foray into the world of social media and I wrote as a way to keep in contact with family that lived far away and we rarely got to see.  Over time my blog grew, and I switched blog hosts, each one promised something bigger, something better, something brighter.

As my girls aged, they lost some of the cuteness and funny sayings. I kept blogging but more sporadically.  Blogging seemed to somehow be something I had to do to drive off the crazy. I needed to get the words out of my head so I could examine them for what they were. I could see them in living, vibrant color. I could reject them or accept them as needed at the moment.

I could have, sure, written them down in a notebook journal. Keeping thousands and thousands of pages hidden away from prying eyes. Never putting anything out there for anyone to see.

That is what I’d been used to doing. I’d been hiding away for years. Everything I learned, everything Jesus taught me I hid away. I was sure I’d be laughed at, mocked, scorned. I thought everyone would have already said it, and I’d be found to be the last one to the party, arriving late and without a gift. Shunned for stupidity and stupidly not knowing what everyone else already knew.

I still hid away. I still kept quiet about things. I kept things locked inside me. I silenced my own voice out of fear.

A dear friend told me I was addicted to knowledge. I wondered how that could possibly be true. He said I gobbled knowledge like a starving man. I read all I could to increase my knowledge, my intelligence. But I never let any of it show. I never let anyone know I was smart. I was intelligent. I always felt stupid because I refused to see how I really was. And what I really was.

And my friend, with all the love in his heart for this woman, said, “That is wrong!”

And he was right.

I fought him on it for a time. I couldn’t help myself. I went on “smart book” (self-help, and everything non-fiction) fasts to prove to him how wrong he was. I could do very well without those kinds of books.

He said that wasn’t what he meant.  He said I needed to get Jesus out of my head and let Him change my life by living in me and through me. I needed to surrender to Him and allow Him free access to every area of my heart and life. He told me I needed to stop all the doing and find Jesus.

I thought he was crazy.  I was wrong.

You see, Jesus has given each of us a voice. He gave us all a life, filled with all sorts of experiences, highs, lows, joys, sorrows, giggles and tears. He gave us all a richness of life not so we could live in a tight woven cocoon of self.

But so we can burst forth in His glorious strength, open our mouths and share with anyone and everyone who will listen about His great work of grace and beauty in our life. He wants us to give others the hope we have received, to comfort those as we have been comforted because of His life living out through us.

We also need to tell those who don’t want to listen, don’t want to hear about how wrong we are, how far we missed the boat. We need to be like my dearest friend, completely unafraid to tell someone when they are wrong.

We need to accept those words from our friends and welcome them as trusted words from a heart that loves us deeply. It’s not easy but oh so necessary.

Please, dear soul, know I am not at all saying we have to allow anyone and everyone to speak deeply to our soul. There are those who will gladly tell us when they think we are wrong or stupid, but their heart is not our good. We do not have to entertain their abuse for one second.

Any time someone comes to you and says, “I’m only going to say this because I love you…” or “I love you but….” ignore everything after the “but”.  In fact, feel free to walk away.  You see, my friend never said, “I love you but you’re wrong”, he never said he only said those hurtful words because he loved me. I already knew his heart for me. We were already faithful, close friends.

It is friends like that you welcome correction, you allow them to speak hard things to you because you know and trust first the heart of your Daddy in heaven and then your friend’s heart for you.

The Place My Heart Belongs

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He came to sit at a table I shared with the other teens at church. Hoping to impress people I didn’t like, I saucily said, “Who said you could sit there?” He wore a wounded look as he slowly got back up and slunk away from the table. He had received the message loud and clear, a message I shouted at him without ever saying the words and never raising my voice. It was a message I had heard on repeat for years, and one I was destined to repeat to others for years to come. “You do not belong here.”

Have you ever heard that? Have you ever felt that? You don’t belong. You don’t fit in. You aren’t allowed. You aren’t wanted.

Maybe someone used those actual words and pointed their finger, then stood there watching your wounded heart walk away. You walked to another table, hoping they would make room for one more, but there you found, not a welcoming place, but they pulled their circle tighter. You walked away again, stopping at each table.

At first you were hopeful. Then your hope turned to anticipation of rejection. Instead of asking if you could join them, you said, “You don’t want me to sit here, do you?”

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Now we all know I’m not talking about literal tables. But this is what we all do. We hunt and search for people, anyone who will accept us, who will tell us “You belong with me! I want you. Come! Join us!”

Can I tell you a secret? A secret it’s taken me a long time to realize fully?

We will not find this sense of belonging in people. People fail. People reject. Yes, but that isn’t why I say we won’t find this belonging in people.

There is not one person alive who can ever meet this deepest of deep heart needs. My husband can’t. My children can’t. And he’s a great guy, they’re great children. My boss can’t. My pastor can’t. My friends can’t. My siblings (both biological and those precious ones I’ve adopted) can’t.

Can all of these people tell me I belong? Sure. Can they accept me? Yes. But they cannot touch the heart need. It goes deeper than their reach.

This week Jesus directed me to read in John 10 about being a sheep and the Good Shepherd. Little did I know how intensely He would speak to my heart of belonging. I woke up that morning with the phrase, “My sheep hear My voice” running rampant in my mind.

