The voice within: what it says about who you are…

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve got some pretty bad & then some pretty good cds playing constantly in my head about who I am. They are my voices within.  Most of the time, if I just lay back & listen to them they are not Gospel-driven cds.  But, if I make a determined, active decision to choose the right cds, I find I am neither building myself up or tearing myself down, but resting in who God says I am in Jesus Christ.  What freedom!!

voices within

voices within

True humility is thinking about myself according to how God thinks of me—-not less or more based on my performance.

Who God says I am:  It’s a wonderful list…just read one a day and chew on it!!  Wow, how powerful!!

(taken from a list written by Kenneth Boa)Bible

I am a child of God.

But to all who have received him–those who believe in his name–he has given the right to become God’s children … (John 1:12).

• I am not condemned by God.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

• I am a new creature in Christ.

So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away–look, what is new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

• I have become the righteousness of God in Christ.

God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

• I have been set free in Christ.

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).

• I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

• I am chosen, holy, and blameless before God.

For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love (Ephesians 1:4).

• I am seated in the heavenly places with Christ.

… And he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus … (Ephesians 2:6).

• I am God’s workmanship created to produce good works.

For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them (Ephesians 2:10).

• The peace of God guards my heart and mind.

And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

• God supplies all my needs.

And my God will supply your every need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

• My life is hidden with Christ in God.

… For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).

 

Gift yourself….

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It took hours for me to prepare for this money-making venture.  And some considerable emotional out-put!  I scanned everything again and again…thinking through life without each item.  Painful.  However, I was pretty proud of myself when I filled my trunk with potential re-sales…consignment clothes.  It took me three trips to carry all the clothes into the shop.  My blood was pumping at the idea of how much money I might make!  After the third trip, I proudly stood before the store clerk who was completing her study of my goods.  I felt a drum-beat in my heart as she looked up to tell me how wonderful my clothes were.  Then she looked me in the eyes and said, “I’m sorry we can’t take any of this.”  My first reaction was humiliation, but then I thought, “But wait, I just wore some of this last week!!”  Thankfully, I didn’t say that out loud to heighten my humiliation!

This morning that memory made me laugh out loud.  It was a gift.consignment

Give yourself a gift today.

It’s a gift only YOU can give yourself.

Laugh at yourself!  Just laugh.

What are you looking at?…

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Have you ever noticed a group of people looking up and it made you look up too, to see what they were seeing?  As Christians, we can be that group of people looking up, instead of at other people, places, & things.

Psalm 121 says, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where will my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”

How powerful!  The Psalmist says there is only one place he can receive true help–from the Lord.  Then, he describes to us the power of the help, “Maker of heaven and earth.”

Do you have a problem?  Are you in despair?  Is your heart hurting? Are you beginning a new job?  Looking for a job?  Do you have a broken relationship?  Are you longing to walk with God daily?  Are you a weary mom?

Our tendency is to look to ourselves or others for help.  Or sometimes to our idols, our “functional gods.”  Today, choose to look to the mountains, look unto the Lord.  Set your eyes on Jesus.  Talk to Him about every need, struggle, failure, hope and desire.

Mark 5:1-20 tells of a shackled man who was filled with many demons.  Verse 6 says, “And SEEING JESUS, from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him.”  Jesus sent the demons out of the man and made him whole again.  This man went to his neighbors and told them about Jesus and they MARVELED.  All because he saw Jesus.

As you SEE JESUS, you will be changed.  Those around you will begin to look up too and ask, “What are you looking at?”  And at the truth, they too will marvel.

Hex on you…

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This morning as I was reading from The Message, by Eugene Petterson, I came to Galatians 3 and loved how Petterson penned the exhortation of verses 1-4:

You crazy Galatians!  Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses?  Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives.  His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.  Let me put this question to you:  How did your new life begin?  Was it by working your heads off to please God?  Or was it by responding to God’s message to you?  Are you going to continue this craziness?  For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God.  If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it?  Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing?  It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!”

Ya know, sometimes we just need someone to say to us, “You crazy Jill!  Did someone put a hex on you?????

Uh, yep, yep they did….the flesh, the world, & Satan are my personal “hexers.”  They are yours too.

So, the next time you feel guilty and want to beat yourself up when you:

-yell at your 2 year old b/c she spread her diaper contents everywhere,

-fight with your husband over finances,

-don’t have a quiet time, hold on to your time selfishly, look for comfort in all the wrong places, mentally unkindly judge another, long for others’ respect, admiration or recognition,

Use Galatians 3:1 to startle you back into God’s reality of “It is finished!”  Say out loud, “You crazy girl!!  Don’t walk in the path of those lies.  Run to Him: the author AND perfecter (finisher) of our faith!! Go and live in your forgiveness and love that was bought at such an enormous price and in such a unimaginable way…God on a cross.

