Tag Archives: Moment by Moment

Treasure Hunting

I haven’t written a lot in the last year.  Why not?  Well, I’ve been medicated, which is a beautiful thing (thank you, Jesus, for good meds!), but the same mechanism that stops the downward-spiral of anxious thoughts also stops the creative process of writing. So, you could say, my muse has gone on vacation.

But it’s my birthday and I always post a blog on my birthday.  Sharing these posts has become a daily joy and I can’t imagine 2016/2017 without sharing a new one with you.

It started in 2014:  Moment by Moment  (all that junk – yep, Jesus redeemed that)

It continued in 2015:  Through Heaven’s Eyes  (what does God see when He looks at us?)

And for 2016, I’d like to take a little deeper dive.  Let’s start here.  This fall, my best buds and I joined a Bible study by Angela Thomas-Pharr called “Redeemed: Grace to Live Every Day Better than Before”.  That title intrigued me.  Can we really live every day better than before?  Really?  What if this is as good as it gets?

I’ve been a Christian for 22 1/2 years and today is my 45th birthday, so I’ve been a follower of Christ for exactly half of my life.  After all of these years, why don’t I have this down yet?  Why am I medicated?  What is there to be anxious about?  I know my identity:  I am in Christ and Christ is in me.  “If God is for me, who can be against me?” (Rom. 8:31)  So, why can’t I just calm down and enjoy my life?  What am I missing?

CS Lewis once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) said it this way:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and unchangeable object; in other words by God himself.” (Pensees 10.148)

Pascal’s quote has been summarized/ paraphrased as, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator.”

That’s actually the quote that Dave Wilson used in his message in April of 1994, during my first visit to Kensington Church.  That’s what got my attention.  Yes, I had been trying to fill that God-shaped vacuum with all kinds of created things and none of them were working.  And for the past 22 1/2 years, my focus has changed, but I’m still searching for something.  What am I searching for?

Angela Thomas-Pharr took a considerable amount of time in her study to teach about the three unique stages of redemption.  I’m so glad she did, so I could share them with you:

  1. The day you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are redeemed, “changed from an unbeliever to a believer” (salvation/justification).
  2. As you live out your life from that day forward, you are being redeemed, “being changed into the image of Christ” (sanctification).
  3. When you leave this earth and go to be with God in Heaven, you are finally and completely redeemed, “eternally changed into the likeness of Christ” (glorification).

The writer of the Book of Hebrews defines Jesus’s sacrifice this way: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” -Hebrews 10:14 (ESV)

We are being perfected (sanctified) every day we’re alive, but we won’t be completely perfected (glorified) until we get to Heaven.  It’s crazy that I spend so much time and effort trying to reach perfection (or at least perfect contentment) here on earth, because I’ll never get there this side of Heaven.  And why would I want to?  Adam and Eve had perfection in the Garden of Eden and they must have found it so boring that they chose to disobey God.  Hmmm, maybe that’s a big part of the deception.

Deception?  Yes, there is an enemy of our souls, the deceiver, the “father of lies” (John 8:44), and his job is to keep us from God, the Father of Truth.  But if we’ve already accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, what’s our enemy to do?  If he can convince us that we need perfection on earth, we’ll keep striving for it, wasting our time, wearing ourselves out, running in circles, looking in all the wrong places.

Do that for long enough and a new lie begins to surface.  Beth Moore has said that we can be so paralyzed in our pursuit of greatness that we do nothing good.  If the enemy can keep us busy, distracted, beaten down, ineffective and exhausted, we just might stop trying all together.  Angela Thomas-Pharr describes this way:

“Maybe you know this.  When you are tired and your spirit is heavy, the heart begins to mumble the saddest word:  Whatever.”

Yes, we are being lied to.  If we believe the lie, we’ll get stuck.  It’s an effective tactic.  It works.  And our job is to fight against it with truth.  The truth is, whether we “feel” it or not, we are actively being redeemed by the God who perfects us as we live and breathe.  The Apostle Paul knew this truth and he explained to the philosophers in Athens, ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ … ‘We are his offspring.’  -Acts 17:28 (NIV)

Offspring.  Yes.  We are not children of the enemy, that we should obey him.  We are children of God.  Living “every day better than before” is about knowing who we are and Whose we are, growing closer to our Father until we get to Heaven.  And isn’t that what Heaven is: the place where we are completely and eternally redeemed, fully in the presence of God?

