Even If…

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These last few months the words resonating in my heart are, “Even If.”

We have had many changes in our life recently and I hate change. My body reacts even when I tell myself everything is fine and all the changes have been for a great purpose and plan.

One of those changes involved us leaving a church of the last five years and follow the Lord in His leading to our next. We knew that we were called but not the why, to our calling.
I told the Lord, even if I don’t have the answers, I will listen to your voice. So in faith, we stepped forward in the plan for our life.

Even though leaving the team of people we had grown to love hurt my heart, I had to obey what I knew to be true and serve my God and husband first. Even if it meant uncomfortable change and new people, a new place and a new level of finding my self in the midst of ministry, I had to say yes.
Even if it means admitting that I took on roles at our previous church that were not my own to take on, in order to try to fill up the restlessness within me.
Even if it meant stepping into a new realm of vulnerability. Even if.

I know there are many purposes for following the Lord in the Even If seasons of our life.
I know that God has done many amazing things in the last 4 months and He has not even touched the surface. But in this process, He has stirred a call I had felt at 15 years old in youth group. Life happened and the leading faded but was never gone. I had begun a collection of paintings in the last few months and titled them “Women of the World.” Little did I know I was painting the very call within my heart…
The call to serve with mission teams.

Here the thoughts would rise up as the stirring would come, but then so would the excuses. Most of which was linked to how I am doing in this season physically. But the thought would not leave that I was called to go and serve.
The stirring rose afresh as I sat with the new church congregation and heard about the heart of serving in Baja Mexico at the Door of Faith Orphanage.
I had every excuse, but the tugging kept coming.
We had no money in savings and the trip was coming fast. I have been in an unbelievable flare physically. We just received additional fees to add to a huge bill from hospital tests and then a few days before DHS sent a bill for overpayment when we were foster parents. This doesn’t account for all the other life needs on hold at the moment.
But mostly my heart I didn’t want to hurt over leaving the orphans and I felt as if I had nothing to offer.
I felt that with my physical limits Dan would have to go and he has absolutely told me over the years this was NOT his area of calling. All these thoughts and excuses rushing my head and I still felt my heart-tugging… EVEN IF. Even if there is no way, God can make the way. Even if there seemed to be too many obstacles, God is able to move those obstacles. Even if I have my doubts…HE is faithful despite them.

So I prayed. I said, God if you truly want me to move in faith as your word says, faith without works is dead, then I am going to be as Gideon and request that you show me without a doubt that it is you that I am hearing and not just my over compassionate mama heart.

These were my conditions as I spoke to the Lord:
I need Dan to go with me. I will not ask.
I need the leader to come to me directly who I have not yet met and tell me that He feels I am to join the team.
I need the provision.

Service was over and Dan leans to me and says, ” I feel like I may be called to go on the mission trip.” I kid you not my mouth about fell to the floor. I may even have laughed out loud. You have to know this is absolutely a tugging from God. He would have not been opened to the idea otherwise.
I was stopped by a friend and visiting after church. I looked over at Dan and He was talking to the leader. Dan called me over and as I was introduced, the team leader said, “God highlighted you to me, I feel you are called to go on this trip.” (paraphrasing as I can’t remember exact words). At this point, I knew and I just nodded my head and said as much.
Now we are waiting on provision and believing for the plan to unfold as we walk out the little hiccups of life in the planning process. The trip is coming fast!
With my lack of knowing where the funds would come from and a time crunch, we had started a go fund me even though I felt so foolish in doing so, I said again…Even If.
The fees for the passport came in first at the Go Fund Me site as well as the cost of plane tickets that were mailed to us. I saw how it was exactly what we needed when we needed it.
We are over halfway to our goal and I know the rest is already accounted for. We are praying for the paperwork we need to move forward will come quickly as Dan had to order his birth certificate before getting a passport. We are on a time crunch. But of course, God already knows this.

