Tuesday, August 6, 2013

One Hundred Gifts of Grace

Counting the things that count.  No matter what.  God uses everything. As Ann Voskamp says…they are all gifts.  She also says Gratitude redeems. I say it also brings balance to our hectic lives and makes my complaints fade into nothing.
 1)      Achey feet, because it means I have a job
2)     Libraries
3)     The varied call of the catbird in the corn field
4)     My great-niece’s giggles.
5)     Quiet
6)     The generosity of friends and family.
7)     Worship songs that make my heart dance
8)    Blossoms…flowers, I love flowers
9)     The crack in my windshield…I have a car. Most of the world does not.
10)  Cherries
 
11)   Cool days
12)  Personal pain that leads me to call out to Jesus every day and night.
13)  Lavender
14)  Jesus presence
15)   Chronicles of Narnia
16)  Walks on foggy mornings
17)   Laughing with my neighbor
18)  Remembering and crying…
19)  Streams, rivers, ponds, lakes…the ocean...fountains and waterfalls.... Water represents Life and cleansing
20, 21) Words and the Word...I love words but even more how scripture goes far and beyond the written words I read.
22) Fossils...yeah, I'm a nerd.
23) The fragrance of honeysuckle.
24) Chocolate...God made it just for us!
25) The surprise of a frog jumping into the canal as I walk by.
26, 27,28) Listening...being quiet and listening for God's voice, for the kids in the neighborhood playing, and bird calls.
29) Being listened to...
30, 31,32) Laughing and silliness...my women's group does a lot of this and we do get to the study and prayer...prayer being the best part.
33) Ice cream!
34) Family humor...no one else would ever get it...but we have fun!
35) Movies that make me laugh...Despicable Me!
36) Movies that make me cry...
37) Just how intricate the human body is...each organ, our original DNA which really is God's DNA...did I say I was a nerd?

Counting some hard graces...what Ann has called the "ugly beautiful"

38) My abuse...yeah, that. Only because of Jesus love and healing. Why? Because I can that I have a destiny to raise up others with a similar personal history...not by myself or through my strength but through God's power which has grown me up and gives me strength and wisdom.
39, 40, 41,) Financial struggles...because they have caused me to find riches in other ways...precious friends, God's creation and my conversations with Him.
42) When I pray in exhaustion and frustration and in return receive peace.
43,44) The oder coming from the waste treatment plant -- grateful there is one and also to have a sense of smell.
45, 46) Blurred vision...appreciate the value of seeing and yes...bifocals!
47) Sweat...it means I am working or walking and that it is summer!
 
48) Long talks with friends
49) Campfires at night
50, 51, 52, 53) Colors...of flowers, of fireworks, and Christmas lights.
54) Bees --- lead to honey and a bountiful harvest of fruit, berries and God 
knows what else!
55) Loving...
56) ...and being Loved
57, 58, 59,) Road noise and honking horns...the gift of hearing, the gift of technology and God allowing some mysteries to be uncovered.
60) To be a woman...just one dimension of who God made me to be and that is just a beginning.
61) Sunsets

Seasons...
62, 63,) 
Spring and Autumn...my favorite seasons
64) Frost designs on Winter windows
65,66) Silent snowfall...Snow perched perilously on fragile twigs.

67, 68, 69,) Watching the world wake up and bloom...March, April and May. 
70) Tulips...so many varieties and colors...The Queen of the Spring Garden.
71) Long Summer Days to see all Life living to the fullest.

72,73, 74)
Crisp Autumn Days...sitting inside reading with apples, hot cocoa and popcorn.

75) Leaf Piles!
76) Children's Christmas programs...never knew angels threw their halos!

77) Grateful and Honored to pray for my family and friends.
78, 79,80,81, 82,) Provision ---through work and gifts, prayers and counsel --- God's bounty for all my needs, spiritual, emotional, and mental as well as physical.
83) That God intervenes in storms...the atmospheric, spiritual, mental and social.
84, 85, 86, 87,) Making memories with my nieces and nephew --- steal the socks game, making cookies, backyard made-up sports, and picnics.
88 and 89) Twins!...soon to be born great-nieces!


