Leaving Moab Behind, Part 3

IMG_3744Rarely does life ever turn out the way we plan.

Sometimes it turns out good.

Sometimes it turns out better.

And sometimes it turns out abundantly more than anything we could ever have imagined.

After losing all the things she held most dear to her heart, Naomi came to the end of herself in Moab. Without her husband and her sons to provide for her, Naomi’s future seemed hopeless. In the eyes of the society in which she lived, Naomi was destitute.

Moab hadn’t changed. It was still a lovely place. It was still beautiful. Still filled with an abundance of food and drink. Things in Moab hadn’t changed, but things for Naomi in Moab had. She was no longer thriving in the land of prosperity.

Naomi’s sons had married Moabite women in Moab, even though God had told His people over and over again, “Don’t intermarry with the nations around you” because He knew if they did they would also marry into their philosophies and ways of life. They would become more and more like those whom God had said, “Don’t be like them.”

How can we expect to make a difference in this world–a difference for Jesus–if we’re not willing to live with a different spirit?

To those who can’t understand it, it sounds harsh. To those who don’t want to understand it, it sounds intolerant. To those who don’t know the true character of God, it sounds unloving.

Yet, the truth is…if God’s children look like the rest of the world, act like the rest of the world, talk like the rest of the world, and agree with the rest of the world, then doesn’t it make sense that the world would look at us and think, “Well, Jesus hasn’t made that much difference in you so what do we need Him for?”

Long pause….

Big sigh….

Deep thought…

Because that’s how I react to that question. Not with condemnation.

But with conviction.

God had called His people to have a different spirit.

To be in the world…not of the world.

To be in The House of Bread and The Place of Praise–even in a famine–and not in Moab.

When Naomi heard that the “Lord had come to the aid of His people by providing food for them” back in Bethlehem-Judah she no longer wanted to be in the world of Moab. When she took those first steps out of Moab with her heart longing for home, her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, wanted to follow.

But, on the banks of the Jordan River, with Bethlehem-Judah just over the hills, something happened that would change the course of their destinies.

One daughter-in-law would return to Moab. The other would stay close to Naomi all the rest of her days.

Orpah is symbolic of a woman who has to make the choice between the old way of life and the new, between the wide road and the narrow road, between the way back or the way forward.

Even though the choice was difficult, even heartbreaking, Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye, weeping loudly. She exits the pages of Scripture and we never hear from her again.

We journey with certain people on this earth for a time, for a season, but one day we realize we need to let them go because they just might hold us back.

Some friends just don’t want to travel with us on difficult journeys. They don’t want to go where God is leading us. They can’t understand it. Don’t want to understand it. They don’t know the character of God the way we do.

As difficult and heartbreaking as it is, sometimes we have to say good-bye. We can’t hold onto them. We can’t change them. We can’t save them.

The parting between Orpah and Naomi was painful. Just because Orpah chose to stay in Moab didn’t mean she didn’t love Naomi and Ruth. It didn’t mean she wasn’t going to miss them. It didn’t mean she was heartless or selfish or reckless.

Orpah just wasn’t convicted.

When God brings us to the banks of our own personal Jordan, it’s easy to stay there by the river with our idols still within our grasp. It’s easy to compromise our convictions. To give in to fear. To let our emotions, our tears, and sadness hold us back.

Letting go is never easy because…

…there’s a longing within each of us to be loved. Adored. Treasured.

…there’s a yearning within each of us to be needed. Wanted. Accepted.

…there’s a wanting within each of us for companionship. Friendship. Fellowship.

Letting go of good things is never easy. Some friendships are good for us, but they’re not God’s best for us in seasons of change and transition.

Oprah couldn’t follow because her heart wasn’t willing to go and if her heart wasn’t willing then she would only have made it harder for Naomi and Ruth.

We need to travel life’s difficult journeys with those whose hearts travel with us.

The road out of Moab led through a mountainous terrain. It was a road that would take Naomi and Ruth uphill. They would make their way through the Judaean hills to get to Bethlehem on the other side. The climb would be treacherous for 2 women. Dangerous. Hazardous.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m traveling perilous terrain I don’t want a wimp beside me. I want someone with Strength. Courage. Conviction.

Ruth was so convicted that Naomi’s own discouragement did nothing to dissuade her.

Wow. I love that about her.

One of the most beautiful passages of undying love and affection in the Old Testament is found right here in the Book of Ruth as Ruth pledged her loyalty to Naomi:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” 1:16-18

Strength. Courage. Conviction.

