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Archive for the ‘Heart Issues’ Category

stone wall

Has God ever asked you to do something REALLY, REALLY hard?  Like love-someone-who-shows-you-nothing-but-rejection hard? Like move mountains, walk on water, part the seas hard? I’m willing to bet that if you KNOW Him, He has asked you to do something hard! Today’s scripture in my journal was Jeremiah 29:13-14 You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord.

Yeah, read that last part again, “I WILL BE FOUND BY YOU.”  God wants to be found by US. How cool is THAT?

Back to the hard…last year God gave me a scripture and I didn’t yet understand it.  I didn’t yet know the hard places He would have me in or the need for LIVING WATER that never fails!  I didn’t yet know of the city He’d call me to.

Isaiah 58:11-12  I will give you a full life in the emptiest of places – firm muscles, strong bones. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Some of you will rebuild the ancient, deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.

The thing about God is that when He asks us to do something HARD, He also provides us with what we need to accomplish it in HIS strength.  In our own strength, we have and are nothing. We’ll strive and try to do it right, to fit it into the box the world has made for us…it never works. In His strength, strength that is TRUTH, strength that invites, inspires, encourages and releases, we can do all things!  Our real strength is IN HIM.
He goes before us and prepares a path…

As I mentioned in Evangel Post (that link will open in a separate window) yesterday, it was Valentine’s Day and I was SO excited to see what He had for me.  I woke with a deep excitement and expectation in my heart!!!
What would my Beloved King gift me with today?!
I felt the cool leather in my hands, worn with use and stained with tears,
I opened His Love Story to Me and prepared my heart to HEAR.

Isaiah 54:11-13 I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparking jewels and all of your walls of precious stones. 

I was so excited and called my dearest friend Lori to share my gift…He had spoken to her also.  She reminded me of a picture God gave her awhile back of His Great Love falling down on us and turning us into stones and gems of all the most beautiful, vivid colors.  The thing about precious gems is that they are pure, multifaceted and they reflect. You can always tell when a stone is precious or fake by this.

He is building me,

I am the Builder’s Stone.

My hope is that I can and do reflect everything that He is;
truth, grace, mercy, love and more!
How exciting is THAT!~

…and when I don’t, refine my heart Lord and my heart beat to the beat of yours!!

Hello, I am Laurel ~ The Builder’s Stone.

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On the cusp of the previous post, I AM NOT AN EVANGELIST…I have been thinking. In fact, God’s been pouring stuff into my heart at such a rate, I can barely process it all. Aren’t we saying something about God every minute of everyday?  I mean whether we are purposeful about it or not!  Again I think I have a unique vantage point because Mr. Handsome isn’t a believer so I see from both sides of the coin – I know that he watches every move of every person who claims to have Christ in their heart. You might not notice his gaze, but it’s there, quiet and strong. He also watches those who make no claim.

I have been writing a lot lately and I asked a dear friend if I could interview him – I am interested in his perspective as an unbeliever married to a believer.  His response intrigued me and challenged me all at once.  My friend said that more often than not, Christians hide themselves behind “serving others” or the fact that because they have Christ in their hearts, they don’t sin anymore.  He he has felt the judgement of Christians and it doesn’t leave him with invitations or more questions, it leaves him with a sour taste in his mouth.

Jesus came to show us the WAY to live…I wonder if sometimes we’re so busy trying to “figure it out” and “do it right” that we forget what LIFE is all about. Life is for the living, it’s about living. I think about all the ways I’ve messed up in the past, how many times I’ve shown, not Christ in my behavior, but myself. My weaknesses. My ugliness. It happens. It will happen again. There will be people who are watching me, because of my claims, and who will pounce and say, “SEE! I knew it!” …hopefully they will offer me grace and forgiveness. Hopefully I can offer the same thing to them. Just like every culture – there are good people and bad people.  Let’s be honest. There are good people who aren’t believers. There are bad people who are. I guess if we are really being honest, is there such a thing as good or bad – is that it easy? Or is it more complicated?

There are wounded people.

Some hide it better than others – sometimes it makes good people do bad things.

