Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens.

A Nickel’s Worth

DSC_0155 (1)I’ve been noticing a trend lately amongst my friends. They’re all looking for something. But not just any old something, something in particular. Every time they find what they are looking for they eagerly take a picture and share it across social media lines.

Just what is this thing they are looking for so almost frantically?

Hearts. A simple heart shape in the world around them. Some of them call the hearts they find glimpses of God’s love for them.

Now I’m a non-conformist to the core. If everyone else is doing something, that’s a good enough reason to me to not do it. I just don’t want to do or be like everyone else.

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I’m also if nothing else a study in contrast. You see I think it’s neat and great that these ladies are finding God smiles in their day. Neat. And if I were to speak the truth, which I am, I’m a bit jealous. I want something from God, something that He gives to just me as a reminder that He, as it says in Psalm 32:8, has His eye on me. That as He promises in Job 23:10 He knows the way I take.  So I want the same thing He is giving to these ladies, but I don’t want a heart shape.

So I’ve taken the past few weeks to as I think about it, pray for Him to give me something special, unique to let me know He’s watching, He knows, He cares and He loves me. I haven’t wanted a heart shaped anything because that would be too conformist for me. I want my own shape.

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A couple of weeks ago I was having an especially hard week when I glanced down in a parking lot and saw a nickel. I’ve always been one to pick up loose change I see lying around and this day was no different. I picked up that nickel and immediately I had the most godly thought ever. Yeah, or not as the case really was.

My first thought was exactly what zany thing I was going to post on social media about finding a nickel.

“If the saying goes, ‘Find a penny, pick it up, and all day you’ll have good luck’, what happens if you find a nickel.”

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I thought nothing more about that found nickel.

Until today.

This morning I walked to get coffee and to spend some time reading and talking with Jesus. I took Ann Voskamp’s book, The Broken Way, and read while I walked. I did stop on occasion to underline an especially meaningful part, or to just write down some thoughts Jesus was giving me.

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The wind was blowing  cold bitter air over my bare fingers but His words warmed my heart.  We talked of such things as where I was a year ago. How much has changed in this past year. 365 days of walking with Him. A year ago today I was in a hard place. Today I’m in a harder place, but the difference is while last year I knew intellectually He was with me, today in this hard-hard place I know experientially that He really is with me.

It was easy to stop and underline on the way to the coffee, but once I purchased my coffee and had headed for home it was a bit more difficult.

A few blocks from the shop I stopped to underline a sentence, I moved off the sidewalk, and squatted down on a small piece of concrete just off the beaten path. I set my coffee down, unzipped my pocket, reached in to grab my pen, and I froze.

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There in the grass was another nickel. Of course I picked it up.

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And I heard God laugh. Not a “haha, jokes on you” laugh. But a genuine chuckle. Like He knew something I didn’t, but He knew it would bless my socks off.

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And then He spoke.

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He spoke to me. He spoke to me clean through my frozen fingers as they caressed that found nickel. He spoke clean down the marrow my very soul.

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“That’s your gift. That’s your sign. That’s your shape. That is your way of knowing I’m watching you. I’ve got my eye on you. I see you. Even when you think I’m hiding. Even when everything in you is speaking lies that I don’t care. I’m watching you.”

 

 

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Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens.

Learning through Breaking

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Brokenness doesn’t come from badness. Brokenness comes, instead, from woundedness. God doesn’t break us because we’re bad, but He breaks away the  the self-made scars that we’ve grown over our wounds to heal ourselves. The wounds only appear on the outside to be healed, but underneath the surface scar there is still putrid, rotting flesh that is unhealed. It is unhealed because we cannot heal ourselves.

Self-protection is not healing. Self-protection is hiding.

Like Adam and Eve tried to cover their naked wounds with inadequate fig leaves, we try to cover out wounds with fig leaf clothing. Fig leaves weren’t made to heal or cover us. I so often look to wrong things for healing and covering. When I’ve screwed up (again), I reach for pride to cover my screw ups. I look around for blame to hide my sin. I look to and for people to validate my feelings.

Those are fig leaves. And fig leaves cover and heal nothing.

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But Jesus. Jesus and His blood. That is where healing and covering is found. He heals us. Slowly. So very very slowly. And just like a physical cut heals from the inside out, His healing starts deep inside of me, so deep inside no one, not even me, can see it or feel it. But He is working.

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Wounds are ugly. Self-healed wounds are uglier. Jesus healed wounds are beautiful. Because Jesus makes all things beautiful. Because Jesus alone knows the beauty that lives deep inside the human soul.

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This might be a little overly simplistic, but coffee beans do not make a good cup of coffee until they are broken and ground fine.

They also are the most fragrant immediately after grinding.

