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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

You Get What You Get and You Don't Throw a Fit

I teach 20 small people for 40 hours a week. In addition to multiplication and division, we are learning how to share and be thankful. At times the phrase, "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit," is a necessary reminder in my classroom. For some reason, my children seem to think they're entitled to what they want, when they want it. Remind you of anyone?

Recently, this phrase was necessary prior to passing out cupcakes. 
Let me tell you, if you've never
passed out colorful cupcakes to a classroom of 3rd graders, I invite you to try… Vanilla cake, chocolate cake, pink icing, blue icing, only a little icing. There are more options than you realize!

We were celebrating a classmate's birthday. The cupcakes arrived on a Friday afternoon with only five minutes to spare before the students were dismissed. To expedite the process of handing out the colorful birthday yummies, I made the announcement, "Class, you get what you get…" the students finished it, "And you DON'T throw a FIT!" 

I like to think my student's manners have improved this year. Many of them responded with gratitude when I handed them the cupcake. I made my way through the class quickly placing cupcakes on napkins. As irony would have it, I arrived at the last student's desk. I handed them a cupcake. "I want a chocolate one," the student whined. "I'm sorry babe. Remember, you get what you get? I didn't allow the others to choose today, so it wouldn't be fair if I made an exception for you. If you don't care for the one I gave you, you can just put it back."


The student continued to become so upset that tears were flowing and my patience waining. Now the child's screaming was audible down the hall. Prayerfully trying to maintain composure, I began to dismiss students to their after school destinations. The adamant student's fit was now a level 9 temper tantrum. Screaming. Hitting the desk. Hysterical crying. All of this over a cupcake. They didn't get what they wanted so it seemed appropriate to throw a fit. Never mind the delicious, free, beautiful cupcake on the desk. It wasn't exactly what this student wanted. 

I was about to absolutely lose it on this student when the Lord pricked my heart. "You throw fits like that too, Heather." Regardless of how much I tried to shake the thought, I knew I stood convicted. 

Selfishness is not a kingdom attribute. It seeps in so easily and unnoticed until it rears it's ugly head. Lately, I've had a list of "wants" I've submitted to God. For some reason, I feel as though I am entitled to what I want, when I want it. When I don't get EXACTLY what I desire, I throw a fit, get angry, whine, cry, complain. So, am I really any different than my exasperated 3rd grader? Nope. 

As I drove home that day with my eye twitching and my head pounding (It's May, folks. The days are loooonnnnggg.) My heart began to break. I knew how frustrated I felt dealing with this student; I was trying to give them a blessing. They refused it. How it must pain the heart of the Father when I reject the very blessing He is trying to bestow upon me! 

My reason for denying the student's request was that we were running out of time and I didn't have 30 minutes to pass out cupcakes to ensure that each student had the perfect cake flavor/icing color combo. I recognize that God's reasons are of much greater depth than my understanding. God's system for passing out blessings is always for my benefit. 

If He gives me something different than what I asked for, it's because that something is better than what I thought I wanted. 

Don't miss the blessing God is trying to give you. Be open minded, handed and hearted. Just say "Thank you!" for the cupcake He sets on your desk. Trust that He gave you what you really would have wanted had you known all the details. 

For the record, the student never ate the cupcake, continued the fit, and ended up smashing the cupcake to smithereens… the blessing was wasted. Have you ever wasted a blessing? I sure have.

Maybe it's the timing. Maybe you don't really know what you're asking for. Maybe there is something God is protecting you from. Maybe the Lord has something so much better in mind. "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit!" 

You, my Christian friend, get eternal life. You get freedom from your sins. You get the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You get countless promises in the Word. You get love that never fails. You get the hope of a future. You get peace that surpasses understanding. You get joy that turns into strength. You get beauty for ashes.  You get the armor of God, the fruit of the spirit…. 
Now then, is there really any 
reason to throw a fit?  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Do you SEE?

I remain in the waiting. It's amazing how a simple knee surgery has turned in to life-threatening blood clots, pulmonary embolisms, and a possible cardiac diagnosis. And I thought this surgery would be easy! At the present time I have five phone calls in to doctors awaiting answers. My return to work is still in limbo. My heart is tired. And I don't understand the purpose of this trial, yet. I'm still marching around my Jericho. 