Isn’t that how Jesus brought Heaven to earth, perfectly connected to the Father?  That’s what he wants for us.  Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  -Matt. 6:10 (ESV)  If we allow Jesus to live through us, connecting us to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can bring a little bit of Heaven to earth.  And as children of God, we need the encouragement of our brothers and sisters to keep our focus.

The Apostle Paul taught about this spiritual battle and he encouraged the church of Galatia:  “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” -Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

Don’t give up.  Don’t quit.  Stay connected.  Stay awake and pay attention to every little miracle.  Be a treasure hunter, hunting for every scrap of joy, every gift, every moment, fully engaged.  And be a treasure hunter for others too.  Help them to see the gifts all around them.  Life is hard and we need each other.

That’s why it’s so important that we stay connected to a community of believers; other people who can point us to the truth.  No church is perfect.  How can it be?  The church is made up of imperfect people.  But if all of us, in our imperfection, can point each other to our Perfect Heavenly Father, then we have hope.  And that’s why I love my church.  That’s why I go every week.  Not because I’m a “super Christian”, but because I’m not.  None of us are and we need all of the encouragement we can get.

A few weeks back, my church started a new series called “Heart & Soul”, exploring seven core values that can define our lives.  If you missed the message on the first core value, check it out here: Heart & Soul: Identity

Towards the end of the service, Chris Zarbaugh reads Max Lucado’s “You Are Special”, Danielle sings “Out of Hiding, Father’s Song”, followed by a video called “Identity”, by Dan Stevers.  It was so powerful with each piece building on the other.  And the words of the video tied it all together:

Before Christ
I was a different person
This person was my old nature
My old self
But that person died
And my life is now hidden
With Christ
I am in
Christ
And He is in me
I am a new creation
This doesn’t mean that I will never stumble
Or fall back into old patterns
But I will call them what they are
Old patterns
Old habits of the old person
I will confess them
I will thank God for his forgiveness
I will make amends
And then
I
Will
Move on
Not because I am taking sin lightly
But because I am taking seriously
Who God says I am
Holy
Pure
Unstained
Without blemish
Not because of anything I’ve done
But because of what God has done
For me
He has wiped my slate clean
I am blameless before God
Therefore shame
Has no place in my life
Because I am
A new creation
And all of the ugly parts of my story
The parts I want to pretend never happened
Have been redeemed
And they have become
The moments in my life
When God’s grace is most on display
Thank you God
My mistakes do not define me
My past does not define me
Because God has defined my identity
I am his beloved child
In whom He is
Well pleased
This is my identity

–Dan Stevers, “Identity” preview video (click the red words to see the video)

In Angela Thomas-Pharr’s study, she tells of a man who was asked, “How long have you been redeemed?” He answered:

“I was redeemed by Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago when He gave His life to atone for my sin. But I only found out about a year ago.”

Comedian Jeff Allen was on Smile FM a couple weeks ago.  He said he spent a lot of his life waiting for an explanation from God, but what he really needed was a revelation from God. I think that’s what the man in the quote above received: a revelation from God. He is redeemed. I am redeemed. And if you’ve received the gift of Jesus’s forgiveness, you too are redeemed.

I pray that today we might receive a revelation from God.  A revelation that we are redeemed and our identity is in Christ, but it’s going to take a lifetime of “day in and day out” to walk this thing out, together.  Grab your best buds, the ones who point you to the Truth, and hang on tight.  We are brothers and sisters and we need to keep reminding each other:

keep going
keep treasure-hunting and
keep focusing on Dad, our Abba Father.

We are His beloved children and He is well pleased with us.

Want to know more about my “revelation day” back in 1994?  Here’s my story told through the story of my son:  Joshua The Prophet

And those meds, why do I take them?  Well, they help me to drown out the voice of the enemy and to focus on the One and Only voice that matters.  They help me “come out of hiding” and connect with others who can encourage me, so that I can encourage them, and we can treasure hunt together.  We’re blessed to be a blessing.

“Baby, you’re almost home now
Please don’t quit now
You’re almost home to me”
Out of Hiding, Father’s Song by Steffany Gretzinger and Amanda Cook

Want to know more about the power of community?  Check out Heart & Soul: Community

Daddy’s Shoulders

Special thanks to Pedroni Photography for this lovely picture.
Special thanks to Pedroni Photography for sharing this beautiful picture with us.