Ruth had it. Orpah did not.

Ruth had lived in Moab her entire life. She’d known many gods, but she’d heard Naomi talk of the One True God and something deep inside of her wanted to know more.

Ruth’s heart was more than willing to go. She left it all behind to reach for Namoi’s God and she would be richly rewarded. Ruth would marry a good man in Bethlehem-Judah, a godly man, a man who–along with Ruth–would be listed in the lineage of Christ. (Matthew 1)

Ruth dared to believe that her prosperity wasn’t in Moab with all it’s flowing streams and abundant grain, but in the land of God’s chosen people, even though it didn’t look promising for her and her widowed mother-in-law.

This is where Ruth reveals the moral integrity of her heart and this is where Ruth sets herself apart.

This is the moment Ruth confesses a different spirit. Denying all but declaring all.

And how God would lift her up! As she journeyed with Naomi through mountain pathways, He would not let her foot slip. He would not let her fall. He would make her stronger than ever.

God would make Ruth the friend Naomi needed. Together they would journey out of Moab and into Bethlehem-Judah. Together they would find their way back into a land of great spiritual promise and true prosperity. Together they never looked back.

Scripture tells us Naomi left Moab with a bitter heart. We gamble when we step outside of God’s will for us. There are no guarantees we won’t lose it all, but even when life doesn’t turn out the way we plan and the future doesn’t look good or promising…

…it doesn’t mean it won’t get better. God is in the restoration business, my friends!! The whole message of Ruth is all about His redeeming love.

The story of Ruth doesn’t end with a bitter heart. If you read the rest of the Book, you’ll discover that Naomi surrendered her bitterness and God restored her joy. He made her full again.

From bitter to better.

Not just better, but abundantly more than she could ever have imagined!

I love, love, love it about God that there is absolutely nothing He can’t redeem. Nothing He can’t restore. Revive. Refresh. Renew. There’s just so much promise in all those RE-words.

And I love it that there are still Ruths in this world with a different spirit. Friends with Strength. Courage. Conviction. Friends who come alongside us in seasons of famine and help us to persevere in our House of Bread and our Place of Praise so that we won’t want to venture into the land of Moab where the grass is NOT always greener on the other side.

Because “it’s always better to be hungry in the will of God than to be full outside the will of God.” –unknown

Leaving Moab Behind, Part 2

IMG_1104Sometimes I look at others and think, They sure do seem to be prospering so much better than me. You know what I mean?

But prosperity in God’s economy isn’t always having more material wealth. I don’t care what those preaching a prosperity gospel have to say about it. Yes, God entrusts more money, more possessions, and more success to some, but it isn’t really the way to God’s heart.

Most of us are no different than God’s people during the time of Ruth.

Too much prosperity in our lives will rob us of a heart for God. The more we have the more we want. A lot of us are just selfish like that.

We have an enemy who wants us to believe there will always be one more thing we just have to have. He used this lie in the Garden when he tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit. He made it look like something she couldn’t live without when God had already given her everything beautiful under the sun. The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was the only thing God told her she couldn’t eat.

Can you imagine? Having everything at your fingertips BUT. That. One. Thing.

One.Thing.

When Elimelech took his family to Moab he took them to a prosperous land, but it’s physical beauty was marred by something deeper within. Behind all the flowing streams, abundant grain, healthy flocks, and lush terrain was a history of incest. They worshiped pagan gods and filled their lives with immoral living. They sacrificed their children on the altar. God refers to them twice in Scripture as “My wash pot.”

Moab was a place forbidden to God’s people because the Moabites had refused to help them when they were traveling through the wilderness after God delivered them from Egypt, yet Elimelech left behind The House of Bread and The Place of Praise (see Leaving Moab Behind, Part 1) to go live in the world’s wash pot.

One commentator I read said it was like calling Moab God’s “toilet bowl”. Not a pretty picture.

I had to think about that r-e-e-e-a-l good. It was as if God said Moab was a place to wash yourself in the dirt and sin of the world.

I don’t know about you, but that stinks.

I know how hard it is not to run ahead of God when life hands me some h-a-a-a-r-d stuff. I know how hard it is to keep from trying to fix my messes on my own. I know how hard it is to wait on God when He isn’t sending the rain or providing the answers or healing the land.

Elimelech only intended to stay in Moab for just a little while, but he ended up staying longer than he thought he would. He put down roots. He made friends. He embraced the culture. He sacrificed the spiritual health of his sons because he showed them how to love the world more than God. He filled himself with the music, entertainment, and wealth of the Moabite people. He satisfied himself with his possessions.

