Tag Archive | God

Enjoying the Process

Life is such a funny thing.  You think you have it all figured out and then  it goes and changes on you.  I am certainly glad God knows what He is doing because often times I haven’t got a clue!  I don’t think that God keeps me in the dark to be cruel or watch me squirm (ok, sometimes I do think that is exactly why He does it – but it isn’t true!!)

God knows me inside and out better than I know myself and He knows exactly what I would do if He told me all the plans ahead of time.  I would map out the quickest route to my end destination, skip from step A straight to Z and wind up in a big mess waaaaay over my head with no idea what to do or how to trust Him.  I am an instant gratification type person (aren’t most of us?) and I simply do not have the patience to trudge through several years of “preparation time” before finally reaching my final goal.  I want that goal and I want it now!!

The problem with that is this; with out trials there is no testing of our faith.  With no testing there is no chance to learn to trust in God or stand firm in times of trouble or testimonies and memories of Gods favor and help for us to fall back on when it gets tough.  If I had all the information of what God has planned for me and ran with it, skipping all the tough, painful and VITAL hardships and “barriers” in my way I would wind up neck-deep in trouble with none of the tools I need to dig myself out.

I could get frustrated, angry even, at how things are going right now but I am starting to learn to just TRUST Him and enjoy the process.

I have moved 3 times in the last 4 months and I am about to move AGAIN! The first time I moved I had no choice, the place I had lived for a year was being over run with mold.  I was left living with my sweet dad and step mom with no idea what to do next.  I truly felt lost and questioned everything I had decided was from the Lord.  I was near despair and full-blown depression after just a month.  I finally cried out to God and asked Him to move me closer to the goal.  I couldn’t stretch any further I needed Him to move me forward in His plans.

Quickly after this prayer I was finally able to find an apartment I could afford and I thought, “YES! This is where the Lord wants me to do foster care. I am just starting to get on my feet, I can’t expect to have my farm right away.  I will just continue helping friends with their gardens and wait to get any animals – this is God’s good will.”  I got a two bedroom knowing ahead of time that the second room was for someone else (the foster kids) and E.v.e. would be staying with me in my room.  Only I didn’t get foster kids – my precious sister Lambchop came and lived with me before her big missions trip.  “Okay,” I think to myself, “this is good.  This will work.  She will live in the second room and I will start to foster once she leaves. It could be just a month or two or it could be a year that she lives with me but we will learn so much from each other and THIS is the good will of God.”

A friend of hers gave her a bunch of wonderful furniture and our little tiny apartment gets filled with lovely things that make it feel like a home.  My sweet sister left after a month for her missions trip and left all her things behind for me to care for.  Now I have an apartment that is cozy and inviting and NOW I am ready to foster.  I have a lease for a year so this is where we will stay.  THIS is the good will of God.  I began the process right away and like my last post stated I scheduled my home study.  As the day approached I became more and more confident that I was going to pass with flying colors and be fostering within months.  However, I also became increasingly aware of the dangers lurking in my apartment complex.

By the time my homestudy appointment came around I had encountered enough crime that I was not comfortable where I was living any more.  My lovely little home felt more like a very thin cocoon protecting me from circling vultures.  I know that God can and does protect us from harm but this felt like unnecessary endangerment.  I explained it to a friend this way – Just because I believe God will protect me from danger doesn’t mean I should walk down the middle of the free way – and that is what living at this apartment very quickly began to feel like.

The week of my home study I got a call from someone who will stay anonymous.  He and his wife were moving to a new home and they were offering to give me there three bedroom brick home to foster in! It still had a mortgage but it’s payments were the same I was paying in rent!  I began to get very excited!   I had my home study at the apartment the day after I prayerfully decided I would accept the offer of the house.  The case worker said the apartment would work for foster care but the prospect of a house would be better.  I would have to wait to apply to be a foster parent till I was in the house but then it should be a very quick process. “Okay God, I see where this is going.  I got the apartment to experience living on my own and to be blessed with this free furniture until I can afford to buy my own, plus all the other priceless lessons I learned here and now you are taking me to this new house to do foster care.  I can have a little garden and a couple of chickens and a dog – it’s not the farm I would like but it’s better than the apartment, maybe THIS is the good will of God.”

