The Love of God


Ephesians 3: 18  “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.”

Oh! And all God’s people said, “Amen!”

When someone is about to confide in me but hesitates, I often say, “Look. I’ve done and seen pretty much everything there is to do and see. I won’t be offended and I won’t be surprised.”

It’s the truth. If I were to list off my sins, my mistakes – well, many of you who know me would actually be offended, because it would blow your mind how different I am today than I was even a decade ago.

Beth Moore says one reason we can’t understand God is that we try to humanize Him. Oh sweet Lord, how true that is. When we try to grasp how much – or how, period – He loves us, we can come up short.

Oh, especially when we’ve lived lives unsure of the love of anyone, right? The love of any human being? And when – if we’re lucky – we find out that we were wrong – that he or she – or they – actually do love us, well – that presents a beautiful challenge.

What do we do with our lives when we realize we were living them under the wrong assumption or belief? The first thing that we understand, friends, is the depth of the mistakes we made because we believed we were unworthy of love.

So – what constitutes an unforgivable offense here? Just by looking at my life, and the lives of people I know, here’s a quick list I compiled.

“God couldn’t love me because I’ve had too many sexual partners.”

“God couldn’t love me because I lied – all the time.”

“God couldn’t love me because I manipulated people and tried to control them.”

“God couldn’t love me because I had a baby out of wedlock.”

“God couldn’t love me because I haven’t lived a mature, responsible life. I’m not a success, I’m sometimes lazy, and I don’t make as much money as I should. It’s my own fault.”

“God couldn’t love me because I have doubted His love for me for years.”

“God couldn’t love me because I got divorced.”

“God couldn’t love me because I don’t look, think, or act like all those other Christians.”

You know what? Beth Moore also said that belief is not a feeling – it is a choice. And she is right. Some days or moments it’s easy to feel God’s love. Because it was a “good” day – no one got mad at you and you didn’t make an insanely huge screw-up. Or something bad has happened and God came through for you in a big way.

But most days we’re just human. We make mistakes, hurt someone, or let someone down. Maybe we get in trouble at work, at school, or at home. And satan comes strolling into that hot mess and just tells us how worthless we are. And if you’ve heard those words come out of the mouths of people, his voice sounds an awful lot like theirs. And you believe it.

You have a choice, my friends. The choice to believe the Word, not the words of satan, not the words of people who are also screwed up and don’t know how to love you like they should.

Make the choice. And while you’re at it, encourage someone today. You never know, y’all. You never know how much they might need it.

Change of Plans


When I got married the second time around, I had a job. I rather liked it. It required definite use of brain cells. Being a mom, much of the job is menial, tedious, mind-numbing work. It doesn’t take a genius to wash clothes and wipe booties.

Well, six months later I was laid off. A second baby was well on the way. Did I ever picture that as my life? Of course not! I had big dreams, like most people. As a teenager, I read The Lost City.  Never again did I want to be an ordinary journalist. I wanted to some day work at a foreign news desk. For The Washington Post!  I never made it out of middle-sized small town papers. Thank God. I would have sucked at being a reporter at a bigger place. I just wasn’t meant to do it, I guess.

So not one of those big dreams came true. Because it’s just not what my life is supposed to be, and you know what? I’m ok with that. Because my big dreams are different now. Maybe not as exciting in the world’s eyes, but they’re pretty major to me.

I’m reading Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. Today’s quote that sent me hurrying to blog is this: “If we don’t prepare to modify our plans, we will end up more and frustrated and overwhelmed.”

As women who marry and intend to – one day – have children, inevitably, we are surprised when they come. We aren’t just “not ready” – we don’t always want one right then. We have jobs. A social life. Spontaneity. And then we rearrange our lives for a period of time – forever or just six weeks or so – and change course. That’s our new direction.

Maybe we want a second child – in theory. I did. Guess what day I decided maybe I didn’t? Yep. The same day I found out I was pregnant with said second child. I am not kidding. It was probably an hour before I took the pregnancy test.

Wowza. Change course again. New life begins. Life gets more complicated.

I admit I have been adrift for years. It’s very unpleasant. It’s only been about six months since things really began to look up. Prior to that, I did not know what the plan was, so I kept doing what I was doing. Being a wife and mom. A writer. A nose-wiper. A daughter, friend, and neighbor.

