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But blessed is the {woman} who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. {She} will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8 Everything that touches the water of this river will live. Fish will abound in the Dead Sea, for its waters will be healed. Wherever this water flows, everything will live. All kinds of fruit trees will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, without fail! For they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing." Ezekiel 47:9,12

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Hope Undeterred

Sometimes words don't come easily. Like when someone asks me how I'm doing. My brain races trying to catch tumbleweed thoughts in my head that my heart blows elsewhere. They become out of reach somehow. Fast. Scared to answer wrong, I choose silence instead. If I feel hopeful, maybe I shouldn't? What's normal in a chaotic state? What should or shouldn't I feel??

Numb. I feel numb. I feel sad. But I can still smile. I still have hope for the future. Not all is dark, black, sullied or soiled. The sun's rays peak through. Grace's wings carry me. Should I let them? I feel guilty. Sometimes. All emotions jumbled together like vegetables in a stew. Which ones are right? Which ones are edible? No easy answers. Sometimes I feel overcooked. Sometimes I feel undone. I'm caught between here and now and then and there. It's confusing. Sometimes.

Alone. I don't like being alone. My neighbor reminds me "There are worse things than being lonely." I guess. Right now I can't think of any. His hand out of reach, his voice no longer within earshot, his clothes in our closet hanging still that will no longer be worn. By him.

Someone catch me as I fall.

I must remind myself I'm never truly alone. I'm really not. I draw on His strength to comfort, to guide, to lead me beside still waters. I will learn to swim again. Right now I just feel the waves crashing down. But I also feel something else. Something stirring inside, slow like a whirlpool. Like stars on a foggy night, hope is still alive even if I can't see it. Even if my eyes are clouded with tears. Hope is still alive.

I feel hopeful. And that's OK.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Only One

The Macy's salesperson approaches me, "May I help you find something?" I quietly answer, "I'm looking for a black skirt." I reluctantly grab two sizes, one will fit, but both will feel uncomfortable. I don't wear black very often. I'm a white-wearer person. I have no choice. The funeral is tomorrow. I must face what I don't want to face, his face. Lying all still and silent. Unmoved.

They say one makes 5,000 choices a day. I have many to make and none of them seem right. Everything seems wrong and the world looms dark like tar and my new black skirt.

I open the dressing room door, "How do I look?" I ask my sister-in-law who smiles and answers, "Very pretty." I don't feel pretty. Eyes swollen red. Puffy. I want to leave this place as quickly as possible. I wonder if my husband felt the same.

Everything about the week seems hard. The first time home, the first time sleeping in our bed, the first time visiting the funeral home, the first time seeing him, the first time touching him since he lay quiet.

The oak coffin looks heavy. My heart weighs more. I adjust his wedding ring so the tiny diamonds show. He looks peaceful. Flower scents drown the air. My lungs expand to breathe the pretty, the beautiful, the whole. Breathe. I must remember to breathe. It's difficult. Today is a day for brokenness. Dark and heavy, not light-filled and floral scented.
I kiss his dry lips that I will kiss no more. I touch his arm, his hair, his cheek trying to soak him in as best I can one last time before he's truly gone. My tears drip on his light blue shirt. A part of me goes with him.

The funeral is sweet, but not without sour. Surreal is underrated. Our love story isn't supposed to end this way. I grab the Kleenex box. Tears roll, shoulders shake, hands clasp. Ones I love are near, but far. No one truly can understand the pain I feel.

Except One.

He is right beside me. The only One who truly knows my pain. Jesus. The One who took the sin of the world upon his own weary shoulders. His heart weeps for me like it wept for Lazarus, his dear friend. I must not forget. I am never alone. 

Tomorrow is another day and His grace will guide and comfort. It already has through the hands and feet of friends and family. Tangible Jesus to me.

He comforts me through Romans 8:28. It's read at the funeral, it's in my daily devotion for that day and it's the same words two unfamiliar faces read to me in my home a few days afterward.

Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

I will never forget these heart wrenching days, but I will go on. I will draw day-by-day strength from the One, the only One, who promises to deliver. I will weep upon his shoulders and drip tears upon his pure white robe. 

I love the color white.

Psalm 34:18
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Red Sea Rules

This summer I've joined a Bible study called "The Red Sea Rules" (by Robert J. Morgan) with other women struggling with some area in their life. My issue right now is my husband's health. He has been feeling unwell for about six months now. What makes it even more frustrating is the doctors can't figure out exactly what's wrong.

This study has been helping me focus on "10 God-given strategies for difficult times" and I wanted to share them with you. If you aren't experiencing a difficult situation right now,  maybe you know someone who is. Or hold tight to these rules next time you feel boxed in with no where to turn. Remember God parted the Red Sea for the Israelites when they felt cornered by Pharaoh and his powerful Egyptian army? He can part that same Red Sea for you and me!
Red Sea Rule #1: Realize that God means for you to be where you are.
Red Sea Rule #2: Be more concerned for God's glory than for your relief.

Red Sea Rule #3: Acknowledge your enemy, but keep your eyes on the Lord.
Red Sea Rule #4: Pray!

Red Sea Rule #5: Stay calm and confident, and give God time to work.
Red Sea Rule #6: When unsure, just take the next logical step by faith.
Red Sea Rule #7: Envision God's enveloping presence.
Red Sea Rule #8: Trust God to deliver in His own unique way.
Red Sea Rule #9: View your current crisis as a faith builder for the future.
Red Sea Rule #10: Don't forget to praise Him.

From Page 72: "When you find yourself between sword and sea, remember that difficult times can sensitize us to God's nearness. He's never so close as when we're shipwrecked on omnipotence and driven by despair into His chambers where we find Him 'a very present help in trouble.' " (Psalm  46:1).

I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19.)

You made a way through the sea and paths through the deep waters, but your footprints were not seen. You led your people like a flock by using Moses and Aaron. (Psalm 77:19-20.)

You must not fear them, for the Lord your God Himself fights for you. (Deut. 3:22.)

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. (Exodus 14:14.)

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. (Exodus 14:21-22.)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Storage Secrets

