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Abiding Promises

winter-flower-1200000_640This year started out on a dead sprint.  The first half was mind-numbingly busy, hectic, overwhelming, and painful. I look back now, and am kind of amazed that I didn’t throw up my hands and say “I’m done.  I quit.”  It was tempting, believe me.  But, it has come to a quiet end.  I have been sick this week, so I’ve been able to slow down and do some reflection.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a favorite Psalm.  I have a lot of favorite verses or passages, even some favorite books (any guesses?) and chapters.  But, I’ve never really been one to dwell in the Psalms a whole lot. 

I have a favorite Psalm now.  It all started with a note of encouragement during a very difficult time in the last couple years.  As I was reading this Psalm, I ran across a verse that made me laugh out loud because it described my state of mind almost perfectly over the last few years: 

“When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded, I was stupid and didn’t understand; I was an unthinking animal toward you.” [Psa 73:21-22 CSB]

Oh, boy was that true for me!  Stupid and not understanding were understatements.  I couldn’t see it at the time, but it rang so true.  It took me a bit to get over that revelation (and to stop laughing), but when I did I read the rest of the Psalm. 

“Yet I am always with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me up in glory. Who do I have in heaven but you? And I desire nothing on earth but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. Those far from you will certainly perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, God’s presence is my good. I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, so I can tell about all you do.” [Psa 73:23-28 CSB]

Wow.  When things are so hard that you can’t think straight, God is there.  When the world falls apart, He doesn’t.  When everyone (including myself) fails, God doesn’t.  When we are weak, He is our strength.

I know these may sound like trite platitudes, but believe me, they aren’t.  As I look back on the last three years, or even over this last year, and compare it to what lies ahead, I am in absolute joyful awe.  Jesus is more gracious and merciful and faithful than I deserve.

Jesus promises to make all things new.  He promises to redeem.  He promises to restore.  He promises to heal and bind up broken hearts.  He promises to provide.  He promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  You know what?  Jesus keeps His promises.  Every last one of them.

It wasn’t that long ago that I couldn’t see Jesus’ Hand at work.  But He was working nonetheless.  I sit here now overwhelmed by what He has done.  As I was recounting all the changes over the last few years with a friend, my friend remarked “Theresa, it sounds like you have an entirely new life.”  My friend was so right.  And I am grateful.  I pray that as you look over the last year that you can see evidence of the promises that Jesus has kept.  If you can’t, please hold on.  Trust Him.  Jesus has not forgotten you, no matter how much it may seem that He has. If you need prayer or if I can encourage you in any way, please let me know.  If Jesus can take this girl who wanted to stay under the bed until He came back to get her, and stand her on her feet so she can proclaim His goodness, He can surely do the same for you.

As we enter a new year, keep abiding on.  His promises are still true.  They never fail.

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Abiding When You’re Broken

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When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded, I was stupid and didn’t understand; I was an unthinking animal toward you. – Psa 73:21-22 CSB

I’m sitting here contemplating all the major, incredible changes over the last few years. It seems to unfathomable. Kind of surreal in a way.

Three years ago, I could hardly get up off the floor because of grief, confusion, and incredible hurt. I couldn’t see straight and was having a hard time holding onto hope. Everything that I had taught and believed and held on to seemed so far away. Not gone, but simply like the pain blocked my ability to reach out and take hold of it as I had encouraged so many others to do.

And yet, hope reached out to me. In so many ways. For those of you who don’t know my story, there is a reason I’ve not written for a while. It’s difficult to encourage others to abide in Christ when you yourself can’t do it. So, I’m going to tell you a story about abiding. Pop

We are called to abide in Christ. He is the source of our strength. Of our hope. Of our joy. Of our salvation. Of our life. Without Jesus, we have nothing. Abiding is an invitation and a command. But what happens when we can’t abide? When we can’t even get up off the floor? What then?

Well, that’s when abiding continues. Jesus says in John 15:4: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither [can] you unless you abide in Me.” Did you see it? “Abide in me and I in you.” When we can’t abide in Christ, He abides in us! He has said He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Trauma has a way of overwhelming you to the point of failing to see any hope in life. It can cause you to lose sight of the One who sustains you; the Source of your joy and peace. It can leave you feeling helpless – like walking across the room seems like an insurmountable task. But, I can say, from the other side, that Jesus still sustains. His hope and joy never fail. He is faithful when you can’t be, because you’re broken.

