Beauty for Ashes

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Shame does something to a person. It produces a judgement of guilt and unrelenting condemnation.

Shame distorts a person. It suffocates the future and feeds on regret. The showering of fear hinders growth and stifles a person from becoming who they were created to be.

When I think of people in the Bible who overcame shame, I see a common thread.

Think of the woman at the well, for example. Shame ostracized her right into isolation. Or how about Rahab the prostitute? You better believe she could clear a sidewalk when she walked down the street. Even Gideon hid because he was the least of the least; he didn’t see himself as a man of valor; but God did. The list could go on and on, because God chooses such people.

Do you know what they have in common? They encountered the living God!

Are you there, my friend? Are you carrying shame like a dirty little secret and trying to cover it with  lie upon lie; afraid of being exposed? Have you isolated yourself in your closet of regret and you no longer do the things you used to enjoy, you hide from people, your prayer life is non-existent, you don’t even read your Bible anymore, and your head is too heavy to hold up?

If this is you, then there is something you need to know. There is no sin so great that He can’t forgive. There is no wrong that He can’t make right and no reason your past has to rob you of your future.

Jesus came to set you free! Do you believe this?

When He gave His life for yours, He took the shame to the grave and left it there, and then He rose victorious! His victory is your victory.

He gives beauty for ashes. Do you believe?

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed and commissioned me
To bring good news to the humble and afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up [the wounds of] the brokenhearted,
To proclaim release [from confinement and condemnation] to the [physical and spiritual] captives
And freedom to prisoners,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance and retribution of our God,
To comfort all who mourn,
To grant to those who mourn in Zion the following:
To give them a turban instead of dust [on their heads, a sign of mourning],
The oil of joy instead of mourning,
The garment [expressive] of praise instead of a disheartened spirit.
So they will be called the trees of righteousness [strong and magnificent, distinguished for integrity, justice, and right standing with God],
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. Isaiah 61:1-3

Call on Him. Repent and receive His forgiveness. Let it go. You have been created for so much more. When He formed you, He held you in His hands and He said, “It is good.”

We make mistakes. We don’t always make the right choice. Sometimes we do it willingly and sometimes not. But, He has made a way for us. Come to Him just as you are, because this is one thing you can’t do on your own; you need Him.  We all need Him.

Be Free & Stay Free

 

 

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Me, JJ, & Jesus

 

 

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The best gift I ever received is JJ; my little four legged buddy. He was just a puppy, barely able to climb a curve, when he moved into our hearts. He is three years old now; I think that is 21 in dog years.

I was never really a fan of small dogs; until now. Perhaps it is because I always viewed small dogs as just little yappers. At least with big dogs you can have some kind of protection. My view has certainly changed since JJ.

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JJ follows me everywhere. If I sit, he sits beside me. He presses himself up against me, or hops on my lap, and there he will rest. When I move, he moves. When I go to bed he follows me into the bedroom and hops on his pillow and sleeps on the floor beside me. He seems to have a sense about him, no matter how deep asleep he is the moment, I get out of bed he is right there beside me following me around the apartment; watching and waiting.

He enjoys car rides; he has traveled across country several times. No matter if it is a short ride or a cross country trip JJ is right there beside me, sitting on the middle console looking out the window, happy to be with me. When he was a puppy my husband and I would sneak him into stores with us, he fit perfectly inside my bag.

drive 9When he can’t go on outings with us, we return home to him waiting by the door for us, tail wagging, smile on his face, and usually with one of his favorite toys in his mouth.

Everyone knows JJ, he is friendly and happy.

This morning JJ was sitting in front of me, his head tilted, looking at me with his gentle black eyes and a smile on his mouth… he had a look of anticipation, yet he seemed so content to just be with me. I had to smile, pat him on his head, tell him what a good boy he is and how much I loved him and then I had a thought; be like JJ.

Stay with me here…

JJ knows I love him. He feels safe and has never experienced anything but love. I supply his needs, feed him, love him, and care for him. He could be spoiled, but he doesn’t know he is because this is all he has ever known. Even when he has been corrected and disciplined he is still confident in my love and care for him. And if we cross paths with a bigger dog who is not very friendly, JJ finds his refuge hiding behind my legs.

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I am learning an important lesson from JJ. His complete trust and faith in me raised a question in me…

The moment he tilted his head and his eyes met mine I heard the question; “Do I trust and love God this much? Is He truly the center in my life and does everything revolved around Him?”

You see, even when I walk in the door without a surprise treat to give JJ, he is still happy to see me. Or when I have to discipline him, he does not cower from me, he immediately jumps up on my lap safe in my care for him. When he can’t see me, he knows I will return and I haven’t abandoned him.

