Rise

Alyssa Miller, photographer.  Some rights reserved
I had had it!  I was done being mom.  I didn't want to be the one that was the grown up anymore.  I was tired of saying the same thing over and over and over again, of feeling like no one was listening.  I lost it - and rather than respond as I would want to be responded to when my 7 year old came up to ask a question that I had just answered.  Yes, the 18 month old was screaming at the top of her lungs at the same time, and yes, my teenager had his headphones on so he was completely oblivious to everything as I tried to balance the phone on my shoulder as I pulled dinner out of the oven.  And yes, I was exhausted.  But that doesn't excuse the tone or volume that I chose to use when I responded to my daughter, and I knew that I had crushed her when her normally cheerful face fell and the tears began to form in her eyes.  In that moment I knew that I had failed.

We all have moments like this.  Yours may have occurred with a co-worker who just doesn't seem to have the same work ethic you do.  Or it may have been with your spouse who can't seem to get their dirty clothes IN the laundry hamper.  Or the neighbor that insists on turning the music up too loud, again.  Face it, we live in a world that is full of people that don't always recognize how their actions affect others.    A world that doesn't stop because we are having a bad day. And we make the wrong choice....

It isn't something unique to us.  Jesus was facing the most difficult, and agonizing time of His life.  He knew it was coming and sought His Father's counsel.  Like us, He didn't want to face the hardship alone so He asked his friends to go with Him, to pray with Him.  They went, they sat near Him, they began praying....and as the night went on and their bodies got tired, they made a choice - they went to sleep.  Not just once, but three times!  And it was a direct, face to face Jesus request!  I can only imagine how they felt when they recognized how disappointed Jesus was at the way they had let Him down. 

If they were anything like me they felt like failures.  After all, it isn't that hard to (fill in the blank), and I messed it up.....again.  And yet, the Bible doesn't say that Jesus condemned them.  Instead, He recognized that, "the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak". (Matthew 26:41)  I have to say that I am ever so thankful that God looks at our heart rather than our outward appearances (including our actions sometimes).  Now, don't get me wrong.  I am not saying that there isn't a need to make the effort to do what is right.  Quite the contrary, as there are numerous verses that tell us to make every effort to choose what is right. (Psalm 1:1, Ephesians 5:11, Ephesians 4:26 to name a few)

But when we mess up, what do we do?  Jesus says, "Rise, let us be going".  (Matthew 26:46)  Don't wallow in what has been done wrong.  Go to the person you have wronged and ask forgiveness.  (Matthew 5:23)  Talk to God about it and ask His forgiveness. (1 John 1:9)  And then rise, and leave it behind.  Once we have confessed, God doesn't see the sin any more. (Psalm 103:12) 

You still have to deal with the consequences here though.  Don't think that a confession of wrong doing makes everything better.  I will never be able to remove the pain I inflicted when I chose to react out of frustration rather than love with my daughter.  But I can show her that we all make mistakes.  I can show her how to handle them in a Godly manner.  And I can show her how to move past them. 

How much, not how many...


For Christmas, a friend of mine got me a car magnet that says: “The more people I meet, the more I love my dog.” (Thank you Ginny) It completely fits me, because I am a dog lover. But also, and I truly don’t mean to make light of this, people really just exhaust me. (And I don’t necessarily mean to blame others for this exhaustion… I take the blame, so to speak, for most of it.) One of my biggest prayers for my own self-growth, is that God break my heart for other people, as it is for animals. I know animals are important to God (Genesis 1:24); but not like His people; His children. And while my dogs are my children, I somehow don’t think God sees it quite the same. He created us in His image, not them. (Genesis 1:26)

I have never been very outgoing; I’ve always been shy and reserved. And truth be told, I have a lot of insecurities about how others perceive me; so when I spend time with others, even my closest friends, I often am wondering in the background, what they’re thinking of me, what I’m saying and what I’m doing. I’m not proud of this fact; and it’s something I am working desperately to overcome (with the help of Jesus). I find myself not participating or attending events because I don’t think I’m really wanted there; or I won’t say or do the right thing... I keep much of my thoughts and most all of my feelings to myself for fear of annoying, aggravating or even just inconveniencing the person listening. (The list goes on). So you see, it’s not the people that exhaust me, it’s me that exhausts me.

