Friday, May 19, 2017

the Hell in our Heads

I have noticed an unprecedented amount of God's people battling for clear, concise, and godly thoughts.

I will admit I am at the top of this list.

God has opened some pretty cool doors for me...

He allows me the opportunity to facilitate ladies bible studies through our church.

He also allows me to serve as a lay counselor at an incredible Christ-based Resource center here in town.

More recently a new and completely surprising door opened for me to do one-on-one Chaplain visits at our local jail. (only with women:)

These roles allow me to meet with lots and lots of women.
Across the board the ladies I get to know are vastly different in age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, educational background and religious upbringing.  I know women who love Jesus with every fiber of their being and I hug the necks of strippers, addicts and prostitutes who have lost every semblance of hope.

Here is an observation...

A lot of women are walking around battling hell in their heads.

As I listen to godly ladies from bible study tell their stories...they battle discouraging thoughts in their minds.
As I counsel ladies in crisis ....they battle debilitating thoughts in their minds.
As I meet with women in the jail....they battle the exact. same. thing.

Thoughts are powerful.

They are invisible to the eye yet they dictate much of how we act.
Thoughts cannot speak for themselves yet they work their way out of our mouths and usually into trouble.
Thoughts, if left unchecked, can be incredibly dangerous.

The enemy of our soul knows that as believers we have an eternal home in Heaven with Jesus.
We will not know the torment of hell.

Yet many of us have allowed the torment of hell into our heads....

This internal mind battle keeps us paralyzed by fear, held captive in the clutches of comparison, worn down and frazzled with weariness.

Most of us are doing good to guzzle down a cup of coffee (or 5) and press through our day.

Meanwhile our enemy has accomplished the second best way of bringing us to ruin and rendering us ineffective.

He simply whispers lies to us and we mindlessly believe them.

Another observation from women across the board is that we seem too tired...too stretched thin...or too distracted to really even notice the severity of our own legs being cut out from underneath us.

The enemy has our number.

He certainly has mine.

If you want be zapped of energy~ keep cycling those thoughts.
If you want to embrace depression~ then continue to be deceived.
If you want to feel like you are going crazy ~then give those thoughts a place to take root.
If you want to quench faith in your life~ believe how you feel instead.

This is how many believers live their lives.

BUT hell was vanquished for us on the cross of Calvary.
When Jesus rose from the grave victorious....our victory was in tact as well.

So let's not just be saved from a literal hell.

Let's be also saved from an internal one as well.

Just as our eternal security is determined by faith in Jesus.
Ongoing daily strength and security is determined the same way.

Faith.

It takes faith to rejects lies.
It takes faith in Jesus to trust that His Word is truth.
It takes faith to fight for freedom in your mind.


"For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete."  
2 Corinthians 10: 3-6

Faith moves us to action.

Faith helps us wage war with divine power that CAN destroy strongholds.

Faith gives us courage to recognize arguments and lofty opinions IN OUR MINDS that attempt to raise themselves against the knowledge of Almighty God.

Faith pushes us to take thoughts of our flesh captive.

Faith isn't afraid of repentance.

Faith surrenders in obedience.

Faith fights the hell in our heads and it will win.

We must choose it.

Over and over and over again.....





Wednesday, April 19, 2017

3 Days After Easter....

There were a couple of things that my pastor said at our Saturday Easter service that quickened a longing that is deep within me.

As he welcomed the church he said something to this effect, "there is nothing in your life~ no difficulty, loss, depression, anger, heartbreak that a good Resurrection cannot fix."

I agreed with a hearty "Amen".

Later in his message he asked the congregation a rhetorical question, "who here needs an Easter miracle?"

I did not verbally "Amen" to that one.  Instead I let the words fall on me. Sink in.

Every Sunday believers gather to worship and celebrate Jesus Christ.  His death on the cross purchased our freedom- if we so choose Him.

The exchange of His righteousness for my filth is more staggering to me the longer I live.

When I met Jesus as a 9 year old I did not understand the sin battle that would plague me until heaven.

My sins are forgiven.
But I have a flesh that still wants to go its own way.  My heart cannot be trusted.  And many times I give into the lure of pride.

Easter IS miraculous.
The miracle of the resurrection changes everything.

For those of us that have a relationship with Jesus we know firsthand the difference that grace can make in a life.

But, on this past Saturday evening, my thoughts for resurrection and a miracle led me straight back to a longing that has not let up for almost 15 years....

