freedom-to-FLY

When I was around 12 years old, I was at my grandparents’ house in Shreveport, Louisiana with my cousins eagerly awaiting Christmas morning.  It was my favorite time of year and I was at the house where I felt most loved and spoiled, but this particular year included a painful memory that started a new habit for me.

Christmas past

My abusive step-father was usually on his best behavior when other people were around, but he got mad on Christmas Eve and blew up at me, which started a chain reaction of events.  I can’t remember exactly what it was about, but I recall my grandfather, who usually minded his own business, snapping back at my step-dad.  Rarely having anyone challenge him, he stormed out of the house and drove off.

I had never seen my grandfather so upset.  Even though I knew he was protecting me, I looked around at my embarrassed mother, shocked aunt and uncle, my crying cousins and my rattled grandparents and felt like I had ruined Christmas.

Although I hadn’t really done anything wrong, it was still about me and my mind concluded that everyone would have been better off if it hadn’t been for me or if I had somehow predicted what was going to happen and do things differently.  My mind kept hitting rewind and play as I imagined different scenarios and fell deeper into shame, regret and hopelessness.

That night I slept in the front living room of this old, creaky house which usually scared me.  However, this night as I stared at the flashing Christmas lights on the tree with tear-filled eyes, I didn’t really care if monsters, burglars or whoever else broke in and got me.  I think I even got up and unlocked the front door.  I didn’t want to be there and was prepared for whatever I deserved.

bare-feet-boy-child-262103

I looked at all the presents under the tree and was no longer excited.  What difference did they make?  Who cares about toys when everyone is angry and sad?  Christmas didn’t feel like Christmas, it was more like every other bad day in my life, but even worse because it was supposed to be better.

Oh how I wish I could go back and counsel that little girl.  I would tell her that she didn’t do anything wrong and that no one hated her.  I would tell her that her grandfather seemed angry, but it was at her step-father for years of watching him attack the little girl that was so precious to him.  I would explain that though it looked like anger, it was really masking his deep sadness.

I would tell her that her aunt and uncle weren’t judging her, but were just surprised to see an adult acting this way over something so small and insignificant.  Her cousins were just children who had been frightened, but they didn’t think it was her fault.  Her mother was probably at a loss on how to fix the situation and might have been wondering if there was anything that she could have done differently.

The truth is that most people are thinking about themselves, processing from their vantage point and struggling with their own stuff, they aren’t really thinking about you.  As an adult, I can see where no mature person in that room would have been blaming a child for the erratic actions of one man with a history of outbursts and mental illness.

There are many things in our lives that happen to us and our minds create a story and we begin to take our misperceptions in as truth.  Our spiritual enemy heaps more lies on top of our confusion to narrate our circumstances in a negative way so that what we see looks like proof and what we feel becomes our reality.  We develop a foundation of false beliefs and then try to build a life on top of shaky ground.

The hard part is realizing that your beliefs might not be based entirely on fact, and even worse, how do you begin to sort out truth from fiction when you’ve believed lies for so long?

composing-2391033_1920

The answer is going to sound too simple and too cliché, but the truth is that the only thing required is your willingness.  You can’t sort it out, but God can.  You can’t fix it, but God wants to.  You can’t erase it, but God can.

The greatest and most dangerous power we possess is free will.  We have the choice to choose truth or lies, faith or fear, life or death, God or self, love or hate, surrender or pride, etc.

Those many years ago, on that sad Christmas Eve, I wrote my first poem.  I’m not sure where it came from because I didn’t read books or poetry and didn’t know any poets personally, but like the Psalms, writing became a way of expressing my emotions and allowing the Holy Spirit to minister to me as I wrestled with my thoughts and feelings.  I recently wrote a new poem about believing lies, which I’ll share in a moment.