When I begin to focus on the believers vs. unbelievers – a certain level of panic rises within me…what if I do it wrong?  What if they see me at my worst? What if they realize I am a sinner? What if they are there in that one moment when an ugly word slips out of my mouth or that moment when I snap at my child in frustration?! What if…what if…what if…

Let me alleviate all doubt – I am a sinner. I am wounded. I am broken. I make mistakes. I am not perfect.

I am also a daughter to the King of Kings. I am created with purpose, with passion, with love. I can be silly. I love to laugh. I sing at the top of my lungs when I bake, sometimes I even dance around the kitchen. I love to serve people. I love to listen. I love to share. I love good coffee and better friendship. I cry, sometimes because I’m sad and sometimes because I’m happy.

If I fret over all of the eyes that look at me and just how they see me – I’ll be in a never ending cycle of doubt and even fear and I’ll always be searching for a way to make them see me better!

Here’s the truth. Here is the only answer I can give to my friend, or anyone else who asks the question…

How have I been impacted by Christ in my life?

Well before I gave Him the Great Invitation – the weight of the world fell on my shoulders. Performance. Perfectionism. Money. Materialism. Work. To me, understanding what it is to be the child of God changed (changes) me in a way I could never have dreamed or ask and in ways I never want to go back. When you know what it is to be an adopted child, loved like nothing you’ve ever known on earth, it changes your perspective. When you truly understand that you are worth, literally worth dying for; it changes the way you look at yourself.  When you know that even though you have done the things you have and you should be dead (or worse), you are loved beyond measure…loved enough that He would watch His own son be tortured on the cross to pay for your sins, it changes the way you love others. When you know that no matter what you do or don’t do, he will keep loving you, forgiving you and offering you grace; it changes the way you offer forgiveness and grace to others.

That isn’t a promise from me to you. It’s still your choice. You can be a Christian and not think about any of those things. You can give the Great Invitation and choose to allow none of these things to shape your heart. You may ask yourself, what’s the point of it all, church, Bible study?  Well if what you just read isn’t the impact God is having on you – then maybe you’re missing the point.  Maybe you’re so busy looking at yourself through the eyes of others – others who, no matter how much they love you, will fail you, will hurt you, will miss you at times…

Try looking at yourself through the eyes of the
Father who longs to know you.

That is all He really cares about is your heart and relationship with Him.
There is no mold. There is no MUST DO list.
Just love and relationship with someone who loves you so much,
he died for you.

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Truth & Grace

 grace-truth

I’m sitting here this morning wondering what truth really is…does it change according to custom or culture? Is it different in each unique circumstance?  Can it be taken out of context and used as a weapon?

There is but one truth and one way. It is JESUS. He is love. Grace. Mercy. Hope. TRUTH.

Truth can be all of the things I described above. It can change according to culture, it can be applied differently according to circumstance as well as the one who speaks it, and it can be used a weapon…because truth without grace is subjective.

Grace is unmerited divine assistance.  We talk about it; we can fall from grace, give a grace period, be graceful, sing about grace in church…We can understand it but can we really grasp it?!

Max Lucado says

“God’s grace has a drenching about it. A wildness about it. A whitewater, riptide, turn-you-upside downness about it. Grace comes after you…”

What is truth?

Truth is that I am a daughter to Christ. I am loved. Cherished. Talented. Blessed.  I am a citizen of heaven. I am His.  That doesn’t change with the culture or with the circumstance and no can change it with how
they speak to or about me.

What is grace?

Grace is the unmerited divine assistance in calling us to change and giving us the power to pull it off!

It’s the knowing that I am known and heard and seen by the ONE who never shames, never turns his back, never throws a stone.

But in all of this, life happens.  We get hurt. We hurt others.
Where does truth and grace fit into that?
Where does God fit into that?

Truth without grace is harsh and does nothing but beat us down.
It’s religiousness in the worst sense.

Grace without truth compromises and gives us a false sense of being built up, held up. It’s a foundation of untruth when it stands alone.

