About Me

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I'm a wife, a mom, a singer/songwriter, an author, a public speaker, an abolitionist, an encourager & freedom coach, a seminary student, a worship leader, a lover of life and joy, and most importantly, a follower of Jesus Christ.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Morning Meditation: The Heavens Proclaim

"The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world." Psalm 19:1-4 (NLT)

I don't know why these verses are so comforting to me these days.

Life can be so - well - just plain hard. It's often tiring and confusing. This season of our lives has been especially challenging and difficult to make sense of. Thus, it's strangely comforting to know that I can look up and see God's glory. When my eyes are stuck looking down, trying to make sense of life, God challenges me to look up. To look around and see, at all times, God's handiwork.

Without a voice, the heavens proclaim God's glory. The skies display His handiwork. Without words or even sound, God's hand is always evident, even when I don't understand why things are happening a certain way.

My challenge for you this week is short. Ask God to lift up your eyes. What can you thank Him for, even if it's simply the handiwork evident in the skies? Where is He working? How is His glory being shown?

Note to readers: I am currently reading the Life Recovery Bible. This Bible's NLT seems to have slight differences there when compared to the NLT at Biblegateway.com.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Freedom Friday: Responding to God's Discipline

God is doing a work in me
He's walking through my rooms and hails
Checking every corner
Tearing down the unsafe walls
And letting in the light
Sara Groves "Help Me Be New"

I've been practicing living a lifestyle of hearing (mentioned last week). A lifestyle of waiting on God.
"My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning." Psalm 130:6 (NIV1984)

I was hoping through all this waiting and listening to hear some sort of massive revelation about what's next in our lives. Or to catch a glimpse of some grand plan that God has for me.

Instead, what I'm receiving is correction.

I wish I could say my response to correction is always thankfulness and receptive humility. Not usually. Instead, I respond as my children often do to discipline: I alternate between wanting to lash out in anger or denial and trying to hide in shame.

I mostly just mope. It's not fun to have your imperfection revealed to you. Isaiah knows what this feels like.
"It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

It's easy to write, speak and sing about how I desire to be all God wants be to be, how the cry of my heart is to be more like Him, how I want to learn to walk in the fullness of all He created me to be. But the reality of correction is that it's painful and challenging.

When God puts His finger on something in our hearts or lives that needs to be changed, how should we react?

1. Gratitude. God is speaking to us and doing what a good father does: discipline His children. Discipline is not a dirty word. It simply means to disciple or correct. Discipline is how we grow. So we can thank God for caring enough about us to speak to us about things that are keeping us from living in the fullness of who He created us to be.
"If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself;
but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding."
Proverbs 15:32 (NLT)

2. Humility. False humility, overwhelming grief, self-punishment: these are all forms of pride. Pride declares that the cross is not enough. Pride says I must hide in shame, just as in the garden. Pride says I mist somehow punish myself or make up for the fact that I'm not perfect. To punish myself is to deny the cross.
"The punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:5b (NIV1984)
We can choose to accept God's correction without moping or denial, but rather with true humility and thankfulness. True humility exercises our surrendering muscles and declares to God, "You are able to take care of me, to shape me, and I trust You to do just that."
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." 1 Peter 5:6
3. Prayer. We can go to prayer with the thing God has shown us. Sometimes, we need more guidance and direction. Other times, we need His peace to confirm what we've heard. Mainly, I think we just need to experience His love & acceptance in that moment and gather the strength and grace we need in order to accomplish whatever He has asked of us.
"But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

4. Action. Whether the thing God speaks to us requires a simply tweaking or a complete overhaul, we need to act on what He has said. Write it down. Tell a friend. Pray with someone. And act. Hearing and responding to God takes practice. You may not always get it exactly right. Remember that God is a good father. Good, healthy parents never expect their children to be perfect. Their kids are not mocked or shunned for trying to be obedient, but making a mistake. As we try to be obedient to what we thought we heard, God will give us grace and rejoice over our effort.
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11 (NIV1984)

Sarah Groves puts it well in her song:

I am working hard
To clean my house and set it straight
To not let pride get in the way
To catch an eternal vision of
What I am to become

True freedom is learning to walk in the fullness of all God created you to be. We can accept the Lord's discipline with gratitude, humility, prayer and action because He is a good father.

How has the Lord been disciplining you lately? How have you chosen to respond?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Morning Meditation: Search for God's Strength

"Search for the LORD and for his strength;
and keep on searching." Psalm 105:4

What does the Bible have to say about God's strength?

