A Work Out

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We’ve been trying to lose weight for a while now. Me and my hubby. I’d say we began in earnest just after Labor Day. And there was progress because earlier this month documented the lowest weight I’d seen in years.

YEARS.

Yes, December 6 was a good day.  My weight was finally dropping. Annabelle had her follow up with the cardiologist and was cleared for a full year. And so, after a snow day and a two-hour delay, she went back to school. It was December 11. I thought I’d then resume my weight-loss journey. I thought I’d get back on track.

Alas, my son got sick two days after Annabelle went back to school. Levi had a quick hospital stay (appendicitis), and while there, the seal came off. Meaning, the seal over my mouth. I had chips. And sweets. And other things. And ever since we came back home, I’ve been eating whatever I want at night. Lots of carbs.

Not surprisingly, the pounds are going back up. Nonetheless, me and Jason continue to make daily entries to our log. He’s going up a little bit, too. Like me, added food intake on his end.

However, in contemplating the progress we’ve made in three months time, I can’t help but notice a considerable difference between his and my entries. He’s lost a lot more weight than I have. And I know why…

It’s because he was diligently going to the gym. Three times a week, he was getting a good work out. Me? Before mid-October rolled around, I was walking several times. But ever since then, not a stitch of exercise. And the pounds are coming back.

“Arise [from spiritual depression to a new life], shine [be radiant with the glory and brilliance of the LORD]; for your light has come. And the glory and brilliance of the LORD has risen upon you.” Isaiah 60:1

When I moved home eight years ago, I was a lot smaller. And I felt really good. I’d say I was pretty healthy.

However, during my six month stay in Mom’s basement, I began eating chips. Oh, I’d say about every night. Not surprisingly, I added on some pounds. And by the time we fully settled in our home (after the busyness of moving/unpacking), I found myself in a full-blown depression. It was Spring/Summer of 2011.

And darkness was a constant companion of mine.

But then, something happened. I felt stirred. Movement. God was calling me. And by the time October rolled around, the above verse seemed a promise from God. Arise, shine! Your light has come.

And I thought it did. Because October of 2011 was an awakening of sorts. It’s when I felt a calling from God was confirmed. I tell you, I was full of purpose and aim. And I turned in the direction I felt God beckoned me. It was towards the light…

You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

I was ready to serve seven years ago. Chomping at the bit. And when we joined a new church, I thought I had a lot to offer. When the pastor came visiting and asked, “How are you going to serve,” I knew just how to answer. I told him all I wanted to do.

Turns out, they didn’t really need me in that capacity. There were other things for me to do. And honestly, they were things I didn’t want to do. And so, when I think about that question… “How are you gonna serve,” I chuckle. Because back then, the correct answer would have been bitterly.

And selfishly.

Yes, that’s exactly how I “served.” For years.

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Isn’t this the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,
and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will appear like the dawn,
and your recovery will come quickly.
Your righteousness will go before you,
and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard. Isaiah 58:6-8 

I tried to serve God.  I let my light so shine before men and women. I did all the things I thought I should do. Everything prescribed in the above verses. I donated and volunteered. I prepared foods and delivered.

And yet darkness always found me.

But then something in the above verses stood out about a year back. It’s that part about “do not ignore your own flesh and blood.” See, I’d always looked at that in light of my extended family. But last Summer, I finally understood what God was saying to me. He was talking about me.

My flesh and blood. My health. For once I found God’s purpose and calling, I went after it with all my heart and soul. But I let myself go in that I spent every available waking hour going after that. Exercise and healthy eating went out the window.

Also, my flesh and blood meaning my husband. For two became one on our wedding day. He is me and I am Him.

And finally but not least, my own flesh and blood meaning my children. Those on this side of eternity and those beyond. Yes, October of 2011 was an awakening of sorts. Only, it took me years to figure out exactly what God meant.

See, light eluded me for so long because of me and my actions. Darkness surrounded me because of me “ignoring” my own flesh and blood. And that’s what this past year has been all about…

“Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth until now, both we and our fathers [before us].” Genesis 46:34

I tell you what. The spiritual journey can be a confusing one. See, I felt God called me to something specific years ago. And I kept moving that way. Every single time, though, I was thwarted. Delayed. Set back. Stalled.

And it was really hard for me to understand why God wouldn’t just open the door. Because He placed a desire inside for me to do something. And yet, every time I moved towards the light, I was pulled back into the dark. And finally, I realized it was more than the dark sucking me in.

Incredibly, it was God Himself calling me to obscurity. He was telling me to be unseen. And quiet. And it was so hard. Because in placing a burning passion in my heart, it was like the door was cracked open. Light seeped through. But then, He closed the door tight.

This week, though, I made a discovery about shepherds and their own obscure paths. It was through the above verse. I read it in a book and heard it on the radio. Two times, which attuned my ears to the Holy Spirit for I realized He was telling me something.

My epiphany being that God’s chosen people were shepherds. Time and again, you read about them. The children of Israel were shepherds. David, the anointed king, was first a shepherd.

And me? I wasn’t a shepherd when God called me. That’s the discovery. That if you’re not a shepherd when He calls you, He’ll make you into one. That’s what the past seven years have been about…

God transforming my heart into one of a shepherd’s.

A servant’s heart.

I came that they may have and enjoy life and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]. John 10:10

October of this year was a big time for me. It was one of those seasons where God was all over and in everything surrounding my life. Such great revelation. The biggest being I encountered Christ as the Good Shepherd. In this way, I found comfort I’d been seeking for probably most of my life.