90) Cloudy Days...for some reason they are comforting and cut the harshness of a too bright sun.
91) A good cry...letting it all out.
92) Lincoln Logs and Legos.
93) Growing older, grayer and stiffer...hopefully growing some wisdom and perspective as well.
94) Encyclopedias and books....amazing facts and imagination...
95) Spaghetti and Pizza...What does God have for dinner?
96) Misplaced items found....library book, gift card, doctor appointment note...


97) Forgiveness....
98) Forgiving...no other way to mend relationships.
99) Grace...for not being perfect or reaching 100...because there is always room for one more thing or person to be grateful for, to find God's grace in and become the person He designed YOU to be.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Searchng for Grace



Ann Voskamp has written “1000 Gifts”, a book like no other I have read.  It is quite an honest exploration of God’s grace, thanksgiving and joy in the midst of life 
…which includes pain, suffering, anger, anxiety, depression, laundry, 60 little sticky fingers and thumbs, kneading bread, laughter, laundry… Life.  I don’t have that many sticky fingers but I sure have had stinky thoughts that are sticky….but that is changing.  I have laundry, budgeting, work, depression, anxiety and the list goes on... Life.  That thing that happens while we are wishing half of it wouldn’t.

Ann, in the trailer for her new dvd series based on her book, says;
“I decided to live Eucharisteo, which is the Biblical Greek word which literally means ‘to give thanks,’ what I believe Jesus did each and every day regardless of His circumstances”

I am participating in this series with a group of precious friends and working through the workbook.  Sometimes it is agonizing. The exercise I am thinking of…the one I am trying to avoid.  Three moments.  Moments of pain and loss, grieving…bewilderment.  Why did “that” exercise have to be included?  I have an immediate answer…because God said so!   



Him.  Again…and again and again.   
Thankful for the “Him again’s.” 

I thought of the first moment…no, I won’t detail it here.  What I know is that it still affects me now and the enemy would keep it that way.  I had never really connected with the emotions of fear, sadness, pain and bewilderment associated with that particular incident.  I had those emotions in over-reacting to other events…sometimes had the feelings for no apparent reason at all.  But then God is healing me…

Him…again. 

It is normal to feel pain, fear, confusion and grief for events that affect our lives, take something or someone away, and threaten physical or emotional pain or harm.  We were created for love and perfect relationship…not the “other stuff”.  I can say I am being healed to be who God created me to be…and we all are. To feel, to have appropriate emotions, at appropriate times.  To be gifted hope and wholeness; joy and awe. What I can say is that I am searching for Jesus in my first moment…searching for the grace. My journey is an adventure. 

Him. Again!

The second moment was about two years long.  Some moment.  It was a job and I was where I was for a reason although I can’t define it precisely.  I’ve not yet recovered.  I developed panic attacks.  I would have internalized panic but eventually I couldn’t hold it in.  I am aggravated that the enemy really took me down but I can’t think of many ways I could have actually handled it better.  I can see grace dimly in this...the light on it is brightening.  I know even now that there is hope that I can sense God’s grace in it all.  I can say I learned to continue to work in tough situations with difficult people.  I was able to pay most of my bills on my own and continue to give to my church and others in both time and finances.  I am grateful for the support I received from family, friends and the body of Christ.  I continue to receive their support…because of Jesus love and grace.

Him..again…thankfully, gracefully, joyfully. 

Information about Ann's book, dvd series and devotional can be found at her blog: "A Holy Experience"

Monday, July 1, 2013

How Great A Love

Sometimes I’m not sure what love is…in fact, many times I’m not sure. Yeah…I’m on this again.  I often think that my love for God isn’t even a molecule of H2O compared to all the vast ocean of His love.  That any of us can say truthfully that we love Him is a mystery and a miracle to me.  I’ve heard people say they love God but from conversation I’m not even sure they have any idea what Jesus did for them,  that God is more than a benevolent, ethereal being.  So I'm searching for my love for Him.