I am excited. I know there are many purposes for following the Lord’s leading. But I am still reminded to hold fast to those words… Even If… because often His call does not match my human understanding. Even If I don’t see it, I can rest assured that HE knows it. Even… If.

Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 

Love them… Lead them…Let them

67093324_2790312467710925_1143867284050149376_n By: Awakened_Arts 

The first and greatest commandment is to love. So often we hear that Christians are despised because they are judgemental and do not show kindness. Christians often confuse their role of loving someone as they think that because of the love they want to show them the way so much that they do in fact become judgemental.

Looking at the definition of LOVE according to Corinthians…
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

This is THE standard of love. So first and foremost we are to love others as God loves His children. We are to be kind and patient and not dishonor.

With that being said, when we have someone we love we are called to lead when we see a pattern of living in destructive choices. Whether they are a Christian or not, we can lead them. Lead by example, lead by action and lead by sharing wisdom. Sharing is not judging. Sharing is not shaming. Sharing is being honest in love with the hope that abundant life will be the result.
I lovingly shared how I saw all the destruction addiction was having on my loved one.
I lovingly shared that there was a better life. There was a life of goodness waiting. I shared how valuable and loved they were.
Same with my loved ones living an unhealthy lifestyle. I also shared how much I mess up my own walk of healthy choices. Being exposed, real and vulnerable.
The snag here is, often when you lead by sharing a better life, those that are not interested or not wanting a change can get defensive. But I ask you, have they become defensive because you mentioned something that concerns you in love with someone you have an established relationship, or are they defensive because you are pushing an issue that they have given you no place to speak into? Also, are you pushing the issue every time you see them?  There are times you must speak out, no matter the response because you are looking at a 911 situation. But, I admit that I have over spoken when it has not been my place (shocker I know ). I have been so excited for another to receive freedom, that I neglected to see the heart. I neglected the loving them first and foremost. Instead of loving as the father I rushed into the fixing and that is not my place.

We all have choices in this life. We all have the right to live how we choose. There comes a point that when you share what you feel may be healthier and produce abundant life, that if someone chooses not to follow your lead, that you let go.
Love them…lead them…let them.
By insisting someone makes the choices you make and then if they don’t you condemn them, you are giving the very opposite of true love.
This brings to mind, however,  that there are times you have loved, lead and then people living in their choices are in fact destroying you. They may destroy your peace, they may destroy your safety, they may just break you personally because your heart is so attached to them. Again… let them. Let them be in their choices and move on.
Jesus himself said (Matthew 10:14) if they do not receive the message you bring to dust your feet and move on. Invest where the investment is welcomed.

The painting above is titled “Goodbye”. The darkness represents all the hurts and blows from those that have rejected her, shamed her, left her, and not received what she had to offer. But the beautiful colors represent what is ahead as She has loved… She has led…. and now She must Let. It is not her place to carry the weight of an other’s unhealthy choices. It is her place to settle in the JOY of knowing that she did as she was called.
May she never forget that first she was called to LOVE.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 

A different lens: Perception

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I recounted a story that changed my perception years ago, at Shaey Anthony on YouTube.
If you are interested, give it a view as it places this blog in a fuller context.

Fruit of the Spirit part 2:

rotting apples

Part 2: The fruit is Rotting

The journey to writing about Spiritual Fruit, actually started because I knew I had produced fruit in my life at one point, but in the most recent season, I was not seeing the evidence. It was almost as if my Fruit of the Spirit was rotting away. 

Galatians 5: 22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.

Reasons your Spiritual Fruit may be rotting.

  1. You are leaving your harvest behind in your walk. You may have the Fruit of the Spirit at the moment, but when life gets hard or the world is tempting you have let it go and become buried in the mess.
  2. You have not shared the harvest with others by connecting with a community. You must USE your fruits of the Spirit. We cannot hold on to our fruits of the Spirit for our own gain. Our gifts are to bless and impact the Kingdom. It is then that we will see more fruit production because God’s math multiplies a good thing!
  3. Distraction is a killer of the fruit of the Spirit. When we are consumed with the weight of this world or the busy craziness of life, we are not focused on our God. He is the producer of our fruit. If we are disconnected from Him our fruit will rot.