Here’s what’s interesting, though. John 10:10 promises abundant life. To me, this is the opposite of a depleted life. The way I’ve been feeling here lately…

Anyway, this verse immediately precedes Jesus calling Himself the Good Shepherd. I think that’s a clue. Abundant life being tied to a person being a good shepherd. And the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. For his flock.

Further, Jesus tells about the hired man. The hireling runs away at the first sign of danger. He doesn’t care for the flock. Instead, he ignores the sheep, abandoning them as he runs for his life.

Yep… the hired man runs hoping to save his life. But in the end, he loses it by trying to hold on to it. And in the end, there’s darkness.

But the good shepherd, well, he’ll die for the fold. And in dying, there is life. And light.

“Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” Luke 17:33

Two of the Bible greats were runners. The first who comes to mind is Moses. God set it in his heart to lead a people out of slavery into a land of promise. However, Moses kind of botched it at first. He murdered an Egyptian and tried to cover up his deed. When Pharaoh learned of it, Moses ran for his life. That’s when he ended up on the backside of the wilderness for forty years.

Know what he did there? He was a shepherd. And so, before doing the thing God called him to do, Moses learned how to be a shepherd.

Then, there’s Peter. Cocky Peter who told Christ he was ready to follow Him anywhere, even to death! When the occasion arose, Peter failed miserably. He denied even knowing Jesus. Basically, running for his life. He was scared so he lied. He didn’t want to die.

This Peter who failed miserably was the one who Christ reinstated and used to build His church. But first, He fed Him…

“Come and have breakfast. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them…” John 21:12, 13

Yes, Jesus is the Good Shepherd. And Peter was a fisherman. But he was meant to be a shepherd. So Jesus fed the one who’d feed the church. And He instructed Peter. “Feed My lambs. Shepherd My sheep. Feed My sheep.”

I heard a teaching on this once. Lysa Terkeurst suggested that as a fisherman, Peter would have been quick to throw out fish. He would have measured them and kept only the bigger ones. But a shepherd isn’t meant to throw anything out. Instead, he’s to keep them all…

And Peter needed some growth in this regard. He needed to learn how to shepherd God’s people.

Essentially, this is what I needed, too. God revealed to me in seven years time that I was not a shepherd. Instead, I behaved more like a the hired hand. The worker who’d run for his life in hope of preserving it.

This was me. I ran for my life by doing everything I could to shine my light. I tried to serve God by being visible. To me, visibility meant viability. Value. It counted. It was measurable. This made me a keeper.

In the end, I served bitterly. And selfishly. Because all my works were more about me than God. And feeling compelled to “work” made me bitter. In more ways than one.

 “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32

This is the part that will make me sound really bad. It has to do with all my food prep. At home and elsewhere. But you know, this week, it was like a light bulb went off.

See, I’ve always been quick to volunteer. Brownies? Sure. Casserole? Sure. Sign-up sheet for something at church. Sure. I would always sign up for food. Running for my life (trying to preserve it) by being useful.

But for a year, God said no. He didn’t want me to sign up for one more dish. Man, that was hard. Because in truth, there was nothing measurable on my end. No contribution.

Here’s the thing, though. Whenever I’d take a dish to someone, I’d smile. I looked good. At home? My family didn’t always get a smile. They’d get the sighs and the huffs when I was overtired from doing too much on the outside.

And when my kids aren’t especially grateful, or when they’re complaining about what I put before them, or when I’m trying to clean up dinner dishes and they’re already asking for a snack, I can be really ugly. Inside and out. That’s what they’d get served.

Oh, I’ve served my family, but it’s not cheerfully. Or thankfully. Or selflessly. Instead, I’ve served bitterly. And this should not be.

To my soul, I believe this is what this past year (a year of no’s and rest) has been all about. See, my light will come when I don’t ignore my own flesh and blood. That means serving my family with my whole heart. With a shepherd’s heart.

It means I serve them first. I give them the best of me. All of me. I lay down my life for my husband and kids. And sometimes, laying down my life can be nothing more than a bowl of sausage gravy. Only, made without grumbling…

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And he will go on before the Lord… to turn hearts of the parents to their children… to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Luke 1:17

The above verse is about John the Baptist. I find it interesting that he would turn the hearts of parents to their children. I often wondered about that. But you know, I find insight in Jesus’ words to Peter when He said He’d pray for him. He said, “when you turn back.” That word means lots of things, but most revelatory for me is, “to cause to return, to bring back… to the love for the children.”

Wow. That’s staggering to me. It speaks volumes. And it causes me to wonder about the hearts of God’s chosen people at the time Jesus came upon the scene. See, the religious men and women had became very rigid in their lists of do’s and don’ts.

Could it be that in all the attention devoted to what one should and shouldn’t do, the children were ignored? Forgotten? Abandoned?

Could it be the ultra religious held so tightly to law and regulation that they lost their grip on their home life and babies? Looking so good on the outside, but no good on the inside?

This is just what I’ve been pondering…

How the hearts of people needed to be turned to their kids even then.

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Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. James 1:17

Both my children are gifts from God. They’re my kids and I love them dearly. But today, I realize they’re gifts in more than one way. For God has used them to refine me. All my impurities have come to the surface through them. And honestly, had I not had them, I don’t know if I would have discovered my selfishness.

Also, they’ve slowed me down. They go slower than me and I realize, the child’s pace is just how fast I should be moving in life. Unhurried. Focused.

Finally, a child shall lead me. And I realize Annabelle shows me how to serve. Happily and lovingly. She puts her heart into what she prepares and you can feel it. She serves to be my example.

She shows me how I can serve her and Levi. And Jason. Because within my little girl, I see the Shepherd’s heart God is cultivating in me.