Elimelech enjoyed the prosperity.

God brought famine to Bethlehem-Judah because the people were spiritually poverished. I don’t care how physically prosperous one might be, if the heart isn’t right with God there will always be lack. There will always be thirst.

We may venture into Moab when times get tough because we’re prone to wander from the God we love, but we don’t leave famine behind. 

We take it with us.

God never said His children would be free from pain and heartache, persecution and hardship, but He does promise to strengthen us and deliver us during difficult times if we stay within the boundaries of His protection. 

God does NOT leave us during a famine!!! He doesn’t forget us. Famines don’t last forever. Physical nourishment isn’t really the cry of our heart, anyway. When we’re discontented and dissatisfied in Bethlehem-Judah, it’s not because God isn’t giving us what we need. It’s because we’re not letting God be enough for us right where we are.

I read the following quote somewhere a long time ago and made a mental note of it so I can’t really take credit for it, but it’s a powerful truth:

It’s always better to be hungry in the will of God then to be full outside the will of God. 

We can’t doubt God’s goodness in times of hardship and famine.

He’s still good. All the time.

That’s a saying that won’t ever get old. Or worn out.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the goodness, but it’s still there. You can’t take goodness out of God. It’s Who He is.

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

We’re the ones with shifting shadows. Pledging our lives and giving our hearts and vowing to surrender all when things are going good, but when life hits like a ton of bricks we want to run for the hills.

We want to run to Moab.

That phrase in James 1:17, coming down, is a present active participle. It means that God’s good gifts keep coming down, all the time, even when we don’t see them.

You know…I wonder sometimes what my life would be like if God had given me the miracle of a new eye. That’s what I wanted when I was a younger me. I used to cry myself to sleep at nights because I didn’t get it. There was a time when I thought the only way God could be glorified in my life would be to give me a supernatural, divine healing. I wanted a new eye.

When I didn’t get ‘the desire of my heart’, Moab looked pretty good to me. I went some places I never thought I’d go. I did some things I never thought I’d do. I said some things I never thought I’d say.

And I was absolutely miserable.

I can honestly tell you today that I would rather live life on this earth without my eye and know Jesus like I know Him than to have perfect sight and be far from Him.

I don’t understand all the ways of God, but I’ve learned that in His goodness He knows what I need and He knew the loss of my eye would help me understand His grace in a way I might not have with it.

Do you get that?

When we become dissatisfied with God’s best for us we experience famine in our lives. Instead of venturing into Moab, though, we need to stay in The House of Bread and The Place of Praise clinging to God with our whole hearts.

I know sometimes it seems our life is one big mess. We all have seasons where things seem uncertain. We wonder what in the world God is doing. Our dreams have been washed down the drain. Our plans have dried up like a fig tree. Our wealth has been stolen out from under our feet. Our health has been attacked with a raging cancer.

We wonder…we wonder…we wonder…

God, are you there?!?

But, you know…I’ve come to this place in my life where I’ve learned how to feed my hunger in The House of Bread. I’ve learned how to find my joy in The Place of Praise.

Sometimes, all I know to do is tell God how much I need Him. 

Sometimes, all I know to do is tell God He is worthy. 

Worthy of my worship. Worthy of my praise. Just plain worthy. 

That’s it. That’s the One.Thing.

That’s the one thing at your fingertips that will give you enough of what you need.

I remember when I came to the end of myself in Moab and, like Naomi, I was ready to go home.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God, my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights.” Habbakuk 3:17-19

When you still have your praise even though the grapes have dried up and the olives have fallen from the tree…when you still worship even though the crops have failed and the fields are stripped of harvest…when you still lift your face to the heavens even though the sheep have wandered off and the cattle have been raided…you, my friend, will have the strength to stand.

Because God will lift you up. He will provide. He will meet your need.

He is good. He is faithful.

And He will do it.

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Reflections On Psalm 15

 

IMG_2517Have you ever had someone twist your words around and completely distort the meaning of what you wanted to convey?

Have you ever had someone come right out and boldly speak an untruth about you?

Have you ever had someone make perceptions about you that were so far from what you were truly feeling in your heart that it made you want to scream and shake your fist and defend yourself?

Don’t you hate it when the enemy comes against you with negativity and attacks you with falsehood?

“People are much deeper than stereotypes. That’s the first place our minds go. Then you get to know them and you hear their stories, and you say, ‘I’d have never guessed.’ -Carson Kressley

I love that.

