Perspective

life change july

I have a nemesis. And it’s a dandelion that refuses to give up.

This particular dandelion has made its home between the driveway and our house. Seriously, how does that even happen? There is no dirt of any kind to support a root system. I FAITHFULLY pull that weed out, but because it’s wedged between the house and the macadam driveway, I can never pull out the roots. And so it returns. Last year we spent a hefty sum of money to re-do the driveway. The company that did the work completely dug up the old driveway, put down a new base of crushed stones, poured a new layer of macadam and even created a thicker edge along the house so that water wouldn’t seep into the basement.

And that dandelion came back!!

Grumbling to myself, I marched down the driveway and pulled and yanked with all my strength to rid myself of that pesky weed. Then, I sprayed weed killer on what remained and triumphantly proclaimed that I had won. No more weed. Right. Back it came. Again and again.

Then, two weeks ago, I grudgingly drudged down the driveway to pull out that dandelion…again. As I did, I had a different thought. What if instead of resenting this green nemesis, I viewed it with new eyes? This pesky, really insignificant annoyance could be symbolic of something greater and more positive. It reminded me that even though life brought hardship and struggle, I could persevere. If my roots were deep enough, I could continue to survive and thrive, even when conditions were less than desirable. And suddenly, that pesky dandelion became a symbol of perseverance, tenacity and hope.

Romans 5:1-5 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we  also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Truthfully, I will continue to try and beat my dandelion nemesis, but my perspective has changed. Even as I write this, I am thinking of some things in my life, over which I have no control, with new eyes. I want to have God’s perspective about the difficulties of life. I want to persevere in a manner that builds the character of Christ in me and reveals hope to those around me.

Will you let the Spirit of God change your heart and give you a new perspective?

Declare

life change declare

Declare. A word that means to pronounce, proclaim, assert and affirm. A word that I don’t normally use in my everyday conversations. However, recently, as I spent time reading and reflecting on the book of Deuteronomy, I was deeply impacted by the word declare. In chapter 26, Moses writes, “You have declared this day that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in his ways, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws, and that you will obey him. And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised” (Deut. 26:17, 18a).

There is no ambiguity in the word declare. It is sure, definitive and certain; this is how it is. As I read those verses written so long ago, I felt compelled to ask myself, “Do my words declare that the Lord is my God? Do my actions declare that I am walking in His ways? Is my life a true and certain declaration of my belief that the Lord is my God? There was something about the certitude of those verses that pesters me like a fly when I’m trying to relax. I can’t seem to get the word declare out of my head and heart. I want to speak and live a life that declares the greatness and grace of God in my life. Even as I write these words, I am reminded that it’s not possible to live like that unless the Spirit of God is given the freedom to change me. Only then can I declare that the Lord is my God.

This past week my husband and I were able to spend a week in Ocean City, New Jersey. While there we celebrated our anniversary with a walk on the beach at sunset. As we walked, the sky was beautiful with nuances of color, the sun was radiant as it set in the west, and sound of the ocean was rhythmic and soothing. As I took the picture included in this blog, I couldn’t help but think of another declaration, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). All around us are evidences that declare the existence of God. How can we, as His children keep silent? Should not our lives also declare the glory of God?

Declare.   Affirm.   Pronounce.   Proclaim.  Why should these words matter to our journey of faith? We declare the Lord is our God because He has declared that we are His people, His treasured possession. Our declaration comes as a result of what He has done for us; it comes as a recognition of His grace and work in our lives. This day, declare with your mouth and your actions that the Lord is your God. Let your life be a declaration of His love in such a way that others see how He is changing and reshaping you to be more and more like Christ.

Declare.

 

 

 

THY WILL BE DONE

 

I lfie-change_6don’t know how old I was when I first learned the Lord’s Prayer, but I know I was young, probably four or five.  I dutifully repeated the prayer when it was a part of the worship service, but I can’t say that I said it with passion or even deep understanding.  As my church experiences continued, it seemed that there were fewer and fewer times that we said the prayer together. I remember thinking, “I wonder if this church says, ‘debts’ or ‘trespasses’?”