Sometimes I feel damaged beyond repair and sorrowful that I can’t be more for God, but recently He has showed me that it’s not over, but only beginning.  As He reveals truth to me and I choose to believe it and invite Him into more of my brokenness, He will continue to restore me and work through me for His good.  He has always been in control and always had a plan; He was just waiting for me to get on board.

I recently described this process in my blog “Beginning to Believe – How to Choose a Life Free of Anxiety, Depression and Lies”.  One of the tools God is using to help me with this is the book “The Search for Significance” by Robert McGee.  I don’t particularly like to read, but I absolutely want to heal and I’ll do whatever it takes for that to happen!

Here is my latest poem and what I believe to be the key to my success and failures, which is choice.  In 1 Corinthians 2:16, we are told that as new creations, we have the mind of Christ.  That means we have access to discernment, wisdom and Christ’s strength.

I can’t always choose what happens to me, but I always have the free will to ask God for help or allow the enemy to have his way with my mind.  Which will you choose?

We Have a Choice:  God’s Truth or Satan’s Lies

If lies were demons

Then my mind is the hell

That they have made home

And most like to dwell.

 

Their father guides them,

Assigning each a role:

To kill, steal, destroy

The peace in my soul.

 

Like a train off track,

Thoughts hurling all about

Derailed emotions

Causing fear and doubt.

 

Digging deep trenches

And filling bags with sand

Bunkered down to stay

Invading my land.

 

A General rules

Ordering them to sin

But there’s a traitor

That allowed them in.

 

Who is the keeper

Handing over the key?

Suppressing the truth;

Free will, says it’s me.

 

Advertisements

I am a deep thinker.  I over analyze everything trying to figure things out, find the purpose or prevent consequences.

Often times my emotional side wrestles fiercely with my logical side trying to determine, based on all material facts and possible scenarios, what the conclusion to a matter must be.  I pride myself on “common sense”.

Unfortunately, spiritual things have little to do with common sense.  In God’s world, it takes a virgin to have a baby and a boy to kill a giant.  The first shall be last and the last shall be first.  A true leader must be a great servant.  A man must be born again and to truly live, he must die unto self.

It can feel like a bit of an Alice in Wonderland sometimes.

When I first learned what codependency was, my world was rocked.  I thought I had things figured out and then realized that all of the things that I thought were my “personality” were really based on false beliefs and my life strategies were really coping mechanisms.

While I was hopeful that this new found knowledge could help me solve the mystery of my “stinking thinking”, it also terrified me to suddenly have no idea who I was, what was real and what was based on my perception and to know that I was in control of nothing.  For a person with trust issues, surrendering control (or the illusion of it) sounds a lot like giving up and I wasn’t ready to do that.

Fast forward a few years to when I realized that God wasn’t asking me to give things up, but just to hand them over.  He wasn’t out to get me, but He surely intended on remaking me.

I had come to many wrong conclusions based on my circumstances, limited understanding and acceptance of lies.  God’s truth had become so entangled with Satan’s lies, that I needed to be unraveled and start anew.

That sounds logical and simple until you realize that the things that might be taken away are the things that you hold most dear:  relationships, security, status, etc.

Oh how I wish God would just erase my false beliefs and insecurities and give me the strength and confidence I desire, but He chooses to “renew” our minds, not replace them.  This process takes my willingness and cooperation and there is nothing easy about it.

After many years of struggling with depression, suppressed anger, anxiety, insecurities and more, I’m finally realizing that I don’t have to fight so hard to become something I think I should be.  I just need to accept who I already am.

Our minds are like a prison and the acceptance of Jesus Christ unlocks the door, but we have to push it open and walk out.  I’ve spent a lifetime believing that there is something wrong with me, that I will never measure up and that I will never be free.  I wrote a poem about this when I was 16-years-old, maybe you can identify with it and see that this wound doesn’t just heal with time because it’s been 30 years and I’m still a work in progress.  Link to poem blog HERE.

