Can you pour from an Empty cup?

This phrase has been something that I have used freely to describe the importance of balance in one’s life. It is a phrase that is becoming more and more used in the world of self-care and mental health. Today, I would like to explain a little more what that means to me; but also I would like to open up your mind to help you define it in your own life.

An empty cup. An empty cup can be defined as many different things. Each and every person will see that cup and it will represent something different to everyone. It may represent a mother who feels like she has nothing else to give as she is tired and worn out. Her fuse is short, and the frustration and overwhelming schedules and chores seem to be never ending and loom over her. It may represent someone who is lost and don’t know what to do next in their life.  A person that once had a career, a social life, a life of fulfillment and they are left now overwhelmed with medical problems, and daily doctor visits. It may represent that person who is in an abuse relationship. There sole reason for existence is to keep others happy so bad things won’t happen. Their constant state of awareness makes it impossible to relax and find peace. One last cup may belong to a Christian who walks the walk, talks the talk, gives everything they have for others, reads their bible and prays daily. Their schedule is full of servant fill activities. They pour out everything they have in service to the cause, but there is no joy in it. The more they serve the more they feel alone. Maybe your cup is a combination of these things, and maybe your cup is just smaller than anyone else’s. Maybe your patience and longsuffering are not as developed as it could be. Regardless of the reason, we each are different, and are each juggling different scenarios in life.

For me, the scenario was a mix of things. I was living the servant filled life, while I was overwhelmed with medical issues. I lost the fulfillment of a career that was fresh and new, and the demands of my family life left me feeling isolated and alone. Everyday there was so many things to do, and people to keep happy that I lost myself in the process. How does a person loose themselves you ask. Well for me that was easy. My life revolved so much around my traditions of faith, my children’s happiness, and my spouses needs and wants that I was just a shadow of a person. My home did not reflect anything about me, my scheduled had nothing that I enjoyed in it. My prayer and study time with God was all about conforming to what a Christian “should” look like and act like. My head was so full of false beliefs about God and what my role was to be in my family, that I ran around with an empty cup. My cup didn’t just become empty, it broke. I broke.

I stood before my family, my God, my friends, and the whole world completely broke. I was so broke that I could not function. The term pour from an empty cup for me was not about letting God’s grace be sufficient, because what I found when the dust cleared was that sufficient grace held me tight and kept me afloat. What I found was the false belief that I didn’t deserve to be happy. I found that if my belief’s didn’t match up to everyone around me then I was not a Christian and was going to hell. I found that if I didn’t live the perfect Christian life, then God would take me out and away from my family in the blink of an eye. What I found was a false belief of who God was and how he sees me. I found beliefs that everyone’s happiness around me mattered and it was my responsibility to make it happen and mine didn’t matter. The person God made me to be didn’t matter to the point that I must become someone that was perfect all the time and never made a mistake. I must be who everyone wanted me to be and not who God made me to be. I was lost in a sea of false beliefs that made my cup empty!

My empty cup brought me to the lowest place in my life, but it showed me at those lowest points my belief system was flawed and it did not line up with Gods word it lined up with the worlds view. An empty cup, in my book, was not about needing a rest from being a mom, a wife, a believer in God, or participating in Church. My empty cup was about me believing God loved me so I could love myself. I needed not to fear I was failing all the time, but believing that even if I failed, I was still worthy of love. That I didn’t have to constantly prove or earn my love. My empty cup was because I was spending all my time, energy, and sanity trying to earn and keep everyone’s love, when in truth that was not love at all.  

My past relationships played a toll on me and my belief system. It messed my belief system up in ways that hurt me, but God broke my cup, then he put it back together again stronger and bigger than before. Giving to others will not drain your cup, but the reason why you’re doing it can! Pay attention to the pressures and beliefs that are driving us to that empty cup.

Today, I not only give love, but accept it also. I let others do for me. Not a lot, but I am trying more and more every day to allow myself to be loved and cared for in ways that I never thought I deserved. The balance in all relationships is important. You can give and give, but it is also important for us to learn how to receive love. I also take a stand for who I am, and who God made me to be. I have strong convictions that make me who I am. We all do. Modifying who we are to keep peace, to conform to false beliefs and worldly views of who you “should” be will only drain your cup.

Today, take the time to look inside yourself and state one strong conviction you will not compromise. State one false belief that overwhelms you, and state one truth about Gods love for you. Name one belief you are trying to live up to, that is not possible and not expected of God. These truths will help you see today a pattern you may live by, but also help you see what is emptying your cup!

Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.1 Corinthians 10:21

God says I am predestined…

In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: Ephesians 1:11

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Rom 8:29

Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Rom 8:30

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. Eph 1:5

There is a lot of debate and looming questions on what does it truly mean to be predestinated. Our first reaction is to ask the question, “Did God choose who was going to accept Him before the world, or do I truly have a free choice?” The question leaves our hearts open with so much doubt and unanswered certainty about the character of God. So, today lets make it very clear on what it means to be predestined.

To be predestined means to be chosen before hand. Yes, this part is true, but we we often miss is the context in how the word is uses. As you look at the verses above you will find the word predestined always follows with an explanation of what is predestined. Let’s see what those things are.

As we have been studying Ephesians, we know it is a love letter to us from the Lord. The whole theme of Ephesians is God telling us How He sees us and the status of our person before, and after we accept Him. What our lives will look like with Him, and gifts He has bestowed upon us to enhance our lives and His kingdom. It’s a whole context, a whole theme that gets overlooked, but is necessary when we are looking at these verses. These verses are not about a one time event. They are about a preplanned, life saving plan, the God of all creation put in place before we were created. Carefully thought out plan of love and care.

Ephesians 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: Before we were created God planned that whosoever chose Him, would have an inheritance. He preplanned an inheritance for those who believe in Him. That inheritance not only is bestowed upon us in Heaven, but also here on earth as well. Read the blog, “God says I am an heir” for more details.

Roman 8:29 He also predestinated us to be conformed to the image of His Son. So before God created us, he made a plan that once we accept Him of our own free will, we will be conformed to the image of His Son. Meaning we would be like Jesus. Free from sin, blameless, spotless, and free from the punishment of our sinful state we are born into. We are elevated to being equal with Jesus.

Rom 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Before we were created, He also decided that He would place a calling within each of us. Not just a purpose for living, but this particular verse tells us that He would make a point to reach out to us no matter what. No matter who you are, what you were born into, what your circumstance, struggles, or desires. He was going to call out to you and give you the opportunity to accept Him for who He is. He predestined a 2-way plan. A plan for you to have free choice, and a plan for Him to reach out to you and give you the opportunity no matter your life circumstance. With that plan, he also implemented that if you chose Him, he would seal you with justification, which means to render you righteous. Righteous just by accepting and believing in Him. With righteousness comes glorification. Glorification meaning to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged.

Eph 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. Along with the plan to have us become on the same level as Jesus, God also planned that we would be adopted into His family as a son or daughter to Him. He preplanned for those who choose him to be a part of His family and share in the inheritance of His legacy and Kingdom. Read the Blog, “God says I am Adopted” for more details.

But it doesn’t stop there! The one thing these amazing verses have in common is not that God preplanned for this to happen for those who believe in Him. He preplanned it all so there would be no bias, no favorites, no work, no servant hood, no strings attached. This plan is free and given to anyone who wants it! Free to choose, free to obtain, and free to experience. It is fair! A true character of God put in place from the beginning so that we could know that He is a fair God. So, we could put trust in Him and the character of who He is! A foundation and truth to stand on like a rock that will not waiver. So, as you go through your day today. Soak all these truths in, but most importantly soak in the character of who God is. He has an amazing plan put in place so you know that you are loved and chosen for who you are, and that He wants you no matter what!

Would God break your leg in order to keep you from wandering?

I know this title sounds crazy, but there is a certain myth that has been around for decades about a shepherd and his lost sheep. One day a sheep goes out on its own and gets lost. The shepherd goes out and leaves the whole herd behind to find this one lost sheep. When the shepherd finally finds the lost sheep, he breaks one of its legs to keep it from wandering again. With its leg broke the sheep then becomes dependent on the shepherd and a bond forms; therefore, it never wanders again. In the end of the story an analogy is formed and the comparison in the Bible of us being the sheep and God being the Shepherd comes to life through this story. Yet, is this biblical?