Simply put… he trusts me.

My question to you is… Do you trust Him?

A rescue dog who has been abused can still heal and thrive and learn to trust, in the care of a good owner. (I am in NO way comparing us to dogs, I am just using this as an example. Although I do think we could learn a lot from them) Most of us have been deeply wounded and we carry the injuries like a badge. We are afraid to trust and let go.

But Jesus says, “Trust Me. Come to Me.”

He will never abandon you, He will never forsake you. He will deliver you. He will provide for you. And yes, there is always room for you in His arms and on His lap.

Pray this: 

Father, heal me, lead me and reveal Yourself to me, give me the revelation of You and help me to never stray, but to always stay close to You, not relying on my own sight but in complete confidence You are with me. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Be Free & Stay Free 

 

Clouded By Insecurity

mind-prison
Prisoner of the mind

 

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, but not yet seen. Insecurity is the substance of things dreaded/feared, seen or not.

Our minds are always on. We have constant thoughts. Sometime the thoughts flash without too much consideration. Sometimes a thought grabs us and we linger. When we catch ourselves lingering on a thought (or an imagination), the attention we give to it causes a reaction. If the thought is positive, then the reaction is positive. The same is true for negative, fearful thoughts; if we dwell there, then the effect is negative.

If we give voice to our thoughts, then our thoughts become action and will produce fruit. Scripture says there is power of life or death in our tongues. If we meditate long enough on a thought (germinate the seed), it will eventually come out of our mouth and the fruit of the seed will grow.

Fear is the breeding ground of insecurity. I do not believe we were created with a fear gene; rather it was learned through negative experience. Since we know we were created in the image of God, and God is not fear and confusion, then we can be certain that fear is not from God. Therefore, since fear is not from God, we do not have to accept it.

Insecurity has been the demise of many relationships, opportunities, and dreams. Insecurity has silent partners called “what if” and “yea, but.” What if and yea, but has a relative named “remember when.”  They are counterfeit imitators and reside in the mind of reasoning; they are enemies of faith and they set up camp in depression and discontentment.

Our minds are conditioned by experience; starting from childhood.

The brain contains billions of nerve cells arranged in patterns that coordinate thought, emotion, behavior, movement and sensation. A complicated highway system of nerves connects your brain to the rest of your body, so communication can occur in split seconds. (CLICK HERE)  Truly a fascinating creation!  I am not a scientist, so I wont even attempt to explain the intricacies of the human mind, but I do know our brains are able to store information we have learned, through experience; intentional and unintentional. It is like a Rolodex, when faced with situations our mind quickly goes through the old files and says, “Aha! I have been here before!” and then it triggers the response based on previous experience. To the unregenerate mind, this can lead to a road filled with debris of broken relationships, dead dreams, and wounded souls.

Here is an example of what I am talking about:

I grew up with an angry father. In my home it was like constantly walking on egg shells, because we never knew when his  temper would spark.

walking-on-eggshells

This experience has caused me to have fear of confrontations. To avoid confrontations I would operate under the fight or flight mode; usually it was flight. If I was around anyone having an argument, or heated discussion, I would exit quickly, because it made me feel very uncomfortable and fearful. Or if I sensed someone was not in a “good” mood and they were silent, I would become tense and begin to mentally look for a place to take cover when there was an explosion.

nuclear-explosion

And because I not only grew up in a home with an angry parent, I was also rejected by my father. As you can imagine, as a child I was torn and confused between the two fears; I was afraid of doing or saying something that would cause his wrath and at the same time, I so wanted to please him and to be accepted by him, incurring a double whammy, his wrath of anger and his rejection.

Fast forward into my adult years…

Even as an adult, I still had to contend with that fearful child inside of me. I was like a turtle, I would walk and talk confidently, but as soon as I sensed “trouble,” I would retreat into my shell. The end result would cause even more fear and insecurity. Grief! What a vicious cycle, huh? How many failed relationships and lost opportunities must we have before we understand the past does not dictate our future?

Just like Pavlov’s dogs, we have triggers.  The triggers may not be bells, it could be a word, a look, a place; or anything that brings into remembrance the thing that caused us pain. Sometimes the triggers can go unnoticed, we may just find ourselves feeling or acting a certain way and not understand why. Have you ever done or said something and then later think, “Wow! Where did that come from?”