In all candor, there were times that I almost mindlessly repeated the prayer, and then there were other times when I thought about it, pondered it and even journaled about it. However, recently I had a light bulb, “ah ha” moment about this most important prayer. The phrases, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” took on new meaning for me.  It became very apparent to me that Jesus wanted me to pray with an attitude of total surrender because that’s what it takes to live in the Kingdom of God. My posture before the Father in this prayer should be an acknowledgement that I have been invited to be a part of replicating His Kingdom on earth. In Heaven, all things happen in obedience to the King’s will, and my prayer should be that I live with that same attitude. The magnitude of that privilege was overwhelming and exciting all at the same time.

Since that “ah ha” moment, I have frequently pondered what it looks like for me to say, “Thy will be done.” The word that keeps coming to mind is, surrender.  Surrender, my daughter, to my will. Surrender to my love, my goodness, my control.  Surrender, and let your life reflect the contentment and peace that I desire for you. Surrender to me, your good, good Father.

Truly praying, “Thy will be done. Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven,” is life-changing! It will re-orient our thoughts, our attitudes, our actions under the loving hand of God with the realization that nothing happens in Heaven that isn’t His will and that His desire for us is to live the same way now, on earth.

Take time to reflect on the privilege it is to bring Heaven to earth by the way we reveal God’s will in our lives. May His will be done!

LOVE & TRUST

I never thoughtdebs-blog I had a problem with trust because I’ve been fairly trusting in my interactions with others throughout most of my life.  However, a number of years ago I crashed into a situation with someone I deeply cared about and discovered that I had been lied to repeatedly. As I tried to process my frustration, anger and hurt, I discovered that my struggle with trust was not focused just at the individual who betrayed me, but also at God.  I found myself asking, “Are you REALLY good? Can you REALLY be trusted?”  My head knew that the answer was “yes,” but my heart kept whispering “no.”

What I learned through that situation, and have continued to believe since then, is that because God is ALWAYS love, He can ALWAYS be trusted.  Coming to grips with that reality has changed my entire outlook on life.  Love and trust go together, and start with a belief that God’s love is good and that He is always for us. Because He loves me, He will use every situation in my life to grow both my love and trust for Him.

Let me explain what I mean.  There are many circumstances in life that are hard, in fact very hard, and they can cause us to question the love and goodness of God. We tend to question God’s existence and care in the hard times, while at the same time neglecting to thank Him during the good times.  It’s interesting how easy it is to blame God, and how hard it is to thank Him for His love and care.  Our actions stem from a wrong view of love and trust. Because we believe that God’s love is conditional, our trust toward Him becomes conditional. Ultimately, that belief system taints our ability to love and trust others.

We need to remember that God can’t ‘fake love.’ His love is always real and genuine.  He is absolutely committed to our good, our growth and His glory.  The circumstances of our lives are always opportunities to grow in our love and trust of God, which in turn help us overcome mistrust in our relationships with others.

That situation that I mentioned earlier was really hard; it caused much dissonance in my life and built a wall in my relationship with that person.  I was cautious in my interactions after that point with that particular individual and asked God to give me discernment in how to discern truth.  I wanted to be smart in how I trusted.  But the bigger issue was that I was able to maintain an overall attitude and perspective of trust because my beliefs became even more deeply rooted in the truth that God is love and He can be trusted.

When situations are hard and people betray you, will you run to God, your good and perfect Father, to allow Him to renew your love and trust?

Love and Fear

Marianne Williamson stickie

When I was 7 years old, my parents went away for the evening and left me in the care of my 16-year-old brother. Most of the time we got along, and he generally treated me well. I thought it was awesome to have an older brother! This particular night, I walked out of the family room to go upstairs to bed. I confidently walked into my bedroom, and before I could even turn on the light, my brother jumped out from a closet and yelled, “Surprise!” He thought it was funny; I was terrified! Even as I write this, I can still remember the overwhelming fear that I felt at that moment. Ironically, he really didn’t intend to do anything hurtful. He was 16; I was 7. To him it was a harmless prank; to me it was a distressing experience that planted a seed of fear inside of me. Even though my brother apologized immediately after he saw my distress, it took years for me to feel safe in my room. My brother loved me—he didn’t intend to hurt me; but that experience had a deep effect on me.