Earlier this week, my mom and I were studying Joshua's conquering of the great city of Jericho as found in Joshua chapter 6. Moses is gone and now Josh is the man in charge. His first task is no small one: It's to defeat the great, fortified, powerful city of Jericho. Jericho - as in the first walled city in history. The Israelites had never seen anything quite like it. Scholars and Bible researchers believe the walls totaled seven stories high. (That's about 70 feet.) Can you imagine what the Israelites felt like that the base of those walls? Small, weak, insignificant, incapable, scared - probably. 

What struck me was verse two, "See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor." Next came the marching orders and how on the 7th day they were to blow their trumpets and give a great shout and watch the walls will fall down flat, giving Israel victory over the city.

But, at that point, nothing had happened yet. No victory. No organization of the army. Nothing. And the Lord says to Joshua, "SEE?" 

[See: perceive with the eyes or discern visually] 

No, Lord. I do not see. Quite frankly, I see a 70 foot wall. I see an army that makes me feel intimidated. I see the fear in the men I am leading. I see how impossible this situation looks. I don't even begin to see a victory yet!

Unlike me, Joshua didn't negotiate with the Lord. He confidently set about and followed the Lord's instructions. While he did not SEE the victory with his physical eyes, he could perceive it through eyes of faith. 

Joshua's confidence was a decision based upon what God had done for him in the past. 

Joshua was there when God parted the Red Sea. He saw manna fall from the sky. He was familiar with the cloud and pillar of smoke. Joshua watched water gush from the rock. He saw the glow of Moses coming down from the mountain… He was well aware of God's goodness and faithfulness to him and to the rest of God's people. If you stop and think about it, I bet you've seen God's faithfulness in the past too.

By faith, Joshua showed up to the battle. He followed the instructions and trusted God's timing. The unconventional battle style gave God 100% credit for the victory. I have found that more often than not, the God of this universe is moved to action by our faith. All He wants is our trust and obedience to show up, so He can show off. 

What is your Jericho? The impossible situation that you can't possibly conquer without the hand of God? Maybe a medical diagnosis. Depression. Addiction. Fear. Concern for a loved one. A marriage on the rocks. Bills that stack higher than your income. A broken family. Abuse... If you're human, you have one. Keep marching around it, trusting God to move.

We must learn to march in quiet obedience. 

There was to be silence during the march; except for the trumpets. We don't need to talk about how impossible our situation is. Or how crazy we think Joshua is for making us do something so dumb. Or how tired we are of walking. Or how scared we are. Or how long we've been at it. The command for quiet was for their own protection against the enemy of Satan. Quit talking about your Jericho for the world to hear. Quit posting it on social media. Quit confessing with your mouth how unhappy you are. Don't give the enemy a foothold like that! March quietly and obediently as you reflect on His goodness to you in the past.

Don't panic if you don't SEE the victory yet. Through your physical eyes, you will only see the impossibility of it all. As believers, we work every day to view life through eyes of faith. Eyes that see with eternal perspective what is possible by the hand of God. Activate your faith eyes to SEE. Rather than fear, act with confidence that demonstrates faith in God's plan for your life - and His plan for your Jericho. 

"The one who called you is faithful. He will surely do it." 

You may not see it now. The walls of your Jericho will fall. Hang on to the promises found in God's word. It may look majorly unconventional to you, even downright crazy at times, but the design of it all is that 100% of the glory for your victory goes to God. 

                               Victory only comes by God's power. 

Until then, keep marching around your Jericho. Obedient, hopeful, quiet, full of faith in God's goodness. Victory doesn't come by your worrying, striving, trying, manipulating, conversing… So, give it up. Chill out. Choose to SEE through eyes of faith. God is faithful. He will surely do it. Keep marching.  Wait and SEE.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sometimes It's God

Do I have a valid reason for not keeping my blog active? NO. So, I won't even try to defend myself and just admit that I have avoided writing and have avoided God's tug at my heart with a vengeance. There is no explanation… I just finally had enough nights in the belly of the whale and here I sit, begrudgingly obedient:

I find myself in another season of trial. Two weeks ago I went in for a routine arthroscopy of my left knee. The surgery was successful and I was home the same day. Three days later is when the calf pain began. Tests showed a blood clot. Then the blood thinners. Then the clot was gone and we stopped all meds. I still felt terrible. CT scan showed the clot blew and I am now dealing with five pulmonary embolisms in my right lung. Tests will continue to determine the cause of it all. I have been married to Fireman for only ten months... (Boy, he had no idea what he was in for, did he?) 