I spent much of my early years trying to prove to others that I was somebody besides the girl with the fake eye. From the day those mean, cruel boys taunted me at the community swimming pool calling me ‘false-eyed’ in front of God and everybody, I’ve had to fight off feeling ‘less than’.

In this hearing-seeing world where I don’t hear and see like most people around me, I’ve had to fight off stereotypes.

I’ve been called a snob because I didn’t answer someone who tried to carry on a conversation with me while they were talking to my back. And what is that, anyway? How can you carry on a conversation with anyone’s backside? I ask you.

I’ve been called stuck up because I didn’t respond to someone who called my name when I wasn’t looking at them. And what is wrong with that picture? Are we so lazy that we can’t walk 10 feet to speak to someone without yelling at them across the room? I ask you.

I’ve been called ditzy…dumb blonde…flighty…because I don’t always understand everything that’s said to me or I completely misinterpret what’s been said.

It used to hurt like crazy.

But now…now I know that those who think such things really don’t have the whole picture. They don’t know my story.

And my story is one of those I’d-have-never-guessed-renditions. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that line…

I’d have never guessed you were hearing impaired. Your hair hides your hearing aids and you talk so well.

I’d have never guessed you had a fake eye. It looks so real.

I’d have never guessed you felt ‘less than’. You seem so happy and confident. 

Bwahahahahaha….

If people only knew.

In Psalm 15, David points out a few things about the man who may dwell in God’s sanctuary…

He whose walk is blameless…

He who does what is righteous…

He who speaks the truth from his heart…

He who has no slander on his tongue…

He who does his neighbor no wrong…

He who casts no slur on his fellowman…

He who despises a vile man…

He who honors those who fear the Lord…

He who keeps his oath even when it hurts…

He who lends his money without usury…

He who does not accept a bribe against the innocent…

First, the Wow.

Then, the Ouch.

Is he talking to me? (Yup. Me, too.)

Basically, David is saying we’re called to do good things to and for others and one of these things is to have a right understanding of the way we see or perceive others. To have moral integrity in how we relate to our fellow man such as this…

…he who does what is right (this would include taming our tongues)…

…speak the truth from your heart (this would include lining our attitudes with that of the Lord’s since most of our hurtful words come from attitudes like anger, resentment, bitterness, prejudice, etc, etc)…

…do not slander (this would include speaking only the truth about others and NOT twisting words or speaking words from false perceptions; one of the original definitions refers to slander as a crime, people!)…

…do your neighbor no wrong (this would include not speaking ill of them; I’m thinking gossip, too, friends!)…

…cast no slur on your fellow man (this would include purposely leaving out specific details about something to cast a different light on a situation; maybe in anger against someone with the intent of hurting their reputation or justifying your anger)…

…and all this goes back to lining our attitude up with the attitude of the Lord’s because David writes,

“…honor those who fear the Lord…”

It’s hard to honor those who fear the Lord if you don’t first honor and fear Him yourself.

Remaining loyal to God by knowing Him, growing in the knowledge of Him, and striving to walk in His ways, will give us a greater understanding of His heart for people. For the people of God in David’s biblical time this kind of knowing came by drawing near, by seeking God in His sanctuary because the sanctuary was where the Presence of God dwelt.

God doesn’t show favoritism. He doesn’t prefer one set of people over another. He’s all-inclusive. In our present time, all are welcome in His sanctuary…all are welcome on His holy hill. Not everyone accepts the invitation to come, but if they did, they’d all be welcome.

It isn’t our “job” to judge. It isn’t our “job” to cast blame. It isn’t our “job” to label or point fingers.

Sometimes I lack understanding in my heart about so many things. I lack passion to do so many things. Sometimes I lack the wisdom and discernment to know the will of God. And when I do, I know I’m the one who needs to check my own heart. I need to look within myself.

I need God to grace me and flood me with the compassion that can only come from Him so that I can grace others and flood them with the same comfort He gives me, but unless I spend time with people and get to know them, how am I ever going to know their stories?

This is at the heart of the Gospel and this is the Gospel in action…

…to love the Lord with all my heart so that His love flows through me and I can love my neighbor as myself.

Without twisted words and distorted meanings.

Without untruths and misguided perceptions.

Without negativity and falsehood.

With the right attitude–the kind that lines up with that of God’s–we can love others. We can do for others. We can speak truth to and about others.

We can. 

Because those in Christ Jesus are a sanctuary for the Holy Spirit and His Spirit will compel us. Enable us. Equip us. Empower us.

