Category Archives: Relationship with God

DESPERATE FOR GOD

fear-615989__180What drives you to your knees before God? I’m not talking about those times where you find a great chair to sit in, grab your Bible for quiet reading and reflection and begin your prayer time with thanksgiving, praise and worship. I’m talking about when you fly to your knees and the only words that form on your lips are “Oh, God, help me.” For me, those times might include:

*  Bad news–like the night my husband arrived unexpectedly at my office. While always glad to see him, I searched his face trying to figure out why he was there. There was no smile and he said, “I need you to brace yourself, Carol.” There was a pause while my world began to spin and my knees threatened to buckle. He reached out for me and said, “Jason has been in an accident and it doesn’t look good.” There were no words just a desperate mom flying unannounced into the throne room. “Oh, my God, have mercy!”

*  Illness–when the doctors say they don’t have an answer, I fall on my knees before The Healer–my Jehovah Rapha.

*  Financial disaster–job loss, financial crisis–“Oh, Abba Father (daddy), help!”

*  Relationship turmoil–Oh, yes, I’ve worn out a few kneepads for this reason alone. “Oh, God, do you still love me?”

*  Lies and turmoil seem to swirl about you. You don’t know where it’s coming from or what to do about it. The Deceiver has declared it a game day and he is kicking you up and down the field. You want to run under His wings that He might cover you.

*  The doctors tell  you to call in the family. God’s will doesn’t appear to align with yours and your emotions crumble as you try to find a way to understand and accept His sovereignty.

*  Sudden peril–your life hangs in the balances.

*  When I don’t know which way to turn–where to go next.

Scripture has been my only source for comfort in these times for there were men and women in the Bible who went through these types of circumstances. And through it all, we see God’s faithfulness. And I cling to that thread. Throughout my life, He has never failed me yet and so my thread has become a strong cord. It’s all I have in these times. For example:

*  Bad news–The father who had gone to Jesus to seek His help with his child’s illness, but receives the message from his servants that there is no need to bother the Master because his child has died. Yet the Master steps in and heals and raises her.

*  Illness–The woman who reached out to touch the hem of his garment. He was her last hope. She was so desperate that she couldn’t even face him or find words to plead for her healing–she could only reach out to touch the hem of His garment–and she was made whole.

*  Financial disaster–Oh, poor Job. I don’t think it could get any worse, yet from his lips come profound trust that I’ve clung to on more than one occasion, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” And God stepped in and set everything right.

*  Relationship turmoil–David had his share. Yet he was faithful and honorable. Even though he had the chance to slay King Saul who was trying to kill him, he placed his relationship and ultimate throne/position in God’s hands. And God honored him.

*  Lies and turmoil–Esther and her Uncle Mordecai certainly walked through just such a storm. Oh the lies spun by Hamen–can’t you see him gloating as he weaves his web of deceit and lays his traps for Mordecai. Oh, my God was faithful to turn it all around, and Hamen hung on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.

* The doctors tell you to call in the family. Mary and Martha experienced this type of grief. Jesus was called and came to be with them and He wept. He was moved by their grief. He’s moved by our suffering and the impact that death has on our hearts. Jesus stepped in and resurrected Lazarus, his last recorded miracle. I feel that it was His compassion over our grief, suffered at the hands of death, that paved the way to Calvary.  He chose to walk that road for the glory that was set before Him–His vision of us all gathered together around His throne. So He chose to lay down His life for His friends (us–He calls us friend) to take away our sins and conquer death, hell and the grave once and for all–for us all.

* Sudden peril–While it could be argued that Daniel was also a victim of lies and turmoil, there’s no doubt that when he landed in that den of lions, He and the Lord had a very dramatic conversation. There was no time for flowery words, it was bound to sound something like, “God, NOW would be a good time for you to show up.” And He closed the mouths of the lions.

* When I don’t know which way to turn–where to go next. God told Abraham to to take his family to a place He would show him. So he packed up and left–following God. Later God told him to take his son, Isaac, up to the mountain and offer him as a sacrifice. Abraham didn’t understand. He couldn’t see any way out and was unsure where God was going to take him or what He was going to require of Him. But he took the steps put before Him trusting God that He would lead and direct.  And God provided a lamb.

These stories and passages (and many others) have assured me I’m not the only one who has walked this way of desperation. They also provide me with proof positive that my God hears, knows, understands and will act on my behalf. So I run into my strong tower, His mighty name(s), and ascend the stairs through prayer, where I look out on the battlefield of my life and watch Him fight for me. I feel His reassurance that He is with me and that He is in charge. And in the midst of my storm, there is faith in the One who is Faithful. So I find myself in a unique position–desperate yet at peace.

No matter what you are facing, never hesitate to run to Him in your desperation–His arms are open wide and He is anxious to hear and deliver you.

