Stolen

stolen

Stolen. This is the word that has been rolling through my heart over and over. I believe God’s been using this word to rework my thoughts and soften my heart. Read this passage from Psalm 139 with me:

13 For you created my inmost being;

    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

    your works are wonderful,

    I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you

    when I was made in the secret place,

    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

16Your eyes saw my unformed body;

    all the days ordained for me were written in your book

    before one of them came to be.

 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!

    How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them,

    they would outnumber the grains of sand—

    when I awake, I am still with you.

This is God’s love letter to us! I don’t know how many times I’ve read this to myself when I needed to remember just how much my Father loves me. What joy it brings to know that his thoughts of me are innumerable, but this post isn’t about his thoughts of me, or of you, it’s about the stolen.

As our world grows increasingly hostile towards the views of God-fearing believers we risk our hearts growing bitter and angry towards those who are lashing out to us. I too have found myself angry at political leaders, or false teachers I hear leading others off course, or many others I could think of that are in my day to day life. Stop for a minute and think of the person who gets your blood boiling the most right now. Really do it…got one?…or two or three? Read on…

Those people you like the least were created by God (duh! You knew that didn’t you?!). That passage above about God being there when they were being crafted in their mother’s womb was for them too (I can feel your eye rolls from here- this is Sunday School teaching I know). God needed all the good characteristics in those people to make the world he created better reflect him. Somewhere in their life Satan told them lie after lie and quietly stole them away from God. Still not feeling moved to tears for their lost souls? Nope, I really wasn’t either.  Let’s be honest, those are the ones that we think they should have something coming for them! These are the people we wish God will judge with the same hand he tore Sodom and Gomorrah apart with. These are the people we back away from waiting for God to strike them down. We’re talking the worst of the worst! These are the people I feel offended by because I feel I need to be offended FOR my God. I feel like somehow my indignation is justifiable because they have spit on the face of my Father. He MUST be angry by their actions, and therefore I may also be angry on his behalf.

Then God painted me this extremely uncomfortable picture. You’ve heard of those crazy, awful, make you sick in the pit of your soul stories of children who were kidnapped and held hostage in a house for years and years until they no longer remember what the rest of the world looks like? Those children that, once found, are so broken that it takes years and years, if ever to undo the damage done? Those kids. They are stolen. (And thank God that those stories are so rare!!) Truthfully, he painted that picture as if it were my kid that were stolen, and I wanted with all my being to vomit. I wonder if God feels the same when he sees his kids here on earth that have been stolen.

Now, should you happen upon the house where they had been held hostage, and you were the first person to make contact with them after they had only known their kidnapper for years, how do you approach them? Well, I’ve not been there, thank goodness (and I pray it never happen to anyone I know!!), but I’d imagine you go slowly. You let them know you aren’t going to hurt them. If it were my child being approached I would hope it would be done with gentleness, and cautiousness. You make allowances for social norms they miss, and don’t take offence to actions from them. Why? Because you understand someone has done immense damage mentally, physically, and emotionally to them.

That heart. Your heart. Right now. THAT’S the heart God wants you to use for his stolen children. The kidnapper is Satan, and locks up God’s children mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually until they no longer resemble God’s kids. John 10:10 tells us that, “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (a)”. The word “thief” in that passage actually means “one who steals” in Greek. He steals them away, then holds them hostage with lies, he feeds them anger, fear, false confidence, and a sick and twisted version of love that resembles nothing that love is. And you, you may be the first one to happen upon one of these stolen kids. 

That person whose name you thought of early that bothers you to the core because they seem to be offending not only you but your Father as well, they are a stolen kid. They have been swept away from the very Father you feel they are offending. You both come from the same Father! They are afraid of you and don’t know why. They are afraid of you because their soul knows you are not speaking from the familiar place their kidnapper speaks from. And you have the chance to rescue them and call back to a place of hope. That justifiable anger you’ve been feeling towards them isn’t justifiable at all, because God is a Father who wants his kid back. Your offence that you took from them is not you feeling offended FOR God because He is not that easily offended. Our PRIDE is, HIS pride is not. We don’t need to protect our Father, we need to protect our siblings. We need to reclaim the stolen from the thief, the enemy.

