It Doesn’t Have To Be Hard

A year ago today, my life changed dramatically in one moment.  I had already begun the search for a smaller house as we moved from just talking about downsizing to doing it.  This was already a major change for someone who had lived in the same home for twenty years.

For the first time in too long, that morning I had stopped my normally busy activity just to worship my wonderful heavenly Daddy.  In those moments, He dropped into my heart that we were to relocate from North Carolina to Texas in this downsizing.  While there was no doubt about what He revealed, and there was no doubt that I would go, it didn’t stop the tears as I reminded Him of what He had already heard so many times, But I hate Texas!

DSCN0615 hungry babies croppedOver the course of the next nine months (interesting how it coincided with the timing of a natural birth,) besides an amazing European adventure, my shoulder surgery and my husband’s two separate foot surgeries with their accompanying recoveries, we planned and prepared and prepared and planned for the sale of one home and purchase of another, as well as the physical move.  Along the way, our minds were changed.  Just as the child forming in the womb doesn’t change themselves, we didn’t change our own minds.  Jesus did it in us, taking us from sadly obedient to excited about such a major change at this stage of our lives.

More of the Spirit’s change in our hearts became obvious the day we left our comfort zones completely.  The online house hunt had gone on for six weeks with the only positive result being a change in attitude about what we were to expect.  A ten-day house-hunting trip was on the calendar for early November (between Tom’s two foot surgeries), though it looked as though we might be wasting our time.  Looking at the latest online real estate additions that mid-October morning, one immediately attracted my attention.  Enough so that we enlisted the help of our son and the realtor to do an in-person inspection of it the next day.  With our son’s positive report, as well as his accompanying video, we found ourselves on the verge of making an offer to buy – sight unseen.

We got busy about our day, separately, as we awaited the realtor’s call, each dealing with excitement of what we were about to do at the same time hearing inner screams of What are you doing? As I spoke with the Lord about it, wanting to hear only Him, yet feeling like we hadn’t done the needed laborious house hunting, I heard in my spirit so clearly, It doesn’t have to be hard.

It doesn’t have to be hard.  In those words, I found release.  In those words, I was assured we were walking by and with His Spirit, and it was far different from and far better than our norm.  I also knew effort would still be required to complete this moving out and moving in process. I just didn’t need to rely on my own wisdom or understanding to make it happen.

Our house-hunting trip three weeks later was, in fact, a house closing trip.  I’m pretty sure this was Daddy’s plan for us when we made our airline and hotel reservations. 🙂   Instead of exhausting ourselves traveling from one house to another, we had a different type of exhaustion as we arranged for work to be done on our new home before our move.  When I felt myself becoming overwhelmed again by all the details, He lovingly reminded me, It doesn’t have to be hard.  Once again I found release from trying to work it all out myself and went back to doing the one thing I could do right then.  You know, every single detail was handled from beginning to end – not one left out . . . at just the right time.

So, on this one year anniversary of that life-changing day, three months after moving into my new home in a state halfway across the country, I realize His words to me that afternoon were not just to help me through the move.  Instead, they are for my whole life:

It doesn’t have to be hard!

Not Strange, But Sad

It’s strange that you can’t find words to say when you’re praying, but you have no trouble thinking what to talk about with a friend.

Part of a recent Facebook post in my newsfeed, I found this statement nestled among similar ones designed to highlight Christian failings.  Instead of finding it strange, however, I found it sad.  And not in the way intended.

If the statement is reality for believers, then prayer has become something other than it was meant to be.  Something we do (or should do) because we’re Christians, rather than the means by which we become more intimately acquainted with our heavenly Father.  This is strange, but in a sad way.

Proverbs 18:24  NIV A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

The friend who sticks closer than a brother is Jesus Christ, Who lives in us by His Spirit.  That’s as close as it gets.  In addition, He calls us His friend.1  If we are really friends, why is talking together so difficult?

friendship-1534626-639x479Friends talk with one another about anything and everything, listen to one another, find comfort in silence, work together to help others, interacting along the way.  The more time they spend together, the better they know one another.  The better they know one another, the more time they want to spend together.