God Himself is our strength (**Scripture references for this section are below). He also arms us with strength, renews our strength and gives us strength. Christ strengthens us to do all things. Our strength comes from God's grace. He gives us strength to do His work and use our gifts to help others. When we are weak, we can be strong in Him.
"Search for the LORD and for his strength;
and keep on searching." Psalm 105:4

The passage implies that God's strength may not always be obvious. It's something that needs to be looked for and sought after continually. I imagine part of that is because we are broken and imperfect people. In the parable of the sower, Jesus talked about how God's message can be "crowded out by the worries of this life." I know I am prone, when I hear an encouraging word from Scripture, to walk away, excited and invigorated about the great God we serve. Then when life bombards me with trials and challenges, I often lose sight of what God has shown me about His character. This is one reason I keep a journal. It serves as a stone of remembrance, a reminder of the things His Word says, and also the words He's spoken to me directly.

Could you use a dose of God's strength today? Ask Him for strength. Remind Him of His promises, some of which are listed above. And search. Keep your eyes open to the creative ways He will provide His strength.

** Scripture references for those characteristics of God & strength: Psalm 46:1, Psalm 18:32, 39, Psalm 23:3, Psalm 29:11, Philippians 4:13, Hebrews 13:9, 1 Timothy 1:13, 1 Peter 4:11, 2 Corinthians 12:10

Note to readers: I am currently reading the Life Recovery Bible. This Bible's NLT seems to have slight differences there when compared to the NLT at Biblegateway.com.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Freedom Friday: Is Jesus All We Need?

I try to share in this blog only the things that God is showing me or things concerning which He's been working in me.

God has been showing me many things lately. Painful things. Ways I desperately need Him. Struggles He wants to free me from that I didn't even know I had.

I try to live a lifestyle of hearing, as Bob Hamp says in one of his video teachings, a lifestyle where I welcome both God's direction and His correction. I'm getting there :)
"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life." Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

One reason I share here is that years ago, God made it clear to me my story is His to use. I am mostly willing. Sometimes, it is more difficult than others (like when I published an article on self-injury) and occasionally in those fleeting moments, I'd much prefer to appear as if I have it all figured out.

Honestly, though, I've tried to live for a long time as if I had it all together, and it's exhausting.

God told me almost 12 years ago that He did not rescue me from so many things so that I would walk around, still ashamed, as if they still have power over me.
"But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, and
I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do." Psalm 73:28

Thus, today, I always try to live my life in an open & authentic way. This is how God has called me, personally, to live.

I wrote about desiring God on Monday, from Psalm 73.

This is something I've been considering for awhile: is Jesus all we need?

God seems to speak to me when I'm driving long distances, alone in my car. Maybe this is because I have time by myself to focus, sing, pray, breath (the life of a mom!).

On a recent road trip, as I was listening to worship music in the car, the singer declared, "All I need is You, Lord." I sang along with gusto and sincerity. I meant what I was saying.

Immediately, I felt a little pang in my heart. God spoke, "Is that really true? Am I really all you need?"

My response was tears. I knew God was putting His finger on an area of my life that needed some serious work.

How often have we thought consciously or acted as if this the following thoughts were true: "If only I had.... If only this situation would resolve.... If only this were different, then I could be at peace.... Then I could be happy and content."

In that moment on that trip, God flashed before my eyes all the things I really thought I need:
A happy life, a great ministry, a thriving career, a fantastic marriage, a new personal record on my next race, more money, more time, more sleep, more......

The reality is I have many of those things. God has blessed me in ways that a decade ago, I couldn't even have imagined. But I can be so short-sighted. I get tunnel vision. I fixate on the few things that aren't exactly how I hoped they would be and completely lose sight of all the amazing gifts God has placed in my lap.

God challenged me in that moment, "Do you really need all of those things in order to feel content? Or do you just need me?"
"Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth." Psalm 73:25

This is a bit of tricky territory because it's not quite as cut & dry as "All I need is Jesus." This is a half-truth that has been spread by the church and has actually perpetuated much hurt and unhealth.

I strongly believe healing happens in the context of community. I preach & live James 5:16, that we must confess our sins and pray for one another, so that we may be healed.

Well, that's not just Jesus, right? The Bible tells us in James & many other places that we need other people, not just Jesus.

This is true. God also made us so that we require water, food and oxygen to live.

The heart of the question God asked me in that moment was really: "Am I really all you need in order to live a contented life? Or are you waiting for all these other things to come to fruition in order to have joy and fulfillment?"
"My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever." Psalm 73:26
I want God alone to be the strength of my heart. To be my contentment and joy. When I look to other things to fulfill me, I start to get bitter. Entitled. Envious. When I look to Jesus to fulfill me, I am able to recognize just how blessed I already am. In that way, He is the heart of all I need.

Is Jesus all you need in order to have contentment and joy? Is He the heart of your desires?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday Morning Meditation: Desiring God

Do you ever read something in Scripture that really gives you pause?