So, do you judge the stolen for their inability to respond in a godly manner? Do you get angry when they spit in your direction? No you don’t! God did not plan for their lives to be as you see it, he has so much more to offer. The rest of John 10:10 tells that God has “come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Look at the face of person you perhaps despise and know that they are a sister or brother who has lost site of their Dad. They have been away from him so long they can’t remember what he looks like, or sounds like or how he wants them to behave and speak. God wants them back. He wants them to have life to the fullest, and you are in their very lives right now because you can love them like a sister or brother.

From here on out, when someone begins to get under your skin, whisper the word “STOLEN” to yourself. Ask God for eyes to see them as a child who has lost sight of their Father’s house rules, and most importantly the true love that he has to offer. Offer them unconditional love and gentleness by holding out your hand in hopes that you can show them more than they’ve witnessed in the basement of a thief after all these years.

 

John10-10

Father, thank you for chasing relentlessly after your lost sheep. May we have eyes, ears and hearts for your stolen children. Would you keep our hearts soft, and let us not take offence from those who have lost sight of you. Would you help me to let my life reflect the Father they have lost sight of? In Jesus name, Amen.

Love,

S

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When you Feel Too Damaged to be Used by God

This post has been sitting on my computer for the last few weeks, but I kept getting distracted from sharing it. This morning I woke up with an almost urgent need to share it, as if God was pulling me to my computer to share this with you. So, I pray that this lands in the hands of whomever it is that needs it today. Feel free to leave a comment, or send an email if you’re heart is heavy with this and want some prayer. Please know that you never alone, and that no matter what your past or present looks like, God loves you. He has placed his family all around you, to be here to help you through whatever is weighing you down. We are two of your sisters in Christ who would be happy to listen.

Without further ado, here’s the post…

I was reading in the book “The Good and Beautiful God” (James Bryan Smith) of a story of a professor who brought in a box to his class. He asked the students to beat up the box, then stuck a light inside and turned off the lights. Out of the holes shone the light.

This image became imbedded in my mind, and eventually curiosity got the best of me. One quiet day when no one was home I found an old box in our basement and thought I’d give it a go. At first I was careful. I gently took a knife and punctured a hole through it. To my surprise tears flooded my eyes. I kept going, being less and less gentle with this box. Each rip, each stomp represented something in my life that had changed who I was, something that hurt deeply. Each crumple and each hole was a painful memory from my past. I kicked the box around my kitchen awhile longer thankful that no one was around to watch the spectacle.

After, I took my box to my basement where the sun wasn’t shining, and found a light to stick inside. I stood back looking at my crumpled box, and the light streaming through that lit up the room around me. It struck me, those rips that ripped the most were the places where the light was shining the brightest. My gentle little hole pokes with a knife where hardly noticeable. It was where I really let lose that the light could escape into the dark room the best.

_TD39705 copy

This image stayed with me the rest of the week. It really is an image of salvation! You, me, and everyone around us is a fragile cardboard box. We live in a world filled with sin, and as a consequence of living here we get beaten up, ripped, and stomped on. As a container we serve no purpose, we cannot hold whatever stuff we were thought to be purposed to contain. When we accept Jesus to come live in our tattered, sinful containers (our bodies), he does what only he can do. He shines brightly through our flaws into the world! He is so great that he cannot be contained to our damaged selves. No! Instead he spills out of all our imperfections, our shortcomings, our past hurts and lights a path for others to see. A path that will direct their tattered, damaged containers to him, so that they too may join with him in union and spill his light into darkness.

The devil’s been talking though. He tries to tell us that we’re usless. That we’re so damaged that there’s no hope that God would want a life with us. That there’s no hope that God could use sinners like you and me. What a lie! It is through those very weaknesses that God shines out into the darkness! That’s grace my friend! Grace that comes from God says “I know you are flawed, but I want to live in your life.” Grace from God washes away the stains of our past. He takes our crushed, useless containers and turns us into something that’s usable again. He can take whatever rip, and tear you think is too big, and shine so brightly through it, that it won’t be able to be contained! Remember those rips I made? It was places with the most damage (those places that hurt us worst, and left the deepest cuts) that the light shone through the brightest and the furthest!