For many of us, woundedness, even unintentionally, from a person we loved and trusted can have a devastating effect on our ability to love. We were created by God with a capacity to receive and give love, but our experiences can cause us to feel unsafe and vulnerable, and we build self-protective walls so that we won’t get hurt again. The result is that our interactions and relationships are tainted by fear, and we live closed off from God and from those around us.

It took some time for me to feel safe with my brother again. Even as I struggled with my feelings toward him, I could sense my desire to trust him; but I was cautious and unsure. It took time and a conscious effort on my part to believe that my brother had my best interest at heart. Even as a child, I realized that my ability to trust my brother again was rooted in my choice to believe that God would be with me, and that he would help me love even when I didn’t feel safe.

Obviously, I’ve never forgotten that experience; but I’m so grateful for what God taught me through it. I don’t need to let fear get in the way of love. Perfect love casts out fear. God’s love for me tears down the walls that I build and helps me honestly and authentically love others.

What experiences have caused you to build walls that keep you from receiving and giving love?

How is God redeeming those experiences to help you exchange fear with love?

Invitations

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Recently, I received an invitation to a dear friend’s birthday party.  The first thing I did was check the date to see if I was available that day to accept the invitation.  I wanted to be able to celebrate the day with her because her relationship matters to me.  My first thought upon receiving the invitation was that, if needed, I would willingly rearrange my schedule to be with my friend so that I could celebrate with her.

God is also sending us invitations.  Some of them are easy to accept, others more difficult because they seem counter-intuitive.  It’s exciting to accept His invitation to eternal life. But why does Jesus invite us to rest when life is so busy and we have so much to do? How do we respond to His invitation to follow, to submit, and to admit our brokenness?  What I’ve discovered in this walk of faith is that it is God’s deep and lasting love that is the source of every invitation we receive from Him.  Ultimately, His invitation to us is to experience healing and wholeness, and every invitation He extends requires our participation in that process.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I have often looked at Jesus as a coping mechanism or as a magician who could just magically fix my troubles and concerns.  Instead, God patiently invites me to participate with Him in my own healing and transformation.  He invites me to exercise faith in His work as He mends, heals and redeems.

The invitation from my friend was a welcome surprise in my mailbox and I am looking forward to celebrating with her.  May you and I view invitations from God with similar excitement and expectancy as we embrace that they have been sent from His heart of love.  May we RSVP to those invitations with anticipation and hope that the God of all creation invites us to participate with Him as He transforms our hearts and souls.

Identity Matters

One of the most basWho Am Iic questions that we all ask is, “Who am I?” This question is usually followed by another question that goes something like this: “Do I matter?”  Everyone wants and needs to feel valued and accepted. We have an innate desire to know that who we are and what we do counts for something or someone bigger than ourselves. And so we do, we strive, we work to become someone who contributes something to someone. We want to matter; I wanted to matter.

For much of my life I struggled to believe I had worth and value, and hid my struggle really well. I had loving parents, but often felt as though I couldn’t measure up. And so my identity became deeply rooted in a desire to perform and please. I needed that “A” in EVERY subject. I needed to be the captain of the basketball team and the president of the club. I needed to be the Resident Assistant in my dorm and the leader of the Youth for Christ intern team. It was more than using gifts and abilities; I needed to lead and to achieve because I placed my identity in my achievements. Graciously, God still used the talents He had given me and, graciously, He kept prompting me to face my own false thinking.

The more He prompted me, the more I became aware of the false identity I had created. I realized that I was living out of a false sense of self and that I believed the lie that God loved me more when I was good, successful, serving, and “put together.” My first real step toward a genuine understanding of identity was when I truly believed that I was loved no matter what I did or didn’t do. As I surrendered my need for approval and accepted that I already had God’s approval, I began to see myself differently. I began to believe that who I was could best be explained by seeing myself through God’s eyes, and I began to live from a deep sense of wholeness. God began to integrate every part of me into one complete person. I accepted His identity for me. I am His beloved daughter, no matter what.

Identity does matter. The Creator of the universe desires to be our Father and give us our identity, which is far greater than any identity I can create on my own.  Will you give Him permission to “poke and prod” at your thoughts and beliefs? Will you then allow Him to transform and change your very identity?  You are a new person in Christ; live that way!