The Gifts of Hope This Advent.

When I still believed Love Languages were a god-given thing, I thought my languages were gifts and time. I needed them like I needed air or a fish needs water. I was convinced if someone gave me a gift but didn’t spend time with me or spent time but didn’t bring a gift, they only liked me and not very much. If someone never gave me a gift, I was sure they hated me and wished me dead. 

Yes, I was, more than likely, crazy. And rabid. 

Now my thoughts are much different.  Now I realize my greatest desire was not things, but to be seen, to be noticed, to be thought of, to be known, to be accepted, to be loved. That is all, all of us truly desire. We want people to think about us, and to tell us, “Hey I thought of you!” That’s what gifts do. Gifts say, “Hey! I saw this and immediately you came to my mind. You were thought of and you are seen.” 

Have you ever stopped to ponder the reality of the gifts of God to us? I mean really stop to ponder anew ALL that He has given us. It isn’t something I have spent much time thinking about, and that pains me more than a little to confess. 

He created the world for us to enjoy. He gave us taste buds to taste food He created for us to enjoy. He gave us ears to hear the laughter and “I loves yous” of those closest to us. He gave us ears also to hear shouts of “Danger!” He gave us a sense of smell all so we could experience the scent of life after a summer rain,  the rose, pine trees, and freshly roasted coffee. 

He gave us eyes to see the colorful world He made. We can see each other because of His gift. He could very easily have made all of the world black and white, or just grey, but He didn’t. He threw in reds, yellows, greens, blue, oranges, and purples.

All of this and it wasn’t enough for us. We still wanted more. We wanted knowledge that was too much for our finite minds to understand and use. But we sold our souls to the devil to get it. 

And that still wasn’t enough. We’re all still wanting more. Our hearts are longing for more and more and more. So we fill our storage sheds with more and we still feel empty. We’re still searching for that that one thing that will finally satisfy our longing, our wanting hearts. 

The greatest gift this world was ever given was Jesus. He was the single greatest gift ever given. He was not held in reserve if we needed Him. He was always our planned gift. The plan of God for the world always included Jesus, His Son, our greatest gift. 

When we give gifts, the dearer the relationship the dearer the gift. We don’t shop at Dollar Tree for gifts for our spouse, children, parents, and close friends typically. We are willing to break the bank for those closest to our hearts. 

When God gave us Jesus, He gave us what He held most dear. He gave Himself. He gave all of Himself. To pay for our sins of discontentment and ingratitude. To pay for our sin of always wanting more, more, more, more.  And never being satisfied. 

Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.


This Christmas, could we be, could we choose to be content with just Him? Just His life? Could we say, “Jesus, You are the greatest gift. You are enough for me.”

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

Psalm 23:1

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

For God so loved the world, that He gave…

John 3:16

Rambling Rumbles of Advent

So it’s the season of Christmas. December 1. Outside my house is cloudy, dreary, and just plain ugly. Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent.  I don’t remember ever hearing about Advent as a child. If I did it was probably in hushed tones, that I took for scandalous. I probably thought Advent, like Lent (another thing we didn’t take notice of), was a Pentecostal thing and not something good Baptist little girls partook in. Which is, in and of itself, quite laughable. I never was one to consider myself a good, little girl, Baptist or not. 

A few months ago I expressed on Facebook how much I wanted to approach this holiday season differently, with more intention, instead of in my usual haphazard way. I wanted to enjoy it more. I asked how my friends accomplished that monumental task. One friend brought me a book she had read, Loving My Actual Christmas. (If you’re looking for a review of that book, keep looking. That isn’t the point of this post. Chances are I will review the book some day, but that some day is not this day.) Alexandra Kuykendall wrote it to read much like a blog post. Maybe it started that way? I don’t know. But anyway, I’m digressing.  

As I was reading this book while selling honey at the Farmer’s Market this morning I had to sit back and wonder on some things. I pondered Mary. We have over the course of the last two thousand years made much of Mary. I we have elevated her to near God-hood. But think about this with me for a moment. 