He sat with me on the couch one night after a particularly long and difficult day at the doctor's office. "I am so tired of these attacks," he said. "Satan, you have no place in our home. You leave us alone in the name of Jesus." While I am thrilled that my husband spiritually leads and fights for our family, I was somewhat surprised at my own response to his prayer. "Sweetie, sometimes it's not the enemy… sometimes it's God.

I sat and processed what I had just said. I was quickly reminded of the story of Jesus walking on water in Matthew 14

"Immediately (after He performed the miracle of feeding 5,000) He made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds." 
HE MADE them go. 
Kinda like when your mom MADE you wash your hands before dinner. Remember, it wasn't a choice - it was a command. There was no wiggle room for the disciples on this one. It would have made far more sense for the disciples to stay and dismiss the crowds and allow Jesus to escape, but noooo, Jesus always knows best (and often does the opposite of what makes sense to us.) He decided instead to dismiss the disciples from the miracle and send them on an adventure to the boat.

You'll recall the story. The boat ends up far from the shore and is beaten by the waves and wind working against them. This was no pleasure cruise. The disciples were all awake - all hands on deck - working to keep the boat moving the right way. Meanwhile, Jesus was up on a mountain, overlooking them, praying. I imagine He was praying for them. 

Sometimes the storm that you find yourself in is a God-SEND. Nope, that's not a typo. God was the one to SEND you into it. There is something He desires to grow in you. There is a part of your faith that wouldn't come alive if you were on the mountaintop. 

Often times, when bad or difficult situations come up in our lives, Christians are quick to blame them on the enemy. Caution: that's not always the case. Sure, the devil has tried to take elements of this trial and plant fear, doubt, miscommunication, etc. just to stir the pot. But, without a doubt, I am 100% confident that the Lord is the one who sent us in to this one. His presence has been so evident through it all. Never once have we felt abandoned. 

The disciples seemed to have the storm under control. Kinda like us, huh? We've got this! They were seasoned fishermen. They had worked the waves before; and by-golly, they were handling it just fine! Fear didn't sink in until they saw a ghostly figure approaching them in the darkest hour of the night. (Let me also point out once again - the terrifying ghostly figure wasn't Satan!) It was their LORD! When things get even darker and scarier, keep your faith. That's often where Jesus shows up. 

He tells them, "Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid." The "it is I" is the same text found in Exodus 3 where the Lord tells Moses, "I am the I AM" In other words, "I will be what you need me to be." 

When Jesus walks on the water toward the boat is where we encounter the courageous story of Peter stepping out of the boat and walking on water with the Lord. GO, PETE!!! But then what happens next is the largest miracle of all to me:

Jesus gets in their boat. 

He got in the middle of their mess. In the middle of the storm. In the darkest part of the night. And peace is brought. 

Jesus is willing to climb into your boat too. Whatever your mess, whatever your struggle. Admit that you "don't got it" on your own. It tends to speed to process. He won't pass you by, deeming your mess too much for Him to handle. He is the I AM. Your Healer, Provider, Safety, Strength, Courage, Joy, Lover, Friend, Father, Teacher, Shepherd…. What do you need? He IS that for you. 

By an act of faith, recognize that sometimes He allows these tough things to come our way. 

I am confident the disciples got off that boat as changed men! The scripture tells us they recognized Jesus as, "truly the Son of God." They saw Him for who He really was. I am sure they had more than a few stories to tell! It's not every day you see a dude walking on the water… let's make that two dudes walking on the water. Oh, ya, and that crazy storm that stopped once Jesus' sandal touched the floor of that boat! You had bet the disciples were talking!  And, I'm pretty sure they were different men for having been in the boat that night. 

In exchange for the storm, God gives us a story.

I believe that some of you are in a God-SEND trial right now. Trust that He remains on the mountain interceding for you. You are never out of His sight. Trust that at just the right time, He will come to you. He will reveal Himself in a mighty way. And HE will climb into your boat and get you to the other side as a better and stronger version of yourself.  