Most everyone knows that I live on a farm. On our farm we have acquired several sheep over the last few years. I love them! I love not only their disposition, the cute babies, and how easy they are to handle, but I love the real-life perspective of how God looks at us as sheep. It brings it front and center. There is not a day that goes by, that I do not look at those sheep and see Gods word brought to life. One day recently we had a momma sheep become paralyzed after giving birth to twins. It started out very slowly and progressed over time. I must tell you we tried everything we knew to help her and to no avail she never recovered but grew steadily worse. In the end it was a neurological disorder that was beyond any human control. Yesterday, we laid her to rest and these two babies are left orphaned. As we struggled day after day to move this momma around and helped her with her lameness this story kept coming to mind. The logic that would make sense in the story was not true in real life. Moving this momma around and trying to form a bond and help her was far from the truth. Instead, she became more stressed, less responsive, and looked at us out of fear. We were not a safe place for her to heal, but a daily reminder that she was in dire circumstances. Could you imagine how she would react to us if we personally had broken one of her legs. The more I thought about this story, the more it did not make any sense. Why would a shepherd break a leg of their sheep to get their submission, when there are other ways to do so. Better yet, why would God do this to one of his sheep when there are other more loving ways. Does it truly work, or does it take away our free choice to decide who we want to follow?

More question kept coming since we laid that sweet momma to rest. I picked up my bible to search for truth, and the truth is there in nothing in that Bible that indicates and speaks of any such shepherd’s behavior. Here is what I found.

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. Isa 40:11

As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. Eze 34:12

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. John 10:11

I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. John 10:14

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 1John 4:16

These verses paint a beautiful picture of a shepherd that searches for his sheep, wraps them in loving arms, and gently leads. There is nothing to indicate he would purposely hurt one in order to get them to submit, but showers His abundant love over them and their lives so they cannot deny what he has done for them! This is the Shepherd who leads us and this is the Shepherd that we can put our trust and faith in. So, will God break our legs to keep us from wandering? No, God will shower his love on us so we can truly know who he is and know him for who he truly is! God is love!

God says I am Redeemed…

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Ephesians 1:7

Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:14

Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Hebrews 9:12

Have you ever observed a child and watch them as they go through their toddler years? I think it would be safe to say, they are still immature and learning. They do not have an understanding of the world and how it works. They also have not been in this world long enough to learn about emotions, behavior, what is good and bad, right and wrong. Yet, they are born with this knowledge. We know they have something there, because you tell them no for the first time, and a fit like you have never seen before from this angelic creature comes out. That sweet bundle of joy, all of the sudden, expresses itself in a way that it was not taught to do. They were born with it. The more you observe your sweet angel they’re a perfect child as long as they are getting their own way. This is called selfishness. From here on out this will be an emotional battle this child will come against the rest of their life. This selfishness will drive them to make choices that will lead them down dark roads, broken relationships, unruly behavior and much more, unless they are taught otherwise. Where did this selfishness come from? How did it manifest itself without being taught? The answer is sin.

Everyone of us is born with a sinful heart. That sinful heart expresses itself as selfishness within our lives. We want things done our way, in our time frame, and it always leads down a wide dark road of destruction unless we are taught otherwise, or learn from others there is a better way. That selfishness that drives us, and that road of destruction we leave requires us too eventually be accountable for it. No, it isn’t our fault that we are born with it. No, it is not fair. No, we shouldn’t have to apologize for it. That line of thinking again is selfish. We are bound, enslaved, and trapped by it. We cannot get rid of it, but we can find a way to gain redemption from it. A way of redemption for this selfish nature we are born with.

I think we can all agree that there is a price, reconciliation, punishment, karma, etc. that must be paid in order to balance the scales of the sinful, selfish nature. Whatever the price, it must be the opposite of selfishness. It has to be honest, pure, loving, selfless, caring, without fault or blame of any wrong doing. I look at myself to find that price and there is no way I can reconcile that on my own. That selfish, sinful nature is a constant battle within me and there is nothing I have that will equal the value of pure to wipe my slate clean. A truth we can all stand on is that our wrong doings, our bad attituded, or selfish nature must be atoned for, before we can move forward in a life of light and forgiveness. Right? Do you see what I am talking about? There is always a payment to be made for wrong doing in this world. Selfishness classifies as wrong doing, because selfishness always motivates us to make choice and commit acts based on our own thoughts and feelings. Thoughts and feelings change on a whim of our circumstances and is not a concrete foundation to build our lives and choices on. Yes, it is a constant battle within ourselves, but there is a way to overcome it!

When God says I have redemption, what he is saying is, “If you will accept my son as the sacrifice for your sinful nature, then I will pay the price for you.” What? Am I getting this right? God is offering to freely pay the ransom for my selfish soul, to release me from the bondage that sin placed on me when I was born. Not just release me from the debt I cannot pay myself, but to rescue me from what will come of me if I cannot pay that debt myself. You see, God took His son that was created perfect and without fault or blame, and offered him as the sacrifice for your selfish, sinful nature. He provided a way for us all, and He also gave us free choice to choose it.