I hate that word, broken. It seems like a trite cliche; like a spiritualized term for a pity-party. It brings to mind images of the lady sprawled out on the settee with her arm draped across her forehead crying “Woe is me.” But the term has become more relevant to me. I was thinking about things the other day, when I thought that I truly felt broken; like something in me was not right anymore. There are things that I know that I have been capable of doing, yet they seemed to be so much more difficult. Things just didn’t work the way they used to. Parts of me still feel broken – like things just don’t work like they should. And I realized that Jesus has fixed so many broken places in me. I am being restored and redeemed.

I guess you’re wondering by now what in the world I’m talking about. You see, a little over three years ago, my husband left the house. He said he was going for a drive, and that he’d be back in an hour. He never came back, except to exchange some things that he had of mine for things that he needed that belonged to him. I and our four children (teenagers and young adults at the time) had been abandoned.

Trauma is not a term I use lightly, but in this case, it fits. I had most of the physical signs of0 shock in reaction to this event. Beyond having to deal with the idea that my husband of nearly 25 years (it was three weeks from our 25th anniversary) up and left, I was also facing the need to be able to support myself. At the time, I was homeschooling two of the kids, and worked a very part time job; LLP twelve hours a week.

Understand, I know who I am in Christ. I know that I am His daughter. I have loved Him and known His sustaining love for me for a long time. This event, however, shook me to the core. I entered 2 1/2 years of what many would call deep depression. The seriousness and solemnity with which I took my wedding vows kept all ideas of separation and divorce far from my mind and heart. And yet, here I was. Abandoned.

I spent much of these years asking the basic questions of the Christian life. What does forgiveness look like in this situation? How does one show unconditional love in this? Where is the line between showing grace and condoning sin? What do I do with vows I take so seri when they seem to be cast off so easily? How do I model for my children what godliness looks like in this situation, when I can’t even get up off the floor?

When I wasn’t asking the basic questions of the Christian life, I was asking the basic questions of living in this world. How am I going to support myself? What about the kids? Where does a middle-aged woman who has spent most of her life as a stay-at-home mother even begin to think about starting a career?

During much of this time, I was able to get up and move out of sheer necessity. My children stepped up and stepped in where their father stepped out. My oldest two (in their 20’s) came home, got jobs to help make ends meet and stood guard around me. My younger two stood watch over my heart. This is a testimony to their character. I have been blessed with amazing children. However, this too caused a sense of guilt and shame on my part, because it’s backward. So, I tried harder. And fell on my face again and again.

I want to tell you of the faithfulness of Jesus. In the midst of all of this, I have been incredibly blessed. People came out of the woodwork to pray, encourage, listen (oftentimes too long), to bring me back from the brink, to offer advice, and to support me and the kids in any way they could. I have not lacked a thing.

There were many days that I wanted to crawl under my bed and stay there until Jesus came to take me home. Many days that I couldn’t see straight, and opening the Word of God was painful, because it showed me what should be. Praying seemed suddenly to be as much work as climbing Mount Everest. How could I pray when I couldn’t think straight, and felt crushed with guilt?

I became just like the paralytic on the mat. You know the one – he got dropped through a roof in the middle of a house church service. He was in a place where he couldn’t move. It seems like he had given up. I say this, because it was the faith of his friends that brought him to Jesus to find healing. It was the same with me. The people around me mobilized in prayer, provision, and service toward me and my children. There is no possible way I can ever repay (or even recount) all of the things that people did. I saw the Body of Christ and others around me minister in huge ways. For this, I am truly grateful.

There were also times when the LORD ministered to my heart directly, as well. He reminded me that He identifies with us in our weakness. He has been where we are. Broken. Abandoned. Lost. The great thing about abiding when you’re broken is that you can’t. But when you can’t, Jesus has promised to abide with you. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you.