Be careful what you pray for….

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My dad was my hero.

He was an accountant–I don’t really “get” accountants.  In his early years, he had a short temper–few things make me madder.  He wasn’t romantic at all and seldom treated my mom like the treasure she is–such a treasure.  He messed up.  Still, besides my husband, there is no man I admire more.

He was humble.  He cried at every thought of Jesus.  He knew He had been redeemed at a great cost.  I prayed I would “get it” like he did.  I was young, zealous, eager and had no idea what I was praying for.

Sitting beside daddy at church when we sang the great old hymn, I Surrender All, he cried.  Every time.  I sang it with pride, because I knew I would surrender all for Jesus.  (Of course at 12, I had a diary and a dog, so the cost was not crippling).  Daddy had family.  Daddy was Abraham.  He had great loves and when he sang “I Surrender All,” he knew he couldn’t, not on his own, ever, surrender it all, or even part of it.

I want to take my prayer back.  It’s too late.  My eternal father has heard it and even if never uttered, He knows He has put it in my heart.  I didn’t know it would cost my reputation, security, comfort, happiness (instead of joy).  I didn’t know.  I prayed to “get the gospel like my Daddy.”

I think I finally am.  I wish he was here so I could tell him.  But, I think he knows.  I think He and Jesus smile and laugh at my lessons and my future.

Be careful what you pray for….you might just get it.

Grace and panic…

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 Grace generates panic because it wrestles both control and glory out of our hands.–Tullian Tchividjian

A few years ago I read the book, Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels, by Tullian Tchividjian, Billy Graham’s grandson and pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.  I bought it because I longed for insight and hope for a son who, at the time, was rebelling in certain areas.  As I began reading however, I thought, “Oh, bummer.”  I realized I am the rebel.  Don’t you hate it when that happens….Like when you sit in church listening to the sermon thinking how great it is that your husband, son, daughter, or friend is there because that person REALLY needs to hear it, and then the preacher gives a specific example that is straight out of your diary.  Immediately, all the words and truth are  finally  & unequivocally determined to be for you.  Yeah, bummer.

We see our sins as stars in the sky, definitely present, but not really clear without the use of a telescope (and who has a telescope these days???), and certainly non-intrusive in everyday life.  We see others’ sin under the microscope of judgement, ourselves as the God-type scientist.  Things are always upside down, inside out, confused and backwards without the truth of God’s word inserted in every thought.

Tchividjian says, “I’ll never forget hearing Dr. Doug Kelly (one of my theology professors in seminary) saying in class, ‘If you want to make people mad, preach law. If you want to make them really, really mad preach grace.’ I didn’t know what he meant then. But I do now.  The law offends us because it tells us what to do–and we hate anyone telling us what to do, most of the time. But, ironically, grace offends us even more because it tells us that there’s nothing we can do, that everything has already been done. And if there’s something we hate more than being told what to do, it’s being told that we can’t do anything, that we can’t earn anything–that we’re helpless, weak, and needy.”

Cooperating with grace makes sin a stepping stone. Do we sin more for more stepping stones???  NO.  Do we sin?  YES.  Every day?  Yes.  Do our flesh, the world, and the powers of evil want to use that against us?  Do they want to emphasize law when grace seems too insufficient for this particular sin/failure/loss/struggle?  Yes.  

God’s grace is never insufficient, no matter how great our sin.  (2 Cor. 12:9)

Are you a rebel?  Do you occasionally rebel?  Or do you love a rebel?  Rebellion brings fear, hate, condemnation, guilt, insecurity, confusion, selfishness & hopelessness.  How incredible that in Romans 7:24, as Paul writes about his inability to be sin-free (his tendency to be a rebel), he does not ask “What?,” but he asks, “WHO?,” “Who will set me free from the body of this death.”  Who, indeed.  The God of all grace, the God who makes grace abound,  He whose grace is sufficient, the Father who hung His son on the cross because of grace.

–William R. Newell (1868-1956) is remembered fondly as a pastor, evangelist, Bible teacher, author, & conference speaker. And he is remembered as a humble man who recognized that it was only by the grace of God that he was able to accomplish so many good things. William was a very troubled and wayward teenager. In desperation, his father wrote to the president of Moody Bible Institute, and begged him to allow the enrollment of his son. Since the college was open to serious Bible students, the president was at first resistant, but finally agreed that Newell would be enrolled with the proviso that he would meet with the president daily, and would take his studies seriously.  A father’s prayers, a college president’s commitment, and the three steps forward, two steps back efforts of Newell (I can relate…can you?)  eventually resulted in the young man not only graduating, but several years later returning to Moody Bible Institute as a teacher.  Eventually he penned this as part of his testimony, in the hymn, At Calvary:

“Oh the love that drew salvation’s plan; Oh the grace that brought it down to man; Oh the mighty gulf that God did span…

At Calvary.”