When God looks as us, he sees us as a child with no way out of our sinful nature, He has mercy and compassion on us. He provided the only thing he loved most in this world so we could find redemption. As we accepted that free gift he offered and acknowledge Him for it, He sees us a pure, holy, without blame, spotless, clean, blessed, his heir, Loved, chosen, adopted, and most of all free! We are no longer bond by the chains of our sinful, selfish nature. We are set free from the punishment for it, and the ransom due. The possibilities for our lives then become endless and everlasting and even though we will still have that selfish nature rise to take over our choices within us, we will never be alone again to deal with it. We are free from the consequence, and have a Savior to look to for help and guidance.

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. John 8:36

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:22-23

Is Black and White Thinking a Biblical Truth 2?

Welcome back! This second part has thrown me for a loop inside my brain. As I struggle to put thoughts to words and ask God for His guidance and truth, the black and white theory of the world comes full circle. A parable written in 3 separate books of the bible keeps coming to mind and I just cannot move forward until I study on it. How does the black and white thinking theory come into play in the parable?

The Parable of the Sower breaks down the heart of four types of people. Let’s take a look at each person and how Jesus defined each experience they had when they heard the word of God. Each of these people have been presented with the Truth of Jesus and his sacrifice for their sins; but there are four outcomes that occur to give us some food for thought on what is black and white and what is not. In all of these the seed represents the word of God. For we must first hear before we can believe.

Mark 4:3-23 Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred. And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

Defined in this parable given by Jesus himself, are 4 types of people. I believe it is safe to say that in this world we live, Jesus is telling us there are 4 ways people will react when hearing the word of God.

  1. This person was presented with the seed of Christ and did not understand. Satan came along and took whatever seed was there. Satan snatched it away before they could believe in it.
  2. This second person was presented with the seed of Christ and received the message. With great joy he accepted. When affliction, persecution, trials, and temptations come along like the heat of the sun, the seed withered and they fell away and became tripped up.
  3. This next person was presented with the seed of Christ and received the message. The thorns of the world and its riches and pleasures and the deceitfulness choked the word and it did not grow fruit.
  4. Lastly, we have the person who was presented with the seed of Christ and received the message. His seed was planted within the field of an honest and pure heart that studied the word and kept it. It was of good ground and the seed of Christ could grow.

Each person heard the word of God. One did not believe. Three believed, but two of them were overcome with temptations and worldly desires. The two that were overcome did not bear no fruit. They let their desires of the flesh control their choices instead of turning to the word of God for guidance. (I believe this is also defined as the carnal Christian in the scriptures, that we will address in another blog). The last one not only took it to heart, but when those trials, temptations, and enticing pleasures of the world came about, they chose to battle it out and turn to the word and God for guidance. With that guidance they grew and developed fruit.

As you can see, the black and white theory does not necessarily fit in this parable that Jesus is describing. With four types of people only one is black, three are gray, and none of the are white until they reach complete righteousness in heaven. Why is that? Because, none of them are perfected and righteous until they stand before God (Hebrews 9:27). Their path to righteousness begins with belief, but it not made full until the appointed time. Just as the prodigal son. Two of these believers will pull away and be enticed with the ways of the world and the trials that come. They will look to themselves and others for guidance. They will direct their own path and find hardships. They have accepted Christ as God’s son, but they have yet to make him the Lord of their life. Maybe, at some point there will be a time when they will find their way back. Back to the truth, back to the belief and to the seed that was accepted before. This time, they will water and grow that seed and face the trials and temptations of this world without succumbing to them. They may grow fruit, but all at different quantities. This process is called sanctification.  

The path to complete righteousness is called sanctification. It’s at the time from when a person accepts Christ as their Savior until they pass from this life and stand before God. I call this the gray area! When they stand before God their righteousness will be made whole (2 Timothy 4:8), then they will be white. During this time period from salvation to death, believers will grow and change, and lay up treasures in heaven. Everyone will be at a different level on this path. Based on their choices and decisions and the amount of growth they choose to have. On this path we must understand the obstacles that lay in our ways to divert us. I would not call them black and white obstacles. I would just call them like I read them in God’s word.

All three of these obstacles have been already introduced. Just because you accept Christ does not mean you won’t still be enticed and subjected to the ways of the world; there will be distractions and arrows the devil will sent your way.