But              Truth + Grace   = Healing
Time

Truth plus grace, over time, equals healing.  That is the equation which is drenched in God’s truth and grace, love, forgiveness, mercy and hope; wild and untamed. Without that we have no chance of being a body. Without that, the arm tries to walk and the eye tries to hear.  We’ll never get it right until we understand that equation and begin to practice it in our daily lives.

Grace isn’t necessarily for or about the one to whom you offer it, it’s ALL about the One who gives you the strength to offer it!  Is grace coming after you? You bet He is…Because He is a God that pursues our hearts and our lives; individually and as a body (1 Corinthians 12).
He calls us to change and He gives us the power to pull it off!

THAT is truth!

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Faith Journey

I could tell something had been coming for a while now. Something was changing.  These things are always visible to a Mama’s eye.  We were on a long walk, talking, and with every word, he became more animated and the tone of voice began to fill with contempt. I noticed within too, that my own heart began to tighten and anxiousness rose in my throat like a scream fighting to escape. The stench of fear permeated the air and stung my nostrils. He was questioning faith, questioning God and questioning me.  As I listened I had to force myself to be quiet. I remembered Zephaniah 3:7 and asked the Lord to quiet me with His love.  Every now and again I would interject with a question to direct his thoughts or clear a path for something else I knew needed to come out. By now he was angry, I could feel his anger rush over me in waves.  We walked and talked for hours.  He hugged me and thanked me for listening. Heavy hearted I retreated to my sanctuary to lay it all at the foot of the cross. I won’t lie. I was scared. I cried. I thought about when he was a baby and his questions used to be about bugs and butterflies. I mourned the innocence that was lost and I got on my knees and stormed the gates for my man-child and his journey. I went to my husband who held me and whispered assurances in my ears and reminded me that our 16 year old was talking! My heart slowed as he whispered and together we began to celebrate that he’s talking and sharing his heart.

Months passed but I never stopped praying.  In the dim light of the night I prayed for him. This is what it is to be a Mama.  I think this is part of the meaning of sacrificial love.  This is one of the ways that the Father teaches me the meaning of His love for me as His child and what He has sacrificed for me.

…Deep in thought I can see, he comes to me again.  Now I have prepared my heart, girded my mind with the Word and with His promises for my beloved son. He brings up some huge points, hard questions. I can see him wrestling with his faith. “Mom sometimes I’m so angry at the injustice of how Christians treat others and the lies they often spew, lies that break the hearts of the young people and turn them away from God…sometimes I’m so angry it scares me. I know it’s wrong. I just don’t know what to do with it!  I don’t know if I can do this whole faith thing if this is what faith looks like!”  Oh that one stung. The old stench of fear began to rise up again…and my throat closed…and I gasped for air! We are not made with a spirit of fear…be still and know that I am God…my heart slowed. I took a breath. I quietly prayed. I listened. I could almost see his body tremble with anger and confusion as all of this battled truth.

I said, “Son this is all normal. It’s part of your faith journey.  Let’s look at this way: say you and I live together on a beautiful island sanctuary. We are free to go anywhere together. Then one day while you are exploring, you notice a crack in the ground. It appears to be growing day by day.  As a boy you love the challenge of jumping across it just to see if you can.  As you grow, you see that crack is growing too.  At one point you put a log across and you can still get to the other side, if you balance yourself right.  As the crack grows into a chasm you have had to come up with a new bridge of sticks and rope. Now you notice that you are on one side and I am on the other.  We can’t be together in the same ways we have always been able to. You’ll have to decide now if that bridge is trustworthy. Will it be enough to just come to the opening of the bridge and wave at me every day or will you cross it and embrace me? The only way you will be able to truly trust that bridge is to test it. You can believe it will hold you but until you test it, you won’t know for sure. Believing isn’t enough. You’ll have to take action. That is what faith is, it’s action on what you believe. It’s ok to wrestle with God. Your dad and I raised you to ask questions. We raised you to stand up for what is right and to be a voice to those who have none. We raised you not to follow someone just because they’re leading. I have had questions, I’ve doubted. I’ll be honest, there have been times when I’ve been really confused. I have had times when the struggle to trust almost overwhelmed me in my faith journey….we all have.  This is part of your journey in choosing faith for yourself, walking out from under the shelter of my faith and into the boldness of your own!!! God can take your questions. He can even take your anger!  Nothing you do or don’t do will change God’s love for you.  He already knows your heart so no matter what you share with Him, it won’t surprise or scare Him…and it won’t make Him reject you.”