Is this the kind of friendship I experience with Christ?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  How about you?  When the methods and mindsets from so many years of religion become my default mode, I lose the freedom in prayer for which my friend Christ Jesus has set me free.2  When the duty becomes my focus, rather than the relationship, that sense of intimate friendship is lost temporarily, leaving me unable to find words to speak.

That’s not strange, my friends.  It’s sad.

1 James 2:23

2 Galatians 5:1

The Party’s Over

streamer-with-confetti-3-1419446-1599x1066

Dad had just thrown the biggest party the neighbors had seen. No expense had been spared in the days long celebration of his son’s return.

Yes, this party was for the prodigal son. You know, the wayward one who had chosen to live a wild life, squandering his still-living father’s money – his own inheritance – until he had no more to spend. He decided to return home to offer himself as a servant to his father to put good food into his starving belly. From what we’re told, we can’t be sure his thinking had changed about anything else. But none of that mattered to the father who ran to embrace him.

That’s one of the things that draws us repeatedly to this story. That father didn’t wait for evidence of repentance or a transformed life before welcoming him or throwing him a lavish party. He wanted everyone to celebrate with him because his son had returned. Period. As great as that is, I think there’s more to this story.

Think about it. The party ended at some point. What happened when it was over? The prodigal son didn’t become suddenly perfect, making only good decisions going forward. For that matter, his jealous brother, the obedient son who did as he was told with a bad attitude, was in the same imperfect category.

Consider this, though. Dad put no post-celebration stipulations on the son before throwing a gala in his honor. It wasn’t due to the son’s righteousness, either before demanding his inheritance or after his return. Nor was it because of the bitter son’s outward obedience. Their righteousness would never be more than filthy rags1! No, the party always and only flowed from the dad’s perfect love for his children, and his joy at having them together with him. His goodness and his righteousness, not theirs, covered them before the party and after it ended.

Fast forward to 2016. As sons and daughters, we try to be obedient, to make the right choices and have the right attitude – all to please our Daddy. But we fail repeatedly. Luke 15:10 says there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Sounds like a party to me – held each time one of us receives Christ Jesus into our hearts. That rejoicing isn’t because of our perfect character when we were born again, but because of Christ’s righteousness. He still rejoices over us2 today, no matter how many years have passed and no matter how many wayward actions we’ve taken.

Earning Daddy’s celebration now is as impossible as it was in the beginning – our good works still counting for nothing. It’s all and only about our Father, the One Who is in us, loving us, simply because we belong to Him. And it’s all about our Christ, Who made the way for us.

The party may be over, but the joy of celebrating our Daddy’s righteousness, love, and mercy in Christ continues for us through eternity!

1 Isaiah 64:6 NKJV But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;

2 Zephaniah 3:17 AMP The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing.

No Matter the Place, It’s Always the People

Back by less than two weeks from my third trip to Israel, finally over the jet lag that dogged me longer than expected, I pondered the questions posed several times during the trip. “What is your favorite part of the trip so far?” “What is your takeaway?”

ancient olive trees in Garden of Gethsemane

Had I enjoyed exploring the grottoes near the Lebanon border on the Mediterranean? Spending unhurried time in a less visited part of the Garden of Gethsemane? Worshipping with previously unknown brothers and sisters outside of Jerusalem? Spending the night in a Bedouin camp? Absolutely! But favorite? Honestly, no matter when that question was asked, I could only remember the most immediate sight explored. Visiting so many places, several brand new to me, in such a short time, I couldn’t consider each one individually until I was home looking at my pictures and reliving the memories.Rosh HaNikra and grottoes (7)

mini-Beduoin Camp  (2)I wasn’t focused on finding that one most significant aspect of the trip, but Holy Spirit pointed out that the people we toured with made it extra special. My husband and I remarked several times while in Israel how much we were enjoying the entire group. We could interact with anyone at any time and feel none of the usual barriers found with groups.