In the town where I was raised, our family relocated like nomadic gypsies. While we lived in the same small berg for 14 years, we moved five times, an average of 2.8 years in each abode. We didn’t allow much time to let the grass grow before we set our sights on new digs. I’m not certain the reasons behind all these moves from one end of town to the other. I don’t think we were run out of neighborhoods for too many dandelions or breaking a noise ordinance. We certainly didn't display our appliances on the front porch. It’s not like my parents had 17 annoying children harassing the neighbors, either. Three is a pretty normal number, and we definitely were quite angelic. So, why we moved from house to house, I don’t really know unless my dad has gypsy roots. This hopping around like rabbits resulted in purging possessions as frequently as emptying our trash.
In any case, I’ve learned to simplify along the way since for many years, I too, carried this gypsy gene in my veins. Until this last house in which I’ve resided for the last 11 years, I had relocated 15 times in 15 years, a measly year in each place. Goodness, a year is only enough time to move in, unpack and begin looking for a new dwelling! I felt like a squirrel scrambling up one tree, unloading a few acorns, only to set his sights on the next tree, looking for that place to call home. I didn’t have time to become a packrat or a collector of Precious Moments or Lladro. An itinerant lifestyle doesn’t lend itself to piling up possessions like Adele collecting awards at the Grammy’s.  
So, now that I’ve managed to settle down in one domicile for almost an eternity, I’ve stockpiled, stuffed, and stored belongings that otherwise would have been eliminated in one of my 40,000 moves. Four overflowing bookshelves, an army of toys, and ancient relics from the past threatened a coup. Thus, I embarked on a journey to eradicate unnecessary items seeking to bully us from our dwelling. My first stop, the basement storage, which hosted not only Christmas décor, but also those important artifacts from yesteryear that neither hubby nor I could bear to part with. It goes without saying that I keep a few sentimental items from the kids’ baby years, not to mention those valuable high school year books with such meaningful comments as “stay sweet” and “wish’d I could’ve spent more time with you” from friends that I haven’t talked to in 30 years.
I’m not quite sure why the man of the house complains about my growing mountain of books while he clings to Accounting and Calculus textbooks from ancient times. Surely, combs with teeth missing don’t pack sentimental value. And, why does he continue to save ski maps of Aspen and Vale from 1982? What causes us to cling to these articles that sit uselessly in the dark?  It’s like those clothes I simply can’t discard because I might wear them—someday.  Lest I place all the blame on my poor partner, why on earth do I keep research papers from college or high school unless I need to spark a bonfire? Do I really want to show my daughter my piano evaluation that displays my hapless grade on practicing and dynamics (the very things she struggles with)?  I might not be a packrat in the truest sense of the word, but what objects do I keep hidden away…just.in.case—like the two indoor water fountains that we might display someday, or the million tote bags tucked away, or the tent we’ve never used (nor will we, if I have any say). The list is endless…
And so, I simplified the storage. I emptied boxes like my 20-year-old son eats cereal. Forty-old-combs and thirty-year-old maps disappeared, and the “we might use them someday” fountains recycled. The tent was miraculously saved for “one of those years”. The storage closet, now condensed and compact like a smart car, whereas before, navigating that room was like a soldier tiptoeing across a mine field. Boxes precariously positioned and items haphazardly strewn about endangered anyone entering the room. 
Cleaning out unnecessary items is cathartic. Especially for the soul. What menacing matters jeopardize my heart? What clutters my conscience? Am I hiding, harboring, or hanging onto something like a child refusing to unclench her favorite blanket or stuffed animal to be washed? Do I really think I can keep anything secret from the One who sees all?

“You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.” Psalm 90:8

So often I convince myself that if no one else knows about my anger simmering like soup, God is oblivious to it as well. Then, I read words about God creating me in the secret place, and I remember nothing is hidden from my Creator.
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.” Psalm 139:15-16
He, who created me, is intimately familiar with everything that makes me tick. As I ponder this verse, I comprehend how strangely comforting this truth is. The God of the Universe knows me—the terrible thoughts, the shady secrets, the awful attitudes—and loves me in spite of what lurks in my heart. While others might recoil, Jesus embraces me. He exposes my sin in the light of His presence and invites me to experience His forgiveness, like the woman caught in the act of adultery. Her sin uncovered and accusers gone, Jesus forgives and summons her to live differently—to expunge damaging deeds done in the dark.
And so, He calls all of us to walk in the light, to eradicate concealed cargo that we grip tightly to. As we let go, our hearts can be filled with His goodness and grace. Just as our storage compartments are expunged of unnecessary clutter, so our hearts are freed from those secret sins which weigh us down.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Holy Life Leads to a Happy Life

My former Bible study leaders used to  describe JOY using this acronymn: J-esus, O-thers, Y-ou. In our world today it seems most people focus on themselves FIRST, others SECOND and Jesus LAST. That's totally backwards from what the Bible teaches. Maybe that's why some of us walk around carrying the world on our shoulders. That's not God's loving desire for us.
Recently I read an article listing the 15 things we need to give up in order to live a happier life. I liked what was listed, but I wanted to give it a more Biblical slant, so I commented and added Scripture to support each point.

1. Give up your need to always be right.
Pastor David Whitehead comments: This Scripture encapsulates the entire story of Joseph. After being sold into slavery by his brothers, taking false charges of rape and enduring years in a dungeon, Joseph has every right to want revenge on his brothers. instead, he sees that God used his circumstances to stage the greatest hunger relief program of the ancient world. 
There are many things we are suffering in now that, when we look back, we will see the sovereign hand of God guiding us.

Genesis 15:20 "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.