Anyone else have one???

I bet I was not the only one in that sanctuary that has tasted the goodness of grace and salvation yet...we still long for a miracle~ a resurrection of sorts.

I mean~ HELLO.  The pastor asked for crying out loud.  "Does anyone need an Easter miracle?"

Who doesn't have something?

Even if you won't say it to anyone else or even out loud.....we can think of something we want or need that seems impossible for us to get.

I looked over at my 14 year old daughter strapped into her wheelchair and wondered like I have a million times before what it would be like for her brain to be healed and her body to work correctly.

I wanted to run down to the altar and sob loudly.

Seriously.

I wanted to lay flat out and just wail. For the many days and years of believing and not yet seeing...

But pride holds me back from making such a spectacle.

What would everyone think?
What would people say?
How would people react?

I wonder if their child was strapped into a wheelchair if they would care to be a fool and sob at the altar too?

Longing makes us care a little less.

I do care.

But sometimes my desperation gets the best of me and I want to be like the woman that pushed and shoved her way to Jesus...just to make contact with the hem of his garment.  (Matthew 9:20-21)

12 years.

She had hemorrhaged for 12 long years.

I wonder if she felt as hopeless on the day she was healed as I did in the Easter service?

I believe God Almighty still miraculously heals.
I believe He will heal my girl on this earth.
I believe He has grown my faith into something less flippant and flimsy because of years of persevering in faith....glory to His Name.

I sit here 3 days after the celebration of Jesus' resurrection filled with gratitude for a Savior that rescues.

But I also sit here in my longing.

Right smack in the middle of it.  It hasn't waned one bit.

Whatever it was that urged the lady to find a way to Jesus after 12 years of bleeding still urges me today.

So often we gauge what we think God will do based on time.

She didn't allow 12 years of sameness to solidify her fate or to hold her back.

She shoved.  She pushed.  She took a leap of faith that something might just happen.

She took her longing (all 12 years of it) to the hem of Jesus' clothing.

I would say that is mustard seed faith.

May I not allow 14 years to taint my faith.

My God does not change.
He is the same yesterday.  Today. And forever.

He delights in persistent tenacious stubborn faith....unbroken by the passage of time and passing doubts.

My bet is that others in that crowd would not have encouraged this lady to even think of a miracle after 12 years.

Aren't you glad she didn't ask their opinion?

She shoved her way to the One that knew her deepest longing and honored her faith.

So I ask.

Who among you needs a miracle?

Come push your way up to Jesus with me.  Elbow your way into His Presence.

You may feel like your request might as well be dormant.  Forgotten.  Even forsaken.

You may think that time passing by somehow means that God has answered....

But what if it all changed because you asked again?

What if faith is continuing to be compelled to ask?

Don't we want to know that IT IS God who fuels the very faith that pride desires to extinguish?

I am NOT embarrassed because I long for my girl to be healed.

I AM embarrassed that somehow I lose the gumption to push my way up to Jesus...yet again...that I focus on the glares of others rather than a glory I cannot really fathom.

Faith is outlandish y'all.

We will look foolish and feel even more so....

But that woman walked away from Jesus without any regrets that day.

Let's ask.

Let's ask again.  And again.

Shove with me through doubt, glares, laughter, fear and a mob of others where you may feel unnoticed or unimportant.

Reach out in hope even if the gesture feels stupid and small....and we might just walk away with a miracle.
















Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When Our Words Come Back to Bite Us








These kids of mine are a bunch of fun.

And a bunch of work.

Somebody is almost always having a meltdown, a crisis, a secret, a lapse in judgement, a belly laugh, a fear, a concern, a practical joke (our whoopee cushion constantly changes locations) and let's not forget...a question.  Or about a thousand.

This phase of life with my kids gives me such appreciation for my parents and some of my friend's parents that allowed me to hang out at their house a lot during my teenage years.

I am learning alot as I teach my own kids about life, Jesus, consequences, responsibility, and so on...

Striking a good parenting balance between easy going and uptight is my goal.  But I usually end up being more one or the other rather than a good mix of in between.

Lately I have gotten pretty uptight about stuff left all over the house. Every day.  Multiple times a day...

A deck of cards.
Random jewelry.
Shoes.
Shoes.
Shoes.
Jackets.
Nerf guns.
Craft supplies.
Chapstick.
Books.
Shoes.
Nerf bullets.
Candy wrappers.
Blankets.
Hangers.
Shoes.