And the guilt settles in…One of my biggest fears with people, believe it or not, isn’t so much that they won’t accept me (though don’t get me wrong—I do want to be accepted), but that they won’t accept my Jesus, because of how I portray Him (and I whole-heartedly admit that I am not the best representation of Him). I feel guilty for being that lousy representation around others. And I feel guilty for not wanting to spend more time with others to represent Him. This is the where the exhaustion comes in. Do I or don’t I? Do I risk my less than perfect depiction of Jesus and go and be; or do I remain behind the scenes where only He and I know all my faults? I, more often than not, choose the latter; and I’ll tell you why. Yes, it’s more comfortable; but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Obviously, not everything you are called to do for Christ will be comfortable; but I also don’t think He intends for us to be miserable while serving Him. He made each of us differently; and gave us each different talents and gifts. Some people just simply enjoy being with others; they make friends easily, and enjoy mingling and socializing. I am not one of those people (but extremely jealous of those that are!) 1 John 4:12: “…But if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us.” This is a reminder that we not only need to be loving others, but that God’s love lives inside of us; meaning, how we love others, not how many others we love, is what matters most. You don’t have to be the social butterfly to show God’s love; the quiet caterpillar can also exude His love. The more people you connect with doesn’t mean you have a better connection.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t ever step out of our comfort zone. God will call us to be uncomfortable; a lot. But He’s going to use you to your best ability, through and for Him. We don’t need to feel guilty because we aren’t doing or being more for God; if we’re doing and being our best for God. (1 John 3:20) God is all-knowing and all-loving. He knows the motives behind our actions (and love is an action). He knows how much love we have to give to as few or as many people as we have to give it to. Remember, it's how much, not how many...

regrets


 I had a few free moments and was scanning my Facebook feed when this video popped up:



And it really made me stop and think...we all have at least one regret in our life.  One thing we wish we had done, or had done sooner, that might have changed the whole course of our life.  Or that thing that we did that we wish we hadn't, that we bury in a deep dark place and pray no one ever finds out.

For years I had a long list of the latter.  Choices I made with high school boyfriends, choices I made to fit in with my group of friends, choices I made in what I worshiped.  When I finally made the choice to become a follower of Jesus I was ashamed of them, especially since my first church was full of older people that seemed to have been living the "right" life all of their life. (I am sure that they didn't see it that way and that this was more due to my perception than reality!) So I put on the "good girl" mask, jumped in to a servant position in the church and tried to earn that "right life" feeling.  I wanted to be "good enough" for God.

Unfortunately, I never accomplished it.  You see, we can't be "good enough" for Him.  The Bible says that ALL fall short of the glory of God, ALL have sinned.  (Romans 3:23)  That little 3 letter word includes you.....and me.  Even if you have been a Christian all your life.  And for a long time that verse was really difficult for me.  I wanted to be a perfect reflection of Jesus to the world, and instead my mirror was cracked and stained, and even missing pieces in some places.

The good news is that God extends grace to us, unmerited favor.  You don't earn it, you can't earn it, but He gives it to us anyway.  And His grace is enough.  His strength is made perfect in weakness, our weakness.  (2 Corinthians 12:9)  Now, that isn't to say we have a free license to run out and intentionally give Him opportunities to display His strength because we selfishly want to wallow in our weaknesses.  But when we go to Him and lay our weaknesses at His feet, He can turn them around.  He can use them for good.  (Romans 8:28)

And as for our past, when we give it to God, when we stop hiding it in those deep dark places and pull it out into the light, He isn't going to shake His head in disappointment and turn His back on us.  Instead our God says this:

he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
~Psalm 103:10-13 

 Those past regrets, He has already erased them from the blackboard.  Isn't it about time that you did too?  No, you may never be a perfect, sinless reflection of Jesus.  But you can let go of the past and look to the present.  How can you reach out to those around you that are still struggling with their regrets?  What can you do to show them that they are loved and valued just as they are?  So many are hurting, won't you share the all encompassing love of Jesus with someone this Valentine's day?