In these present times, when so many are struggling to stay afloat, striving to stand firm, straining to step wisely, it’s easy to label. It’s easy to misinterpret. It’s easy to relate to others through misguided perceptions.

You don’t have to be severely hearing impaired or blind in one eye to be stereo-typed, but sometimes I think we all have trouble seeing and hearing with a proper perspective. We don’t always see and hear with Kingdom eyes–with the eyes of our heavenly Father– but I believe we can. 

We can.

Because Scripture tells us we can:

“Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 

If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all and therefore all died. And He died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  2 Corinthians 5:11-17 (bold italics are mine)

I think it’s so cool that David ends Psalm 15 with these words,

He who does these things will never be shaken…

This is why I can fight off the words of those who don’t have the whole picture, who don’t know my story. I can fight off feeling ‘less than’.

When people make false assumptions about me I know they’re not really looking into my heart, but because I know the sufficiency of grace and the power of the Gospel, I can look into their hearts through the lens of this grace. I can give it because it’s been given to me by the One who is Grace.

So, whenever anyone says to me after they hear my story, “If you hadn’t told me, I’d have never guessed,” I can confidently say, “And that, my friend, is what Grace is all about.” 

#thepowerofgrace #gracesufficient #nomoremisperceptions #iamnotalabel #iaminchrist #toseewithkingdomeyes #loveyourneighborasyourself #positivewords #speaktruth

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Leaving Moab Behind, Part 1

IMG-6166Almost 10 years ago I spoke at a woman’s conference from the Book of Ruth. This little book tucked into the Old Testament between Judges and 1 Samuel has been a source of comfort and strength to many for thousands of years.

I realize the truths within these 4 short chapters have been studied and taught so many times by so many people–I’ve actually taken several Bible studies on Ruth myself over the years–I couldn’t help but be moved by some of the things I myself rediscovered and shared.

So…to get myself back into the habit of writing regularly, I thought I’d post a series from this message, Leaving Moab Behind.

The little book of Ruth takes place during the 350-plus years of the days of the Judges. There were no kings reigning in the land of Judah during this time.

These were very dark days. Scripture tells us in the Book of Judges that everyone did what was right in their own eyes. God’s people had become self-seeking and self-centered, falling into a lifestyle of idolatry and immorality.

It was hard to tell the children of God from the rest of the world, yet He had called them to be set apart. He had called them to be holy.

God called the Israelites to honor Him and love Him by living a life that was pleasing to Him, walking in His ways, and following His commands. Not because He’s some egotistical god that demanded their worship and devotion, but because He loved them and desired they would make Him known to others, drawing them to the One true God.

God has and always will be Sovereign. Before all things. Above all things. Behind and beside all things. He knows what’s best for us and He knew what was best for His children during the days of Ruth.

God wanted to protect His chosen people. He wanted to prosper them and bless them, love them and care for them.

But, how can you protect someone who leaves the safety of your protection?

How can you prosper someone who turns his or her back on your provision?

How can you bless someone who rejects your blessings?

This is what God’s children did in the days of the Judges and if we’re completely honest with ourselves…so many of us still leave the “land of Judah” today and turn our backs on God’s will and plan for us when times get hard, when the going gets tough, when the path before us is uncertain. Without even realizing it we journey into Moab because we don’t trust our Sovereign God to keep us safe and care for us–even in times of famine.

Ouch.

I’ve been to “Moab.” If I’m honest, I’ve been there several times in my walk with the Lord.  As if once wasn’t enough…

(Some of us learn life’s lessons the h-a-a-a-r-d way.)

And if you still want honesty from me, let me just say I could very easily take another detour in the very near future considering what my husband and I are about to face in the next few months. We’re talking a real test of perseverance and faith right over the horizon! (I feel like throwing-up just thinking about it. The anxiety is real, y’all.)

I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things about “Moab”, though, and here’s what I want to say…

I would rather stay in Bethlehem-Judah during a famine than venture back into Moab again. 

Moab is no place for a child of the King. Not to live, anyway. Maybe it’s a nice place to visit every now and then. After all, some of us are called to real mission work in the Moabs of this world, but to get back to the purpose of this message there’s nothing real pretty about Moab. There’s nothing we should desire there. It’s a very shallow place to be. Worldly. Sinful. Destructive.

Do you know why?

We lose what’s most precious to us in Moab. 

Naomi lost her husband, Elimelech.

Naomi lost her sons, Mahon and Kilion.

Naomi lost her means of provision.