I wish it happened more frequently. I'm sure the infrequency of this has much more to do with me than with God. I sit down to read, simply going through the motions, not really stopping to consider what God might be speaking or what I might be hearing. Sure, I keep my journal close, but often my Bible reading is just something I need to check off my "To Do" list.

In any event, I was reading Psalm 73 recently, a psalm I know fairly well, when the words gave me pause.
"Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth." Psalm 73:25

The psalmist goes on:
"My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever." Psalm 73:26

Do I really desire God more than anything on earth? Wow. I don't know if I can say that. It's a nice sentiment, but I'd be pretty upset if my health failed. I think about how frustrated I'd be if I had to stop running for some reason. This may seem silly to some of you, but all the runners just shouted "Amen!" Running literally keeps me sane. It helps me to release anger, to think clearly, even to connect with God.

If I had to stop running, would God show Himself as the strength of my heart?

On Freedom Friday this week, the post will be "Is Jesus All We Need?" and I will expound on this a bit. Until then, I encourage you to reflect on the scriptures quoted here. And pray with me, "God, heal my heart so that I desire You more than anything."

"Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever." Psalm 73:25-26

Note to readers: I am currently reading the Life Recovery Bible. The NLT seems to have slight differences there when compared to the NLT at Biblegateway.com.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Freedom Friday: The Promise of Suffering

"Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world." 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NLT), emphasis mine

I wrote about the power of the cross this past Freedom Friday. I wanted to talk a bit more about the promise of suffering.

We often think we are doing something wrong when we experience lots of trials, suffering & temptation. I spoke about the reality of lifelong temptation in this post. We're also promised trials, as we can see in these verses. But why are we also guaranteed to experience suffering?
"For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps." 1 Peter 2:21 (NLT)

"So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you." 1 Peter 4:19 (NLT)
Peter reminds us that suffering should not be a surprise. There is no promise in Christianity that if we believe in Jesus, life will always be easy and pain-free. Quite the opposite. The promise instead that we receive is that God will carry us through our suffering, if we allow Him to.

If we are to truly know God, we must also truly know suffering.

"For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later." Romans 8:16-18 (NLT)
Remember also you have a choice in how you respond to suffering. You could respond with bitter and angry fist-shaking toward heaven, asking how a good God could allow such heartache. God can handle it if you do respond that way. Or we can respond as Jesus responded. "God, if there is any other way, take this cup from me...but not as I will, rather according to Your will." Or we can allow our suffering to drive us to God.

We will likely never suffer to the point of dying on a cross. In the midst of my trials, I can look at the cross and say to God, "You did that for me? Then, I will cling to You and, as Peter said, trust my life to the One who created me."

As we continue to reflect on Good Friday and Easter, let us also reflect on the life of Christ. Let us continue to consider the cross and how to live a life that reflects its resurrection power.

I want to close with this passage. Consider Paul's words, life & example, as he considered all things to be garbage compared to knowing Jesus, even in His sufferings.
"I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.

"I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!" Philippians 3:6-11
Read the rest of the passage here.

Note to readers: I am currently reading the Life Recovery Bible. The NLT seems to have slight differences there when compared to the NLT at Biblegateway.com.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday Morning Meditation: My Hope Is In Him

I wrote on Friday about the power of the cross. I see in the cross how to surrender, how to forgive, and how to be victorious. I can grasp on to those things.

And yet, I still struggle: how do I appropriately respond to all that Jesus did for me?
"Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him." Psalm 62:5 (NLT)
My response is to wait. My response is to humble myself and quiet myself before Him.

The cross reminds me to trust. My hope is in the God who hung from the cross and died. My hope is in the One who could not be contained in a tomb. My hope is in the Healer who cleansed lepers and cast out demons. My hope is in the Savior who purchased abundant life for me. My hope is in the Freedom Giver who set the captives loose from their chains.

This is not some "wishing on a star."

It's secure. It's real. I can look at the cross and recognize, "If God can do that, He can do anything."
"Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him." Psalm 62:5 (NLT)
How can you continue to reflect on the cross? Wait quietly before Him. Let Him speak to your heart. Let Him be your hope.

Note to readers: I am currently reading the Life Recovery Bible. The NLT seems to have slight differences there when compared to the NLT at Biblegateway.com.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Freedom Friday: The Power of the Cross

This the pow'r of the cross
Christ became sin for us
Took the blame, bore the wrath
We stand forgiven at the cross

I sang this song the other night at a gathering. Since then, I've been asking myself: what is the power of the cross?

Here are a few thoughts as we celebrate and mourn on this Good Friday.

The power of the cross is:

1. Surrender
The power of the cross is Jesus' perfect picture of surrender.

Here are some excerpts of Matthew 26:38-46, as Jesus wrestles with the path before Him.

38 Then he said to [Peter, James and John], “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
46 "Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

After praying those three times, Jesus gets up to meet His fate. He chooses to trust God, and surrenders to the very reason and purpose God sent Him to earth.

