The Five Letter Word That No One Wants to Talk About

I was at a coffee shop one night, enjoying the luxury of catching up on some adult conversation with a friend while our children were at home. I told her I was writing my first book, and being the supportive friend that she is, she asked eagerly, “What’s it about?” I answered, “Shame.” I was caught off-guard when her smile faded, her eyebrows crinkled into a look of concern. “Oh, Lindsay. Why? What’s wrong?” This was the first of several conversations with other people who responded similarly, as if they wondered, “What terrible thing happened to make you feel ashamed?”

Shame is the five letter word that no one wants to fess up to.

I had had no idea that shame was a problem for me until the Lord revealed it through scripture study. Then, as I studied the work of Brené Brown, I began to understand that though we may not like to admit it, we all experience shame (with the exception of sociopaths).

Shame is the fear of losing connection with others due to our perceived unworthiness. Guilt results from a discrepancy between our values and our behavior (i.e., “I’ve done a bad thing”) and motivates us to change. Shame is when I feel that I am a bad person and am unworthy of love. This feeling is so devastating that it is difficult to move from shame to a change in behavior. Our instinct is to cover up rather than lean into the pain of allowing our shame to be revealed. We use various coping strategies to protect ourselves when we feel ashamed, such as people pleasing, deceit, boasting, feigning apathy, defensiveness, withdrawing, and hustling for worthiness as we place our self-worth in accomplishments. When shame prevents us from dealing openly and honestly with sin, we can’t experience the abundant life God offers.

Hebrews 12:7-8, 10-11 says:

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. …but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Four truths from this passage can help us deal with shame in a healthy way.

1. God is good. This is so simple and overly familiar to seasoned believers, but many of us perceive God as waiting to catch us misbehaving so that He can retaliate. Verse 7 says that He is treating us as his children when He disciplines us. We need to know and believe, deep down, that nothing we can do will cause us to lose favor with the Lord once we belong to Him. All discipline from the Lord is for our good. When we struggle with this, we can ask God to reveal His goodness and we can study His character in scripture. He delights to reveal Himself to those who seek Him.

2. You are not the exception. Verse 8 says, “…and everyone undergoes discipline…” (emphasis added). One of the lies shame tells us is that we are the exception. Other people may experience God’s love and forgiveness, but shame tells us that we cannot or will not, that our sin is worse, our shame runs deeper. Shame does not want to be spoken, so one of the most effective ways to deal with it is to connect with someone you trust who will listen without judgment and say, “Me too.” When we connect with others who are open about their struggles, shame loses its power to isolate us.

3. If you want the inheritance, you have to have the discipline. Verse 8 also says, "If you are not disciplined…then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.” A true son or daughter has inheritance rights. When God reconciled us to Himself through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we (believers) became coheirs with Christ. We have an inheritance of abundant life that God desires us to experience here and now, but the way to accepting the inheritance comes through the refining chastening of the Lord.

4. Shame does not lead to righteousness and peace. Verse 11 says that though discipline is painful at the time, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace. Shame keeps us from taking an honest look at our sin and bringing it before the Lord. As we are refined through trials, God allows us to experience the painful process of having our sin exposed so that He can heal and forgive us. This process sanctifies us and moves us toward our inheritance of righteousness and peace.

Though shame is part of the human experience, we can learn to move more quickly to bringing our shame to Jesus for healing as we grow in faith and trust in His goodness.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

-Hebrews 4:15-16

After five years of teaching elementary school, Lindsay is now living her dream of being a stay-at-home mom to two lovely daughters, which is harder, less glamorous, and much better than she had imagined it would be. She teaches adult ESL and co-leads a Be the Bridge group for racial reconciliation. She is embarking on a new journey with the writing of her first book, which draws from her experiences with motherhood, pregnancy loss, and postpartum anxiety/depression. Her book-in-progress explores how shame plays into these struggles and offers Scripture-based insights into how to move beyond shame and into the abundant life Jesus desires for His children. She has a passion for creating safe spaces for women to share their stories and struggles and would love to hear from you! You can find her over at her blog, Rooted in Love: http://blog.lindsayoconnor.com