The coffee bean is grown green. It is useless to make a good pot of coffee until it has been roasted. Roasting always requires heat. Always. When roasting the green coffee beans they will within the first 3 to 15 minutes crack, they will crack again within 15-120 seconds after the first crack ends.

In roasting coffee, the beans crack. They break. High heat breaks them. Then they are ready to be removed from the heat.

High heat breaks them. Just as it breaks us. It breaks away the skin that covers the bean, just as it breaks away the self-made scars we’ve produced to protect ourselves.

Then the bean is ready to be broken again and ground up fine. It seems the breaking process never ends. In grinding the beans the fragrance is released. Just as when we are ground fine by God’s grinding us release the fragrance of what is inside.

That still isn’t all. The coffee bean when it is grown but left green is of no value to the coffee drinker. The coffee bean when it is cracked by the heat of roasting, or broken by the coffee grinder still has no value as coffee and is unusable in that state until it has been placed in coffee pot and had hot, boiling water poured over it. That is when it produces the desired result. That is when it fully is what it was grown to be.

Lord if it’s true that nothing is so ugly something beautiful can’t be made from it, please make something beautiful of me. Thank You for being the Creator of all and the Re-Creator of all that is damaged and broken. Thank You for being the Light that shines in and out of the broken. Thank You for being the Truth in a life filled with lies.
Please be with me to deliver me and Re-create me in You into something usable. And then Lord, please use me.

Posted in Life as it happens.

The Temptations

Last week I spent an enjoyable morning reading about Jesus temptation as is found in Matthew 4. The Spirit brought new truths to mind as He opened my eyes to see this familiar passage in a new light.

If you know the passage (I just can’t call it a story. It’s not a story, it’s truth), you know that after Jesus was baptized God the Father descended on Him like a dove. God spoke His Words of Truth over the Word and the Truth. Jesus was then led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He first fasted for 40 days and nights, then the tempter came to Him and tempted Him.

I don’t know how it works in your life, but in my life it works just like this. I will have time of God’s revealing His pleasure of me and I’m hearing His voice speak loud and clear to my soul. Immediately afterward I’ll have a sense that I’m going without something, that I’m fasting only not intentionally. Then the tempter comes in and seeks to remove and destroy all evidence of God’s pleasure.

I’ll start to doubt I heard God’s voice at all. Or that He’ll keep His word to me. Or that I heard right. I’ll be tempted, sorely tempted to doubt.

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone but on every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'” Matthew 4:4 (nasb)

When I’m being tempted if I respond with anything other than the Truth of God’s Word, I battle on my own and I will not win. If I slap truths on the temptation and rely on my own strength to muscle through the temptation. I will lose the battle every time. It’s guaranteed.

Then the devil took Him into the holy city; and there he had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple. Matthew 4:5

Again the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Matthew 4:8

Even when I battle with the Word, the temptation might not go away but the devil will change tactics and attack from another angle.

When this happens I must still respond with the Truth and in the Truth and I must rely on the Truth to bring my deliverance. If I respond to temptation with truth in myself I will continue to suffer from the deadly disease of pride as if I did it all.

I must not only know the truth, I must believe the truth is true for me. I must be able to apply to every situation in my life, every temptation that comes must be met with truth. But not any truth, it must be met with THE Truth!

I must be aware that temptations to sin can come from anywhere and can change. I must be ready for the rapid-fire changes and tactics or I will be caught off guard and will confuse the voice of temptation with the voice of my Savior.

If I wait the first time I heard something and then act when I hear it again I could be responding to temptation and not Jesus. Notice how the devil tempted Jesus to worship him all three times, but each time he changed the wording, the temptation didn’t change though.

And the tempter came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Matthew 4:3

Temptation (and the enemy–self or satan) attacks first who I am to bring doubt and confusion as to my identity.  When he has me questioning who I am, he has me on the ropes because I will answer to and fall for anything he says next.

The temptation then expects me to prove my identity by my doing something it requires. Satan expected Jesus to prove His identity by obeying satan.

Jesus knows who I am and will never ask me to prove it. He, even in His testing me, does not use “if” statements. He will never say, “If you’re truly My child then do……” Just as I don’t expect my children to prove they are mine, He doesn’t expect us to prove it to Him either. He knows we are His. We are the ones who doubt.

He does, however, use “because” statements. “Because you are My child this behavior needs to (either) stop (or) grow.”

Temptation seeks to sound like God so I will fall for it every time. Temptation always seeks my worship. It seeks to draw my worship away from God. The more I–through the power of God–resist the more blatant the temptation becomes. Satan started tempting Jesus to make bread, then he moved to more blatant temptations of worship.

The only way to battle temptation is to stand firm in Jesus and in who He declares us to be. Apart from that we have no hope, and haven’t a leg to stand on when faced with temptation. Thankfully Jesus brings us His identity and He battles for us. When we forget who we are and when we are cocky and battle on our own in our own strength we will lose every time.