If Jesus directed you into the storm, be confident that HE will get in your boat and steer you safely to your next destination. Hang on to your faith and quit blaming the enemy for the very thing that God is allowing to strengthen you and reveal Himself to you. Satan should never get that much credit…. Sometimes it's God. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

What Are Your 12 Stones?

Joshua 4:1-8
When all the people had crossed the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Now choose twelve men, one from each tribe. Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight.’”
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel.  He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.  We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’  Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”
So the men did as Joshua had commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan River, one for each tribe, just as the Lord had told Joshua. They carried them to the place where they camped for the night and constructed the memorial there.

Did you pick up on that? God commanded them to go back to the middle of the river – to revisit the test of faith – once they were already across it.

I don’t know what kind of year you’ve had. Yes, I see what you post on social media, but I recognize that it is only a skewed fraction of your reality. Many of you have endured the loss of a loved one, others have weathered a season of transition in which you had no choice but to move. Some have struggled with their marriage and other family relationships. Financial struggles, health scares, job stresses… I think it’s fair to say that in some way or another, there were struggles we each faced this year.

I find it audacious of our God to command the Israelite leaders to return to the middle of their “struggle” to retrieve an appropriate stone to make a memorial out of. Not just any stone along the banks would do. It had to be from the center of the very thing that could have killed them, had God not interviened. Obediently they went and gathered 12 stones; one for each tribe.

We may not operate in tribes in modern-day America, but we do operate in families. And, there happen to be 12 months in our year. I challenge you to sit and review all the ups and downs that have been dealt to you this year. Look at each month, one at a time. What lesson did you learn? What attribute of God did you come to understand more fully? The Israelites were told to go back – so that they would remember – so that their children and grandchildren would know.

In January, I learned so much about God’s timing. I was dealt more than a few disappointments. I struggled with selfishness and wanting things done my way, NOW. Thankfully, God’s timing proved once again to be the best. He saved me from what would have been a terrible situation! Just because He says “No” doesn’t mean it’s a “No” forever.

We are all precious in His sight. In February I was privileged to be able to teach cooking classes for teens at the Down Syndrome Foundation of Southeastern New Mexico. I learned far more than I ever taught them. So full of love and joy; so happy to give a hug or word of encouragement. The students I had brought so much light to my life and helped me see just how precious we all are in the eyes of our Father.

I spent much of the month of March doing extensive remodeling to my house; knocked out walls, laid tile, painted walls, refinished cabinets… I learned that transformation is easy, it just takes work. Are you willing and ready to become a better version of yourself? Grab a can of grace and a roller of faith and get on it!

My parents put in motion the most epic scheme in April, flying my best friend out from
New Jersey to spend a week with me. It feels good to help fill someone’s heart. Have you ever made someone so happy they cry? It’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it? With so much in our society constantly draining our hearts, it is a gift and blessing to be able to fill someone else with joy and hope.

The shovel and the spoon was a sermon I listened to in May by Louie Giglio. The lesson hasn’t left me yet. Major conflict, pain and tension was stirred during this month and the sermon was so very timely. Each of us are daily given the option to choose between a shovel and a spoon. With which object do you dish out grace? Especially when you’ve been wronged? I tend to find the spoon and sprinkle as little as possible upon the perpetrator. Yet, when I’m on the other end, I expect a shovel-load of grace dumped upon me. I’m so thankful that God has a dump truck of grace for me on a daily basis. It is the least I can do to choose to use a shovel each day.

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney. With God, all things are possible. I saw mountains move during the month of June. Strongholds broken, restoration and hope breathed into death bringing a breath of life, visions take shape and immeasurable strength to endure.

I will never again say “It’s not fair,” unless I am talking about those kids. In July I was blessed to attend Director’s Training for Royal Family Kids Camp prior to launching New Mexico’s first RFK Camp. Abused and neglected foster children are given the opportunity to attend a week-long camp, free-of-charge, in hopes that they might create positive childhood memories. I have never wept so hard in my life, nor have I ever felt so incredibly selfish about the things I complain about. Many of these kids
had irrational fears, deep emotional issues, brokenness beyond compare, scars that told stories you never wanted to hear… and most had never had a birthday party or been given a gift ever in their life. Camp was one of the most profound experiences of 2015, and I will never be the same. Nor will I ever say, “It’s not fair” in regards to myself ever again.