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PRIDE

book-791884_640PRIDE! It’s that dirty little five-letter word that creeps into your heart, mind and soul and robs you of your self worth. Most of all, it is most often what blocks  our relationship with God. As I deepened my study of wisdom and began to realize it was all about our relationships, it was obvious that the first relationship that must be right in my life was my relationship with God.

Now I’m a Baptist preacher’s daughter and have sat in more pews and heard more sermons than most. I graduated from Bible college at the top of my class, have memorized chapters of Scripture (still not so good with quoting the references). I’ve worked in the church/Christian school, sung in the choir, taught Sunday School for over 50 years, led VBS, hosted missionaries, tithed, been somewhat faithful to prayer and Bible study (I’ve actually worn out a Bible or two), taken bus loads of teens on youth trips and summer camps (which ought to earn me some special reward in heaven), swatted mosquitoes at tent revivals, drunk gallons of sweet tea at church socials and made my share of covered dishes and pies. But when I came face to face with Proverbs 8:13 I had to take out my list of amazing accomplishments that I could wave before heaven and come face to face with the fact that none of that matters. Nope–none of it.

“To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

Instead what I saw was pride. Where had it come from? How had it crept in? As I began to look inside my heart I realized I had a lot of pride. Digging it out seemed hopeless–keeping it out impossible. But if a relationship with God was my true prize, then I had to get down to business with God. Over these past few years God has taken me on a journey to reveal just how much pride is in my heart. We have had to bring it out to the surface and I have had to repent of it. It’s worthless. Even worse–it’s what separates me from Him. He is what I desire. I can honestly say there has been no pride in this effort–it is very humbling. It has been very painful. How and when do we begin to take credit for what God is doing? When do we become self-sufficient instead of solely reliant upon Him? Oh, the deceiver has been busy in my life (and no doubt in yours) because He wants to separate us from our God and to hinder the blessings He has reserved for us.

God is teaching me how to boast and that my boast is found only in Him. Praise God He loves and forgives, He cleans and restores and He uses and rewards. So today I thank Him for His unfailing love (translated as loving kindness in several versions) toward me even though I am a sinner lost and undone. So I rest in and celebrate the fact that He doesn’t discard me because I’ve failed, but instead He has chosen to forgive me.  I praise God for His tender mercies and lovingkindness. I delight in Him and His attributes. Unworthy, yet He has set my feet on the solid rock (Psalm 40:2) and He alone is the lifter of my head (Psalms 3:3).

Jeremiah 9:23

This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
    or the powerful boast in their power,
    or the rich boast in their riches.
But those who wish to boast
    should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
    who demonstrates unfailing love
    and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!

What are you proud of? Be honest–make the list. . .give it to God and let His Spirit speak wisdom to your heart as you begin to recognize your pride.  Then join hands with Him as the Spirit begins to root out your pride.

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THE THRONE ROOM

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When I stand before God each morning in His throne room, it’s a time of transformation. You see, He knows everything about me so there’s no need for facades. I know that He knows (as do I) that I can do nothing apart from Him. So we take out my heart and take a good look at all that is in there: sin, covetousness, insecurity, hurts, frustrations, fear. . .and pride. All things He did not plant there. Things that cause me to act in ways that are not His ways. It becomes obvious that my time has been spent covering up what He and I know is there until I finally come clean before Him and ask His help at cleaning out my heart so He can create in me a new heart–one that mirrors His heart.

This week God has revealed the falseness of pride to me in a new way. So let’s look at some definitions of pride vs. humility. I found these definitions on Askville by Google.

Humility

Humility is true self-knowledge, the good with the bad. It is being able to be comfortable with who you actually are and not trying to pretend to be what you are not. It gives you pride when you have earned it by your talents and accomplishments and shame when you fall short. It accepts that you are far from perfect and keeps striving. It is honest.

False Pride

False pride is presenting yourself to others (and yourself) as something you are not – a man without flaws. Joe Cool, always in the know. The smartest guy in the crowd always and never in doubt. It is pride not earned-style over substance. Not honest.
False pride is trying to seem humble in order to gain the attention of others.

I found it interesting that shame is the result of false pride. Shame is sure to come because we are always going to fall short in our humanity. Oh how the deceiver wants us to believe the opposite is true. Oh the many tentacles of false pride that we each have that wrap themselves around our hearts. I once thought I could be a great wife and mother, church worker/Christian leader, employee–Not so. Even though I gave it my best shot, read the books and tried to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s, I must come face-to-face with my inabilities–my miserable inabilities. In fact, in looking back it is obvious that the more I tried, the harder and longer I worked in my own strength, the more destruction I created. Oh, the deceitfulness of self.

So I find myself on my knees in the throne room.  There’s a movie coming out called WAR ROOM. I have such a room in my house. Mine’s not a closet–it’s a sunroom with lots of windows so I can look up to Him and walk into His throne room. And in the throne room God and I get down to business: my heart business. (And I never get up again until I’ve also bathed each of my family members in prayer–it’s the least I can do for I know I have been bathed in prayer by my parents and grandparents before me).

