Saturday, July 15, 2017

On Purpose

Photo credit: rafa espada

Genesis 1:9-13
In this set of verses we see waters gather, dry land appear, and God creates plants and fruit trees with seed.  God sets the stage for the appropriate {perfect} environment for His creation and for its continuation.  He has purpose for all He does.  God creates with purpose!

Do you ever question your existence?  The meaning of your life?  Know this, my friend, you were created with a purpose in mind.  You know those things you love to do?  Those things that come naturally, that you just brush off and tell yourself, "oh, everybody can do that.  It's nothing special."  That is a lie from the enemy himself.  I believe that the enemy doesn't want you to live into your God-given gifts and he will do everything in his power to infiltrate your thoughts with lies until you start believing them to be true, but hear me, precious and beloved child of God, it is a lie to think your gifts are not important, valuable, and purposeful to your loving Heavenly Father.

Just the fact that I'm writing these words and will hit publish for them to go out into the great beyond, takes my full assurance and trust that these words are meant to be shared.  You see, I've believed the lie, too.  I can't tell you how many times I've pushed away the thought of writing and speaking because of the enemy's poisonous darts, saying there are plenty of others ministering to the needs of the world.  Carroll, you aren't good enough at writing and speaking to share.  Carroll, you don't have anything to share that someone else needs to hear.  Even, Carroll, why do you think that God wants you to share these things?  What if you aren't hearing His voice and are mistaking your own thoughts for those of God?  What if your message will cause more harm than good?

Does anyone else identify with this?  So today, I'm saying no to the lies of the enemy.  No to his luring talk of spending more time looking at my Instagram feed or catching up on the latest TV series instead of taking my precious naptime minutes and focusing on the messages God has spoken to me.  The enemy has tried to silence God's inner voice in my mind by keeping the busy and whirling thoughts in my head spinning long enough that I have trouble slowing down just enough to catch what God is saying to me.  But through the ministry of Amy Hale's Instagram posts this week, God has given me a clear message that these words must be shared.  I've been disobedient and running away for far too long.

Is there something you know God is calling you to, but you've been hesitant because the enemy has whispered in your ear, saying it's not important, people will mock you, it will cause more harm than good?  Step out, beloved.  Act on our good God's calling in your heart.  Maybe it's been a long time since you have sat in the stillness to even remember what those longings deep within you are.  The daily to dos and projects have piled high and all your haggered breath seems to have time for is
working toward completing an ever-growing tower of tasks.  Stop.  Breath in.  Breath out.  Close your eyes and pause.  It's in the quiet that God's still small voice can be most easily heard.  God is with you in whatever storm of life you face as well, beloved, but in that stillness, there is something special.  He longs to speak to you in that place.  It is why you see Jesus practicing the art of getting away by himself.  Jesus shows us the importance of that time alone with God.

Hear these words, beloved child of God, you were created with purpose.  What will your life speak to the rest of creation this day?

Linking up with Erika and Ashley for their Tuesday Thoughts today.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Lingering

Image courtesy of lkunl / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
These words were spoken by Lot on the brink of imminent disaster.  Thank you for saving my life so far, but...  Here was a man living in a very sinful place, somehow managing it seems to pursue a righteous life in the midst of all the evil surrounding him, but yet he was almost unable to avoid utter destruction himself.  Had Lots eyes become so clouded with the typical things going on around him that he could not recognize the utter disaster about to fall upon him?  Lot's reasoning is something to consider here because it does seem as though he believes the disaster will happen, hence the fear of it consuming him before he can escape, but he doesn't seem to believe that God's messengers will provide him a way of escape, even though they have followed through on each promise up to these point.  So he haggles with them.  I can't go that far, but how about there.  He points to a place in the distance and asks if that will be alright.  What would have happened if he went to the hills as instructed?  What happens in the hills?  I am reminded of the Psalmist who looks to the hills for there his help comes from the Lord.  How would Lot's story have changed?  But he lingers, like he did a little earlier that morning when the messengers practically had to carry him out of the city.  What kept him stuck?  Fear of the unknown? trappings within the city?

There is so much here that I can identify with.  I like to read the story of Lot with an objective view, saying, "come on Lot, you know that place is no good, in fact God is going to completely wreak havoc and destroy it because of all the evil there.  I think this is a good time to get out of Dodge!"  What is the matter with him?  Why can he not obey the simple commands from God?  God has offered him a safe escape route, but he is still afraid he won't make it and will die. 