  1. Satan- Satan is constantly roaming seeking who he can devour. He is always around stealing seeds that are trying to be planted, laying traps, and doing everything he can to keep us from believing in God or bearing any fruit.
  2. Affliction, persecution, trials and temptations- Our world is full of all sorts of burdens. Pressure to conform, criticism, struggles, and testing of our faith. When the time comes, we flounder and have no roots in God’s word to stand on. Instead of digging into Gods word for truth and answers we tend to get mad at God for not delivering us, or blame other Christians who lack knowledge and depth in God’s love and misrepresent what God stands for.
  3. Worldly Riches, lust, desires of the flesh, pleasures of this world. The avoidance of fear, pain, and uncertainty because it’s just so hard. But also chasing after the desires of the flesh. Chasing those feel-good endorphins. Chasing activities and situations that cater to the flesh, instead of letting life come and go with the highs and lows. The lack of making sacrifices of the flesh to heed to the obedience of Christ.

Life is a battle. It is the battle between the flesh and the spirit (Ephesians 6:12). These 3 things are ways the devil will use the flesh to keep your spirit from maturing and growing deeper in the truths of God and His word. Wherever the spirit lies, the flesh with follow (Luke 6:45). The battle of this life and keeping the faith while growing deeper trust in the spirit is defined as sanctification. I Peter 1:1-9 lays it all out. The conclusion of part one brought back to conclude this blog as well.

1 Peter 1:1-9Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

The development and skill to go through struggles and trials, while keeping your faith and trusting in Gods ultimate plan while praising God for it all! This is the path of sanctification. To stay the course, while keeping the faith. No matter what uncomfortable feelings or circumstances may come. It is truly a testing by fire. The growth, trust, and maturity of faith that come from it is so precious. Through all this God does not leave us alone. He is with us, He has given us his word to study and find solace, comfort, and guidance in it. He gives us the promise of an expected end and treasure to lay up in heaven for Gods glory. I pray this has brought clarity to you on the difference between justification and sanctification. I pray that you choose to grow deeper and cling to the promises of God as Satan and this world try to steer you away.

I also pray this has brought some clarity to black and white thinking. You see, Following God is a process of growth in ourselves as we have been reading. Being in the black is a person that has totally rejected God and refuses Him, they are born dead in their sin. Refuse to acknowledge their sinful nature, and turn their back on God. They live their life without thought to anything spiritual. The white is those believers who reach heaven and are presented to God. They no longer have anything to learn, gain, grow in. They have finished the course, and kept the faith. The gray! Hold onto your hats. The gray is those who believe in God, accepted those non-negotiable truths, and are continually growing in Christ. Now remember, we are all growing at different speeds. Some take a detour on the path in their growth, but ultimately God is in control, willing to help, be there, rescue us, forgive us, and guide us. Once we are in his hands, we are His and nothing can pluck us out. There is nothing we can do to be taken out of his hands. I believe black and white thinking keeps us on constant edge in fear and anxiety of being rejected by God for any false move we may make. Instead I choose to live in the gray area of grace. I may make mistakes, I may fall, I may crash from time to time, but my God sees me as a working progress. I believe that’s how we need to see ourselves.

Take a deep breath, take two. Now go out into this world, not as you are either black or white, good or bad. Go out with your head held high and walk in the gray where the grace of God abides.

1 Corinthians 6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

Do List make you anxious?

List are a great way to help keep you focused and organized, but there is also a way that list can make you feel overwhelmed, anxious, a failure, and down right contrary when you can’t get it all done. So here is my tip for today. Instead of making a list of things to do, make a list of options I want to do instead.

*For meal options make a list that you can go to and choose something to make, instead of what you have to make. That way when you are having a rough day, or don’t have time, you can go to your list and make an easier choice that lines up with your day. (I find this helpful too if you have a family of picky eaters, make a list that everyone likes or agrees on. It takes the stress off of you worrying about how they are gonna react to what’s placed in front of them, because they always do. lol.) This also helps when making a grocery list!

*Exercise time, make a list of warmups, stretching, strengthening, and cool downs for each part of your body you want to work out and alternated them from day to day . Then when you have time, you wont have to figure out what to do, and even follow the same mundane routine every time, that is boring and leaves you feeling like its a chore. Pick a body area, pick one warmup, 2 stretching, and 3 strengthening, and 1 cool down and your done for the day! If you run out of time or skip a day, then don’t stress. Any exercise is better than none!

*Task for the day- my task list always includes every thing from house work to yard work, church stuff, family needs. Its so long an the pressure to get it all done leaved me feeling defeated before I even get started. Instead of making a huge list that needs to get done. Just write down 3 things that are most urgent and work on just those for the day. If 3 is too much, then just pick 1. One day at a time, 1 thing at a time. You can also include your self care stuff to that list like making the bed, exercising, go for a walk, sit still for 20 minutes. What ever you need for the day to help you get through. Before you know it you will sit down that night with some important things done, a sense of accomplishment, and some endorphins from being productive without the pressure of it all.