 

Let’s look at the fruit of the Spirit and see how it may look when rotting. Now mind you, I am not talking about a once in a while I messed up, but if I am constantly walking in the ‘mess’ I am going to have rotting fruit.

*LOVE: Love your neighbor as yourself, love your family, love your church, love the stranger and love your enemy well!

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I already failed at this one today, as I was not very patient or kind with my own husband.  I was tired and moody and failed. I was not showing the fruit of the Spirit within me. Now he was gracious and the Lord gives us grace, but how much more love will the Lord bless in my heart when I can actively obey his call to LOVE and love well?

*JOY: A feeling of great happiness. A source or cause of delight.

Psalm 47:1- 
Clap your hands all you nations; Shout to God with cries of Joy.

When I was grumbling and complaining to my husband about what I perceived as an offense, I was not shouting for Joy. I was not walking in joy. How many of us grumble and complain from the moment we see someone until we depart?
If we are grumbling and complaining we are not showing the fruit of the spirit, Joy.  If we are spending more being critical than we are walking in Joy, we are going to be sitting on the rotten fruit of the Spirit.

* PEACE: It is impossible to walk in stress and anxiety at the same time as peace.  I may begin my morning in peace, and by the afternoon of facing the daily stress, I often have chosen to let peace fall to the ground and rot. I must WALK in peace.

Isaiah 26: 12- 
LORD, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.

God has established His peace for me, I do not need to pick the garbage back up. He has done it and I have to share it.

 

*FOREBEARANCEHolding back or self-restraint. Specifically, a refraining from the enforcement of a punishment; holding back judgment.

Matthew 5:38-42
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Oh how I have wanted to retaliate, throw the stones back that was smacking me in the face. Even though I didn’t, my heart was so ugly with the thought of revenge. My Forbearance was undeveloped for sure. I don’t even think that one had a chance to rot. But now that I am aware of what it is and how to walk in it, Lord will give me the strength to sow that seed with HIS grace.

*KINDNESS- Friendly, thoughtful and considerate. 

Luke 6:35- But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

I think kindness is taking love into action by actually connecting. For myself, in the past, I could compare my kindness vs. others towards me and get disgruntled. But I must be kind to the ungrateful enemy as well as those that will sow back. I can’t expect anything in return, just sowing the kindness for the sake of being kind. Because the Lord has given me much, I must share much.

*GOODNESS- The quality of my character and conduct. For example; integrity, honesty, and uprightness.

Ephesians 4:29- Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

It is so easy to tear down what we see as flaws, but the Lord directs us to build up. Edify others with our speech and conduct. He has called us to be faithful and honest. In my name of ‘sickness’, I have not walked in goodness but in despair and my character showed it. I affected the atmosphere around me and truly was giving off an offensive rotten fruit.

* FAITHFULNESS- Faithful, constant, loyal imply qualities of stability, dependability, and devotion.

Matthew 5:7- When you make a promise, say only “Yes” or “No.” Anything else comes from the devil.

I am learning to take on less so that I can be faithful in my YES. There is nothing more frustrating to others in my life when I can not follow through. This area of study has me more thoughtful on what I am able to do.  

*GENTLENESS-  Walking in the tenderness of the Father. Choosing to use a soft word.

Proverbs 15:1- A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

So many times with my family I have been harsh and I have watched the anger stir up. I have also experienced the anger stirred up in myself from the harshness in others. At the same time, I have seen the hand of God move when I answer with a gentle and tender heart. Lord I am praying that my action of tenderness is my first and my fruit won’t fall from you and rot.

*SELF-CONTROL-   Controlling your emotions and desires or the expression of them in difficult situations. 

2 Timothy 1:7- For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid; but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

God has given me the tools I need to be self-controlled. When I blow up in my emotion of the moment, I have not glorified His work in me. I have not turned to the creator with my emotion. I have let my spirtitual fruit is rotting.