Are you ready to invite him to be part of your life? Are you ready to ask him to live in your life? To live inside your empty, dark, tattered shell and let him shine through you? If so, I would encourage you to just ask him! It’s so simple, he’s never left your side, even though you may have lost sight of him.

Perhaps you’re farther along in your walk with Christ, but always beating yourself up to be better tomorrow. Continually grasping at being a “perfect” Christian and falling short every time, until defeat swallows you up. It’s time to let perfection go, my friend. Neither you, nor I will make that mark on this side of heaven. Remember God’s promise to Paul though? He says that his power is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)  He understands we are weak, and imperfect. Let go of the mask you’ve been wearing to cover those imperfections!

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor 4:6-9)

love,

S

Father, I pray for whomever needs this today. I ask that you would speak to them in their weakness, to encourage them and let them know you have not forgotten them. Thank you for taking the time to delicately craft each and every one of us! Thanks for including us in your plans, may we never forget how valuable we are to you! In Jesus name, amen.

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Oh! That Undesired Season of Waiting!

I begin this new year, much like how I ended the last month of last year…waiting. Still. It’s such a frustrating season for me, as I like to be busy, and do things. I’m not a lady of leisure who enjoys putting her feet up for rest. I genuinely like to work! When God causes my life to be still and quiet I tend to get squirrelly and uncomfortable and work hard to find something, anything to do. I had a sense this time around that God wasn’t needing me to be still for the sake nothing, but that he was trying to strengthen me in this season where I would otherwise tend to fall short on faith. But, week after week I felt my spark of faith burning less and less brightly.

A friend of mine gave me a book to read called Anonymous by Alicia Britt Chole. If you’re in a season of waiting, I would highly recommend you get your hands on this book. While reading a chapter about how Jesus was tempted in the desert a thought began to stir in my heart. I realized just how brainwashed I had become into thinking I NEEDED to be busy. More specifically to be busy for God. I fell into the trap of thinking that I wasn’t doing God any service if I was just sitting around. I should be going out to all the nations making disciples right?! I should be serving at a soup kitchen, or going on a mission trip. I should be creating a ministry that does something extra special and uses a popular bible verse to prove it’s worth in God’s eyes. I should be using all the gifts and talents and my character type to serve God.

Let me take you back to the season before I landed in “waiting”…

“stop”,

he spoke quietly to me. I continued to stir. “Stop”, he said more firmly, but I was too busy to hear. “STOP!! STOP!! STOP!!”, he shouted. I wish I would’ve heard it then, but I was going full force with no room for interruptions. 

When he did try to interrupt (which he did frequently) I whined that he had given me too much to take care of anything else, not stopping to notice he gave me very little of what I was busy doing.

So what did he do? One by one, he plucked my activities from under me. “What are you doing God?” I asked, “I’m serving you aren’t I?!” I was pleading with him in desperation,  “Why are you taking these good things from me?”

I felt frantic to find the next big thing he was leading me to, and yet there was nothing. I cried…a LOT! Shortly after this I began to read the book and the chapter I mentioned before on Jesus being tempted.

Satan says to Jesus “If you’re the son of God, why don’t you _____”. He knew exactly who Jesus was! He was probably hanging around the day he was born! He knew that Jesus wasn’t just a random Jew in the desert, but a significant force to be reckoned with. His temptation wasn’t “prove who you are”, his temptation was “use your power to  solve the problem”.

Since we inherit all that Jesus inherited, we too inherit those same temptations. I’m not the son of God though, so when Satan speaks it sounds more like this, “since you’re a child of God why don’t you use the abilities/ knowledge/ gifts that God has given you to__________ (create a ministry, start a website, build a business, speak for millions)”. You can almost hear the added, “wouldn’t it be pleasing to your Father to use what he gifted you with?” And so we scramble to be busy for God, to concoct a plan of action that we think will please our Father.