Filled to the Brim

Any cup-hoarders out there? If you are anything like me, I love me a cute cup. Mugs in particular. Being an avid coffee drinker and a nurse to boot, I have my fair share of cups to go around. We have more than my family needs, but I just can't seem to part with many of them. Whether given to my by a friend for a birthday, or purchased during a special trip, many of my cups hold significance to me and it is rare that I part with them. I especially love my mugs that have an encouraging word or scripture written on them. In addition to the caffeine inside, often the words on the outside are just as mood-boosting for me. More often than not, my morning cup of coffee energizes mind, body, and soul.

Walking around with a full cup is no small thing. Navigating small children, desks, carpet, animals, co-workers, traffic, with a cup filled to the brim is quite the undertaking. It takes patience and no small amount of concentration to keep all the liquid inside. Add in contents that are scalding hot or can permanently stain and the stakes are raised even more. We have to be so careful!

Now take our spiritual life- our 'insides' if you will. A cup (our physical, visible testimony) that has beautiful wording, or a fantastic saying, scripture, or lovely pictures on the outside, can still spill horrible liquid right? When bumped or pushed, knocked around or dropped... it doesn't matter one bit what the outside of that cup looks like... the fallout will involve the contents on the inside. Hot coffee will spatter and burn anything around it. Red Kool-aid will stain anything it touches, often permanently. It doesn't matter what the cup looks like- when things get dicey, the damage done is dictated by what is on the inside.

Dear ones, I hope you see the parallels here. Faking this Christian walk can only be so successful. The prettiest, most pious, 'Christ-like' exterior and actions are simply that.... exterior. Sooner or later when adversity strikes, be it getting cut off in traffic, being betrayed by a friend, or something much worse, those 'bumps' will always spill out what is truly on the inside. What your reaction to these bumps is will spill what is truly in your heart.

Do you spill grace, mercy, forgiveness? Or wrath, anger, frustration, curses, revenge?

Matthew 6:21 tells us, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'

Contents of your character will always overshadow the exterior vessel. I challenge you today to take a good look at what you are filled with. What does the content of your heart look like? You're filled to the brim with it... is it Jesus or something a bit more destructive? The splatter will most definitely affect all those around you... will is scald and stain or edify them? Only you have control of this.

Jesus warns us that He doesn't care a wit about our exteriors... only what the condition of our hearts are. He will come for our hypocrisy, make no mistake.

Mark 12:38-40 And in His teaching He said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."

My prayer for all of us today is that when tried and tested our inner contents will spill Jesus all over the place. We cannot be perfect every time, but we can change our reactions with help from our Great King!

Losing What You Never Had

This summer at Camp Barnabas was chock-full of GodStuff, but none more pronounced than what God taught me through our daily devotionals. Camp did 4 days of devos over Jonah– one day for each chapter. Multiply that times 9 weeks of terms and I got a whole ‘lotta Jonah. We're almost done dear ones! This is the last part of our Jonah series! I pray you've been encouraged, convicted, and refined through our Bible study of this wayward prophet. We looked through Jonah's hissyfit in our last installment. I pray that my attitude is never quite so juvenile as Jonah's, however I'd best not look too closely...

Let's take a final look at the God's goodness and His sovereign will in the last chapter of Jonah.

 But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant[a] and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die,and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh,in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

Jonah is angry at God. As we saw in the last installment, he's throwing a hissyfit when things didn't go as planned. And yet, in this passage we see God still providing good, rest, respite to him... even in the midst of his disobedience and angst. God made a shade vine grow over him. His grace overflowed in a very physical way- and Jonah relished in it.

He was refreshed- and yet a change of heart didn't occur despite God's provision. Has God ever provided goodness, even in the midst of your disobedience? How did you respond... with joy and heartfelt change of attitude? Or perhaps with continued selfish entitlement? How often are your feelings affected by whether things are going well or not?