2. Give up your need for control. God knows what's best for us. Let's not resist His work in our lives. Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path."
“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond winning.” Lao Tzu

3. Give up on blame. Galatians 6:5 "For each one should carry his OWN load." Take responsibility for your actions. You can't control others, you can only control yourself.

4. Give up your self-defeating self-talk.
  "Act the way you want to be and soon you'll be the way you act." - Les Brown. 
Deuteronomy 7:6 "For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession."

“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.” 
Eckhart Tolle

Phil 4:8 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable---if anything is excellent or praiseworthy---think about such things."

5. Give up your limiting beliefs about what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible. From now on, you are no longer going to allow your limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Spread your wings and fly!

Mark 9:23 " 'If you can?' said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."

“A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind”
Elly Roselle

Romans 8:37 "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."

6. Give up complaining.
Phil. 2:14: "Do everything without complaining or arguing" 

7. Give up your need to impress others.  Romans 12:2-3
 "Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.
8. Give up the luxury of criticism. Although difficult, we must try not to have a critical spirit. Remember, we're all just trying to do the best we can.  Matthew 7:1"Do not judge lest you be judged."

Romans 12:10: "Love one another with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other."
9. Give up your resistance to change. Life would be pretty boring without change: With winter, comes spring. With night, comes day. With death, comes life. 

Eph 4:22-24 tells us "that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. 

1 Corintians 15:51 "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed--"

1 Corinthians 15:52 "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."

That's one change I'm definitely looking forward to!

10. Give up labels. We've heard it said: don't judge a book by its cover. Treat everyone the same. Galatians 3:28 says:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 2:3:  
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Philippians 2:3-4: "In humility consider others better than yourselves."

11. Give up on your fears. 1 Timothy 1:7 "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." 

Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t exist – you created it. It’s all in your mind. Correct the inside and the outside will fall into place.

“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

12. Give up your excuses.
Yes, we have freedom in Christ but that doesn't give us an excuse to sin, since we know we'll be forgiven. Instead, we must strive to be all Christ wants us to be because of the enormous sacrifice He made to shower His grace upon us. Romans 12:1-2 "
I appeal to you therefore, brothers,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Galatians 5:13:

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

13. Give up the past.  John 8:32: For you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

I know, I know. It’s hard. Especially when the past looks so much better than the present and the future looks so frightening, but you have to take into consideration the fact that the present moment is all you have and all you will ever have. The past you are now longing for – the past that you are now dreaming about – was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life. After all life is a journey not a destination. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now.

14. Give up attachment. 
John 15:19 
If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. 
This is a concept that, for most of us is so hard to grasp and I have to tell you that it was for me too, (it still is) but it’s not something impossible. You get better and better at with time and practice. The moment you detach yourself from all things, (and that doesn’t mean you give up your love for them – because love and attachment have nothing to do with one another,  attachment comes from a place of fear, while love… well, real love is pure, kind, and self less, where there is love there can’t be fear, and because of that, attachment and love cannot coexist) you become so peaceful, so tolerant, so kind, and so serene. You will get to a place where you will be able to understand all things without even trying. A state beyond words.

15. Give up living your life to other people’s expectations.
Romans 8:31-32 tells us "If God is for us, who can be against us?" When Job fell into various life trials, his wife encouraged him to curse God and die. Job was wise enough to realize he is not one to question God's ways. 
Isaiah 55:8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.

Are you a man pleaser, or God pleaser?

Which do you find most difficult to do? i find not complaining the most difficult.
CHALLENGE: let's try to do this for ONE WEEK and see how we feel afterward! Are you up for the challenge? I am! :-)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Don't Give Up

My daughter planted three seeds. Two of which sprouted within the week she planted them. The last tiny pot showed no signs of growth for two weeks. I had just decided it was a dud, a failure. Then today my hope grew...

