Tag Archives: faith

Witness Protection Program

Close your eyes and think of the most unthinkable thing you’ve been through.  Remember it.  Feel it.  Got it?

Tell me why it happened.  Can you? You never saw it coming, right? Never in a million years would you have even conceived the thought that it may happen…but it did.

I know from experience God can use anything – ANYTHING for His good.  After all, if we’ve professed our loyalty to Him it’s ultimately His goodness and character that are at stake – not just our reputations, feelings or plans.  Ultimately it’s His love for His child that you and those around you will see.  It isn’t always pretty or comfortable and certainly it’s not what we expect as His beloved!  We expect wonderful, good things – we’ve somehow convinced ourselves bad things shouldn’t happen to us because we’re His!

What if we changed our focus to try to see through the pain in a godly perspective?  What if what we’ve been through or going through has very little to do with us?  What if God CHOSE you to suffer just so you can show the lost ones around you that no matter what He’s good? He’s faithful?  He won’t abandon us when we’ve messed up, fallen short or been devastated by events we had nothing to do with?  What if there’s someone in our lives who needs to see someone they love and admire handle things with faith in Him when everything else has been torn away?

We’re called to be witnesses – not just to the corners of the world but right in our neighborhoods!  That’s our Jerusalem; that’s as real as it gets.  When we dare to swallow our pride, to stop worrying how we’ll be thought of or talked about and live out our faith, God will bless us. He’s the ultimate witness protection program – you’re being used to show Him and share Him with someone else.  If He allowed it to happen, how can there not be good come from it?

Maybe we’ve been selected to suffer for His glory. If so, we can believe He will protect, comfort and heal us all the way through it.  Do we dare trust Him that much?

 

“You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord, “And My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He.” Isaiah 43:10

Is It Bad Enough Yet?

Some doctors wait to treat an ailment when the pain becomes so severe the patient can’t tolerate it anymore. If a patient comes in knowing something’s wrong but can carry out their normal activities of daily living, sleep uninterrupted they’re told to come back when they can’t bear the discomfort any more.  The tests prove there’s a problem but sometimes that’s not enough.  Some doctors choose no treatment until the pain literally changes a person’s life.

You would think the opposite would be true.  You go to a professional because you know something’s not right and you want something done to prevent the problem from disrupting your normal life and leave frustrated because you’re told your pain – your inability to function – is what will bring relief.  “Come back when you can’t stand it anymore.”  Wait.  Isn’t that what we’re trying to avoid?

Some doctors want to jump right in and fix a problem before it gets to the point of altering our lives and we’re hesitant to move forward.  We talk ourselves into living with it.  “It’s not that bad; I’ve had it this long, I can stand it until, well, I can’t stand it anymore”, and we leave in the same condition we came in.

We deal with something as long as we can then we ask for help (from God, friends, etc), sometimes wanting someone (or something) to relinquish us from what we know is going to happen – yet we find ourselves, sometimes for years, dealing with the same thing, day after day, year after year and nothing changes.  It’s manageable; it’s not perfect but it hasn’t killed me…yet.  So we muddle on sometimes grabbing for spontaneous relief for the moment until the next time…and the next…

Do things have to be ‘that bad’ before we deal with them?  No. More often than not, we try everything (and everyone) leaving God as our last resort.  Need produces necessary action; that alone is often the “why” of why it’s happening.

Is ‘it’ bad enough yet?  Are you sick of the pain, frustration, depression, inaction, nothing ever changing?  Situations beg the question – “is it bad enough to turn to God”? Like doctors, sometimes He allows us to get to that unbearable place of no relief before we turn to him.  Why?  Because He knows sometimes we’ll only look to Him when our feet are inches from the cliff.  We can submit any time – way sooner than we do – and relinquish our pain and burden to Him.  Is it bad enough yet to give it to God?  It doesn’t have to be.  Let’s do it.  Now.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Make Your Own Beautiful

IMAG0790I hope I’ve learned a thing or two from this season of my life.  I sure wouldn’t want to repeat it.

When things are dark and ugly sometimes we have to dig deep to find the good.  Sometimes we instantly see it but more often than not we must wait.

One of the most recent lessons is becoming so precious to me. I looked for blessings and kind of expect people to make an ugly time in my life more palatable and easier to swallow.  (Is that you I hear laughing?) I didn’t realize it at first but now I see that in addition to very tough circumstances, my disappointment worked extremely hard to make me discontented.  Then I got it.

Sometimes it’s got to be just you and God.  No one else.  No resources.  No explanations.  No Band-Aids.  Just you and Him.  I think He brought me to that place to allow me the choice to be content with Him and only Him. When everything and everyone I looked to, to make me feel more secure and content – job, home, stuff, car, people, etc,…vanished,  “Barbie, will I be enough?”  was the reverberating question on my heart.

When life gets ugly that’s where the rubber meets the road. We’re left with both decisions and changes to make.  When all you see is ugly, we can choose to make our own pretty.  Staying content in a troubling and discontented world is very hard work!  That’s when we learn to appreciate what we have and make the most of it.