I am still a work in progress, and I know the Lord gives me grace in my seasons of mistakes, but I have made up my mind to not WALK in this state, but rather in HIS POWER.


I once failed at love- Until I learned what it truly is

In my past, I had a world full of people around me, yet I felt so alone.
I had been hurt that others in my life were not listening or there for me in the ways that I thought they should be. I read recently that those that overshare on social media are often the loneliest people and that was me. I was so lonely. Yet, the lonelier I felt the more isolated I became. Shutting people out, to avoid the feelings of hurt.

I lived in a world where others were not being aware of MY needs. When these trials arose,  I would often pout, shout or shut down completely into a world of poor me.   I began to get bitter and turn people away.

I can see where this destructive pattern began. There was one that cut and hurt me so deeply, it shook my very worth.  I was done with living and I was done with people. So one by one, I deleted them from my life. I was not going to face that abandonment again. I would dispose of them before they disposed of me.

While my flesh was saying that this was the way to self-protect, God pointed out ever so gently in His amazing ways that I was on the road of self-destruction.

Where my immediate family is concerned, In the early days of wife and mother, I had completely ruined the atmosphere in my home with my grumbling and complaining.

I would blow up when my comfort levels were disrupted or when they were not meeting my need as I felt they should. If I called for the kids to stop arguing and talking back and they ignored me I would yell, react in the flesh and get bitter rather than giving the soft answer that the Bible calls for. If my husband wasn’t giving me the attention I wanted I would complain about every other little thing he would do, rather than discuss the issue. I would shut down and hide inside myself, making the problem worse, not better.

I was unhappy, depressed, to the point of suicidal. Nobody was there for me (my perception of the moment) and I didn’t know why. I was in the darkest place and when I asked the Lord why. His answer shook me.

The issue was not them, but me.

I was not loving!!! I did not LOVE myself, my family or others.

Love is not self-seeking.

Why is it that I find their actions concern me so much? Why was my comfort level controlled by their actions? Were my desires so much more important than theirs?

In order to understand the fullness of joy the Lord has for us, we MUST comprehend love.

When I am not seeing my needs be met by humans, I need to seek the Lord to meet those needs. I need to ask God how can you use me to help show your love to others?
God has made it very apparent to me what love was a while back. And for the most part, great joy has come in as I settle on the word and apply love like His in my life. I have become more patient, more kind, more peaceful overall.

I do fail and I do miss it, but thankfully I fail and miss it less and less as I learn more and more.

Love is an action. It is not a feeling. When I am irritated, self-seeking and impatient I am not acting in love. Criticism and judgment is not love. Manipulation and tantrum throwing is not love. Bitterness and impatience is not love.

The bible is very clear on the actions we are to take in love. Jesus was loving, he was giving, he was kind and I am to be Christ-like. I want my friends and family to see the kind of love that lives and dwells in me when I allow my self to get out of my own way.

Challenge this day my friend: Find areas that we can exhibit love that we never thought was an act of Love before. Look at the individuals you have cut off and ask yourself… was that an act of love? Sometimes God calls us to walk away for a healthier us, but sometimes, we are a healthier us by growing in the act of LOVE.

 1 Corinthians 3:4-7

Love is PATIENT, Love is KIND.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others, it is NOT SELF-SEEKING,

it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs

love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth.

It always protects, always trusts always hopes, always perseveres

 

Clanging cymbals

 

I Corinthians 13:1 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

I have read this scripture many times over the years. But recently as a friend of mine was hurting in her anxiety and depression, and I was shouting out God’s goodness and how He pulled me through, I realized in a moment that I was not loving her. I was not meeting this friend where she was but trying to shout out how the Lord pulled me from the pit.  I wanted to see this same glorious victory in her life,  but there is a time when if all I am doing is shouting out joy, joy, joy… I can be a clanging cymbal.