The shade ended, the hot winds blew once again... and Jonah sank further into his resentment of God, even going so far as to say "I'm so angry I wish I were dead." Whoa! Ungrateful much?!

Jonah demonstrates here what so many of us still struggle with today. This strange idea of entitlement, that God somehow owes us something. That the good things in life we deserve and are owed. I liken it to my children at Christmas- they wake up and find presents under the tree for them. They don't necessarily deserve them, they've been lovingly picked out just for them just because I love them. They surely didn't earn or pay for them, they were purchased with my money through my hard work. The gifts are freely given... and often (depending on their behavior) they are freely taken back. How often after receiving a great present have I found my boys fighting over them, resulting in me taking them back for a time. They pitch a fit, they cry hysterically, they bemoan how unfair it is that I took "their" toy away. How quickly possession occurs in their little minds. What they do not understand is that me, as 'sovereign' mom, gave them that toy and I can just as quickly take it away.

You see the picture here? As the scripture states, the shade provided Jonah was not of his doing, it was God's grace. It was not tilled or nurtured by him, it was through God's gardening that it grew. It was God's gift to give and to take away. Yet so quickly after it appeared Jonah claimed it as his own- his very own, his precious (cue Gollum voice...)

How quickly do you claim God's goodness in your life as your 'own'... your deserved gift? How quickly do you close your fist around the present He gives you, and cry out in frustration and angst when He takes it away? Health, wealth, children, cars, houses, possession, spouses, everything. We received NOTHING of our own volition. It is ALL through the Father. His to give, His to take away.

Unlike Jonah, who received a stern reprimand from God about his attitude, dear ones we must learn to hold our palms open at all times to the Holy One- both in the receiving of His gifts, but also in the easily giving back to Him when He takes away.

It's all by His hands that we give and receive. Let us keep open hands and open hearts in the good times and the bad.

What gods are you crying out to?

This summer at Camp Barnabas was chock-full of GodStuff, but none more pronounced than what God taught me through our daily devotionals. Camp did 4 days of devos over Jonah– one day for each chapter. Multiply that times 9 weeks of terms and I got a whole ‘lotta Jonah. You’d think for such a short book that I would have run out of material, but God had other plans.  You’ve heard the term ‘drink of choice’- that one drink that brings calm, comfort, a sense of happiness and contentment– today I want to talk about your god of choice. Highlighting one of the most hard-hitting sections of Jonah chapter 1 is verse 5, “Then the mariners were afraid and each cried out to his own god” (ESV). This takes place in the middle of the storm, Jonah is <conveniently> down in the hold snoozing away while the rest of the sailors were doing their darndest to not sink. They were scared, anxious about the waves, worried for their ship, fearful for their very lives. Scripture tells us they prayed, no– they “cried out” to their various gods. Notice the little ‘g’ here. They ran to what they knew, what they felt comfortable with, what they thought could bring them peace…. Except those prayers didn’t work.

I won’t belabor the point here except to say this- When you are anxious, stressed, fearful, worried, or overcome by the storms in your life what god(s) do you cry out to? It’s a hard-hitting question that took me into the middle of June before God gave me my answer. What god bring you joy, comfort, relaxation, stress-relief.... peace? What or who do you run to in times of angst?

Gods (little g) can take the form of many things or people– the obvious examples could be drugs, alcohol, gambling… however what about our spouse? Our best friend? Work? Sleep? Shopping? Oils? Google? Books? A certain game, a tv series, or a favorite celebrity? Even seemingly innocuous diversions can be a god in our world if we run (i.e. cry out) to it or them first (or too much!)

I was convicted mightily after 3 weeks of prayer about this when God showed me that my particular god of choice is MYSELF. I run to ME far too often, far too much, I am far too self-reliant. I can do it, I’ve got this, I can handle it, I don’t need help. I am my own little god. Ugh! Speaking of Jonah, that one was a really hard one to swallow!

So, dear one, be in prayer…. Who or What god do you cry out to? I’d love to hear from you and maybe we can tackle this little god thing together.

Would You Wait if an Earthquake Set You Free?

