Blog Archives

Vision Correction

Apr
2013
04

posted by on Unforced Grace

“But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!” John 9:25

 

This is me! Not physically, (although I’m about to replace all my reading glasses with stronger ones), but spiritually it is.

Have you ever been there? I’m not just talking about when you began to believe in Jesus. I’ve believed since I was a child. This is me because I finally see the truth about God’s love for me, for all of us.

I was blind for so long to God’s true love for me. When I finally began believing that this love is for me, that it’s not just a superficial love, but a truly “desperate need to be near you” love, I saw myself in a new light. I started seeing myself as God sees me. I viewed myself as Jesus looks at me. I began valuing myself.

I learned to love myself.

And loving myself allows me to receive others’ love and to give love more freely. I accepted God’s love and then researched the Bible to discover what God thinks of me.

And I was blown away. I was so desperate to know and to learn. The blindness was lifted from my eyes and my soul and God’s whispers and shouts of love leapt from the page and captured my heart.

I saw God for who He is. I looked lovingly upon Jesus and finally realized the depths of His love. I saw myself through their eyes and fell in love with me.

God loves me in spite of my imperfections. And I’m learning to overlook my flaws and see the person God created.

And I see those around me more clearly. And strangely enough their imperfections get blurred and their unique, quirky, beautiful personalities come sharply into focus.

I was blind to the truth, but now I see. We are beautifully imperfect people serving and loving and living for our perfect God. And we are loved by a wonderfully, beautifully, perfect God.

So if you catch me staring at you, please don’t get nervous. I’m focusing on Jesus in you and you are breathtaking.

Mighty Warrior

Apr
2013
01

posted by on Unforced Grace

“The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty warrior, the Lord is with you!” Judges 6:12

We are mighty warriors! Did you know that? Do you feel like one? Do you act like one?

I know I don’t always claim the mighty warrior status. I have warrior moments and I do have more victories than I used to (thanks to Jesus), but I don’t act like a mighty warrior on a full-time basis.

Feelings are not a good indicator of the truth. Just because I don’t FEEL like a warrior doesn’t mean I’m not one. If God calls us His mighty warriors, than we are mighty and we are warriors.

Ephesians 1:15-20 states that the same power that raised Christ from dead lives in us. Let me say that again. The same power that raised Christ from the dead and made Him victorious over Satan lives in us. And yet we still live like we’re in chains.

But we are powerful!

Not by our own strength but by Christ’s power in us. He said that in our weakness He is strong. But that doesn’t mean we have to walk around like weaklings. No! It means that we understand that the only reason we can live victoriously is because of the power of God in us.

Jesus told us we would have challenging times, but to be joyful because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). Jesus has already won the battle against Satan for us. This should make living easier and yet we live weighted down by guilt, doubt, insecurity, bad habits, and defeat.

We need to act our way into a new way of thinking and feeling.

We need to act like mighty warriors. We need to put on our armor and defeat the enemy with God’s word. When arrows of doubt, insecurity, self-pity, anger, jealousy, gossip, envy, and pride fly toward us, we need to raise up our shield of faith and instead of retreating, begin our attack and defeat the enemy with the truth.

Knowing and memorizing scriptures allows us to defend ourselves against Satan’s mind games. The trick is recognizing when the enemy is pulling the trigger. At that moment is when we need to launch into our attack. A lie is replaced with God’s truth. A self-doubt is replaced with knowing who we are in Christ. Bad feelings toward others are replaced with the love of Christ. Pride is replaced with knowing that our strength comes from our surrender to God.

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

I am ready to be a mighty warrior – to see it, to believe it, to act like it. Are you?

posted by on Unforced Grace

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” Romans 5:6

This is not me – exactly. I mean it’s not me literally but it could be. I do have a few spots in my house that resemble this picture. And every time I walk into those spaces the guilt of the messiness rises up to greet me.

Oh it’s not a friendly greeting. It’s If only you would be more organized this would never happen or If you would have more energy you could tackle this and be done with it or You are never going to make it – the evidence is all around you.

And I close the door and plan to get to it tomorrow.

What guilt doesn’t know is that I run my household, I run my business, I run around helping my husband with all of his duties, and I run to keep in shape. I am constantly running and I’m very busy. But guilt doesn’t acknowledge all of the things that I do well. It just reminds me of the areas in my life where I’m not so good.

And some days I feel utterly helpless, unable to keep up with all the things that want a piece of me. I don’t keep up with friends like I should, days fly by and I haven’t spoken to my sisters, papers pile up that need to be filed, rooms need to be cleaned and I can’t seem to get to it all.