 Checking The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary , these are some of the definitions of love I found there. “Strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties”, “affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests” , “an assurance of affection” , “a beloved person” , “unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another “ as in “the fatherly concern of God for humankind” , “a person’s adoration of God” , and “a god or personification of love” .  We can see that all of these can be said about God’s love for us or our love for Him…but something is missing. 

The Bible says “God is love” 1 John 4:8 NCV .  God says He will change our heart so we can love Him in Deuteronomy 30:6.  God says through the prophet Ezekiel that He will cause us to not have a divided heart, give us a new spirit (inner person) and He will remove hardness of our heart and replace it with a heart of flesh, one that will respond to Him and focus on His ways. ( 11:19 - 20 ) 


Throughout scripture God has called people, called to their spirit.  From the beginning God wanted relationship with us more than we wanted it with Him.  When Adam and Eve broke relationship, God wished to reconnect, make a way for the darkness that His most beloved creation chose.  They were deceived and their will was weak.

 It happens to me all the time. “Chocolate is good for you”…“well, then more chocolate must be better!” Uh oh…I think I made a mistake.  Seriously, we do give in and sometimes we believe anything that comes in an email or what any radio program tells us as we are driving down the road.  Sometimes I’m tired or depressed or angry and I just don’t care and in that moment of weakness I sin…I put up a wall between myself and my Jesus.  Just like Adam and Eve.  The process of connection…God loving us enough to make a way started then. John 3:16 says God loved us enough to send His son Jesus to us to make a way for us to reconnect with Him.  Verse 17  says He came to save us from our wrong doings, sin and the darkness that came down from Adam and Eve’s original choice to disobey God.  We can’t undo that. We don’t have the capability. We can’t even stop ourselves from telling lies. Doesn’t matter if it is a “little white lie” or if we leave information out…the intent is to intentionally give a false impression.  The point is that God set some standards, some fence lines, to keep us safe in the pasture to keep the enemy from having a claim on us.  1 John 5:19 NCV  says that any of us whom belong to God as His child doesn’t keep on sinning and that Jesus protects us and the evil one cannot hurt us.  It doesn’t mean we never do anything wrong but that we don’t intentionally continue to make that wrong choice day after day. 
 
He loves us enough that He took on what we would go through due to our wrongdoings, our sin.  He didn’t set aside the standards, didn’t open the fence and say, “Go ahead, if you don’t care if you meet the wolf in the dark then I’m fine with it.” Or “I know you don’t have a clue of the pain that awaits you over there but if you want you can go with my blessing…I’ll watch until you are out of sight” or “Go ahead baby daughter, touch the hot stove, I’ll let you get burned as often as you like.”  Makes a lot of sense…..NOT!
Did I start this post wondering about love?  I think I could write much more on what the Bible says, list more scripture and give examples.  God’s love for us started at creation and time and time again God rescued people physically from enemies, from sickness, from themselves, from Satan the Evil One, from the consequences of their wrong choices and actions.  Jesus came as the son of God, equal with God to take on the separation that our wrong choices put us into.  God required a response to His love…to love Him back.  In order for us to meet the requirement He offered to change us at our core, in our spirit.  He is changing us from the inside out.  This process of loving God…of changing in order to love Him and to increase in that love isn’t dependent on what I do, no straight A report card, no employee of the month award or winning “Jeopardy “will make the grade. 
It is a “God” process…He established the standard, set the requirement AND gives us everything we need to meet it and more.  He is never done changing our heart and building our spirit. The only thing that He did that was finished was His defeat of the Evil One by removing what appeared to be an insurmountable barrier between Him and us.  John 15:13 says “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”.   We are His friends….He lay down His life.  He also came back to life, He reanimated.  The power of God was so great and God the Father’s love was so immense that Jesus spirit did CPR on His body.  No stage trick….that tomb was sealed and guarded.  Okay…so it wasn’t CPR but pure power beyond anything we know, came from God, no outside source, not the sun, no nuclear fusion….but GOD. 