So, where I am now is in the middle of the third move.  My story has almost caught up to present time.  Everything that has happened so far was very quick.  Things changed from one week to the next but now for the rest of my story things are changing from one DAY to the next and in some cases one HOUR to the next.  Talk about whip-lash!

I couldn’t have the house until June but didn’t want to stay in the apartment between now and then so I took up a couch surfing existence.  I would stay with one friend when I knew I was going to need to be on that side of town the next day and I would stay with my dad when I knew I would need to be on his side of town the next day.  It worked for a week and I slowly started moving things over to the house I would be living in soon.  As I am typing this MOST of my belongings are still in the apartment I no longer live in but still pay rent for – talk about super expensive storage unit!! With everything happening so quickly I just haven’t been able to know where to move my things to so there they sit.

I knew that I was going to have to replace of couple of the windows before I could do foster care in the house.  (DSS is very strict about their window requirements!) I figured when I got a loan from the bank to buy the loan from the current owners I would just tack on a couple extra thousand dollars to cover the cost of replacing them.  Well, upon further inspection I realized that I would need to replace ALL the windows in the 3 bedrooms.  It wouldn’t be such a big deal except the house is brick.  Very expensive to install larger windows into.  As I did the math and went through all my options I suddenly realized – this isn’t going to work.  The Bible says that the blessings of God carry no sorrow but this house was going to cause me plenty of sorrow.  I was going to have to go much, MUCH further into debt than I had originally thought and the payments were going to be higher than I thought.  Also, because of a clause we found in the current owners loan they couldn’t actually sell me the property for 3 more years.  In the end it was going to take a lot longer to be able to foster than I felt like I could handle.

So then I am left with the disappointment of realizing all the plans I had made for that house (in the few short days I thought I would get to live there) were all gone.  By now though I am used to things of this nature happening so I was able to quickly recover and try to figure out what to do next. That is the wonderful blessing of previous trials!!! I have already figured out that if one thing doesn’t work start looking for what is next – don’t waste time freaking out!!

I had already decided I could not stay in the apartment any longer but didn’t have anywhere else to go.  Just an hour later my sweet dad and step mom stopped by my apartment.  (I was sitting in the disheveled, messy living room with random bits of missing furniture feeling very lost and frustrated…..basically I was pouting)

They had talked amongst themselves and wanted to know if I would like to move waaaaaaaay out into the country to live on their property and foster there.  They had a little double wide trailer that was vacant and there was 6 acres of land on which I could garden to my heart’s content and have any animals I would like as long as I took care of them.  Visions of chickens, goats, rabbits and a lush garden instantly danced in my mind.

It was like the sun started to shine again.  “ok ok ok THIS is the good will of God!”  I don’t know how long I will get to enjoy this opportunity.  I may never even get to move in but I have decided I am going to just trust God and enjoy the process.  I have had so much FUN the last couple of days doing TONS of research about different animals that are suitable for a small family farm and how to care for them.  I can now tell you just about anything you would like to know about raising goats, chickens, rabbits and even how to raise fish in a barrel just to name a few!  I have also found loads of wonderful ideas about how to build the various stalls and such that I would need to care for these animals for very cheap (FREE in a lot of cases) I don’t know if I will get to use all this information at this new location I will be moving to soon or if it just another stepping stone preparing me for something maybe even better but I am not going to waste my time worrying about it.

I can’t help but laugh at myself as I realize that all these things have been the good will of God.  I kept feeling like I had failed or heard wrong or missed something but I never did.  Every step of the way I am being guided along the journey.  Like a silly sheep I keep stopping to nibble at the few parched weeds along the path thinking “this must be where we are going, I guess this is all I have to eat” not realizing the Shepherd is trying to get me down the road to the pasture full of lush, delicious grasses.  I keep trying to stop and put down roots but all this is just the journey to the destination.

I guess in all this I am just trying to say that I have decided to not care about tomorrow, I am going to let God take care of that.  I am just going to worry about today and trying to use each “today” to get me one step closer to my two simple dreams – 1. A self-sustaining family farm located anywhere God would like to put it 2. filled with wounded children I have the honor of showing the love of God.

Advertisements

Hagar in My Heart

Since I didn’t really know how the two were different I couldn’t decide which I was feeling more like – a gypsy or a nomad – so I decided to look up the two words so I could make an informed decision.

A gypsy is a member of a tribe of people found throughout the world who has no permanent home and has a wandering lifestyle.

