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“Perhaps I have been struggling with an illusory idea of freedom, as if I were not, to a great extent, bound by my own history, the history of Gethsemani, of the country where I have become a citizen, etc. There are only certain very limited and special avenues of freedom open to me now, and it is useless to fight my way along where no issue is possible. This is true not only exteriorly but even interiorly and spiritually. To say that God can open up new ways is perhaps, among other things, to admit only He has provided ways for me of which I cannot yet be aware, since I am too intent upon imaginary and experimental ones.” Thomas Merton –

SunStandStill

How do we know we’re on the right path? {Trust}

How do we know we’re trusting the right things? {Look}

How do we know we’re looking at the you?

{Open your eyes to see, I’m holding you close to me.

My grace overflows you; my love empowers you.

To hold true to the journey,

Simply Be.}

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Processing this passage of Galatians 3.23- 4.20 I love how Paul contrasts child and slave. The heart of freedom though sonship. Emphasizing that we are no longer slaves, but heirs to the promise is such a beautiful image: That we are no longer bound by laws, pain, and ways of this life but free to dance, sing, and be who we are. To live in the grace that we have with Jesus’ spirit inside of us calling out, “Abba Father!” Wow! The magnitude of that reality, I doubt I’ll ever be able to fully embrace.

It’s been many long seasons of lessons that have allow me to begin to know what it’s like to dance. A few years back during an amazing training I was in, they walked us through an exercise of laying down all that was holding us back. Through that exercise I began to see an image of a little girl.

loneliness-and-pain--large-msg-114668569582-2Like a movie when they focus in on a specific person, I saw an image in the distance that quickly was right before my eyes: a little girl hunched over, laying on a boulder twice her size. She was about 8 years old, light brown hair hanging past her shoulders, stringy and knotted with girt and oil. Dirt covered her body like an extra layer of clothing. Her dress thin and ragged, torn from years of neglect. The light blue flower pattered faded into the background, barely visible to those who had never seen the dress in it’s original state. As I looked closer something caught my eye. A large shackle was hanging around her left ankle chaining her to the boulder in which she lay. It was at that point that I realized this boulder, so cold and hard, had been her bed, the place she sat by day and slept by night.
Looking up, our eyes met. Her sweet brown eyes, moist with tears, quickly averted my gaze and became fixated upon her small clutched hand. My heart leapt and broke when I saw what was in her tiny fist. Poking out from either side were the ends of a key. I gently placed my hands beneath hers, cradling them, willing her small fist to open, to let me free her from this chain, this boulder, she had called her home. Without words we spoke.

“Why are you still here?”

“I’m afraid…”

“Open your hand and let me set you free.”

“I can’t. I’ve tried. My hand won’t open.”

“Then let me do it for you.”

And with that little bit of trust, her small hand opened. Placing the key into the lock the shackle fell off. The little girl looked at me, tears streaming down her face, unsure of what to do next.

“I’m still afraid.”

“It’s because that is all you have known. It’s where you’ve made your bed, and where you’ve placed your head each night. It’s time for you to move on.”

“I don’t think my legs can walk.”

“Just try, you’ll find you are much stronger than you think you are. Trust Him you aren’t in this alone.”

Lifting her head, she saw a trail leading out of the darkness she had been living in. With unsteady arms and wobbly legs she lowered herself onto the dirt path. Slowly at first, calculating each step, she moved forward. Glancing back at me, and at her old home one last time, she continued on. The further down the path she went the faster her pace became, until she was eventually running, arms open wide.
freedomUntil finally there she was in a field of wildflowers, dancing in the wind. Something unexplainable happened to this little girl along that path. She was radiant. The dirt that had covered her before had been replaced with the glow of innocence, the sun reflecting off her being. As she spun in circles letting her small hands run along the tops of the wildflowers you could see her winsome hair flowing in the breeze. The vibrant blue flowers on her dress weaving in and out adding their own beauty to the field. Our eyes met as she twirled around, pausing ever so briefly, her smile catching mine, knowing she never had to live on her boulder of fear again.

It was with this image, that I began to see what trust, freedom, and grace were to me.

Thank you Daddy God that we don’t have to live chained to the law… to fear… to doubt. Thank you that you set us free from whatever we are bound to. Thank you that we can dance in the field of your grace, hope, and love knowing it is in you that we can truly live.

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My Journey in Trust

According to Webster trust is defined as:

1. a : assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something

b : one in which confidence is placed

2. a : dependence on something future or contingent : hope

I was once told that faith in God is simply active trust. Trusting that God is who he says he is, trusting that I am who God says I am, trusting that God has done what He said he has done, trusting that I can simply rest in Him.

My journey with trust began about a year and a half ago. Up until that point I often found myself telling my children when asked why they couldn’t do something, “It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s that I don’t trust anyone.”