It’s true, I’ve been feeling depleted the past few weeks. A couple of hospital stays (one for each kid). Christmas adds extra. I’ve been pouring out and not much has been poured in. I’ve just not allotted enough time to the filling of me before pouring out…

It causes me to serve crankily. Bitterly. Selfishly. But then, there’s Christmas and a child came to us all. And Philippians 2 provides us with a picture of His pure service. It’s Jesus and He’s our model to follow…

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit. Regard others as more important than yourself. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests but also the interests of others. Have this same attitude in yourselves which was in Christ Jesus – look to Him as your example in selfless humility.

He existed in the form and unchanging essence of God but did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped or asserted. He was not afraid of losing it. Instead, He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a human. He humbled Himself further by becoming obedient to the point of death… death on the cross.

Jesus came to die. Truly, He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life… so we can find ours.

Present yourself a living sacrifice. Romans 12:1

That verse is funny. Living. Sacrifice. One is alive and the other is dead. In the end, though, God calls us to die. For in laying down our lives, we really live. It’s the abundant life Jesus promised in the 10th book of John.

Plainly, we die to our selfish wills. Our timelines. And all the other things we hold to, running for our lives. That’s hard to do, though. It’s not easy giving up the reigns. To submit…

That’s when I look to the Bible greats. Young David had to continue shepherding sheep before he became king. After leaving the palace, Moses had to spend 40 years tending a flock before leading a nation. And Peter, well, He just needed some time with Jesus after his colossal failure…

Jesus fed him and restored him. He exhorted Peter to shepherd His people. And that’s what He calls me to do, too. He wants me to give up my life for the sheep.

For my sheep.

In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. John 1:4

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In closing, I’m brought back to food. And to the weight I’ve been trying to lose. If I go all the way back to February, I see I’ve made some progress. And if I add a work out to my regimen, the pounds will drop all the more. And I will. I just need to get through the holiday…

Anyway, I’m also brought back to the food I have to offer my own flesh and blood. See, several years back, I began seeking a Christmas heart. And I think I found that. There has been progress. For a Christmas heart is unhurried and slowed. Focusing on the true reason for the season. I’m really getting there with this.

But now, I realize there’s more to it. It has a lot to do with a shepherd’s heart. And I understand this type of heart takes a great deal of time. It develops through seasons of aloneness. Times of being unseen. Cultivation in the dark. And also, a work out is involved. Just like with losing weight…

Philippians 2:12 says it like this “continue to work out your salvation [that is, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity] with awe-inspired fear and trembling [using serious caution and critical self-evaluation…]

Yes, self-evaluation is a huge part of the process. But this is what enables one to do everything without murmuring or questioning God (v. 14). In this, we prove ourselves blameless… innocent and uncontaminated… children of God without blemish in a crooked generation, among who we are seen as bright lights [beacons shining out clearly] in the world [of darkness], holding out and offering to everyone the word of life…

Did you catch that? We hold out and offer the word of life. We feed the sheep with the Bread of Life. With the Word become flesh…

However, our insides have to match what we’re offering. Our children have to want what we’re offering them.

And when our insides match what we say, they will. Our kids will want to eat what we give. They’ll want to graze upon us.

Also, when our insides begin to line up with Jesus, we shine. Like stars in the night sky. Maybe even like the star that led the wise men directly to Jesus. That’s what we can do, too.

Leading not just our children, but the world around us, to the One who gives life.

Yes, simply by working out our salvation, allowing Him to work inside us, we shine. Without even trying to. And this is how we let our lights shine before men.

Arise, Shine! For your light has come!

Best Friends

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I bought this frame from a thrift store months ago. It just sits in the top of my closet because I couldn’t think of who I’d want to put in there. My face alongside another, smiling so bright. Who is my friend… the one who knows me completely? Inside and out. The one who knew me then and knows me now and still wants to be by my side.

Before I moved back home six years ago, there was no question. There were two women I considered my best friends. The only issue would have been which one? Because they were both so close to me. Closer than any sister could be. And we’d spend hours (HOURS) on the phone. No particular reason. Just chatting because that’s what best friends do. Just to hear each other’s voices. To feel close.

But that doesn’t happen anymore. For some reason, the two I considered to be my “best” are no more. Phone calls few and far in between. Oh, they’re still in my life but something’s shifted. Busyness, perhaps? Or life just leading us along different paths.

Whatever the reason, it makes me sad. And sometimes a bit lonely.

And the frame? It just sits. Because I don’t know “the friend” I should put in there with me…

A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

I was never one to have lots of friends. I always had one or two that were special, though, Jennifer being my first. And what a joy it is to see her face at my son’s school… the very school I attended. Yep, when I registered him for kindergarten, there she was bouncing down the hallway as if she’d never left. She happens to work there and even though we’re not close anymore, shared memories warm my heart.

Fourth grade brought me Hannah. Amy and Cindy in the ninth. And later, it was Sarah. We were so close, spending all our free time together. She was just like a sister.

Next came Shannon and we joined the Air Force together. A miracle that we attended the same tech school. And when I felt lonely at my first assignment, I’d just pick up the phone and call. My phone bills astronomical because we talked several times a week. For hours (HOURS). And when we ran out of things to say, we just sang to each other. Even if it was the theme song to an old TV show like “Alice.”

“I used to be sad. (da-da). I used to be shy. (da-da). Funniest thing, the saddest part is I never knew why…”

The Air Force brought me new friends. Carmen and Cheyenne. Nicole and Stacy. And then, before I knew it, I was married. Alas, old friends were left behind as life moved me in other directions.

And here I am now. Uncertain as to who my “best friend” is. And then I am overcome with guilt for even having such a thought. Because there’s so much happening in the world that trumps loneliness, right?