Naomi lost her joy.

Ruth, chapter 1 and 2, tells us that Elimelech took his wife and their 2 sons to live in Moab for awhile because famine had come to Bethlehem-Judah.

Moab was about 40-60 miles from Bethlehem. It was a place of great physical beauty, a lovely land where there was ample rainfall and numerous streams. It produced plenty of grain, fruit, and flocks. Because of it’s geographic location it was also a place of safety. It offered protection from bandits and raiding armies because of the surrounding hills and the Dead Sea. It was a place that looked “good” to Elimelech.

We place a lot of emphasis on what looks good in this world, but sometimes the most beautiful things are also the most dangerous. To borrow a cliche’…the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of that boundary marker.

Bethlehem was a very significant place in the history of God’s people. Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel died in Bethlehem, but their son Benjamin was born there. It was a place where hope came out of pain, life came out of death. It was also the hometown of Israel’s greatest king, David, and the most lovely thing of all is that it birthed our sweet Jesus.

Bethlehem means House of Bread and Jesus is the Bread of Life.

Bethlehem was in Judah: Judah was one of Jacob’s sons. From the tribe of Judah came the Messiah.

Scripture refers to Jesus as the Lion of Judah and Judah means Place of Praise.

Having shared all that, let me just say…famine can still come to you in the House of Bread and the Place of Praise.

But so does God. He still comes to us in the famines of life and thank heaven He does!

He still comes to us when we realize the poverty of our hearts without Him.

A famine will bring you a hunger and a thirst for God like you’ve never known before and I can’t even tell you how typing those words stir such a longing in me to draw near because I know this, too:

Our House of Bread is the place of God’s enoughness, where He provides our every need. Not wants, my friends. Needs. There’s a big difference.

Our House of Bread is the place where Jesus meets us in our poverty and we experience the gift of His Presence, where He comes to us in our praise.

This is the real gift.

The real blessing.

The real sacredness of trust. Where we set ourselves apart.

Because when you can say in the midst of life’s famines,

“You are still God and I will always love You. I will still trust You. I will still serve You. I will still worship You,”

you’re giving Him the real sacrifice and you’re making Him known to others, drawing them to the One true God. You’re saying you believe He will keep you safe and care for you. You’re saying He is enough for you and those who don’t know Him will want to know why.

In these days on the Kingdom calendar I can’t help but think how like the Israelites we  become, how easy it is to allow our hearts to go astray. We wonder how in the name of Jesus we’re going to survive the messes we’ve made, but God knew these days were coming.

That’s why He’s given us Jesus. Our Daily Bread. Our Manna.

That’s why He’s given us our number one Reason to Praise.

And that reason is NOT back in Moab. Sometimes it’s right smack in the middle of Bethlehem-Judah.

In the midst of a famine.

#jesusourdaileybread #jesusisenough #faith #faithjourney #sacrificeofpraise #thankfulness #gratefulheart #dailybread #godprovides #godprotects #godcares

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New Look/Under Construction

Hello Friends!

Stay tuned…I’m in the process of updating my blog site. In the meantime, if you’d like to read my devotions, I’m on Instagram under gracedtolive and on the Facebook ministry page I share with Sherry French, Reflections On The Word, http://www.facebook.com/reflectionontheword.

Just to let you know…I’ve done a lot of soul-searching and God-seeking in the last 14 months since I wrote my last blog post and I have to say…I’m kinda glad to be back.

Joy!

Saying Good-bye Is Hard

Family

My Jazzy is dying. For anyone who has lost a beloved pet, you know the grief is real.

It’s been hard to watch her health deteriorate. She was diagnosed with advanced stages of liver disease back in June. Her pancreas is also diseased. We’ve tried medications and diet changes in the hopes of regenerating her liver, but these things haven’t worked so we suspect cancer. We’re just making her as comfortable as possible. We called the vet yesterday and talked about the difficult decision to euthanize because sometimes it’s really the most loving thing to do.

I’ve read some dogs can hang on for days at the end of their lives, but when I look at Jazzy I know she has no quality of life left. There’s no joy in her eyes. The things that used to make her light up don’t phase her anymore. Her breathing is labored. She’s not eating or drinking. She can no longer stand up. She barely moves. Breaks my heart.