God desperately wants me to know His love and grace and yet I have been the stumbling block in my own life because I choose to believe Satan’s deception more than God’s promises.  One is the father of lies and the other is Truth and all that is good.  I definitely know which One I want to believe and yet the battle is real.

However, recognizing the problem is the first step in recovery!  I’m fully aware that there is a problem, I have a desire to resolve it and I know that I can’t do it on my own.  But!  In Christ, I am neither alone, nor powerless! (Phil. 4:13, Matt. 28:20, Is. 41:10)

In his book, “The Search for Significance”, Robert McGee states,

Indeed, we’ve reached a true mark of maturity when we begin testing the deceitful thoughts of our minds against the Word of God.  We no longer have to live by our fleshly thoughts; we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).  Through His Spirit, we can challenge the indoctrinations and traditions that have long held us in guilt and condemnation.  We can then replace those deceptions with the powerful truths of the Scriptures.

If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Matrix”, my favorite line is when Morpheus says, “He’s beginning to believe”.  It literally gives me chills because I think my spirit is telling me that I already know who I am and possess all that I need; I just have to live like it!

Check out this movie clip and remember that it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains.  Read Ephesians 6:10-18 and count how many times God tells us we don’t have to run, but we can “stand” against the devil’s schemes.  Take God at His Word, He created you and your enemy, He knows who can and will win!

A few days ago a friend confessed that his friend’s efforts in encouragement were appreciated, but were also falling short of what he really needed and desired.  His friend was texting scriptures daily, which is a great thing, but can feel hollow if it’s the only thing.

This friend of mine longs for mentorship and comradery and to know that someone is thinking about him and cares for him.  This can definitely be supported with scripture, but should not be replaced by it.

I know that scripture is powerful and that my friend was grateful, but I also understood what he meant.  He craves relationship over religion, as does God.

I have another well-meaning acquaintance that posts nothing but Bible verses everyday on his Facebook page.  While there is nothing wrong with this, it just begins to grow old and I tend to overlook it.

I would expect to see only Bible verses from a daily devotion page, not an individual who I know has family, friends and other things going on in life.  Without this balance of relationship, his page appears cold, as if computer generated or like a mask to hide behind.

Even with good intentions, I think we can seem the same way when we give bumper sticker answers to complex issues for those who are struggling.  When we say things like, “Just Pray”, “Everything happens for a reason” or “Just have faith”, it can come across as minimizing and even create a disconnect.

I believe the same thing can happen if we look at the Bible as the answer instead of a means to the answer.  It is the living, breathing word of God, but it is not God Himself.

Pastor and author A.W. Tozer wrote:

For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself; and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience, they are not the better for having heard the truth.  The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their being, their spirit.

I used to be very involved in recovery ministry and would see people start to mistake meetings for God, as if there was magic in their attendance rather than power in their God.  People can do this with church, too.

Yes, God wants us to gather with other Believers, but He doesn’t want us to forget Him in the process.  We can get so busy doing for God that we forsake being with God.  We are not just workers for God, but children of God.  Don’t mistake duty for identity.

The first Christian company my husband and I ever worked for was such a breath of fresh air.  It was so nice to find something in the corporate world that valued family and God and we were excited to get to help people while earning a living.  Unfortunately we later began to see the size of our paychecks as God’s approval of our work, so when it would decrease we would work harder and when it finally came to an end, we felt like we had failed.

We have done the same thing in our personal lives where we have taken blessings as God’s favor and trials as God’s punishment.  We have allowed our circumstances to interfere with our view of God and felt abandoned or even attacked.

When we tie our relationship and value to anything other than God’s character and who we are in Him, we will allow ourselves to be yanked around like a yo-yo and soon doubt God’s goodness and our ability to please Him.  He loves us because of who we are, not because of what we do.

He desires our hearts and love and wants us to read His word because we will learn the truth of who we are and all He has promised for us, but never think for a second that’s all He wants.  I am in no way minimizing the importance of the Bible, because it is the number one source of Truth and how we can hear from God.  Even A.W. Tozer says,

Whatever keeps me from my Bible is my enemy, however harmless it may appear to be.