Our boy has given me permission to share this story…which touches my heart pretty deeply.  His willingness to share his struggles may give courage to others who struggles this way too (1 Peter 5:9)…when we’re willing to bring light into darkness/struggle – the Kingdom of God is glorified!  Sharing it will let others know they aren’t alone.  His courage inspires me and brings me to my knees.

There have been times when I’ve stood at the opening to that bridge – and I was too scared to test it. In the same way that it breaks my heart to watch my son struggle in his journey – God’s heart has broken to watch me struggle in my own.  God is impacted by my struggle, by the journey of faith I’ve chosen. When we share in that journey it becomes a celebration.

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This is part two to my reflection on Disappointments With God by Philip Yancey.
See part one HERE. 

Then there’s Job.

Oh this book in the Bible has always terrified me.

What if God chose to do this to me?
Would my faith survive?

My most impactful moment came on page 203 with Douglas. He had had a string of “bad luck”, health issues, an accident and now his wife was ill with cancer.

“I learned, first through my wife’s illness and then especially through the accident, not to confuse God with life.

Did I even read that correctly? I went back and read that again. I had to put the book down and ponder some…days went by.

Really? What does that mean?

Douglas continued,

“Life should be fair because God is fair. But God is not life. And if I confuse God with the physical reality of life – by expecting constant good health, for example
– then I set myself up for a crashing disappointment.”

As a Christian I hear of the power of healing and prayer for financial blessings, for health and good stuff…all I really want is love and relationship.
Am I odd? I’ve asked (don’t answer that).
Is it UNChristian not to believe that God wants to heal everyone? To me, one thing is certain, Christian or not, we’re going to die. It’s a promise. As Christians, that should be a somewhat exciting thought, going home.

**Please forgive me if this seems insensitive to anyone who is praying for healing – I’m not saying God won’t heal you, nor that I think you shouldn’t pray for healing, He can and often does…but the point I’m trying to make is that so often our disappointments in God separate us from His heart for us – and we only see a glimpse of His picture. We can pray for healing, but we can’t demand it!

We’re going to suffer, that is a promise too. But what if we made love and relationship the motivation behind life?  Isn’t that what it’s all about? It all comes down to one thing (okay two).
Love and Relationship.

“Faith like Job’s cannot be shaken
because it’s the result of being shaken.”

It doesn’t sound as terrifying as I had once thought. Suddenly I am looking at it from a different perspective. I’m looking down from above, not up from earth. Suddenly the narrow view that pain has offered me had unveiled a whole new world. Job couldn’t bring himself to believe in a God of cruelty and injustice…and neither can I.
Much more was at stake than Job’s happiness.
What if life is to make us holy, not happy?
Maybe it isn’t about us at all.


It isn’t about us manipulating God to do our will
but Him positioning us to do His will.

Relationship. Love. More bubbles.

Without hope, there is no hope.

Where does my faith come from?
It comes from hope; from the knowledge that God is a God of love. He longs for relationship – us with one another and also with Him.

Yes, life is disappointing. We live in a fallen world and within each of us is a mountain of pain that is built by life.
No getting around it…


 But God is not life!

The one thing about mountains is they create valleys.
Deep. Lush. Life filled valleys.

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Loving God

This is another reflection on one of the books I’ve been reading. It’s called Loving God by Charles Colson – HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend this book…especially if you have a heart to serve the wounded.

I am writing this with a heart so full I fear it will burst and tears that stain my cheeks, eyes so full I can barely see.

My heart hurts.

This book took longer for me to read than all of the others combined. I procrastinated like nobody’s business and every time I went to sit and read, I had a million others things calling out to me, grabbing hold of me…but when I would commit to sitting, oh my heart filled to overflowing.

It isn’t the words that grip me – but the Spirit within me.

 

A holy cry.