And yet…

waiting

For 29 years Jesus was living in the tiny, unglamorous town of Nazareth. He learned the trade of carpentry before he changed the world. Before there were miracles, there was stillness (and an extra long season of waiting). Before he was tempted, he understood his Father so deeply that Satan’s offer paled in comparison to God’s fullness. While he could have provided and created something wonderful and even needed, he chose to be obedient to his Father first and foremost.

When Jesus makes his first appearance in Jerusalem God says “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased” (Math 3:17b). Jesus hadn’t done anything notable at the point, and yet God was pleased with him. (more on that thought in chapter 12 of the book Anonymous)

Satan’s temptation to use our abilities to craft something wonderful holds no merit when God is pleased just by us staying close to him and not acting out of his will. When Papa God says “sit tight my child, in isn’t time yet”, we need to be obedient to his words no matter what shape of the world around us looks like. It isn’t that we couldn’t create something lovely and God-like, it’s that unless he asks, there is no point to labour and toil in vain.

So, are you in waiting right now? Are you desperately longing to be used by God? Do you know how God wants to use you and hasn’t opened the door yet? Are others around doing great God things and you feel like God hit pause for you for no reason? Don’t despair, don’t lose faith or hope. He has a plan for you. He had a plan for you before you were even born! It’s just not time for it be in play yet. I encourage you to sit tight, staying close in your relationship with God. At the end of the day it’s what he wants more than anything else! Take this season to really get to know your Father and who he is. Then, when the temptation to go and create something out of your own desire and to be busy arises you can ignore the enemy knowing your nearness to God right now is all he wants from you…for now.

love,

S

What has God shared with you while you waited? Feel free to share in the comments and encourage others in their waiting.

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Brick #3: That Time That God Took me to the Dark Ugly Corners of my Heart (AKA- How I Spent Last Week)

I sat down last week to finish writing brick #3, but kept getting a nagging feeling in my heart like God wanted to show me something different than what I was writing. As the week progressed my heart began to grow restless…really restless. What was it that God was trying to reveal to me? A question came to my mind that wouldn’t leave: why are we women, who are generally social people, sabotaging our relationships with each other? Why do we sabotage even the potential for a friendship with another woman? And, why does it feel like it’s so much worse inside the church?

It wasn’t until I sat down to read the book “The Good and Beautiful God” by James Bryan Smith that I started to get it. The writer was talking about God as our Father, and referencing the Lord’s Prayer. The words at the start of the prayer “Our Father” were when God got real with me. When we pray “our Father”, we mean “our”, as in us. As in my Father and yours. He’s not just my Father, he’s yours too. That makes us sisters. Sisters fight.

Growing up with a younger brother I know all about sibling rivalry. And what was it all about? Winning the spot of the “favourite kid” with our parents. We threw each other under the bus all the time! It was to make the other one look bad, and ourself look good. From that it grew into competition anywhere we could find it.

I quickly flipped to Genesis 4 to see the story of Cain and Abel, the first of many places in the bible where we see sibling rivalry. Notice it’s only four whole chapters in before we  see this?

2…Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

(vs 2-8 NIV)

What struck me was that they were not fighting for their earthly father’s approval, but for God’s! Cain thinks he’s doing right by bringing God a gift, then Abel brings the best of his best to God (typical sibling always trying to one up the other, hey?!), and God takes Abel’s not Cain’s gift. God is clear of what he wants Cain to do to (bring him the best of the best of his field), but Cain’s pride is hurt. He is jealous of the approval Abel gains from God.

So what am I getting at and why do I share this? 

God showed me an ugly corner of my heart this week. He showed me the “Cain corner” of my heart. It keeps me from building meaningful relationships with women. If I say I don’t get along with anyone and I haven’t been able to connect, it may very well be one hundred percent on me. No one has tripped me walking down the aisle to my seat. No one has spit in my face, or called me names, or given me any reason to think they don’t like me, or that I shouldn’t like them. But it doesn’t matter, I’ve already decided we aren’t going to be friends. And what’s worse, is that I feel this way far more inside the church than out. I believe it’s because inside the church body, the perceived coveted “prize” is much greater than outside that body. It’s the attention and approval of the King of Kings we seek.