At Calvary the ground is level.  I thought I was reading that book for my rebellious son (the one I viewed through a microscope) and God showed me it was for His rebellious daughter ( me, who thought my sins were so far removed I needed a telescope…& like I said, who has one of those???).  I thought I would teach and instruct; Instead I was taught and was instructed.  Today, when guilt overcomes you or when you find yourself wielding judgement, run to Jesus, run to grace.  Find freedom & find a new amazing desire to please God.  Do not ignore or be offended by grace.  Repent and find it’s power.  Romans 7-8

 

Coming Soon…beautiful things God is teaching me through Psalm 51….Real Faith, true confession without shame, God’s outlook instead of our in-look, the power of God in a prisoner’s life, Freedom,Freedom, Freedom (for those who like things in 3’s-B fam), utter depravity-utmost hope…come along with me and learn of Him!  It’s so amazing…

To the women of Intown: Thank you!

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Insecure, unsure, I came to you

Wondering why you’d thought of me;

Still not sure of what I was going to do

But, there in that small room, I felt free.

 

Through you His love was all around

I was to speak about that love;

That we’ve all been lost, and we’ve been found

I knew it would only happen if it came from above.

 

You told stories that spoke of pain,

Faithfully, you told us when life was dim;

You told of rainbows after the rain–

Saying the rainbow AND the rain were from Him.

 

We were taken from our struggles

By the laughter you brought,

For a while forgetting our troubles

In the light of happy thoughts.

 

All your voices in song–

I thought how it blessed God.

So beautiful and strong,

We gave Him applause.

 

Again, He whispered, “It’s not about you,

Just  trust Me as they have done;

I can speak through a mule,

Just open your mouth & talk about my Son.”

 

Thank you, Intown girls, my friends,

for inviting me into your love,

Reminding me His faithfulness never ends–

That all good things come from above.

6 minutes of Praise…BE BLESSED!!:

  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=RornLHjfma8

The light that shines….

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It was dark the morning the doctor called in January, 2001.  I was 38, had 6 sons–ages 9 down to 1.5, home schooled, and my husband had been in his new job, in our new city, only 2 years.  Life was busy.  But that morning life stopped.

” sad to tell you.” “unusual cells.”  “mammogram, ultra sound, biopsy.”  the boys clattered around me, breakfast buzzing, diapers changing, charles putting on his tie.  i was in another time zone, inwardly screaming to be released back into the chaos of the day.

the destruction of my body and spirit has left deep scars even to this day.  i have never felt that i have been restored to the person before the scars and i know that is part of the plan.  scarred people, aware of the deep pain of this world, often see the scars of others more quickly and possibly bend the knee more readily.

Today I came across this story.  Another “Jill’s” story and how she is using it for good.  She calls her video “The light that shines,” and as I thought about that I thought of the verse in John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”  Today, if there is a shadow of darkness in your life, remember that it can never, ever extinguish the light of Christ in your soul.  If you feel fearful, different, ashamed, tired, imperfect, unimportant, unappreciated…turn to the light.  Do not walk any deeper into that cave.  Turn to the light.

This is the testimony of one lady who is shining light through and out of her darkness.  One thing I love is that this woman’s friend speaks not just of the struggles of the scars of breast cancer, but also about the scars of being “different” as a woman in any way. Watch the video:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/01/jill-brzezinski-conley-sue-bryce-breast-cancer-photos_n_2599843.html?ir=Women

These 4 walls speak of life…

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It’s late.  Everyone is in bed and the house is so quiet.  College boys left today to return to university, I cried as usual,  and babies and children I cared for today are long past bedtime.  Their moms, probably just now turning out the lights, exhausted.

And I sit.  I listen.  I look.  And it hits me:  What life God has let live between the 4 walls of my existence from my birth!  Amazed, my mind goes back and rolls forward….

2 parents who unceasingly loved God and tried to live for Him. (game-changer, as they would say these days)

5 cousins come to live with us when I was barely 2.  Most of them attribute their faith to my parents.  One night, Carl, an older cousin, joining the army, got to use my white canopy bed when he was at home.  I was to sleep on a cot in another room.  They encouraged me to go find out if Carl was an inny or an outy…a survey I had embarked upon that night.  We all were mostly innys.  Carl would not be the tie breaker, but I had to know.  I crept into my room, which he occupied, I slowly and quietly pulled the covers down to check, and he roared up like a monster, frightening me to death and sending me running & screaming to my mother’s and father’s room down the hall.  I hated it.  Until, not so long afterward, Carl joined the army voluntarily.  Viet Nam.  Some kind of bomb.  Hospital, but finally the ultimate loss.  I was either 6 or 7, but this memory is etched so deeply…crying, senselessness, phrases at the front door, loud 21 guns, flag, food when no one was hungry, crying…and our cat ate his bird….it’s all blurred, but for me still it’s all disastrous.