A nomad is a member of a group of people who have no fixed home and move according to the seasons from place to place in search of food, water, and grazing land.

Well that settles it.  I am not a gypsy because I am not a member of a tribe.  I may be able to skate by on the nomad title but only if I count E.v.e. and I as a “group” and my current residence as “grazing land”.  Sigh, I am officially a nomad, aimlessly wandering through the wilderness in search of food, water and shelter.

Lately I have spent some time thinking about another nomad named Hagar and what her life must have been like.  She and I have a very similar story and I keep finding little bits of her tucked away in my heart and I am not sure I like it.  

The Bible tells part of her story like this: 

Abraham exiles Hagar.

Hagar and Ishmael (E.v.e. and I) being sent out to wander in the wilderness

“So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar’s shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba. When the water was gone, she put the boy in the shade of a bush.  Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards away. ‘I don’t want to watch the boy die,’ she said, as she burst into tears.”

I can’t imagine leaving my child under a bush and walking away so I wouldn’t have to listen to her die.  The pain and the anger she must have felt.  The hopelessness. She didn’t choose this life.  She didn’t plan on being thrown out into the desert to fend for herself and her young son.  The hatred she must have felt.  Being a slave, she had only done what was asked of her and now that Abraham had a new son with his wife she was no longer wanted or needed. 

I have never had to deal with the anguish of knowing my child was about to die from thirst or starvation but I can relate to her in some of the other areas of her life.  I know what it is like to have the father of my child not love me and send me away for another woman he apparently did love.  I know how it feels to have another child prefered over my own despite the fact they share the same father.  And I know what it feels like to wander aimlessly in the wilderness not knowing where to go or where provision will come from next. 

Some days, like today I guess, I feel like my water skin is almost out.  I feel like if God doesn’t come through really soon I might get an even more personal understanding of how Hagar must have felt that day. 

Despite the similarities between Hagars and my own story there are some very important differences though that I need to remind myself of.   For example, I know that I am no longer a slave.  I know that I am the Daughter of a King.  And I knew when I was first sent out into the wilderness that is currently my life that the King had a plan and a purpose for my and my daughter’s life, even if my ex husband did not. 

Some days it is very hard to remember these simple truths but I have to hold tight to them because they are what gives me hope that my story isn’t the same has Hagars.  My story doesn’t have to contain as much pain.  I don’t have to let myself become bitter.  I don’t have to allow hate to well up inside me.  I don’t have to feel hopeless and full of despair because I can see a truth that Hagar could not.  I can’t let myself forget that truth or I will be no better off than Hagar and my E.v.e. will be no better off than Ishmael. 

When Hagar was sent away she didn’t know that the Lord had just had a conversation with Abraham where He told him, “Do not be upset over the boy and your servant(Hagar). Do whatever Sarah tells you, for Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.  But I will also make a nation of the descendants of Hagar’s son because he is your son, too.” – italics and bold added by me.

Abraham sent her way trusting the Lord to keep His word but she thought she was sent into the desert with no hope, no promise and no assurance of any kind.  She and her child was rejected and in her mind sent away to die a painful death in the desert.  Sometimes I catch myself feeling like Hagar rather than remembering that I was sent out into the desert full of hope, believing in a great promise and with all assurance that my Lord would provide a way for my little family. 

I know that my ex didn’t have a talk with God before sending me and my tiny baby off into the great unknown to fend for ourselves but I also know that God knew ahead of time the trials I would be facing.  He, as my Daddy, knew what I could handle and how he could use my current circumstances to mold me into the woman He needs me to be and the ways that He would provide for us.  I know that God has a great plan for my daughter and I and that we are, every day, moving one step closer to that promised land. 

I have to learn to keep my heart in check and not allow the bitterness of Hagar to steal away my hope and assurance of a promise made by my King.  Hagar did eventually learn of the Lords provision for her and her son and they went on to prosper and create a whole race of people still around today.  However, her bitterness stayed with them and to this day the two families stemming from the same father still hate each other.  That is not the path I choose.  That is not the story I want to live. 

I choose peace.  I choose hope.   I chose to belive that I am not rejected.  I am not unloved.  I am not second-rate.  I am not a slave. I do not have to fend for myself.  I choose to continue to trust in the Lord that all of this wandering, all this aimless, dreadful wandering, is for a purpose and is for my and my daughters betterment and that one day it will come to an end and I will finally see my promises fulfilled. 

