Failure To Act

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love…(Gal 5:6).

The other day I posted something on my wall about a woman who had experienced some hurt within the church after her divorce. Based upon the response to this post it became very obvious to me there are many others who have experienced similar pain, including myself.
 
Many have dealt with feeling rejected, forgotten, left alone or even abandoned by the church. Unfortunately, these are commonplace when the church is full of selfish people who are just like me.
 
There have been numerous occasions when I have thought to myself, “I should really call that person,” or “I should do something for them,” but then I don’t. It’s easy to look at our church hurt and get mad at the people who didn’t serve us the way we would have hoped. It takes a lot more effort to look within our own selves and ask the hard question of, “When have I not helped when someone was hurting?”
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Trust me when I say that our selfishness and inaction has played a part in someone else’s feelings of rejection or abandonment. I’m certain this is true. The very fact that I’ve sat around and thought about how hurt I was only revealed that the biggest problem in the church was not the other people who didn’t serve or love me, but my inability to look past my own selfish needs and hurt to serve someone else.
 
Yes, until we start with the person we look at in the mirror every day and deal honestly with our issues of selfishness we will never move to be a church that looks outside of ourselves to care for hurting people.
 
Lord, I want to serve others as you would. Forgive me for the selfishness that keeps me stuck on my own pain. Help me to look past my pain to see others who are hurting. Jesus, grant me the courage to act when I see that others are bleeding from within. I want to be an agent of change through your love, in Jesus name, Amen.

Welcome Others Into Your Life To Speak Hard Truths…If You Don’t You’ll Stall Your Growth in Christ

Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?… (Gal 4:16).

Have you ever spoken the truth in love to someone only to have them shut you out and turn you away? I have.
 
Have you ever had someone speak the truth to you and you’ve done the very same thing? Turning your back away from them because your heart was too hard and stubborn to receive what they had to say? Yeah, that’s definitely been me too.
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I have learned, over the years that the heart in need of the most change is my own. It’s not “those people” or “those Christians” who just can’t seem to get it together, but it’s my own heart that is in need of God’s transformative love. You see, when I embrace this reality I’ll be much more likely to welcome people into my life to speak hard truths that I need to hear instead of surrounding myself with people who just tell me what I want to hear.
 
Have you ever sat in a church service thinking, “This is my time to impress other people, I’ve got to look good so people see how great I am at following Jesus.” Maybe that’s just been me, but if you’re anything like me, you’ve put up a facade to try and keep up an image to protect yourself from fully being known. Being fully known means exposing the true you. The person with flaws, insecurities, fears, pride, and doubt. Yes, the person who needs freedom, but who keeps hiding.
 
Stop hiding, it’s only hurting you.
 
The shocking thing is that some of our churches are actually set up to create this kind of atmosphere. An atmosphere that helps us stay hidden because when the altar becomes more about a show than a place to come and be broken it’s easy to hide our wilderness wanderings and go to the altar to praise ourselves instead of God.
 
As we lift up our hands to God, we too need to bow our hearts in humility. For when we do, we welcome others to come close and speak hard truths into our lives for the glory of God and for our own growth in Christ.
 
Lord, I want to be like you. Forgive me when I hide my junk from others out of shame. Please help me continue to be transparent, in Jesus name, Amen.

Shame Keeps Us Stuck, Grace Sets Us Free

LORD, you are the God who saves me;

day and night I cry out to you…(Psalm 88:1).

I’ve had moments of crying out in my heart to God of deep pain and overwhelming need. There were seasons, I can recall when it felt as though my heart was being ripped open as I begged the Lord for mercy and help.
 
Sometimes, because I felt so weak, and so exposed before the Lord, I felt like a failure to Him. I carried deep shame in my heart as I cried out to Him because I was convinced that if I had done better my life wouldn’t have turned out this way. Even though I was crying out to God for mercy, I was beating myself up at the same time for the circumstances that had come into my life.
 
I remember at one point the reality of my pain became so devastating that I asked the Lord to take me from this earth. I didn’t want to deal with the shame, pain, and feelings of failure any longer. I wanted to sit safely in my Father’s arms away from such despair. I wanted freedom and release from that which was mounted up against me.
 
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Yet, I learned something deeply valuable as I came out of that season. I learned that I didn’t have to stay there. If I could be quite honest, shame kept me there much longer. Shame whispered doubt, despair, and discouragement, trying to convince me that redemption wasn’t the way out, but that fleeing my circumstances was. But you see, there’s something about persevering through the pain that changes us. Pain has a way of reshaping us where shame has a way of capturing us and holding us in bondage. It keeps our heads spinning in unbelief and doubt. It causes as to flap about in the sea when God has thrown a lifeline of grace to our souls.
 