I’m only sharing this because there are several other things going on in my life causing me emotional discomfort. For those of you who read my blog you know I’m not one to sugar coat my feelings. One of the things that dog experts advise when a family pet is dying: Don’t let your dog sense how upset you are…

Do you know how hard this is for someone who’s wired to feel all the feels?!? To let it all out?!? To express herself without holding back?!? Get real. I’m sad and that’s all there is to it. BUT, for Jazzy’s sake I’m taking my tears to the next room and letting them flow. What Jazzy gets from me right now are soft strokes across her bony back and soothing words of comfort, It’s okay, Jazzy. It’s okay to leave us. We’re sad to see you go, but you’ve loved us well. You’ve been loyal and faithful and sometimes completely zany, but you’ve served your purpose in life. It’s okay to say good-bye.

In all honesty, my emotions have been on a roller coaster ride since December when I began experiencing health issues, which I’ve recently shared here on the blog. It’s just no fun not feeling well. Not feeling my best. Not feeling like myself.

In the process of riding the ups and downs of this rollercoaster, I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching and I’ve made a decision.

I’m saying good-bye to my blog.

I’m not saying good-bye to writing because writing is therapeutic for me, but I don’t believe this blog is all it could be. It needs rethinking and maybe I’ll come back in a few months with a brand new design. Change isn’t such a bad thing. Change is good. But sometimes…in order to make those changes we have to say good-bye to the things that have lost their quality of life. Things that have served their purpose for a season but no longer bear fruit.

I don’t write to gain followers as much as I write to share how God is working in the every day of my life. There’s always the hope that someone, somewhere, will find their way here and read something encouraging, uplifting, inspiring. But after 3 years I just don’t see a lot of fruit.

I’ve been struggling with this as I ride this rickety old coaster. There’ve been times it’s even made me sick to my stomach ’cause I love writing. Even when experiencing writer’s block I still wanted to write!

There’s so much more I could be doing to make this blog better and I’m so technically challenged…what can I say? I tried one time to add some plug-ins and ended up in tears. I was so traumatized I couldn’t get on my computer for days, but I can’t be afraid to change! I want change, need change, welcome change because making changes can often produce a more fruitful work.

I think sometimes we get stuck and I don’t want to be stuck. I want to have the courage to  learn. To grow. Sometimes we have to allow God to change us before we can be someone who can affect change in others.

That’s the real beauty of writing, sharing, and journaling my thoughts for all the world to see. I don’t want my writing to be just another expression of myself. I want it to motivate. To move and touch and stir the hearts of others to walk more closely with God. He may very well have another ministry in mind for me other than writing. Who knows?

Sometimes to do the things we want the most we have to give up some things we love. Things we try to hold onto more tightly than we should. We need to learn when to let go. And the irony of that is, sometimes we have to surrender the very things we think we’re called to do. The gift of words, whether writing or speaking or teaching, is a calling. But I can’t make it happen no matter how hard I try.

Only through surrender can God bring a calling to life. And it may not look like anything I think it should look like. God’s dreams for me are way bigger, better, and more beautiful than anything I could dream up on my own.

I’ve been preparing myself for a month of deeper soul-searching in September. I’ll be fasting and seeking the heart of God. I’m deactivating my Instagram and Facebook accounts from September 1-October 1. I won’t be renewing my WordPress account. After September 13, my blog will be completely deleted. It’s time for change and I’m going to prepare my heart to receive it.

I’ll continue to write for the Community Facebook Page I share with Sherry French, Reflections On The Word. For those who’d like to continue reading my devotions, my ponderings and musings, you can always follow me there. But please ‘like’ the page to receive updates in your feed.

Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/reflectionontheword

(I’ll be back on Instagram October 1. I often write mini devotions there, too. You can find me at @gracedtolive. I love posting my photos and bringing them to life with words and I just looooove the IG Community!)

Anyway, I have a sweet friend who needs me today…yes, I’m talking about my Jazzy.

Saying good-bye is hard, but so is change. It’s going to take a while for me to get used to the absence of her presence in our home. The way she greeted me at the door with her little stub of a tail twitching and wriggling. The way she bounded over furniture and ran up and down the stairs. The way she watched over the house and barked at everything that moved. The way she protected me and mostly…mostly…for the way she loved me, even when I wasn’t very lovable.

Jazzy never met a stranger in her life and when she’s gone, I suspect she’ll never be a stranger to my heart. Even so, there’s still room for change there. In that place where I want to hold onto her more tightly than I should, I know it’s time to let go.

So, I will say good-bye. And really. It’s okay.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

Making Peace With My Lawnmower

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I like to mow grass.

So sue me.