I took some hand-me-down vases, some Salvation Army plates and paints I already had to make these.  I made my own beautiful.  So many stories and devotionals…so many personal lessons from God have come through the process of making them.

Trust God through the process.  That’s what I’m learning.  Trust He’s making something beautiful in you and most often when He’s through with that part, what you’ve been through will serve at least two purposes:  1) to teach you something and, 2) to bless someone else!  In the meantime, work with Him to create your own beautiful.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”   Ephesians 2:10

 

 

 

The Place of Nothingness

I’ve never heard anyone celebrate the fact that they lost, their prayers weren’t answered or what they were expecting didn’t come.  Have you?

Dire, desperate situations, it seems, customize themselves to our lives.  We all have them. The Bible says to wait on the Lord so we do, believing as best we can He will somehow make a way.  When the time comes when we think it should be over and it’s not, decisions must be made.  Do we continue to wait?  Take matters into our own hands?

That place of nothingness can be good or it can be bad. If we resort to desperation, desperate decisions can produce devastating consequences.  Desperate people do desperate things. However, if we bring forward what we’ve learned from God during the times He has provided, consoled and comforted in times past…miraculously or otherwise, we could save ourselves from piles of regret.

When the answers don’t come; when all seems lost and hopeless that’s where our faith-talk meets our faith-walk.  I’ve found myself in countless situations over the past few years similar to those I had helped others through.  When you walk a road yourself that you’ve watched someone else walk, the view is certainly different! Truth is, until we find ourselves in something, we have no idea what we’ll do. That’s why Jesus warns us to never judge anyone else.  We may think we know how we would handle it but we don’t!

During those “nothing”, waiting times, I’m learning to draw on my past experiences with God.  I remember how we got through then and believe Him for now.  Nothingness is a place where our faith can grow…or die.  The choice is ours.  After all, haven’t we been taught to “walk by faith, not by sight”?  Will we, when the rubber meets the road? Nothingness is the OPPORTUNITY to believe His ways aren’t our ways; His thoughts aren’t our thoughts.  Sometimes he has to bring us to “nothing” to see for ourselves how big (or little) our faith in Him is when there is nothing to place hope in but Him.

Give your faith a chance to manifest itself for what it is. The only way to do that is to get to the place where there is nothing left but faith. Faith isn’t just a word and it’s not just a feeling; faith is a Person.  Faith IS Christ. At the end of the day in the horrifying place of nothingness, we’ll see how real He is to us…or how real He isn’t.

 

(For we walk by faith and not by sight.)  2 Corinthians 5:7

“And Jesus answered and said to them,”Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to his mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen.” Matthew 21:21

My Killing

What picture comes to mind when you think of an island?   Mine is of a plush and gorgeous spot of land, in the middle of water where plants and fruits grow in abundance.  In my mind’s eye, every time I picture an island, it’s the closest thing to paradise I can imagine.

When I read Revelation and the fact that John the disciple was exiled to Patmos as punishment for preaching Jesus, I thought that isn’t such a bad punishment.  I was wrong. While further studying Patmos I discovered it was a barren island that was incapable of producing anything but rocks.  No greenery, no delectable fruits and veggies, no trees even.  Just caves and rocks.  Prisoners were sent there to mine the caves.  It was a place no one wanted to be.  The Bible doesn’t mention anything about anyone else being there but John so imagine with me, if the island was truly barren with no shade, nothing to eat or enjoy and on top of that, being there completely alone how it must have felt. Patmos actually means the title of this blog, “my killing”.

It’s not a stretch to some to imagine a place like this.  It’s not hard to remember a time feeling completely isolated and alone with no sign or site of any kind of relief.  Some are there right now. In a split second, one’s life can change forever and our normal flies right out the window.  Devastation has come to live and sometimes we feel we can’t recover or worse, we don’t want to.

Out of the darkest, loneliest and most barren times in life, God can produce something amazing.  If we tune in to him and tune out our feelings and how we perceive the place or the situation, it’s possible for Him to produce in us many things.  Faith can grow when nothing else can.  Trust can flourish and begin to color the blandness of an ugly reality.  The mind and heart can be forever changed when they know the God of our lives.

John could have spent his time mulling over every wrong done to him and how unfair it was for him to be a prisoner to start with, let alone exiled on an island no one wanted to be on but he didn’t.  Instead he chose to still – after all he had been through – look for and listen to God. I imagine he rattled the stillness of that place by singing to Jesus at the top of his lungs.  From his faithfulness and steadfast heart, God gave John the most amazing gift – the Revelation.

We can receive beautiful things, comforting words, strength, joy, peace and a growing faithfulness from God during our darkest times.  Stay close to the Father and keep staying close.

Heart Problems

It’s time to come clean with my friends.  I’ve been hiding something for a long time. For as long as I can remember, life has dealt some harsh blows. Mom told me I was born prematurely and suffered some lung problems as well as colon problems.  Once on an x-ray, the radiologist commented “the patient has a rather small heart”.  As a result I have had life-long asthma.