Take a moment.  Breathe.  Look at the picture above.  Imagine that you’re that tiny person on the shoulders of your Dad.  His strong arms have a firm grip on you and you’re heading out along the path.  The road ahead is blurry from your perspective, but your Dad knows what’s around every curve.  From your vantage point, you can choose to be a nervous wreck, or you can choose to relax and trust your Dad.  Relax and thank him every step of the way, knowing that this life is a beautiful adventure with your Dad who loves you more than you could ever imagine.  You’re a lovely little princess (or a strong, handsome prince) on the shoulders of the King.

You see, this is how I feel about God, my Heavenly Father.  I’m up on His shoulders, His strong arms have a firm grip on me, and we’re heading out along the path.  The road ahead is blurry from my perspective, but He knows what’s around every curve.  From my vantage point, I can choose to be a nervous wreck, or I can relax and trust Him.  Relax and thank Him every step of the way, knowing that this life is a beautiful adventure with my Dad, Who loves me more than I could ever imagine.  I’m a lovely little princess on the shoulders of the King.  I hope you can picture yourself up on those shoulders too.  Your Heavenly Father hopes you can too.

He wants us to relax.  Trust Him.  Thank Him.  Moment by moment, every day.  Let Him guide you.  Take the next step.  This is not about trying harder.  This is about trusting and thanking our Heavenly Father.

Yoda says, “There is no try.  There is do or do not.”

I say, “There is no try.  There is Trust God and Thank God.  And then take the next step.”

Trust & Thank.  T&T.  TNT.

TNT is the abbreviation for the explosive compound used in dynamite: Tri Nitro Toluene.

But the root word of dynamite is from the the Greek “dunamis”, which is used 120 times in the New Testament and is loosely translated as “strength, power, or ability.”

GotQuestions.org put together a quick, easy read about “dunamis” and I highly encourage you to check it out:  What is the meaning of the Greek word dunamis in the Bible?  In that post, they reference several verses where “dunamis” is used.  Here’s my favorite:

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”  – 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)

So, what does this “dunamis power” have to do with that path we’re heading down?  The Apostle Paul put it this way in his letter to the Romans (paraphrased by Eugene Peterson in “The Message” version of the Bible):

“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life.  It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”  God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are.  We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.  And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance!  We go through exactly what Christ goes through.  If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!”
-Romans 8:15-17 (MSG)

It’s true.  The path of life isn’t easy.  It isn’t all roses and sunshine.  It can be incredibly difficult, discouraging and frightening.  But it can also be really good.  And I believe that God wants every moment.  The good, the bad, the exhilarating, the terrifying.  Every little thing.  Every little decision.  Turn to God and say, “Daddy, what’s next?  What’s the next step in our adventure together?”  In my experience, He doesn’t show me everything that’s coming.  He just gives me the next step. The Psalmist said it this way:

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”  -Psalm 11:105 (NLT)

A lamp only lights the next step or two, not the whole pathway.  If you want to see more of the path, you need to take another step.  God wants to guide every one of those steps.  And He gives us the power to take each step, as we trust Him and thank Him.  He doesn’t shine a light down the road so that we can see the destination.  He’s much more interested in the journey, guiding us step by step, walking with us, calming our fears, enjoying our presence.

Think back to that picture above.  We’re up on His shoulders.  He’s got us.  We have no need to fear.  We are His dear children, safe and secure in the arms of the Father.  Bethel Music wrote about this so beautifully in their song “No Longer Slaves”.  Listen and let the words sink in.  Trust Him, Thank Him and live in the Dunamis Power that He provides.  May our fears be drowned in His perfect love as we live this adventure called life.

“You unravel me with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance from my enemies
‘Til all my fears are gone

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

I am surrounded
By the arms of the father
I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I could stand and sing
I am a child of God…”

-Bethel Music, “No Longer Slaves”

Thank you and Merry Christmas!

I wanted to share with you a video that we recorded at our new building a couple nights ago.  It’s a “thank you” video to all of our customers at Sportsmen’s Direct, but it applies equally to our employees, founding ProStaffers, suppliers, friends, family, really everyone who has supported us over the last 6 years.  It’s been a crazy ride and we wouldn’t have made it without all of your support and prayers.

I also wanted to wish all of my blog supporters a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Thank you for supporting me and my blog over the last 18 months.