Don’t carry shame with you over your circumstances in life. We all face trying times. We’re not perfect people. We don’t have it all together. The longer we believe that’s what God and His church expect of us, the longer will keep drowning in despair and shame. Let your heart be set free today to know that God has grace, freedom, and redemption for you to walk forward in during your time of need.
 
Lord, thank you that you see me and you love me. Thank you that I am not defined by my past, nor my present woes. Truly, all things work together for us for our good, to make us more like Jesus. Forgive us, Lord, when we give in to despair and shame. Help us instead to embrace our freedom that is in Christ, in Jesus name, Amen.

No, You’re Loved One is Not Too Far Gone

The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy… (Galatians 1:23).

You might think that person in your life is too broken, destructive, messy and much too far gone to ever turn to Jesus.
 
Let’s rethink that for a moment.
 
God took one of THE GREATEST persecutors of the church, a man by the name of Saul and completely changed his life. Through Saul’s repentance and belief in Jesus as the Messiah, his course in life takes on a whole new direction. His name is changed to Paul and his life becomes about serving the gospel instead of seeking to destroy it.
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I’m not sure who you have in your life that seems too far gone, but I know for me, I had someone I dearly loved whose behavior was immensely destructive and I wondered if he could ever truly be different. Yet, I kept clinging to this reality that God changes hearts. I kept holding fast to what I saw in Scripture, that God can take the mess and junk of our lives and flip it, giving us a brand new story to delight in. It took me a while to get there though because I had allowed my heart to grow hard towards that person. In order to start praying this way, I had to let Jesus soften my heart through His love and grace.
 
So, that loved one of yours whose addicted to alcohol, drugs or pornography, someday, through repentance and humility, they can be used to help others overcome addiction from alcohol, drugs or pornography. You see, God loves to take the things that used to consume our lives when we lived in sin and use it as our greatest ministry in the future.
 
I know what you’re thinking though, they’re too prideful Heather, they’ll never turn to Jesus! Really? Doesn’t that put a limit on God’s ability to work in the lives of lost people? Isn’t that like saying, God isn’t powerful enough to reach this person?
 
Some of what I have learned in life is that along my journey of loving people who have given way to destructive behavior my role isn’t to try and fix them. it’s not to shame them into change or force them against their own will to be different. It’s to draw healthy boundaries for myself, asking for help from others only when and if it’s going to be helpful and become a person of prayer so that God begins to fight for me and my loved one. For the longest time, I kept trying to play the Holy Spirit’s role in the life of my loved one, speaking unwelcomed “words of wisdom into their life.” When I stepped aside and got out of the way, the Lord brought other people in who spoke the truths I kept trying to bang into their head.
 
The Lord doesn’t need our help like we think He does or maybe its more about the reality that we believe if we don’t speak, no one else will. But again, that puts limits on God, who is always working among His people.
 
As you consider your loved one drowning in sin, take a step back and learn to release them to the Lord. He’s working in their lives and you can trust Him.
 
Lord, no one is ever too far gone. Please, help us to live in that truth today. Help us, God, to love like Jesus and to grow in our love for others. Lord, we release the people in our lives who are far from you, please reach them with your love, we pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

Yes, Even Your Story Can Be Restored

Strive for full restoration…(2 Cor 13:11).

My mother loves to restore old pieces of furniture. Dad usually gets roped into the process too as that old piece of furniture is transformed into what it once was before. Sometimes it even comes out looking better. The care, concern, and love that’s put into that little piece of furniture pay off in the long run as it comes out completely and fully restored.
 
I know what you’re thinking, could this broken relationship, shattered dream, this hope or this expectation that seems so lost ever be restored? It can, but it’s going to take hard work. Nothing is too lost with God. All things, under His power, can be restored and they can come out looking better than they were before.
 
Can I be really honest though? That truth was really hard for me to believe in the midst of my own broken and shattered season. The betrayal, loss, and devastation all seemed too much, too messy and far too lost. I wondered if any of it could really be restored, but I kept clinging to the reality that God was a really big God. He was bigger than my troubles and fears. Bigger than what I could only see in front of me.
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I remember a counselor saying to me during that great season of loss, “Heather, you need to be prepared to start your life over again.” Although I understood this was a sure reality I was ready and willing to go back and work with God in the process of restoration. Can I just say though, that was really messy and difficult? Some days it felt like I got nowhere, other days it seemed as though I only took one or two steps forward and then other days it seemed like the bottom fell out again as I was hit with one more blow after another.
 