I huffed through the kitchen stomping and talking to no one in particular in a rather loud voice about how I felt more like the maid than the mom.

Shep looked at me and said, "Babe, we can give them serious consequences for this.  We need to come down harder on them and make them believe us when we say we do not want them leaving stuff all over the house."

I stopped in my tracks and said, "I know we can punish them and make them mind.  I just wish they would obey us because they love us."


And there it was.

Truth.  And my desire...for my children to obey and not be punished.

Haven't I heard that (or read that) somewhere before?

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments."  John 14:15

The Lord expects of His kids the same thing we expect from our own.

Obedience.

Not out of obligation. Not out of manipulation.  Not out of aggravation.

Obedience out of LOVE.

It hit me pretty hard.

Parenting is not as clear cut as I want it to be.
I desire for my kids to grow up and be considerate, responsible, and honest folks that love their Lord and love others.

However, just like me, they are bent to go their own way and do their own thing.

Like.......leave their junk all over our house all. the. time.

If I love them~
I will correct them.  At times with gentle reminders and mercy.  At other times with discipline and punishment that is as unpleasant for me as it is for them.


Because He loves us...He is faithful and kind to correct us.
Because we love Him...we obey Him.


And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 1:6




Wednesday, March 1, 2017

L.O.V.E.

There is an all surpassing love that can be known and experienced.

There is a love that covers any wrong.

There is a love that can pay any debt.

There is a love that most only dream of....the stuff of legends and fairy tales.

This love can melt stone and move mountains.
This love can part a sea and drive out fear.
This love resurrects dead things and brings life anew.

Past the retirement of feelings, this LOVE is steadfast and immovable.  Never shaken.

We cannot bend it.
We cannot pervert it.
We cannot purchase it.

This other-worldly love does indeed exist.

It rescues lives every single day.
It seeps into cracks where the tiniest bit of faith thrives.
It changes landscapes and makes our difficulties into stepping stones of grace.

This LOVE is patient and kind.
This LOVE is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
This LOVE does not even demand its own way.
This LOVE is not irritable.
This LOVE keeps zero record of wrongs.
This LOVE hates injustice.
This LOVE rejoices whenever the truth wins.
This LOVE never gives up.
This LOVE never loses faith.
This LOVE is always hopeful.
This LOVE endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13)


I honestly cannot measure up.  As much as I want to love those closest to me in this fashion I fall short.
My heart is impatient and self seeking even on its best day.
I lose heart and want to give up so easily.
My hopes can be dashed as quickly as a light turning red.

But this LOVE holds me.
This LOVE has me.
This LOVE is working inside of me.

This LOVE so astounds me that I cannot help but want to see others held in a LOVE like this.

Most days we don't acknowledge it.
Hours pass and life ticks off a day at a time without us stopping to pause over a LOVE that changed everything in our lives.

I want to relish this LOVE that was so freely given to me and so costly to the Giver.
I want to delight in it and see its boundless expression.

Let's not live like we are unloved.
His LOVE has purpose.  It saves the lost.  It frees the captive.
Shamelessly proclaim all this LOVE does for you...and watch it do the same for others!


"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it."
John 3:16-17






Thursday, December 15, 2016

Auto Immune

One of the ways the Lord shows His daily faithfulness in my life is to speak through present circumstances.

This past Saturday I was struggling to move. Literally.

Fourteen years ago, shortly after Caroline was born, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

The onset of this disease was fast and harsh.

Severe pain.  All over.

I was bed-ridden within a week.

A specialist was quickly able to diagnose this disease that was attacking my body.

Rheumatoid arthritis falls into the category of an auto immune disease.

Here is the gist of what that means (in non-medical Andrea terms):  my body is attacking itself.

So my immune system, which is supposed to fight invading bacteria that would make me sick, instead attacks my healthy tissue and cells.

In short, I AM MY OWN ENEMY.

And I don't even mean to do it.

(It is really pretty crappy...but we all have stuff to deal with and manage)

Thankfully there are medicines available that can help ease the symptoms of this wicked disease.

All of these medicines work together to help me...but the best medicine to fight the damage of this disease is a medicine called Enbrel.

It is an injection.  Yes.  A blasted shot.

I.  Hate. Shots.

Thankfully my husband has become the master at administering them and I hardly even feel it (yay for that)!

The Enbrel goes into my body and suppresses my immune system so it cannot attack itself.

