FREEDOM!

When we hear the word “slave”, the opposite of freedom comes to mind…

Nonetheless, we are FREE to choose (God doesn’t force). We are FREE to love (God made us to). We are FREE to worship (God delights in it). We are FREE to live (Make choices). Thank GOD we live in a country with so many freedoms.

Paul calls himself a slave to Christ many places in the scripture. This is because He was sold out to the gospel of Jesus Christ. He came from a place of strict Jewish upbringing. He knew the law and followed the rules, better than anyone else…he thought. He condemned and even killed those who didn’t.

Until Jesus Christ Himself shut Saul down (put scales over his eyes) and opened his heart (reopened his eyes) to the truth of who He was and why He died, he persecuted others for believing it. It was then, that Jesus revealed that He died for Saul (the one who thought he lived perfectly), for all of us. No one else could have, he would have spit on anyone who even tried.

What a stark difference to what he writes here…

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. — Paul (1 Timothy 1:15)

On the road to Damascus, Paul’s name and life was forever changed. He was set free and became a slave (servant) at the same time.

As Jesus followers today, we are freed from the bondage of all kinds of things as we learn what it means to be in personal relationship with Him. He reveals more and more each step of the journey with Him. To live as a slave to Christ is freedom to other people’s opinions, lifestyles, agendas….desires for you. Whatever He speaks to your heart and through His Word is the direction you find yourself starting to move.

To follow Jesus may look differently to people. He calls us to different ministries and mission fields as distinctly as He entrusts us with different gifts. Going His direction is the freedom He calls us to. He breaks the chains of the direction our ultimate enemy wants us to go. Satan plants circumstances and earthly “enemies” in our paths to deter us. But, Jesus tells us how to deal with both of these. (Give thanks in all circumstances and forgive and pray for our enemies). They are only pawns in our ultimate enemy’s plan for us.

Personal relationship with Jesus breaks those chains and we start to follow Him…We want to when our eyes and hearts are opened to His love for us.

Paul went from persecuting those who followed Jesus to preaching why we all should. Because He is the answer. His grace saves us. This is what it means to be a slave to Christ instead of the world or to people. To think there is anything other than the blood of Jesus that can save us or anything that could keep Him from loving us is to live in bondage rather than the freedom of Christ. He never stops loving us. He’s already chosen us, but He also allows us to choose. A forced love is not true loyalty or love in return.

Depending wholeheartedly on Him in every circumstance of our lives (especially our salvation) is living as a slave to Him rather than anything else in this world.

I am honored to use my gift to proclaim His name and my 100% dependency on Him. I know there is no other way to do it. I pray my kids do the same, but even if they do not, may my heart’s cry never change. That He loves us better than anyone ever has or will. That what the enemy throws at us can and will be used for the good of those who love Him. And that God is good no matter what Satan wants us to think.

We take every thought captive and make it obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (GNT)

What does Jesus say about that, about me? Hold each thought captive to that as your identity in Christ is being formed…

Yes, bad things happen here. What God permits on this earth isn’t the sign of His character, His heart behind it is. He hurts right along with us and longs to bring us home where all sadness and pain are gone forever. He hates pain and didn’t create us for it. He doesn’t cause pain, He died for it. He knew we would experience hurt, but He didn’t create us to. He created us to love and to spend eternity with him.

His love is the freedom we’ve been looking for. He loves you. Learn it. Live it. Become a slave to it…Ironically, as a slave to Christ, more freedom than you’ve ever experienced will come from it.

If we are free to choose, so are others. Respect yourself and respect other people’s choices. We are called to share His love with others, but there is also a whole lot only the Holy Spirit can do. Release yourself from the Holy Spirit’s roll in people’s lives. Share His love and release.

With freedom comes responsibility and disagreement. Just because we don’t agree with someone else’s choice, doesn’t mean we should disrespect them. Agreeing to disagree also leads to freedom rather than resentment and hatred.

This is another way the Kingdom of God is polar opposite from the world’s…In slavery, there is freedom. Who/what are you a slave to?

Advertisements

Crickets….

I shared with a few of my girlfriends that one of my prayers entering the dating scene was that I’d rather hear “crickets” than have another broken heart. But, I see now, that it’s  been in the broken hearts and relationships that I’ve learned the most about myself, what I need, what I can give, and what real love is and is not.