Sometimes those blows came from within the body of Christ and to be honest, those hurt the most. But I know that I’ve hurt people too and although blows came from the places I didn’t expect them, God still restored my story and my life as I entrusted it to Him. So if that’s part of your story, don’t carry that weight of bitterness and hurt against others. Release that to God, because He can make something beautiful out of it.
 
Don’t give up hope and don’t believe the lie that says your story is done or that it’s too broken. God takes our messiest moments in life and if we’re willing to give Him the hammer and the chisel we can come out looking better than before.
 
Lord, thank you that you love to restore. I pray for those waking through deep seasons of brokenness. Please, Father, meet them in their time of need. Help them as they grow to trust in you and to let you do the work in their lives of restoring their journey, in Jesus name, Amen.

I Will Boast About My Weaknesses

I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses… (2 Cor 12:5).

There are some days as I write when a small voice in my mind says, “Don’t hit send Heather, what you’re about to share is too transparent and too vulnerable.” I’ve realized in those moments, but what I’m really trying to do is simply protect my self image before others.
 
If there is anything I have learned in this life it’s that I am at my very best when I am transparent, humble and living self-sacrificially. If I live in my own mind where I am concerned most about me and soothing my own worries and fears I am sure to hurt people and distance myself from grace. The kind of life-changing grace that connects me to people and bonds me to the love of God.
 
It’s through this kind of love that I can grow in humility and love for others. It’s only through boasting in my weakness that I find my strongest self through Christ.
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For many years I lived as an indepedent woman. Someone who was strong and self-assured and a bit over confident. Then, everything was stripped from me and I was laid bare before the Lord. My independence was taken from me and my pride obliterated.
 
It’s easy in those moments to hide in our messes and bury ourselves under them. Either feeling like a failure or trying to cover it up so we can still look good to other people. I decided to let my mess become my message. The message of what God has done in my life. A broken sinner, saved by grace, who is being made into the image of Jesus through His love, power and sustaining grace. Once I started broadcasting my weakness I found a greater joy knowing that It was ok to not always have life all together.
 
For a performance junkie like me this was a hard lesson for me to learn and embrace, but once I did it changed everything. It changed my heart, mind and motivations. Living life so transparent became less scary, because I learned how to die to my need to find my worth in my performance.
 
Be reminded that living in your weakness is a beautiful thing. Don’t fear it, embrace it, trust me, God will use it to bring you into deeper relationship with others and with Himself.
 
Lord, I want to be a woman who lives in her weakness. I know that I am deeply insecure at times. I still wrestle with doubt and pride at times, so please, Jesus, be my strength, joy and victory, Amen.

There’s Some Dialogue in My Heart and Mind That Needs to be Re-written

 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness… (2 Cor 11:30).

It’s very easy for me to set myself up on a pedestal when I think about the gifts that I have for God. The human heart, being a bit of an idol factory has no problem daydreaming about the glorious projection of its own self-image before others. I have even noticed simple things about myself that I don’t really care all that much for in this regard. I’m recognizing that this isn’t just an issue of pride in the heart, but sometimes, I want people to notice me so that it can soothe my insecurities.
 
Whenever a sentence starts in my head with…..”I want people to think, or I hope people think”…..I know that I’m headed down the wrong trail. I’ll either be led by pride, insecurity or both. The human heart loves to wander along the path that leads them towards the praise of man, but those journeys, in the end, are futile and meaningless.
 
I’m not defined by my physical beauty, success, occupation, education or pedigree. Truly, I am defined by the Lord Jesus who sees me, knows me and loves me. I’m working on re-writing the dialogue in my heart and I’m stopping myself when I sense pride and insecurity start to guide my thoughts and motives.
 
After all, Paul reminds us that if we must boast, let it be about our weaknesses. This means we must be willing to live transparent lives before others because when we do, we put our humanness on display so that Christ can abound more and more as He works in our lives to grow and shape us into His image.
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Father, I always want my heart and mind to worship you. It’s just sometimes my heart starts to seek the praise of people. Please forgive me when I do this. I want to be like you, so may my life be lived out not for the display of my own pride and insecurity, but instead to put you on display, in Jesus name, Amen.