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 Book Reviews, Life as it happens.

Counseling Under the Cross by Bob Kellemen {A Review}

My first experience with counseling was as a young teenager. That counselor was a lifeline of Jesus to my soul. I saw Jesus in him and his relationship with Jesus drew me like a moth to a flame.  So much of who I am now and the path I’m following is a very direct result of his influence on my life. He showed me a different way to live, a different life and I am so thankful for his careful care and concern. He is one of the very precious Jesus grace-gifts of my life.

As a direct result of his influence in my life, I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. I wanted to be a Christian counselor, I have wanted to help others the way he helped me. I want to point others to Jesus, to be a beacon of light in someone else’s darkness. I have wanted to be used to draw others to the flame of Jesus until they can, like I do, dance in His Holy Fire.

Because of all this, I am still drawn to books about counseling or by counselors. When I find a book by a counselor on the topic of being a better counselor I am giddy. You can imagine my immense giddiness when I received an email from Litfuse about Dr. Bob Kellemen‘s book, Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther applied the Gospel to daily Living.  I didn’t hesitate, I didn’t think twice, I immediately clicked “Review This book”.

20170918_152631In Counseling Under the Cross, Kellemen teaches counselors to counsel the way Martin Luther counseled..under the cross and with the full gospel. Kellemen has divided the book into two sections. The first section is to get us acquainted with Martin Luther before Jesus gripped his heart. He lived in constant fear of the anger and wrath of God. He would spend hours confessing every known sin in his life. Martin Luther saw God, not as a good Father, but as a righteous and vindictive Judge.

And that is where chapter one ends. And where chapter two begins. Martin Luther went through a metamorphosis of ginormous proportions. He moved from seeing God only as wrathful to seeing God as his loving and kind Father.

This transformation not only changed Luther’s relationship with Jesus, it changed how he related to Jesus and to those people under his care.  His new freedom in Jesus drove him to share it with others.

Chapters 3-11 talk about how Martin used his freedom in Jesus to minister to others.  He used a cross-shaped method of counseling:

  • Sustaining,
  • Healing,
  • Reconciling, and
  • Guiding

Kellemen shares Luther’s theology and methodology of each one. He shares through letters Martin wrote to those he was helping, his table talks, and other writings.  Kellemen writes in such a way the reader really sees the heart of Martin Luther for all believer, but especially those who were hurting.

This book should be on the Must-Read list of every Christian counselor and/or pastor, as well anyone who has a heart to bring health and healing to the hurting in Jesus. 

What did I like about the book? In short, everything. Bob Kellemen wrote in a manner that drew me in deeper with every page. I had to read it with a highlighter in my hand because there is just so much good!

Bob Kellemen also wrote in a way that opened my eyes to circumstances I’ve experienced personally. I had many personal a-ha moments. So while this book is written for those in the role of counselor, anyone could read it and benefit greatly.

What didn’t I like about the book? From the introduction when Kellemen would quote someone, he only used their last name. I know this is nit-picky of me, but I would rather have the author’s full name at least the first time he is cited.

I also wish he had capitalized pronouns referring to Jesus.

A few of my favorite quotes:

When life stinks, our perspective shrinks.

When the devil casts up to us our sin, and declares us worthy of death and hell, we must say, “I confess I am worthy of death and hell. What more have you to say?” “Then you will be lost forever!” “Not in the least: for I know One who suffered for me and made satisfaction for my sins and His Name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. So long as He shall live, I shall live also.”

The Spirit empowers us to live out who we already are in Christ.

Faith activates love.

You who are so pugnacious in everything else, fight against yourself!

I give this book 10 out of 5 turning pages. Yes! It is that good!

I received a free copy of this book from Litfuse for the purpose of review. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

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 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.

All the Runners Run

Boy that is profound, isn’t it? All the runners run. Duh. That’s why they’re runners.

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I’ve long been a runner. Not always physically, but I’m a runner nonetheless. All of my life I kept running. Running from the boogey man, from pain, from fears, from people, from love, from Jesus.

Almost ten years ago I also started running physically. What great bringing together of the inside and outside of my life. Run away on the inside, run away on the outside.

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I recently spent a glorious week in beautiful Blue Springs, Missouri. We used to always joke that Missouri was really spelling M-I-S-E-R-Y. This week was anything but misery.  I was attending a rather intensive retreat and Jesus exploded all over this woman.

By all over, I really mean All. Over. Completely.

My prayer going into the retreat was that Jesus would ruin me for life as normal. That I would  have zero desire to ever back to what my life had been like. He completely undid me!

I will never, ever forget my time there. I will never forget what He told me there. I will never forget the pictures He gave me.

I am ruined. Forever ruined by Him and for Him.

