Journey Through October: Conquering Fear

~week one~day two~

The Reason I Didn’t Read

I flinch at the thought of pain. It hurts. A season of pain usually means someone I love will be suffering. Maybe I will be stretched beyond my human capacity. There will be loss. I will have to dig deep into Him to locate answers, find direction. I will need to seek Him for air to breathe. For peace in the night.

I will have to apply the wisdom of the past to know He will deliver. I will have to Walk by Faith and Not Sight. I will have to believe that my greatest hopes for the circumstances will be worked out both in His perfection and creativity. I will have to take a step of faith to know His outcome is better than anything I may conjure up as good in my own heart or mind.

I will do all of these things while my heart is hurting. While I don’t understand. While I dream about better or different days. In between redoing the past and how I could have made things different. Had I been given the chance to replay. Surely things would have turned out better. Or, at least, less painful.

The past already taught me that once pain has come into my soul, it will take some time for the dirt to become fertile again. The barrenness will have to be carved out. Removing what is prohibiting or holding me back from growth. It takes a while for flowers to bloom again. Turning those pages felt like an invitation to relive all of it. All my pain. This is the reason why I didn’t read.

Unconsumed

My pursuits to be unconsumed by the daily grind require more transition than I expected.  Master of the calendar takes more than a book and a week.  Deciding on calendar design requires fighting a few longstanding opponents.  My opponents are the invisible kind, i.e. pressure, coming up short, being tired, pushing too hard, forgetting what I am made of.  What does your invisible opponent look like?

Even though I scheduled hard with a lot of heart.  Last week was somewhat of a bomb.   I simultaneously got hit with 1) the middle school snake schedule, 2) working till 9pm at least twice, 3) sleep escaping me and 4) missing two important meetings due to the failure of my calendars to sync.  My mom even asked me about the disconnect between my writing about time and my life last week. So, again, I consider time and the arrangement of it.

What I am learning as a person: I am learning that the silly little phrase Forgive Yourself can actually have meaning.

Verse:  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

Deep Thought:  My shortage of strength, time, wisdom and peace is filled in by His love, creativity, vision and sacrifice.  I don’t know how He fills in my angst, worry, exhaustion and missed marks.  But He keeps doing the refill straight into my heart.  I am reminded to let God be God and let me be me led by Him.  Maybe it takes a book, a week and Him giving me a few more shots at mastering time.

Quote: …as Christ followers living under the ever-flowing fountain of God’s love, our hearts should be so filled with His daily kindness, and love, that we should have the resilience not to be angered or provoked when the most minor irritations of life come our way . . . Simplify by Bill Hybels (Chapter 5)

Book(s)/Blog(s)/People that Shape Me: If you need to understand forgiveness, there is no better practical, but also deep application of it than in Chapter 5 of Bill Hybels book Simplify.

I also am learning a thing or two about brevity that is sweet and lingering in Shauna Niequist’s Savor, Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are.

My Prayer to You: I pray that we would resist being consumed by our daily grind.  Instead that we would seek the presence of God to lead us to the hours of our day.  I pray for us to be prepared to fight battles to remove the invisible opponents hacking our efforts and hindering our journey.  I pray for us to be prepared to forgive ourselves for coming up short.  I pray for us to believe that we can try and try again until we have mastered the skill of designing hours.  Beside God.  Who promises to never leave or forsake us.  Amen.

Written by Sasha Katz

I Am Thankful For One More Song

Falling short is a habit for humanity.  For me included.  I don’t always get it all done.  I forget sometimes.  I write lists and end up ignoring some stuff and putting off other stuff.  I have the smart thing to say to my kids, but it comes out pretty stupid.  I have big thoughts for my marriage one day that seem way too transparent the next.  I am on top of my principles and then I fumble around with my time.

I run late – – twenty minutes to be exact, a whole lot of the time.  I run late for church too.  I walk into the end of the last song of worship. Or better yet, the prayer taking place while the music is fading.  I don’t skip a beat and join in wherever I land, but late in any case.  Running late for church feels like running late for God.

This past week, as service was coming to a close, there came one more song.  And, I thought to myself, despite everything, God still plays one more song for us.  We walk in late to our appointments with Him.  We pick stupid times to talk to Him and end up drifting off in the middle of a conversation.  We forget to read His book.  We smear His name a multitude of times in our life.  We fall off the really good life He planned for us.  Even with our best intentions in place, we fall short.