Broken-TrustI know where it all began: Growing up we moved nine times between the ages of three and eight, going to seven different schools by the end of my third grade year a total of ten by the time I graduated high school. The longest I spent at any one place were my three consecutive years in high school. I quickly learned that trust was something that wasn’t extended to people, places, or circumstances, because they would soon be out of my life. Opening my heart to risk being hurt, to me was like learning not to put my hand on a hot stove. It only took a couple of times before I resolved to never do that again.

So when I opened my heart to God, though it was very real, sincere, and honest, it wasn’t complete. I trusted him enough to get me to heaven, to take care of everything on the other side of eternity. Yet, when it came to things down here, where life had proven itself to be dark, I chose to take care of things on my own. Of course I would ask him to be part of things, it helped hide the blind spots of fear that so gripped my heart. Fear of: What if God isn’t who he says he is? What if I’m not who he says I am? What if in the end, he’s going to see what I see inside of me, the parts I haven’t been able to get rid of, and he too will leave? What if I am truly worthless? Without even knowing it, I had created a God to fit me. To fit what I thought I wanted, and one that fit the lies that I chose to hold onto.

395491_329223333849685_223540981_nI had gotten myself so convinced that the only place God could really hold me was in eternity. I began to fixate on it. Thinking of ways I could go be with him. I know a ‘good Christian’ isn’t supposed to think of suicide. And I did. For months I would think of ways I could make it look like an accident: How could I make sure my girls aren’t the ones to find me? What’s the quickest way to get me out of here? What can I do now to ensure everything is in place for when I leave? The questions went on…. it was beginning to consume me….

Thankfully I didn’t have the answers to all of those questions, and thankfully, God isn’t just in eternity. In the fall of 2011 I began a class called Aphesis: Immersion Experience. Where I began immersing myself in truth: truth of who God is, truth of who I am, truth of his intimate involvement in my life. I began reading books of the Bible as a whole, starting with 1Peter. A book full of hope and truth, the reality that life is hard, and that doesn’t change who God is. It was on that journey that everything changed for me. I began to release the chains of fear and law that were suffocating my soul. I began to step out and trust that God wasn’t going to leave me. That he was able to hold me here on this side of eternity. I began to simply sit, let him tell me truth, let him breath life into my soul.

When I read this passage (Galatians 3.1-14) I couldn’t help but relate to where the churches in Galatia were. To trust God enough to get things started, to trust him for what felt comfortable in trusting, and then relying myself for the rest of it. The verse, ‘for all who rely on works of the lay are under a curse.’ rang so true. That’s exactly where I was at, relying on myself, relying on my works, relying on my hope… cursed with a life of living in circles, always jumping, never able to fly, thinking it was in my power that I could change thing, I could be control, I could be safe.

In trusting that Jesus died to take all my guilt, all my shame, all my hurt, and all my pain, in holding onto hope in the truth, that is where my heart learned to be light, and I was able to learn to trust… one step at a time.

‘No distrust made him waiver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.’ Romans 4.10-21

Thank you God for your truth. Thank you for your hope. Thank you that you are bigger than anything that binds us in slavery, in hurt, in pain, in despair. Thank you that you took our guilt and shame, and that we can live in a peace of trust in you. Continue to remind me of your hope, continue to show me your truth. When I begin to fear, let me hear your sweet whispers in my ear…Jumping woman at sunset

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There are some passages that bring freedom to me more than others. Some books that stand out to me as places my soul wants to anchor down in and lay for awhile. Galatians has been that book, largely because of the truth in these verses Galatians 2.11-21.

freedom1You see for years I tried to earn my salvation, my acceptance with God. Believing that I was innately flawed and broken at my core kept me in a cycle of self-defeating behaviors. (Read more of that story here…) Before I new Christ those behaviors were socially unacceptable, trying to drown out the voice of inadequacy in my heart with anything that would satisfy my flesh at that moment. After I realized there was a Daddy God who loved me and wanted me as his own I continued to fight the inadequacy, I continued in beating myself up as often as possible, this time with all the things that gave me acceptance in the eyes of the ‘church world’.

Yet for all those years living as if I had it all together, I would still wake up broken, hurting and condemned inside. Living in a pool of shame and guilt for the person I thought I was, for the things I had done, and for the inability to make myself better. I couldn’t bring myself to accept that somehow I could be unconditionally loved. I continued to tell myself, ‘If only people knew what I had done….’ ‘If people saw what was really inside of me then…’ I was afraid to even finish the sentence, all I knew was that people couldn’t find out.

I could read verses like Galatians 2.16, “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ… because by works of the law no one will be justified.” believe it in my head, longing for it to penetrate my heart, and walk away still feeling ashamed of who I was, unable to accept the truth.