Are you beginning to see how God is using this in my life?

Let me give you some context in God's Word~

"I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful is concerned.  No matter which way I turn, I can't make myself do right.  I want to, but I can't.  When I want to do good, I don't.  And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway.  But if I am doing what I don't want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it.
It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitable do what is wrong.  I love God's law with all my heart.  But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind." Romans 7:18-23 


Just as my own immune system declares war on itself, there is a spiritual war that wages in me constantly.

My flesh (this selfish, arrogant, vain, mean, vindictive, jealous, whiny, self-righteous, doubting, foolish, angry,fear-filled person) tries to daily declare war on the person I am in Jesus Christ.

I don't even mean to.

My old nature just does what old natures do.

So I am in desperate need of something that goes into my mind to fight this old nature.

God's Word acts as the medicine that keeps my old sin nature from flaring up.

The more I stay in His Word...the more my old nature has to retreat.

If you follow Christ Jesus and live in this fallen world...you are just as auto immune as I am.

Without heavy and daily doses of the truth of the Word and prayer we are doomed to lose that internal war.

Thankfully the Lord has given us every tool to win.  Himself.  His precious Holy Spirit resides within us.  His Word changes the way we think and softens cold and critical hearts.

We DO NOT have to walk around defeated and allowing the old nature to win this internal war.

But many of us do....to the great detriment of the reputation and grace of Jesus Christ.

Rise up Christians.  Fight through means of submission.  Recognize and confess the ugly stuff that lurks in your hearts and minds.  Allow grace and conviction to do its work.

If I refused to take the prescribed medicine for my rheumatoid arthritis and yet complained constantly of debilitating pain....my guess is that I would receive very little pity.  And zero relief.

Yet we do the same thing.

We cry out in our need for peace, comfort, joy, forgiveness, mercy, provision, power, strength, and love that we must have in order to function.

And the prescription for all of the above sits on some shelf or bedside table...barely used or believed.

In this season of Christmas I am humbled to no end that my Savior would wrap Himself in this flesh to save my stubborn and self-bent soul.

When you take some real inventory of the sin that longs to eat you alive....the gift of baby Jesus will humble you as well.

A perfect, spotless Son of God came for the chief purpose to save a sinful me.


Merry Christmas my auto immune friends!

"So now there is NO condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death.  
He sent his own Son in a human body like ours, except that ours are sinful.  God destroyed sin's control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.  He did this so that the requirement of the law would be fully accomplished for us who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit."
Romans 8:1-4


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Scoffers and Skeptics

A couple of weeks ago during my morning devotion time with Jesus I read Paul's words to Timothy and found myself musing.

Paul was indeed a real person.

He is responsible for writing much of the New Testament.

His words speak of a man on a mission.  His passion is almost visible on the written page.

This man, once a violent persecutor of Christians, now leading the charge of grace.

In 1 Timothy 1:12 Paul writes, "How thankful I am to Christ Jesus our Lord for considering me trustworthy and appointing me to serve him, even though I used to scoff at the name of Christ.  I hunted down his people, harming them in every way I could.  But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief.  Oh, how kind and gracious the Lord was! He filled me completely with faith and the love of Christ Jesus."

One of my favorite character traits about our brother Paul is his shameless forthrightness.

He does not gloss over his past.
The grievous nature of what he used to be is not somehow painted in a prettier light.

Nope.

Paul plops the truth out there.

He was awful.
He harmed Christians in every way he could.

With even more eagerness he credits the unmistakable change in his life.
He speaks of mercy as a man tasting it again and again as if for the first time.

As I read his words my focus landed on a few in particular.

Paul said, "I used to scoff at the name of Christ."

I wondered about the exact meaning of that word: scoff.

It means what you probably think it does.  Scoff means to mock, dismiss, ridicule, jeer at, belittle, or make light of something.

Paul was clear with us.

He mocked, ridiculed. jeered at, belittled, dismissed and made light of the name of Jesus Christ.

Can I be completely honest here?

Without ample amounts of the Holy Word of God going into my mind...
Without a constant flow of communication of prayer between Jesus and I....
Without His praise ever on my lips.....
Without a grace filled constitution fixed on faith rather than sight......
Without fresh conviction and repentance....


I WILL and DO SCOFF at the name of Jesus.

My natural tendency is doubt.

You may have noticed that my title to this post also includes skeptics.