As I enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, I come boldly before the throne–because He is my Abba Father. Now I didn’t do anything to deserve this relationship or privilege except accept His offer of forgiveness. Sometimes I rush in with singing and joy, but more often than not it is with tears and heartache.

When I’m in the throne room, my false pride and self righteousness fall to the ground like a dirty garment waiting to be gathered and tossed away–it’s not even worth cleaning or recycling. Trust me, there’s no GoodWill that would want this garment. And in its place, He places on me a garment of His righteousness that envelopes me with:

*  True humility. The interesting thing is that even though I stand completely exposed, I don’t feel condemned.

*  True love. I know that He, if no one else, loves me just as I am.

* True acceptance. While others may condemn, when the One who is PERFECT loves you just as you are, there is acceptance.

* True encouragement. He doesn’t say “you can do better” but He says, “Let me show you the way.”

* True cleansing. We agree on some old attitudes and ideas that should be rooted out. We replace my false pride and failures with His vision and mission.

* True strength–strength to get up and to try again.

* True possibilities–can I correct the failures of the past? No. But I know that with Him all things are possible–even the remaking of me and the creating of a future I dream of. He can turn ashes into gold.

* True satisfaction. Most of all I become satisfied–satisfied that if He is the only one Who loves and accepts me, it is enough–more, MUCH, MUCH MORE, than enough.

In the throne room, I have found what I searched for–acceptance, love and reassurance. I can quit my searching for He has filled my longing heart. Before Him I am accepted with all the good, bad and ugly. Not that He is going to let me stay the way I walked in–He is making me new. And, oh how I need to be made new. It’s painful facing my failures, areas of false pride and wicked ways. . .ways that separate me from Him. But I want nothing more than a face-to-face relationship with Him. So if He is my all-in-all, I find I hate anything within me that might separate us. And I’m encouraged that He desires such a relationship with me for He gently points out the offending things in my heart and we agree they have to go. Oh, I didn’t get this right the first time, and I still stumble around on my journey…but He is quick to come beside me and help me. So I press on, for with Him, all things are possible.

The first step was to quit striving and come into the throne room. This took purposeful intent and agreement with God that there was work to be done in my heart. He’s waiting on you as well.

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IMPOSSIBLE DREAMS

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There are many examples of God speaking to man through a dream. These dreams were about God’s plans; e.g., Abraham, Gideon, Joseph, the king of Egypt, Jacob and even the revelation to Mary & Joseph. Jeremiah 29:11 assures us God has a plan for each of us. In the case of those listed, God revealed His plans to them in a dream–but what about you and me? What are God’s dreams or plans for us? Can we just simply muster up our emotional and physical ability and carve out a dream and begin to pursue it until we make it a reality? Possibly. Certainly the dream it/achieve it model of thinking, planning and execution is alive and well. But these are man’s dreams for himself. How can you tell the difference between God’s plans for you and something you’ve carved out for yourself?

It will most likely be something that is not on your radar screen. It won’t be a plan that you would even consider and probably one you’d never ask for–it’s God’s plan, not yours. And God’s ways are never man’s ways. In the case of each of these individuals, God’s plan was way bigger than anything they could have dreamed up for themselves. It wasn’t anything on their bucket list.

It was also not anything they could set out to achieve on their own–God’s dreams are IMPOSSIBLE DREAMS for man. God-sized dreams require a God-sized power. They can be frightening and overwhelming for a mere mortal. I think Mary summed it up when the angel told her she was expecting a child and she responded, “How can this be?” (Luke 1:34)

When God shows you His plans, you are most likely going to be in disbelief . “Not me?” or “Why me?” seem to be the usual response. It may even be so frightening or overwhelming that you argue with God; e.g., Moses. We mere mortals don’t often sign up for God-sized things that are not in our power because we know we are bound to fail. It’s great to talk about depending on God and scary to actually do so. Can you just imagine Joshua’s misgivings about God’s battle plan for taking Jericho?

When God shows you His dream or plan for you, others aren’t going to believe you. When Joseph shared his dream with his brothers, it stirred up jealousy, hatred and revenge. It worked out better for those that held their dreams close to their heart as in the case of Mary, ” but Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19).” Can you just imagine the disbelief and derision she would have encountered if she had told her friends and family that an angel came to her in a dream and told her she had conceived of the Holy Spirit? If they got past the fact that she was trying to explain away a pregnancy and realized she thought she was giving birth to the Christ child, no doubt psych-therapy for narcissistic personality disorder was in her future.

What is God’s dream or plan for you? One thing each of these men or women had in common was that they walked and talked with God. You’re going to have to get in His presence if you want to know His plans for you. You will have to be willing to exchange your plans and agendas for His plan. You are going to need an extraordinary amount of faith–the kind of faith that conquers fear. There’s heart work ahead if you are going to prepared for the journey of a lifetime with the God of the Universe–the one who has all authority in heaven and in earth.