Remember that God is a parent who loves His children; He has given written instructions, warnings and messages of encouragement through the Good Book, but they shouldn’t replace a real and active relationship with the Author.

When my kids were away in college, I sent them gifts, texts and provided for them financially.  I prayed for them often and wanted the best for them, but I also wanted to maintain my relationship with them.  I wanted them to text back, think about me too, thank me for what I was doing for them, come home to visit, tell me all about their new friends and even their struggles.  I wanted to laugh with them and cry with them and just be a part of their lives even though they were older and farther away.  Just because I wasn’t with them physically, didn’t mean I no longer existed or desired acknowledgement and engagement.  I wonder if God ever feels the same about us?

 

This is my 6-month-old Chiweenie, Lily, who could cuddle in my robe pocket when we first got her and is now a whopping 5 pounds.  She is the smallest dog we have ever owned and quite the little toot!

Despite the fact that Lily is tiny and super cute, she can be a big pain.  Forget the fact that I find her pee spots with my bare sock or that she chews up important papers and leaves poop piles lying around; one of my biggest problems is her escaping my backyard.  She’s so bad that my neighbor calls her “Houdini”.

We have a wrought iron fence and have put up fence netting, blocked corners with bricks and even put boards along every gate, but she still finds a way out.  This really worries me because we have a fairly busy street in front of our house and I don’t want her to get hit by a car.  We also have a lot of deer that run behind our house and don’t want her to get trampled.

Also, I know there are people who like to steal small or pure breed dogs to sell them and I absolutely would be devastated if she went missing.  My purpose in sharing this, beyond showing her cute pictures, is to point out that the fence is for her protection and yet she doesn’t understand that.

I think we sometimes misunderstand God’s intentions, as well.

There is a word used over 200 times in the Bible that is a key to unlocking great blessings in our lives and yet we resist, and even rebel against it.  It’s a 4-letter word, but it’s not a dirty word, though we sometimes act like it is.

The word is “obey”, and people don’t like it.  It has been used in marriage vows for years, but recently is being deleted or replaced more and more.  It’s believed to allude to inequality as if one partner is superior to the other.

Its use in the Bible is generally taken as almost being synonymous with slavery, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.  The world has twisted its meaning and belittled its importance, but God has revealed its mystery in His Word, if we will humble ourselves to hear it.

Think of it as an exclusive invitation to a secret garden that has been disguised as junk mail and thrown away by so many.  Don’t be fooled though, there is treasure inside!

Our enemy uses our pride and ignorance to deceive us and keep us from looking for the key or even desiring to find out where it leads.  Have you ever wondered why praying and reading the Bible seems so simple and yet tends to be so difficult to do consistently?  It’s like there is a force of opposition to the things that will bring real change in our lives.

We try to justify our busy schedules and find ways around doing what we know we need to do, or rationalize it away with some technical loophole to avoid what seems tedious or irrelevant.  However, just as I don’t want Lily to escape because I love her, God gives us parameters for our protection.  He provides commands and instruction for our benefit, not our punishment.

Why does He instruct women to respect their husbands and men to love their wives?  Because it’s what they desire!

Why should we pray without ceasing and seek God with all our hearts?  Because it’s what we need!

In John 15, Jesus uses the word “remain” about 10 times.  If Jesus repeats Himself, we should take heed and realize that there is something important here.

One definition of the word remain is, “to continue to exist, especially after other similar or related people or things have ceased to exist”.  So how do we endure where others have failed?

Read John 15:1-11.  This passage is about love and obedience, but it ultimately leads up to joy.  Who isn’t looking for more love and joy in their life?

Listen to verses 10 and 11:

If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

“Just as I have” – Jesus isn’t telling us to do something that He hasn’t done Himself.  “So that” – Here’s the purpose behind it.