I “1 Corinthians 13: 4-7” you!

I love this passage in scripture.  It really is one of my favorites.  I have put a great deal of thought and time meditating on it.  When you just glance over it quickly on your way to day 365 of your bible reading guide it is very easy to miss the depth and importance of this text. 

In Luke 10:27, when asked what the greatest command of all was, Jesus said, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”  For a long time I wondered what that was supposed to look like.  I am still not entirely sure what it means to love God with all my heart, soul, strength and mind – but I think I am getting closer to understanding what it means to love my neighbor.

In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 we are given a very clear, uncomplicated description of what love is –

   Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

When I look at that list I see a mirror held up to my face.  I am not saying that I see all those things in me – quite the opposite – I mean when I read those verses I see clearly into my heart and all the areas I fall short on love.  I am not even fully able to love myself!! I am rude to myself, I irritate myself, I keep record of every wrong I do, I give up on myself, I lose faith in myself, I doubt myself and sometimes the only reason I endure myself is simply because I can’t seem to get away from myself!! 😉

This is supposed to be the greatest command of the Lord and I haven’t done a very good job of keeping it even just with myself. >.< I can’t be too hard on myself though.  I really have made an effort as of late to hold this standard of love up against my friendships and family relationships and tried to make them match.  I can honestly say I “1 Corinthians 13:4-7” about 4 of my non-relative friends nearly 100% and a good majority of the rest in the 75-90% range.  (If you are reading this then you are at least in the 90% range I am sure~ 😉 )There are a few that rank a little lower but I am starting to see now that the problem isn’t with them needing to change – the problem is me not holding up my end of the deal.  It is my job to “1 Corinthians 13:4-7” all of my family, friends, neighbors and *gulp* even my ex-husband and that chick from 3 grade who called me fat and poor -.- sigh. Because the truth is that even if someone (even someone you thought loved you) is treating you in a way contrary to that kind of love – it is still commanded of us that we love them the right way in return. 

The beauty of it is that if we love them the way we are supposed to and they are the right type of friend – the kind that really does want to change or really does want to be a part of our lives – they will start to reflect that love back to us and the friendship will be healed.  It might take time but it will happen!

 On the other hand it works out just as wonderfully if they really are an awful person because if we love them the right way and they are not the right type of friend – they are bitter and hateful and have no desire to change – they will see the love you are showing them as a contrast to themselves and it will be like a mirror showing them the ugliness they hold inside and it will cause them to flee from  you – which in that case is exactly what you want anyway! 😉

This love business is tough! There are days when I don’t meet all the qualifications of love with my own daughter!! Now I know that I haven’t actually stopped loving her – I just don’t always do a very good job of it. 

There are some days where I have lost my patience with Lambchop (one of my dearest friends who happens to be one of the 4 people I find it easiest to love) and days where I have been jealous of her and days where she has hurt me and it took me a few hours to forgive and let go…but despite all that I  am always able to bounce back to that place of love.

I think that is what true friendship is.  When two or more people are able to give and receive grace when they screw it up but are constantly working towards being able to say “We ‘1 Cor 13:4-7’ each other 100%.” 🙂:)

So, I send out a couple of questions today for anyone who reads this post to ponder –

How many people do you 1 Corinthians 13:4-7?

How many people do you think 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 you?

After spending time soaking in this passage I have come to appreciate the heaviness of the word “love”.  It used to be so trivial and I could toss it around everywhere just like I saw everyone else doing.  Now though I choose carefully who I declare my love for.   I don’t tell ANYONE I love them unless I can look at that list and honestly say that I meet at least the majority of those requirements and then I try to work on that ones I don’t.

I challenge you to start doing the same.  Don’t run around telling all your friends and family you don’t actually love them! But do start making changes in your own heart so that you really do. ❤

Hurts So Good

Life is a crazy, beautiful mess isn’t it?  I have been fighting so long, pleading for God to help me make sense of my life.  It doesn’t seem to mesh with any of my previous understandings of how the Bible says things work.  I have tried and tried to do the right things, make the right choices and to seemingly no avail.  My life has still been a mess. 

I would read scriptures like Haggai 1:2-11 and I would think – that sounds exactly like my life!! Everything that the Lord is telling these people is a direct result of their lack of commitment to Him and building His temple sounds like what I am struggling with in my life.  I spent months and months after reading that passage dissecting my life and looking for where I had let God down.  I walked around feeling punished but not understanding why.  If all these things going on in my life were a punishment or at the very least a side effect of my actions I never found out what it was I was doing wrong to deserve it.