She was ordinary. She was just an ordinary Jewish girl. There was nothing spectacular about her. Do you ever wonder why God chose her and not some other girl? Do you ever wonder what she was doing when the angel appeared to her? Did she have any idea what was about to come? Did she have a sense of something great looming on her horizon?

Because what was looming on her horizon was the greatest thing to ever loom on anyone’s horizon. That moment in time changed time, not only Mary but all of us and for all time. There had never been a moment just like before and there hasn’t been one since. 

I doubt Mary had any idea what was really happening and what it would mean to her and to all of us for all time. Did she think that two thousand years ago her story would be told? 

What happened to Mary changed not only her life, but He changed mine too. That moment in time changed the trajectory of the world. 

…And we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

For a brief moment, human eyes beheld the God who created the universe. The Most Holy God was clothed in the flesh of man, birthed by an ordinary girl. 

True Confessions

Something someone said, or didn’t say, or did or didn’t do, hurt my feelings and made me a bit mad. It hit me in just the wrong spot. The spot where a stronghold lives…still. 

And I was all up in arms. I was armed and ready to let them have it. My tongue was sarcastic, and acid dripped from every syllable of every word that I drug out as long as a I possibly could. In my mind. Because you see, sometimes I rehearse what I’ll say while I rehash their evil deeds so I’m justified in my hateful behavior. 

For the life of me I cannot remember what was said/not said, done/not done to me to get me all riled up with death on my heart. I can’t even remember who had me so angry I mentally treated them as if I wanted them dead.  

This is what happens to us and in us when our strongholds are bumped, or body slammed. We want to wish death on the offending party. That is what anger is. Don’t believe me? Take a gander at Matthew 5.

‘You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court, and whoever shall say to his brother ‘Raca’ shall be guilty before the supreme court, and whoever shall say, ‘You fool’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”

Matthew 5:21-22

Suddenly we’re looking at strongholds in a whole new light, aren’t we? Suddenly they aren’t quite so cozy, are they? We need to stop making friends with them and take them to the cross. That is where we’ll find the healing we so desperately want, need, and search for.

The cross. The cross stands in staunch opposition to all strongholds and all of life, and the way things are. The way we are. It stands in a fixed moment in time for all time– 

For all of us.

But it stands. It doesn’t chase us down, it doesn’t run us down. It doesn’t run from us because we’re too evil. It stands and it is we that must run to it. Run with our backpacks and bags full of our garbage. We must run to it as fast as our sinful legs will allow us to run, and there in it’s shade we must fall to our knees, embrace the cross of suffering and say, “I’m all in because I’m all done. I’m giving in because I give up. Please take these bags, and the pack I’m carrying. Renew me, remake me into Your image.”  

Then we rise clothed, not in the dirty rags of a beggar, a sinner, but in the spotless robes of His righteousness, His holiness, His blamelessness. 

The cross stands in staunch opposition to all we were and we thought we had to be. The “Hound of Heaven” does not, and will not, chase us down alleyways and streets to beat us into submission with His cross. His cross is not our punishment–it is the proof of payment made for our sins. It is stamped “Paid In Full” because Jesus took all our sins and He became them on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21), all so He could pay our debt to God. 

The cross of Jesus is the most loving torture device ever conceived of by man. What man meant for evil–in making the cross–God meant for good. The weight of our suffering post-cross experience is nothing compared to the suffering we wallowed in pre-cross. Before we suffered without help and without hope. After we have both help and hope in our sufferings. 

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

So when things make your heart go thump in the night, and make you angrier than a wet hen, just stop. Stop and pray, “Jesus, is there any stronghold that is being bumped?” I can speak from personal experience of His complete faithfulness to reveal and heal it. But you have to run TO Him with the hurt. 

Taking The Guesswork out of the Will of God

It’s a few days before Thanksgiving. The day we in America set aside to remember our roots and to give thanks for all we have, all we’ve been through, and all we will go through. Many here no longer believe it’s right to celebrate the original meaning of the day and I’m certainly not here to debate it. If you want to debate the whole topic, get your own blog and debate away. For the purposes of this post, I’m simply going to say we should willing jump at the chance to spend one day in reflection and be thankful for all we have. My nation is a blessed nation. 