“If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be complete. This is My command: love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. This is what I command you: love one another.” John 15:10-14, 17

Oh, it’s true I no longer pick up the phone and talk for hours with someone I consider my best friend. But you know, that’s allowed something wonderful to transpire over the past six years.

See, I no longer spend countless hours in chit-chat with a gal-pal. Instead, I’ve been moved to pick up my Bible and spend countless hours with Him. Yes, feeling lonely drove me to seek a new Friend. And He is the One who is truly closer than a brother (or sister).

Along the way, I’ve developed such a friendship with God that I cannot go long without seeking His voice. I just can’t. When I don’t hear from Him, I begin to wither inside…

And so, I consider those occasional bouts of loneliness blessings, really. Because if I continued to spend hours calling my best friends as I did when I was younger, would I have ever called on Him? Would I have made time for both? I really can’t say.

 

But what I can say is I know Him. Personally. And He calls me His friend.

Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Today I had one of those God moments. I felt compelled to look up 1 Peter 4 because I was tracking something, however, the above verse stood out instead. Lo and behold, not an hour later I saw the same verse on my calendar for March 22.

God spoke right there in “love one another.” He means our friends. Our companions. But also, our fellow man. Other people. For Jesus said we are to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. The greatest commands.

Unconditional love. And that’s so hard to do.

But you know, a particular friend comes to mind when I read about this kind of love. We met when I was five and she’s one of my oldest and dearest friends. Last week happened to be her birthday and I missed it.

But it came to me this morning… honor our friendship. Honor my friend for her birthday.

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See, Carolyn is truly one of the sweetest women I know. She shows interest in everyone she meets and doesn’t know a stranger. She can talk to anyone. ANYONE. But also, she listens. She genuinely cares about people and how they feel and this is a gift.

She used that gift on me when I was in kindergarten. I was crushed and she could sense it. She sat by my side and petted my shoulder. When she looked up at the teacher, she said, “Isn’t she precious?” And I was comforted. She loved me when I felt unlovable.

Later in life, when I was in my early twenties, she said something that struck me. She probably doesn’t even remember. We’d been talking about a mutual friend and I disagreed with his lifestyle. So I spoke meanly. I judged and criticized. I then said, “He was so nice.” Carolyn’s response. “He’s still nice.” That hushed me right up.

The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive. Proverbs 27:6

We never discussed it, but my friend’s comment chastened me. I felt embarrassed because her words pointed to my very conditional ways. I was being harsh and unkind and who am I to judge my neighbor (James 4:12)?

Carolyn? She just loved our mutual friend. And it’s an example I’ll always remember.

And so, I want my friend (and others) to know this about her. That she’s not only beautiful but she’s also kind. She does not judge, she loves. And she’s who came to mind this morning when I contemplated love.

I thought about how she loves me.

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Oil and incense bring joy to the heart. And the sweetness of a friend is better than self-counsel. Proverbs 17:17

My friend, Carolyn, brought me these flowers for my birthday. I was so pleased. She showered me with her love.

Yep, she is a true friend. She knew me then and she knows me now and she still wants to be by my side. Oh, I could definitely slide a photo of me and her in that frame I bought months back.

But you know, I have others, too. Perhaps not one I’d cast in the role of “Best Friend” like I did when I was younger but my life has changed. Busyness and responsibility does not allow me to spend countless hours on the phone as I once did. There just isn’t time.

Nevertheless, I still have friends. There’s women in my life. Ones I knew then and ones I met later on. And I feel grateful for every single one of them.

Which brings me back to that frame. Perhaps it’s not meant to be filled. Perhaps that blank spot serves to remind me of not just one special friend, but all the women I know. That at any given moment, I could place several faces in there alongside mine.

Yes, perhaps I’m not meant to have only one or two “Best Friends” like when I was young. Instead, maybe I’m supposed to love every woman who crosses my path with fervency. And unconditionally. Like I love myself.

And like He loves me…

A friend loves at all times… Proverbs 17:17

In closing, I just have to say Jesus is my Best Friend. Yes, He is the truest of all. Because He laid down His life for me. And greater love have no man, or woman, than that.

And really, He’s the only One who knows me completely. Inside and out. Better than I even know myself. He knew me then, before I first drew breath, and He knows me now, warts and all. Moreover, He knows who I’ll one day be. And yet, He still wants to be by my side. Always.

And with a Friend like that, loneliness is nothing more than a mere memory. It no longer exists. And so, that theme song from “Alice” I used to sing to Shan? Well, it becomes my own anthem. I lift my voice and sing to Him…

“I used to be sad. (da-da). I used to be shy. (da-da). Funniest thing, the saddest part is I never knew why…”

A bride’s tale

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About four months ago, I stayed with my in-laws over the Thanksgiving holiday. And for the first time, we used my husband’s grandmother’s room. Her name is Alice. We used her bedroom because Alice needed more medical care than normal, and had been staying at a rehabilitation facility since October. And so, while sleeping in Alice’s bed and using Alice’s bathroom, I was struck by what surrounded me. It was all of her stuff. Loads of it. Bottles and tubes and compacts and sprays. And in November, my realization was that no matter what age a woman is, she wants to feel pretty. Whether she’s 9 or 90, a woman cares about how she looks.

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I snapped lots of photos thinking I would use them one day in a blog. And so, I find today is that day for Alice passed on last night. And despite my having a list of a thousand things to do, I pause for just a moment to remember this woman. See, she was 89 years old and I’ve known her close to 18 of those years. At the very least, she deserves a moment of my time. And so, I consider Alice. Honestly, one of the first things that comes to mind is painted nails. Her fingernails were always presentable. And always colored. And not a demure, faded pink, either. No, Alice went for bold colors. When I saw her this past Monday, she had purple nails adorned with flowers. The nails gave testimony to her personality, for in earlier days, she was a force.