The story of these men and women in the Bible are stories of a God-sized plan in their lives. God has a plan for your life, too. Don’t get so caught up pursuing the things of this world that you miss the extraordinary opportunity to serve the Great I AM. When you lay down all your plans and dreams and show up in the throne room and say, “Here am I, use me,” you are ready to begin the journey with God as you pursue His plans for your life.

It’s your choice. He’s waiting and calling you.

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HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?

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This morning as I sat on my patio just enjoying the beauty of the morning, I looked around at what has become my sanctuary–my place to spend time with God, a place of prayer. My mind stepped back in time to the day we moved in. The patio door was boarded up because there were no stairs. There was no grass–only red clay and mud filled with building rubble–pieces of bricks, wood, nails–you name it. It was a minefield you’d avoid at all costs. I even kept the morning room blinds closed. Our time and energy had to be spent on getting the inside to a place we could call home.

But every day I’d get my coffee and sit and stare at this abyss and try to envision what it could be. What kind of trees, patio or deck, plants–where? As I turned my attention to the the yard, it seemed the first step would be to take care of the access issue–build stairs. So we hired someone to pour concrete steps. Buoyed by that success, we hired someone to scoop out the dirt for a patio the entire length of the house, which they piled up to the side of our plot for a patio.

And then. . . .my husband had to have by-pass surgery. My attention was totally turned to him and the back yard project seemed inconsequential. And so it sat for at least eighteen months–big pile of dirt, mud pit and all. Talk about an eyesore–this was it. Neighbors knew what we were dealing with, so I’m sure that’s the only reason the Homeowner’s Association didn’t come knocking on our door. I remember one friend saying something like, “My wife always comments on what a beautiful home you have when we drive by, but I can’t understand why your backyard is such a mess when your home is so beautiful.” Well, yeah!


Despite the setbacks and insurmountable task, we finally pressed on. We finished the patio project, the dirt was hauled off, grass seed was planted, weeds were pulled, flower beds were framed by stones and mulched, bushes and trees were planted. Patio furniture, an outdoor fireplace, grill and pots filled with colorful flowers slowly began to fill the space. Perennials were gathered and planted, fencing was installed and outdoor lighting was added. And did I mention the all out war on crab grass? This yard wasn’t anything that happened overnight–it took years. . .YEARS. But oh, it was so worth it. This last year we even added a raised vegetable garden. The next owners will never understand the love and care that went into making this sanctuary possible.

I Corinthians 3: 16:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

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No doubt when God looked at me as a nine-year old little girl who put my faith and trust in Him, He knew He had His work cut out if He was going to turn my heart into a place where He could enjoy abiding. There would be journeys we would need to take together, weeds to pull, seeds to sow, ornaments to add, resting places to create, blooms to plan, and  time. . .time for me to mature. At nine I got down by my bed each night, hands folded and said, “Now I lay me down to sleep. . .and, oh, please bless my mommy and daddy and sister.” And at mealtimes, we bowed our heads while dad blessed our food and we did attend Sunday School and church.  It wasn’t much of a relationship with God, but it was a beginning.

At 66, I can assure you He is still working on me. But as I look back, I realize all the work He’s been doing in my life. Trials brought faith and trust. Today, our relationship is so much deeper, so much stronger. It’s been tried and tested. I’ve failed; He’s been faithful. We’ve walked and talked together; shared joys and sorrows. And my time with Him is now a sanctuary–the most sacred of places in my heart–where He continues to build His abiding place in me. I don’t want to leave any place untouched by His hand. I want Him to have full access to each crevice of my heart. I want to join Him in pulling those weeds and crabgrass and in planting new seeds.

How does your heart’s garden grow? What’s the next project you and God must tackle? Have you been avoiding the work? Join Him in His work in your heart’s garden and in time, the beauty will be undeniable. As you abide in Him; He will abide in you–creating a sanctuary for you both to enjoy.

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Ephesians 3:16-19:

That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,

and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,

that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

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WHAT IS YOUR PASSION?

QrXgXMhCSouyhU7idq7g_IMG_8402Acts 9 fascinates me–Jesus just totally confuses Ananias and me. God calls  Ananias, a disciple (a man passionate about following Jesus), and asks him to go to Paul, a persecutor of the faithful. In all honesty, Paul was to the first church what Hitler was to the Jews. As the story unfolds, when God tells Ananias to go to Paul, this passionate, faithful and trusting disciple of Jesus says, “Whoa, what are you thinking? I’ve heard from many about this man–he persecutes saints. Have you heard how he persecuted the saints in Jerusalem? Well, here the chief priests have given him authority to bind anyone who calls on your name.” In essence he’s saying, “Lord, something about this doesn’t add up. Why me? Why him? This doesn’t seem to be a good idea. I’m scared.” God immediately replies,“Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” Now can’t you see Ananias scratching his head over this announcement. Why didn’t God just call Ananias, a faithful disciple to carry His name? Why Paul–the persecutor of the saints? Can anyone give me a high five on this one? And so Ananias laid down his fears and doubts and, because of his passion to follow Christ, went to Paul.