Let us not become tired of doing good. At the right time we will gather crop if we don't give up. Galatians 6:9 NIrV

Monday, April 16, 2012

Guest Writer: Sandee Milhouse

written by Sandee Milhouse

“I wouldn‘t wait until Monday, it may be too late,” I heard at the other end of the phone from the Hospice nurse. My grandfather, who I have always called “Papa” with the deepest adoration, was dying. On the second day of December, I flew to FL to be with him, hoping I would make it in time and have the honor of being with him at the very moment he passed away.

I was anxious to get there and once I arrived, I was compelled by my love for him to stay by his side as often as possible. I was antsy when family would drag me away to share a meal or when I‘d leave his room to get a sandwich at the Hospice café. I wanted to spend every precious moment with him I had left.

I easily passed the time with him just being there, content to hold his hand, clean it and apply lotion, play his favorite music on the CD player, my heart heavy hearing 40s songs like, “I‘ll Be Seeing You” and “I Don‘t Want to Walk Without You”. I even found myself singing to him, dropping my fear of the nurses hearing my fluctuating key – pouring my love into “Amazing Grace”, “You are My Sunshine” and any soothing song that came to mind.

Though he was unresponsive, I wanted him to know I was there, so I kept telling him, “Papa, it‘s Sandee, I‘m here.” I said it to him about every 15 minutes and I would rub his shoulder or hand as I said it. I longed for him to open his eyes and respond to me in some way, but he just laid there, struggling to breathe as his lungs filled with fluid and the drugs kept him “comfortable”. On Sunday, December 4th, at twilight as the Florida sun was beginning to drift from the sky and into the ocean, my Papa transitioned into Heaven to the sound of my urgent last words to him, “Papa! I love you!“… an immediate, deep gasp followed my words, perhaps in response… a pulse check by the nurse, one more breath and he was free.

A few weeks after he passed away, I realized I can be unresponsive and God is like my presence was with Papa. I clearly see how God is constantly saying to me, “Sandee, it‘s God, I‘m here.” He was speaking those same words to me each time I said them to Papa and He never stops saying them to each one of us. His love for us compelled Him to a Cross, restoring us to Himself, and it compels Him to be by our side every precious second of our lives and even into, and through, the “valley of the shadow of death”.

As you read this, He is right by your side (Ps. 46:1), singing over you (Zeph 3:17), gently rubbing your hand saying, “(Insert your name), it‘s God, I‘m here.” It breaks His heart when we “lay there” not responding to Him – prayer is responding, talking to the God who can‘t help but love you, who ADORES you so deeply… respond to Him, it might be as simple as saying, “I know You are there, God, thank You. I love you, too!”

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Lion, My Savior

Recently, I watched for the second time the newest Disney version of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Aslan, the Lion and allegorical representation of Jesus, captivated me. He displayed an uncommon kindness and gentleness yet every silent lion-step he took exhibited mighty power and ultimate supremacy--Aslan was a force not to be reckoned with.

For those of you who have seen the movie or read the book, you know the story. I must, however, share a magnificent moment for me from this allegory. Edmund, the boy who betrays everyone to satisfy his fleshly desires, is accused of being a traitor, an accusation that cannot be denied. The antagonist, the White Witch, declares that, by law, every traitor belongs to her and must be killed on the stone table. That exact predicament is precisely what each and every one of us faces in our lives. When we sin, we betray God and the consequence is death.

Aslan privately arranges with the White Witch a rescue plan for Edmund . Without a fight, Aslan chooses not to exercise his magnificent power that could defeat any opposition and willingly exchanges his own guiltless life to save one mere boy in dire need of salvation. Aslan could have defeated the dark forces in one fell swoop of his mighty paw, but instead, he submitted himself to a cruel, painful, drawn-out murder to save Edmund, consequently the entire race of man.

My heart is full of gratitude to Christ Jesus, my Savior! I am unworthy, yet willingly, without a fight, He died for me.