And when I say earlier days, I mean up to about a month ago. Oh, she may have been in a nursing facility, but that doesn’t mean that she was a sinking ship. No, not Alice. She clung to life. And it was just a month ago that she was made Queen at the Valentine’s banquet where she was staying. I saw her picture displayed in the foyer when we went to collect her things… bright dress, crown and flowers. She looked completely different than the woman I saw on Monday. And what tales I heard. She danced at that banquet. A lot. And I heard that she was an inspiration to everyone at that facility, for she breathed fresh life into the place. The nurse who came to visit Alice yesterday shared the tales of Alice. And before leaving, she deposited no less than 20 kisses on Alice’s cheek. So many had sent by her, “Kiss Alice for me…”

Yes, Alice loved colorful nails. She loved life, and dancing, and laughing. And really, she just loved being the center of attention. For she had no fear of crowds and enjoyed interacting with people. Anyone would do. She just wanted to be a part of what was happening. Like many moons ago when she came to visit us. We were at church one Sunday, and when the question was posed, “Do we have any visitors today,” Alice stood right up to boldly proclaim her name. As I said, no fear. Not an ounce of shyness resided in those bones.

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Alice, who had bold nails and a zest for life, also had another love. Baubles and gems. Necklaces and rings of every color, shape and size. If Alice had an errand, she went out in style, her clothes coordinating with her jewelry. Always. Well, at least till the end. For this woman named Alice was nearing 90, her birthday just two months away. And ever since her big night when she was not just the queen, but the life of the party, pieces of Alice have been stripped away. And yesterday morning, well, she just didn’t look like herself. For her hair was undone and her nails bare. Legs that once moved with rhythm laid still. Rather than a watch, her arm was adorned with a hospital bracelet. And rather than chains of gold, tubes fell along her chest. A body that once displayed brilliant pinks, was draped instead with a drab hospital gown. Yes, 89 years had taken their toll, and her body finally gave way as the glow of life within her faded. What remained of Alice was a shell. Her sparkle was gone.

You know, in recent days, I’ve heard the church being referred to as the bride of Christ. It stuck out because honestly, that’s a hard concept for me to comprehend. But today, in light of Alice’s passing, I find it beautiful to behold. Because Alice, being part of the church, is also His bride. And I wonder if that’s why she held so tight to this life at the end. I wonder if she just didn’t feel ready. Because she was stripped of all that she so loved in this world. Where were her scents and polishes and baubles? The glitzy necklaces and sparkly rings were no where to be found. And truly, what bride wants to meet her Groom undone? What bride wants to walk down the aisle minus all the things that make her feel lovely? What woman doesn’t want to feel pretty on her special day?

And so, at this I smile. Because today I know that what Alice adored so in this life is now a part of her ever after. And I see that she didn’t need a strand of pearls or a shade on her lips, for indeed, she is adorned by heaven itself today. And graced with the colors of eternity, what woman could be more beautiful? No, she had no need of pearls, for the gates of heaven become her pearls. And what need of golden chains had she, for the very street she travels is gold. No, Alice didn’t need bold polish on her nails as she exited this life, for at this moment, she is surrounded by such brilliant color. Alice, who loved bright nails and dancing and laughter and colorful gems, is now encompassed by the very things that brought her such joy in life. For she’s a bride. And she’s dancing and laughing in glorious color. Yes, Alice colored herself here. But there, color is so much more than she could ever have imagined.

The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald,  the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. Revelation 21:19-21

Yes, Alice has passed on to the other side. I feel sure of it. For it was Tuesday late afternoon when she roused a bit. She twitched and jerked for a moment, then looked to the right. Her eyes opened wide and she smiled. And twice she said it… “Peter.” We all wondered who Peter was. And then we smiled. We thought, it’s true! Peter is at the pearly gates. Perhaps it was he that walked her down the aisle.

Miles from Mercy

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

Last Spring, this verse knocked me over. I thought “How simple God’s will is.” I thought, “I can do this!” And so, I thought I would write a book to share with everyone the simplicity of God’s commands to us. And write I did, churning out a manuscript called, “My Heart Sings,” completely inspired by this one verse. Here lately, I keep thinking about that book. Because I know something today that I didn’t know then. You see, at the time I wrote “My Heart Sings,” I didn’t have a clue as to what I was writing about! I thought I was wisely proclaiming to everyone else what they should be doing. I didn’t know then that through the writing, God was telling me what I should not be doing. Perhaps, “The Pharisee in Me,” would have more aptly captured the essence of the book. And today, I have to laugh about that. Because I was so incredibly blind. The perfect picture of a Pharisee in that I couldn’t see my own faults. Such a hypocrite in that I was trying to remove the speck from my brother’s eye without first taking the plank out of my own. Matthew 7:5.

Today I look on that verse and am amazed to see that I have not fulfilled one portion of it. The verse that so moved me somehow failed to move me beyond my present state. I was unable to fulfill the most basic of requirements, and today I know why. Because I am a Pharisee… the worst sort of scoundrel that Jesus gave warning to throughout the New Testament. The Pharisee lacked mercy and judged everyone. And it was to them that Jesus said, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Matthew 9:13. And now I realize He’s telling me the same thing: “go and learn what this means…” Because this particular verse jumped off the page at me not that long ago. And I believe it had everything to do with Micah 6:8… see, I thought myself to be somewhat of an expert at doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with your God. I thought I had that verse down pat. But what I’m learning about myself lately is that I’m nowhere near mercy. In fact, I’m miles from mercy with so far to go. And I believe learning what Jesus told me to learn is the whole key to conquering my pharisaical nature. Mercy is the key that will unlock the bars of my prison called pharisaicalness.