Anyone who knows me personally knows I have had a pretty rough time of things the last 3 years. Husband divorced me for someone else, I lost everything I owned except my car which I still have to make payments on, at first I had a job that paid well but not on a regular basis – sometimes I wouldn’t work for a few months in a row but when I did work it was a lot – and then had a job that pays on a regular basis but not enough to really live on.  I moved at least half a dozen times in the span of 2 years before moving in with a Russian atheist that I either really really liked or really really disliked – not sure which, the jury is still out on that one – sometimes I miss her! :-O Place got infested with mold and I had to move back in with my parents, I almost never have enough money to buy the things I need, (just for example I either slept on the floor or a very uncomfy couch for the first 2 years after my divorce until I found a mattress left out in the snow by a neighbor which I then slept on for a year *it’s ok you can be grossed out with me* >.< then when I finally had a little money to save it still took me a couple of months before I could buy a mattress for 160$). Most days I can’t seem to get my head above water and I almost never know what I am going to do next or even what I am supposed to be doing right now!

Through all that, I kept dissecting myself – where is the flaw? where is the fault? where is the deficit in my life that would be causing all of this?  It didn’t help matters when I would come across a passage like the ones found in Matthew where it talks about how if you seek first the kingdom of God, He will give you the things you need.  I would read that and slam my bible shut and cry – “GOD! What am I doing wrong?!? How am I failing you? I want so bad to please You, how can I be failing so miserably? Why does my life hurt so bad when I am trying so hard?!” 

What I wasn’t taking into consideration is that, as cliché as it sounds, there are a lot of people out there waaaay more in need than I am.  Not once in these last 3 years have I been homeless.  Not once did I truly go hungry.  Not once did I run out of gas in my car.  My child always had more than enough clothes, shoes and toys.  I had clothes to wear – who cares what they look like, they covered my skin. Sure I couldn’t always go everywhere I wanted or do everything I wanted but everything I needed was provided for me.  I never even had to put E.v.e. in daycare!  I have a job where I get to take my baby girl with me to work.  How many single moms – or any mom for that matter – can say that?  I was so busy looking at all the things I don’t have that I was ignoring the blessings I do receive.

I have felt so exhausted lately and I think it is from the massive amounts of energy I am spending fighting against how my life is right now.  I keep fighting to make my life “better”, to move past this season of pain and trials not willing to accept that maybe I need all these troubles. 

God is doing a good work in me and I can see it now.  Thinking about it the last few days with a fresh perspective has helped me realize He is working hard to undo the damage of 15 years with out his saving grace plus another 8 years of choosing to run away from Him after knowing His love.  I have a lot of scars and brokenness from my life. There are a lot of lies still swirling around in my mind acting like truths.  There is a lot of hurt and fear gripping my heart.  But like a tender lover, God is tying to gently strip away layer after layer of those hurts.  I have been fighting Him, kicking and screaming! 

I have this image in my head of me clinging tight to my filthy rags looking for any and all holes I need to patch, tares I need mend to make myself more worthy.  I hold tight to all the hurts and lies and fear seeing it as “me” and feeling like it is the best I can ever have or be.  I have to work with what I’ve got and do my best to keep myself held together. I don’t realize that God wants to completely remove those old garments and wash me and wrap me up in a robe of His love and beauty. 

I am so focused on my own lack and so upset about the state that I am in that I don’t realize God is standing beside me trying to help me.   I am so focused on my actions I don’t see His.  

Every time He starts to pull off a lie or a fear that I am clothed in it hurts and I fight against it – my self-focused perspective causes me to think ”I must be doing something, or not doing something, and that is why I am hurting, that is why I am being punished, that is why this enemy is being allowed to harm me” and I fight and struggle to get away from the pain. 

It isn’t that God wants to hurt me.  He is being as gentle and tender as a lover, which is probably why it has taken me three years to even realize He has been working on me.  He doesn’t want to hurt me just like I dont want to hurt my E.v.e. when I have to remove an old band-aid.  I know that scrape needs some fresh air and to dry out and heal but she fights me with every ounce of strength she has.  Keeping that old nasty band-aid feels a lot less painful than it does to have it pulled away. 

