The Question That Rocks My World

IMG_0715Sometimes walking with Jesus is hard. I’m just being honest. It’s like there’s a battle inside of me. The pull of the world versus the call of Jesus. The tug of the earth versus the will of Jesus. Sometimes it wears me out…the yanking, the fighting, the pounding . Sometimes it seems easier to give in to the desires of my flesh rather than to let Jesus fill the desires of my heart.

Whenever I find myself caving, though, I go to John 6:67.

Jesus was teaching a hard lesson. Aside from His inner circle of Twelve, there were other disciples following Him in His earthly ministry. The more Jesus taught the truths of His heavenly Father and the way to eternal life, the fewer His followers became. They said, “This is hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 

Jesus words weren’t actually hard. It was living by them that proved difficult. So some left. They turned their backs on Him. Their love of the world was greater than their love for Jesus so He looked to His faithful Twelve, one of whom would later leave Him and betray Him, and asked, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”

Nina, you don’t want to leave Me too, do you?” 

When Peter answered Jesus he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.” 

Whenever I want more of the world and less of Jesus I hear His voice in my head, “Nina, you don’t want to leave too, do you?” 

Whenever I want to feed my flesh and not my soul I hear His words in my ears, “Nina, you don’t want to leave too, do you?”

Whenever I want to follow the world and not His call I hear His cry in my heart, “Nina, you don’t want to leave too, do you?”

With this one question, Jesus rocks my world because seriously, truthfully, honestly, I don’t want to turn my back on Him. I love Him and when you love someone you stay close. I don’t want anything or anyone else to take His place in my heart. This question is hard, yes. It’s convicting. It’s convincing. It shakes me up. It brings me to my knees.

Because I. Do. Not. Want. to leave Jesus. I don’t. He has what I really need.

Way. Truth. Life.

I would rather let Jesus rock my world with this one question, than to let the world rock me. Topple me. Cripple me. Disable me.

So I stand on the Firm Foundation because my need for Jesus is greater than the pull of this world and there’s no where else I’d rather be than standing on the Rock.  I may stumble. I may fall. But Jesus picks me up every single time. He’s Rock-Solid.

“Jesus, where else would I go?”

Where else, indeed.

 

 

From A Mess To A Marvel

IMG_0736If you’ve been following my blog you’ve heard me say more than once, I’m a drama-queen. High-strung. Wound-up. Over-reactive. Whatever. I am what I am. Not everyone likes a drama-queen. I understand. I’ve had to learn, though, that before I can embrace all that God wants me to be, I have to embrace all that God wants to Be to me.

When this drama-queen gets worked up she needs to vent. There’s this dying need to unload, to let it all out and will someone please just let me? But, I’ve learned that if I’m going to vent, I need to vent to God. Not to people. Too much drama can turn people off.

My poor husband…please sympathize with him…he’s the one person on this earth who’s seen the worst of me and still loves me. God knew I needed him. Not too long ago I was having some blood pressure issues partly due to my sugar addiction. After a few days of binging (not proud of this) I was feeling light-headed and dizzy. A blood pressure reading showed I was pretty near stroke-level…160/92. Brace yourself, my friends, there was enough drama to win a Tony award.

My husband is a grocery store manager and one of his responsibilities is to write the weekly employee schedule. It takes him days to write it and a lot of concentration. I know better than to bother him when he’s writing the schedule. Did I care, though? I went flying down the stairs full speed ahead and cried out, “I’m dying!! I’m dying! My blood pressure is 160!” Bless this man’s heart. Seriously. He calmly put his pencil down, folded his hands and looked up, “Honey, you’re not dying. Maybe you should go to the doctor, but I know you don’t want to do what I tell you.”

Any other man probably would’ve left me a long time ago. His favorite way to describe me? “You’re a mess.”

God wired me with some strong emotions. I wasn’t exactly born calm, cool, and collected. I remember many times as a teenager waiting until I was alone to lose my cool. In the privacy of my bedroom with the door shut I would blessedly lose it. I remember vividly the time I opened my bedroom window and screamed out into the night. Scared our dog into a barking frenzy. My parents weren’t home, thank goodness. Sometimes I thought I was crazy.

If not for Jesus I probably would be.

We all struggle with unhealthy emotions sometimes. Some of us more than others, but God knows how I’m wired. He knows what I’m made of because He made me. That means when I need to vent I can vent to Him and He can take it. What’s more, He can beat it out of me.

I was reading Isaiah 28 yesterday and was completely transformed by this passage:

“Does the plowman plow every day to plant seed? Does he continuously break up and cultivate the soil?

When he has leveled its surface, does he not then scatter cumin and sow black cumin? He plants wheat in rows and barley in plots, with spelt as their border.

His God teaches him order; He instructs him.

Certainly black cumin is not threshed with a threshing board, and a cart wheel is not rolled over the cumin. But black cumin is beaten out with a stick, and cumin with a rod.

