Peek-a-boo Changes Your Outlook and Encourages Faith

As a new Nana, I have this question – WHERE DID THIS LOVE COME FROM???? I’ve been blindsided by the left tackle of love and have yet to recover. If I’m not careful, I may forever be wrapped around tiny little fingers!

A Lesson from My Granddaughter

My granddaughter, Katherine, is a two-year-old copycat who’s fearless to try new sounds and form new words. She has the absorbency of a sponge and the skills of a parakeet!

Peek-a-boo is her favorite. She covers her eyes (to be invisible, so CUTE!), and I’ll say, “Where’s Katherine?” She’s a tinderbox of giggles when she opens her eyes and hears me say, “There she is!” When it’s my turn to uncover my eyes, she says – in the sweetest, most angelic voice – “I see you, Nana!”

With that, I turn to mush.

It’s possible this crazy love results in the passing of the motherhood baton to my daughter. It’s a blessing that even in my shortcomings as a mother, she still thrives in nurturing her children.

In our weaknesses we find God’s strength.

He bridges our failures and His purpose by weaving a beautify tapestry of hearts, binding mother and daughter, grandmother and granddaughter, while wooing us to Him. What we see as parental failures, He will one day reveal his perception in light of His plan. Then we will understand the true redemptive power of His grace.

His Gaze is Fixed on Us

When Katherine says, “I see you!” it reminds me how our sovereign Father sees us too. Even when we try to conceal ourselves, He still sees. He is creation’s Observer, looking upon us with loving compassion.

His gaze is not to lie in wait, crouching to strike us down in condemnation. He sees beauty and perfection in His handiwork. Although we fail multiple times every day, He sees only the benefits of the Cross in us: justification, sanctification, and Christ’s righteousness.

Can we grasp this grace?

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance. From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth – he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do” (Psalm 33:12-15 NIV).

He made us. He chose us.

We are the inheritors of His Kingdom by no inner goodness, save Christ in us. His love is a miracle we can believe, knowing he considers our every action and still regards us as His.

Safety in Being Seen

There’s a few reasons Katherine enjoys visiting her Nana. We play, read books and watch Mickey Mouse while I supply hugs, kisses, goldfish and gummy bears – all of the essentials!

My focus at this stage is to develop a treasured relationship as she learns vertical balance, spatial awareness and healthy boundaries. After all, she’s fairly new to walking and tends to be a little clumsy. Many a time I’ve lost sight of her and franticly shouted, “Where’s Katherine? Is she ok!?!”

Isn’t this the same for our Heavenly Father? When we stray, is it not Him who leaves the 99 in search of the one?

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9 NIV).

Even as I write this, I’m aware He knows and sees my struggles of preserving a genuine relationship with Him. I can’t hide that. But because of His Word, I’m confident He doesn’t hold this against me.

God is love; therefore, He loves me.

We have a choice to either surrender in vulnerability or hide in unbelief. What would bless Him most is for us to cry out in faith, “I see you, Daddy!” knowing full well He sees us too.

Father, thank you for loving me enough never to look away. Forgive me when my eyes stray from you, and remind me I’m always safest when my heart is fully exposed and within your sight. Help me to recognize the work you are doing in my life and to be grateful enough to acknowledge it. Amen.

Un-Earthing Who You Are

 

I’ve never had amnesia, but I imagine the reality of being completely unfamiliar with my family, friends, and surroundings would be terrifying. My daughter laughs at me sometimes because I’m so forgetful (think Dory on Finding Nemo), but I’ve never failed to know who I am. Or have I?

Beginning at birth, our environment and families begin to shape and form us in preparation for life in this world. Our parents teach familial values and morals. Interactions with siblings and friends help us to distinguish our individuality. As we get a little older, we are placed in settings that help train us to respect authority. We learn right from wrong and safe from unsafe.

Eventually, following much guidance and instruction, we are equipped physically and emotionally to live this life independently with a healthy connection to our identity and purpose in this world.

For many, however, somewhere along the way there is an error in the transference of information that speaks to us the truth of who we are. The superficial eventually trumps essence. Lies, spoken over us loudly and often, become our compass. Our visual acuity dims within the world’s artificial light.

We take the bait, and our mission becomes to emulate some version of humanness, serving only to tauten our tether to this world. Our disappointing reflection stirs an endless desire to be someone other than who we are.

