breaking up is hard to do

perfection slayer

I’m a little afraid of what you might think. I’m afraid you won’t like my hair or the way I dress or the fact that I sometimes snort when I laugh. What if you don’t like my words or the way I express myself? I’m afraid you won’t like the way I can sometimes be sassy and blunt and sarcastic.

Actually, I’m a lot afraid, or at least I was until God showed up and revealed that your opinions were more important to me than his. I’ve been trying to live up to perfect and I’ve found that perfection is a hard task master whom I can never ever please.

So. Perfection? I’m breaking up with you.

Perfection, you’ve used my fear of rejection to sway me into a relationship with you.  It’s impossible to please you, and my heart has been twisted until it has little resemblance to my truest self. I keep breaking up with you because ours is a toxic relationship, but we get back together because you woo me with flattery and deceive me into thinking that you are the reason I’m accepted.  You use my fear of rejection against me, but perfection? I have a message for you:

Being perfect cripples and shames because perfection is impossible to attain and shame’s cousin is fear, which pulls me in tight and won’t let me go.

So I raise the white flag of surrender, not to my fears, but to my God. I bring my fears and shame to him and lay it at His feet because fear and shame keep me from receiving and being perfected in His love.

His perfect love means He is the one I fear, He is the one I please, and He is the one who holds me close when my world falls apart. So perfection? You and I are breaking up for good because His love is the key to overcoming my fear, not a relationship with you.  Sincerely, me. 

Breaking up with a habit, attitude or train of thought requires diligence in order not to re-form an alliance with that thing that holds us back from moving forward in our relationship with God. The ‘thing’ that cripples and stunts our growth is going to be different for each of us. It could be: jealously, religion, an inaccurate view of God, negative thinking or a lack of thanksgiving, but what if we stopped the crazy cycle and embraced the crazy, unfathomable love God has for us as individuals where our fears are gone and our perfection has nothing to do with us, but everything to do with his love. What if we let his love drive out our fears and submit to being perfected in his love?

Being perfected in His love is coming to a fuller, richer, and greater understanding of his love for us.  Perfection is this: to live so securely in His love that the crap of life doesn’t change our security in his love.

I’ve broken up with perfection and in its place is a brokenness which only God can fill, but it’s through the brokenness that I come to a fuller realization of this amazing grace that flows down and in and around and through me so that I only breathe in His love and breathe out His grace onto my brokenness and onto yours.

We’re all a broken mess and it’s only through God’s grace that we can break up with the toxic behaviors in our lives and be filled with his spirit so that we can run in the freedom he sets before us. 

A freedom to live securely in his love.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18 (NIV)

“I hold fast to your statutes, O Lord; do not let me be put to shame. I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:31-32 (NIV)

 

 

Advertisements

broken benefits

Isaiah 40-31

James 1:2-4 ‘Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything.’

So often I want to be mature and complete in my walk with Christ without wanting the trials and perseverance, but these verses clearly lay out the path to maturity:

Trials.

Test Faith.

Perseverance.

Maturity

Completeness.

What if we were to look at every trial that comes along through the lens of this verse? Trials are stepping stones to maturity and completeness. Who doesn’t want maturity—wouldn’t it be wonderful if all believers were mature immediately after salvation? Wouldn’t it be amazing if the body of Christ—the church was complete and not lacking anything?

Society would be affected for the good. Jesus would be represented well. God would be known.

But these verses and others like them indicate that maybe, just maybe trials are for our benefit. Faith is tested, and as our faith is tested we get to practice a little muscle called perseverance.

I’m not so sure I like that word: perseverance. I mean it sounds super noble and all that, but it also sounds a little vague, like trying to catch a cloud. Honestly, when I am in the middle of ‘persevering’ it usually feels messy and lonely and a little bit desert-y. Just what is perseverance? Is it facing down our trials with grit and determination? It’s actually a steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or a delay in achieving something.

How do we reconcile trials as joy and being plucked from the net and mirey clay the Psalmist talks about? Could it be more of a heart condition rather than our physical condition?