The last couple days it has felt like He has wiped the mud out of my eyes.  I suddenly see it is His hands on me.  I can now see His intentions and with that revelation comes peace and submission.  Remove those rags my love.  Take these pains.  Heal those wounds.  It still hurts but a good hurt.  A cleansing hurt.  I can suddenly see the patches of clean fresh skin showing through – here is where I felt unworthy before but now I feel cherished.  Here is where I used to keep my fear of rejection but now it is replaced with His acceptance of me.  This spot used to be infected with self-hatred.  It is still a little tender but well on its way to being healed as well. 

I can now think back and see how each situation I have encountered – although hard, painful, and sometimes scary – has helped re-shape me.  I have come out on the other end stronger and bolder and trusting the Lord even more than before.  For example, I now know that no matter what God is going to provide at least what I need to survive and sometimes bless me with even more – I don’t have to do anything other than trust Him and He will come through for me.

I know it is probably going to take my whole life – however long that is – but I now understand that if I lay still and let the Lord do His work on me, if I let Him lead me through what ever trials and heartaches it takes for me to understand His truths, one day I will have all these filthy rags removed and I will be clean and pure and clothed in His white robe.

Love, thank you for letting me understand.  Thank you for letting me see that it is Your healing hands that are upon me.  Thank you for all the work you have already accomplished within me and all the work you still have planned for me.  Thank you for clearing out the old lies and replacing them with the truth.  Thank you for your tenderness. Help me to submit to your work and go peacefully about my life.  Help me to remember that your plans are to prosper me not to harm me, even when those plans hurt a little or seem hard.  Clean me up love. I’m yours.

~Nichole

Tried and True

I read the words in my Bible and I know they are true.  I have seen them come alive in my life and change it in such a dramatic way that it can not be denied. 

 
Lightning is a highly visible form of energy t...
Mwahahaha! via Wikipedia

Like, for example, when I was going through my divorce.  I was feeling so hurt and betrayed .  All I wanted at first was for God to just zap him! 

 I knew God could do it. I had read about when Elijah was on the hill and God had poured out fire on his enemies – I wanted some of that!  My ex had left me for another woman, ripped out my heart and set fire to all my hopes and dreams about our future, not to mention abandoned our unborn child, the least God to do was let a stray lightning bolt melt his car, right?  Then in the midst of all this hurting and wanting revenge I stumbled upon Matthew 5:38-48 which reads:

38 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’

39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.

40 If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too.

41 If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.

42Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.

   43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.

44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.

47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.

48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

At first I thought, “That is too heavy of a thing you are asking for Lord.  How can I love someone who doesn’t love me? How can I give to someone who took everything I had to offer and declared it not enough?  How can I bless someone who has wounded me and continues to hurt me so deeply?” And the answer I heard in reply changed my whole heart.

“What was asked of Jesus was a heavy thing.  He loves you when you don’t love Him.  He continues to give to you when you are ungrateful and disregard His gifts.  He blesses you who wounded Him and continue to hurt Him by not believing.”

It is like something broke inside me – but in a good way! – and all that anger and resentment melted away.  I still had to work on being a little bitter for a while but I was no longer praying for lightening.  I was praying for him to receive peace, healing, love and blessings.  My time with God went from being venting sessions full of anger and fear to times of rest and healing for my own soul. 

Thanks to the living word of God I was able to do in 9 months what it usually takes people years to accomplish – fully forgive, love, bless and release my ex husband from all the wrong he had done to me.  It had nothing to do with me – Gods word in my heart is what made the change.  I was not strong enough to forgive.  I was not strong enough to love someone who hated me.  I was not strong enough to do any of it but Jesus in me was.  

~Nichole

Psalm 23

 I love this Psalm because it really does an amazing job of telling us what we can expect from a relationship with the Lord.  Just to give some more depth to this psalm I looked up a little about the history behind it. 

Lamb, Sheep

Looking cute wont make them not eat you =X - via Wikipedia

Back in the days when this psalm was written shepherds were everywhere.  Keeping sheep and cattle was a way of life and most people either were a shepherd, knew a shepherd, or had a shepherd that worked for them. 