Nothing Less Than The Best



Have you ever had moments where you’re trying really hard, and you think you feel like a ‘good’ Christian, but you’re just not happy? Nothing seems to go right, everyone gets on your nerves and life seems to just stay difficult. Not that you thought becoming a Christian would mean everything would be all roses all the time, but you thought at least things would seem better because you ‘love the Lord’ and maybe He’d shell out some blessings onto you…

The thing is, Jesus promised us there would be problems in this life (John 6:33, 1 Peter 4:12); becoming a Christian won’t magically make things disappear or get better. But He also promised that if we obeyed Him and loved Him, He’d lead us through our troubles. (Psalm 46:1-3, Psalm 91:14; Psalm138:7) He will keep His promise to keep you—meaning that He will love you and hold you with Him in eternity, if you love and obey Him. (Deuteronomy 6:3, 7:12; John 14:23, 15:10; Philippians 4:9; James 1:12-13)

The other thing is, if you believe in His promises, and you’re still miserable, then you’re not really loving Him. You’re living a double life; partly of God, partly of the world. Except, the Bible is clear that you can’t both love the world and love God. (James 1:-4, James 4:8; 1 John 2:16-17) There’s a sin buried deep (or maybe not so deep) in your heart keeping you distant from Him; keeping the full capacity of His Greatness from you… (1 Thessalonians 4:8)

What it boils down to is if you’re going to live for God, then you should be sold out for Him as much as He’s sold out for you. How can you expect to feel His immense love if you don’t give Him the same in return? God literally gave it all for you. (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:4-7, 1 John 4:10) He left nothing on that cross for you to bear. (2 Corinthians 5:21) How can you not give Him your all? He (most likely) isn’t asking the extreme that He gave. He just wants your heart—all of it. (Proverbs 8:17; Jeremiah 29:13-14; Matthew 22:37) If you want all that God has to offer you, then you have to be willing to offer Him just as much, knowing it will never compare to His sacrifice. (Romans 12:1-2) You know the saying: ‘You get what you give?’—yeah, it’s like that. (2 Chronicles 15:2) (Except again, you’ll still gain more than you can ever give.)

If you’re halfway living for God, you’re missing so much! Give it your all; it should be all or nothing. If it’s not your all, it really is nothing. (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36) He won’t settle for anything less than your best; and neither should you.

Promise from Pain

 


Confession: I had a 'pity me party' one evening last week; I even shed a few tears for my sorrow. 

Now before you sympathize, this is a party I attend too frequently and allow myself to get sucked into my woes. And I should also confess that it is an issue I've supposedly given to God years ago (but allow it to rear its ugly head every so often). 

The next day, I found out that friends of mine had lost their son during my 'party'. The self-inflicted sorrow I had the night before cannot compare to the grief that they are feeling, and will continue to feel for the upcoming days, weeks and months. 

It was a humbling reminder that I am a very blessed person. God's grace to me is undeniably undeserved and too often taken for granted. Can you relate?

I've witnessed my friends breakdown, cry out in pain, and question the purpose of this tragedy...but they've never questioned God. They are so grounded in their faith that it doesn't occur to them to doubt His ways, His Purpose or His plan. They are hurting, beyond what I can imagine, and unfortunately what many people can relate to, yet they aren't blaming God, or wallowing in self-pity. They're not hiding their pain, but they're also not hiding Whom they know Jesus to be in this either. They’re testifying of His greatness while they live through their greatest weakness. 

I admire their courage and strength during this difficult time. I am awed to see and hear some of the stories that have come from this sad situation, and know, as they've witnessed, it is all and only God... God working through this pain to bring something good for them. God using their grief to show others His love. God reassuring them that He is at work. (Romans 8:26-28, Jeremiah 29:11) 

How I hate to see them in such pain; but I am humbled that through their pain, I have seen God work. 

There is so much in this world that we can get caught up in and feel anguish over. Satan has a great power to hurt us; but our God has an even greater power to heal us! When Satan invites us to our 'pity party', instead of attending, join God's compassion celebration. He hurts when we hurt; He feels our wounds deeper than we do; but He is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving. 

When we find ourselves suffering (and we will; this is an imperfect world—for the time being) (John 16:33) allow God to lead you to healing. Allow God to take your pain from you. Allow God to draw you closer to Him through it all. (Psalm 18:2, Psalm 34:18, Isaiah 41:10)

It may seem impossible to do, in the times of our deepest pain, rejoice in the Lord. (Romans 5:3-4) See the suffering as a time of deep spiritual growth; and find peace in that. God will use your sorrow to draw you closer to Him. He will comfort you and love you like you've never felt before. (Psalm 55:22; Romans 8:35-38, 1 Corinthians 7:9, 1 Peter 5:10) That’s His Promise. (John 16:22)

 

*Please keep my friends in your prayers, as they will need continued strength and encouragement to face the days ahead.