Here’s our annual Christmas collage card:

2015 Christmas

If you see me live and in person, please ask – I have a hard copy version for you. 🙂

If you’re in the Metro Detroit area (or the Orlando, Florida area), please join us for one of 46 Christmas Eve services at Kensington Church (your choice of 7 different campuses). Free tickets are available by clicking here.  If you’re not in the area, I believe Troy will be live-streaming their services: click here to live-stream.

And, lastly, I wanted to pass along several blog posts that have meant a lot to me over the past year.  Feel free to check them out if they sound like they apply to you:

1) What in the world was God thinking when he created us?  Worth It

2) Does life feel like one problem after another?  Life That Really Matters

3) Ever feel like you’re too much and too little all at the same time?  Won’t You Be My Love?

4) What does true love look like?  Grace, Truth and Audacious Dreams

5) What does God see when He looks at us?  Through Heaven’s Eyes

6) How can we really “let go and let God”?  Moment by Moment

7) Can I brag on my kids?  My Kids (including K-Rock’s 2015 Star Wars production)

Merry Christmas to you and your families!
-Beth, John, Joshua, Jordan Rose & the Charlie dog

2016 Update:

Here’s a link to the 12-30-15 C&G News article on Sportsmen’s Direct: C&G News article

Here’s a link to the 1-14-16 Michigan Out of Doors episode, ice fishing on Lake St Clair with a visit to Sportsmen’s Direct and an interview with Justin Clark:  Michigan Out of Doors

Inspired by “The Cure”

Two days ago, I received an email asking if I was still writing blogs because she hadn’t seen any lately.  How sweet of her to ask.  She was right.  I haven’t written since April 11th (Won’t You Be My Love).

I realized yesterday that my blog’s one year anniversary is today, July 16th.  “If they asked me, I could write a book…” was that first post where I said, “I keep writing and writing, waiting for a book to pop out, but it never does.”  But now, looking back, I know that it finally did “pop out”.  If you’d like to read it, this is My Story.

It even had a sequel, a series of posts that expanded on that story:  Moment By Moment.

So, what have I been doing since that last post on April 11th?  Well, another interesting story has begun.  It all started on March 28th, when I realized that I wasn’t going to have something written in time for Maggie’s birthday party.

You remember Maggie.  She’s the young songwriter featured in the original Moment By Moment post.  If we’re friends on Facebook, you’ve most likely received that post as my birthday present to you (written on my birthday last October).

You see, Maggie’s amazing parents were putting together a one-of-a-kind birthday party for a one-of-a-kind 16 year old girl.  They wanted to tell the story of Maggie’s life, honoring the God who made that life possible, and share the day with friends and family who had impacted Maggie’s first 16 years.  I was honored to be on the guest list.  And those on the guest list were asked to write something to bring to the party to share with Maggie.

But my brain wouldn’t cooperate.  I wanted to encourage Maggie with words of wisdom, something akin to Bart Millard’s “Dear Younger Me“.  I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, but it just wouldn’t come together.  I always say that I need a lot of “space” in my brain to write, and I was seriously lacking in space.  I sobbed as I told my dear husband that I couldn’t do it.  And I almost decided not to go to the party.  Thankfully, John encouraged me to go anyway, even without something written.  I’m so glad I did.

The party was incredible.  I would have gone if only to be able to watch Maggie’s mom tell the story of her life.  It was beautiful.  And then friends and family shared and their stories added to the beauty of the day.  We all joined hands and prayed over Maggie.  I prayed that Maggie and her friends would never cancel their plans because they felt inadequate.

I cried as I prayed those words, because I knew that God wanted me there and I knew He wanted me to pass along that message.  I didn’t want them to ever miss an opportunity like that because, in engaging with others, we are in fact engaging with God.

Here’s how God engaged with me that day.  I sat with two friends who I hadn’t seen in years.  We spent some time catching up on each other’s lives.  I shared with them about my blog and about the miracle that God performed on September 13 & 14, 2014.  That was the beginning of my story: Redeemed – Part 1.  In that post, I wrote about seeing MercyMe in concert.  Bart Millard, MercyMe’s lead singer, had “been on an amazing road to transformation over the last couple years and it was exciting to hear his story.”

What if God isn't who you think He is and neither are you
The Cure: What if God isn’t who you think He is and neither are you

One of my friends said, “Do you know what started all of that?  He read a book by John Lynch called The Cure“.  She and her husband “just happened” to have been on the “MercyMe at Sea” cruise in January 2015 where they got to hear first-hand from Bart Millard about the book and why it was so impactful to him.  In fact, you can hear about it, right from the authors themselves, in this 11 minute podcast:  Sailing in the Dark.  MercyMe’s Welcome to the New album was directly inspired by this book.