Personally speaking I have a lot to be thankful for, I have been blessed abundantly more than I could ever hope to deserve. My greatest blessing is life in Jesus. I am alive because of Him and only because of Him and His life lived out for me. 

When I sit back and reflect on my life, I am amazed at His faithfulness, His grace. He is not just in my life; He is not just a part of my life. He IS my life.  Even just sitting here, as the winter sun is setting out my window, reflecting on Him, I feel the quick sting of tears. 

When I was a little girl, I never dreamed about what I wanted to be, because I never thought I would live to be ten. Why waste time dreaming when surviving was more important? But when I allowed myself a few stolen moments to think what I would want to be if I lived to adulthood, a crybaby never made the cut. I never had the aspirations of being a crybaby, but here I am. A crybaby. But I’m His crybaby. 

A few days ago I was chatting about the will of God, what it was, how we could find it, know what it is.  The will of God was honestly not something I had ever spent a lot of time thinking about.  And even less time trying to figure out what His will for me was. I didn’t concern myself with following His will. 

Most of my life it was out of ignorance and selfishness. I really didn’t care all that much what His will for me was, I was sure it was nothing good and nothing I would ever want.

In the chat I realized one thing. My view of God’s will has changed dramatically over the past couple of years. It’s not something I sat down and studied out. I didn’t study verses pertaining to the will of God, I didn’t look them up in the Hebrew and Greek to see what was originally meant by those words. I didn’t read commentaries on the subject. 

I simply surrendered. Sounds intrinsically simple and it kind of is. 
I used to think if I only delighted in Him, whatever my heart wanted He would be obligated to give me. I mean, that’s what it says right? At one point I matured enough to know I could not claim to delight in Him just to get what my heart desired. 

” Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of  your heart.” 

Psalm 37:4

My thinking was skewed. No, it wasn’t skewed, it was wrong. As we walk surrendered to Him and in Him, He becomes our delight. In this His will becomes our desire. 

It is only when we surrender ourselves fully to Him that we find the answer to His will.  At the risk of sounding crazy (and really when has that risk ever stopped me before?), let me say, I don’t “follow” His will. I live surrendered to Him. Do I mis-hear Him? Yes. Do I misunderstand Him? Yes. But His will is not some some cosmic game of hide and seek. 

He is not sitting up there in heaven with a rubber mallet just waiting for us to pick the wrong door in trying to discern His will for our lives. He isn’t going to bop us on the head when we mess up. He isn’t waiting to zap us with lightning for choosing the wrong door. 

Because we don’t choose it! He is THE door! He knows exactly what He wants me to be for Him. I don’t have to worry and fret about it for one second. Do I have a lot of options? Maybe. I’m not that talented so probably not actually. But it’s not up to me to figure it out and then do it. 

The only thing I can do, is surrender. I die to self, I deny myself and He lives in me, working for His good pleasure. His will? He puts that desire on my heart.

We are so quick to see and believe that Jesus is some cosmic killjoy. Just waiting for us to want something so He can pounce on us and say, “NO! You got it wrong again!” He’s not like that! He is faithful to teach and prepare us for His will.

Please know, I struggle like everyone else. Surrender and trust, both are a must if we’re going to obey Him, are not at all easy for me. I can honestly say, however, that I am fully engaged because I’m fully surrendered.

We have cleaned my filter and I’m hearing His voice. It has been a long, long process to come to this point. The past 2.5 years have been hard as a lot of heart work has been done as He has worked in me to bring to the place of a full-nothing-held-back surrender. 

Please hear me, I have not arrived with Jesus and He does not owe me anything. There is something so sweet about our relationship now that I would not trade for anything. I didn’t have this sweetness of relationship before when I was trying so dang hard to please Him, to do everything right, to walk in His will, be perfect, my life was a wreck. He has freed me from so much self and self-effort. 

Maybe you’re like I was, striving, straining, trying so dang hard to be all we think we’re supposed to be. We think we have to delight ourselves in Him by our own force of will. We can’t. His life isn’t about straining to please Him. It isn’t about picking the right door, the right job, the right vocation. 