 

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless
Maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
Rescue the weak and needy;
Deliver them from the hand of the wicked
.

Who am I? What can I do?

Love meHe whispers.

This is what I’m created for.  All of the moments of my life, all of the brokenness, all of the tears, all of the joy – they all bring me to this moment when

the beating of His heart
becomes the beating of my own.

It can’t be ignored.
The sounds of marching feet which have come before me, defending the poor, fighting for the weary, a voice to the voiceless; on land where feet march no more…
The sound is pounding in my ears like a drummer’s beat, it calls me by name!
The injustice tears at my soul like a reaper, stolen innocence and silent screams.

Who am I? What can I do?

Love meHe whispers.

Why are we so cruel to one another?
I think the answer is love, or really the lack thereof…in self protection
we are all silently screaming LOVE ME.

And God screams back; “LOVE ME! Just love me.”

 

…and what if we did?

 

What if, IN courage – in FAITH, we stood as a voice for the voiceless and strength for the weak and weary…
His good news is in us.

Just love me…

In all honesty, I have NO idea what this means
or what I’m going to do about it…
but here in my study, on my knees,
I promised Him that I surrender my all to His will.

Wholly Surrendered.

With wild abandon…

Whatever mysteries He has for me, I’m ready.

Loving God ~ His daughter, Laurel

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I wonder if it’s just me or if God gives us kids to refine our own hearts!  I need that reflection to be able to see my true self sometimes…and nothing reflects my own heart like the heart of my children!  Do you ever have moments when you’re on your knees for your children (or someone else) and God taps you on the shoulder with the ol’ “a-hem!”?

My teens and I are going through an excellent book called “Stomping Out the Darkness” by Neil Anderson and Dave Park. He brings up the importance of knowing the difference between a godly goal vs. a godly desire. A goal is something we can make with confidence that we actually have the power to control the outcome of something. I can make it my goal to get up at 6am and read my Bible because I am the only one who can control this!  A desire, however, is something that is out of our control. I can desire that my children will come to have a personal passion for Christ, but I cannot make them do it. Therefore that must remain a wish or desire.

Why is it so important to know the difference?

Because we too often make a goal out of a desire and in doing so, we set ourselves up for constant disappointment! I’ve been thinking a lot about disappointments lately – especially disappointments with God. Life is full of them but when it comes to God, we have such a hard time reconciling them with the God we know.  We live in a fallen world and we will never be able to avoid disappointment altogether. However, knowing the difference and being conscious of a goal vs. a desire, I am more able to handle the disappointments when they do come.  Most of the time we just need a change of perspective in a situation, to be able to look at it differently. When something is a desire, I know it’s out of my control and that takes so much pressure off of me!  Not to mention that when it falls through, I don’t suffer as much of a loss because I know it was out of my hands.

Isn’t that part of faith?

Knowing the difference between what belongs to us, and what belongs to God? To be clear, I am not someone that believes ‘everything happens for a reason’. Life happens. Sometimes it’s messy.  But the most comforting thing, for me, is knowing that when God makes a goal for me, He will see it through because

NOTHING blocks God from His goals!

There is a reason that the Bible tells us to count our trials as joy – PURE JOY even.  I’ve said this before but our failures (or what seem like failures) are just as important as our successes! In today’s culture we’re so afraid of failure…but it helps us to grow, it gives us a sense of accomplishment when we work hard to succeed and it gives us a fuller measure of joy. God’s goal for us is to grow in spiritual maturity. He uses life’s disappointments to help us to grow, to refine us. He doesn’t choose them. He isn’t a god who glories in disappointments. He is a God who looks past all the mess and sees to the heart. He knows us. He loves us. Do you look at your children and want disappointment, chaos and hurt? No, of course not. Neither does He. He has plans for me (Jer. 29:11) and He is greater than my heart (1 John 3:29).

I’ve been thinking a lot about the motive behind the things I do, or don’t do. I’ve been thinking about my beliefs and how they affect my actions. I’ve been thinking about the times I’ve suffered disappointment in my life, and maybe, just maybe,

it had something to do with a goal vs. a desire.

 

 

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