Isaiah 53:10 states "Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand." NIV1984

God's will to crush Him? To cause Him to suffer?

Yes. Sometimes, suffering is God's will, and this was true for Jesus. So that we could be reconcile to God and reconnected to our power source.

And Jesus surrendered to that will.

"Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Philippians 2:8 (NASB)

True surrender requires complete submission to whatever God has for us. We can't hold certain things too tightly and try & live in a state of surrender to God. He wants it all.

True surrender is yielding oneself completely to God's power and control. It's saying, "God, You created me, You have a plan for me, and You alone know what's best for me. Have Your way in my life."
Oh to see the dawn of the darkest day
Christ on the road to Calvary
Tried by sinful men torn and beaten then
Nailed to a cross of wood

It's a declaration of God's faithfulness and trustworthiness. The power of the cross thus is Jesus' example and demonstration of perfect surrender.

2. Forgiveness
The power of the cross is total, finished forgiveness.

Jesus said to His disciples at the Last Supper about the cup he offered to them: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." Matthew 26:28 (NIV1984)

Colossians 2:13 (NLT) states, "You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins." I've always loved the way the NASB puts verse 14: "having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."

Our certificate of debt was nailed to the cross! It has been forgiven, once and for all. We have been forgiven, and thus we can forgive.

In the New Testament, the most common word translated as forgiveness means, literally, to release, to hurl away, to free yourself.

I've heard it said that forgiveness is like releasing someone from prison, only to realize the person in prison was you. Unforgiveness can keep us locked in a cell of resentment, pain and bitterness.

Forgiveness is a complicated topic in some ways. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean that we reconcile and continue a relationship with the person who needs to be forgiven; that's not always a healthy choice. Forgiveness simply means we extend to that person the love of Christ by no longer holding their sins against them in our hearts.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 (NIV1984)

Oh to see the pain written on Your face
Bearing the awesome weight of sin
Ev'ry bitter thought ev'ry evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow

The power of the cross is undeserved forgiveness.

3. Victory
Finally, the power of the cross is ultimate victory.

Now the daylight flees now the ground beneath
Quakes as its maker bows His head
Curtain torn in two dead are raised to life
Finished the vict'ry cry

"The prince of this world now stands condemned." John 16:11b

"For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God." 1 John 5:4-5 (NLT)

Life can sometimes feel like one defeat after another. We seem to hit obstacle after obstacle, trial after trial. The power of the cross is the reminder that in the end, God always wins.

Jesus said, "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (NLT)

Ultimately, the power of the cross is the power to defeat sin and death. It's a declaration that God wins every time. It's a symbolic representation of what God is able to accomplish.

The empty cross declares - is anything too big for God?

Oh to see my name written in the wounds
For through Your suff'ring I am free
Death is crushed to death life is mine to live
Won through Your selfless love

"For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins." Colossians 1:13-14 (NLT)

Jesus purchased our freedom. He won our victory. He bought our forgiveness. And he perfected surrender.

Have you embraced the power of the cross?

This the pow'r of the cross
Son of God slain for us
What a love what a cost
We stand forgiven at the cross

All songs lyrics are quoted from "The Power Of The Cross" by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend, © 2005 Thankyou Music

Note: It may seem strange to have a decorative cross as the image for this post. Personally, I struggle with the images we have created, of what we think the cross may have looked like. Since this cross was made and given to me this week by a dear friend, I decided it was just as appropriate as the images generally used.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday Morning Meditation: Carried in God's Arms

"Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms." Psalm 68:19 (NLT)
Have you ever tried to carry someone who didn't want to be carried? All the parents of children just said, "Yes!" Not only does my two year old sometimes run from me when I need him to do something, he melts into a 37 pound, thrashing, screaming mess when I catch up to Him and try to get him into my arms.

Are you trying to carry yourself into this week? Or running in the other direction at its mention?

The above verse tells us that God desires to carry us every day. But we have to let Him.
"Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes." Isaiah 40:11 (NASB)
A few months ago, the Lord put a thought in my head that I've mentioned before: "If the burden is too heavy, then it's not mine to carry."

Sometimes, *I* am the burden that I try to carry. I become a burden to myself when I attempt to carry and sustain myself. It was never in God's design for me to be my own carry-er! That was always meant to be God's job.

Much of Christendom is celebrating Holy Week for the next seven days, the week we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. Let Jesus' words speak to us afresh today:
"Then Jesus said, 'Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.'" Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)
Let God carry you today and every day, as we remember how He carried the weight of our sin on His shoulders, so that we might have life and life to the full.

Note to readers: I am currently reading the Life Recovery Bible. The NLT seems to have slight differences there when compared to the NLT at Biblegateway.com.