I don’t think dating has ever been easy for me, but with social media, texting, dating sites, kids, and the divorced baggage, dating is HARD! As much as I wanted to remarry one day, I got to the point that I was willing to skip it altogether if it led to more pain, confusion, betrayal, or mistreatment. I wanted the girls to see healthy and if that meant mommy stayed single for the rest of my days, so be it.

It’s not what I wanted, I got very lonely. I wanted to be held by physical arms. I cried out in this loneliness, similar to how I did in the loneliness of my marriage but this time without a ring or any potential prospects. The prospects that did come along left more of the same. No lasting connection or commitment. I believed their words, but they fell flat, unable to truly love through good and bad. Once again, try, split, work on forgiveness, and try again. Or should I?

I craved companionship, intimacy, honesty, and reciprocal love. But, this time it wasn’t just about what I wanted, it’s about what the girls and I needed and the example I wanted to set as their mom for their upcoming dating years. I needed a man to set a good example as their stepdad. This definitely raised the ante.

I couldn’t risk falling for just anyone. Even though I still did in the process. God knows I’m prone to fall……..

We needed a patient man. A gentle man. A family man. A man who knows the meaning of and Supplier of biblical love. A man ready to love us all. For the long haul. Through thick and then. These would all take a strong man. If these characteristics weren’t there, then we would be healthier and better off without. And, ultimately, I’d wish the same for them when they consider a husband. So, I asked God to remove if he didn’t fit these qualities.

Crickets.

Hearing crickets on the dating scene isn’t easy. It feels like a big bucket of rejection, but that’s where my faith was tested. I bravely asked God to get all up in my business, so I trust that He did. Even when it hurt. Even when I didn’t like it. Even when the text wasn’t replied to. Even when they didn’t call. Even when the ones I was warned about wouldn’t stop texting or calling. Even when and even then.

I prayed for strength to endure the loneliness and what seemed to be a lack of interest or undesired interest. I reached out to my friends, I asked for prayer, I asked advice, I talked to my kids, I cried, and I learned each time. Deep down I trusted that God had my very best interests at heart. Because I only desired His will.

It never came naturally to me in any way, shape, or form to date casually. My heart is programmed to love and that makes dating (to figure it out) even more difficult….I asked God to guard my heart during the process. Keeping an open and guarded heart is a tough balance.

As I type this article, I’m looking down at a beautiful ring on the fourth finger of my left hand. Engaged to a man that I’m thrilled to have around my girls. A man that I know is super hard to come by in today’s world.

I get to be a wife again. I loved being a wife. But, this time, it’s to my best friend. A man who I can talk about anything with and he does the same. A man with similar interests which is wonderful, but most of all, is sacrificial. He wants to love me all the days of his life. He sees that as a gift. And that makes him the best gift for us! This is how I’d want my girls loved.

Thank you, Jesus, for the crickets. It was then, in the silence and wonder, that I learned the most about You, who I am to You, and who You want for us.

Did You Know?

I look at hearts for a living. I assess their function, blood flow, sizes, and valves. All day long I get to watch them beating. Something we rarely think about and honestly take for granted.

Because I use an ultrasound machine to visualize them, I work in a dark room most the time. When the lights go off, the test begins. This morning, as the lights went out, my patient asked if this was also a sleep study. I laughed and said “You’re welcome to sleep through it if you want to, your heart beats the same awake or asleep. The results will be the same.” It was then, that the thought came to my mind of how we can take the love of God for granted in the same way. It’s present and consistent every bit as much as our physical hearts are beating in our chests. Awake or asleep.

We don’t think about the fact that our hearts beat all day and all night from the time we are conceived until we pass away…We don’t notice them unless they are racing or hurting or skipping. And then we get concerned and get them checked on…or should. Just like the love of our God who created them, we don’t notice or recognize His consistent and unfailing love. This is how the quote by C.S. Lewis rings so true to me…

Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

My ultrasound machine suddenly makes patients aware of their heart that has been working for them their whole lives.

Just like it’s in our physical pains and concerns that we get our bodies checked on and become more aware of what they’ve done for us all our lives or what they “should” be doing now that they aren’t, it’s in our pain where we usually wake up to His love. The love we crave. The love that has always been there and has never stopped. More than likely it’s because our pain causes us to cry out for Him. Just like we call an ambulance or a doctor in a physical emergency, we call out to our God. And, He is so thankful we do. I imagine Him saying “I’m here child, I’ve always been right here.”

As amazing as the human body is, it was created by an even more amazing God. A loving Father who didn’t put us on this earth to condemn us or to scowl at us, but to love us. He doesn’t need us, He chose us. He made us with eternity together in mind.