I am a sunny optimist with a heavy dose of realism as well. I know that life can be rough. I know that people disappoint and I know that we make choices every day to further our relationship with Christ or not.

I think we have to get to a point where God is bigger than our life junk. We need to ask for the eyes of our hearts to be opened and  aware of the bigger picture and when we can’t see the bigger picture for the haze and fog, then we must trust God because we are confident he has our good in mind.

I certainly don’t go out and seek trials and stand with excited anticipation for the next opportunity to exercise perseverance and I don’t think you do either, but I think we can stand with bated breath waiting for our God to show up and blow us away with how he moves in us during our trials.

Trials can break us and it’s in our breaking that we can experience an overflow of amazing grace into our lives. You see, brokenness isn’t necessarily something we should shy away from because sometimes its in the brokenness that we find the best kind of grace.

The brokenness that Christ suffered brought us immeasurable grace and his subsequent triumph over death ensures that we will triumph, but we must submit. We must submit to his lordship in our heart and run in his ways and walk in his precepts even if they take us through fire.

He has your back. He stands waiting for you to run to him. He will be your strength. He will cause you to soar on the wind.

I pray that you will begin the journey of knowing God more and that he will reveal himself to you and he will open your eyes and your heart would be filled with the gift of faith, which he fans into a steady flame.

Welcome grace,

Jessica

the beauty in fog

fog

I have witnessed some of the most beautiful landscapes when they’re shrouded in fog. It’s beautiful to watch the fog roll in as it gently blankets the rolling fields or to wake to a winter fog and see every tree branch coated in glitter, sparkling as it reflects the sun.

This summer has been filled with many good things. I have seen family I don’t normally see. I went to a worship conference where I was taught and renewed. My kids are getting more involved in activities so I have become a keeper of the calendar. My summer is a blessing, but it brought with it a busier pace than most summers. I love it, but with the busy-ness came a brain fog.

A brain fog is a state of mind involving the inability to see or think clearly, which interferes with this thing called life. I am not a stranger to brain fogs, as I have experienced them off and on throughout my life, but I don’t like them. They make me grumpy. They interfere with forward progress and I feel trapped because I cannot see.

This God-life is a pilgrimage, meaning it’s not a one and done type of relationship. I am constantly growing and changing as my mind is renewed and transformed, and I have to set my heart on the pilgrimage and be willing to take the journey as it comes.  The path is always narrow and sometimes it’s easy and other times it takes me down a twist that scares me. Sometimes skies are clear and the birds sing, but sometimes there are storms and the clouds hang menacingly low.

Foggy times are one of those times that frighten me because I feel so very alone and it is oh so quiet.

If I can get past the panicky alone feeling, if I can remember that God is with me even though he seems so far away, the fog becomes a time of beauty with my God.

It’s all in my perspective. Am I going to panic and believe my God has left me when I am shrouded in fog? Or am I going to trust him in a new way and ask him to reveal himself to me in the way he sees fit?

My own personal version of foggy days creates an environment of dependence on God. 

The fog tells me to proceed with caution with the the words I say and the things I do. 

It becomes a natural pause to an other wise crazy brain that chases the same thoughts round and round. 

And when the fog lifts I see the light of God clearly. 

Let me say this again—foggy times worry me because I feel as though I have lost my ability to hear God clearly. Foggy times seem unending because I can’t tell them when to come or when to go.

Until I became aware of what this brain fog was trying to produce in my life I became caught up in my inadequacies and I experienced inward turmoil.  I pouted like a child and thought I could ignore my communion times with God. I grew aware of heart-conditions that needed to be touched by his healing hand.

So the next time the brain fog arrives, I am going to remember the beauty in fog. It gives me a chance to wait for the light to stream into my circumstances and it deepens my dependence on God.

This God-life is a journey and I can expect all kinds of weather, even fog.  I am going to cling to my consistent God even when the weather is inconsistent. Difficult days do not mean we head out on our own, but it means we cling even harder to the one who knows the way.