Thank you, Jesus!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Being Holy

A few weeks ago, a group of women were examining the topic of “holiness” in our study, The Fitting Room, by Kelly Minter. This word drums up all sorts of images in our minds. Some picture monks or nuns in their holy habits, the Amish who have separated themselves from the rest of society, some super spiritual saint, or perhaps a legalistic upbringing. This word doesn’t fill us with the warm fuzzies like “love”, “joy”, or “peace”. In fact in our discussion, one woman commented, “I struggle with a word that means “set apart”. It’s like I think I’m better than everyone else.”  And yet, God tells us to be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:16). What exactly does God mean by that, and how can we possibly achieve it?
Unpacking this word is like unloading a moving van filled with trinkets and treasures collected for years. I’m not sure if any person can comprehensively grasp the concept of holiness. However, within the framework of the verses our class is dissecting in this particular study, I’m posing a few thoughts.
Colossians 3:12 states, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
The first words Paul writes before he tells us what clothes to wear are that we are chosen, holy and dearly loved. God calls us holy before we have done anything good. How is that possible? I know what I am capable of—crabby attitudes, corrupted actions and careless words. How does God call me holy when I’ve done nothing to deserve that designation?  It’s only because of Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins on the cross that I am viewed holy. Trusting my own goodness to please God is like a student relying on his charismatic personality to pass a test. It’s not good enough and never will be. According to Isaiah 64:6, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
Kelly Minter says, “Without this imputed righteousness (God thinking of Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us), we are back to the concept of trying to clothe ourselves with clothes we don’t actually own. Righteousness isn’t something you can borrow either, just for the thrifty dressers out there.” How freeing to realize that God calls me holy not because I deserve it but because His Son paid the price for me. The world teaches us the opposite—if we prove ourselves through hard work, we can be someone special. God says you are already special because of My Son, therefore clothe yourselves with what you already possess. Unfortunately, we oftentimes attempt to achieve holiness by mustering up enough willpower to exhibit these virtues rather than realizing that we are incapable of justifying ourselves. We must rest upon Jesus’ finished work on the cross.
Holiness concerns our heart not behavior modification. Parents desire their children to listen and obey because they desire to obey, not because they are forced. I recall as a young girl my mom making me apologize to my sister or brother. “Say you’re sorry, Annette,” she’d say.
“Sorry,” I’d mumble.
“Sorry for what?”
“Sorry for hitting you,” I’d eke out to the offended.
Truly heartfelt, right?! How many of us apologized in our youth to our sister or brother because our moms threatened to ground us for a month, take away phone privileges or friend play time? And, how many of us as parents do the very same thing? Say you’re sorry, give the toy back, hug your sister, kiss and make up… God longs for us to exhibit His attributes because our hearts are transformed.  Behavior change doesn’t last unless there is heart change. Kelly Minter emphatically says, “…how I yearn to live altogether differently, not simply because I’ve learned how to manage my behavior but because God has changed me from the inside. And because I desperately desire to draw others to Jesus by a life that is distinctly bright and whole, because He has made it so.”
Our holiness, then, should draw others to Jesus not cause us to be uppity or snobbish. True holiness is not setting ourselves against or above others as my friend was concerned about. D.L. Moody stated, “A holy life will produce the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns; they only shine.” We should be winsome women, attracting others to us like bees to pollen. Instead of judging, condemning and criticizing unbelievers who, incidentally, cannot be held accountable to live godly lives, we should live and love in such a way that they are drawn to the Savior.
As we are holy and wear clothes that reflect who we are in Christ, may those around us find love and grace.  May we be the kind of women who walk alongside those who are desperate, depressed and downtrodden. And, may we never portray ourselves as snooty or snobby or stuck up, but rather saved by His grace, made holy only because of Jesus.
Go light your world!
Kathy Troccoli-Go Light Your World

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Stage of Life


The stage has been a part of my life for a long time. At four, I spoke my first line on stage as a  little firefly in a children's Christmas program. At six, I played a cute lamb in another children's musical. That was just the beginning of my performance record. From drama groups to high school musicals I always found room for theater in my life. I literally loved the life of performance.