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If you were to zoom in on my necklace in the picture above you would find the pendant is a stick figure of a runner. Very much indicative of my life to date. I wore it with happiness.

Happiness but not joy.

I had been home for a just a couple of days at the most when I was putting the necklace back on one morning when I heard Jesus speak to my soul.

That isn’t who you are any longer. Throw it away. 

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I held it in my hands, looking at it. And again I heard Him speak,

That isn’t who you are any longer. Throw it away. 

My soul reacted with joyful abandonment. And I threw the necklace in the trash. I have been completely set free from my running from everything.

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Everything.

I still run. It just looks different now. Instead of running from, I run to. I run to Him. I run to life. I run to love. I run to joy. I run to friendships. I run and when I run I feel His pleasure.

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Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens., Photography

Clearing Out The Old

One of my favorite parts about spring and summer is not the heat, although I do love that. I love yard work.

Strange. I know. But it’s true. I go a little nuts on my yard and working in it. I love tending my flowers, plotting and planning where to put more and what kinds I want. I love getting out, walking behind my mower and  using my weed whacker.

My favorite things.

I’d really rather spray weed killer, or use a good weed and feed than spend any time pulling weeds. Why pull them when you can kill them dead right in their tracks? I mean really!

 

I was recently gone for a week….oh it was a glorious week! Jesus lived large, loud and out-loud. He was so very present. A friend of mine has what he calls “EO” or eating orgasm. (I know…I know…I know), I have adapted that somewhat and will often now exclaim, “JO! JO! JO!” Not as a name, Jo, but “Jay Oh!” Because He blesses me.

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This morning was just such a time.  I spent time mowing, pruning my flowers, and just general yard work. 20170609_063710

I love spending time outside with Jesus. He is always so faithful to speak and focus my thoughts on Him and His very goodness and very God-ness.

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This morning I noticed the ugly part of my yard really needed some attention. And by some attention I really mean a LOT of attention. It is ugly. No grass at all, it’s choked with weeds. There are no pretty flowers and really it’s just an eyesore. Our old broken trampoline is there, broken and fallen branches clutter the top.

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Today was the day to mow that area.  I started in and it was hard going. It seemed every large tree branch from 5 counties was in that small, postage stamp sized area.  My mower was wanting to stop with each step I took it. I was determined to win the battle though and persevered.

Pushing my way through when Jesus spoke. “You know, this is a lot like your life. It’s full of weeds, things you have believed to be true that just aren’t. Now we’re working through these, and it’s hard going.”

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“We’ll have to stop every so often while we pick up broken branches. Some of the weeds will just bend with the mower, so we’ll have to go back over them from another direction to clear the area.”

I was listening, taking it all in. I stopped to move the branches, the broken fence posts, praying for a heart that is willing to do the hard work to believe the truth that so often feels and sounds like a lie.

Isn’t that funny. We listen to and believe lies so much the truth sounds like a lie. We exchange the TRUTH of God for a lie and that makes the lie true and the truth a lie.

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Our choice makes the truth a lie. 

Yeah, you try that on for a pair of moments. Just by believing a lie, you’re making the truth a lie and a lie the truth.

Now that’s crazy talk!

When I willing choose to believe a lie from the enemy, either the devil himself or my own flesh, I do his job for him.

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And you know what?

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I’m done helping him out. 

I’m so done helping him. My life might look barren, dry and full of prickly weeds, but it’s not for long.

Not long at all.

You see I have a dream. A passion. A desire to join with the Master Gardener and work to weed out the garden of my soul. He has plans to break up the hard soil, prepare it with compost, and then plant grass.

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He’ll landscape it with flowers, a bench, and a fire pit. Where we’ll sit and share our thoughts of the day, both at the beginning and the ending.  Just Him and I.

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And we’ll revel in the new found freedom I have.

I’ll call Him my Lord, my Daddy. He’ll call me His little peony.

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

Prayers for a Simpler Life by Faith Sommers {A Review}

20170316_150123Prayers for a Simpler Life by Faith Sommers is a PlainSpoken Devotional published by Herald Press. It is a 13 week study how to live a simpler life. This is not a book about decluttering your house.

It is a book about decluttering your life. Each devotional brings to mind a spiritual discipline we should be making a priority in our lives. Each one is based on a chapter in the Word and includes a prayer and thought-provoking, digging deeper question.

Each day takes just minutes to read but you could spend all day meditating on the truths shared. It would even be a great stepping stone to studying for yourself the deeper truths of Scripture.

It would work well as a personal study or with a group.  It does use the King James Version for the Scripture but you are free to use any version you like.

Faith Sommers is a conservative Mennonite mother and wife. She is a columnist for Ladies Journal (a publication for Amish and Mennonite women). Faith is also the mother of 6.

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

 

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