What about you? How will you face your next foggy times? With trepidation or faith or a little bit of both?

 

Can Circumstances by Holy?

Recently I felt like my life came to a screeching halt when I heard the news of a life changing diagnosis for a dear friend.  Not long ago, I was overcome by drama as mothers of teenagers often are. I fight for bravery in the face of the unknowns of my future. Will things be okay? Where is God in all my wonderings?

Jesus said that I will have trouble in this life and life has proven this to be true. But there is a theme that began in the Old testament and has continued to be woven into the New. It’s one of the many threads that tie the two testaments together and it is this: The Lord will be with you.

Continue reading at Gathering Place for Sisters in Christ.

What’s your miracle?

miracle puffs 6-2

I have a tendency to make this whole God-life thing about me.

What I need.

What I’m doing.

What I pray.

How I live out his precepts.

How I expect his promises to be fulfilled in my life.

How I interpret God’s word.

How I need a miracle…yesterday.

I read about miracles in the news and in missionary letters and I marvel to think that the miracles I read about in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John really and truly do happen today.

The thing? Miracles are for us, but they’re about Jesus.

I look at Mark 10:46-52 and identify with the blind man.

He was desperate for an encounter, an engagement with Jesus so he began shouting his name: ‘Jesus!’ How many times do I call out his name because I am desperate for an engagement with Jesus in my circumstances? Often….

But then this man: blind, calling for Jesus does something else–he references the truth of Jesus’ identity: The Messiah. He emphatically declared who Jesus was.

Do I just call for Jesus by name or do I reference his identity?

Prince of peace= peace for uncertain times

Mighty Counselor= comfort for the weary and worn

Bread of Life= sustenance for the journey of life

River of Life= true satisfaction

I need a savior, absolutely I do, but I also need peace, comfort, sustenance, and satisfaction. And they can be found in the One man who gives sight to the blind.

When Jesus passed by the man, he stopped and asked this question: ‘What do you want?’ The man simply states: ‘I want to see’.

If Jesus were to ask me what I wanted I would have a mile long list with requests ranging from my family loving him to financial freedom to what our future will be.

But what if I stopped and simply said, ‘I want to see.’

I would be like the blind man who didn’t just receive his physical sight, but received spiritual sight.

Sometimes we are so deep into life and our circumstances that we don’t know we are smack dab in the middle of a great big story of grace. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could see a bit of that story?

So today– let’s ask to see and open our eyes to God’s grace in our lives. It might be merely recognizing the blue sky and clouds, the blooming peonies, the dandelion bouquets, the smiles on your babies, or the fact that you took a deep breath before you dove into life.

I will be praying for you to see the miracles unfolding before you today!

 

how can it be?

This time of year fills me with a sense of awe and wonder.

It’s the time of year that I choose to deeply ponder the coming of Christ in flesh. The reminders are all around me; the house is decorated for the month long ‘birthday party’. The city streets in our rural communities have their wreaths attached to the light poles reminiscent of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.

One of the things that I wonder about though, is this: ‘Did Mary have a wonderful life?’ She was the one chosen to carry and birth and raise the son of God. Religions revere her, some even pray to her as if she is a holy icon. She was just a girl. A girl with a heart of faith and trust and submission. She was chosen, but it was not through a ‘pageant’ where the winner won the right to carry the son of God. Basically, it was not about her, it was about God and his promised covenant and it was the right time.

‘How can this be?’ was her question to the angel who bore the news. It was not a question of disbelief. It was a question with an underlying tone of acceptance.  Imagine what our lives would look like if instead of questioning God on whether he knows what he is doing or demanding a ‘sign’ that what he is saying is true, we simply believed. We simply trusted.

One of the many truths he whispers to us is this: he is for us. What if we said, ‘How can it be?’ instead of ‘How can I know this is true?’ Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist had a heavenly visitor as well, but his response is remarkable different, but the significance can be easily missed. He wanted to intellectually wrap his brain around the angel’s news rather than embrace it with a heart of faith.