I know what happened. I know how I became a Pharisee. See, I didn’t become a child of God until I was 24 years old. And I was pretty worldly by that time, accepting of pretty much everything. By that time, I had quite a past… a past better forgotten than remembered. And so, when I finally met my future husband, I somewhat settled down (so to speak). It was just me and him, and I didn’t go out and do all those things I once did. And so, by the time I realized I needed Jesus, I had forgotten much of who I really was. See, I was good by the time I came to Jesus. At least from a worldly point of view. And so, I asked Jesus to save me from my sins – but vaguely. Because my specific sins were better left behind… I never dwelt on them. And so, there I was a 24 year old baby Christian. But I never really knew how much of a sinner I truly was. Because by the time I came to Jesus, my past was buried and left behind.

Over time, I came to where I really wanted God. I needed Him. And so I began to seek Him through His word. I began to acquire the knowledge of God. Hosea 6:6 actually says, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Well, there it is… knowledge. This is part of what tripped me up. Because if you add all this acquired knowledge to never really feeling bad about who you were, well, there’s the answer. Knowledge + a false sense of who you really are = Pharisee. At least this is how the equation worked in my life. And there I was, feeling good about myself to begin with and piling on all that knowledge, well, naturally I became puffed up and prideful. Naturally, I became judgmental. And naturally, I became self-righteous. Because the truth is, I never fully realized His righteousness.

Do you know what I think, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” really means? I believe that through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, God provided us with the ultimate act of mercy. He had mercy on His creation in sending us His Son. And He longs to be merciful to us today… but we need to realize what He did. Because when we don’t understand how bad of a sinner we really are, it diminishes what Jesus did on the cross. When we neglect coming to the cross all the way, we tend to start sacrificing over time. We sacrifice by way of obligatory giving, obligatory prayers and obligatory works… because deep down we still feel we have something to atone for. We begin to work for God, and offer up unacceptable sacrifices hoping to atone for something we never brought to the cross to begin with. In fact, we never fully obtained the mercy of Jesus because we never fully realized our sin. How could we know what Jesus really did for us when we never thought we were that bad? How could we fully accept His free gift of mercy and grace, when we didn’t realize we were in dire need of it in the first place?

This is what I’ve been grappling with this past year. Basically, I’m trying to learn what Jesus meant in saying “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” And since I have been on this journey towards mercy for a while now, I was taken aback recently when I found myself back at “Pharisee.” Honestly, I was surprised to see how easily those old ways slipped right back in. And so I have to ask myself a tough question… today, do I know what I really am? Because until I know what I really am, there’s no way I can understand what Jesus really did. And until I fully understand what Jesus did, for me – a sinner – there’s no way I can come to understand what Jesus means when He says, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” Because He is mercy.

As long as I’m stuck at “Pharisee,” I’ll find myself miles from mercy. As long as I’m stuck at “Pharisee,” there’s no way I can fully obtain His mercy. And without receiving it, I’ll have none to offer. And as long as I’m stuck at “works,” trying to pay off a debt there’s no way I can repay, then I haven’t fully understood the work Jesus accomplished on the cross. And as long as I’m working off my debt, not comprehending that Jesus already paid it in full, then I’ll continue to expect others to do the same… working off a debt I’ve accrued in my head… a debt that they in no way can repay. And naturally, when someone falls short of my expectations, I deem them a sinner. I judge them and point my finger, holding them accountable. I want them to work for my forgiveness… like I’m working for mine… completely forgetting that Jesus already came to do just that… forgive sinners.

And so it goes, I try to remove the speck from the sinners eye without first removing the plank from my own. And thus, I find myself miles from mercy, with so far to go.

Laundry… or greatness?

Last Sunday we talked about greatness in Sunday School. The question, “What keeps you from greatness?” There were a lot of answers ranging from debt to fear to busyness. I even put out my hands to portray a set scales… laundry in one hand and greatness in the other, to show which outweighed the other. Laundry had it. But this morning, I’ve come to the conclusion I can have it both ways. I can have my laundry along with that elusive greatness. And this morning, I see that I am the very thing that’s keeping me from it. Ironically, it’s my inaccurate sense of self-importance that keeps me from greatness.

Micah 6:8 says to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. I believe He says to walk humbly because we need to have an accurate view of ourselves. It’s in Romans 12:3 that we read, “For I say, through the grace given to me to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” The truth is, if you think too highly of yourself, you cannot practice justice and mercy. Because if you believe yourself to be holier than thou and that you can do no wrong, then you may think that perhaps the person collecting benefits from the government should be out there working like you do, right? And if you think you’re so high and mighty, then just maybe the person who is doing something wrong deserves every bad thing that comes their way, right? Because you’re not doing that wrong thing. The ugly truth is if your opinion of yourself is overly elevated (and I’m speaking for myself here), then you will not be able to do justice and love mercy. It’s impossible, and I should know. Because I’m living proof.

We can simply walk with God, or we can walk humbly with God. It’s our choice. I wish I could say I chose the latter, but for years now, I believe I simply walked with Him. And highly, I might add. Because I walked and talked with God, and attained all the knowledge I could. But rather than apply it to my life, I tucked it all away inside my head. And that caused me to feel good about myself… all that stored up knowledge. And because I was walking with God, who is Greatness, well, there were times in which I could not help but feel as if some of His greatness rubbed off on me. There’s no denying that sometimes I have sat back feeling smug in the knowledge I’ve acquired, feeling oh, so enlightened. In fact, there have been times that I’ve felt pretty, darn great. But not about Him… about me!