The jobs of the shepherd were very simple.  First, he had to lead the sheep to a safe place to rest, eat and drink.  Then he had to watch over them and protect them from harm.  Sheep are rather stupid creatures and will wonder off and get lost and die very easily. With no natural defenses of their own they can not protect themselves against the many creatures that would love to eat them for dinner.  The one thing they did have going for them was that no matter how many shepherds were around calling for their sheep to come to them the sheep could recognize the sound of their shepherd and would only go to him.  Sheep did not follow after any shepherd other than their own. 

All the shepherd would bring with him was a shepherds staff and maybe a sling shot and some stones (and obviously some food and drink and maybe a musical instrument to pass the time).  The staff was used in a gentle loving way to help direct the sheep with the hooked end around their neck to turn and guide them as well as gentle taps on the rump to get them moving.  However, it was also used as a deadly weapon to deter potential threats. They had to kill or chase off lions, wild dogs and other dangerous animals on a regular basis! 

Up close and personal

This isn't even an adult lion! - via Flickr

 The fact that often times the family shepherd was a boy sometimes as young as 8 years old makes that even more amazing!! I don’t know a single 8-year-old today that could face a wild lion or even wild dog and not wet himself let alone chase it off or kill it.  Matter of fact I don’t know if I know a grown man who could, honestly, face a hungry, wild animal with nothing but a stick and sling shot to protect him and come out of it unscathed in the end.

So with all that in mind lets take a look at Psalm 23:

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (I am His sheep, I know His voice, I will follow Him, He will take care of me.)

   2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  (He brings me to places of rest and feeds me, He refreshes me with His Living Water (The Bible))

   3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  (When I am acting like a stupid sheep and wondering off He will turn me around and bring me back to Him, He wants me to walk after Him and be a good example to the rest of His flock)

   4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (No matter what terrible thing I am facing I know I can trust God to protect me and guide me out of trouble.  If a little 8-year-old boy can kill a lion to protect his sheep how much more can God protect me!)

   5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  (I can be so sure of Gods protection that even if I am in the midst of my enemies or in the middle of a difficult time in my life I can rest with him.  God marks me as His own and not only will he give me what I need, protect me, and guide me but He will also give me above and beyond what I need)

   6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.  (This goodness and mercy only comes from following after the Lord. Once we are His we will be His forever.)

 God has so much to offer us.  He wants to protect us, comfort us, provide for us and so much more.  He wants to guide us down the right path and help us live righteously.  When we allow Him to do this work in our lives it does two amazing things.

 

Path

 

First, as we listen to God’s direction he leads us away from harmful situations. We will avoid untold amounts of pain and heart ache.  And if we should ever fall into a hard situation (which we all do) He is there to guide us out of it and help us grow and learn from it.  His word says that he works all things out for the good of those who love him.  

Secondly, as He guides us He is training us to be more like Him.  When we listen and follow His will we are able to be a good witness for Him.  We bear his image and if we have accepted Him as our savior we also bare His name (we are adopted into the family) so the way we act and carry ourselves reflects on Him. 

This is why it is so important to live our lives in a way that would honor Him.  We are His representatives here on earth and with everything that He does and did for us He deserves the very best from us.  Not because He will send us away if we let Him down or fail in some way but because we love Him and want to show others the power of His blessings in our lives. 

When we walk away and try to do it on our own and in our own strength is when we get into trouble.  We are sheep – we can’t protect ourselves from the troubles of this world and when out on our own we will quickly be overcome by them.  We don’t have to live a life full of strife, pain, sorrow, and worry.  If we are following our Shepherd and sticking close to Him, He will take all those things away.  We may still face hard times but we will face them knowing that God is on our side and He is the one carrying the big stick – we get to just sit back and take comfort in Him fighting our battles for us.

Is there a such thing as a good habit??

As promised, I got together my notes from Maria about our discussion the other day on habits.  I have been so excited about writing this post that I have been thinking about it all day!!

As we talked on the phone Tuesday Maria made some very shocking statements.  She told me about her dream (which I am not going to share – sorry!) and then about how when she woke up she felt pressed to pray.  She began rebuking things that she and I had never considered before to be a demon – habits! As she was praying this she thought to herself – is there even a demon of habits and if so does that imply that all habits are in fact bad? Even the ones we would consider good?  If they are all bad, what is it about the nature of habits that make them so?