Reposted with gracious permission from my LIT sister, Heather Bock.  

Two large earthquakes within two weeks recently shook Mexico–8.1 magnitude in Southern Mexico and Guatemala, and 7.1 in Central Mexico near Mexico City. Amazingly, the 7.1 earthquake took place on the anniversary of another huge 8.0 earthquake that seriously damaged Mexico City 32 years ago. While I have been praying for those affected, many of them in deep poverty as it is, I started thinking about another earthquake in a story I just read to my children from the book of Acts. It’s a story of God’s guidance.

Paul and Silas considered journeying to Asia to preach the Word, but they were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia” at that time (Acts 16:6). They were next trying to press on to Bithynia, but “the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them” (Acts 16:7), so they headed down to Troas. There, God gave them a vision that encouraged them to sail into Macedonia.

When God makes His directions clear, most of the time I find it easy to obey Him. He is to be trusted, so I don’t usually have a problem praying, Anything, God. It’s the discerning of His specific will that’s hard. In fact, I am waiting for His clear leading right now. I keep thinking that if He would just give me a vision or something else vivid, I would follow what He has to say. While I wait for His specific will, I do my best with His strength to obey His general will for my life: loving Him and loving others. I know that much. When it comes to specifics, though, at the moment I am standing in confusion, not sure which way to go. Paul and Silas were not in this position because God had made Himself very clear.

Acts records that these two men stayed many days in Macedonia, preaching the gospel to those who would listen. During this time, a slave-girl followed them day after day, crying out, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17). I have no idea why it took them so long to do something about this, but Paul suddenly had enough. Turning, he commanded a spirit of divination to come out of her, to which the spirit responded by promptly exiting.

The girl’s masters weren’t too happy about losing their reliable source of income, so they contrived to have Paul and Silas beaten and sent to prison. It was probably a gift at that point that God had been very clear that the two were to travel to Macedonia. They didn’t have to doubt: maybe we heard Him wrong? Maybe we were supposed to go to Bithynia instead? They had simply followed God’s leading; they preached the gospel and cast out demons in the place of His choosing. If they were to go through hardship because of it, God had a reason for it. They knew they could trust HIM.

Therefore, we find them praying and fervently singing hymns of praise in the prison when the great earthquake I previously mentioned occurred. This was no ordinary earthquake caused by a fault line. This earthquake miraculously broke every chain in the prison. This is where the story challenges me.

The prisoners didn’t leave.

Maybe God clearly told them to stay–the narrative doesn’t reveal that to us. What if He didn’t, though? If I had been there, I know I would have taken that miraculous earthquake as a sign to escape. When I am trying to discern God’s plan for me, I tend to see signs everywhere. I think, maybe God is trying to tell me something through this! I’ve done this many times, and many times I have been wrong. If I had followed all my own signs, I would be a missionary in France right now. However, God has made it clear since then that He has other plans for my life.

I’m not saying God never uses signs to reveal His guidance for us. I am saying that we’d better be very sure, bathing every step in prayer, seeking wise counsel, and keeping our eyes and ears open to the Spirit.

Somehow Paul and Silas caught the Spirit’s message, and they and the other prisoners waited in their open cells. The result: a jailer’s life and soul were saved, along with his entire family. The next day, Paul and Silas were officially released, and as the officials then recognized they had treated them wrongfully, they were able to leave with dignity.

I might have missed all of that.

Discovering God’s specific plan for my life is sometimes quite difficult. I have been in tears over it, begging Him for guidance. However, if I have learned anything from this story in Acts, it is that I must listen and watch carefully, not grasping at the first supposed sign I see. I think I can also learn that God will make it clear to me if I’m patient enough to wait.

I would love some encouragement in this. Will you comment below with times when God guided you in your life in a specific area?

 

A huge thank you to Heather for letting me repost this amazing word. Please support her and her ministry at Glimpses of Jesus.

Naked Joy

Good morning dear ones, wanted to encourage you this morning with some nude words. This is from a post I contributed to Mom-Sense last week but thought you may enjoy it as well. In short, I want us to be naked with joy, nude in our cleanliness, praising our Savior in nothing but our birthday suits.