So how do I fight this? It’s evident that knowledge puffs up, so what can I do? Fortunately, God showed me what it is that I lack. It’s something called wisdom, and He offers it to us all. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5.  I see that knowledge without wisdom is useless. Because they work together. Wikipedia states that wisdom is the judicious study and application of knowledge. And so, that’s one of my problems. I haven’t applied what I’ve learned.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthy, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. James 3:13-17

Envy and self-seeking are not new conditions of the heart. They’re worldly and they’re as old as the hills. It’s in our nature to covet what someone else has, and to desire what we don’t have. Jealousy comes naturally to us. But it’s earthy, sensual and demonic. And it goes all the way back to Adam and Eve in the garden, and the first sin. It goes back to Cain and Abel, and the first murder. It goes back to Jacob and Esau, and determining who would rule the other. It goes back to the hatred of Joseph’s brothers, when their father loved him best. And it goes back to the disciples. They had a worldly way of looking at things, too, as there was rivalry among them. They argued about who would be the greatest. Jesus said, “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” And when the disciples’ mother was self-seeking and ambitious for her two sons, the others were moved to indignation (self-righteous indignation, I’m sure). Jesus said, “But whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Wisdom is thrown at us every day. But there’s worldly wisdom and there’s godly wisdom. The two do not go hand in hand. Because what the world says is great is the complete opposite of what God says is great. The world says look out for number one, but Jesus says to look out for them. The world says the more money you have the greater you are, but Jesus says to give it all away. The world esteems those who are wealthy and famous, snubbing those who don’t reign as high. But Jesus says blessed are the poor. And Jesus, who was the greatest to ever walk this earth, did not come to be served, but to be Servant. He is our example.

So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” John 13:12-15.

Sunday, I wondered, “Laundry… or greatness?” Well, I wanted greatness. And now I know, I can have both. Rather than resent the duty of laundry, it can be an act of service I humbly provide to those I love the most. If my attitude is lowly, and if my heart is not lifted up, then in the eyes of my Lord and Teacher, laundry is greatness. Becoming servant to my family and loved ones is what will make me great in His kingdom. I simply need God’s wisdom to apply all the truths I’ve learned. And then, as I walk humbly with Him along life’s highway, I will be changed through the process. I’ll be able to accurately and soberly assess myself because I’ll have glimpsed God’s glory. And so, when I am not lifted up… I will be able to live out Micah 6:8, serving God by doing justly and loving mercy. Because God will direct my path as I humbly follow Him. The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way… all the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth. Psalm 25:9-10

As time goes by, I’ll come to understand that it’s not at all what I think that will make me great. But the complete opposite. Because God’s wisdom is so different from my own.

I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also. Romans 16:1-2

Self-Serve

First comes faith… we have to believe that God is who He says He is and that He did what He said He did before we can go any further with Him. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him. And so we start there… with faith. But what next? How do we come to know God? He promised that if we sought Him with our whole heart, we would find Him, right? So quite naturally, we move on to the next step which is searching His word. Because within the pages of Scripture, we find Him. We learn about His character, about His nature, about His mighty acts. Through His word, we gain knowledge about God. That’s what I set my heart to do three years ago, and I pored through His word. In the fall of 2010, I veered off course for a while. But when I got back on track, I started searching His word with a fine tooth comb. I have a voracious appetite for His word, and it’s what sustains me. Jesus said that Man shall not live on bread alone, but from every word that comes from the mouth of God. He also declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

But within the past year, something has occurred to me. Oh, I have gained much knowledge, but what about my heart? Is it beginning to resemble His? If I’m going to be completely honest (and this is the truth about God & me), I have to say… “not so much.” Yes, I have a passion for His word. I love it. I want to read it, I want to share it and discuss it. I love His word. But what about Him? Do I simply love Him, as I am so commanded? And what about His people? Do I love them as He tells me to? Those are the greatest commandments. Jesus said to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… that’s the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. Well, as I examine my heart, I have to say I am not quite doing this. I am trying to love God the best I can… I am loving him with my mind, with the knowledge I’ve gained. But my heart? God help me, it’s not a heart of flesh yet. It’s still somewhat stony, because there are people all around me that I can be loving in tangible ways… but unfortunately, I have not moved beyond my comfort zone to reach out. I have not truly extended my hand to those in need.

I’ve referred to darkness that surrounds me… darkness that I can fall into quite easily. Well, I guess that would be called depression and I go there at times for no apparent reason. And with my mind, and all the knowledge I’ve gained, I’ve tried to fix this problem. But to no avail. I even fasted this past January for 21 days. Not from all food, but particular foods. See, I wanted it to be a spiritual thing, and for those 21 days I purposed certain issues to God. One of those issues being my darkness. But you know… even that spiritual thing turned into something for me. Because I lost weight, and I liked that. And so, the spiritual fast turned into multiple trips to the scales. That wasn’t for God. And in hindsight, I have to wonder if God prompted the fast at all. Because the truth is He already told me how to escape this darkness. It was in the fall of 2011 when I saw a passage of Scripture that so moved me I immediately copied it onto an index card and placed it in plain view for a while. But you know, I don’t think I ever acted on it. Because I still live in darkness. And I still fail to move beyond the comfortable nest of my home and church. This is what God said through Isaiah 58:6-10:

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you: the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.”