August presented a new opportunity. Don’t quit was the recurring lesson. Many times I wanted to throw in the towel or come up with a way to get out. I am so thankful that God gave me the grace to hang in there. Unless God closes a door, He doesn’t usually want you to quit something He’s asked you to do.

In September I visited one of my favorite places, the Little Bear burn scar. Things grow better after a fire. Just a few years after the June 2012 fire, new life has taken it’s rightful place on the mountainside. It’s healthy and lush. As the mountain comes back to life, I notice how much more beautiful it is now than before the fire. When God allows things in your life to burn, it’s most likely that He’s making room for something better.

I’ve been adopted. In October, I attended the adoption ceremony of one of the children who came to Camp with us in July. The scriptures came alive as I witnessed first hand the life-saving gift of adoption. Hope for the future, a new name, a solidified identity… and to thing the God of the universe adopted me into HIS family.

My knight appeared this year and showed me that I am worth fighting for. He placed a ring 
on my finger in November and promised to always fight for me and alongside me. I’ve had many others prior to him fight only for themselves. For a while, I was convinced that I would never be worth it to anyone. How thankful I am! You are worth fighting for too… sometimes it’s easy to forget or talk yourself out of that truth. “I’ve been told, to pick up my sword and fight for love, little did I know that Love has won for me.” – WeDance by Bethel Music

The end of a thing is better than the beginning. Ecclesiastes 7:8. I pray this is always
true for each season I face. May the end always be sweeter than the beginning.
December closes the year and it has been even better than it began!

What are your 12 stones from the year? I dare you to trek back into the middle of
your trials and losses this year and pull something from it. Don’t trudge onward
with nothing to show for what you’ve endured.

We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you,
‘What do these stones mean?’  Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan
River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’

Look at what they were told to tell their children. One sentence of God’s faithfulness!
They could have dwelt on their time in the wilderness, or the fears and complexities
of crossing the river, or what Egypt was like. But they were told to focus on the
simplicity of God’s faithfulness to them.

When you look back at your river of 2015, I pray you will choose to select the stones
of God’s faithfulness, knowing that upon those very rocks, you could have died – but
you didn’t. Allow His promises, not your pain, to be what your children and
grandchildren know to be true.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They will SOAR high on wings like eagles…" Isaiah 40:31a

I feel as though I've been waiting... I've yet to see the eagle part. So high, so effortless, so majestic and regal. Eagles ride the wind, creating a visual treat for us observers below. Kind of intimidating? Waiting upon/ hoping in the Lord causes us to mount up just like those beautiful birds of prey. If you're soaring
in such a fashion, bless you! You're the one the rest of us are watching and marveling at. If you're like me, you might feel as though you're "mounting up" on wings like a penguin; the only air you're getting is when you fly over a snow mogul on your belly. 

"Eagle" comes from the Hebrew word, nesher, meaning "a tearer with the beak." They can live as long as 50+ years. (The record for a wild sparrow is 23 years.) God created these birds with a unique inner eyelid that allows them to see in extreme brightness and much farther than we can. When they mate - they mate for life, and the duo then shares equal responsibility for building the nest, caring for the young and gathering food. 

Eagles are mentioned over 30 times in the Bible, sometimes describing how God cares for His children [Exodus 19:4, Deuteronomy 32:11-12], and often describing metaphorically the growth of a Christian. 

If we wish to soar like the eagle, we must be willing to go through the molting process. While painful, it is necessary. It's true that some don't survive it, but those who do are stronger and more resilient than ever before. 

The eagle's survival is largely linked to its feathers. They rely on their plumage to identify, insulate, protect and fly. As time goes by, oil and dirt will coat the feathers of the eagle, causing them to fray and inhibit them from flying like they once did. Calcium builds up on their beak and talons causing them to dull, thus altering their ability to hunt and provide food. While they build their nests high on mountain ridges far away from danger, for an eagle to endure this process of molting, they descend to the valley; to a cleft of a rock or cliff; to a cave. 