The more she talked the more my wheels started spinning and coming up with examples of “good” habits:

Dental floss

Floss Daily - via Wikipedia

 

 
  • reading my bible every day
  • flossing my teeth
  • blessing my food
  • feeding my child on a regular basis
  • changing my undies every day
  • I could go on and on

This strange defensive feeling rose up inside me – “wait wait wait – I have good habits you can’t tell me my good habits are actually bad!”

The conclusion Maria came to was that when you form a habit it takes the choice out of the action.  You are doing that habit as an automatic response.  It takes the love, passion, and desire out. 

At first, you are excited “I am going to read my Bible every night!”  You hop in bed, snuggle into the quilt, grab your Bible and soak up some God Time.  But eventually, a habit is formed and suddenly one night you climb into bed and your bible is in your hand with out you even thinking about reaching for it.  You skim through the next chapter on you bible reading guide and by the time you fall asleep you don’t remember a thing you’ve just read.  Matter of fact the poor Bible is still on your bed getting scrunched up by your pillows! Okay, maybe that last part is just me, but none the less, I think you see where I am going with this. 

As you’re on auto pilot skimming over your nightly read, there sits “bad habit” on your shoulder nodding away “that’s right, you keep reading those scriptures, you better read those scriptures every night!  who cares if you’re too tired.  who cares if you’re not going to remember it.  you better read.”  Then suddenly you have guilt popping up right there with bad habit sayin, ” if you don’t read then you’re letting god down” and now you’re in a real mess because here comes mr.legalist saying, “you haven’t even cracked open your bible all day, you have to read now!”  You are so tired and not even really catching any of the words you are reading so you decide to stop before you finish your chapter and now here comes condemnation, “you never spend time with god. you are so lazy. you are such a looser you can’t even read one chapter. god is mad at you for not finishing that chapter.” Yikes!

 
An explosion

Yea that's about what it felt like - via Wikipedia

My mind just about exploded at this point.  I am suddenly realizing the depth of this issue!  OF COURSE there would be a demon of habit!  If the devil can’t keep you out of church then he will make it as automatic and redundant as possible.  Then once the habit is firmly in place he will use guilt, shame and condemnation against you to the point where you are no longer skipping off to church full of sunshine and joy but instead sulking up the steps dreading the next 2 boring hours but feeling like you HAVE to be there.  Going to church on Sunday is just what you do.  Sunday from 9am to 12pm is the slot of time reserved for church and secret naps while you sit hidden behind the lady with the big hair. You are going because you always go, not because you are expecting and wanting to encounter God and encourage your brothers and sisters.

 

In the middle of this mind explosion I arrived (safely) at home and just had to share all this perspective with my Sweet Dad.  He, in his ‘hmmmm..I don’t know about this’ voice, says, “Interesting…I’m going to have to look into that.”  Which led us on a very spirited Bible search and discussion which I am going to spare you from and just get to the point already!!

We decided that there really is NO such thing as a good habit!  There is only one reference to what might be considered a good habit in the bible, which I will post and discuss under the “daily dose” topic, and aside from that all the rest of the habits are bad in the Lords eyes! 

In both the old and the new testament there are examples of God chastising the Israelites and Pharisees about their tendencies to perform good Godly actions out of habit rather than out of a heart of love and service to the Lord. They do them to be seen of man – because they are supposed to do them – not because they want to connect with God and please Him.

“Wait, Wait, Wait!” My dad says, “You can’t just throw out a blanket statement though and declare alllll habits as bad ones! What about changing your underwear?” (Okay, so his real example was making the bed every day but underwear is just funnier;)) 

Love ? I love love love you.

God wants our heart not just our time - via Flickr

From there we decided that there has to be a distinction between actions that you do that require no heart: brushing your teeth, going to the gym, making the bed, and actions that do require heart: praying, reading your Bible, kissing your honey when they come home from work.  If the action is supposed to come from your heart but comes from a place of automatic reaction it has lost its ‘goodness’. 

God isn’t looking for people to be in the habit of reading His word or going to church.  God is looking for people who love Him and long to spend time with Him.  He is looking for people who talk to Him/pray with fire and passion, people who treasure His word and plant it in their hearts so they never lose it, because those are the ones who can go out and impact the world of lost, hurting people. 

Maria pointed out as she read my rough draft of this post that even heartless actions can’t really be considered a ‘good habit’ so much as just self-discipline.  The more self-discipline you have the more likely you are going to brush your teeth every day or walk the dog.  This might really seem like splitting hairs at this point but I think she is on to something.  🙂