Don’t you love it when He wakes you up like that?

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Feast your eyes and rest your heart on these gems:

“…and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”
“I am the door of the sheep…”
“I am The Door…”
“I AM the Good Shepherd…”
“I AM the Good Shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me.”
“…they shall hear My voice…”
“My sheep hear My voice and I know them; and they follow Me.”
John 10:4,7,9,11,14,16, and 27.

He is our Good Shepherd and He is the Door of the sheep. Verse 16 also says, “I have other sheep which are not of this fold…

Oh, sweet reader, if you are in Jesus, you are His sheep. And in Him you belong. To Him. With Him.

Let that truth sink down deep into the marrow of your soul today.

You belong.

You belong to the One who created the universe. You belong to the One who sets up king and kingdoms. You belong to the One who sits enthroned in heaven. You belong to the Only wise God, the Only Sovereign One.

You belong to Him. And you belong with Him.

Can your soul feel that today?

You belong not on the basis of who you are or what you’ve done. You belong on the basis of Who He is and What He has done.

Rest your weary soul in His heart. You belong there.

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Review: Murder At the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan

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Book Description

“Maybe it was time to land straight in the middle of the adventure…”

Hamish DeLuca has spent most of his life trying to hide the anxiety that appears at the most inopportune times — including during his first real court case as a new lawyer. Determined to rise above his father’s expectations, Hamish runs away to Boston where his cousin, Luca Valari, is opening a fashionable nightclub in Scollay Square. When he meets his cousin’s “right hand man” Reggie, Hamish wonders if his dreams for a more normal life might be at hand.

Regina “Reggie” Van Buren, heir to a New Haven fortune, has fled fine china, small talk, and the man her parents expect her to marry. Determined to make a life as the self-sufficient city girl she’s seen in her favorite Jean Arthur and Katharine Hepburn pictures, Reggie runs away to Boston, where she finds an easy secretarial job with the suave Luca Valari. But as she and Hamish work together in Luca’s glittering world, they discover a darker side to the smashing Flamingo night club.

When a corpse is discovered at the Flamingo, Reggie and Hamish quickly learn there is a vast chasm between the haves and the have-nots in 1937 Boston—and that there’s an underworld that feeds on them both. As Hamish is forced to choose between his conscience and loyalty to his beloved cousin, the unlikely sleuthing duo work to expose a murder before the darkness destroys everything they’ve worked to build.

Murder and Mayhem set in 1930s Boston? Sounds right up my alley.

Hamish Deluca is a Toronto attorney with anxiety. His first courtroom case sends him running from the room before the end of the trial. Feeling like a disgrace, he flees Toronto for Boston and his cousin, Luca Valari.

Luca, the cousin who always managed to overlook Hamish’s faults, is opening a nightclub and fleeing his own demons from the past.

Regina, Reggie to her friends, Van Buren of the New Haven Van Burens is a society girl fleeing the life she’d known for adventure and newness.  She finds employment working for Luca. Her job was simple, answer the phone and praise his nightclub. No matter who was calling or what the reason was, praise the club and don’t answer any questions.

Reggie is in love with movies and Hamish loves his books, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, to be specific. They both love cannoli.

When the club opens and a cigar girl is found murdered, will Hamish and Reggie accept the police report that deems it an accident? How far will they go to uncover the truth?

You’ll have to get the book and read it for yourself to find out. Maybe Mary Finn really did just fall down the stairs. Maybe she was pushed. Maybe Luca knows more than he’s telling. Maybe Johnny Wade had nothing to do with it at all.

Maybe. Maybe not.

This book, Murder At The Flamingo, by Rachel McMillan, was the perfect book for me to lose myself in during a very busy time in my life. At times it was a little confusing, there were so many characters it was difficult to keep them all straight and remember who was who, were they heroes or villains?

It is published by Thomas Nelson and is clean, good, but not overtly a Christian book. God is not mentioned, alcohol is consumed, but crude language usually associated with that is decidedly absent.  It is a book I will not hesitate to recommend and/or pass along to others, even my children.

The characters were well developed, the plot moved along. I never thought the story line stalled at any time, nor did I think some scenes were not needed.

All in all I give the book 4 out of 5 turning pages.

I received a free copy of this book from publisher, Thomas Nelson, for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own, I was not required to give a favorable review.

Of Dead Men and New Life

I recently skirted around the topic of our deadness to sin a few weeks ago. If you missed it you can find that post here. In that post I stopped just shy of saying we are no longer sinners.

Fear is what kept me from saying it outright. Yes. I know what you’re thinking. You’re either agreeing with me or looking for some way to either remove my head as a heretic or to point out the obvious-to-you flaws in my thinking.  I’d like to go on record here and now saying that I welcome any and all dialogue on my posts, provided they are civil and only ideas are discussed and people are left unscathed by words.

I know it’s hard to differentiate between the two. I’ve struggled with that myself. One of my most faithful friends (Proverbs 27:6) has often told me how vital it is for us to be able to separate our identity, who we are in Jesus, from what other people say and think about us.