Posted in Jesus, Love

Brokenhearted Comfort

In Psalm 147:3 the word translated “binds up” means literally to wrap/bind one thing with another. And the word “wounds” refers to emotional suffering. In this verse, the emotional suffering and wounds from it are bound by the Lord. But what does He bind them with? Himself!
The word translated “brokenhearted” means “destroyed or crushed”. We all have people and circumstances that come into our lives intent on destroying and crushing our heart. But He is our Healer of our crushed hearts.
When we are brokenhearted and wounded emotionally the Lord Himself binds us to Himself for our healing. He truly is Jehovah-Rapha and the Balm in Gilead.
It is truly a foolish person who resists this binding and pushes away from His healing.
But why does He do this?
The obvious answer is Love.
The not so obvious answer is found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-6. We find in verse 4 that He comforts (and here I’m taking the liberty of using the word “heals” in place of comfort) us in all our afflictions, all those things that destroy our hearts, He heals. So we can take that comfort and healing and share it with another who is suffering.
He is still the One who heals. He is the One who binds us to Himself for healing. But He uses us in our suffering to show others that He heals and He comforts.
I can comfort someone. But I can’t heal them. I can point them to the One true Healer though.
In this I am fulfilling 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift (Divine gratuity), employ (deacon) it in serving (deaconing) one another as good stewards of the manifold grace (JOY) of God.”
(All Scripture is taken from the New American Standard Bible)
Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens.

Psalm 23 Virginia Style

I am the Lord’s little lamb,
He meets all my needs.

He walks with me to rest in green pastures,
He meets my most basic needs.
He encourages and strengthens my mind,
Because of His greatness.
He leads me in the right way.

When my path leads me to walk in scary places,
I don’t have to be afraid.
Because He is with me still.
His direction and correction
Bring me comfort not pain.

He puts a feast before me
While the scary people stand by.
He blesses me over and over,
I can’t contain all of them.

I can rest assured that His goodness and love
will be with me as long as forever lasts.
And I will get to dwell with Him forever.

©VLG2016

Posted in Coffee, Jesus, Life as it happens.

Whatcha doing, doing doing?

Have you ever noticed humans are always doing something? Always.  Do you ever wonder why we’re called human beings instead of human doings?

Ever notice Christians lead the pack in doing? It’s true. We’re always doing. Doing things for the church, doing things for God. Doing things for our neighbor. Doing things because we feel guilty if we don’t do something every second of every day.

If the church posts a need for workers, we’re signing up. We’re overbooked, over-stressed,  completely cranky to everyone all the time. We suffer with health issues because we won’t just take a break and rest our weary souls and bodies.  We have no more time for anything and yet, oh look there is another need for nursery workers, we’re already teaching Sunday school, singing on the praise team and serving as a greeter, baking snacks for Sunday morning fellowship time, but we’re sure we can squeeze in one more thing because “they need me. God needs me!”  And off we rush to do one more thing for Jesus all the while thinking, “Man! God’s sure blessed to have me to do all this work for Him.”

We still find ourselves wondering if we’re doing enough. Are we doing enough to please Him? To prove to other Christians and the world that we are His disciple?  Are we trying to prove our love for Him, or are we trying to just love Him at all? Are we trying to force the changes we need in our lives by our service to Him?

Do we really think if we just do one more thing, take one more Bible study, lead one more small group, volunteer for that extra Sunday in the nursery, deliver meals to those who visited is going to make God happy?

How many times do we mistake our doing things for God for being with Him?

It is so easy to forget in our rush to get the next thing done that we don’t stop to ask Him what He wants us to do. We’re simply to busy with things for God we can’t stop to chat with Him.

I’m not so sure we’re really doing them for God at all. No, I think we’re doing them for self, so we will feel better about our sin. The sin we harbor in our heart and hope if we do enough for Him He won’t notice or if He does He won’t care. Because “look at all the wonderful things you’ve done for Me! Man, am I blessed to have you!!”

I’ll let you in on a little secret I’ve learned. Lean in close so I don’t have to shout. That is called idolatry. We’re making our schedule an idol, we use it to replace time spent listening to our Savior’s voice. We’re making an idol of our own self, we are choosing to serve our flesh over serving the one who died in the flesh for us.

In fact, He didn’t just die in the flesh for us. No, in the whole process He securely killed our flesh! And made us, by His very Spirit, alive to Him.

He did not make us alive so we could rush around, wearing ourselves out in service to Him. As if our doing things for God could ever take the place of Him! He redeemed us to live a life of abundance.

A life lived in abundance of Joy!
A life lived in abundance of Peace!
A life lived in abundance of Love!
A life lived in abundance of Gentleness!
A life lived in abundance of LIFE!