It isn’t that now I see some deep plan unfolding in a vision. It’s an energy I feel. I know something different is on the way!

If your life is stuck, pray. If your life is moving forward and you aren’t sure exactly where God is taking it, pray! He might not reveal all just yet. But Shirer is right – you don’t want to be frustrated and overwhelmed when you suddenly wake up and realize your entire life plan has changed and you somehow forgot!

The Census That Really Mattered


I confess – when reading the first chapter of the Book of Numbers, I skipped over most of it.

Come on! A lot of names and numbers (no pun intended). But there are two things in the first 50 verses that just jump off the pages at me! And they are the following:

“The Lord spoke to Moses” (v. 1)

“For the Lord said” (v. 47)

What do you think that felt like for him? Have you ever thought about it? I have. Mostly because it made me feel like less of a freak in today’s world. When you tell people that God speaks to you – in His own voice sometimes – they look at you like you just stepped off the non-denominational crazy train into their presence. That’s no slur against non-doms. They are what they are and that’s their business. But in a good ‘ole Southern Baptist church, that’s not what folks are expecting to hear.

So I posed four questions to God about it this morning. Am I just super-lucky and blessed? Or do I just pay attention? Or is it part of Your plan that I don’t know yet? Or all three?

In case you’re wondering, He did not speak an answer to that. Guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

However, in this first chapter, something else interesting happens – God commands Moses to make a census. And he gets nothing like the information gleaned from one our country does periodically. As someone who has analyzed the data, I can tell you that for sure!

What God seems to want to know is how many men are of fighting age. Why? Well, keep reading the Old Testament, my friends, and you’ll figure out real quick. But then…something important is decided.

There are 12 tribes of Israel, but only the Levites (who become Levitical priests) are called not to fight. The reason is that He wants them to take care of the Tabernacle (the Temple tent that God dwelt in before a stone-and-mortar  building was erected much, much later).

See in Numbers 1: 50-51 “But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it and shall camp around the tabernacle. When the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down, and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up. And if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.“

So then, it begs the question – am I a fighter or a priest? Or – am I both?

You see, war is necessary. I don’t think all – or even most – of the wars fought throughout history were needed. But some of them were. And I do not have the character or moral fiber to fight in a war. At least, not a war between humans.

The answer, friends, is both. I am both a fighter and a “priest” – in the sense of someone who is responsible for taking care of my church, and the Christian Church as a whole. And what war do I fight? Why, the Battle Between Good and Evil. Otherwise known as the war between God and satan.

That war, y’all, has been going on since the beginning of time, practically. It rages every moment of every day. And you and I are a part of it. Check out Priscilla Shirer’s Bible study called The Armor of God and you will see what I mean. She can explain WAY better than I.

Today, the Church has a battle to fight – for our souls and the souls of others. But we also have a Church to take care of. Blessed God! He gave us multiple ways of doing so, using our gifts and talents He bestowed through the Holy Spirit.  I think this Bible.org post lists them in a clear and concise way.

Go forth, my brothers and sisters, and use your gifts to bless, serve, and protect each other – and those people who need Christ. We are called to do it! It is part of the commission we have been given. Blessings to you!

Forgiveness Isn’t a Hallmark Card


Well, it’s not. It sounds that way when other people do it. They look so beatific and peaceful. But when it’s my turn – your turn perhaps? – it’s hard and my stomach is tied in knots. I’m angry and hurt, frustrated, heartbroken even – and forgiveness is just too much work.

I was given a reprieve from work about, oh, 14 years ago. I headed to a park nearby because it was such a beautiful day. And even though God and I weren’t on the same speaking terms we are now, I still talked to Him and prayed – and even read my Bible. But we didn’t have the intimate, restorative relationship we have now. Which totally debunks the whole “miracles don’t happen anymore” theory I have heard lately and the idea that if you aren’t as close to God as you should be, He won’t help you.

Y’all, that is a bald-faced lieGod knows your heart more thoroughly than anyone on the face of the planet – even if you don’t know His. And sometimes, He comes through for you in a big big way just to show you Who’s boss. Like He did for me that day.