*Lastly- make a checkmark, (not a slash mark in case you need to continue to use the list), next to what you get done for the day. Just checking the box of completed tasks gives us a sense of victory and this is needed for our mental health. We need to feel as we are moving forward and not stuck. It is also great to look back over a couple weeks and see all the check marks and the progress you have made.

Life is so busy and at times we feel as though we are being pulled in so many directions with no help in sight. I have found these list of options when I get overwhelmed helps me to focus, gives me options when my mind cant concentrate, and takes the burden off of the pressure to get it all done now. It also takes away the burden of adding more to my plate by having to come up with ideas on the spot! I hate doing this and I get overwhelmed so easy.

So when you are at peace and you have time, sit down and make your option list and post it inside a cupboard, beside your computer, on your basket of exercise bands and weights. Not all in one place, but in a home where they belong.

Other list that you may need, or better serve you.

*Bible Study Time
*Mental Health care- come out of the bedroom for 1 hour, wash your hair, get dressed, make the bed, wash one load of laundry etc. *Errands (only 1 or 2 whenever you go out)
*You time

One more thing, perspective is how we see and view things. Its is also 90% of our feelings of success from day to day. So with these options of things we want to get done, instead of list of things to do. Change your perspective on how you see them. These list are a help, not a pressure. I don’t have to get everything done today. Its okay to do things on my time without pressure. These are options, not demands! Just a change in perspective alone can make the day seem a whole lot brighter!

God says I am accepted…

To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. Ephesians 1:6

For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. 2 Corinthians 8:12

Strongs Definition – to grace, i.e., indue with special honor: —make accepted, be highly favored.

Acceptance is not only crucial, but one of the most important things a person needs in their life. Acceptance gives an individual confidence, power, and a good dose of self-esteem. I personally have struggled on many occasions with craving acceptance. Not just to be apart of something, but on a personal level to feel wanted. Those who accept us want us in their life. Accepted with all our quirkiness, our flaws, our weirdness, our truths, our mistakes, our failures, and in the state they have found us in. With no strings attached. God is no different.

God not only wants us to accept Him as he is, but He accepts us just as we are.  I always thought that I needed to change before God would love and accept me. That accepting God meant quick and drastic change in my personality, and deep shame and regret in my past. This is not true. God accepts us, our sinful nature, our past, our future. We are indued with a special honor in His sight regardless of what our lives have beheld. “Even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8We are not just accepted as we are, but also highly favored. We are not at the bottom of the pecking order, but we are at the top. The highest of the high. Beloved, cherished, set on high, and accepted just as we are! What a relief. Today I don’t have to make amends, try to erase all by bad with good deeds. Today I can just be me, take life one day at a time, grow in the knowledge of God one day at a time. And be loved and accepted for just being me!!!

I feel like I need to add a little something else. Being accepted by God also gives us permission to accept ourselves as we are. Whether we are skinny or overweight. Dirty or clean. Weak or Strong. Happy or sad. Struggling or in perfect peace. Feel beautiful or ugly. Have a job or don’t. Have money or poor. Have a clean house or messy. God accepts us just as we are. In that peace we can also do the same for ourselves. Put all these thoughts away, and find joy and peace in knowing there is nothing for you to do, but rest in His love and acceptance of who you are! You are precious to Him, so treat yourself like you are!!

Salvation is like a jar of pickles…

Okay, so lets take a moment to stop and clear our minds of the first thing that comes to us when we think about pickles. I know it’s a love/hate relationship. You either love all flavors, have a particular one that you will only eat, or you hate all of them! Instead of concentrating on their flavor, lets take a look at how they are made.

You have cucumbers, spices, and brine. Once the cucumbers are washed and cleaned, they are then put into a clean jar, you add your spices to give them their flavor, and you pour on hot brine to preserve them. This here is key! Once you pour on the brine you can’t go back! They are already sealed, and on their way to becoming a pickle. Our salvation is the same way! God picks us up out of the garden among the thorns, pest, and cover of darkness. He brings us to a place of light and washes us clean. He then places us in his jar of protection, pours in the spices of the Holy Spirit, and covers us with his brine of love and grace. Once He pours that brine on us, its all over. We are sealed with his cover of salvation and there is no going back. We can’t lose it, shake it off, or wash it away. It is slowing and gradually soaked into our being until we are completely preserved and ready for the next journey. We could joke around and say who is sweet and who is sour, but I think in Gods eyes is does not matter. Because once we are his! We are HIS! We are sealed and preserved and we can’t lose what we have gained in Him!