Identity Theft

When I was ten, I remember desperately wishing I could be someone else, anyone else. I thought if I could have been born in another time, another place, with a different body or face, then I would be accepted and loved.

At that young age, the lies of my identity spoken by culture and life experiences were already planted and taking root. Instead of truth shaping and nurturing my growth, falsehoods had begun to warp my thoughts and perceptions. I became blinded to God’s truth to where I could scarcely even recognize it. I wonder now if I ever knew it at all…until recently.

Will the Real Me (and You) Please Come Forward

To defy this pervasive wave of deception and receive the truth back into our hearts, we must turn to the very One who created us.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13-16).

Recently, I had an interesting revelation while reading in 1 Peter 2. I smiled, even laughed, because what I heard in my spirit as I read this chapter sounded a little silly. The words “you are a royal alien” flitted through my mind, and I knew I AM was reaffirming who I am in a very real way.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light…Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (1 Peter2:9, 11).

I realize the Bible doesn’t expressly say that I’m a royal alien, but the truth is I am royal, and I am an alien.

My royalty comes from accepting Christ into my heart. When I did, I received the Spirit of adoption. Since I am now God’s child, a daughter of the King, I am royal. My home is with my Father; therefore, I am an alien, a stranger in this land called Earth.

And there you have it – we are royal aliens!

That is the truth of who I am – who YOU are. We are not destined to relinquish our identities at the whim of culture’s deceit. On the contrary, we are chosen, dearly loved, fearfully and wonderfully made, children of the light, the apple of our Father’s eye! We are His workmanship designed to do good works. Our Father bestows His glory on us and lifts our head. He had a plan for our lives and created us with perfection in order to fulfill that plan like only we can. He is the lover of our souls!

The Linchpin of the ID Theft Movement Exposed

The ruler of this world has an agenda to bury us alive with heaping mounds of shame, condemnation, fear, and the like. Then he sits back and admires his handiwork as we lumber and trudge through the layers of sediment and debris that act as identity-robbing fetters to this world.

Oh, we can still manage to scrape out a “get through it” life, even if we never come to the truth of our identities. And we will still live in eternity with our heavenly Father when our time on Earth comes to an end. But God’s plan is not for us to be burdened by the trappings of this world or be disguised by its lies.

His plan is for us to live in freedom and victory right now, knowing full well WHOSE we are!

In James 4:7, we see instruction on how to actively apply this truth to our lives – “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  

Un-Earthing You

If you have asked Christ into your heart, then you are in Him and He is in you. If you are not completely convinced of who you are in Him, I wholeheartedly encourage you to step into the “you” that is in Him and begin living from that vantage point.

Do you believe your lineage is one of royalty? Does your heart truly know where your home is – that for now, you are a stranger in this land? Read further on what the Mighty Creator has to say on this topic in the gift of His Word. Allow His truth to enter your soul and begin the process of un-earthing who you TRULY are!

Father, thank you for the marvelous creativity you reveal in the design of your children’s lives. Help me to see your plans for which I was made. Continue to heal the wounds caused by lies and restore me to health, increasing my trust in you along the way. Thank you for your blessing of royalty and for my forever home that awaits. While I live this life on Earth, I pray you’ll use me to shine your light into the lives of those who have yet to discover their true identity in You. Amen.

FORGIVENESS: Discovering Freedom

My dad was diagnosed with cancer a year and a half ago. Sadly, so many can relate to that feeling of having the wind knocked out of you at the sound of such news. When this reality pierces the bubble of our seemingly invincible world, our paradigm shifts. Very quickly, the inconsequential is weeded out, leaving the truly valuable remaining. This holds true even when estrangement is involved.

Dad’s words and actions crushed my spirit very early on, and I carried unforgiveness in my heart for many years. I remember from a young age, maybe even as young as three or four, believing I was unlovable and that I wasn’t meant to be here because of the rejection I felt from him. I despised who I was, and I despised him. Since young children typically have yet to develop healthy coping skills, I internalized the pain and shame of his rejection, and the weight of it broke my heart.

Healing

When I was forty two, I began counseling with a prayer minister at Transformation Ministries here in Birmingham, Alabama. This was the beginning of my spiritual and emotional healing and restoration from the many years I had suffered while harboring unforgiveness.

