Hope

Choosing to Believe

Step 2: We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 

“For it is God who works in you to will  and to act according to His good purpose.” Philippians 2:13

Today, as I am writing this, friends….no truer words could ever have been spoken. I am so grateful for the first-hand experiences of His power and love. I think we can easily become immune to that, or maybe so comfortable with it that it becomes comfortable and maybe even taken for granted. 

It is dangerous territory to get into a place of comfort. Living there for a minute, probably not a big deal. Staying there, however, can lead to complacency and denial and self-will from my perspective and experience. 

We all tend to want to do what is safe and comfortable. Safe and comfortable is not always wise. Safe and comfortable is not always the place of His will, but our own if we are honest. If I am honest.

What are you choosing to believe in your place of safe and comfortable? Safe and comfortable is a mindset that can either be Satan’s playground or God’s fertile ground. Amen.

Choosing to believe. Those words and that real-life experience and choice has hit me upside the head time and time again. Recently in a very powerful, tangible and real way. 

I fail to live up to my own standards before I open my eyes. Let’s be real, for most of us, before our day even starts we do, say, or think something that is stupid and not of Him. I don’t pretend to be perfect, and the reality is I choose to believe and accept that I am not. 

I also choose to believe that He knew that about all of us long before we ever came into this world. This not-so-safe and highly uncomfortable world. 

I am choosing to believe that none of us are as we should be not as an excuse to justify my weakness, but as an act of choosing to believe in a power greater than myself that will restore me to sanity and quickly, if I allow it.

I know that I choose to stay comfortable and find comfort in the wrong things easily, if I am not seeking God and His will for my life above all things. 

My challenge for myself, and to you, is to examine what you are choosing to believe. 

Do you find yourself in a place of safe and comfortable? Are you truly safe and comfortable, or are you in denial? Do you find yourself growing in faith and belief more when you are in the safe and comfortable place or when you are not? Who is your safety and comfort? Is it Him or someone/something else? 

Hope

Get up and Grow

Somebody besides me needs to know this today: He loves you. He really, really loves you.
 One of my very first life-verses years ago was this one in Romans that says “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rules, nor things present or things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

I have experienced a lot of skinned knees in my lifetime so far. I am sure that there will be other times as well. What I know to be true is that on skinned knees I can still kneel at the foot of the cross.

Ever had one of those moments or days where you keep hearing cute little sayings, quotations, motivational thoughts and even scripture where you just go “yeah, yeah, yeah” and sort of blow it off? Me too. 

What about the days where you HEAR them and you go, “YES! YES! YES” and brace yourself for impact? It’s these moments that bring me to my knees and also invite me to get up and grow. 

 There was a time when my mistakes or choices defined me; where I took on the brunt of the pain and responsibility for other people’s mistakes or choices as well. Then Jesus, and recovery and intentional choosing to not get caught up in the shit show of lies bouncing around in my head happened.

I have a tendency to overcompensate for just about everything, if I am honest. That used to be a coping mechanism used to avoid rejection, to avoid feeling anything and to avoid vulnerability. So when the opportunity comes up, I still once in a while find myself holding myself super-super-accountable to the point of self-sabotage. And then, I hear myself and the words of encouragement I share with other people about saying things like, “When are you going to give yourself some grace in this?” or “When are you going to forgive yourself for this?” and I am reminded.

Failure is not final. Falling down is not a sentence. Grace wins if we allow it. It’s not wise to sweep things under the rug, but once it is out from under the rug there’s no reason to keep beating the dust out of the rug. 

I consider myself to be mostly self-aware and also humble enough to know the difference when God puts me in a place to remember that on skinned knees I can kneel at the foot of the cross and still choose to get up and grow. 

At first light this morning, God continued to pursue me relentlessly to a point of wanting to scream at Him to stop loving me. That’s absurd, but it is what I was thinking. Him lavishing you and I with love is all He wants to do. 

So, wherever you are today, let me remind you of one other thing that I have to remind myself way more often than I thought I would ever need to: Repairing the damage starts in our own heads and hearts. Making amends will help. Self-loathing will not. 

Get up and grow, people. He loves you. He really, really loves you. 

Hope

Affirmed

You just never know when life will throw a curveball your way and recently I took a big swing at one. I am not sure, yet if I hit it out of the park or it stayed infield, but I hit the ball. 