Well, I went home from Maggie’s party and ordered the book.  And when it arrived, I devoured it.  Many times throughout the book, I literally laughed out loud as I read.  I could not believe what I was reading.  So many of the concepts I’ve written about in this blog are IN THIS BOOK.  Bart Millard never mentioned “The Cure” at the concert last September.  How huge is God that He was able to communicate all of this to me through MercyMe’s album, never having read the book that the album was based on?

If it was that important to God that I find this book, then I needed to know more.  I’ve since bought several other books by the same authors and listened to many podcasts on their website, TrueFaced.com:

Bo’s Cafe:  “The Cure” for marriage (devoured that one too)
The Ascent of a Leader:  “The Cure” for leaders (currently devouring this one)
On My Worst Day:  John Lynch’s story (this one is next on my list to devour)
Podcasts:  “Bo’s Cafe” informal chats with the authors, each only about 10-15 minutes long

And I’m blessed to be working through “The Cure” Small Group Study with two dear friends this summer.  We’re about half way through and it’s been wonderful.

But, first and foremost, if you’re intrigued, get The Cure.  And if you’re inspired too, please share.

And what ever happened with Maggie’s birthday present?  That 50th post, Won’t You Be My Love, was for her.  And this 51st post?  This one is for everyone.  After all, when you find the cure, don’t you want to share it with the world?

What to do, what to do… (“Christian Redefined” part 3)

When you think of “Christians”, what words come to mind?  Kensington asked that question on Reddit and here are some of the responses they received:  “rude, ignorant, unthinking, thick-headed, delusional, gullible, doomsday cult, dummy, hypocrisy, cruel, blinkered, judgmental, stuck-up wealthy white people who work harder to preserve their image rather than their souls.” 

Ouch.  And why would I want to call myself a Christian?  That’s why Kensington’s current message series is called “Christian Redefined” (click those red words to watch the first message from 3-1-15).  When I found out that this series was coming, I started writing about what I think it means to be a Christian.  I intended it to be 3 parts, and I wrote about training ourselves to say Thank You (part 1) and Bless You (part 2).  

But whenever I started to write this third part, I couldn’t finish.  Every time I asked, “Lord, what’s next?  What is the best thing for me to do right now?”, the answer was never “write”.  Three weeks ago, the answer was “pack for Disney World!”  But now we’re home and caught up and it’s finally time to write.

The third area of training I’ve been wanting to write about is asking “what am I to do?”  For me, that question isn’t about what to do next week or next year as much as it is a constant, moment by moment activity.  Well, at least I want it to be that way.  But my mind wanders and I forget.

I forget to count my blessings.

I forget to say thank you and bless you.

I forget that the world doesn’t revolve around me.

I forget that God loves me more than I could ever imagine.

Almost 300 years ago Samuel Johnson said, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed” and I believe that’s even more true today.  I get so distracted.  I need God’s Holy Spirit to remind me to come back to Him.  My goal is what Brother Lawrence called “The Practice of the Presence of God“.  If I want to follow Jesus, I need to be aware of his presence every moment of every day.  I need to remember that he is always with me.  And I need to be asking what it is that I should be doing.  There are so many good things that we could spend our time on.  How are we supposed to know what the BEST things are?  One word:

Ask.

Jesus teaches us to be shamelessly persistent in asking for what we need in Luke 11:5-8 (click the red verse if you’d like to read what he said).  He then continues with the following:

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.  Keep on seeking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  10 For everyone who asks, receives.  Everyone who seeks, finds.  And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Luke 11:9-10

In John 5:19, Jesus said that he did nothing by himself, but did only what he saw his Father doing.  He was in constant communication with God the Father.  I believe he wants the same for us.  He gave us his Holy Spirit so that we too can be in constant communication with God.

So, as I am reminded, I ask.  Sometimes I hear things that I should do (help the kids get ready for school).  Or things I shouldn’t do, or just shouldn’t do right now (don’t do the laundry right now – it will make you late for your appointment).  Sometimes I hear things that I should say (send a note of encouragement).  Or things that I shouldn’t say (keep your mouth shut, Beth).  Sometimes it’s as simple as keeping focused on the task before me and not letting my mind spiral off into anxious “what if”s of future scenarios that may never happen (what if John dies and leaves me with two kids and a tackle store to run?).