Starting from the head down, the eagle will pull out up to two-thirds of all its feathers; removing the heavy, damaged ones and allowing room for new feathers to grow. Without its regal plumage, the eagle is rendered unable to fly. Returning to their youthful, eaglett-like appearance [Psalm 103:5], the bird can only hop around like a turkey. The process of shedding and regrowing can take five months. 

Obviously, this process makes the eagle incredibly vulnerable. Because of their weakened state, they make easy targets for predators and are less able to fight disease or combat stresses. Some experts report that in such a weakened state, the bird who can normally spot dinner up to three miles away, loses its ability to tear - drying out its eyes and drastically diminishing vision. After removing their damaged feathers, the eagle will take his calcified beak and bang it against the rocks, chipping it until the weight is removed - he now must allow it to regrow and sharpen. The same goes for his talons. 

Researchers have observed this rare event and noticed that in the weakened eagle's state, there was another eagle, always appearing older, who would bring food to the location of the molting one. The would scream as they circled over the site, alerting danger and shouting encouragement. De-feathered, de-clawed, and with a broken beak, unable to fly/hunt/provide the eagle then seeks out sunshine. The vitamins it soaks in from the warmth of the sun allow it to heal more quickly. 

To soar with the renewed strength of the eagle, we must be willing to endure this painful and tedious process called MOLTING.

Go to the Valley
Many of you have quickly discovered that being a Christian isn't always a mountaintop experience. Molting always takes place in the valley - the cave - the cleft of the rock. Sometimes due to pride or self-sufficiency, we are unaware of our desperate need to descend. We feel as though we are fine just the way we are and don't recognize our need to be pruned so that we might be strengthened. Humility is key to this process, surrendering our strength to His purposes. Becoming vulnerable. Be willing to go to the valley. 

What to Prune
During our molting process, we must be willing to let go of/pluck out of our lives the things that hinder us and weigh us down. Sometimes it's an obvious sin or temptation that inhibits our ability to soar. Other times, the thing we must be willing to surrender is our comfort zone - a relationship - a dream. Are you willing to remove whatever is holding you back and trust that God will make you better as a result? Although it's painful, will you pull it out?

It Hurts
This process isn't pleasant. It will be long. It will be painful. It will be lonely. At times, it will be scary. You will be completely aware of your vulnerability - of your "inadequacy." You will be defenseless to the predator, stripped of your former glory. Molting isn't for sissys. Sure, there are some who are content to be as they are, but if you desire to be stronger, better, more beautiful, healthier - then the pain is necessary. Paul speaks of such trial in Romans 8:18 and when he declares, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."

Older Birds
More mature birds, the ones who've been-there-done-that-have-the-tee-shirt, are the ones who provide nourishment, warn of danger and convey encouragement. Seek out these old birds in your life. In your vulnerable state, draw on their victory. Allow them to help you. Consider what lessons you can learn from them and their time of molting in the valley. The Oldest, Wisest Bird of all is made stronger in your weakness. Allow Him to minister to you during this time. Note that the weak eagles didn't blame the strong one for their condition. They knew it was a necessary process they willingly entered into. When you're molting, don't blame The Bird for your condition. He is allowing what hinders you to be removed so that something new and better can grow in its place. He is shouting encouragement as He watches over you. Thankfully, He's never vulnerable or defenseless. Draw strength from spending time resting in The Son.

Renew Your Vision
As the old birds drop nourishment, the food makes the weak bird stronger. The nutrients help them regenerate more quickly. As a result, the tear ducts in their eyes begin to lubricate again. Vision is restored. After a period of darkness, I would imagine they look at things a bit differently than they ever did before. Maybe they appreciate things more. Maybe they see things they've never taken the time to notice. Maybe the draw in the tiny hand-drawn by God details of their mate. Don't allow the darkness to cloud your view of who God is, rather, allow it to sharpen your vision - realign your focus - renew your purpose - enhance your life. Celebrate the new vision (of life, ministry, testimony, family, etc.) God restores to you when the darkness is lifted from your eyes.

Soar High
You will be renewed. You will be restored. You will be greater and stronger than you've ever been in your life.  When you see with hindsight the end result, you will be in awe of God and forget the length and pain of the process. He always uses pain to reveal His strength and power in our lives (the life of Jesus was no exception.) While molting may take weeks, months or even years, rest assured that God is faithful and will complete the work He began in you. You won't be in the valley forever. 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

If you feel like God is missing from your valley - consider the idea that He is circling over you in your vulnerable state, providing protection from danger and searching for ways to provide you nourishment that you can digest. He wants you to grow - to not settle for being the way you are - growth is a process and the process hurts. (Don't you remember those growing pains as a kid?)