But I cannot look at this story from an objective third party distance because I see so much of me in this story.  How many times have I become so easily entangled with the trappings of the world, that I can sometimes not see where I end and my sin begins.  Sins of materialism, of greed, of envy, of worry, of fear all stem from the bottom line that I lack belief that my God will provide all I need every day.  He provides forgiveness and mercy that is new each morning and yet I hang on and struggle to release my failures and my missteps to him, embracing the forgiveness he so freely offers because of fears.  The voice in my head that says I have gone too far, there is no way God could still offer his loving embrace.  The voice that after I have sensed a prompting from God immediately tells me that it is not possible for me to do that and speaks to my vanity and fear of not pleasing everyone with its enticements that someone may not like me or it may be awkward if I step forward and follow through.

You see, I am in the same predicament as Lot.  I am living in a world that sin permeates.  The enemy hovers near and slowly speaks to us in ways that cause us to doubt the love God has for us.  Maybe that is why Lot feared he wouldn't make it.  Maybe he feared that though God had poured out his mercy thus far and brought him out of that city, that maybe God would change his mind halfway to the hills and Lot and his family would be toast.  Is that what I fear?  Am I afraid that if I were to move forward in whatever God has called me to do that midway through God might forget about me and I wouldn't fulfill his calling?

Friends, I do not know if any of you struggle with the lingering, but here this our God promises to never leave us or forsake us.  We can trust His truth.  Though the enemy may fill our minds with fears and doubts and worries, those are lies.  Remember the enemy is the father of all lies and his greatest joy is to keep us separated from God.  If he can master that, how rich are his spoils, but here is the truth, the God we serve has total and complete victory over the enemy!  Whenever we hear those whispers, we can cling to the truth God has given us, His word.  In fact, Jesus gives us tremendous insight into this very situation when he prayed for us:
"I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.  They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.  As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.  And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in the truth."  John 17:14-19 (emphasis mine)
 Once we recognize the true origin of these doubts and fears that keep us lingering and not trusting in God to move forward, we can move forward.  How powerful to know that Jesus prayed for us regarding this very situation and we know he continues to intercede for us to the Father in whatever situation.  We can cry out to God and know he hears us and loves us.  God has given us his word, his truth.  I bolded the words in verse 17 because it shows how we can be sanctified, grow more and more holy, Christ-like, by clinging to God's truth, God's word.  It is through studying God's truth that we recognize those areas of our life where we have allowed the enemy to construct lies that keep us in knots, keep us lingering.  Lies of what will bring true joy and peace because there is only One who brings true joy and peace.  This One longs to fill us with His joy and His peace if we will only trust in Him.  Christ came that we would have life and have it more abundantly.  Abundant life, not ridden with fear, but filled with hope and joy.  May we pause and pray for God to reveal the areas of our lives where we are lingering, where we are not pursuing God's call.  May we confess those areas and receive the abundant and merciful forgiveness He so richly provides and move forward in the life abundant, letting go of our fears and running for the hills he calls us to.  Remember, we do not have to figure out or understand all of this on our own nor are we expected to.  Our Helper will provide all that we need each step of the way.

"I lift up my eyes to the hills -- from where will my help come?  My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth."  Psalm 121:1-2 NRSV





Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Fear

Image courtesy of patpitchaya / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fear is an issue I struggle with daily.  In fact, much of the time it keeps me frozen.  I don't speak for fear of upsetting someone.  I don't act out of fear of doing something the wrong way.  I don't try because I am afraid to fail.  Oh fear, how you have my number.  And yet, Scripture teaches us over and over again not to fear, not to worry, not to be afraid.  I've wanted to take time and work through all of these passages for myself and I think this might just be the perfect place to do that, so over the next weeks, months, years (I hear there are a lot of these Scriptures!), I will be spending time writing about these different passages.  Hopefully, this system will not only help me be organized, but also accountable. :)



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Letting Go of the American Dream

A Harvest of Blessing

Today, I'm joining Madison and Chantel's linkup for building community.  
This post is something close to my heart.  Thanks for stopping by.


I read this article last week and it has stayed with me since.  The article describes how the American Dream is no longer affordable.  My next thought is...has it ever been?  When I speak of affordability, I'm not talking about papers in a wallet or coins in a pocket that can be exchanged for goods in a marketplace, but rather our mind's focus, our heart's beat.  Has it ever been affordable to pursue the American Dream at full gusto if we neglect those around us and furthermore the One who gives all in the first place?