What is apparent to me is that I have been living selfishly. I have been serving myself heaping helpings of God’s word, gobbling it down and savoring every word, but then… I am the only one nourished by it. I’ve grown fat on God’s words, and feel pretty good about all this knowledge I’ve gained. I’ve sacrificed hours of my time seeking Him, reading His word and praying. I tithe and give money to World Vision. I’m doing everything I should be, right? Wrong. I follow the rules and keep my hands clean. This makes me a Pharisee and a hypocrite. Because I have neglected the weightier matters of God’s word… justice and mercy and faith. Jesus said to go and learn what this means… “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” And I believe this is what He wants for me to learn. Because until I can learn this, healing will elude me. He tells me… extend my soul. If I could just be an extension of Him, then my healing will spring forth speedily. If I could just move my eyes off of me, and onto those that surround me, my darkness will be as the noonday. See, He doesn’t want my sacrifices of tithes and prayers and Bible study. Not unless I can attend to the most simple, and yet weightier matters, too. Because these – mercy… justice… faith – ought to have been done without leaving the others undone. And let me not forget love. If I could just love as He did…. sacrificially.

I have a love for God’s word. And it’s through the study of His word that I know, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” And because of John chapter 1, I know, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Jesus is the Word of God become flesh. If I love His Word, then I do love Him. The problem is all the self-serve I’ve been indulging in.

There’s not a thing wrong with studying God’s word. We’re commanded to. However, it should change us. And it will, if we let it. It will change us if we just do what He says to do. But what He says to do is challenging. Because it means removing ourselves from our bubbles of security. It means in addition to praying for ourselves, we pray for others. It means in addition to writing out checks, we go out there and meet with those who are in need. It means to not hide ourselves from our own flesh. We all have some of those family members, right? The ones who cause trouble… the ones who have so many problems it’s just easier to turn the other way. God tells us to love our neighbor, not just in word but in deed. He tells us to get out there and get dirty. And it’s then, and only then, that our healing shall spring forth speedily. It’s only then that our light shall break forth like the morning. Perhaps then, we will all shine bright in the dark… like Jesus did.

I am what I am

When I was a new Christian, my focus was on the doing. Because James 2:26 really tripped me up. When I first heard, “as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also,” I panicked. Because in the beginning, I had no works to accompany my faith. And quite honestly, a time or two, I doubted my salvation for this very reason. Because my thought process went something like this… Why, oh why, if I am a Christian, do I not feel like everyone else? Why don’t I burn inside with a fire for the cause of Christ? Why don’t I burn because there are souls separated from Him? Why don’t I go out daily to feed the hungry, house the homeless, visit orphans and widows, and evangelize on every street corner? Where is the love? Why, oh why, don’t I exhibit the works that should accompany faith? Because James 2:18 states, “I will show you my faith by my works.” Quite clearly, if there were no works evident, then I wasn’t really His, right? These are the thoughts that have plagued me off and on for years. Even as recently as this past year. But today, I am beginning to understand the truth. And the truth is, we don’t know what we should do. At least not by our own power.

Then they said to Him, “What shall we do that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” John 6:28, 29

First comes belief. We simply must believe God, and everything that He says through His word. But after the belief is where so many of us mess up. I’m saying so many because I cannot believe that I am the only one who has lived in this manner. I first believed in 1997. But then, I got busy. I volunteered for something before I even knew His word because I thought I had to. And then I moved away. In 2004, when I found a good church, my faith was deepened… but I got busy. I volunteered for some stuff because I thought I should. In 2008, upon moving back and rejoining this good church, my faith was established and my prayer life took off. But then, I got busy. I volunteered for more than I should have. I do not say this to deter anyone from volunteering… certainly not. But, I do wish to caution those new to the Christian faith. Because we must get to know God before we will know what His work is. If we don’t take the time to know Him, then our works will crumble away and leave behind an embittered, angry soul. I am proof of that.

But here’s the good news. We don’t have to do anything that we don’t feel moved to do. When we are ready, God will move our hearts. We will know when we are supposed to do something, because Jesus will call. Just like with the apostles as they were fishing along the banks of the sea. He said, “Follow Me…” and they heard Him and followed. Just like Moses who was tending sheep. God appeared to him, and Moses heard and was used by God. And just like the apostle Paul, who was formerly known as Saul. Saul persecuted the early Christians and he consented to their deaths. He was actually breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, when Jesus came to him on the road to Damascus. And there was Saul, an anti-Christ, but he heard Jesus. Because Jesus selected him. He said, “for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Acts 9:15, 16. Jesus chose Saul, and Saul heard Him when Jesus appeared. Jesus said, “I will show him…”

Later in his life, Paul proclaimed the gospel. It’s what Jesus had appointed him to do. Paul said, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain…” I just love what he said. “I am what I am.” And that is the best news for me today. “I am what I am.” I am what He created me to be. I will do what He created me to do. And I will know when He so moves me. As long as I am spending time with Him, and soaking up His word… and as long as I have an intimate relationship with Him, I’ll know. There will no longer be the question, “To be, or not to be,” or “To do, or not to do,” because I’ll just know. I now see that not every work is for me. Because I am a chosen vessel, and I bear His name. And at the right time, He will call me for what He has planned for me to do.

There’s no question about it. If we are His, then there should be works. Just not forced ones. And the good news is, we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). Bear with me… just one more visit to the dictionary… workmanship means, 1) that which has been made 2) a work a) of the works of God as creator. He made us for a purpose… His purpose. We’re His handiwork. And as we are transformed daily, we begin to naturally walk in the works He created just for us. We will fulfill our purpose here on His earth as we walk in Him.

So for now, I will rest in that knowledge. I’ll stop beating myself up when I don’t feel moved like the next person. Because whatever it is that person is doing may not be for me to do. Rather, I will embrace what I am today… a child of God, created by Him and for Him, and created for those works I shall walk in… in Christ Jesus. Because who knows what tomorrow will bring. Who knows who I will be tomorrow. Because every day is a new day with God. And every tomorrow holds promise.

… and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1 John 3:2