Even those who don’t choose Him, He lovingly lets go. He would never force our love and knows that if He did that wouldn’t be love at all. He chose us first. He loved us first. He loved us always. He loves us still.

Many of my patients watch their hearts beat on the screen in amazement, sometimes it grosses them out and they can’t watch at all, and sometimes they sleep through it. Oftentimes, I hear how amazing the technology and the organ itself is when it’s in their face and they are actually able to see it. It is truly amazing that we can visualize our hearts beating inside our chests with no cutting or surgery these days. Watching their hearts beat usually leaves them with a sense of awe and awareness they didn’t come in with. And, for those it doesn’t, I wish it would. It does for me too when I take the time to consider what I’m actually looking at.

Take a moment to think about how God’s love has never left you. It made you. It was with you in that situation, at that moment, when you were completely unaware. When you didn’t believe it, when you thought you didn’t need it, when you didn’t want it, when you walked away, when you felt completely alone. When they said that. When they did that. When you did. His love was there. Always beating for you.

Is your heart beating right now? Regardless of what you’re doing or what you’ve done. God loves you too.

Vengeance is Mine.

When we are deeply wounded, we are changed. God knows this and the devil knows this.

If someone hurts you deeply, ask God how to forgive every day, every hour if necessary. If we don’t have the desire to forgive, we will continue to suffer in the bondage of resentment and bitterness from the pain inflicted which is exactly what the devil wants. This pain can affect every relationship we have, even and especially those who are completely innocent in it, which is also what the devil wants. He loves to watch the collateral damage ravage lives and generations.

Knowing this, it just makes sense to forgive rather than suffer. Haven’t we already suffered enough? But how?

Healing comes gradually… as does relief. We can stay mad at the person for hurting us or we can ask God to help us forgive and view them as He does. Over and over again. We can blame them for our situation or ask God to help us forgive and see where He wants to take us from here. We can obsess over what they are doing or why they did what they did or we can turn our focus to those who do love us and desire us in their lives.

We can HOLD ON or we can LET GO. And that includes revenge. Letting go has got to be one of the hardest things we do in this life. To let go of a person, a dream, a life, is painful. There’s no getting around the pain. We can mask it, avoid it, cover it, downgrade it, but it’s still there.

To let go of the desire to avenge and seek justice on our own is hard. It’s only natural to want to do so. So letting it go helps us. I love how Max Lucado explains…

“Forgiveness doesn’t diminish justice; it just entrusts it to God.”

The person who says they feel no pain or dismisses yours has not dealt with their own. The ones that have get how hard this is and God knows too. He created us to love and be loved. Our hearts are fragile.

 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:19-21 (NASB)

Not only has God promised to take care of it, whatever “it” may be. He asks us to leave it to Him so that we can go in peace. Forgiveness restores our happiness and loving by forgiving and leaving them to Him may even open their heart to Him in a way it never has been before. No matter what, it frees us. Over and over again.

It’s a beautiful thing to hand it over. I thank Him for taking it! Once again, it’s a command given out of His love for us. Let Him carry that too. Let Him have it. That’s what He asks of us and it’s for our own good. To lighten our load and make way for joy.

 

Thankful.

I’m thankful for…

  • The lessons
  • The strength
  • The wisdom
  • The courage
  • The perseverance
  • The time
  • The support
  • The friendships
  • The quiet mornings
  • The crazy mornings
  • The family close by
  • The prayers
  • The steady paychecks
  • The unexpected help
  • The help with my girls
  • The closer relationship with and dependence on Jesus
  • The forgiveness
  • The ones who have made me laugh
  • The ones who have helped me cry

 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)

When Words Fail…

I’m a writer, so I obviously love words. I share them and sometimes they flow…But, there are also times when words fail me. Expressing appreciation and in the midst of conflict are the two most common times. Multiple times, I’ve caught myself saying, “I know this sounds meager, but thank you.” But, is it really? Because I can also think of times I would have appreciated nothing more than hearing a “thank you” or an “I’m sorry too”. I think most can relate. When words fail, how about getting back to the basics?

I’m sorry & thank you.

On my lunchtime walk today,  I was running these situations through my head. When hearts are hurt and heads are hot, words can go flying. It’s happened to me more than I’d like to admit. Then, I’m at a loss. I’ll bet most of you can relate. We have three choices. Let the relationship suffer and possibly die, stay in conflict, or do our part. May I suggest “I’m sorry”. This doesn’t mean the whole thing was your fault, it means “I’m sorry for my part in it.” How the other person accepts or responds is on them. Most conflicts are two sided. Can we just say “I’m sorry”. And, “What can I do differently here?”