Let’s just say God’s ways are not man’s ways–and that’s probably the understatement–not just of the day, but of eternity. Somehow God looked at Paul’s heart and saw something you and I (and Ananias) didn’t see. He saw zeal–passion. Paul was a Jew among Jews. Philippians 3:4-8 outlines his Hebrew heritage. This is a man who did things at full throttle. He didn’t just talk about those pesky Christians, he hunted them down and persecuted/killed them. He declares in regard to legalistic righteousness of the law, he was faultless–a stickler for the particulars. And he was quite proud of his lineage and efforts to get this religious thing just right–it was his passion/the beat of his heart. And then he met Jesus in all His glory, and everything changed. All that passion, all that desire to do all he could–and to do it perfectly, got a new direction. He got up from his knees and began to run the race to receive the prize of the high calling of Jesus Christ. Zeal–PASSION–Paul had it and God knew it. He created Paul for this task and God called him and used him. 

Where’s your passion? What accomplishments are you proud of? If you walked into the throne room today holding forth these things, how might the Master take them and redirect your passion? God called you by name and gave you a purpose before He formed you in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). That’s where your passion comes from–the task God gifted you to do. As God created the recipe for you, He said, “Hmmm, what shall we use this one for? Let’s see–(s)he’ll need these skills and abilities, these personal qualities, this type of personality, these tender spaces in his/her heart–oh, and an extra big portion of passion to get the job done.” But like Paul, in our own strength we take all our passion and zeal and misdirect it. But God. . .He will reveal Himself to you. He is faithful to continue to call you to the fields that are already white unto harvest. Get into His presence and get on board with your calling–your passion.

In I Timothy 1:5 Paul humbly declares he is the worst of sinners and unworthy to be called an apostle. Nonetheless, he had been chosen by God and we all know the rest of the story. When you get on board with your calling, you won’t have to worry about failure for the great and mighty and all-powerful God is going to speed you on the journey He designed for you. It won’t be necessarily easy–Paul had a few rough patches along the way. But those rough patches just spurred his passion even more. You and I are conversing about God via this blog because Paul was faithful to carry the message God gave Him. He was true to His passion and calling.

Ananias was sent to Paul. Scary? Oh, yeah. But can you just imagine being the man responsible for the discipling of Paul. . .the Apostle Paul? It’s like being the person who led Billy Graham to the Lord. All those converted souls through all these centuries who are now in the Kingdom are fruit accruing to Ananias’ credit because he used his passion for following Jesus to go to Paul. What if he had said no to his passion and decided to just stay home and talk to those in the village that day? God knew who to send to Paul–he knew Ananias’ passion would  trump his fears and he would go.

Has God given you a passion? A message? A recipient for the Good News? Is He calling you? Say yes, because when your passion meets His plan–get ready for an explosion of Biblical proportions.

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God, please help me find unconditional grace & mercy in my heart.

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PSALM 145:8 The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.

Oh how I love this beautiful description of my Savior. These attributes invite me to draw closer to Him. Even though a sinner, in the presence of one filled with grace, mercy and compassion, I feel wanted, loved and safe. I’m given the opportunity for a second chance.

Now I have to be honest here and tell you I don’t always find my heart is full of these things. In fact, sometimes my heart is closed and hard. Why? When I’m hurt I withdraw and hide–push others away lest they hurt me again. I’ve had to find a place on my knees where God and I take out my heart and examine it. As I compare my heart to these words about His heart in Psalm 145, I find my heart does not always mirror His. And after all the grace and mercy He has given to me, how can I give anything less to others? But it’s hard. It must be hard for the Savior, too. When we reject His love, His plan, His sacrifice, His Word, etc., how is He not so wounded that He looks at us and says, “Enough of you.” But instead, He invites us to come to Him, admit our failures and experience His forgiveness, grace and mercy–made possible because of His compassion–His love. Love is the game changer of the heart. So I have to reach deep inside and find the love that is there and allow it to refill my heart’s reservoir of grace and mercy.

 

Question: “What is the difference between mercy and grace?”

Mercy is God’s attribute that does not punish us even though we deserve it; Grace is God granting us a blessing even though we are undeserving. By mercy I’m delivered from the punishment I deserve. Through His grace I’m granted favor and a home in heaven I do not deserve. The key word here is undeserved. Grace and mercy are not deserved. They specifically come into play when deliverance, forgiveness and blessing are undeserved. Not only are they undeserved, we cannot buy them–they must be given. So if I’m ever going to show grace and mercy, there has to be an undeserving recipient.

It’s easy to show love to someone who loves you, enjoys being with you, lavishes their affection and attention on you, believes in you and celebrates you. But when someone rejects you, talks about you and is critical of you, let’s just say it is anything but easy to respond with grace and mercy–they don’t deserve it. Clenched teeth and caustic retorts probably aren’t going to cut it if I’m supposed to mirror God’s grace and mercy.