Until then, I could not bring myself to forgive my dad. It just was not in me. I would say the words, even pray the words, but my heart did not change and the anger remained. I was seething with bitterness, which revealed itself in other relationships. Out of self-preservation, I distanced myself from my husband, daughter, family members and friends to avoid exposing my heart to further pain.

Not only could I not forgive Dad, I could not forgive myself for who I had become. It took me seeing and accepting the true grace God freely gave me to understand that I was already forgiven. And the Lord intended for me to extend that very same grace to my dad in the form of forgiveness.

I Chose Forgiveness

The Lord used the cancer diagnosis as my world changer to activate the gift of forgiveness in my heart. I do believe He often uses life-and-death events to clarify our perspective and toggle our focus from indifference to urgency. Instantly, all of the painful memories paled in comparison to the freedom found through the act of forgiveness.

On the day I chose to forgive, February 10, 2014, I was overtaken by an urgency to share it with Dad. I was ready for freedom. I was ready to trust the Lord with our relationship, knowing that He would restore it. To stay on task and make sure I said everything that was on my heart, I opted to send an email. That night, I feverishly pecked out every word on my laptop with determination. In part, here is what I said:

“…during my study of the Heavenly Father, I realized how I have not honored you during my life.  This is why I know I need to ask you for forgiveness… I have forgiven you, and choose to continue to forgive you, for any hurt you have caused me.  I hope you can forgive me for my reaction to hurts.”

When I came to the place in my spiritual healing where I could visualize and believe in my heart that Dad and I were both sinners standing at the foot of the Cross, desperate for salvation and forgiveness and in dire need of the Savior, it was then that my heart softened to receive God’s forgiveness and in turn present it to my dad.

Understanding Forgiveness

What I’ve learned is that forgiveness is not about the other person, and it’s not even primarily about you. It’s about Jesus. If you have unforgiveness in your heart, you must ask yourself if you believe His work on the Cross – His shed blood, His death, and His resurrection – is payment enough for the offence for which you are demanding payment. As Christ’s followers, we are called, even commanded, to freely forgive. In return, we ourselves will receive “a good measure”. And with God, that’s a whole lot!

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:37-38 NIV).

We Have an Enemy

Do not minimize Satan’s cunning. Unforgiveness can be a catalyst in the very subtle shift from an open heart to a resentful bitterness. And when that occurs, there you will find the evil one, plotting destructive schemes custom-made for you.

We were not called to sit idly by while the enemy enforces cursings in our lives through lies, deceit, and thievery. He knows your weaknesses and is a mastermind at spewing propaganda that convinces us of ungodly beliefs. For me, that was believing I was defective, unwanted, unattractive and undeserving  He will mislead you in the direction of pride, provoking you to take a stand in your own defense, pushing you into seclusion. And in the process, he slinks in and embezzles your relationships one-by-one.

“If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven – if there was anything to forgive – I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11 NIV).

We have been given the Spirit of a sound mind to discern his schemes and denounce their power over us in Jesus name!

Being Aware of Unforgiveness

Unforgiveness is a poison. It seeps in, and before you know it deep roots of judgement and bitterness have formed. As Christians, we must choose forgiveness daily. If you are not sure if you have unforgiveness in your heart, ask yourself if you behave in the following ways, which may aid in discovering if you do:

  • Rehearse in your mind a particular event involving a friend or loved one that evokes shame, anger, or resentment
  • Feel a sense of defiance or the need to defend yourself or someone else against another
  • Become easily angered at the thought of a particular person or in their presence
  • Avoid contact out of a sense of dread
  • Find it difficult to connect with or hear from your heavenly Father

If any of the above are true, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the source.  Ask Him to forgive you for harboring unforgiveness and to lead you to the Cross where you can relinquish bitterness and judgment and replace it with grace and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not weakness, it is God’s power in action. It is Christ in you, working through you, enacting freedom in your life.

Mercy Wins

During the week before Dad passed away in January, I was able to meet one of his high school friends. As I listened to him reminisce about their youth and describe their friendship, I realized that I never really knew my dad. The fracture in our relationship had occurred so early in my life that I never came to truly know him. But what I do know is that my heart is open to him now, and he forgives me. My closed heart proved to be a lonely prison.  But THIS… is freedom.