Growing up, I saw my parents divorce, my mother attempted suicide, experienced instability and a lot of sadness but those things were mixed in with a lot of love.

As an adult, I’ve gone through my own divorces, bad relationships, bad decisions, been treated wrongly, treated others wrongly, the birth of a severely brain-injured child and raising him pretty much by myself, alcoholism…the list goes on and on.  We’d be here all day if I listed them all.

What’s missing here?  ALL THE GOOD!  We tend to call up the bad more than we remember the good.  Bad things that happen often become milestones for where a change occurred…or it didn’t.

In each of those things I named above, my heart was involved and they affected me greatly.  We all have things that have “hurt our hearts”, thus the damage we’re left with.  The residual…and what we do with it…has a great effect on how we live, love and serve.

Sometimes we think the damage is too great, we feel we can’t recover and we’ll never be the same.

Heart problems.

We can’t see the damage done but we can feel it.  Our minds rehearse it.  If a doctor could look at our souls and spirits and perhaps do some kind of diagnostic test, I wonder if the scars would look like.  Truth is, our God sees, feels and knows every single one of them.  When you feel them, He does, too.

I’m submitting myself for some heart surgery with the Great Physician.  I have been for some time.  That’s our only chance of real healing.  He’s our cure.

We go to doctors and they give us medicine and advice on how to help and sometimes cure our physical problems.  Why don’t we do the same with our heart/soul/spirit problems?  What heart problems do you have?  Will you allow God to do “surgery” or will you just keep suffering with them?

1st Samuel 16:7:  “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Psalm 51:10:  “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

A ‘BUT’ Kind of Faith.

Luke 5:1-11.

Everyone else was asleep while they worked.  Seasoned fishermen knew this could well be a catch to remember. The weather and the conditions of the water were absolutely perfect for fish and lots of them.  Out they went, full of anticipation of the catch they would harvest.

They were in their boats all night and didn’t catch one single fish, not even one suitable for bait.  They were stunned, disappointed to say the least and maybe even a little mad.  They couldn’t believe it.  Everything was perfect, how could they have been so wrong?

Have you ever been there?  You knew in your gut you did everything right – you prayed, planned and made provision for that one thing that could well have been your last step, the provision for your upcoming winter season.  You were ready, excited and believing not only yourself, but GOD that this was your moment…only to have absolutely nothing to show for your efforts.

So there you are, like Peter and his buddies, on the shoreline, tired, disappointed, washing dirty nets, with no result to show for your effort.  Should they quit fishing?  Would you?

Sometimes despite our best efforts, even after we’ve sought God’s will and His blessing even in the area(s) we are really, really good at, things don’t turn out like we expect them to.  I believe these things have two purposes:  1) to teach us our ‘good catches’ don’t come from our own hands and 2) just because we think we know everything there is to know, do everything right and by the book, that doesn’t ensure perfect results.

 

Peter was an expert fisherman making his living fishing. He probably knew everything about where he was fishing and all the signs to look for before he sat out that night.  He had it going on where his craft was concerned, yet he caught nothing. There he was, on the shoreline, cleaning his nets of everything that accumulated in them – less fish – which had to sting a little – a hands-on reminder that perhaps he didn’t know as much as he thought he did, his all-night effort for nothing, or a combination of both.

Then Jesus shows up, gets in his boat to preach and after He’s finished, tells Peter to set out again and this time, go to the DEEP water.

Peter had two choices. He could have presented a viable argument to Jesus – “Look I’m a fisherman – fishing is what I do. I make my living fishing.  In addition to that, I’ve been out there all dadgum night and caught nothing; nada.  To go back out, and to the deep no less, is…well…it makes no sense.” Instead, as tired and discouraged as he undoubtedly was, he decided to do what Jesus told him to.  The end result changed Peter’s life forever.

What will we do?

  • I lost my temper today and had every right to BUT because you say it’s right, I’ll apologize.
  • Had my heart broken so many times by people I thought I could trust and depend on BUT because You say so, Lord, I will forgive and even bless them.
  • I did my very best at my job, everything I was asked and more, but didn’t get the promotion BUT because You say I should, I will keep on doing my best.

Do you dare trust God one more time?  Do you dare allow His word to supersede even your best judgment and experience?  Do you dare say, “BUT I will do as You say…”?

Disappointments in life will surely come, even to those who have never experienced them.  That’s no time to quit or not believe in what is possible through the One who loves us the most, the One who wants more than anything to show us He has your best interest in mind, even when He allows things to come our way which He knows will deeply hurt and disappoint us.  Do we have a ‘but’ kind of faith? Let’s do, just because He says so and see what happens.

“But when Simon Peter saw that he fell down at Jesus’ feet saying “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord! For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken.”  Luke 5:8, 9

May the ‘nets’ of our hearts be as full of hope and amazement as those boats were of fish that day.