He is inviting us to a life filled with joy, where we can remain in His love and the secret password to find it is:  obey.

God didn’t give us free will to make us slaves.  He doesn’t give commands to demonstrate His power.

He doesn’t build fences, He gives choices.  We can choose to remain in His presence where we will find love, joy and protection or we can escape to the dangers of disobedience.

God doesn’t need us, but He wants us.  The Bible says that we were created in His image and for His pleasure and glory.  He created the world and sent Jesus to redeem it, not condemn it.

At the end of the book Ecclesiastes, which was written as a warning and instruction for future generations, King Solomon summarizes his wisdom with…

Here is the conclusion of the matter:  Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

So why do we resist the very thing we were made for?

I would suggest it’s either because we want to be God (pride) or we fear He is not good (mistrust).  I admit that I can be guilty of both, but especially the latter!  (This is partly due to my past experiences, my flesh that is bent towards sin and the world which encourages me to put self above all else.)

But just think, how silly would it be for Lily to think she could be me or do what I do?  And how sad would it be if she thought I was out to destroy her rather than wanting to love, protect and provide for her?

It doesn’t make sense.  God is not out to harm us in anyway, despite the way things look or how we feel.

God created our path, Jesus wants to wash our feet and the Holy Spirit is here to guide our steps.  We need to stop trying to run away!

 

Jesus set an example of the type of leader He is and what He desires us to be, which is a servant who loves and cares for others, not because we don’t matter or He needs “slaves”, but for this reason we should obey in love:

Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.  John 13:17

I once had a counselor ask me if I knew what it meant to “rest in the Lord”.  After fumbling around for a while trying to give the right answer, he interrupted me and said, “Just pray about it”.

I later realized that I was looking for the perfect way to describe or define the phrase, but God’s purpose behind the question was to reveal to me that I had absolutely no idea how to live it out.

I am a very analytical person.  I try to deconstruct everything to the point of overcomplicating everything, if that makes sense.

I’m always trying to figure out why things happened, what it means and how I can fix it or avoid it next time.  I worry, assume and stew over so many things.  My mind is a breeding ground for anxiety!

There is nothing wrong with taking a look at the facts and seeing if there is a lesson in something.  God absolutely wants us to learn from our mistakes, but He also wants us to bring the problem to Him.  Unless we want to wander in the desert for 40 years, He should really be our first step.

For the past 2 days, my morning devotions have been about self-awareness, which I thought was a good thing.  According to Oswald Chambers, the author of “Utmost for His Highest”, it really isn’t.

He even warns, “Beware of allowing self-consciousness to continue because by slow degrees it will awaken self-pity, and self-pity is Satanic.”  Yikes!

I really struggled with this topic and after researching it, have concluded that it’s not so much self “awareness” or “consciousness” that is the problem, but it’s more about self-dependence or self-importance.

When the apostle Peter stepped out of the boat and walked on water, his eyes were fixed on Jesus.  However, when his focus shifted to his surroundings and himself, he began to sink.  I can only imagine, from my own experience, that what started out as a leap of faith turned into analysis of the situation and self-doubt.

From, “Wow, I’m walking on water”, to “What am I thinking?  I can’t walk on water!”

Technically, he would have been right.  He can’t walk on water; however, in Christ, we can do all things.  The key phrase is “in Christ”…dependence on Christ…awareness of Christ…because of Christ.  Commonsense can be an asset in the physical world, but a stumbling block in spiritual matters.

In most of my self-analysis, I am judging myself on my own strength and in my own power.  I believe that I should try harder, do more, know better, be greater, etc.  I am not only judge and jury; I can also be both plaintiff and defendant.  There is quite a committee in my head!

Like I said, there is nothing wrong with taking inventory to see what we can learn and improve upon, what we need to forgive or make an amends for, even King David did this.  However, in Psalm 139, look at who is actually doing the work:

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Who is the One doing the searching, trying, knowing and leading?