And I just want to stick my head in a closet and shut out the demands on me.

But then I’m reminded of God’s grace. His grace is sufficient for me. He is perfect so I don’t have to be. The verse above doesn’t say that Christ came while we were perfect. It says He came and died for us when we were sinners.

God doesn’t expect perfection. He simply wants us. And “us” includes all of our messiness.

While my rooms remind me of my imperfections, Jesus reminds me of my righteousness in Him. My messiness – our messiness – doesn’t matter to Jesus – it’s why He went to the cross. He died on the cross for all of us and our sins were nailed to that cross.

Jesus loves us perfectly. His love is abundant and covers all of our imperfections. We don’t need to be perfect because we have a perfect God.

One day I will get to the clutter, but until then I can walk by guilt free. I am doing my best for now and relying on God to take care of the rest.

So when you see me, overlook my messiness please – and I promise to do the same for you!

Superlative

Mar
2013
21

posted by on Unforced Grace

FreeDictionary.com defines masterpiece as

1. An outstanding work of art or craft.

2. The greatest work, as of an artist.

3. Something superlative of its kind.

God calls us His masterpiece. So what does that mean?

We are Outstanding. We are God’s Greatest Work. We are Superlative.

Hmmm…I like that. Now why don’t I believe it? Oh I want to believe it. I want to receive it, claim it, accept it as the truth. I so desperately want to look at myself and see a masterpiece. Instead most days I see ordinary.

That’s like visiting all the museums in the world and looking at the sculptures and paintings of the world’s greatest artists and saying, “Ih, they’re okay.” It’s like visiting the Sistine Chapel and looking up at Michelangelo’s painting and thinking, “Whatever.” It’s like looking at the beautiful sunrises and extraordinary sunsets and turning away unimpressed.

God, the world’s greatest artist who designed the heavens and the earth, which to me are breathtaking and worthy of praise, also created me, you, us and declares us as very good, as His masterpiece.

And we look at ourselves and say, “Ih, whatever.”

But we are not whatever, we are wonderful! In Psalms 139 it is written that we are beautifully and wonderfully made. God watched as we were being formed inside our mothers. He rejoiced as we were designed knowing the amazing life He had planned for us. And He looks at us now and delights in His masterpiece.

Imagine how our lives would change if we looked at ourselves in wonder. Not in a haughty or prideful way, but in the way we would look at a work of art. We would delight in the masterpiece; we would admire the Artist; we would walk away amazed at the beauty and it would change how we see the world.

God designed us. Christ makes us priceless. Let’s live a life that honors our Artist and worship the One who bought us with His life.

Running With God

Mar
2013
18

posted by on Unforced Grace

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

I like to run. I may even call myself a runner. I run a little over 3 miles 4 or 5 times a week. So I guess that constitutes being a runner.

But then I met thousands of people who descended upon our area to run a marathon or a half-marathon. In case you don’t know, that’s 26.2 miles or 13.1 miles of running – at one time.

After two days of talking with and watching these runners, I began questioning my abilities, wondering why I don’t run at least a half. I was in awe of them and a bit jealous of them as well, I will honestly admit.

We get like this in all areas of our lives, don’t we? We notice Super Christian at church and wonder why we didn’t get those gifts and talents. We see our past and think that God could never use our messiness to further His kingdom. We respectfully speak with the men and women who have served the Lord faithfully for decades and hope that we can be as strong.

The writer of Hebrews says that since we are surrounded by a large crowd of faithful witnesses, we can just run! Others have paved the course for us. This “race”, our life with God, is not a competition to see who comes in first. God simply wants us off the bench and in the race, living our life as a witness for Christ’s saving power and doing our best with what God has given us.

And we begin running when we let God into our lives. And our endurance comes from allowing God to lead us and direct our steps. We let go of our past that holds us back, we drop the guilt that adds extra unnecessary weight on us, we start living for God and embrace the life He has for us.

And we run.

We run when trials come. We run when we are exhausted and feel that we will never get through this pain. We run when it’s raining and we run when the sun is shining. We run and keep our eyes on the prize – eternal life with God.

And we recruit others to run with us. We show how much fun running is, how abundant life is when God is in it, we embrace grace and give it freely. We love, love, love others.

I’m not the fastest runner, but I intend to stay in the race my entire life. Will you join me?