What am I to do?  How can I live my life so that the word “Christian” means what Jesus would have wanted it to mean?  I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I believe I know the One who does.  But I need to slow down to hear Him.  I need to be patient and listen.  I have two ears and one mouth for a reason.  I should be listening at least twice as much as I’m talking.

If you know the story of the woman caught in adultery from John 8, you may have wondered why Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust.  The Pharisees (the “religious” scholars) were demanding an answer from him.  They had their case against this woman and they were trying to trap Jesus by his words.  He could have just blurted out an answer to the Pharisees, but he didn’t.  He stooped down, drew in the dirt and waited.  I believe he waited because he was listening for what God wanted him to say.  And when he stood to speak, his reply was one of the most profound statements ever formed by human lips:

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  (John 8:7)

And, one by one, they all dropped their stones and walked away.  What if Christians (the “religious” people) listened to God like Jesus did and responded with God’s grace and truth?  Would we be called rude, ignorant, unthinking, thick-headed, delusional, cruel, judgmental, stuck-up hypocrites?  Or would a whole lot of stones never get thrown?

 

 

Moment by Moment (Part 7)

It’s been 5 weeks since my miracle occurred. None of the circumstances in my life have changed, but EVERYTHING has changed. Why? What changed?

If a full emotional “love tank” is a 10, I used to wake up at a -5 every morning, just trying to get back to 0 again. If I couldn’t accomplish something pretty quickly, or if something happened to derail my day, I’d feel like I was sliding backwards on a slippery hill, grasping to hold on, but ending up with hands full of mud that I now had to go wash up before I could even continue up that hill again. -10? Oh, how can I ever get ahead?

I would explain to John that I had this “ick” inside me and I couldn’t get rid of it. I was all tied up in knots inside and it would fester until it came out in some sort of hissy fit. Inwardly, I would manufacture situations that would lead to a fit, just so I could to get it out. But there was no relief in it, only anger at myself and guilt over throwing the fit, heaping on top of the ever-growing pile of “ick”.  When will this cycle end?

Maggie Youngs put this cycle into words in her song “Far From Perfect” from the K-Rock original album, The Beginning: Songs from Young Hearts. At 15 years old, Maggie nailed what I’ve been struggling with for 43 years:

Sometimes I wonder
How I got stuck in my flaws again
And I often ponder all my sin
Feels like I’ll never win
So I’ll try again and in the same old trend
It feels like the end
I keep falling short but somehow you see
Past the imperfections and just want me

I’m far from perfect
But you think I’m worth it and see beauty in me
I’m miles from flawless, and to be honest
Sometimes I’m cruelly and brutally mean
So now I’m on my knees
Saying forgive me

But I had stopped saying “forgive me.”  For most of my life, I had a voice in my head that said, “Don’t say you’re sorry, just don’t do it.”  In other words, “Don’t do anything that you’ll need to apologize for. Just be perfect!”  I wasn’t perfect, but I kept trying.

Early in my relationship with Jesus, I figured that I was new at this and he’d cut me some slack for a while. But the longer our relationship went on, the more I felt like a failure, making the same mistakes over and over again. I could see God slowly shaking his head at me, so disappointed in me, saying, “Don’t say you’re sorry, just don’t do it.”   The harder I tried, the worse it got.  As Maggie wrote, I got “stuck in my flaws again” and again and again.  

I could quote scripture, trying to convince myself that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1), but I didn’t believe it because I FELT condemned.  Even though I have this “cake” life and I “should” be more grateful, all I felt was hopeless to ever get it right and guilty for not being more grateful.

On September 9, 2014, I answered a survey on Beth Moore’s blog.  These were 2 of the questions I answered:

1) My biggest struggle as a woman is: my emotions. Just the smallest thing can set me off and “ruin my day”. But wonderful things can transform my day. I wish I were more stable.

2) One word that describes me right now: Irritable. I make my family walk on eggshells way too much. I think I’m too controlling over my kids and my husband, but I don’t know how to keep the peace without losing mine.

How do I keep the peace?  Well, Jesus didn’t ask us to be peace keepers, but peace makers.    Switchfoot has a song called “BA55” that repeats over and over again:

I believe you’re the fire that could burn me clean
And let my soul fly

That’s what I wanted. “Burn me clean and let my soul fly.” One time. Get it over with. Give me an “ah-ha” moment that will change everything. Everywhere I looked, I was searching for that “ah-ha” answer that would somehow “fix” everything. Make peace in my mind.