I was slowly dying inside, the law was condemning me, sucking the life out of my soul.

It wasn’t until recently that my heart began to see the hope and life there is for me. The beauty in the tumblr_mdnw3rP5a41rv29wyo1_500freedom away from the law, the beauty of resting in who I was created to be, the realization that my sweet Daddy God has seen me completely and loves me unconditionally.

What freedom there is in that! I don’t have to prove my worth. I don’t have to wake up each day living in the slavery of lies telling me I’m worthless, condemned, and broken beyond restoration. I can open my eyes knowing there’s a grace bigger than the ugliness of my sins. There’s a love deeper than the wounds in my heart, and there’s a loving savior who, knowing all that I’ve done, and all that I will do, has chosen to love me, save me, and cover me with his grace.

Are there things in your life that you’re keeping locked up for fear of condemnation?

Are you able to fully accept the free gift of love and grace God is pouring out onto you?

Can you see who you are, outside of the things you’ve done or are doing?

Take some time today to rest in who He is. Read this passage a few times, let it soak into your heart, soul, and mind. Allow yourself to accept the fact that you are fully known and unconditionally loved.

Thank you Daddy God for seeing the deepest parts of my soul, the parts that cause me to look away in disgust, and for loving me anyway. Thank you that I don’t have to work for your love. Thank you that I can’t lose your grace. Thank you that I don’t have to live in the slavery of condemnation. Help me to see myself through your eyes. Help me to see others through the loving grace you’ve so freely given to me. Amen.

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babies_in_rowI believe that each person is born unique. – As a mother of two daughters, from the womb I knew that my girls were going to be different. My eldest craved veggies and let me sleep most nights; my younger one craved spicy food and chose 1:00am as the best time to jump rope with the umbilical cord. This personality difference followed them out of the womb and into their toddler years. My oldest loved to do flashcards – excited every time she got one right. My younger would try and eat the flashcards as she spied out the room for the next thing to climb on. (The scariest of which was when I found her hanging from the ceiling on the rail for the garage door.)

Today their both teenagers and though my youngest is no longer hanging from the ceiling and my oldest isn’t satisfied sitting in front of a pile of flashcards all day, the core of who they are is still very apparent. Things have matured, boundaries have been created, they’ve had to choose which character traits to soften and which to enhance. And yet still at the end of the day my youngest dreams of the next adventure she’ll get to go on and my oldest loves a great, thought provoking lesson. Created wonderfully unique.

Just like each one of us have opportunities to grow, mature, and learn, Paul is showing the Galatians that though he is still the same person, everything has changed.

Galatians 1.11-24

I love how this passaged is preceded with the statement, “If I were still trying to please man I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Paul had spent years with the passion and zeal he had had from the womb directed at all the wrong things. He had been focused on man’s gospel – on the Jewish law and traditions to save him. He was trying to follow each and every rule given (pleasing man), and demanding that everyone else do the same. Being so caught up in doing what was ‘right’ Paul was blinded by the fact that he was so very ‘wrong’.

I can imagine Paul as a youth. Questioning everything. Demanding the truth. Chastising anyone who thought differently than he did. Passionate, convicted, strong, focused. He had the determination, tenacity, and laser focus to not only get an A in the class, he would get 100%. It was that God-given passion that was exactly what was needed in order for Paul to be able to stand up against 2000 years of tradition. That very passion that could look the Pharisees in the eyes to say, “You are killing these people, and I’m not going to stand by and watch it happen!” The same passion that once set out to kill the church was now it’s strongest advocate.

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So if Paul didn’t change what did? His perspective.

I love the image of scales falling from Paul’s eyes when Ananias prayed for him. (Acts 9.9-19) It’s such a beautiful metaphor. Paul’s whole life was changed because his eyes were opened to the truth; a truth that gave him a 180° shift in his perspective. He was now able to channel all that passion and energy into bringing freedom to the very people he had once sought to enslave.

Looking back on my life, the things I’ve learned, the experiences that have changed and shaped me, I can see how each season of my life has shaped and changed the way I see things. My perspective at 35 is so very different than it was at 15 and will hopefully be very different than when I’m 55. This realization makes me ask myself several questions…

What are those things that I’m holding onto so tightly that in 20 years I’ll wish I’d released them? How does my perspective need to change in order to show me my blind spots? What parts of me am I fighting that God has actually created in me to be unique?

girl-with-arms-open-wide-to-the-skyTake some time this week to sit with your Creator and ask Him to show you how you were created unique. Looking back on your life, look at the patterns you may have had. Are you adventurous, studious, quiet, outspoken, artsy, nerdy, friendly… – Embrace who you are. Look at the beauty inside of you; acknowledge the fingerprints of your Daddy God that run through your DNA. Ask Him to show you areas in which you need a perspective change. What are areas in your life you need to release the very thing you’ve been enslaved to?