Cracked Pots

Mar
2013
07

posted by on Unforced Grace

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

Do you ever feel like a cracked pot? Do you fear that if everyone actually saw you as you really are, they would run away as fast as they can and who could blame them? Do you spend your life covering up your flaws, your scars, your messes so people can’t see all of your yuckiness?

Most of my life has been spent hiding my messiness so people only see what I allow them to view. I chisel a smile in place so everyone thinks I have it all together. I laugh frequently so people think that life is crisis free. When people try to get close I deflect their attention to something else.

Because who in her right mind would want to be friends with me? I am a flawed woman with a messy past and my mess might just spill onto you if you get too close.

But Jesus chooses to get close to me, to all of us, and not only allows our messiness to spill on Him, but takes it willingly so that we can be free from it.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” God takes our mess and makes something beautiful out of it. Everything we have done can be used to bring God glory and to make us better and to encourage others.

We may have made wrong choices, but God can use those to make us stronger women. He can take our story and help other people in their walk – if we are willing to live it out loud.

God can shine through the cracks in our lives, but only if we’re brave enough to allow them to be seen. If we cover them up, then His light can’t shine through. Our weaknesses make us real. Our victories are more powerful when others view them through our flaws. Because then and only then can people see that it clearly wasn’t us that fought the battle and won. God’s power alone can make us victorious.

I have a group of friends who have dared to let our messiness spill over onto each other, to unveil our flaws, to risk appearing weak so that Jesus can shine brightly through us. The more open we are, the more real we become, and the more we grow in Jesus something extraordinary happens: Instead of our yuckiness, Jesus begins to spill over onto others.

Now that’s amazing…grace.

posted by on Unforced Grace

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:4-7,13

Love never fails. Do you believe this?  I don’t think I ever really believed this statement to be true until recently. Weird, huh?

Love means taking risks. It means opening up your heart and allowing people into the deepest part of your soul. And those people are just like you – flawed – which means they’ll probably disappoint you in some way, not live up to your expectations, fail you.

Love means hoping that you have enough of it to give away and get enough back that makes the risk worthwhile. But what if you and the people around you don’t have enough to give?

Too many times we get hurt because we don’t understand true love. So we put up walls so we never get hurt again. And then we’re stuck inside brick and mortar thinking that we’re safer this way. But we’re losing out on so much.

Love means having faith in a God who showed us perfect love. God is patient with us in spite of our many flaws. He isn’t too proud to bend low enough for us to hear His whispers of affection. He doesn’t demand His own way. Look at Jesus; He went to the cross for us knowing full well the suffering He would endure because of us. That is love.

God keeps no record of our wrongs. In fact He forgives and forgets our sins. God rejoices in the truth: The truth that Jesus is the way to eternal life; the truth that we are righteous in His eyes because of Jesus; the truth that we are designed in His image and He thinks we are beautiful.

God never gives up on us, never loses faith in us, is always hopeful that we’ll seek Him first. God endures with us through everything.

Yes, I want to be loved like that…by God and everyone else. But mostly I want to love like that. I want to be kind and patient and forgiving and hopeful and always seeking the truth. But I have discovered that until I love myself this way I cannot truly love others.

So it begins with me. I have learned to be patient and kind to myself, by giving myself a break and shutting off the reel-to-reel tape that plays back all my wrongs. I have learned the truth – that I am so fiercely loved by God that He dances over me, delights in me, thinks I am extraordinary. On the days I feel less than ordinary, I remind myself how God sees me and the pep in my step returns.

I’m learning to always be hopeful and have faith that nothing that comes my way is greater than the powerful God who loves me. And resting in this allows me to be more loving. Do I get it right every time? No way, but I’m hopeful that tomorrow I’ll be more loving than I was today.

The greatest of these is love…I get it now.

posted by on Unforced Grace

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 (NLT)

There are three types of special friends: friends who are like family, new friends that are fast becoming good friends, and friends who no matter what will always be.

I am blessed to have all three. Recently I held a book signing and needed help with the event. My friends who are like family, not only stayed the entire time to help, but also celebrated this monumental day with me. Never in my life had I experienced anything that moved me so completely. For so long I had erected and fortified walls to keep from getting hurt. These wonderful people helped me knock them down and stepped over the rubble to heal my heart.

We always want friendships like this, but too often we have to get our hearts hurt before we find it. So we erect walls, which not only don’t let people in, but also don’t allow us to reach out.  I encourage you to open your heart. You may be hurt again, but I guarantee you will find love. And when you do give people your heart gently take theirs as well.