Psalm 37:28 For the Lord Loveth Judgement (Justice) and forsaketh not his saints (Believers); they are preserved forever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

An Anchor you can hold onto in the New Year, Is God truly Good?

As 2022 comes to a close I look back at the sorrows, the joys, and the triumphs. Then I look at the continued circumstances that have so many people struggling in their faith or just in their initial acceptance of who God really is. The question that keeps coming up in every conversation, in every look, and in every part of my being…is God truly good? Have you been truly faithful all my life, have you always looked out for me through this year? The Holy Sprit presented it to me in the form of a letter and a reply. A reply found in Gods word through the verses below. I pray that no matter how this year ended, and how the new one begins you can anchor yourself in the knowledge that God is good and only wants good for you! Carry this truth with you throughout this new year, and behold the joy that can spring from it!

Dear Lord,

I need your help with something. I need to understand. I am in a state of sorrow and confusion and nothing makes sense to me. Everything I thought you were, everything I thought you would do, and even your character has been brought into question within my mind. You are supposed to be a good God. The state that I am in has found me broken. Nothing makes sense to me anymore. Everything I have believed in, everything I trusted in, and everything I could count on has fallen around me. I am standing so vulnerable, scared, and freshly bruised. How could you? How could you let bad things happen to me? How could you turn your back on me? I thought you would never leave me and protect me. Keep me safe, and supply my needs. Now none of that seems true to me. How can this be?

Dear Child of Mine,

I am so sorry you are struggling. If I could take every pain, every wrong that has been done to you and every bruise unto myself I would; but if I did, I would be doing you a disservice. So, let me explain it this way. What does it mean to be good? To be good means to do without thought of personal gain. As God, I am sworn to be good at all cost, to let no evil come from me. As God I am also able to see what is to come. So, what I think you are really saying is, “Why Lord, if you know bad is coming and its going to hurt me, why would you let it happen? Why don’t you intervene?” This my Dear Child is my reply.

As my child I can see everything that lies ahead, and what the outcome will be. I see if you go down a specific path, what choices you will make, and what will come of it. As your Lord I am sworn to do what is best for you. In that comes tough choices. Choices to let hard things come, for you to go through rough times, emotional times. But all of this comes with the promise that good will come from it and only for your good. You see I am protecting you, just not like you think I should. I am there with you every step of the way leading you, but only down the paths where the outcome will be for your good. With the good outcomes doesn’t promise there will be no sorrow, pain, or heartbreak. I know from where you are standing that this situation seems impossible. The emotions of sorrow and grief and pain are so overwhelming. My promise to you is to do good by you, and what is best for you! If I can see that this sorrow you are going through will grow and make you stronger. What kind of God would I be to take that away? What happens the next time something this hard comes along, and I take that away too? What service am I granting you, what good am I doing for you if I never help and teach you to get through anything, but take it all away? This world is a sinful place and therefore you will have to face many trials, hurts, and sorrows. Yet, did you know that I have also given way to have joy within those trials, happiness within those hurts, and hope with sorrow? So, this I will leave with you. A promise. I promise that all things work for the good to those who love the Lord. That with trials you have the opportunity to grow. To grow in knowledge of me, in faith, in fruits, and in service. The promise of strength, wisdom, perseverance, peace, joy, and victory over every battle can be yours. I promise you will be greater than when you first began this journey with me, and an active participant in the overcoming each and every battle as  well as your doubt that I, God am truly good and want only good for you! You see, to let no evil come from me, I cannot withhold any circumstance that ultimately can bring about what it truly best for you. You cannot see it, but I need you to trust me dear child, that I can and I will be with you every step of the way until you can see the good that comes from it and that I am being true to who I say I am!  

No matter what has past, what is going on now, or what is to come. I pray this next year that you are truly able to grasp and hold the anchor that God is truly good. He wants only what is best for you! His promises to take all that has happened and make them into good is in progress, he just needs you to feed it with your trust and hold tight to your faith!

James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

Ecclesiastes 9:1-2 For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them. All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.

2 Peter 1:1-9 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

Be Still and know

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

Over the last several years I’ve had trouble feeling joy. You know that joy when you are just happy to be alive? The sun feels warmer, the sky is bluer, the bird’s song put a skip in your step kind of joy. So, one day not long ago I started seeking and praying to God for that opportunity to come my way. To make that path clear to me. I knew I needed to make changes in my life, but I wasn’t sure on which path to take. Then out of the blue I was struck with a physical ailment that left me, not overwhelmed, but at peace like I never knew. How could this be, how could this physical pain, that usually sends me into a panic attack for weeks on end, leave me with peace?  