One thing that recently struck me like a ton of bricks right between the eyes is that very thing. What someone else thinks of me, whatever they think I am is really none of my concern. Their thoughts and opinions are not strong enough to change who we are.

Back to we are no longer sinners after we come to Jesus, it seems to go against all that we think and are taught from our earliest days in the church nursery. We all know we’re sinners, sinners saved by grace, and that one day we’ll have eternal life and gain entrance into heaven. A quick glance at Romans 6,7 and Galatians 5 seem to support this, but let’s take a closer look.

I’m going to move through these quickly and then we’ll come back and elaborate on them in subsequent posts.

Romans 6.
We’ve been taught to read this as “try really hard not to sin” and “don’t use grace as an excuse to sin”. The last part is true. The first part could not be further from the truth.  Why? Because we are dead to sin. Not just a little dead, but very dead, completely dead.

Dead things don’t live. Dead men don’t sin.

In verse 4 of Romans 6 we read:

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life

And 2 Corinthians 5:17:

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away, behold, new things have come.

(emphasis mine.)

What is new and what old has gone, except our old nature?

The new would be the life and nature of Jesus. We were baptized into His death and raised in newness of life. Since our old nature was dead, our new nature is life.

To redeem means to buy back; to restore means to take back to the original. We were redeemed by Jesus and His blood restored us to what we were. And what were we originally? Perfect. Without a sin nature. (Read Genesis 1-3)

All one needs to sin is an enemy, the freedom to choose, and the ability to be deceived. Adam and Eve had both. And so do we.

If we believe we still have a sin nature, we think we still have no choice (and therefore no responsibility) in sinning. “It’s just the way I am. I’ve always been this way. I can’t change that.”

No, you can’t. Jesus did!

We also then do not believe Jesus redeemed all of us. There are parts of us He did not and could not redeem. In other words, His blood wasn’t enough. He needs our help.

So salvation–complete salvation–becomes based on what I do and not based on what Jesus did.

We still struggle with temptation and sin, but it is not our nature to sin. We struggle with sin because we still have an enemy who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy us. Just as he tempted Eve in the garden, he tempts us and tries to deceive us.

You don’t need a sin nature to be tempted and deceived. Neither Adam and Eve or Jesus had a sin nature. All were tempted. One was deceived, one sinned and One was perfect.

I am a sinner is a statement of identity. It is also a lie. However, if we believe it, we will live it out.

And when we live it out, the enemy wins.

Tell yourself the truth. You are not a sinner. You sin. You’re tempted. It’s not your nature. It’s not who you are. Who you are is in Jesus and nothing can change that. In Him you are holy, blameless, made right, redeemed, His people.

You are a saint.

 

Decluttering Emotional Shoes

IMG_20170615_084136“You would be so proud of me!” I gleefully exclaimed one day when my new husband came home from work. “I cleaned out my shoes and I’m down to 23 pairs!”

You can probably imagine his horrified look as first surprise, then shock, and then horror overtook his features. “Twenty-three pairs? Surely, you mean 23 shoes, right? You have twenty-three shoes.” I quickly assured that I did indeed have an even number of feet and so I meant twenty-three pairs.  “But, you know you can only wear one pair at a time, right?”

Obviously, this man just wasn’t getting the importance of my actions. To whittle down a collection of shoes to just a few pairs was outstanding. I had de-cluttered my shoes and kept only those that were my absolute favorites.

I should not have been surprised by his lack of enthusiasm; I mean the man only had two pairs of shoes; one pair for work and church, and one pair for recreation. (That sounds so much nicer than play shoes, doesn’t it?)

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For a number of years, I treated my inner life just as I treated my shoes. I would occasionally de-clutter my heart of excess junk, old opinions I had held on to, sins I had committed, grudges I had nursed, thoughts I deemed necessary to life, emotions that were destructive. I still hung on to the vast majority of sins, in thought and deed. I kept only my current absolute favorites. I tenaciously held on to every feeling that defined my identity.

Just as some shoes can be painful and pinch my feet, parts of my identity were painful and gripping them to my chest caused immense pain. Still I held on tight. People would complain, they would reject me, and I would still cling tightly to who I thought I had to be in order to be me.

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But now you also, put them all aside; anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.” Colossians 3:8 (NASB)

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor be put away from you, along with all malice.” Ephesians 4:31 (NASB)

Eventually, over time, I began decluttering my shoes even further. I never had only two pairs of shoes, but I ruthlessly got rid of shoes. I felt free. I wasn’t tripping over them, I wasn’t having to work to keep them organized.

In that same way, I’ve been in the process of doing with fewer emotional pairs of shoes. I began by praying for Jesus’ eyes to see the truth about my identity, I prayed for His strength to de-clutter the shoes of my heart. He has been faithful to reveal to my soul the next emotional pair of shoes that needs to leave.

As I am dealing with less emotional baggage, I am feeling much freer in the expanse of His life. I am finding that my life has increased as I have whittled down emotional shoes. Where I once thought I had to hang on to something because it was such a part of me, I am finding immense freedom in getting rid of what I once thought me only to find myself and my identity in Jesus.

“More than that, I count all things to be loss in the view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8 (NASB)