According to Oswald, if there is any “wicked way” in us, we would rather dispute it than come to Jesus.

I have a good friend that is very active in her church and recovery ministries helping other addicts, co-dependents and sexual abuse survivors find the healing that she has received.  Before she became a Believer and discovered a Christ-centered recovery program, she started in AA.  She confessed that even though she now knows that Jesus is the answer to every problem she ever had or will have, if someone had told her that in the beginning, she would have turned around and walked out.  Some people absolutely do not want Jesus to be the answer and may not even know why.

We have an overwhelming desire to find the answer ourselves.  We just want to know what needs to be done, so we can do it and move on!  However, Oswald suggests that if we try to overcome self-awareness through any of our own methods or in our own strength, we will only reaffirm and reinforce the problem.  So what do we do?

Denial would try to rationalize or justify it, but self (awareness, reliance, dependence, etc.) wants to figure it out and fix it ourselves, which is not only impossible, but exhausting!  If “self” is the problem, then it can’t also be the solution.

Why do we repeat this crazy cycle like there is some sort of reward for the DIY Christian?

Not only is there no prize for trying to do everything yourself, but it goes against the very definition of what it is to be a Christian.  Why would we choose to struggle alone anyway?

Matthew 11:28 sounds way too simple to be a viable solution.  We overthink it, doubt it and even fight against it; yet, our spirit knows that it’s exactly what we need.  Like my counselor told me, “Just pray about it”.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

 

bonding-1985863_1920

This may sound harsh, but there are certain people in my life that if I never saw again, I’d be fine.  I don’t mean that they don’t have value or even that I don’t like them, but our relationship just isn’t significant enough to make an impact on my life.

There is little expectation regarding the obligations to an acquaintance or possibly a co-worker, but that changes when they become a friend, mentor or family member.  It jumps to an even higher level if a person becomes your spouse.

Let’s switch gears for a minute to food.  Do you like appetizers?

salsa-1048639_1280

I love appetizers, especially chips and salsa.  I live in Texas and Mexican food is one of my favorites, but I have to be careful.

Appetizers are meant to whet our appetite for the main course.  They are supposed to lead up to the main course, but if we aren’t careful they can spoil the meal because we get full before our entrée ever arrives.

This isn’t a big deal if it happens once in a while, but over time of getting full on the unhealthy appetizers we can become deficient because our hunger is being satisfied without the nutritional benefits that our bodies need.

We can do this in other areas of our life and become spiritually malnourished, as well.

If we fill up on Christian music or movies, YouTube sermons, catchy quotes of wisdom, support groups, the beliefs of others or even our pastor’s message and fool ourselves into thinking they are the same as an entrée of God, we are fooling ourselves.

None of the things I mentioned are bad, but none of them are God.  There is no substitute for a personal relationship with Jesus.

Maybe a Christian song or someone else’s testimony made you want to learn more or attend church for the first time, and that is great!  However, once you become a Christ follower and build a deeper relationship with God from acquaintance to friend, deeper communication is required.

The evolution from stranger to spouse is easy to see because the changes are external such as increased time spent together, getting to know and trust each other more, the proposal and ring, to eventually professing your love publically through ceremony and moving in together.  It doesn’t stop there, though.  Over the years, experiences will either draw you closer together or farther apart, depending on your level of communication, willingness to work on things, ability to forgive, etc.

heart-529607_1920

It’s no different with God.  The music and messages will only get you so far.  Prayer and reading the Bible is where the real communication takes place.

Would your spouse be satisfied with you singing songs about him or her?  Would they be as content with you hearing about them as they would be with you speaking to them?  Why should God be?

He has done more than a spouse ever will or can.  He created us.  He sent His son to die for us.  He never stops loving us.

If we aren’t praying, then we aren’t speaking to Him.  How can we get to know someone we don’t talk to?

Since God speaks in a still, small voice, how will we hear Him if we never create the quiet time to do so?