As I struggled through months of physical therapy and the doctors telling me it was just inflammation. I kept going back to the uneasy feeling that I had been struggling with since the previous fall. How do I feel whole, and where is my joy? Something was not adding up with where I was at in my life. I had my hands in so many things, pulling me in so many directions. At one point in time, it was where I needed to be. Yet, right now I knew a change needed to be made. I needed to do something but didn’t know what. Then the same words kept coming to me over and over again, “BE STILL”. What? This cant be! I don’t know how to be still and keep my sanity, my health in check, and my family taken care of! Over the next few months, it came to me again and again, “BE STILL”. Okay, I am going to work on being still.

From there I started slowing down. I cut back on somethings, but found myself digging deeper into others. The peace still did not come. I kept praying, “Lord, please show me and guide me with what you want me to do.” I tried different things, more ministry work and helping others, while still praying and the peace still did not come. Several months had went by and I found myself back in the doctor’s office still in pain. The message was stamped on my body that said, “BE STILL”. Wear and tear and too much use of my dominant, right arm left me in a state of having to slow down. So, from there I still kept pushing forward in prayer asking God to show me what I needed to do. The words, “BE STILL” kept coming to me over and over. This time I started slowing down a little more. I pulled back completely out of many things and concentrated on just a few. I poured my heart and soul into the few things. The peace and joy were getting a little better, but it was still not whole.

With my pain in my shoulder still not getting better, I went back to the doctor again and found that my shoulder was more than just swollen from overuse, but torn this whole time and the only way to help was surgery. As I sat in my car with tears in my eyes, I pleaded with God and asked Him, “what now?” This time I heard, “BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM YOUR GOD”. Well, I had the be still part started in my mind, and my physical body now was on board without my consent. The next step was to Know that God was my God! How did I do that? So, I started praying again, “Lord, how do I take steps to know, that you are my God?” Over the next few weeks, it became very clear how to know he is God. I had to give it all up! Everything! My hobbies, my business, my work with friends, my church jobs, my worship time, my family time, social media, my food schedule, my sleep schedule, my paint parties, my entire days. From the time I wake up until the time I laid my head down, I had to stop and do nothing but call on his name for my every step. To let him guide my time, my thoughts, my every moment.

You may be asking how I did it, well Gods grace put me into a position where I didn’t have a choice. With surgery on my shoulder of my dominant hand, I could do nothing! Nothing! I sat, and sat, and sat. I had to give it all up and completely rest. What I found was exactly what I needed to be still and know who my God is and what he could do for me. I found rest and peace like no other. I had permission to lay everything down in my life and it was joyful. It took a pressure off of me to conform and be active to a place of rest and total reliance of letting God guide my day. I left it in His hands and He knew exactly what I needed, how much I could handle for the day, and who to bring into my life. I began to trust God in a way I had never trusted before. I no longer felt so much responsibility to work and do for God, but started realizing it was a partnership. It was about me working with Him and letting him be my guide, instead of the pressures of my flesh and the world around me driving me. Yes, I found some happiness with letting my flesh lead the way and making time for God; but when I laid it all down completely, and just stayed still until all the noise of the daily pressures fell away, I found the true meaning of “BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD”. I found I was overburdened with false responsibility; I was going down a path that no longer served what my spirit needed.

The pressure and judgement that drive us can be so consuming and block out the voice of God in our lives. Have you ever heard of fasting? Well, when I sit back and recall the last year that word came up so many times. I was so busy that I ignored it. I will do that later. I will use that as a last resort. In the end that is exactly what happened. I ended up fasting from all the activities in my life. Some temporary fasting and some permanent while I healed. The only time I have, is time to pray and seek Gods help and guidance. A break from all the noise. A time to quiet the chaos in my mind and pressures of life. Time to just rely and listen to God! That was exactly what I needed. With the noise gone a joy started filling my soul like never before. I can’t remember when I last felt this satisfaction, this peace. Today, I can see how the pressures of this world have driven my actions. It doesn’t mean that I am not still battling my fleshly desires to conform; but I am able to see it more clearly and intercede with a cry out to God. Daily surrender is starting to come more of a habit, and joy and peace or its companions. I don’t know what tomorrow holds or the next week. What I do know is if God is guiding me then it will all be okay!

Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: Joel 2:12