As much as we know our own failings and shortcomings, we must give an allowance to others and realize they are just as in need of grace as we are. Basically, we need to cut each other some slack. We know that grace abounds! We have no fear of a shortage, so let us pass it around.

When I wrote Dad’s eulogy, I was flooded with a sense of awe at what the Lord had accomplished in our relationship through His great gift of forgiveness. In some ways, I wish things could have been different between us. But my life is my life, and just as God promises, what the enemy meant for evil, He used for good. My prayer is that the curse of unforgiveness has been broken and that my family will live in mercy’s freedom for future generations to come.

“…Mercy triumphs over judgement!” (James 2:13b)

Gracious Father, thank you for the gift of your Son, our way maker to forgiveness. Thank you for your Spirit who shines His light on the unforgiving places in our hearts and gently leads us to the foot of the Cross. Thank you for your abounding grace, which you press down, shake together, and overflow into our laps. Help us to receive it with open hearts and to freely give it with open hands. Amen.

HIDDEN HEARTS: Finding Yourself Through Hiding in God

Bless Mrs. Greene. She was my second grade teacher. One day at recess, I had broken a playground rule, (an unnecessary one, I’m sure), and she asked me to sit against the school wall for an arbitrary amount of time as punishment.

I was embarrassed. Obstinacy set in.

On that particular day, I just happened to be wearing one of my sister’s dresses, and although I was willing to slide down 50 foot long slides (possibly not that long), swing on monkey bars, and sit in playground dirt, I decided at that very moment I absolutely could not sit down on the cement in “time out” for fear of sullying my sister’s dress! How could I return to her a marred frock?

The sequence of events that followed, now known as “the tree-hugger story” within my family, can be likened to a runaway train. It was as if there was a power forcing me to behave in ways beyond my control (I now know there truly were powers at work – much could be said on this topic, but I’ll save it for another time).

I’d rather skip over what came next, but for the sake of making my point, I’ll give you the short version:

  • Mrs. Greene grabbed me by the arm and began walking (dragging me) toward the Principal’s office.
  • Kicking and screaming ensued (me, not her).
  • Along the way, I grabbed a tree trunk in the planting area just outside the school doors, merely delaying the inevitable.
  • Other teacher types came to Mrs. Greene’s aid to help her accomplish her task of releasing me from the tree and depositing me into the realm of higher authority.
  • In the meantime, my sister’s classroom was on the second floor of the school just above the previously mentioned planting area. Where I was clinging. And screaming. They all saw. My sister was mortified.
  • The dress was no longer an issue.

This was just one of many occasions when I would cross the threshold of “The Office” to receive my due punishment for having behaved in one way or another. Sum it all up to say that I was a very troubled young girl.

In the earlier years, my emotions were all over the place, but shame and anger dominated. Approaching my early teens, I began to learn how to control my emotions. Good for others. Not so much for me. Because in this controlling, I began to fashion masks to cover my feelings and create a façade I perceived would suit others. I concealed from them my version of the truth – that I was grossly flawed and unworthy of love.

So I hid. I hid within myself.

I know I’m not alone in this. So many people live this life in the same identity prison, protecting their hearts at all cost. They are self-hiders to varying degrees, lonely and starving for the truth. This hiding offers no nourishment, no hope, and no light. Defenses wane. Strength wilts. Faith withers. Breathing becomes shallow within the confines, heartbeat nearly imperceptible. The soul suspends in time. It’s desperately tragic. And our Creator never intended it.

 

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

 

Our Father’s love is very strong; I newly know this. Truth broke the lie barrier, and I found freedom. When He healed my heart three short years ago, His coursing lifeblood was invigorating! I felt what the psalmist meant when he said, “Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death” (Psalm 68:20 NIV).

Recently I’ve been studying what it means to be “in Him”, and what the Holy Spirit revealed to me is that the Lord intends for me to hide in Him:

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (Psalm 91:1-2 NIV).

When we hide within ourselves, we are like a one-man show – we are the director, producer, screenwriter, costume designer, etc. of our lives. There’s no rest for the weary, as they say, because we become obsessed with self and projecting an image that is not God-given. We are fake. No love in, no love out. What a trap!