I'm in the valley with you my friend. Do you feel ugly, ashamed, vulnerable, de-feathered? That's good… it means you're being pruned! I feel like a de-feathered chicken at the moment, but I trust God is doing a work in spite of it all. I wouldn't trade the end result for the world. 

I challenge you this week to look for God outside of your valley (with blurred vision, it may be harder to find Him), but I reckon He's above you - watching out for you as you endure this process. If you dare, don't pray that the process gets easier or is over quicker, but that you grow stronger, faster, better, more complete in Him. 

On wings like eagles,
You WILL Soar.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

In The Dungeon Of Doubt

I confess, there have been seasons when I've questioned God. I have empowered the Devil with my negative self-talk and the lies I entertain in my thoughts. For two weeks, a story in the Bible has shaken me. I've cried over it. I've yelled at the pages. I've pleaded with others for insight. I have researched long into the night. When my heart finally reached a place of humility and my spirit was teachable, God revealed a new universe of truth which I would like to share with you. 

If you have ever doubted God - questioned if you really knew Him - if you "got it right", you are in good company with John the Baptist. (You might dress funny and eat weird things too!) John was kin to Jesus. He prepared the way for His ministry. He baptized Jesus and saw the Spirit descend on Him like a dove. He wasn't a scratch-everyone-behind-the-ears kind of guy. He pointed out sin and required that it be dealt with. He crossed the line when he publicly spoke out against Herod Antipas. John's actions landed him in prison.

John was locked away in the prison at Machaerus. Mattew 4:12-13a tells us that 

"When he [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea…" What? Did Jesus not care? One would think Jesus would go visit him, maybe giving John a word of encouragement. Certainly He would take John food. Jesus could spring him with one snap of His fingers! No. Jesus went the other way. Note, the fortress of Machaerus was located 15 miles southeast of the mouth of the Jordan River on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. Capernaum on the other hand, was located miles north on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. 

Jesus seriously left His kin - the guy who prepared the way for Him- in prison and up and went the other way. Have you felt like that before? Oh boy! I sure have. But, that's not all. John was in prison. Chained. Not fed unless someone brought him food. Rumor was that if you were in Herod's prison, you didn't see the light of day again. John knew he was likely awaiting execution. He was in the barren desert, alone.  Can you imagine the blistering heat? The windstorms? The hike up the hill for his disciples to bring him food. I wonder how often they actually came? 

Meanwhile, Jesus has set up His headquarters in Capernaum, a fishing village on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. Needless to say, Jesus' view was a bit different than John's. 

(This is when I began yelling.) So, John is in prison, starving and awaiting death. Jesus went the opposite way and is sitting under a palm tree. Maybe your blood is beginning to boil. Where has He been in the midst of your trial? Do you feel as though you're rotting away and the Lord is no where to be found? Surely the all-knowing God is aware of your difficult circumstances. But, if He's aware, then why isn't He here; why doesn't He act on my behalf?

In Matthew 11, John sends word to Jesus by his disciples and asks, "Are you the one who is to come or should we look for someone else?" (v3) By this time, scholars estimate that John had been in prison for over a year and a half. His strength was wearing thin, his faith was tired, and the Devil had John trapped in a dungeon of doubt. 

John, being the last of the Old Testament prophets, expected a military-type king. One who would come set Israel free from the oppression of the Romans. He was ready for the new kingdom. As John's disciples brought word about Jesus' ministry- healing people, treasuring the trashed, eating with tax collectors and prostitutes, bringing rest to the weary and delivering powerful messages like the Sermon on the Mount… Jesus didn't look like the guy John thought would come. "If He really came to set the captives free, why am I still sitting in prison?"

Have you felt abandoned? John certainly was feeling that way. Not only had Jesus left him, it seemed as though the Devil himself had taken His place. John knew the scriptures back-forth-and-inside-out. I'm sure he tried to recall the promises and prophesies. The signs that were once crystal clear, now clear as mud. In the midst of doubt, it's impossible to think straight. 