Bread grain is crushed, but is not threshed endlessly. Though the wheel of the farmer’s cart rumbles, his horses do not crush it.

This also comes from the Lord of Hosts. He gives wonderful advice; He gives great wisdom.” verses 24-29

God knows what kind of soil I am. He knows what kind of seeds need planting in me. He may have to thresh, roll, or beat, but He’s after a harvest of good crop. He gets me. He works me. He changes me.

When I yield to the work of His hands He teaches me how to bring order to my soul and spirit. He gives me wonderful advice and shares great wisdom. He instructs me how to rid myself of emotions that are toxic to my spirit and how to let go of feelings that are damaging to my soul. I want to do what He tells me.

There’s nothing wrong with being a drama-queen. Passion can be a good thing if channeled in the right ways. After all, a plowman wouldn’t go through all the trouble of tilling his ground if he didn’t love what he did, if he didn’t love the land, if he didn’t love the hope of a harvest.

Just as the farmer knows what seeds will grow best in what kind of soil, so God knows what feelings and emotions best compliment my character and personality. I’m a sanguine. I found it very enlightening to learn a few years ago the strengths and weaknesses of my personality. Strengths like: I’m talkative, a storyteller, emotional and demonstrative, lover of people, good on stage, with a changeable disposition, having energy and enthusiasm, creativity and color in my life. Weaknesses like: I can be a compulsive talker, exaggerating and elaborating, scaring others off, with restless energy, controlled by circumstances, making decisions based on feelings, easily distracted.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

One thing I know, though, God doesn’t make mistakes. Or messes. He makes marvels. When the worst parts of me are tamed and the best parts of me are strengthened God inspires surprise and admiration and wonder, “Wow, God, look what You did!! You tilled the soil of my heart and planted seeds of beauty. You threshed the talkative nature in me and made me Your spokesperson. You rolled the tendency to exaggerate and gave me a wonderful testimony. You beat the restless energy into passionate service. Gosh, Lord, look what You did.”

I am what I am. A work in progress. There will always be new soil to till, new seeds to plant, new crops to harvest, but in God’s hands I’m transformable. I can be more of a marvel than a mess. It scares me to think of what I would be like without Jesus. I don’t even want to think about it. I guess I’ll just let my drama-queen-self think instead on what I am becoming…a good surprise, an admirable saint, a wonderful work of art in the hands of my Creator.

I still vent. Thank goodness I have forever family and faithful friends who love me for me. Most of the time, though, I’m learning to take my over-reactive-and-wound-up-self to the Maker of my heart. I want to embrace all that He wants to Be to me, for me, in me, through me. Because I really do want to embrace all that He wants me to be…not a mess, but a marvel.

 

The Faith of My Father

IMG_0687My Dad is the man who has most influenced my life and, more importantly, my faith. If I could say but one thing in honor of him it would be this: Dad, your faith has saved my life.

Don’t get me wrong. I know I can’t get to heaven on someone else’s faith, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve “borrowed” the faith of my father. I imagine God has written on a very lengthy scroll the many stories of wonder-working power unleashed by this man I am proud to call my earthly father. The man who has most modeled the love of my heavenly Father. The man who has walked a spiritual journey full of confidence and courage and boldness in his quest to make faith come alive in the eyes of those who know him and love him.

You do know that faith is one of God’s spiritual gifts, don’t you? Dad has many God-given talents, but when he gave his life to Christ, God blessed him with the spiritual gift of faith. Dad possesses several fine gifts of the Spirit, but the gift of faith? Well, let me just say, God has properly wow-ed him. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that God has given my father so much faith that he has an abundance to share with others, an overflow to sweep them off their feet. A flood of faith to inspire, encourage, and spur others on. Over the years as I’ve struggled and wavered many times in my own spiritual journey the faith of this incredible man  has rubbed off onto me more times than I can count and made me a woman who chases hard after God. Because if I can have just a measure of my father’s faith, I will have a pretty plenty.

I’m convinced my father’s name is written in the Hall of Faith of modern-day spiritual heroes. Not only is he my hero, but I don’t doubt for one minute that he wears a cape and super-hero-tshirt in the eyes of many who have had the privilege of knowing him over the years. His faith is the stuff of legends, the kind that tells a story and keeps on going, the kind that leaves behind a lasting impression, a legacy.

It’s the kind of faith that rains down. Like manna. It comes in on the early morning dew and a whole crowd is fed, nourished, and satisfied. This kind of faith isn’t easily forgotten. Neither is the one who possesses it.

How can you forget someone whose faith in God’s power never seems to lack trust?

How can you forget someone whose faith in God’s plan never seems to lose heart?

How can you forget someone whose faith in God’s purpose never seems to forfeit hope?

How can you forget someone whose faith in God’s provision never seems to express doubt?