His life is simply about being His. 

So surrender yourself to Him.

Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him and He will do it. 

Psalm 37:5

Strongholds and hard hearts

We all have strongholds. There is not a person alive who does not have strongholds. Whether or not we ever choose to acknowledge them or invite Jesus in to speak into our strongholds and set us free, we all have them. 

Mine are no worse than yours. And yours are no worse than mine. They all stem from sin. Every sin we commit comes straight from a stronghold. 

Remember all strongholds are lies. And we believe them. We choose to believe them over the truth of Jesus. All sin comes straight from our strongholds and all sin comes from and causes a hard heart. 

Strongholds harden our hearts against hearing the voice of Jesus. Strongholds keep us from hearing and obeying Him. We don’t, won’t and don’t want to hear His voice. 

I was reading the story of Moses before Pharaoh in Exodus 7:13-14. These verses say much the same thing, so you know it’s important to note that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. We know from this story that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart so His wonders, His power could be seen clearly. The Lord did this according to His will and purpose. It was for, according to and fit His plan. 

In my studying I began wondering what else causes a hard heart.  Jesus, ever faithful to speak to our hearts, directed my thoughts to see that our hearts are hardened because of the following:

  • Sin hardens our heart away from the things of Jesus.
  • A lack of trust. We don’t trust Him to know what He is doing. So we harden our hearts against His life in us. 
  • Pride. We think we don’t really need Him because we know better. We believe we’re smarter than Jesus.

Strongholds harden our hearts and they exchange the truth of God for a lie. (Romans 1:25). When we operate in our strongholds and hold tightly to them, we worship and serve the creature more than the Creator. (Romans 1:25)

Strongholds allow us to know God, but not to honor Him as God. Strongholds put us firmly in the driver’s seat and there is very little room for God in our lives. (One could say in this instance, very  little equals none.) We honor Him as best we can when the strongholds are not being pushed, but when they are, out goes the honor and in comes the anger and the futility of our speculations. Our heart gets a little darker and harder. 

We soon deem Christianity and Jesus a failure. We still go to church, we’re still doing the “right things” because “it’s the right thing to do”, and we hope it will all pass. We love the verses that say, “and it came to pass” and we cling to that while we shove every hurt down deep because “real Christians don’t do that, don’t feel that”. And we’re baptized in pickle juice. Because all of life hurts. And we’re sure we’ve missed the boat on the whole Jesus thing. Because life isn’t pain-free and easy.

This is not freedom! Freedom is taking all those heart and soul hurts to the cross of Jesus. Freedom is digging deep to find the lies we’re believing, asking Jesus to come and speak His life-giving, life-sustaining truth into the hurt, the lie. It is His voice alone that shatters the strongholds and sets us free to be who He created us to be and find our identity in Jesus. 

We don’t have to chant or memorize identity statements and declarations every day. We don’t have to try so hard. We don’t have to work and wonder. We don’t have to keep trying to fix ourselves and remember verses about who we are. We don’t have to slap half-believed Bible verses about who we are over our pain.

We get to run to Him with it. He is so faithful to speak truth to it and then we have the abundant, full life He promised. 

It is possible for someone to know God and choose not to honor Him as God and refuse to give thanks.This leads to a hardened-foolish heart and all our speculations become futile.

To not honor someone is to treat them as common. When we do not honor God we do not make Him glorious. We treat Him as common, we bring Him down to our level. 

In essence, we become our own god. To persist in this, hardens our heart, makes our thoughts worthless. 

We exchange His glory for our own. And He won’t share His glory with anyone. 

So, dear reader, take your hurts to His cross, confess them. Admit the lies you’ve believed about Him and allow Him to whisper His truth to your soul. 

As always, your comments are welcome. If you would rather not use the comment sections of this blog, you are free to email me. Simply use the Contact Me! link at the top. If you need help understanding strongholds more, or need prayer, feel free to contact me! I would love to help you!

Strongholds and Filters

We’re skating through life easy-peasy. Everything is great. We’re happy, maybe laughing, smiling when some very nice person cuts us off in traffic. Or we have a difficult conversation with our boss. Or we have an argument with our spouse. Or a friend betrays us. They say or do something that knocks the breath out of our lungs. 