It could be the large age difference between Zechariah and Mary that birthed the two very different responses. We could justify Zechariah’s response by saying that he probably sought God for years on this very subject (the desire for a child), and years passed with the answer of ‘no’. I understand where he is coming from. I think we all have petitioned God for something or someone and the answer we receive is not the deeply desired ‘yes’, but the deeply feared ‘no’.

Mary, a young woman, not hardened by the burdens and seasons of life, had the faith of a child. A faith we are all called to have. A faith that can only come from the Father. Even that is amazing! We don’t have to stir up this faith on our own, we simply have to believe and let him build our faith. No matter our age.

Do you think Zechariah ever doubted the Lord’s goodness and ways again? He had more than nine months to wrestle with his need for ‘reassurance’, all the while seeing with his own eyes the Lord’s plan unfolding–whether he believed the Lord or not. Could he have been bursting to share with others what God had done for him and Elizabeth?

But I think there is a bigger picture here than what we see on the surface.

It wasn’t about Zechariah and Elizabeth at all.

It wasn’t about Mary at all.

It wasn’t about the key players in the Christmas story.

It was about God and his plan to redeem the world.

To redeem you and me. And that is the greatest gift.

But even then it’s not about us.

What would happen if we changed our perspective on answered prayer or unanswered prayer, whichever way you want to look at it, and saw not through the lens of  receiving blessing, but we saw through the lens of what God wants in the overall big picture of this world, and how he wants us to bless him, through it all.

Through all the yes’ and all the no’s.

We can turn it all into praise.

We can accept, with a faith filled heart, his promise that he is for us, asking, ‘How can it be?’, and then watch the Lord’s promise unfold in ways that take out breath away.

where is hope?

2 Corinthians 1:9-10: ‘Indeed in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.’

If we ever question anything about our past or our circumstances, we merely need to read this passage. It is the universal answer to the question of ‘why?’. At one time I spent an inordinant amount of time asking pestering the Lord with my questions of ‘why?’. I was rather demanding. Then I grew petulant when all I heard was silence.

Most of my ‘why?’ questions have been about other people. For some strange reason (sin) we hurt each other. Some people hurt more easily and some people are quicker to throw the spear. I find it agonizing when it is a fellow believer. I find it heart wrenching when I realize I just threw the spear. I find it difficult when my heart runs straight to embracing an offense.

What a fine line we walk! People are given the amazing privilege of reflecting God to the world around us and yet we fail everyday. We are to look for ‘fruit’. We are to live at peace and in unity with each other. We put so much pressure on ourselves and each other.

I know this Christian life was meant to be lived out with people, but it is so hard and so distracting. For instance: People are way more visible than God. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t actually seen God, I see his people. Unfortunately, I don’t see them through the veil of the righteousness of Jesus—I see them through my own sin-scaled eyes that are slowing, painfully being made new. Oh, that I would have the eyes to see as clearly as he does. Unfortunately, I don’t. I really don’t. I think I see fruit. I think I see evidence of God working in someone’s life. But when tragedy comes, when betrayal comes, it is difficult to look at their lives and believe that I saw clearly.

‘But God? I ask, it’s people that prove that your plan works. It’s people committing their lives to you. It’s people growing in you. It’s people committing their time to their local church. It’s about the people, right?’

No. It’s about God and him fulfilling his purpose.

When I am hurt by people I can run to this verse in 2 Corinthians and transfer my hope in people to hope in him.

It’s about setting our hope on God. Setting my hope on God. He has said he will deliver us. Do I believe it? Do I look for it? Do I believe that he raises the dead—not just raised the dead, past tense, but raise the dead, present tense? Do I really believe that he is powerful to take any situation and make it into something that brings him glory?

I have to or I would throw in the towel of following where he leads and where he goes. It’s the only answer that makes sense–it’s the only answer that satisfies the perpetual ‘why?’.

It’s about God—setting my hope on him—the author of my faith and the finisher of my faith.

People disappointing me does not have to finish my faith. It only does if my hope is centered on people.

God is the beginner and ender of my faith.

God.

Only him…..