God’s spirit, somehow, because of who He is, takes all of us into account, and comes out playing one more song.  I imagine the size of His heart and it makes sense to me.  I imagine the size of His heart and it feels powerfully possible to me, that no matter what, He always has a song for us.

FF Oct 14


Cracks

I have a crack in my heart because forgiveness just made new sense to me.  I don’t mean to say that my heart is broken.  The hardness in our hearts, that we all have to one degree or another, just got a crack. The crack is in one of pillars that holds up the hardness.

It’s not easy to scan your heart for hardness.  We tend to be numb to our hard spots.  Especially when the love of Jesus resides in us.  In our efforts to be like Him, we move and we grow, sometimes right around the hard spots.  Because God is so good, He loves us as we mature and is pleased by the hope that expands in our hearts.  But somewhere in the growth of God in us, we run out of space.  The hard spots finally show themselves.  They have to go so that we can grow.

I’ve been thinking about this concept of forgiveness.  I’ve been thinking about what it means.  The thing that keeps coming to mind is treating the person you have forgiven as if the offense or pain never took place.  I’ve reached a quagmire at this point.  In my heart, I think about the sheer freedom of forgiveness and the idea of treating someone you love like the #$%#^#@& never happened.  I literally feel the wings take off in my heart when I think about what that would feel like in real life.

Oh, but real life#$%#^#@& did happen.  And, for some of us, #$%#^#@&  happened often or for a long time or maybe even right now.  My thoughts consist of 1) how do I make the habit of forgetting the past, 2) how do I transcend to the point that I can trust God whether or not I trust the other person, and 3) how do I, in the right pace, build my trust in the other person?  I have a few more what ifs swimming in mind, but I don’t want to give you anymore ideas to freak you out in your own relationships.  I am going to take a leap of faith and believe that some of you do a really good job with trust and forgiveness.  From friend to friend, ride this one out with me.

For me, part of my ride stopped with the good kind of crack in my heart.  Philemon is a little tiny book of the bible.  I am not even sure if I could have told you Philemon was a book in the bible until God put the name in my head about a month ago.  The whole thing is probably less than 500 words, but the Lord just keeps showing me bits and pieces of it each time He leads me back to it.

I think this is God’s idea of forgiveness: If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me.  But if he has wronged you or owes you anything put that on my account.  Philemon 1:17. It’s Paul talking, but the Holy Spirit delivers it to me this way – – Sasha, if you count me as your partner, receive the him as you would Me.  But if he has wronged you and owes you, put that on My account.  I then think about the Savior of the world, who gladly took my sin, who knows that my heart doesn’t have the power or strength to forget the wrong against me or what is owed to me.  He just offers me to put it on His account.  That is power of a living God whose love travels down to the deepest parts of our souls and back to the heavens.

I am all about asking for favors lately.  Favors to friends for other friends.  Favors from you so we can learn from one another.  Today’s favor is that you ask God to find some hard spots in your life, in your heart of hearts.  Ask Him to make some cracks.

The Vows of Friendship

By Sasha Katz

I don’t know what your sins are. I don’t know what you regret or what mistakes you have made. I don’t know who you have pretended to be. I don’t know what mirrors you have avoided in your life. I don’t know what truths you’ve trampled for your own self-interest. Only you do.

It is the condition of your own heart that enables you to know what lines you’ve crossed. It’s your knowledge and understanding of what is good and evil that allows you to acknowledge your transgressions. Truth is not easily found if the heart is clouded by grey. The truth of your own sin is not evident without a certain amount of light revealing the motivations of the pulsing flesh inside you.  The weight of your mistakes, transgressions and sin doesn’t fully come down until the light beams in.

The magnificent thing about God’s light is that when He reveals sin, His light doesn’t magnify the transgression. He amplifies Himself. The sight of Him calls you to turn away from the sin. It’s His kindness and love that leads us to repentance. I think that’s why we can believe that, once repentant, He separates our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. It’s by no works of our own, but Himself.

I know that you know what your sins are. Your regrets and mistakes. What you have pretended to be. The self reflection you have avoided. The self interest you have promoted. I know that you know because I also know the depths of my own heart spattered with transgressions and mistakes. The upside of our reciprocal imperfection is that it can become a baseline for our friendship.

The invitation, first of God, and then to one another, is the true gift of friendship – – where the acknowledgement of our baseline of imperfection – – grows us to be real and genuine. Where you can with Christ, in confidence, lay down your life for your friends. That is the place where what I know about me and you what know about you collide in holy way. It’s the type of friendship that supersedes what I have done and helps me be who I was made to be. That is vow of real friendship. That is God’s invitation and I pray that you and I, dressed in all of our imperfections, take it.