Rest in Him arms. Rest in His peace. Breathe in deep the air of His live-giving Spirit of freedom and grace. Let it flow over you as He whispers, “I love you my dear precious one.”

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My thoughts on Galatians 1.1-10

From the very beginning of this letter Paul appears to be very deliberate. Choosing even the words in his greeting carefully, always directing people back to the grace of Christ – the message of the gospel.

Taking only a few verses to say hello, he gets right to the point of why he’s writing – something pivotal is being distorted. Something that is at the core of who they are is in a vulnerable position. Paul needs to remind the people of Galatia (he needs to remind us) of the truth.

Truth-and-lies1Like all things in life, you cannot change what you do not acknowledge. Sometimes we need people in our lives that are there to point out the things we do not see. We need people in our lives to remind us of the reality of the truth when the lies seem so convincing and true. This is what Paul is doing. He’s showing the people of Galatia the deception; he is telling them that there are liars out, fabricators of truth, who want to deceive them. People whom, in the words of Paul, should ‘be accursed’ for all they are trying to do.

And Paul doesn’t stop there; he goes to the root of the temptation – the lure of the deception. He looks at the heart of the church of Galatia and point out their blind spot so that they not only stand firm against this deception they are facing today, but that they are able to stand strong against anything that would come between them and an intimate relationship with God through the grace of Christ.

Paul addresses the approval factor. That thing inside of each one of us that longs to be loved, accepted, and cherished, not for the things we do, but for who we are. That built in part of us that embraces the praises and ‘attaboys’. It’s the same part of us that hides those things that bring us shame and pushes us away from those we most long to connect with.

Let’s step back and take a minute to consider the last verse in this passage: “If I were still trying to please man I would not be a servant of Christ.” These words may appear to be harsh words of judgment. Yet, they really are a simply a statement of truth.

MomJugglingI remember early on in my academic career, I was young, had two children that I was trying to homeschool in elementary school, all the while trying to keep my house in order. Many nights I would stay up late after everyone was in bed, only to wake up a few hours later, trying to grab a couple of hours of study time before everyone was awake again. (Coffee was my best friend during these days.) My motivation, my heart, my passion, the thing that drove me to those crazy hours was my focus on doing the best I could, knowing that one day my transcript would be examined by a board of strangers who would determine my fate into graduate school. In the back of my head throughout my days, as I planned family events, play dates for my girls, even considering what meals we’d eat, I always asked the question – will this sacrifice my grades. I was driven by the approval of an unknown board of people, knowing without their approval I wouldn’t get what I really wanted – entrance into graduate school.

Each one of us has something like this, something that is driving our daily lives, our priorities, and our passions. For some this may be a degree, for others its a friendship, an image, a persona that has consumed their identity. What Paul is trying to get through to the people of Galatia, and what God is trying to get through to us today, is that thing that is driving your approval is the very thing that you are serving, whether consciously or not.

As we get further into Galatians you’ll see examples where the approval of man has interfered with the truth. And as a result, it takes people away from intimacy with God.

Take a moment to ask yourself what’s driving you? Who’s or what approval are you longing for? Is it driving you closer to the grace of Jesus or further from his embrace? Are you seeing yourself more clearly or do you feel like you are loosing your identity?

da3b5a56666364c4acde690e401c57ceAsk God to show you today how loved you are by Him. Ask Him for His approval. Ask Him for His grace filled eyes to overwhelm your every move today, and to give you a glimpse into what He sees. He loves you more than you could ever imagine. And better yet, He loves you for the simple reason that you are His. You are beautifully and wonderfully made, by Him, through Him and in Him.

Rest in His peace today, precious dear one.

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My Sister, My Friend

There are those in life who are a gift, a treasure that holds a priceless place upon your heart. Those who have been there since your memories began, and you hope will be there until the end: laughing, crying, venting, processing. To find a person such as this is rare, and it’s the very gift I was given.

When I came into the world there was a little girl, almost three-years-old, waiting to greet me, love me, protect me and teach me all the things her little mind had already learned. That is the heart of a big sister. That heart never changed.

Growing up I remember looking at her, her beauty, her laugh, her intelligence, and thinking that there is no one who could measure up to her. Her heart to care for people, her love beyond herself, her determination in the face of adversity, serve the world in far greater ways than it may realize.

She has become more than a sister. She is a dear friend, an accountability partner, a voice of reason, a tender touch, and place of refuge on long walks.

Today is her day, the celebration of her birth.

Happy birthday to you, my sister, my friend.

The world is a better place because you are in it.

I love you.

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