Let’s use marriage and remarriage as an example. I read the rate of divorce in a second marriage is higher than a first marriage. Again, I am no expert, but I submit the reason for this is because people enter into other relationships before being healed from the soul wounds. What we do not see, is while we are packing the boxes and suitcase to move on, we are also carrying with us the disappointment, anger, and rejection. Then when we meet someone else, fall in love, get married, and set up a new home, we are unpacking the luggage we brought with us from the past. Inevitably there will be a trigger, our fear of the past happening again causes insecurity, and we act on the fear.

Our minds begin to fixate on the what ifs and the yea, buts. You know, the “what if I made a mistake and he/she isn’t the one?” Or “what if he/she does the same thing my ex did?” Or “Yea, I know this is what they said, but they really meant this.” The past plays over and over again in our minds like a broken record and we get stuck there. Meanwhile, the present looks at you, scratches its head and moves on without you.

There is only one way to get off the treadmill of insecurity and that is, faith. But, to truly have faith you must be perfected in love. What do I mean? Glad you asked.

1 John 4:18 says, There is no fear in love [dread does not exist]. But perfect (complete, full-grown) love drives out fear, because fear involves [the expectation of divine] punishment, so the one who is afraid [of God’s judgment] is not perfected in love [has not grown into a sufficient understanding of God’s love].

There is freedom in Gods love. Knowing His love, goes further than just quoting scripture. A person can know the Bible word for word, can even be a Christian, and still be bound to fear and insecurity. Only intimately knowing God the Father, through Jesus the Son, can we walk by faith and security, knowing our destiny does not rely on other people or things. Only through an intimate relationship with Him can we believe that no matter what, this will work for my good. When we know His love (experientially), then we do not have to be fearful and insecure.

The more intimately we know Him, the more we are conformed into His image and our hearts and minds are regenerated, made new. Then we do not make decisions based on the “what ifs” and “yea, buts.” We are able to discern the will of the Father and act on it. We are not moved by what our eyes see, we are moved by faith, knowing it is the substance of all things hoped for, yet not seen. The more we are like Him, our thoughts line up with His thoughts, and our hopes are in sync with His promise.

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The more we trust in His love and care, the more we are able to extend it to others. When we grasp His mercy in forgiveness and His grace , then we are able to extend that same mercy in forgiveness and grace to others. And this, my friend, is where true freedom is found.

Forgiveness is not denial that something happened. It is not excusing someones actions that has caused you hurt. Forgiveness releases the person to God and frees you from the ties of the past. It frees your mind from the lies that try to hold you captive to the prison of defeat, fear, and insecurity. Forgiveness releases you to walk in your purpose, your destiny, and lets you experience real healthy relationships.

So, you see, there is no need to be insecure. God has you and He loves you. He is here, and His heart is that you believe Him and receive His love to the fullest measure. He has been here all along.

Be Free & Stay Free

 

Free to Fly

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As I sit here and listen to Jason Upton sing about freedom, I mediate on the truth of what he is singing. (Click here)

Ah, yes, freedom! Isn’t that we all long for? True freedom to be who we were created to be in the security of safety and comfort of knowing we will not be rejected?

Strange, how even Spirit filled believers struggle to walk in that freedom. Still, knowing is not always believing, is it?  We see, but we do not believe. We listen, but we do not hear. We nod our heads yes, but our shoulders are shrugging. We can even preach His truth and believe it for anyone else, but somehow we think “It’s for everyone else, not me.”

But this is the freedom Christ gives us, to be set free in His love.

There is no fear in love [dread does not exist]. But perfect (complete, full-grown) love drives out fear, because fear involves [the expectation of divine] punishment, so the one who is afraid [of God’s judgment] is not perfected in love [has not grown into a sufficient understanding of God’s love]. 1 John 4:18 Amp.

What does this mean?

I believe God is saying: My daughter (son) you have been created in My image from the beginning. You are Mine and nothing or no one can change that. You are wrapped securely in the palm of My hand, you are the apple of My eye. I have gifted you and created you with a purpose. You are not an accident, you were planned before the foundations of the earth. I knew you before you were even in your mother’s womb. Lay down what hinders you and embrace Me. Look around you, there is no one there to condemn you, I do not condemn you, there is no condemnation in those who are in Christ Jesus. Though others have rejected you, I will never reject you. Do not be afraid to shine. Lay down the guilt, regret, fear, and shame. When you stop trying to self medicate the injury and wounds that did not come from me, then you will seek Me and you will find Me. I am not hiding from you. Unforgiveness will hold you bondage to depression, bitterness, sickness, restlessness, anger, and death. Let it go, give it to Me. Only I can take the ashes and create beauty. My joy that I give you is not based on circumstance, but on the revelation knowledge that I love you and in My love you are free to be the you I created you to be.

Selah

Be Free & Stay Free