Because He is our life! He is MY life. The gospel of John tells me that apart from Him I can do nothing. (John 15:5)

I can do nothing. There is nothing I can do apart from Him living in me! Nothing. I can’t even make my heart beat one more time, or take my next breath apart from Him.

Last night I was pondering all the things I’ve been choosing to do of late to grow in Him. To grow up in Him. And I was a little teary because it is such a slow process. I am too blind to see the changes He is making in me, all I can see are the old behaviors I want so much to be rid of.

So I asked Him in a teary prayer if all the things I’ve been doing have worked to bring about the changes I need so desperately.

Want to know what He said?

“Virginia, your “doing” doesn’t change you. I change you.”

He changes me and He changes you one obedient step at a time. When we rest in Him and in Him abide, we will begin to listen to His heartbeat for us and we will follow His voice because we are His sheep.

So all the things you’ve been doing to gain acceptance with God, stop. Just stop. Seek His face. Seek to hear His voice whisper in your dear ear, “This is the way, my child, walk in it!” (Isaiah 30:21).  And find in Him the rest your body and weary soul needs so desperately.

Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens.

Toilet Paper Prayer

toilet-paperYou know some months are just harder than others, right? Some moments are just harder than others. At least that is true for me.

A few weeks ago I was in one of those hard months with plenty of hard moments. There were times I wanted nothing more than to cry UNCLE! every second of every day with every breath I took.

That was the time when my debit card was on life support, and I was out of cash. And we had three rolls of toilet paper and two weeks until pay day. I wondered if I would need to use some of my rationed savings to get more before we ran out completely.

I decided against it. Because three double rolls and two weeks, surely a little family of 4 could make it work, right? Especially since 3 of us were out of the house for the better part of every day.

Piece of cake.

But I have girls. Teen age girls. Girls who think they need to use a plethora of toilet paper. In less than a full week we had blown through all three rolls. One roll didn’t even last 24 hours.

This Momma wasn’t happy. At all.

I informed my family, mostly my offspring, that I would not be purchasing more toilet paper until Friday. Not going to do it. We have kleenex, use that. Momma isn’t spending another penny.

Thirty-six hours later I found myself praying for of all things, toilet paper. I listed out my needs to in prayer, and topping the list was toilet paper. Toilet paper that my children squandered. Toilet paper that is not a necessity of life, a nice feature don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of toilet paper. But it isn’t vital to my life, especially when we had other things we could use just as well.

But I prayed for toilet paper. I didn’t pray that God would supply us with toilet paper. I just listed it as a need. Along with cereal. And something equally mundane that now escapes my memory.

I somehow knew that this would be a monumental prayer and it would have massive consequences. I knew in some ways this would be a day of turning for me.

The day wore on and I occasionally thought about my toilet paper prayer but mostly I forgot about it. When it came to mind, I mostly thought what a dumb thing to pray about.

That afternoon, I picked up my leather jacket to hang it up when I remembered I had noticed a piece of paper in the inner pocket when I put my phone away  in there earlier. It was an old folded, receipt from Hobby Lobby. Curious I unfolded it to see what I had purchased and when.

That’s when I saw it.

A fresh, crisp ten dollar bill.

“Oh Lord! That is You.”

And God said, “toilet paper.”

And I said, “Yarn and coffee.”

God said, “toilet paper.”

Every time I thought of that ten dollars, I heard God say, “toilet paper”. I argued some more. Why exactly I’m not sure. Immediately when I saw it I knew what it was for. God kept just saying, “toilet paper.”

Then He changed, “Be faithful.” and I was reminded of the verse about being faithful in small things and I would be found faithful in big things.

If toilet paper isn’t a small thing I’m not sure what is. Talk about your mundane, small things. Not necessary. Not vital. Not a real need.

This taught me one very important lesson. One I had known before but not KNOWN. I knew it was true, but now I experientially know it to be true. This is one lesson I won’t soon forget.

God notices. God cares. God provides.

Why do we think something is too mundane to pray for? That God really doesn’t notice or care about that? Expect God to provide for something we’ve squandered, something we could have purchased for ourselves without a second thought but we chose not to?

Those are the very things we have to pray for if we ever hope to see God work in the big things. These are the prayers God loves to answer. Those prayers that say, “God, here is my need. You have the supply. I’m just going to sit here and watch You work on my behalf.”

He shows up big. And my faith grows big. And the next time I need toilet paper, I’ll know I can come to Him with my mundane need and find His supply.

Friend, if I can ask Him and trust Him for toilet paper, what makes you think you can’t ask and trust Him with the needs of your heart? Dear friend, He does the same for you! I’m not His favorite. He doesn’t show up big for me because He carries my picture in His wallet. He loves to show up for anyone who in humble boldness comes to Him with their need; leaves it at His feet, and watches in eager anticipation for His supply.

So go ahead, take your mundane prayers and your big ones, to His throne and you will find grace to help you in your time of need.

Trust me.