Being a visual person, I need a picture of what grace and mercy look like?

GRACE: When I think of grace I think of Princess Diana. She was beautiful and always smiling, doing good deeds, kind–even to the media. She seemed to exude love through her eyes, her smile and her touch. It’s hard to imagine her angry. I think our Lord was like that. People were drawn to Him, they had confidence He would heal them even though they had done nothing to deserve it. They pressed on Him even as they did her. If we want to gather people to us, we must be people of great grace.

MERCY: When I think of someone who is merciful, I think of a judge I watched recently.  A wide variety of individuals presented themselves before Him. You have to know this man sits on this bench day in and day out. He’s heard case after case. My guess is he’s heard it all. In his place I would become impatient. I would tend to prejudge many of these individuals based on dress, demeanor, attitude, educational level (or lack thereof) or state of incarceration. And heaven forbid you end up in my courtroom more than once. No doubt I’d give them a Judge Judy tongue lashing for not learning the first time. Now that may make for great television but is not a picture of mercy. This judge, however, had an amazing demeanor. He even treated the man brought to him in chains with dignity and respect–both in his tone and choice of words. He honored each person and their rights. I was mesmerized just watching him. He was full of mercy and justice was safe in his hands. No doubt Jesus was like that. Whether it was a blind man, a woman with an issue of blood, a leper, a cripple . . . Jesus treated them with dignity and mercy and then He added a heap of grace on top–He healed them.

The only time we see Jesus acting in anger was when He overturned the money changers’ tables–those who were crooks pursuing their own selfish agendas under the guise of religion–in God’s house. So, yes there is a time when grace, mercy and compassion should be set aside. Jesus did so to preserve the sanctity of His Father’s house. He said the Father’s house was to be a house of prayer–a place where all could come and commune with the Father. You could come in just as you are with all your faults, failures, fears and frustrations and find grace and mercy. Likewise our homes should be a place where love invites each family member to come in just as they are–to share their thoughts, needs, hurts, frustrations, victories or failures, knowing they will be heard and find acceptance, understanding and encouragement. Love reigns supreme in the Father’s house. Don’t taint the Father’s house with your personal agendas, bad attitudes or critical spirit. It will be met with intolerance. But when you come to the Father’s house in humility, desiring relationship, asking for grace and mercy–it will be given.

It comes back once again to the heart of the individual. If our hearts are humble, and we come to Him seeking a relationship, He runs to meet us with open arms, prepared to set a table full of mercy, grace and compassion. God has definitely taken me up short and reminded me of His expectation of the way I show His loving and compassionate heart of grace and mercy to others–even though undeserved. So today I ask God to fill my heart’s cup with His love from which flows grace and mercy. Praise God He hasn’t given up on me yet.

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SIRI, WHICH WAY SHOULD I GO?

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Have you ever been lost and just couldn’t find your way? I am the biggest fan of GPS and love my cell phone and SIRI–she has gotten me out of a mess more times than I want to admit. Unfortunately, I need an app for those times when I feel lost in a relationship. What’s wrong? How can I fix it? Where do we go from here? It feels like a dead end.

I have a friend who endured a bitter divorce. The relationship left her deeply wounded and filled with self-doubt. For years she carried a crushing hurt and pain that scarred her heart. It was a painful dead end and there seemed to be no way out. Then suddenly, after some 15 years, God intervened and literally overnight doors opened, respect and understanding were offered, healing began. She and her ex found a way to become partners for the sake of their children. It was as if all that hurt, bitterness and misunderstanding just went “poof” into thin air. Gone. And in its place were mutual respect and good communication lines. Healing. Restoration. I was in awe; she was in shock. That’s my God at work. When the enemy has taken enough territory, He says, “Move back!” And the enemy has to flee.

Have you ever had a relationship where you loved deeply, nothing was wrong with the other person from your viewpoint. Then suddenly, from nowhere, it seems they have a boatload of problems with you they’ve never mentioned before? Do you have relationships where it is obvious there is a problem but it is impossible to put your finger on what it is or where it came from? That’s the enemy at work. He’s a master at planting seeds of doubt and hurt. The problem I have in these situations is I usually take matters into my own hands and try to fix things. Let me assure you I, nor you, are a match for the chaos Satan can weave. Inevitably things get worse–much worse. It has taken me years to be able to see the difference between something I did and need to make amends for and something Satan is weaving that I cannot undo–I simply get all caught up in the web. Fortunately, I’m learning.