John was aware of the deaths the prophets before him faced. I bet he could handle the idea of dying for justice and righteousness. I think it was the doubt that he was wrong about Jesus that pushed him to question. What if he prepared the way for the wrong one? What if he had been wrong and thus led others astray? What if his life and ministry was in vain? In the dark, dusty cell, you can almost feel the weight John carried with each and every passing question. We really can't blame him for asking. It wasn't so much a lack of faith as it was a lack of understanding of Jesus' eternal kingdom.

Jesus is gracious to John's disciples and doesn't rebuke anyone for the doubt-filled question. He was well-aware of John's hardships, sorrows and grief long before the boys showed up. Unshaken by the honest inquiry, Jesus continues doing what He came to do. John's disciples watch and listen, taking in the miracles and hope Jesus lavishes on the least of these. "Yes, please… encourage the captive, John, who is suffering on YOUR account, and tell him all the great things YOU'RE doing for everyone else!" That's what I thought…

But that's not what John understood. Jesus, moved with compassion for His friend, looked at the curious disciples and told them, "Tell John all that you've seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers and made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them." A knowledgeable prophet, John would have recognized that Jesus was quoting the prophet Isaiah. Out of love for His friend, Jesus didn't include Isaiah's phrase "to proclaim liberty to the captives." Initially, I was incredibly frustrated by this. How can Jesus manipulate His own word like that? You and I both know, that's not the God we serve. I don't think Jesus left that little nugget out because He was sealing John's fate as a dead man, rather that He didn't want to cause further doubt. John was looking for more of a military king - one who would free all the captives in Israel. Little did he know that Jesus' purpose was so much more than that. He didn't come just to set the captives free in Israel, He came to set all people free from sin and eternal damnation. 

As John's disciples embark on their journey back to their weary friend in the desert, Jesus pays him an incredible tribute. "I tell you the truth, of all who ever lived, none is greater than John…" (v11) And Jesus says this right after John questioned who He was…. I want Jesus to say that about me - in spite of my fleshly doubts.

You, my friend, are in company with the greats. Even the strongest saints have experienced deep darkness, tortuous trial and gut-wrentching grief. Study the lives of Abraham, Moses, David and Paul. Jesus promised us that we would have trouble in this world - none of us is an exception!  

Do you feel that God has left you? As though He's heard of your trial and known of your suffering, yet walked the other way? Have you cried out to God, begging for rescue and it seems as though He's only sitting on His hands under a palm tree? Take another look. He's not sitting on His hands. The hands of Jesus have holes in them. Pierced for you. 

Jesus cried out too. He begged His father for another way. To spare the suffering. He experienced the true abandonment of His Father for a moment, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Yet, His momentary suffering produced eternal glory. Had Jesus not gone to the cross, we would be forever damned and He wouldn't know the joy His bride will one day bring. 

Psalm 23:3a, The Psalmist writes, "He restores my soul…" The promise is not that the Lord will restore your health, that friendship, the marriage, finances, career, etc. His promise is that He will restore your soul. It's the only eternal thing, thus it's the only thing that really matters. I pray you come to a place in humility to recognize that sometimes God says "No," but it's always for an eternal reason. Why would you let the Devil rob you of an eternal reward and keep you locked in the dungeon of doubt? 

Imagine John the Baptizer, now enjoying Heaven. Yes, he stayed in prison. Yes, he was beheaded. But, I don't imagine that John would change a single thing. Can you fathom his reward in Heaven?! God forgive us when recklessly trade earthly things for eternal ones! Don't sacrifice the eternal on the altar of the immediate. 

"What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way." Luke 6:22-23

You and I may feel frustrated - experience doubt - assume abandonment, but we don't know abandonment like Jesus does. He did it to give us abundant life. God always has purpose in the pain. You will be happy again. When you can look back with eternal perspective, I doubt you'd want to change a thing. This life is so menial and so fleeting - it is a speck in light of the glory of eternity. So, I'm sorry you're suffering now, but, one day I may be battling jealousy over your reward in heaven! Stay faithful. Hang on to what you know. Recognize the miracles and the way He's moving in the lives of others. Your day will come and perspective will change. 

These hands are active. These hands are marked with love for you.