This article shook me because growing up I felt it was a goal to be a financial success, to have the car, the house, the career, the family, the whole nine yards and I don't think in and of itself, it is a bad thing to set goals, to have vision, to pursue your best.  The trouble is, though, that sometimes our focus on goals can shift our hearts toward something different than it was created for.  It is so easy to let the stirrings so embedded in our culture spur us on for more and more that we neglect the pause and rest we need to pursue the dreams our Creator has gifted to us.  These dreams may very well include the house, the car, the family, the job, but what if they don't?

The article I read caused me to pause because it describes an idea that has been woven in the American culture practically from the beginning and for much of the time, it was a dream that for many people became attainable.  However, even in those years of prosperity there were many for which it was far from affordable.  And now, the reality hits that for the majority of Americans, this idea will always be out of reach.

What do we do with this?

We can chain ourselves to the dream anyway and pursue it with abandon, hoping that one day maybe we will be counted among the few that taste its sweet reward

or

we can let it go.

What does that look like?  How does that feel to turn around and face the cultural and societal norms that are screaming so loud that sometimes we can hear nothing else and say no?  Saying no to looking a certain way or having a certain thing.  Saying no to feeling empowered because of where we rank in the societal order or feeling distraught because life hasn't measured up to all we hoped.  Saying no to measuring success and failure by stuff and position.  Saying no to these societal traps and cages that bind us and keep us from living the life God has created us for.

And in letting go of the American Dream might we be embracing the true hope that many sought when they journeyed from other lands to find solace here?  Freedom.  Before manifest destiny took over the hearts of men and women, before shots were fired and blood was spilt due to envy and greed that seeped into our pores.  Before all of that, wasn't freedom the hope?  Wasn't it the reason so many sold everything they had to escape whatever oppression and tyranny they faced in their home country?

It seems that same oppression and tyranny has followed us here, but perhaps instead of being dictated to us through a governmental power our outside entity, it has seeped into our minds and souls until we claim it as our own.

I find myself sometimes stuck in the quicksand of doubt, fear, anxiety, jealousy, depression, and agony over whatever situation I find myself that didn't follow this construct I have built in my own mind for how life should be, but it is in those moments that I pause and am learning to say no because sometimes I forget I have a voice.  Sometimes I forget there is another option.  Sometimes I forget there is another way, in fact, the only Way.  Sometimes I forget that if I will let go of whatever dreams I've constructed through society's lens, I can run fast into the arms of my Creator and Redeemer and begin dreaming through His lens, which is the only one that will bring true clarity to God's plans for me.  With that view I remember what is important and if I will begin there and seek my solace and my freedom in Christ, I will always find Hope.

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat/ freedigitalphotos.net



Saturday, June 14, 2014

Cool Down

As I was finishing up my run/walk adventure around the neighborhood this morning, I looked down and found a loose shoelace taunting me with its intention of being completely untied at any moment.  I paused the "Couch to 5k" app I was using, tied the shoe and kept walking.  I had finally reached the cool down phase of my workout -- my absolute favorite part -- when I noticed the need to pause the timer and tie my shoe.  Well in my haste to get on with my morning, I realized that I never restarted the timer after tying my shoe, so by the time I thought I had reached the end of my workout, I looked down to find I still had 3 minutes left!  My first response was irritation -- which is so silly, but true.  I thought I was finished and here are 3 more minutes to go, but my next thought was maybe I do need 3 more minutes of a cool down!  This simple illustration just struck my heart this morning with the idea that I so often seek to rush ahead and strive to do things on my own without pausing in the "cool downs" God provides me.  And how sometimes the things I need the most are the things I struggle against.


This verse has been on my mind all week and I find as I seek to do what God wills for my life, I too often overlook the one thing I should focus on -- God is doing the work in me!  I find myself struggling with trying to determine if I am following His footsteps in the way He wishes, but if I will put my focus and trust in God and find rest in Him, His guidance will be a natural outpouring of our life together.  The enemy strives to take my focus away from God each and every moment.  The worst part is I don't recognize what is happening until after my focus has been so riddled with stress and anguish that I forget where my focus was intended in the first place.  