I didn’t come to the park thinking about a significant person in my life. I didn’t even talk about him to God that day. I just thanked God for the beauty around me, and asked that He provide the money to make up the hours I wasn’t getting paid at work that day. Somehow.

Well, He didn’t. He gave me a much bigger gift – the present of forgiveness For some reason, He laid miraculous, supernatural forgiveness of this significant person on my heart that day. The truly amazing thing was that on that day 14 years ago, or so, I didn’t even realize how fully I had forgiven this person!

I just knew my hatred of him was gone. In the years to come, in his presence, I would no longer cower, or grow angry. I would usually laugh at the stupid, inane lies he told me about myself. Sometimes I would even laugh out loud. Oh y’all, I still do! It’s been more than a decade and that forgiveness is still a daily part of my life about this person!

However, here’s the thing people: this isn’t how forgiveness is supposed to work! This was truly, really, believe me – a miracle. God doesn’t make forgiveness this easy on us 99.99999% of the time.

Makes you mad, doesn’t it? Here’s someone who has hurt you and maybe even done unspeakable things to you – and not only are you supposed to forgive this person, but also you’re supposed to do it gracefully, effortlessly, despite the very real repercussions that you may have to suffer through – for the rest of your life.

You think I don’t have those? I sure do. Those things done to me – those things I did to myself – I have to live with that awful nasty terrible ugly crap too! Consequences aren’t just born of what we do; they’re born of what others do to us.

Forgive, huh God? Oh yes – you’ve maybe even heard it said that forgiveness isn’t just about the other person – it’s really for you. So you can go on without a stained conscience and with peace in your heart.

Well, let me tell you something – I don’t think that’s the whole point of forgiveness, and if you disagree, let me turn your attention to Mark 11: 25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. (KJV)

Did you get that last part? If you do not forgive, you will not be forgiven. Now that’s a pretty big problem huh?

Forgiveness isn’t usually a miracle and it’s rarely easy. It’s a choice you may have to make every day for an indeterminate amount of time! I’ve spent years forgiving people. YEARS.

And yet – how many years has someone – or some people – spent forgiving me?

What is Endurance?


Sometimes, I get so tired of studying and pondering the Word that my brain hurts. Today is one of those days. And guess what I stumbled upon in my journal? Yep. Endurance. Awesome Lord. I get it.

The subject I’m addressing today is joy despite a trial, and endurance plays a huge part of that process. Here are a few words that I love, love, love – that are synonymous with endurance:

ability   capacity   courage   fortitude   grit    mettle   persistence   tenacity   

                                      vitality   cool   moxie   pluck   starch

So. God is pretty clear on how our perspective should change when under the fire of suffering. And that’s the courage, the fortitude, the moxie – to endure. To endure without quitting and to endure in a lasting way, because if we quit – if we don’t last – what was the point of the whole thing?

Our pastor, Thomas Hammond, preached about all this, and it resonated because it’s human nature to quit when things get hard – a job, a marriage, a friend, a dream – and that’s when satan sneaks in, I think, to taunt us as to how huge a miserable failure we are.

But we’re not, y’all. We’re just people. And so who or what can you reach for when you’re tempted to quit? God, of course – and the Word. But find people you admire who have thrived despite adversity. Call on them for guidance and encouragement. They won’t mind – someone did the same for them when they were about to chuck it all and lose their pluck.

Jesus & The Samaritan Dogs


Many of you are familiar with the story of The Good Samaritan. You can read it here. What you might not know is that to the Jews of Jesus’ day, they considered Samaritans dogs. This takes on new meaning with more than simply the Good Samaritan character.

It is my opinion that Jesus was looked down upon by some of His own followers for stopping to talk and share the Gospel with The Woman at the WellAt the very least, it was considered terribly odd that He chose her.

The point is, considering how much Jews hated Samaritans, the choice of two important parables containing Samaritan heroes was an interesting one for Jesus. He certainly wanted his audience to pay attention.

If He were to come back at this moment – when you’re reading this blog – and two Muslim men were with Him, and He used them as heroes in two stories – well, you get the drift.