I believe this was a specially chosen, God-picked group of just over 30 people, ranging in age from 12 to 73 and coming from the US, Canada, Scotland, Great Britain, France, Philippines (via Singapore,) and Israel. But, is that what made it special?

In part, I’m sure, but I suspect God saw so much more when He drew each of us to sign up and follow through. And I know He began something with the members of this group. Or He continued something. Or He completed something. Maybe some of all three. But something was affected in the spirit realm because we were all together on this particular trip at this particular time as believers in Christ who love Israel. Besides that, my heart gets happy each time I see the faces in pictures or memories.

12183691_463541337181015_5349280319832619147_oThere is a possibility I may never know what He did, and I’m not at all bothered by it. I’m totally thankful simply to have been included. Just being thankful is a really peaceful place to reside. I think I’ll dwell here going forward, no longer demanding to understand with my mind what Christ fully understands already.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

New Glasses, Anyone?

Many might consider tedious what I spend untold hours doing, but I find it therapeutic to transcribe my handwritten journals, giving thought to the words as I type them into the computer. Each entry revisits life moments, and the Lord’s part in them I tend to forget otherwise. Sometimes, I need more than just to remember.

I hoped to find at least a thread during this undertaking, at least a hint of a theme, to make sense of what I’d experienced. There had been so many hard things, so many hard times. Perhaps the wrong choices I had made (must have been many) and the point at which I turned away from the Lord’s joy and peace would become obvious in the multitude of keystrokes.

i-can-see-1426645Entry by entry, the threads came together, but the emerging picture wasn’t what I expected. You see, I was looking through the wrong glasses. The difficult circumstances did, indeed, take place, as did my struggle with them. But my perception of them was way off. I needed new glasses to help clear things up!

Maybe telling you how I read Hebrews 11 when wearing the wrong prescription will help. I plunge into the highlights of the lives of those often referred to as the heroes of faith. I agree these are great people worthy of Bible mention, until I remember the rest of their stories. You know, the parts including adultery, murder, drunkenness, self-indulgence, etc. My old lenses quickly cause what’s not written in this chapter to supersede what is. In other words, I become a harsh judge.

When I read with God’s glasses, however, my attention is drawn from the very first verse to the reason for recalling this part of their lives:

1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. . . 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

This chapter is all about faith, real faith. Faith in the perfect Jesus Christ. And about people who somehow believed even before He came to earth in human form. It isn’t about humans living perfectly, but about what happens by faith in the One Who is perfect.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Our Father sees them through lens of the perfect Christ.

When I began to transcribe, I steeled myself for a heavy hand of correction from Holy Spirit. What a completely skewed perception – to think this of my wonderful Lord! Instead, as letter after letter and word after word made their way from the pages to my eyes, into my brain and through my fingers, He gently exchanged His glasses for mine, and I began to see myself as He sees me.

Now as I viewed the journal, I saw the reality of ongoing physical challenges and unconnected emotional hardships not being caused by my bad choices, but resulting from life in a fallen world. Had I re-read entries during those tough times, I’d have been reminded of Daddy’s gracious words of encouragement and the ever-unfolding and expanding revelation of Christ and His unconditional love. His tone was only gentle, and His responses to my rants contained only amazing grace and tender mercy, no hint of judgment. That’s Who He is! That’s Who He was at the time I lived through it! And that’s Who He will always be!

cross-fabric-1-1145687-1279x1657By the time I completed these journals, the threads had woven a simple picture, correcting my vision for the future, difficulties or not. It reveals what God always sees when He looks at me . . . and you. He sees us seated with Him in Christ Jesus. Christ, the perfect One Who received at the cross the heavy hand of correction we so deserved.

Thank You, Lord, for the new glasses! Thank You, Lord, for the cross!