Praise God for His grace and forgiveness.  Praise God for the peace He provides.  Praise God for the love He has for each of us.  Praise God for the ways He desires to use us for His glory.  Praise God.



Saturday, February 8, 2014

God is Enough


I will admit that my peers have been known to call me a "Pollyanna" from time to time.  I tend to see the glass half full, hope for the best and love donning my rose colored glasses to look at every situation, but when I read the verses that precede the ones above in Lamentations, even I can see that things are bad.  The lamenter is in a devastatingly tough place.  Have you been there?  I know I have.  

I think what the lamenter is experiencing is what makes his words in verse 22 and beyond so powerful.  He knows no matter what situation he faces, no matter how dire, his confident and assured hope is in the LORD.  This is not a pie in the sky, wish upon a star kind of hope, but a true deep abiding hope in the constancy of the love, mercy and faithfulness of our God.  It does not fail.  Whatever we face,  

God is enough.  

The enemy, however, may try to convince us otherwise.  He may whisper that God isn't enough as he distracts us with other glittering options of his own.  That's what he did in Eden with Eve and that is what he dangles for us, empty promises that will never fill the ache inside us that only God can fill.  The enemy tries to convince us that we are wrong about God's love and our circumstances are hopeless, but the enemy is wrong.  He wants nothing more than for us to despair, but look back at the lamenter and see that no matter the dire and difficult circumstances, the lamenter turns to God.  He praises God for his faithfulness and unceasing, never-ending love.  God is beyond our circumstances and will provide for our needs.  He is our portion, our Daily Bread.  God will walk with us each step of the way no matter how difficult the path.  We can trust in God no matter what we face.  Have you embraced the abundant, all encompassing love God has for you today? 




Saturday, January 25, 2014

Be Still


In the hectic pace of life, these words from one of my favorite verses of Scripture speak to my soul, but what do they mean, really?  How do we follow this command to stillness?  This verse came to mind as I was reading in Exodus Moses' command to the Israelites to "keep still".  How interesting that this encouragement to stillness is not found just once in Scripture, but multiple times.  Perhaps that signifies the fact that God knew His people would need a reminder of this for all time.  How intricately He knows our hearts and our struggles.  

As I read this verse from the psalmist in several different translations, I saw some unique words that described this idea of stillness even furtherIn the NASB, the beginning of the verse reads: "Cease striving and know that I am God."  And in the Message the entire verse reads, "Step out of the traffic!  Take a long loving look at me, your high God, above politics, above everything!"

"Cease striving"

"Step out of the traffic!"

"Be still"

Oh the power these words convey.  How they speak to my yearning, aching heart that is striving ever so much more than stilling.  Looking at the words from the Message, they seem to be a caution, a warning.  Danger!  When we are not still are we placing our very lives at risk?  I think of the parent racing to grab the child who in her play is wandering much to close to a busy street.  By continuing in our frantic pace, are we also wandering into that traffic filled way?

So what do we do?  How do we become still in the midst of our busy days that are filled with good things as well as struggles?  The first good news is God does not ask us to do this on our own.  In fact, the second part of the verse reminds us of who God is, "I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." NASB  This all-powerful God who loves and cares for us more deeply than we can every fully comprehend or imagine is strong enough to guide us into this stillness.  When we bring our cares to Him as He asks us to and trust Him with whatever burdens are keeping us from the stillness He commands, He will help us through each step.  I struggle at times (much of the time, really) with giving over a care or concern to God only to take it back almost immediately as I let it go, so my stillness tries are more sputters and starts than smooth sailing.  I pondered how could I fully release this things and not try to take them back on.  How do I keep these burdens and cares from continually filling and clouding my mind?  And it was in January 11th's Jesus Calling devotional that these words penned by Sarah Young spoke powerfully to my heart:
"When you bring Me prayer requests, lay out your concerns before Me.  Speak to Me candidly; pour out your heart.  Then thank Me for the answers that I have set into motion long before you can discern results.  When your requests come to mind again, continue to thank Me for the answers that are on the way.  If you keep on stating your concerns to Me, you will live in a state of tension.  When you thank Me for how I am answering your prayers, your mind-set becomes much more positive.  Thankful prayers keep your focus on My Presence and My promises."
Trust.  Thanksgiving.  Perhaps these are the paths to stillness.  Thank you, Lord, for guiding my life and reminding us that You are constantly at work on our behalf.  Praise be to God for His amazing grace and mercy.