It may not be comforting to a friend that is watching her life crumble around her, to hear,  ” I have been there, this is what you need to do!”
While I do believe in encouraging and edifying my sister and I do believe it is so important to sing the praises of my Jesus when He has shown me His joy,
There is a time and place for it.
Love is patient, kind, does not boast, not-self seeking. Am I being kind, patient and not self seeking when I want to hurry my friend through her burdens rather than walking by her side? I want her to be full of joy, but is that because I am uncomfortable with her hurting?

The word says there is a time and season for everything. There is a time to mourn but JOY comes in the morning. Am I rushing my friend to her morning, before God has completed the work in her? Am I a discouragement, when she is not seeing the joy that I am proclaiming and as she sits there while I am dancing about blind to her sorrow?

If I had been a clanging cymbal to you my friend in the past as I rejoice in my joy. I am sorry. I want you to have joy in abundance, and I want to share how I reached it, but in your time, when you are ready. God has begun a work in you, and He will complete it, in HIS time.

Lord grant me the wisdom to know when to be quiet and walk beside and when to SHOUT out your glorious JOY. For I don’t want to be a clanging harsh noise to the ears of those around me, but a song of praise stirring within the spirit of those hurting. Help me to know what is needed in the moment.

 

 

Saving Biblical Marriage

Saving biblical marriage is a phrase that  is thrown around often these days. Mostly I hear this concerning same sex marriage protest. The fight against marriage being redefined in the United States across the board is a very heated topic that causes much dissension.

“Biblical marriage = 1 man + 1 woman”, is often quoted by Jesus followers. And this is where I let out a big fat raspberry with an eye roll!!

For starters I don’t see why we must define biblical marriage simply as one man and one woman. This would mean every single heterosexual marriage was biblical. I am sorry that is not the case. You must have God as the center of your marriage to be a biblical marriage. Just because one man and one woman marry, does not make their marriage biblical.

Secondly, to allow the state to define biblical marriage, what would we do if the state decided that christians could no longer be legally wed and all marriage licenses are void, does this mean that the whole church would be practicing fornication if they remained married? OF COURSE NOT. Biblical marriage is a covenant with a man and a woman AND God. The state has nothing to do with it.

Lastly, my biggest frustration over the biblical marriage fight, is there are millions of fingers pointing at the same-sex couples as the destruction of marriage, and no fingers pointing within the walls of the church. The issue isn’t what others are doing that is destroying  the church and the marriages within, it is the actions of christian heterosexuals that are destroying the biblical marriage!

The afflictions are hidden in closets of the church goers, even blatantly in front of the church and overlooked with a simple “grace covers all sin’! Affairs at the pulpit and beyond, pornography, pedophiles, divorce, alcoholism, addiction, lying, hatred, bitterness, anger and abuse are all causes for the destruction of a biblical marriage!

Yes, to have  a biblical marriage, the word says one man and one woman. But less we forget the other scriptures concerning marriage?

Ephesians 5:25- Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. ( GAVE HIMSELF UP ) This means men die to your selfish lusts and addictions that are destroying your marriage! Then you look at the meaning of love as described in the bible…

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Bible believers are we making sure that our marriages  are filled with Christ’s love?! I can see in this scripture areas I struggle in often… patience is a huge problem with me !

Let us not forget what the word says to women directly, that many in the church today roll their eyes and take lightly. This is an area that yes I agree with, I often struggle with my own stubborn self.

Ephesians 5:22-24 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. This is such a brief overview of what the word says about a biblical marriage. I am not getting overly deep in it today. My purpose is to shout out… Let’s stop focusing on what those outside the church are doing to ‘destroy’ marriage, and look within to save marriage as God intended! One thing Jesus never did, and that was to force anyone to live biblically.

When we as His followers as a whole don’t live biblically, why do we feel it is our duty to force others to?

I know this is not a typical blog post for Writing For Joy, but isn’t a biblical successful marriage, a key to living joyfully as well? Blessings