I found myself choosing to make a choice instead of outweighing every.single.possible.scenario and to remember that no matter what, He was with me. I talked about it with some of my favorite people and when I did, I felt Him. 

Now, let me just say that I knew that the choice I was making was complex and that it could very well turn out with me asking myself, “Well, how many times are you going to put your hand on a hot stove knowing you get burned.” Instead, I felt empowered to choose and fully aware of the consequences of making a choice either way. I also knew that it could lead to some judgment, shame and rejection. 

Before, I stepped to the plate I chose to reach out and talk about what I was thinking about. I not only talked about it, I prayed about it. And although God did not give me a clear go ahead, what He did give me was “I go with you and there is nothing you could ever do that would make me love you less.” Not permission, but affirmation that He has never walked away from me when I have completely struck out. 

I felt affirmed in His love for me despite my weakness and failures. 

And I chose and I did it. And then I ran through a checklist (mental, emotional, spiritual and physical) to ask myself questions. Nowhere in that checklist was, “Why did you do that? You  know better?” and nowhere in that was, “You should probably not tell anyone about this.” 

The beautiful thing is that I am not attached to shame for this choice or any of the other previous choices or any of the probable poor choices I will most likely make at some point in my life again. Am I proud? No. Am I full of shame and self-loathing? Also no. 

When you break free of shame, and instead feel convicted you tend to do the next right thing. I did that. I did not hide. I did not pretend I didn’t do it and I most certainly did not put myself into a shame cycle. I made a choice and now I choose to live with the outcome. I cannot claim victimhood when I am the one who chose to swing the bat. 

I talked about it with the same trusted friends. And you know what, once again affirmed. Not necessarily affirmed in the choice, but affirmed in not only His love for me but their love for me. Graciously speaking the truth in love and loving me where I am. That’s more affirmation than I could ever ask for or deserve. 

But God, He redeems. He loves. And He gives us the opportunity to recognize His hand in everything including the times when we choose something that is not necessarily what He wants for us. 

And although I will still choose to take this one day at a time, I am both humbled and affirmed that I need a Savior, will never live up to my own standards let alone His. Thank you Jesus for your redeeming grace and mercy! 

As much as I am going to fail, with Him, I cannot lose. We win or we learn. With Jesus, we cannot lose. I am affirmed in my choice to be my whole, real, messy self and not hide from the pieces of me that still need work. 

Be good to yourselves today!

Hope

Grace Over Grudge

I’ve been praying on and thinking a lot about forgiveness, my tongue, my thoughts and my actions when it all comes down to it. My own stuff. I have also had numerous conversations recently about the same things. 

Honestly, relationships are difficult but in times like today the difficulty level has been magnified. Admittedly, the issues existed long before THIS happened but for a lot of people it seems that the time has come to face the music. Even though I am not currently in a relationship, I still have time to reflect on my own past behavior and how even in just a normal everyday relationship (work, friendship, whatever) I still need to be aware of my own tendencies and conduct.

Our future destiny, as followers of Jesus, is determined by our present conduct. I want to be characterized by grace, not a grudge. How about you? I want to be characterized by grace for others and grace for myself when I did not and do not always do the right thing. How about you?

1 Peter 3:9 says this: Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were allied so that you may inherit a blessing.

In this scripture, Peter is really telling us to grow up and to not try to earn the blessing that happens when we do, but to instead receive it as our inheritance. It isn’t about the blessing, but the One who does the blessing. The One who extends endless grace time after time, and does not repay insult to Him with insult to us. Read this same scripture in The Message and it becomes plain as day. 

1 Peter 3:9 That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Insead, bless-that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing

Forgiveness is hard when we choose to hold a grudge. Restoration and reconciliation is nearly impossible when we don’t choose grace. Grace doesn’t say that what the other person has done to hurt me is okay. Grace says I will choose to see through eyes of compassion and tender-heartedness even when it hurts. Grace is what I want and expect others to give to me. How about you? 

Sometimes forgiveness happens in an instant supernatural moment, and sometimes it takes years and years and years to be able to forgive. He is right in the middle of both. 

I know I need to do intentional work to grow up in grace. I want to be known by grace, not a grudge.