When expressing gratitude for love given, lives shared, or deeds done, words fail me. I feel I could go on and on and on and it’s just not enough. So….”Thank you” will have to suffice. I can think of a few instances where I’ve gone above and beyond for someone who hasn’t done the same for me, and not even a “thank you” followed.

I remember thinking, “Man, not even a thank you!” How simple is that? Are they thankful at all or do they just not know that they should say it? We don’t know, so it leaves us feeling taken advantage of. Thank yous matter…they should be shared and not taken for granted. Thank a person. It’s the least you can do and honestly the most you can do for something they’ve given or done for you. Anything. Be it forgiveness, a listening ear, a hug, and ride, a sweet note, met you halfway, fed you.

As parents, we often say to our kids..”What do you say?” When a “Thank you” or an “I’m sorry” is warranted. So, how about as adults, we recognize how powerful these although “simple” phrases really are and what a long way they can go in our adult relationships? In some cases, what more can you say?

When someone shows they love me, I’m thankful. When someone says I’ve hurt them, I’m sorry. When words fly and fail, use them. They may just salvage or cement the relationship. If you truly mean them, you will have done your part in doing so.

 

When They Leave…

Have you been walked away from? Ghosted? Not committed to? Replaced? This is an article for you.

Even when our kids leave, there is a tremendous amount of pain. It’s a ripping. A tearing away at our heart.

I have had all of the above. I’ll bet you have too. If not yet, you may. I want to help you see a positive in the pain.

This is not a pity party post. After my divorce, I boldly asked God to remove anyone not meant for me. I meant it, but never thought it would take so many “tries”. It takes a lot of courage to try again with anyone after such a blow. Even more to stick your neck out with kids and in public. I had no desire to date in the dark or without intention, so I continued in prayer, worked on my weaknesses, gave them to God, and asked Him for help.

As the backs turned, friends too, I thought me being me was the problem. I was even told that, so I did a lot of inner work and crying out to God. Still, in my heartbreak and bewilderment, I trusted God’s heart in the pain and the questions. What was going on? Why? Even my truest friends didn’t understand why this was part of my story. I prayed, they prayed. I loved, they loved.

Rejection is one of the most excruciating things on this planet, but I can say now that I fully trust His heart in each one and would again. I trust He wants what’s best for me. And, because He is it, I trust that anyone He removes will ultimately distract me from my first love, Him, or I them.

My deepest desire is to grow closer and closer to Him together and show His love to others, not the other way around. And, if that scares anyone off, so be it. I hate to lose people, I love people, but He comes first.

I have not only been rejected, I have also done the rejecting. That’s hard too, but I knew and know it was best for me and my girls. I’ll just go ahead and assume the guys who rejected me felt the same. I wish them all the very best. Because of the hurt, I’ve learned from each one.

In the case any of them actually read this, I’d like to say “Thank you.” Thank you for pushing me closer to Him. Thank you for the lessons. Thank you for your part in making me a fighter, a learner, a stronger person. You helped me dig deep for healing and my truest Lover and Corrector.

Now, I realize that the lessons learned have given me a ministry. I wouldn’t have the lessons without the story. I’ve always loved to write, but wouldn’t have the content without the story. It’s been in the confusion and rejection that I found my beloved Jesus and a way to use the gift He’s given me. He’s the One who never turns His back on me or leaves for college or draws a final breath. Rather, holds me closer than ever. Each time of loss this has been confirmed and deepened our relationship.

I pray that this helps me understand and sympathize with my daughters’ dating years better than before. That I help others heal from their childhoods, divorces, and to maybe even gain insights if they choose to date again. I pray this helps others not only stay married, but have a better marriage. I pray this helps others find their worth in Christ and not those who walk away or put them down. I pray this helps women find their beauty in their Creator and men to recognize that we both have the same Creator and Father. I pray this helps us all remember and recognize that we are accountable to Him. What has He asked you to do?

The enemy messes with me. He discourages me and tries to silence me. But, may my lips and fingers never stop praising my faithful God. The One who only lovingly turned His back to protect us from His Glory (Exodus 33:23). The One who will return and never have to do that again. The One who welcomes the prodigal sons and daughters home. The One who asks me to share my heart. The One who craves His time with me. The One who teaches me.

May each rejection, loss, season push you closer to His heart. That is His will for all of us.