A skeptic is a person inclined to doubt the truth.

Yep.  That would be me.

I wonder about the Church.
I wonder about my brothers and sisters out there that faithfully attend church week after week.
I wonder about the ones that don't even bother to come anymore.
I wonder about the ones fighting the good fight of faith.
I wonder about the ones with little fight left.

How many believers of Jesus Christ sit under the weight of silent scoffing and skepticism??

When grace is stale to us~ faith no longer appeals.

When faith no longer appeals to us~ we begin to work to be loved.

And here the cycle of defeat begins.

In the midst of Paul's hideous persecution of believers Jesus loved him with unfathomable love.

In the midst of my scoffing and skepticism I am loved completely.

How quickly we forget that our God is so drawn to weakness.
He waits, ready and willing, to be called upon so that strength and grace can be dispensed.

The scoffing and skeptic nature can only been overcome by the most unnatural of trades.

I hold out my hands in surrender.

I bring him a heart bent on scoffing and skepticism.

He does not retract.  He does not recoil.  He does not refuse.

To my heart riddled with doubt and cynicism, bent on prideful arrogance and a longing to go my own way.......there is an infusion of fresh grace.

And like a soothing salve that binds and heals wounds, my heart receives fully a gift it was always meant to have.


At 9 years old I was saved by grace.

Today at 39 years old...grace still saves the day.








Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Not Knowing

A dear friend and I have laughed recently at how God has managed to get us ok with confessing, "I don't know."

Truthfully we were laughing to keep from crying.
Ever been there?

Questions plague us about the why's of God~ His timing, His methods, His paths AND for the life of us....we have no answer.

It honestly makes me mad.  But less mad than it used to. 

So there is some progress there....

How does God do this?

How does He take people that desperately need to know an outcome ahead of time or how long something is going to last or maybe why we have been chosen for a specific difficulty and make those people shake their heads in surrender and say, "I don't know how, why or when but I know You are faithful God and I trust You."

I have no idea.

I will use myself for an example.

The Holy Spirit has encouraged my husband and I to believe Him to heal our daughter for 14 years.

Yep.  Fourteen years.

I thought by now she would be running, talking, sitting, standing, and eating on her own.  I thought she would be doing the normal 14 year old girl things....

But she isn't.

And she is far from it.

Not only do I wonder why. 
I daily wonder when.
And more often than that I wonder how.

But this may be the coolest miracle of this whole process....BIGGER even than my daughter getting out of her wheelchair....I still believe God.

How is that possible???

I don't know.

Somehow my Lord has equipped me with daily grace to persevere in faith.

That sentence seems to trivialize these past 14 years.

Each day of each passing year has met me head on with a choice.

Do I believe or do I quit?

If my feelings were talking I would confess that I have quit believing at some point on every single one of those days.
My flesh can not do this.

But my flesh and my feelings fail me.
They bail on me all the time.
They lead me down destructive paths.

Truth remains.

Even when the thoughts of quitting take aim at my mind.....I am reminded of the One that spoke faith to me.

He has authority over time.
He has authority over impossibilities.
He has gotten me through each moment of each day since her birth and He will continue to do so....


My task is not about knowing anything other than Jesus.

As offensive and unfair and tragic as that seems....I am not entitled to any information about my life that God does not want me to know.

He demands that I know Him.

Knowing Him equips me for what He knows lies ahead of me.

He loves me.
He gives me faith.
He covers me in grace.

The why's may remain until heaven....but He stands with me in the meantime.

"I don't know" is an acceptable answer.

I don't have to know.

His pursuit of us is not that we would know more about our lives.
His pursuit of us gives us access to the One that gives us life.

He is the goal.

This life offers us a choice each day:  believe or not.  


When I demand to know the details I remind myself of Eve.

Genesis 3 opens up with Eve arguing with the serpent over what she could and could not know.

Her need to know led to her to sin.

God had provided a boundary to what she could and could not know.

One day she chose to not believe His way was best.

Not knowing what God has chosen to withhold from us is FOR us.

We must simply believe this on faith.

God is not withholding the best of Himself.

He lets Himself be known.  Fully.  By us.

Instead of allowing the enemy to tempt me with what is being kept from me...

I want to choose to flourish in all that is being lavished upon me.

More love than I can stand.
Faith that can move mountains.
Mercy that defies logic.
And grace that has no end.....

This is Jesus.

This is what He offers.

May we pursue Him.

He is the prize.