Yet, Carl had been so alive in those walls.  Even as a grown young man in a white canopied bed, he had so much life that he was ready to tease me by scaring me when I went to check his belly button.

I guess that’s when the lesson began.  Live life in these walls until you ain’t got it no more.  And I did.  All out.  Even as a young pre-teen and teen, I lived it for God.

Then college and graduate school and staff on a ministry, and there was always someone who seemed to come alive in the dwelling God had granted me…a small dorm room, a larger dorm room, a duplex…

Then babies, lots of baby boys.  As they came, the joy and the struggle tangled up like roots of an old tree grew.  Yet, no one would doubt there was life in our 4 walls.  3 babies in an upstairs apartment with no washer or drier, but we saw God…through our families, through our church, through our neighbors.  Groceries at the door, checks in the mail, meals delivered– God kept the life living in those four walls.

We moved, and moved again.  We ached with the loss of friends. Our Papa died.  The mama (me) of our clan struggled.  And struggled some more.  The dad (Charles) stayed strong and true to God even as the first day.  Life thrived in the 4 walls.  In spite of my lack, my struggles, my sin.  Life thrived…maybe with more awareness of God’s grace because of my insufficiency. It was His grace that kept us all.

More life comes…so many guys, buddies, sweet friends, to play x-box, shoot arrows, make explosions, eat our food, just hang out, bless us, bless us, bless us.  The life in the walls continues to be vibrant…explosive…joyful.  (we have many to thank for that).

Girls laughter.  It sounds strange in our home.  We comment on it, that we kind of like it.  Girls talking…wow.  Just wow.  A whole new dimension has entered the walls and we love it and we pray.

And now children.  Not grandchildren, as I had once imagined, but children of the covenant fill the space of these walls and I continue to be amazed.  As I keep others’ kids I am so blessed.  I write this with the most sincerity and honesty.  I hear these little ones ask for more and I think “God make them want more of You.”  They repeat my words, even “bilabong,” and I am reminded I am an example.  A brother says to his sister, “Here, you can have some of mine,”  and a firstborn says, “Excuse me, ms jill,” all the little ones want to pat the feet of the baby.  It makes me know life thrives…right here in the 4 old dusty walls.

I realize tonight as I sit in the silence of these walls, I have been most blessed of all.  For life has always flourished in these 4 walls, despite our lack, despite our uncertainty, despite our sin, despite anything I can name, He has been faithful…HE…HE has made life flourish in these four walls.

The fine print…

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Charles and I can’t help but laugh.  Every time an advertisement comes on the tv about some medicine that will help one problem, and then goes on to describe the 20 other problems it may cause, we laugh.  Of course, most everyone probably knows the most famous ad….It claims to help with marital relations, but  it may cause “sudden vision loss, hearing loss, chest pains, shortness of breath….”  So, a man might be blind, deaf, having a heart attack and lack oxygen, but he can accomplish one thing (that is if he can find his woman and get to her before he dies!)  There are many other commercials with the same “fine print.”

One day, as I heard one of these commercials, I thought, “What if we could hear the truths about sin like that?”  Satan would come to us and say, “Do this and you can do one thing….Cheat and you’ll have more money, lie and you can keep your pride, drink and you can relax, defend yourself and you’ll be protected, don’t try to work things out with your spouse or you will lose your rights.”  In the moment, we may take it hook, line and sinker.  But as we continue in Satan’s plan we begin to experience the fine print.  We too, become blind to truth, fearful of being found out, our hearing for God’s whispers diminishes, our marriage seems to be less and less redeemable, our health fails.  The list is almost inexhaustible of the horrible plans Satan has for us.  He only comes to steal, kill, and destroy.

On the other hand, what Jesus offers may often seem less desirable right at first. “Die to yourself, let go of your pride, tell the truth and trust, give control over to Him and see what He does.”  Yet, when we read His fine print we find grace, abundant life, everlasting life, joy, hope and unconditional love.  

Life is a process, moment by moment we have to choose which “pill” we are going to swallow.  Will it be for short term comfort or control, trying to escape pain, but ultimately leading to it?  Or will it be the pill that may be toughest to swallow at the moment, but most healing and life-giving in the long run?

God’s way will include some valleys, struggles and pain, but it is the way to know true, lasting love, as described in one of my favorite books, The Velveteen Rabbit:

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit. 

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ 

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ 

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” 


― Margery WilliamsThe Velveteen Rabbit