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. Psalm 32:1-2

. . . God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance . . . Romans 2:4

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8.

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

sunshine 3

Thanks to Walking on Sunshine for her Sunday Scripture that was my inspiration today.

Spring Cleansing

By Bindu Adai Mathew

As I began to prepare to move out of our downtown condo that has been our home for the last 8 years, I realize that I’m not just cleaning out the clutter of the last 8 years of my life… I’m also cleaning out the clutter that I brought with me when I moved in 8 years ago as well. 

As I sit, literally sit, in my walk-in closet and reach for the stacks of notebooks and paper that have remained hidden in the corners of my closet, I begin to quickly feel overwhelmed, realizing that what should only take me a couple of minutes is actually going to take me hours. Part of my brain rebels and reminds me that since I hadn’t looked at them in that many years, then I should probably just grab it all and chunk it into the abyss of the oversized trashbag next to me. I should, but a still, small voice booms louder than my conscience. It is the voice that has ensnared and imprisoned me for years and labeled me as a “packrat.” I give in, as I always do, and start digging through the stacks.  An electricity bill from 2007. I hesitate for a moment… “But what if I need it?” I shake my head at myself, ashamed that the thought has even crossed my mind. Before it can repeat itself, I thrust the paper into the black abyss. Some receipts from a store purchase that I won’t even mention the year they’re from. I assure myself since I no longer plan to return those items, yes, these receipts can go into the trash as well. A journal from my single days when I was lamenting the woes of unrequited love. Yes, this one is a keeper and could be potential inspiration for my next novel! Not to mention it’s my journal, for goodness sake! I set it aside to my right, creating a new fresh pile of keepsakes. On and on, I go…I’m embarrassed to know that yes, while the contents of my trash bag grew so did the pile of keepsakes. While some things were easy to let go, others were painful, even if I knew I no longer needed them and probably wouldn’t have the time to look at them until I had to clean my closets yet again. I consider just throwing these keepsakes into a moving box to reckon with them later. After a heavy sigh and the feeling of dread, I look at my keepsake file and begin anew, making another pile of things I can’t part with. I slowly whittle away at the original keepsake file and soon it becomes something more manageable. While it has been painful, tedious, and long, I have to admit, I do feel more free…less burdened… 

In my quiet time later that night, God prods my heart. No…not my heart, too, Lord! Wasn’t my closet enough for today? I sigh, knowing that my spring cleaning isn’t complete. If I don’t purge my heart as well of the unnecessary clutter, I will carry that with me indefinitely as well. As I pray, I began sorting through some of it. The betrayal of a once good friend. The letdown of another. The critical words of an inlaw.  The stinging words of a sibling. The disappointment of a setback. Yes, there are countless things that I have hoarded and held onto in the dark recesses of my mind and heart. Things I should throw out, things I should let go of…but like the piles of paper in my closet, I have allowed myself to hold onto it, allowing it to fill unnecessary space in my life, clouding it, crowding it. I want to feel that freedom I felt earlier when I looked at my closet and saw the cleanliness and tidiness of it after my spring cleaning. Yes, it was time…more than time to spring clean my heart as well.

 

Forgive me, Lord, for being so unforgiving. Help me let go of the hurt, the pain, and the bitterness of some of those memories. Cleanse me, Lord, and renew my spirit. Lord, you’ve promised me joy for my ashes. You’ve promised me that you will use everything, even the bad, for my good. Lord, I choose to believe that. I choose You over my hurt and bitterness. Renew me, Lord.

 

 

 

The Surgeon

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

1While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. 2Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins.a

3“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. 4For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.” Luke 21

The World looks and judges solely based on the exterior, but remember, our God is always focused on the Heart. It’s always the intention, the motivation, the “heart of the matter” that God sees.  And it’s in that place where He will continually test us and refine us.

Rich or poor…

Beauty queen or Ms. Plain Jane…

Genius or Ms. Average…

Limp or no visible limp

None of that makes a difference to our God.

For every time God looks at us, He pierces the exterior of us with His X-ray vision and goes straight to the heart. Like a skilled surgeon, he works his surgical magic, whether it’s just a little unclogging of some stubborn blocked arteries or a complete heart transplant, He is able to resuscitate and renew that heart of yours. Now isn’t it time for your annual checkup?