The thing is, the heroes of these stories – regardless of racial and geographical background – did wonderful things. In fact, in the story of The Good Samaritan, he surpassed a church elder and a priest in how he helped the poor soul beaten by robbers and left for dead.

Can you picture your pastor? And your favorite deacon or church leader? Now imagine one of those Muslim men walking by this beaten man, after your pastor and church leader left him for dead, and stopping to lend a hand?

Jesus wanted to make sure that the Jews knew He did not discriminate, and He did so by using their enemy in these two parables. They viewed Samaritans as only good enough to eat the scraps left by their feet at table.

Who do we leave sitting by the side of the road, so to speak, in our lives?

  1. Our husbands and children when we’re mad at them?
  2. Our boss when he/she treats us poorly?
  3. Our parents, when we’ve had all we can take, despite our caretaking of them in the aging process?
  4. Our friends, when they disagree out of love and care?
  5. GOD, when He doesn’t do what we want Him to?

The list includes some excellent scenarios, but maybe you have your own that you’re struggling with. Well, what did Jesus tell us to do?

Not only does our neighbor – anyone we come in contact with – need our help, but so do the rest of the people in our lives. Those pesky-people. Those who want more than we can give. What is the answer here? To erect boundaries that are healthy, or to cut those people dead when we see them so they never speak to us again?

What is the answer to the family members that plague us from time to time? To shut down, withdraw, and nurse hurt and anger? Or to pray and press on? Y’all, it doesn’t get more simple than that. Complicating it is just a way out of doing what we need to do.

 

You’re NOT Too Screwed-up – For God


Good morning folks! It’s a great day out there. We’ve had some massive storms come through overnight. Everything is rain-washed and cool. Blue skies and birds singing – probably ’cause they get to gobble up the worms cast out of their homes by the rain. Ah, life is good.

No, I’m not deterring from the point of this blog post – in fact, my morning workout in the great outdoors is a perfect segue into why I – and you – am not too screwed up for God. I read about this issue in Tell Me About God.  Two and a half months ago, I would have ended today’s lesson in a watershed of tears.

Not today! Thanks to Priscilla Shirer’s The Armor of God (#ArmorofGod) and a class full of women of all ages, races, backgrounds, and life experiences, I have learned much about God’s love for me. But I’ll share this lesson for those of you who aren’t there yet. And y’all will be the ones shedding big ‘ole raindrop tears.

Day 43 – Can We Give Our Lives to God?

“Many of us are reluctant to forgive ourselves because we are unable to fix the things we have done wrong. Maybe we feel the sin is too big to fix – therefore we feel we shouldn’t be forgiven. BUT –

  • God knows our life and the difficulties we face each day.
  • He knows the injustices we have suffered.
  • He knows the frustrations and defeats we suffer each day.
  • He knows the handicaps and limitations we are saddled with.
  • He know how tough it is to get by.

Hasn’t the unfairness of life punished us enough? Isn’t it time to give our un-forgiveness to God?” ~~~Compilation by Jack Berryman . Edited by Randy Haas and Helen Lewis.

If this just slaps you in the face, because it so abruptly and jarringly gets your attention – that’s awesome! So if you watch this awesome video clip and can understand, then it’s way past time to hand over these feelings to the Lord.

People might tell you that nothing is too big for God to handle; that nothing you’ve ever done is too much for Him. But who can believe that, right? Wrong! Something I learned lately boils down to this: God predestined you. He chose you. Not because of what you will become but because of who you are RIGHT now.

Go forth this day and celebrate! Despite negative and troublesome circumstances and people in your life at this very moment, celebrate! Did you feel momentary joy when you read this? Don’t let go of that! That’s what God wants you to feel and experience!

So, as my Mama would say, tuck your knot – and for you non-Southern readers out there, bless your lil ole hearts, that means “bow your head” –

Father God, I pray that whomever reads this, on whatever day, finds comfort, grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, and absolute joy in You and what You have done for him or her. Christ, step into this person’s heart. Heal, protect, and guide this person to the Father. Spirit, move in GREAT ways in this person’s life. Let there be no mistake – if he or she is in despair, for whatever reason – let this person know in a forceful and unmistakable way that the Godhead is in LOVE!! Amen.

Blessings y’all!