What do we do to show love to someone we know?  The answers are in the second paragraph.  What do we do to show God we love Him?  Allow Him to proceed with changing us, following His ways, doing what He did and what He asks us to do.  To walk into belief and faith and assenting to life change, asking Him for help, reading about His feats, His relationships with His people, His standards and how He helped many to meet the requirement of love.  His story is a story of love.  It is messy, we are messy.  He gave us a choice and often we make a mess. 

Ever watch a baby on his or her first birthday when they are given the cake?  Ever know a one year old to never make a mess?  Did anyone get upset about that mess of cake and icing?  That’s us…messy life, messy love…loved by God.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Transfiguration

Why am I writing about transfiguration?  First thing I thought of when this word came to me was the event recorded in the Bible of Christ’s transfiguration.  The account is related in 3 of the 4 gospels. This is from Mark 9:2 - 4 NIV

“After six days, Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone.  There he was transfigured before them.  His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.  And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking to Jesus.”

The account goes on but for this purpose that is all I will quote.  I also checked the definition.   The Answers.com website states that transfiguration is “A marked change in form or appearance, a metamorphosis.  A change that glorifies or exalts.”  This sounds about right doesn’t it.  Upon examining further definitions I found that transformation was an outward change for the better and some definitions of transfigure include that…but it goes beyond to add that the change glorified and/or exalted.  I’m sure that that many would agree that Jesus appeared to change to a spiritual, eternal body state at the transfiguration.  Elijah and Moses were there and they had gone on to glory, their life in the physical bodies we are familiar with were long over.



But what does that mean for me?  Earlier this spring, before Easter the word “redemption” kept jumping off the page when I read it and it shouted in my ear when I heard it.  Then “resurrection” took on that quality of being emphasized to my mind and spirit.  That was after Easter…no small wonder.  Being raised with Christ, becoming new in our spirits and the regeneration of our thoughts, emotions and will, this is the commencing of the Great Adventure.  All adventures, great and small, come with trials, pitfalls, and a nemesis.  So does the adventure of transformation of our spirit and soul.

I am reading Ann VosKamp's “1000 Gifts” and at certain points I have been moved by the Holy Spirit to complete awe and amazement as Jesus spoke through her words to my heart, mind and soul. I often cannot read more than 3 or 4 pages at a time.  At one point in my reading earlier this week I paused, mulling over what I had just read and the word came to me, “transfiguration.”  I was puzzled but noted it.  I read the next paragraph and Ann uses the same word. Transfiguration.   I knew this was a word from God for me.  There are no coincidences…not in the Kingdom of God.  This isn’t a new word…but to be applied to anything or anyone outside of Christ?  This concept is new to me.    I have become completely undone…thanking God for my current circumstances, for my emotional struggles, for the abuse.  I never thought I could be thankful for the abuse…ever….never.  Miracles never cease.  Is this the transfiguration of my spirit?  It is a change for me, a positive one….and it certainly glorifies and exalts our Lord and Savior.  At another place Ann writes as if God were asking, and I am sure He was… “What do you want?”  My immediate answer was;  to be undone again...and again…and again….over and over again.  More of my heart to be pierced with His love and truth, more joy, more healing, more of His voice speaking to me.  I want Him to overwhelm me and not my emotions, not memories of abuse…just Himself.  Just Jesus.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Finding Freedom