Either intentionally or unintentionally our feelings get hurt, and we’re left reeling. We wonder what just happened and how can we make sure it doesn’t happen again. We contemplate retaliation and we begin looking for voodoo dolls before we remember we don’t practice voodoo.  

We wonder if anyone got the license number of the bus that hit us. We feel we’re left alone, bleeding out in the street of life. And no one seems to care. We try to pray but nothing happens. We chant truths in our minds hoping it makes it feel better but all we feel is pain. The heavens are silent. Our hearts hurt. Our spirit recoils. Our mouth opens to spew forth hurt on the one who just hurt us. 

We try to read Scripture to find answers but it’s as if it’s all of a sudden written in Latin, or Hebrew and we can’t understand a word of it. Not a word. It makes no sense. There is no comfort there, no balm in Gilead for our aching soul. 

What on earth is going on? 

A stronghold. That’s what is going on.  A stronghold or fortress of our own making. A stronghold is something we tell believe about ourselves that sounds true but is a lie. These lies cloud our vision and impact our hearing.

These are set in our childhood and are very simple statements of our identity. They are cemented in and reinforced over and over. They color everything about us and how we look at the world. They also teach other people how to treat us. 

Much of what we do and the reason why we do it is based in strongholds. When something happens to hurt us, we react without a second’s hesitation to wonder why. It’s just an automatic response to pain. 

Is there anything that can be done? Are we forced to forever live in the grip of a stronghold? Must life always hurt like this? 

No! We don’t have to always live like this and life doesn’t always have to hurt. We can find healing of our strongholds in Jesus! 

When we identify the stronghold. When we identify the lie we’ve believed about ourselves and about Jesus, and we confess it. When we go to Jesus, press into Him and ask Him to come, speak into the stronghold and set us free. He is so faithful to do just that. 

As someone who would begin each day chanting an Identity Declaration, would read aloud who I am in Jesus, and still suffered at the hands of others all the time, take it from me, slapping a band-aid over the gaping wound of life doesn’t help! We can spout, chant, espouse truth all we want but when arrows fly, all bets are off. 

Why doesn’t that work? One would think if we just knew the truth, we’d be okay. But that’s the problem. We already know the truth. We know we aren’t stupid, weird, crazy, or whatever we are telling ourselves we are. We know it isn’t true but dang it! It feels true. 

Chanting it until we believe isn’t working for us either. Breaking a stronghold is bigger than we are. Breaking a stronghold takes Jesus speaking into it. 

Without Jesus, we’re simply stuck in the mire of sin; stuck in our strongholds without hope. But when He steps in and speaks directly into the stronghold it’s hold on us shatters and we are free.

Free to enjoy Him. Free to converse with Him. Free to walk with Him. Free to worship Him as He is. Free to walk in and out our new identity. Free to be us. Free to allow others be who they are. 

Not a Failure

Parenting is hard work. It’s easy one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It’s constant, relentless. It’s 24/7.

Between the sleepless newborn nights, the toddler temper tantrums, and the teenage angst, it’s just all hard. There are times of intense joy and equally intense hardships with tears. 

The hard is often compounded by the difficult things our children want. Their expectations of themselves and us can be daunting.  When we are faced with their demands and our own insecurities it is easy to give in to both. We give them what they want so we feel good about ourselves. 

We think that by giving in we will save face. We are so insecure we can’t bear the thought of what a child might do, or how we will look if we don’t give in. 

We are also quick to jump in to save and rescue. We refuse to allow them to fail because we think it will reflect badly on us and our parenting. 

But we need, no, we must allow them to fail. We must tell them they don’t have to be the best at something. We have to allow them to try new things. They need it. 

We must always remind them that failing does not equal being a failure. We must tell them their actions are only their actions, they are not their identity. 

They aren’t ours either. We judge ourselves by our actions, and we wrongly seek our identity in them. We are not what we do.

Just because we fail, or our children fail does not mean we are failures. Because our identity is based in, or found in, or because of what we do. It’s because of WHOSE we are.