I'd been praying over what to share with you for a couple days and God's answer came to me in the form of two very wet, very naked, little boys last night. Praise God for kids right?

Bath time at our house is an Event. Usually the degree of filth has reached epic proportions before I start noticing that particular 'boy smell' (because, yes, I'm THAT mom...) Fortunately my boys love bath time, shower time, pool time, pretty much anything that involves water. So they get thrown in the tub, shower, pool, bucket, whatever nearest H2O-containment system that's available; add some soap, occasional bleach (just kidding!), aLOT of elbow grease (and/or soaking time- I swear there's some chemical reaction that occurs between boys skin and all manner of dirt, dust, and grime which takes place making the bearer of such filth virtually impossible to easily or expeditiously clean!!) and viola! momentarily clean children.

They. Love. It.

If your kiddos are anything like mine, those short moments right after a bath are unusually crazy. Our house usually sees two little ones tearing around the place like feral cats, screeching, running, jumping, wrestling, and otherwise completely uninhibited by anything around them. Completely naked. They love the feeling of clean that comes fresh out of the bath- the freedom, the complete lack of inhibition.

My boys have no shame after their washing.

And neither should we.

There's something to be said for regular washing- there's more to be said for regular, INTENTIONAL, spiritual cleansing. Our souls and hearts too easily get grimed up by the everyday filth of living on this side of heaven. It's a thing dear ones. Just like our houses need constant upkeep, so also do our spirituals houses.

Scripture talks over and over about the cleansing nature of holy water- confession, repentance... the Holy Spirit. Psalm 51 is a perfect example, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭51:2‬ ‭(ESV‬‬). Verse 7, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Dear ones, only God can fully clean all those dark and dirty places in our lives. Sometimes, as in my own kid's cases, that cleansing needs soaking- it needs time to slough away, because it's been there awhile. I think we all have areas that need some prolonged Holy Spirit saturation. What are yours?

But what naked, clean JOY comes after such a cleansing! "Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭51:12‬

Confess your filthy areas today dear one and find the fun in being naked, unashamed, and irresistibly joyful before Abba. Uninhibited spiritual nudity, the kind that bears no shame, carries no guilt, and can run and play with the Forgiver of Sins is what must endlessly please God.

It does my momma-heart good to know my children are clean and wrecklessly happy (and I do mean wreck....). I can only imagine it brings the same feeling to our Heavenly Father!

Under the Influence

Sitting in church yesterday, our pastor was teaching out of Ephesians and he was towards the end of chapter 1 when Gabe nudged me saying, "That's the verse I prayed over you during your affair with Gina." (And yes, you read that previous sentence correctly, I had an affair with a woman. For more on that, read my testimony- God is SO good!) I had forgotten. Indeed, Ephesians 1:17-18 were the verses on his heart to pray endlessly over me during some extremely dark days. Because the truth is, I was under the influence of a pretty strong spirit, actually several powerful forces. Maybe not full-blown possession, but certainly oppression.

And the harsher truth is... so are you. Even now, sitting here reading my words.

We are all. Every single one of us is under a spiritual influence.

All. Of. Us. All. The. Time.

It's a sobering reality that I know many of us just don't give enough credence to and certainly can't completely comprehend. We are spiritual beings as well. Humans are designed with our own spirits.  We consist of our own body, mind, and spirit (Pro 20:27, Job 32:8, Ecc 12:7, I Cor 2:11, 2 Cor 4:16, 1 Thess 5:23 among others.) It would be foolish to think that our spirits are not an integral part of the cosmos.

Other spirits exist, they move about, they do what they can to influence us. Not unlike being underwater, the spiritual realm surrounds us, their currents carry us, their contact with us saturates our lives. The Bible talks at length, from beginning to end, all about spirits- our own personal ones, as well as the forces for good and evil that pervade the universe. Paul hammers it home in Ephesians 6, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Our struggle, our battles, our war is against spiritual beings. Not people, not countries, not ourselves... we are fighting, both externally but just as much internally, against eternal, supernatural spirits. They influence us, try to possess us, wage destruction around us, and overall just do everything in their power to manifest evil. Christians and non-christians alike are surrounded on all sides by spirits, each trying to exert it's own will against and into us.