My healing has taken a significant upward step this week.   I have been burdened for quite some time with anxiety and anger.  My joke was that the Bible says we are to be anxious for nothing and I was…I had no idea why I was anxious.   I have had depression for a long time and growing anxiety and anger. At least I was feeling the anxiety and anger more and more.  I went off all medications in the summer of 2010.  One of the possible effects of going off Paxil is feeling what we might identify as anxiety.  It seems to be an effect of the chemical withdrawal and has been called Paxil Withdrawal Syndrome.  After receiving relief from this a year later during a prayer session I could finally feel my own anxiety.  I had a sense of pressure in my head that was almost constant and tingling on my face.  I had a job that increased my anxiety as well.  My manager did not want to be a manager and did not have good management skills. She wasn’t organized and when frustrated would bang things.  She wouldn’t answer questions and could be demeaning.  It was a stressful job anyway and I soon developed anxiety attacks that progressed to panic attacks.  I mostly internalized those things, experiencing some hyperventilating, dizziness and even being light-headed.  Late last year the panic came out in yelling, crying and banging things.  My last day of work I banged my head on some shelves, was crying and hyperventilating and kept saying I had to leave.  The supervisor I was working with that day did not even turn around and look at me.  I left anyway. I could not bring myself to go back or even call.  I couldn’t do it anymore.



I had been having occasional anger fits all along. I would have several in a week then none for a couple weeks…off and on, off and on.  They increased in intensity at times then would subside.  I would have violent images go through my head and at times would pound my head with my fists.  They were distressing and I felt so bad that I couldn’t really control them.  Prayer helped very little. I learned to forgive anyone that upset me and to forgive myself as well. Curiously, I never had them when other people were around.  Not that I controlled them…I just didn’t feel angry.  Sometimes I would see I was in a situation where my anger could be triggered and I would step out of it and avoid the possible trigger.  I didn’t understand this…why would I not be angry when I was around people but when I was alone I raged over the top?  We all know that anger can be hurtful to ourselves and to others.  The horrible images in my head were disturbing.  I prayed and cried out for some kind of resolution and healing.



About a month ago I was having a difficult day and that evening I began to pray. I just talk to God like I would talk to anyone.  I trust Him more than anyone in my life.  I told Him I was tired of fighting, tired of being defeated, frustrated and not being able to find contentment, peace and healing.  Because of my background of abuse I could never really feel that close to Jesus.  I was cautious, He is a male figure and that alone put emotional distance between us from my end.  In my desperation I prayed “Don’t leave me, don’t leave me”.  Now I know that prayer wasn’t theologically sound but at the time I knew I needed Him desperately.  In my mind I could see myself hanging onto Him…if He was going to leave I was going with Him…He’d have to peel my fingers off His shirt to leave me.  I just hung on, crying into His chest like a child.

A couple weeks ago I was again praying and crying.  I felt so anxious and I prayed giving my worries and concerns to Him…there were many and I knew I couldn’t take care of them on my own, I needed His intervention.  I was so tired and I told Him I couldn’t hang on anymore because I was so exhausted.  I was experiencing muscle aches and fatigue.  I let go of His shirt…expecting to drop to the ground but I didn’t.  Jesus was holding me.  I had nothing left and He was hanging onto me.

Earlier this week I had an appointment with my associate pastor.  I had come to realize that fear underscored every decision and relationship I had…ever since I could remember.  I hadn’t really realized it…it was normal for me.  But hardly normal at all and certainly not what God had for me.  He created me to be free in His love.  Not to be a slave to fear or the past.  I sensed that because of the past that the enemy had taken advantage and found an opening to oppress me. My associate pastor sensed this too as we prayed.   We prayed to rebuke the enemy, claiming Christ and declaring that I belonged to Him being bought with the price of Christ’s death and resurrection.  I began to feel relief from the anxiety and the symptoms of pressure in my head and tingling on my face.  The muscles aches left and have not returned.  I still have some anxiety.  I still have many needs and concerns and need to consistently turn them over to God.  I still have issues stemming from the abuse that I am dealing with but I am learning, growing and healing.  Being free from the oppression is like being freed from dragging a ball and chain and trying to run a marathon at the same time.  No runner would put up with that!  Why should I put up with the torment of the enemy?  I was made for more than that, I am a child of the Most High God!