It’s about to get real ugly here for a minute though while I air out my dirty laundry, so stay with me…

When I look at women I assume one of two things:

  1. She isn’t the type of person God would approve of, and thus it makes me better and I feel I have somehow “won” God’s approval. Maybe it’s the way she dresses, the way she parents, her job, her understanding of the bible. Whatever it is I’ve somehow declared her “not good enough” for my Father.
  2. She is absolutely the type of woman God wants every woman to be, and I am not living up to that standard, thus I am jealous of the favour she has “won”.

Either way you look at it, it doesn’t end well, and neither of those thoughts make for long lasting friendships. I’ve sabotaged a potential friendship over my own prideful misconceptions. It can even happen in our already existing friendships. Suddenly my friend gets what I perceive to be a “promotion” (maybe she took on a new roll in a church, or is going on a mission trip I wanted to be on, or gets poured out a blessing), and either consciously or subconsciously I feel she did something right to get noticed by our Father. I don’t want to cheer her on, I want to be pouty that our Father chose her over me, and I suddenly feel spiteful with my sister.

It’s pretty icky, hey?! It’s downright juvenile on my part. I realized this after I saw it spelled out. There’s really no one to blame but myself for any weak relationships that I have or haven’t formed. The odd time someone gives a reason for hurt to have transpired, but if I really think about it with honesty that’s not the norm, that’s the exception.

I sat with this for awhile, feeling disgusted about what I had deep inside. The idea that I have a dark “Cain corner” in my heart didn’t sit well. I repented. I asked God to give me eyes to see people as he sees them, and joy for friends who were doing his Kingdom work. I prayed that I would see us as family. Mostly, I asked him to help me kill my pride. 

I wanted to know more though…does the God I love play favourites? Will he choose the “best” to be his servants? Do I have a reason for this jealousy that I’ve somehow missed? The story of Martha and Mary- Jesus sides with Mary; Jacob and Esau- God blesses Jacob, on and on it goes looking like God picks one over the other. But God makes it perfectly clear:

For God does not show favouritism. Romans 2:11 (NIV)

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism. Acts 10:34 (NIV)

favouritism

In other words, I can’t get so uptight that someone will get more God than me, or that the work he needs done here will be used up on everyone else BUT me. There’s plenty of God to go around, and there’s plenty he can use us for, even if it’s not what our sister is doing.

Our Father, is not our earthly father. His lap is bigger and we can all fit on it. He can see us all at once, and won’t raise a hand in our faces to say “wait a minute, your sister was already talking”. He doesn’t show up to your sister’s dance recital, and have to miss your soccer game so to speak. He can be everywhere all.the.time. He is also not a parent like we are parents. He doesn’t have a favourite kid based on who was on their best behaviour that day, or kept him up all night with endless requests (anyone else want to admit that they do this with their kids?). He doesn’t find one of us cuter than the other, or smarter than the other, or more talented. He doesn’t have the flaws we have as parents, and he doesn’t have the limitations we see in our own parents. God does not show favouritism.

God does want humble hearts, and he has a place for all of us in his Kingdom work. No need to clamour your way to the top. In fact, lower yourself and he will use you.

 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.. 1 Peter 5:6 (ESV)

So there you have it. The deep, down, dark uglies residing in the shadows of my heart. I am a work in progress! I am grateful God has shown me this and is refining me so that I can acknowledge it and change the behaviour. I tell you all in this, risking that you may think of me as a horrible person for thinking such thoughts, in hopes that my honesty will cause you to be honest with yourself. Maybe not publicly, maybe with a friend, maybe just you and God will discover this together in your heart. But, if this is you too, if you also have Cain-like envy towards your sisters (and brothers) I encourage you to humble yourself, and repent. This may just knock a giant hole in our guarded walls that we’ve been working through together. God has brought this to my attention not because he hates me, but because he wants me to be better. Not better than you, better for him.

I finish this with an apology. To those whom I have judged when it wasn’t my place. To those whom I intentionally didn’t cheer on out of envy. To those I smiled at and seemed polite too, but was ever so jealous of their relationship with our Father. I am sorry.

love,

S

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