Nice right? And terrifying...

But scripture also speaks even more at length about the one Spirit that we ought to let influence us... in fact we should pursue His possession; and that is the Holy Spirit.

We don't have a choice to participate in this cosmic battle in the heavenlies against Good and evil, God and Satan, Heaven and Hell. We are part of it, like it or not. We can drown or we can be made alive with living water; BUT we do have a choice as to which spirit, which side we let have control of our lives. The nice part is that we have a pretty clear outline as to which spirit will lead down which path. We can look all throughout the Bible but I'll stick to Ephesians just to stay consistent and you'll get the idea.

Ephesians 2: 1-3 

As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you used to walk when you conformed to the ways of this world and of the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit who is now at work in the sons of disobedience. We all lived among them at one time in the cravings of our flesh, indulging its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature children of wrath.

Paul tells us in no uncertain terms here that as unbelievers we conformed to the ruler of the power of the air (Satan), who is a spirit... and who has unnumerable spirits working under him to deceive, destruct, and destroy. Furthermore, he tells of what kind of people we are while under these spiritual influences.

We are dead, sinful, cravers of the flesh (our sinful nature), indulging desires and thoughts of our flesh, children of wrath... Yikes (that last one always gets me!) I've been there friends and Paul ain't overselling this. This verse is exactly what I was and did in my sin.

But God promises such treasures for those who choose to be influenced by the Holy Spirit! His Word gives hope, wisdom revelation, an enlightened heart, riches of His inheritance.... the list could go on and on!

Ephesians 1:15-21 

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers and asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in your knowledge of Him. I ask that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope of His calling, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and the surpassing greatness of His power to us who believe. He displayed this power in the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come.

I was deeply, deeply under Satanic influence during my affair. It is no coincidence that Gabe was led to these verses to combat the evil surrounding me. I desperately needed to new influence... an enlightened heart, and spirit of wisdom and revelation to show me the knowledge of God. I needed to choose a different spirit, to change sides and allegiances. I needed the Holy Spirit.

Today, I challenge you to ask the Father for His Spirit of wisdom and revelation. We all are under a spiritual influence... I cannot overstate this scriptural fact. More importantly, we don't just get a 'pass' because we know outside forces are trying to influence us. Influence is the operative word here dear ones- action is on us. Our actions and inactions are our decision, our choice, our responsibility- regardless of the spirits at work. Using 'bad influences' as an excuse at the gates of Heaven won't cut it. Furthermore, not believing it or subscribing to that 'spiritual' ideology 'mumbo-jumbo' personally also doesn't give you a pass in the heavenlies... if anything, the naivete makes you more wide open to the very influences you don't believe in! This is truth- plain and simple, and I'm a walking, talking example of someone who's been on both sides of the battle. It is REAL dear ones!

Which side is calling the shots in your life? Which influence are you working under? Who is the spirit/Spirit in your life that you pledge allegiance to? The gift of the Holy Spirit is free for all who want it! Here's a few more verses to help shed some light down the Holy Spirit-led path....

Isaiah 11:2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

2 Timothy 1:7

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity,but of power, love, and self-control.

Romans 8:15

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"

 

I urge you to choose the Holy Spirit, to choose hope and wisdom, to choose life and life abundantly!

If you feel the Holy Spirit is pursuing you (which He is....!) and you want to know more about giving Him control of your life, please follow this link and we'll walk down the path to salvation together. 