Today, I am in awe. There is not one thing in my life that has remained the same. Except for the abiding, faithful love of Jesus. In the last three years, one of my children has gotten married, two have graduated from high school, two have graduated from college, one has moved away, all have moved out on their own (I am so very proud of them), one is currently in college, I started school and graduated with honors, I have an incredible job with a boss who is a believer who has shown so much grace and demonstrated the love of Christ to me, and the list goes on. God has shown me His faithful love yet again.

Please know that God loves you. He is in the business of healing wounds. He truly binds up the brokenhearted. His love for you will never, ever fail. It’s OK to ask all of the questions. I know I have. It’s OK to sob. Jesus understands. It’s OK to rely on others. That’s what the body of Christ is for. If I can pray for you, please leave a message. I will pray.

Keep abiding on. And if you can’t, Jesus will.

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Sinners and saints

I saw a meme the other day, and I’ve heard this sentiment more than once:  “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.”  I have difficulty with this phrase.  Not because we don’t sin, nor because the church can’t be a place of healing.  But, I believe the premise is backwards.  The Church is made up of believers in Jesus.  When we put our trust in Him, we become sanctified – set apart for God.  Holy.  In a word, a SAINT.  I know this might sound strange.  It was to me, when I first read that in Scripture.  We don’t tend to see ourselves as saints.  The biblical definition of a saint is someone who is set apart for God.  So, the Church is not a museum – it is a living temple of God.
When we fail to see ourselves as the new creation that God has made us, we diminish the finished work of Christ on Calvary’s cross.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that we all live perfectly when we are saved.  I know I don’t.  But, the point is that God sees us through the blood that Jesus shed.  God sees us as perfect in Christ.  As we confess our sins, [they are cast as far from us as the east is from the west] (which never meet).

The purpose of the church is to build one another up in Christ.  To bear each others’ burdens.  To fulfill the ministry of reconciliation.  In that sense, the church is a hospital.  We are to come to the aid of other believers so that we can go out into the world and point the world to Jesus.  We cannot heal each other, however.  No matter how well-intentioned I am, or how much I try, I can never bring healing to your pain.  I can sympathize, empathize, hug, listen, pray and offer advice, but true healing is only found in one place – through Jesus.  As the Church (believers) points each of us to Jesus over and over again, encouraging one another to remain in the Word of God and on our knees,  Jesus brings the healing and strength we so desperately need.

I have a confession to make.  I have been in places the last couple years that have left me feeling worthless.  Feeling depressed.  Feeling utterly hopeless.  Feeling lost.  It has been tempting to give up and run away (a tropical island sounds good sometimes).  In short, because of some extremely difficult circumstances, I had doubted my identity in Christ, and consequently, my attitudes and behaviors followed suit.  But, do you know what?  God’s Word has a way of sneaking up on me.  God won’t let me forget His everlasting love.  He has challenged me over and over to “not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.” (Romans 12:2), and He has reminded me over and over that He has not given me a spirit of fear, but a sound mind.  (2 Tim.  1:7).  And that I have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16).

Believers from around the world (literally) have pointed me to Christ at every turn.  Oh, to be sure, they would allow me to lament and wail and grieve and cry (sometimes for extended periods of time).  But, then, they would calmly ask “Are you done?”  “Are you ready to remember what God has said?”  “Are you ready to listen to Him?”  And God heals.  He brings truth.  He gives hope.  He is patient (yes, even with me!).  He convicts. He chastises.  He forgives.  He is good.  I cannot express enough thanks for those that have faithfully, consistently, over and over (and over and over) pointed me back to Jesus; reminding me of who I am, and Whose I am.  God is not done working yet, and I have no idea what the future will look like, but my prayer is that as I remember my first love (Revelation. 2:4), I will be able to face difficulties with much more grace and confidence than I have in the past.

So, I want to leave you with a few questions (questions are like potato chips to me – I can never ask just one), if you are a believer:  Do you see yourself as a saint?  Do you find your value and worth in Jesus?  Do you live like a child of the King of Kings?  Do you seek to please Him?  How have other Christians pointed you to Christ?  Has God given you the opportunity to point other believers back to Jesus?  I want to challenge you to read the book of Ephesians.  The first three chapters are a reminder of who we are in Christ.  The last three chapters show how to live it out.

Life is hard.  But God is good.  Keep abiding on.

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Free from Your Critics!

Great article from Love Worth Finding Ministries.

Free from Your Critics!.

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