Back when I was in my thirties and forties I even mowed grass for my neighbors. I was stronger then. Now I just mow for myself. (And my hard-working husband, of course.) I’m not as young as I used to be, but I think mowing grass helps keep me ‘young…-er’.

I look at it like this: I’m not a member of a gym. I don’t lift weights. I don’t treadmill, row, or bike. I need an aerobic workout. Mowing grass gives me that.

I wish I could cut grass all year long, but the mowing season is short-lived in these parts. Some people might think the season is lo-o-o-o-ng, but 4 months out of a 12-month year is only a quarter. Forget mowing in a summer drought. No need to mow fried grass.

I can remember when the thought of cutting grass petrified me. You wouldn’t catch me pushing a lawn mower around. No way. I didn’t even want to be in the same yard with a roaring mower. The only thing about it that bothers me these days is when I see dads mowing their yards while their child pushes a toy mower behind them. I guess they think it’s cute. Or teaching them something. Makes me cringe. I want to stop and yell, “Get your child in the house NOW!! What do you think you’re doing?!? This is dangerous and I’m living proof!”

Seriously, there’s nothing ‘cute’ about the power of a machine with the potential to shoot out rocks and debris like a shotgun. I’ve got 2 broken window panes to prove it. The holes look just like bullet holes.

AND. I’ve got a prosthetic eye to add all the remaining proof you may need.

When people ask me how I lost my eye, I usually tell them, “In a backyard accident as a child,” and that’s enough to satisfy them. Occasionally, someone will press me for more info. I don’t mind talking about it anymore. There’s no pain or discomfort. I’ve made peace with it all. If I hadn’t, these words, “I like to mow grass,” would not even enter my mind. But, yes…

I’ve made peace with my lawnmower.

Funny thing is…that backyard accident wasn’t anyone’s fault. Not my Dad’s. Not my Mom’s. Not mine. It was a FREAK accident. Unusual. Atypical. Irregular. Unexpected. 

Rare.

It was one of those things that doesn’t happen to just anyone. Or in every backyard.

It was one of those things that happened to me. In MY backyard.

I wasn’t following my Dad around with a toy lawn mower as he cut the grass. I wasn’t even running around the yard. My Mom and I were sitting on a bench outside our back porch steps, letting the rays of the summer sun beat down on us. All was calm. All was bright.

All was peaceful.

My Dad was mowing on the other side of the driveway. We had a gravel driveway back then and sometimes the rocks would get lost in the grass.

Funny how life is so freakish sometimes.

When the unusual happens in the ordinary.

When the atypical happens in the common.

When the irregular happens in the constant. 

When the unexpected happens in the assumed. 

When in the middle of calm and bright and peaceful life freaks you out. 

And a lawnmower became a symbol to a little girl of all that’s agitating. All that’s threatening.

All that is disquieting.

But see…here’s the thing, and I’ll make this simple…we all have things that have become ‘symbols’ of what’s wrong in our lives. For me, for so long, it was a lawnmower. And I had to make peace with it.

The only way I could do that was to make peace with God first. And that meant surrender. First of all, of course, was surrender to the gift of grace through Jesus. Then, there was the surrender to His will, His way, His plan, His purpose. For me.

When the freakish things in life rear their ugly heads and rocks in the grass become weapons of destruction I’ve had to learn that surrendering to God first means letting Him in my backyard where, YES!, even the unusual happens. The atypical. The irregular and the unexpected. The places where I’m usually the most comfortable. The most familiar. The most peaceful.

And it means surrendering the symbols that represent what’s wrong in my heart and soul. God wants all of me so He can make what’s wrong right. Like the freakish things of life. He turns them from ‘rare’ to ‘remarkable.’

God entrusted this to me. This rare and unexpected thing. It happened to me because He knew I could handle it. He knew I would surrender it all. My heart. My soul. My mind. My strength. 

He knew I would make peace with a prosthetic eye. And my lawnmower.

And instead of it being a symbol of weakness. It would become a symbol of strength.

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It would become a workout.

Not just to build physical strength. But to build character.

You know, my ocularist-the man who made my eye, said something like this to me at my last visit, “I think it’s hard for people who’ve lost an eye to talk about it because it’s rare. They feel alone. Their personalities have a lot to do with how they handle it. For some, it’s very painful. For others, it doesn’t seem to be too big of a deal, but because they’re all different, how they handle it will be unique to each one individually.”

I’d like to think I’m handling it well these days. Not for me.

For my God.

Because He thinks I can handle a lawnmower just fine. And you know what else?

He knew I would one day actually like to mow grass.

“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God…For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:12, 16