Butterfly Wings, Caterpillar Hairs, Gelatinous Goo, and My Heart

This week has been long-anticipated for about 3 months in the Douglas School of Awesomeness. Jesse is in kindergarten and learns a new letter each week. This week it's B- B for butterfly. And not unlike the rest of the country on Giraffe Baby watch, our family has been on #butterflywatch for about 10 days now. The anticipation is killing me... or not really. Anyhoo, as part of any good curriculum, we did a ton of research on the stages of metamorphosis. Jesse made chart and graphs, we've been counting off the days with magnets on the fridge, he's drawn pictures of the caterpillars, he loves telling people we have "poopas" (actually technically "pupas", but he's a boy and loves that he can say "poop" without repercussions).

IMG_9480

I have to admit, I learned a thing or two along the way this week. Nothing revolutionary... except this- Did you know that during the transformation from caterpillar into butterfly within the cocoon and the creature literally turns into goo? Scientists have yet to figure out what exactly happens except to say that the caterpillar literally decomposes into a gelatinous blob of chemicals and then completely re-constructs the goo into a new insect. It's kind of an incredible thing. You should YouTube it.

What's even crazier is research has found that, despite the metamorphosis jell-o factor, the newly emerged butterflies actually retain memories. Whaaat?!?! Seriously, look it up... science has found that tests or lessons that they teach caterpillars (cause, you know... some people's jobs are to train caterpillars...) are remembered and can still be completed by the new winged creatures.

Wow. If that doesn't scream GodStuff I don't know what does.

I have heard over the course of  my years many comparisons between the transformation from caterpillar into butterfly and the Christian life from non-believer to believer in God. There are many interesting similarities that have been discussed over time.. but I've never heard the 'goo-factor' mentioned. Having learned of this phenomenon though, I want to take just a second and look at how this is so very akin to what God does in us.

It should come as no surprise that once we are a child of God, we are remade. The Bible tells us we are- "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). This all sounds lovely. It sounds sorta nice and clean. But those who have gone through real transformation from sin, will tell you it's not a nice or clean process. It's dirty, it's hard, it's not pretty, it hurts, and it's downright bloody terrible at times. God desires to and will turn our hearts to spiritual goo in the process if we'll let Him.

I can attest to this. My own real work of choosing God and being remade was the pits for a long time. I literally felt like jell-o on the inside for much of it. I won't belabor my testimony (you are welcome to read it in all it's filth and eventual glory here) but suffice it to say, when I learned about the goo part of metamorphosis it resonated deeply for me. I get it, God wants to take us down to goo.

 

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Helicopter Mom...

see for yourself the gooey state I was in.

I went through an extremely hard time several years ago. I was confronting some huge demons from my past in the form of sexual abuse and an affair I had as a result of that brokenness. I had taken the initial step of wanting to “get fixed”—not happily by the way but because at the time I was facing divorce papers. I took that first step out of sheer belligerence and stubbornness, but I am thankful that both God and Gabe just took what they could get from me at that point and accepted my correct decision made with the wrong motivation. But the work that was going to have to happen in my soul, on those deep dark wounds, was overwhelming to me. I was absolutely terrified of opening a Pandora’s box of agony and fear, hurt, abuse, and sin. I just wanted to be healed, done with this season of my life, so I could feel better and move on already! I felt terrible. I had confessed my sin to all involved parties, acknowledged my need for redemption and revival, and so on. Time to move on, right? Wrong!

      That, fortunately, was not at all what God had in mind. He made me walk every… single... step… of that haunted forest for three years—but not alone. He walked beside me on that journey. For a while there, I am pretty sure He was dragging me. Forget the whole sweet “Footprints in the Sand” notion. I was way too defiant for that. My beach would have looked like a WWE tournament had just rolled out—bodies strewn everywhere, blood, guts, teeth, miscellaneous wrestling programs, crushed beer cans. At least it looked like that at first. Farther along, I am sure there are some nice, side-by-side trails. There were days, especially early on, when I would come home from a counseling session and literally sleep for 24 hours solid (obviously, this was the pre-kids’ era!). It was the most exhausting journey I have ever been on and, to begin with, I hated every single minute of it. I was so scared! Not only for my physical health but for my emotional and spiritual health as well. There was demonic warfare around me during those first weeks, and at times I literally feared for my life. This was not a happy time!

