Friday, September 23, 2016

Just Some Thoughts.....

This morning I woke up with the overwhelming thought that I will never have to earn God's love.
It's a newer thought than you might think for me, someone who 
has had a relationship with my Savior since a very young age.

But this May, during a particularly moving night of worship my heart
crashed into my mind and the knowledge that I have to 
stop trying to earn God's love imploded in me.

I've always been aware of the fact that I can't earn God's love.
But that didn't mean that I wasn't trying to.
I saw God's love through the tinted lens of my human experience. 
An experience where love is conditional, where it's earned by 
achievements and given out as reinforcement for positive behavior
and withheld when the situation was negative. 
I was projecting everything I experienced over the truth, because that
was all I knew.

That's where the disconnect was.
God's love is so contrary to what we find socially acceptable.
God's love chooses you, when no one else will.
God's love rescues you, out of depravity and slavery.
But it doesn't stop at the initiation of salvation.

God's love pursues you.
It's unconditional. He never walks away.
 He never forces you to love Him, because that isn't the face of love.
He doesn't break our legs and drag us to the cross, forcing us to repent
and receive His everlasting love.
He draws us gently to our knees.
His mercy crashes over us because justice has been balanced when He paid our fines.

And it's this realization that brings so much joy to my heart.
There's nothing I can do to earn His love.
Absolutely nothing.
There's peace in ending the struggle to earn it, because it was
unattainable by anything I could do, it is offered freely.

When His people had abandoned Him, had turned away their faces
and were pursuing false love, God cried out for them.

"How can I give you up, O Ephraim...
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender."
Hosea 11:8

It's surprisingly easy overlook the presence of God's love when you
are working for it.
 Let's rest in it instead.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The "B" word

As Christians we are often warned about the problematic "B" word.
Warned from the pulpit, cautioned by mentors,
chastised by scriptures that bitterness can be detrimental to our walk.
And I feel like, it's a thing that most people know.
But I also feel like we don't always recognize it.
Bitterness literally creeps in.
It sneaks up on you.
I festers from something inconsequential sometimes, something that 
should be so simple to come to terms with, but instead of
solving the problem, acknowledging it and confronting
it with prayer and the parties involves, it sits there and the friction
builds until it's a blister of bitterness.

Interesting comparison right?
A blister.
They usually start out as just an itch on your heel.
Then they get hot, the friction builds and then,
before you know it it's extraordinarily painful and you ability to
walk as you usually would isn't possible. 
 Trust me, I have so much experience with blisters.

A pastor spoke from the pulpit this Sunday and told us, 
"It is an illusion to be angry with another person, and be right with God."
As much as I would like for this to not be true, it is though.
I spent quite a lot of wasted time being angry with people.
People who I thought owed me explanations and apologies.
People who I thought should be remorseful for things that had happened
to me while I was in their care.
People who I thought should be held responsible for my actions in the future
because I believed that they were caused by the harm that they did.

But I was wrong.
As is often the case.
A very wise woman one told me,
"You are in no way responsible for the actions of 
the people around you. You are only responsible for 
how you react to those actions."

So today, I am not here to criticize you, and tell you that you are in the wrong.
I want to offer you some encouragement. 
Bitterness didn't pay off for me.
It made my walk with Christ laborious, the antithesis of joy.
I allowed bitterness to drive me to horrible places.
Me. My fault. I did it. 
No one else.

And that was the key. I realized that I didn't have to be angry.
It hurt so, so much to let go of that anger. 
It felt like it would be so much easier to continue in that
anger than to admit that I was in the wrong by holding it, nursing  it.

So when I was struggling through all of the emotions that swirled around,
when I decided that I would try forgiveness and really truly forgive with 
my actions and not just with my words,
I sat down and I wrote.
I wrote down everything that bothered me, 
everything that hurt me,
everything that I felt that shouldn't have happened to me.
And I cried.
A lot.

And over the course of the weeks and months that it took to come to terms with 
everything, to let all of the bad memories rush back, and to actually record them 
instead of suppress them I slowly began healing.
It wasn't all at once, I didn't wake up and say ,"Boom I'm done."
That would have been nice though.

And the blisters that I had, healed over. There are still
some scars here and there, but they are a testimony to
the fact that God allowed me to walk through a trial and
He stood by me and helped me endure it. 
And as I healed He opened a door for me,
in His perfect timing.

And the door had "Echo Ranch Bible Camp" painted on it.
Last summer I had the privilege of serving at this camp here 
in Juneau. I met some of the most wonderful kids ever there.
But it wasn't just a job, it wasn't just being a counselor, keeping 
up with kids, making sure they were taken care of.
It was the close to a very long chapter in my life. 
By being able to share my testimony with these campers,
being able to tell them about some of the things that God had seen me through,
and being able to relate with so many of them with personal struggles 
and encourage them was an amazing opportunity.
I got a glimpse of something. 
My trials had purpose.
God gave them to me for a reason.
Had they not happened my testimony would have been completely different
but because they did I was able to see the struggles of my campers
with an amazing compassion, to cry with them and for them because I
knew firsthand what some of them were going through.
And now, I thank God for the hardships, for the blisters 
and the scars.
Because He gave them to me for a reason:
To glorify Him.

"So if there is any encouragement in Christ,
and comfort from love, any participation in
the Spirit, complete my joy by being of the same mind,
having the same love, being in full accord, and of one mind.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in 
humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each
of you look not only to your own interest, but also to
the interests of others."
Philipians 2:1-4