And my new friends blew me away by their support and excitement. Our mutual interests introduced us, but our spirits have drawn us together. There is a peace and a joy that emanates from these people that is nothing short of beautiful. I was humbled by their support and can only see a blossoming of friendship that can only be described as a gift.

New friendships can be easy to form but difficult to foster within the busyness of life. But I encourage you to identify those who share a spirit of commonality with you and take a step toward friendship. It means sometimes moving beyond our comfort zone, exploring new interests, extending your soul.  You will discover some amazing people who will light up your world.

And then there are my friends who will always be. No matter the distance between visits or phone calls, we pick up right where we left off. Life becomes busy and we are less than vigilant in staying in contact, but grace keeps us connected on a level higher than our humanity. And when a milestone event takes place in our lives, we are there for each other.

The common thread that draws me together with so many friends is Christ. Jesus said, “No greater love has a man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” My friends didn’t lay down their lives, but they did put down their schedules, their afternoon, their ToDo lists.

We need to make our friends a priority. It may mean planning coffee in advance. It may mean rearranging the calendar so that an important event is celebrated. It may mean dropping everything and rushing to a friend’s side during a difficult time.

After the day wound down I asked myself if I am the kind of friend mine are to me. I think I am; I pray I am. So I ask you: what kind of friend are you? If you haven’t been the kind of friend you would like to be, remember each day is a new day to start fresh. Love on everybody, encourage people, bring joy and laughter into others’ lives. Be the kind of friend you want to have and I can guarantee you will be blessed with many.

posted by on Unforced Grace

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.” Isaiah 43:2

We have a leak. A constant drip, drip, drip leak. And it’s driving me crazy. It is, of course, in my office. And I feel like I am being tortured.

Constantly reminded that I should have gotten the prior leak looked at sooner before this storm came. With each drip I feel like I am made acutely aware of my inadequacies.

And isn’t that exactly what Satan does on a daily basis? His only power is the mind. But what power he yields when he gets in there. Drip…you should really be more organized or this never would have been an issue. Drip…if you had a little more in savings you could have fixed this. Drip…your priorities are totally messed up (ministry over material things).

But when I choose to listen to God’s truth instead of Satan’s lies I am encouraged. Drip…when you go through rough waters I will be with you.  Drip…when you go through rivers of difficulty you will not drown. Drip…come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

The leak won’t stop until I find the source and block it. Just like the lies won’t stop until I block the source. I may not be able to stop the dripping water today but I can trust that God will provide me a way to get through this challenge. I may not be able to fully keep the lies out of my head, but I can start today to replace them with the truth.

Today I will try to look at the leak as a source of joy. I know, sounds crazy, but James 1:3 says, “when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”

Drip…this is only temporary.  Drip…I am doing the best I can in this world and God will take care of the rest.  Drip…I can’t control the leak right now, but I can control my attitude and I choose joy.

Fly By Kisses

Oct
2012
23

posted by on Unforced Grace

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.” Lamentations 3:22-23

Today I woke up refreshed after a good night sleep even after a rather detailed dream and my usual one-eye-open trip to the bathroom. Each morning I faithfully walk Jericho. I rolled out of bed and was greeted by what I call “fly by kisses” from Jericho. He loves us so much that we’ll walk by and he’ll quickly and gently kiss our leg or hand. And it makes my heart smile.

Almost a year ago we rescued and adopted Jericho.  Our dog Sasha had just died and our house was desperately void of life (since we don’t have children our animals are our kids). As I signed the adoption papers, knowing that Jericho was heartworm positive and would require intense treatments, I remember feeling overwhelmed with emotion at giving this sweet dog a chance at love. We know almost nothing about his past. We don’t know if he had a family or if he ever experienced overwhelming love.  But we know that we will be his forever family.

Jericho was a challenge at first. He ate my favorite sandals, put holes in a favorite scarf, punctured flip-flops, created craters in the yard. But that doesn’t change how much I love him or that he is forever in our lives.

I remember the day that it appeared to click in Jericho’s brain that we are his forever family. Until then he had been sweet but slightly aloof.  He had been with us for about 4 months and he just changed. He began to snuggle more, cuddle more, relax more.

It makes me think: Has it clicked in my brain that God is my forever family? Do I really believe that God’s love is faithful regardless of the sins that I commit? If I as a human can love my dog this much and you can love your children as much as you do, then how much more does our almighty, wonderful God love us!

God sees the good in me, in us. And His mercies are like Jericho’s fly by kisses: they are given freely just because He loves us.