I was spiritual goo for a long time during that season. I went through 2+ years of intensive counseling to deal with a lot of internal issues. But God was working in me, within all that spiritual gelatin, and I emerged on the other side of that season as a renewed creature.

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Maybe not a pretty as a butterfly, but definitely no longer a caterpillar. And, just like our butterflies, though I was remade I was still the same. I am still Bethany, with the memories and experiences and lessons that I carry with me. But I am a newer, better, brighter, refined, and (being) sanctified version.

I am grateful for that gooey season of my life. The work was hard and it hurt. But it was so worth it! God desires complete renewal- in every area of our hearts and lives. The Creator of the universe just happens to be the Remaker of our hearts as well.

If you are gooey right now, I get it. Please don't stop short of your transformation. Don't take yourself out of that cocoon until it's time. If a cocoon were to split apart or be opened early only a gelatinous mess would ooze out... unformed and unable to do anything- so also will God's work be left undone if you split early (spiritually and physically). I know it's hard, I've been there.  But I am right here cheering you on. Stay the course and be content to be jelly right now. Let the Remaker do His thing in you and you will emerge a more beautiful creature; one that instead of crawling across the ground, can soar into the heavens and spread the nectar of the Gospel around.

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Dear one, if you are in a state of gelatin and need prayer, please let me know and I would honored to come alongside you on this path. It can be a scary place and a vulnerable state to be in for sure. Please comment and we'll get some prayer covering over you!

Like a Hand in a Glove- How to Avoid Being the Octopus

I had to put gloves on my boys today when I sent them outside.  Easier said than done… Because with 3 and 4 year olds, getting them into gloves is not exactly as easy as simply sliding their little fingers into the holes and sending them on their way. In fact, I would venture to say that getting gloves on them is more akin to trying to fit roller skates on an octopus, upside down, with your eyes closed, after the creature has had an injection of pure adrenaline.

Not exactly easy. Or fast. Or efficient. Or particularly enjoyable.

In fact it's downright challenging.

I know all parents can relate. It takes time, patience, not a small amount of dexterity, and amateur sumo-wrestling moves to get all. those. little. fingers. into. the. right. places. Let’s be honest- it’s exhausting and can be frustrating (depending on the level of excitement to go outside and how that translates into wriggles.)  I won’t even mention when, after 5 minutes, they’ve pulled them all off because “it’s making my fingers hurt!” (What is that?? Seriously child!)

How I wish both my boys could just slide their hands into the gloves with the ease that I can! It would be so much easier and faster! But alas, for a while longer, I’m resigned to baby finger wrestling.

I was struck today, while struggling with Jonah’s little digits, how alike this tussle was to reading and understanding God’s word and following His way. There are times and seasons where I feel like there is a lot of grace for discerning what I’m supposed to be learning- for what God is teaching me. It’s obvious. It’s easy, efficient, and effective.

Like slipping my hand into a glove- seamless and effortless.

Other seasons, (like right now!) the wisdom and lessons are not so obvious or easy. In fact, it’s a downright skirmish to figure out what I’m supposed to be learning. Not unlike Jacob wrestling with the angel, there are days where I’m exhausted from the spiritual mats that I’ve been slung down on. It hurts, it bruises even sometimes. It’s a game of patience, of precision (little fingers into little holes), and it often takes time. The exact opposite of the ease of putting my own gloves on.

But just as it makes my job easier if my boys stand still and patiently while I place each finger into the proper place, so also I imagine that it would do me a heckuva lot of good to just be still and let God place the pieces of my life and heart into the proper positions that He wants as well.

This season requires precision work right now!

He is carefully and gently putting pieces where they’re supposed to go. My “helping” Him by trying to anticipate where those locations are… is, in fact, NOT helping. In my eagerness to get ‘outside’ I fear I’m impending and delaying His ability to get my spiritual ‘fingers into my gloves.’

I need to chill out.

I need to be patient.

I need to BACK OFF sometimes.

I need to let my Father put these gloves on me.

One. Finger. At. A. Time.

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