How can you forget someone whose faith in God’s protection never seems to know fear?

How can you forget someone whose faith in the Sovereignty of God is firm, steadfast, and sure? I think instead of a question mark here I need a period. This is the essence of my father’s faith. Trusting in the Sovereignty of God. That’s it. No if’s, and’s, or but’s.

You can’t forget that kind of faith. You can’t.

I can’t. I don’t. I won’t.

That’s why I want the faith of my father. That’s why I strive and persevere and press on in my journey of faith. Because I know God is real. I know that walking by faith and not by sight really can be a way of life. And no one on this earth has ever made it so real to me as this man whom God entrusted with my life.

Oh, gosh, Dad, what can I say? I have tears pooling in my eyes as I type because I love you so much. And I thank God for you from the bottom of my heart. I thank Him for giving you this gift so you can share it with me and show me how to live it. How wonderfully blessed I am for the riches of grace you have freely passed along to me that I may in turn pass them along to my children. I want to see generations of God-seekers learning to trust in the greatness and goodness of our mighty God because of your example.

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life, and He will give you many years in the land He swore to give to your fathers…” Deuteronomy 30: 19-20

Dad, you will never know how grateful I am that you gave your life to Christ so that I would one day come to do the same. You’ll never know how grateful I am that you chose life. One day you’re going to walk through the pearly gates of heaven and a sea of faces will stand ready to greet you, grinning from ear-to-ear, unable to contain their joy, because if not for you they wouldn’t know this precious gift, either. My active imagination paints this beautiful picture for me and no daughter could possibly be prouder than I am of you. Yes, I can imagine it because it’s this faith that makes the gates of heaven real to me, the joy of heaven certain and the God of heaven alive and on the throne! All because of you.

The faith of my father…I may have borrowed it from time-to-time, but these days I believe it for myself and I trust in it.

And maybe…hopefully…blessedly…richly…my faith has come alive for others in such a way that the legacy lives on.

The Prince and The Princess

i-tXtBkPm-TiOnce upon a time there was an insecure young woman who dreamed of marrying a prince. She wasn’t interested in jewels and a crown, though. What she really wanted was a knight-in-shining-armor. A man who would love her so much he would lay down his life for her. A man who was bold and courageous. One who would drop everything, mount a horse and ride to her rescue because sometimes her insecurities came as monstrous trolls that threatened to carry her away to caves or evil ogres that desired to eat her alive. There were menacing demons that taunted her and invading enemies that robbed her of peace and joy. She knew it would take a special kind of man to save her from herself.

She dreamed of love. Not the superficial kind of love that only sees what’s on the surface, but the kind that reaches deep inside. The kind that would look past the heart into her very soul. The kind of love that wouldn’t be afraid of the dark places or the dank messes. The kind of love that would nurture and nourish all that was good in her. The kind that would see past the damage of life and the passage of time. The kind of love that would plant seeds of hope within her and then water them with patience, gentleness and kindness. The kind of love that would grow strong into a flourishing tree with roots that would run so deep no storm, no fire, no flood could tear it down. The kind of love that would make her feel special…beautiful…treasured…

Funny how love came when she least expected it. It didn’t ride in on a white horse. It came quietly with a simple knock on her heart’s door. She knew when her prince arrived because her heart laughed. And danced. And sang. Her heart began to breathe freely. She was swept off her feet and carried off into the happily-ever-after.

The prince and the young woman became one.

“I, Wayne, take you, Nina, to be my wedded wife. From this day forward I promise and covenant to love, honor, and cherish you in the midst of all we do together. To you I now commit my life, to encompass all joys and sorrows, all triumphs and hardships, every experience of living. This commitment I make in love, to be kept in faith, lived in hope, and throughout all time made anew.”

Throughout all time… 

The princess may not have been looking for jewels and a crown, but she received them, anyway. She and her prince will one day inherit a great kingdom, a kingdom not of this world because their king is King Jesus. The prince, with all his spiritual riches, holds true to the covenant he made with his bride. He loves her more than he loves himself. He lays down his life for her every single day. He loves her sacrificially, selflessly, supernaturally. He cares for her deeply, devotedly, delightfully. And he still rescues her willingly, wonderfully, wittingly. The princess is the most blessed woman in the whole wide world.

For thirty-five years the prince and princess have journeyed through life together and even after all these years, the prince still rescues his bride from monstrous trolls and evil ogres from time-to-time. He is more bold and courageous today than he was when they first met. He is her knight-in-shining-armor. Her heart still laughs and dances and sings when they are together. In his eyes, she has never felt more special, more beautiful, more treasured.

Love still reigns in the palace these days, but the prince no longer has to knock on the heart’s door of his princess for it stays wide open all the time.

All the time and throughout all time…it’s a forever-thing.

Happy Anniversary, My Prince. I love you more today than yesterday. I will love you more tomorrow. I am so glad I will spend eternity with you.