I heard the phrase “Let Go and Let God” and it intrigued me. I kept asking, “What does that mean?” and one day few years back, I believe I got my answer. Walking down the hallway with a basket of dirty clothes, I asked, “Lord, what does it mean to Let Go and Let God?”.  I dropped the dirty clothes basket in the middle of the hallway as I heard the answer clear as a bell: “Moment by moment”.

I’ve thought about those three words over and over again, but somehow I kept tying them back to “Don’t say you’re sorry, just don’t do it.” Moment by moment, just be perfect. Yeah, how’s that working for you, Beth?

In the Apostle Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians, he talks about “taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Here’s that verse in context:

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)

Did I have a stronghold that needed to be demolished? You bet I did. So, how do you let go and let God?  By taking every thought captive, moment by moment.

When God chased me down 5 weeks ago with the words “Jesus redeemed that”, He gave me a way to take every thought captive, moment by moment.  Every time a negative thought, guilty thought, anxious thought, condemning thought, hopeless thought, overwhelmed thought came into my mind, I would declare “Jesus redeemed that!”  Jesus bought and paid for every single one of those thoughts.  They don’t belong to me.  And, moment by moment, God redeemed my mind.  Every time I spoke “Jesus redeemed that,” it was like God took out a “Paid in Full” rubber stamp and slammed it down on that thought that didn’t belong to me and filed it away in the “circular file”. Gone!

I noticed right away that it became very, very quiet in my head.  When I described to John what it used to feel like to live in this body, with these voices in my head screaming at me constantly, he said, “Honey, that’s called Schizophrenia”.  Yeah, no kidding.  I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.  I know what that is.

And now I feel like the man from Mark 5 who lived among the tombs. After Jesus redeemed this man’s mind, the people saw him “sitting there, dressed and in his right mind.”  That’s me.  The voices are gone and I am sitting here, dressed and in my right mind.  Jesus told that man, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”  That’s what I’m doing.  The Lord has had mercy on me.  I know He can do the same for you.

Maggie Youngs ends her song with these words before the last chorus:

I’m so thankful I’ve been redeemed
I’m so thankful my slate is clean
I’m so thankful I’ve been set free

Me too, Maggie!  Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

If you’d like to support our 15 year old friend and rest of the K-Rock kids, here’s a link to their album on iTunes: The Beginning: Songs from Young Hearts.

And if you’d like to read more about how God chased me down 5 weeks ago, click here for “The Whole Story“.

2015 update: Here’s what I learned about the difference between saying “forgive me” over and over again and saying Thank You.

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My favorite Henry Ford quote. What changed in my life? My mind was changed.

The Whole Story

In 1994, Jesus saved my soul, but in September 2014, he saved my mind.  I posted the story as a 6-part “series”, but I want to respect your time.  I know you probably can’t sit down and read the whole thing, so I included a line about each part below.  Please feel free to read whatever jumps out at you.

Here are all of the parts, including the “prologue” and the “afterword”, in order:

Prologue: Urgent Questions/Deepest Needs (this is VERY long – please feel free to skip it)

#1: Redeemed – Part 1 (where it all began – Beth Moore & Third Day on 9-13-14)

#2: Redeemed – Part 2 – He’s Greater (God speaks thru coupon codes & MercyMe songs)

#3: Two “churchy” words (what Dave W & Chris Z taught me about “sin” and “repent”)

#4: The Tyranny of the “Should” (trying to “pay back” Jesus for all he’s done for me)

#5: The Face of Grace (Do you think God is angry with you?  Check this out)

#6: Reconciling Wrath (“Good God” or “Wrathful God” – will the real God please stand up?)

Afterword: Moment by Moment (what does it mean to “Let Go and Let God”?)

If you remember my very first blog post from July 16th, “If they asked me, I could write a book“, I think this “series” could be the beginning of that book.  If any of this speaks to you, I would be so honored if you would share it with others.

Just a side-note.  If you’re reading this on a desktop or laptop computer, you can probably see links to all of my other blog posts along the righthand side of the screen.  However, if you’re on a phone or a tablet, the links probably don’t show up.  But if you scroll to the bottom of the post, you can most likely get to newer posts to the right and older posts to the left (it should give you the title and an arrow to click on).  I’ve also included a link at the bottom of each post to bring you to the next one.

Thank you so very much and happy reading!