Part of seeking and finding Him is done through reading His Word.  If we don’t ask questions and seek answers, how can we expect to grow?

God’s Word is Truth and is living and breathing, which means that it’s not just words in a book that we don’t understand.  Something happens when we pray and read that we will never understand.

If you have never read the book of Joshua about the conquering of the city of Jericho, the summary is that it was a fortified kingdom with high walls and God commanded a small army to march around it a certain number of times over so many days and then blow their trumpets in a specific way and shout.  When promised, the walls fell down.

This seems odd and doesn’t make sense.  How do walls just fall?  Why did they have to march when God could have just caused the walls to fall as they initially approached the city?

There are a million questions we could ask, but one thing we know is that marching and trumpets have nothing to do with demolition.  However, having faith, trusting God even when we don’t understand and obeying even when it feels foolish can allow God’s power to defeat anything that sets itself up against His will in our lives.

It’s great to worship God through song, enjoy a movie with a heavenly message and to attend church every week, but don’t allow these appetizers to rob you of an intimate relationship with the God who wants to spend quality time with you.

paper-3061485_1920

Although you may not understand the power of prayer and the Bible, I guarantee you that Satan does and he wants you to have no interest or time for either.

Evangelist and author Oswald Chambers reminds us that, “The most important aspect of Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain and the surrounding influence and qualities produced by that relationship.  That is all God asks us to give our attention to, and it is the one thing that is continually under attack.”

You don’t have to know how to pray, just start telling God how you feel and asking Him for what you need.  You don’t have to understand everything the Bible says, just read it and let God interpret it in His timing.

If you get distracted in prayer, start writing them down or speaking them out loud so that your mind can’t wander.  If you don’t know where to start in the Bible, join a study or buy a one year Bible that has your daily readings mapped out.  Whatever you do, start today and never stop because this is about relationship and not rituals.  There is no checklist in marriage and as the bride of Christ; we need to willfully work on our relationship every day.

We don’t take a break from communicating with our spouses and we don’t put off eating for months at a time, so it should be the same with God.

Jesus Himself said:

It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Taste and see that He is good!

I ran across this picture this morning and it caught my eye.

As I stared more closely, I realized that there was nothing particularly special about any one thing in the photo, and yet I found it to be beautiful.

Whether it’s the sunset, the blue sky or giant rocks that spoke to me most, it was all made more interesting viewing it through the bare, twisted limbs of the tree.  And I know this sounds weird, but I felt like God was showing me how He sees my “brokenness”.

I am a survivor.  Most of my life I have tried to be strong, hold it together and figure things out, but my exterior rarely matches what I’m truly feeling on the inside.

I can feel afraid, angry or hopeless and I sometimes wish I didn’t feel so broken and messed up.  But you know what I realized?

Just like that scraggly tree, God’s beauty can shine through my brokenness in a way that He might not if I had the perfect childhood, marriage, etc.

I don’t know about you, but I love a good underdog story.  It’s not that I enjoy seeing people struggle, but I love getting to celebrate their triumph after seeing all their trials.

If a person has success, talent, beauty, personality, money, great relationships, self-confidence, etc. and it came easy to them, then I congratulate them.  However, if they attained these things after disappointment, defeat and detours, I can appreciate it even more.

It gives me hope to see someone come from where I am and get to where I want to be.  I love seeing God work in their lives and speak through them into mine.

I’ve been asked why I share things or why I don’t just move on with my life, but these people have missed the point.  I am not trying to wallow in self-pity when I write about my own struggles, but I choose to allow my painful path to fuel me to help others while I’m being healed myself.

I bare my soul like the naked branches of that tree to allow God’s light to shine through it.  My flesh wants to point out how ugly and scarred I am, but my spirit reminds me of how God can make beauty from ashes.

When I am weak, He is strong.  The apostle Paul changed his attitude about his own weakness when he asked God to take it from him in 2 Corinthians 12:9

But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.’  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.