Ahhh, but when we hide in Him, He is our Mighty Defender. He is our Strong Tower. He is our Faithful Shield. When we allow Him to cover us with His feathers and take refuge beneath His wings, we draw from His Spirit, His very breath. He freely gives His overwhelming love, and we willingly receive it out of a heart to share it with others.

He protects our hearts from this world by infusing us with the truth, His truth, of who we are – lovely, chosen, redeemed, spotless, heirs with Christ, citizens of Heaven, sons and daughters, holy, sanctified, righteous, the apple of His eye, and found in Him! It is out of this truth and from within this state of holy-hiding that we are filled with his love-light by which we infuse our sphere of influence – family, friends, and coworkers, even strangers we meet. When our hearts remain turned toward Him in a state of submission, He fulfills His plan of using broken vessels to glorify Christ.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if someone who knew this truth would have shared it with me as a young girl or would have told me who I was because of who God is. At the same time, I am blessed beyond measure for having gone through the hard things because of how God redeemed and restored my life. In turn, I can’t help but recognize that I am now a knower, a sharer and a teller. I am that person for someone else, someone who needs to be loved to life. And if you have experienced salvation and healing through Jesus Christ, you too are a knower, a sharer and a teller. We are favored by grace, and with much favor comes much responsibility.

Who do you know that could use a knower, a teller, or a sharer in their lives right about now?

Father, thank you that you protect me, rejoice over me and surround me with songs of deliverance. Thank you for being my hiding place. I ask you to excavate a path leading directly to the places in my heart that remain hidden. Shine your light of hope into the darkness and cause it to flee. Raise me up with your courage and strength to know, tell and share. Amen.

HOPE FLOWS: Realizing Our Hope Source

In the 1998 movie Hope Floats, Birdee explains to her young daughter how there are many beginnings, middles, and endings we experience in life. She says that beginnings (meeting new people and starting over in new places) are usually the scariest, and her advice to her daughter is, “Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will.” The flaw in this belief is that availability of hope hinges on circumstances.  It says that the condition of a situation determines the existence of hope. If this were true, I believe I would tend to feel, well, a little hopeless.

Do you ever plop down in the place of hopelessness wondering how you got there? You may feel like this thing you’re dealing with will never turn around, whether it’s your job, finances, marriage, or health. My question for you is, “Where have you put your hope?” Losing hope is not like losing your keys or wallet and then asking yourself, “Where did I put that hope? I just had it a second ago. It couldn’t have gone far.” In our day-to-day lives, I believe we allow our hope to “sink” into our circumstances and become lost in our perspective. The truth is you are not at the mercy of waiting on your conditions to change so you can live in hope. Hope is ever-present. It’s our choice to avail ourselves of it. But how do we do that?

REALIZE THE SOURCE

In Psalm 147:11, we learn the perfect spot in which to tuck our hope: “The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.”

Whew! What a relief it is to know that when we place our hope in God’s unfailing love, it will remain safe and sound. God’s love is not capable of failing – it is PERFECT! And when His love is the source from which we draw our hope, we cannot be disappointed.

REPLACE YOUR PERSPECTIVE

I believe that many Christians truly desire to unreservedly place every bit of their hope in the Lord, but they find themselves holding on to a portion “just in case”. I can definitely relate. But then I considered what it means to fear the Lord as stated in Psalm 147:11, and it changed my perspective. It means to know Him, to be in relationship with Him, and to be in total reverential dependence of Him. We do that through the revelation of His Word. Your part is to read; His part is to reveal who He is through His Living Word. It’s that simple. Wisdom and hope come naturally in knowing Him, which was His plan for us from the beginning. When we place our hope in His love, He returns that hope to us in a never-ending flow:

“Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off” PROV 24:14.

REST

In the natural, the future seems precarious. When we consider our current situation and world events, it doesn’t take much for our minds to wander into the land of uncertainty and fear. But we need to remember that the same love in which we place our hope, His perfect love, drives out fear. So I say, “Remember hope and rest in it!” Don’t let it get lost in the shuffle of life. Let the words of Jeremiah 29:11 resonate in your soul: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

His plans of hope for us are STILL the same today as they always have been and ever will be for all eternity.

Father, help me to hand over my hope into your capable hands, and nestle it within your unfailing love.  When something happens in my life and I choose to view it from the perspective of hopelessness, remind me of the hope-stream you flow in my direction at all times.  Help me to choose hope and share that hope with others.  Amen.