When the disciples sailed across the river and the storm began to blow, Jesus was resting below. They began to try to deal with the crisis in their own strength: bailing water, tossing things overboard. I’ll give them credit for trying, but the problem was they were no match for the storm. You and I are no match for the storms of life that Satan can stir up. They woke Jesus and suggested He come help them bail water…get on board with their plans. But His ways were so much higher. He just stopped the wind and waves. DONE! How many times do I get embroiled in a crisis and try to bail my way out of it. I come to Jesus and suggest He should wake up and help me with my very good plan. And He says, “I have power. . .did you forget that I can stop this?” You see, I don’t need a bucket. I don’t need to try. I need to have faith in the One who loved me and gave Himself for me. I need to believe that in His time, given His power, He will stop the storm and blue skies will come again. My work is to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). He will do this and receive the praise. In John 6:28-29, the disciples asked Jesus, “So what must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe in him whom he has sent.” Do you lean on your understanding or in all your ways do you acknowledge Him, knowing He will direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6)? Whatever burden you are bearing or crisis you are facing, it didn’t take God by surprise. He has a plan and the power to execute it. Just get in His presence and trust Him to calm the storm. I lean on the fact God is not the author of confusion, so when things feel confusing and frustrating and I can’t figure them out, I begin to realize this is the enemy is at work. I can’t win; I’m no match for him. So I call on my Abba Father, the Almighty God, who loves me . . .and I wait.

Patience is hard, but God says if I wait on Him, my strength will be renewed and I will soar like an eagle (Isaiah 40:31). I’ve not had a great track record of waiting. I’m more likely to rush in with my bucket and start bailing water. But I’m learning that the hard work of waiting is the work of believing on Him. It’s the exact right step–it’s called FAITH.

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ENTITLEMENT–A RELATIONSHIP KILLER–Part 1 (the child/parent)

“Mphoto-1429277158984-614d155e0017an is not, by nature, deserving of all that he wants. When we think that we are automatically entitled to something, that is when we start walking all over others to get it.” Criss Jami, Diotima, Battery, Electric Personality

Relationships–it seems the ones that really work are the ones that in some way supply something we need either physically, emotionally or financially. But what happens to the relationship when your expectations are no longer being met? Disappointment, disillusionment and discouragement set in. Since you are no longer getting what you bargained for in the relationship, you become critical and begin to consider separation. It’s time to move on to someone who gives you what you feel you want, need or deserve. Unfortunately, this is a common scenario between children/parents, spouses, friends and coworkers, etc. So over the next few posts, let’s look at how this plays out in our various relationships.

“It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it.” Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

I grew up in East Texas where it is very hot and there was no air conditioning. We didn’t go to grocery stores and buy everything we wanted; farmers in our church brought us produce and meat out of love. My afternoon’s entertainment was shelling peas or snapping beans to help prepare dinner.  We didn’t have swing sets or playhouses. We didn’t go to city parks to play. The only amusement park was Disneyland, and it was in California, so it might as well have been on the moon.  We played outdoors with a neighbor or our siblings. Our parents would never have considered it their responsibility to coordinate play dates, sleepovers and fantasy excursions. Birthday parties meant a homemade cake with the family and maybe some crepe paper streamers. We got our first TV when I was almost eight. I never had a store bought dress until I was in my mid-twenties and made my own money. Christmas meant one toy and a stocking with fruit and candy. Family vacations were few–I remember one at a cabin owned by a church member that was truly in the middle of nowhere. We swam and fished in the lake and played dominoes or checkers for entertainment. The annual rodeo was big entertainment–I’m not sure why as I’m terrified of bulls. There was no college fund–I worked and put myself through college. While in college, a three-minute weekly phone call was my contact with home–there were no parent weekends because they were too far away and they couldn’t afford to travel to see me.

Never once have I considered myself deprived. My parents (and grandparents) survived the Great Depression when food was a rare commodity and shoes always seemed to have holes in their soles. I have always been grateful for everything my parents did for me. Yes, as I got older, I realized others had more in material things than we did, but I didn’t cop a mindset of entitlement–feel my parent’s owed me more. They gave me life. They gave me what they could. It was a good era to be a child. I was blessed. Today my home is filled with many treasures and luxuries we never dreamed of in those East Texas days. But never once have I looked back and held the lack of anything against my parents. I thank God for their sacrifices for our family. They did the best they could; and I was blessed.

For better or worse, we usually get our parenting patterns from our parents. When my children came along, life was beginning to change. We found a few city parks and a putt putt course or two. We even got to take the kids to DisneyWorld. We didn’t have money for the circus when it was in town, but I prayed and someone gave my parents free tickets so they took the children–and I rejoiced over answered prayer. We sacrificed to put the kids in Christian school and I got involved in cheerleading to be with my daughter. Little league baseball, soccer or basketball teams for children were becoming in vogue and if/when mine wanted to play, we made that possible. We gave my daughter ballet and gymnastic lessons for as long as they held her interest. I hosted birthday parties as we could for family and friends. We spent summer weekends with the kids at my in-laws trailer at the lake where the kids learned to ski and hunted for arrowheads with their dad. We discovered timeshares and sacrificed so our family could take vacations together. My husband would take the children down to the game center so they could play Ms. PacMan. Times were hard but we enjoyed our children greatly and supported each child as best we could in their educational and career pursuits. Certainly we would have loved to write the big checks for college, but that wasn’t it the cards for us. So I prayed and prayed. And God provided for each of the children–they are well educated, highly motivated, hard-working, successful men and women. God definitely took up any slack from our part.