Not only is performing on a stage one of my strong interests, but performing, itself, is a dominating aspect of my personality. A large portion of my mental struggles center around performance-based questions like "How am I performing for the people around me?", "How do others perceive me?", or "Am I appealing to the people around me?".  I tend to make every scene in my life a part of a series in this climatic, theatrical performance which is merely life, not the stage.

It goes to show that I tend to view the world as a stage. William Shakespeare said it best in the monologue from his play, As You Like It, "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players". That, my friend, is the way my brain inclines to think.

As a young teen, however, I began growing in my desire to follow Jesus and to do His will while simultaneously continuing to pursue my love for drama. The problem that I faced is that the stage usually is about the actors and actresses, fame and the limelight. How can you act on stage for Jesus? It seemed to be a rather selfish profession not a very humble, holy one.

During my junior high years, I believed I found the answer to: "How do you act on stage for Jesus?" Three words: Audience of One. God is your audience, not men. Do everything for Jesus. Well, that sounded like a biblical way to justify the life of theater. I mean, Colosians 3:23 even says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men", so it must be okay to perform as long as you do it for God and not for selfish reasons.

In more recent years, the life of the theater has become somewhat a distant pasttime--my glory days. Rather than peforming on stage, I perform everywhere else: at home, at work, at church.  Whenever I find myself analyzing other people's perception of me and worrying about how I am 'performing', I go back to what I learned as a seventeen-year old and recite the three-word phrase: "Audience of One. I have an audience of One! Audience of One", that way I can realign my motives with a godly attitude to stop being so concerned about pleasing people but instead, refocus on pleasing God, and God ONLY.
 The Light:
Very, very few times have I known that God spoke to me, but a few weeks ago "I saw the light" and I am sure it was God speaking directly to me.

I had been worrying about disappointing someone, I felt like I let someone down, and the world was disapproving my actions (ever felt that way?) and so I told myself (like I have for the past fifteen years), "Rebecca, you have an audience of One. It doesn't matter what other people think about you. You are not performing for people, you are performing for God...." A jolt stopped me in mid-thought. God interrupted my rote lines I had articulated perfectly for years and He clearly said, "I am not the audience, YOU ARE THE AUDIENCE, Rebecca."

BAM! My belief system that I had constructed about my relationship with God, suddenly began to unravel before my eyes.
View from Center Stage
Immediately, I flashed back to just a few short months ago when I was alone on a retreat away from home at an outdoor ampi-theater. I stood center on the empty stage before empty seats and my heart painfully longed to be right there, in the limelight of life doing something spectacular. Overcome with the grief-stricken truth of my reality, I dragged my heels and hung my head sadly knowing I had become the girl backstage. I never wanted to be backstage; I wanted to be the star of the show, not behind the scene doing the unmentionable, overlooked work of the offstage crew. Sucking it up and rising above my immature, pity party, I attempted to accept my lot in life, but could not ignore the discontentment that swelled within. Backstage was my future.
View from Backstage

Two months after that experience, God used those images from my retreat to clarify the message He wanted me to hear. I was not backstage, center stage, or even stage right, I was in the audience!

View from the audience

My mind, suddenly flooded with light, was set free -  the burden I had carried for so long had been vanquished. No longer am I held captive by the pressure of performing for ANYONE, not even for God! I am in the audience and all I have to do is respond to HIM and to His work that He is doing.
Philippians 1:6 says,

"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

Take heart, friends! God does the work. Therefore, it is really hard (impossible actually) to fail when He is the One doing the work. Life is not a stage, but rather an audience watching God at work. What a relief! All we have to do is take a seat, watch God, and respond to Him. Thank You, Lord.

          Revelation 1:12-13,17-18a: 
"Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the MIDDLE [center stage] of the lampstands I saw one like a Son of man... When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me saying, 'Do not be afraid, I am the first and the last and the living One... "