I see our children going the extra mile for their children–giving them everything within their ability. It’s what we parents do. Technology has added a new dimension to entertainment and communication, but it comes at a cost. I love the opportunities set forth for my grandchildren to grow and develop their minds, relationships, careers and future. From my humble home in East Texas it would have been impossible to imagine the world my grandchildren would grow up in and enjoy. And I thank God for His blessings upon my children and grandchildren.

Each generation can look back and be grateful for the sacrifices each made so they could have a better future or they can look back with criticism and a sense of entitlement–we deserved more. Unfortunately having everything we desire handed to us can be detrimental. For example, a caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly. It stays in the cocoon and presses against it so that it develops and becomes strong enough to fly when it breaks free. If you cut the cocoon open to set it free, it will perish and die. There is something about working for what they want, sharing in the cost of their personal growth and development, that strengthens a young person. So parents, don’t feel guilty if you can’t give your children everything the neighbors can give their children. Do what you can, but most of all teach your children values, morals, right from wrong, discretion and fairness, truth and justice, modesty and morality. . .and teach them to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul and mind.

One of the greatest gifts each generation can pass on to the next is an attitude of gratitude. What attitudes are you teaching your children?

“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.” Brené Brown

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SUFFERING–PART 2

photo-1429095687696-3227bb0aa9a8This was not going to be a series. But God apparently had another plan.

As I prayed this morning, God brought Christ’s suffering to mind. I thought about how His heart might have grieved at the betrayal of His friend, one of the twelve He had walked with for three years–one to whom He had ministered–one He trusted. As I said my amen and opened my Bible, it fell open to the garden scene and the betrayal. Needless to say, I began to think God must be trying to show me something, so I began to read from John 18. As I got to verse 11, I knew this was the verse God wanted me to see. “Then said Jesus unto Peter, ‘Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?'”

Jesus had spent a long night alone in the garden asking His Father if there was any other way than the cross. Apparently the Father confirmed the plan that no doubt He knew of when He came as a baby in a manger. So He told the Father He would submit to His plan/His will. Scripture tells us Jesus did this for the glory that was set before Him–He could see ahead to the time when we would all be gathered around the throne in our new heavenly home, free from sin and its penalties. . .and as He counted the cost, He considered you and me worth it. We were worth the suffering, the humiliation, the pain, the death. It was God’s redemptive plan for you and me. . .and we were worth it.

As I read verse 11, I saw the heart of one who trusted His Father. If this was a cup the Father gave to His Son, how could He refuse to drink it? This is probably the greatest example of submission and love in Scripture. He knew that if HIS FATHER asked Him to drink the cup, it was the right thing to do.

Now I don’t know about you, but sometimes when things hurt I’ve been known to question God. I back up and say, “I don’t want to drink from this cup any more. Take it away.” Jesus didn’t do that. He simply said, “My Father has given me this cup to drink, and so I will drink it.” He didn’t run and hide from the soldiers, He walked right up to them and asked whom they sought. When they said they were seeking Jesus of Nazareth, He said, “I’m the one you are seeking.”  He knew what lay ahead and He stepped up to the plate to take my sins on His shoulders. What love. What obedience. What faith in His Father.

God did not create this world with sin or suffering. Yet because of sin and Adam’s fall, we must live in a world where death reigns. Praise God He became my redeemer. Praise God He was willing to step up to drink the cup His Father was asking Him to drink. There’s so much love in that statement. . .love for and trust in His Father, love for mankind. . .LOVE was willing to suffer even though I was undeserving of such a sacrifice.

And then I understood. I would never raise my hand and say, “Here am I, let me suffer” unless I could take the place of one I lovedMy daughter recently had back surgery. As I prayed for her, I so wished it was me going under the knife and not her. Praise God He was faithful and healed her, but I knew in my heart I would not hesitate to step forward if given the chance to take her place. . .because I love her.

Only love accepts suffering for another. ONLY LOVE.

And then my thoughts turned to the heart of the Father who had to ask the Son to drink the cup. Here was love, too. As I’ve mentioned, my first child had cancer. How can I describe the suffering of a mom and dad giving a baby chemo through painful injections as they look at  you with those precious yet questioning eyes? As tears would stream down our faces and that of the doctor, as our hearts broke–we gave her “that cup to drink” that she might have life. Oh, the Father gave the Son the cup that you and I might have LIFE! The only way you could ever ask anyone to suffer is if there is LIFE at stake.

Yes, through suffering I understand, I see. . .and my heart is moved as together we fellowship in His suffering–both the suffering of the Son and of the Father.

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