Proving a Point

Still sharing from past personal journal entries…this entry is from mid-December 2011:

I’ve often heard from friends and acquaintances how God had to “strip” them of things taking priority in their lives….jobs…possessions…lifestyles…

The story of Joseph shows us many things and one aspect speaking to me are relationships.  In my last blog, I wrote about refuge…willingly leaning on God through the storms of life and recognizing one area of testing would be relationships.  What a great example Joseph gives us!  His family was stripped away – not that they were taken from him – Joseph was cast out; his siblings turned on him and sold him into slavery.  Throughout his trials…no matter how stormy life looked, Joseph pulled on a strength only God can provide.

Scripture shows us throughout Genesis 39, in spite of his circumstance, Joseph held fast to God and it was evident to all the LORD was with him:

“The LORD was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant.” Genesis 39:2-4 (NIV)

“But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. ”  Genesis 39:21-23 (NIV)

During all of his trials, Joseph knew was never alone!  He knew AND believed God was with him – he knew AND believed God had everything under control – no matter the circumstance.  Joseph held firmly to the belief that no matter what, God would never leave him or forsake him.

The enemy loves to challenge our belief that the same God who was with Joseph during his most trying times is the same God who is with us today and we all have Joseph opportunities in our walk…

People will fail us – we will fail others…God’s love NEVER fails – His mercy endures FOREVER!!!!  In spite of the best intentions, no human can fulfill all our needs – we can’t do it ourselves and others can’t either…. fleeting moments of faithfulness will occur, but we cannot endure on our own.  Often we need God to show us when we’re attempting to go it alone…

Towards the end of 2011, I went on a trip… I was so focused on what I wanted from God…I wanted a future husband who was committed to serving Him…a man who wasn’t afraid to stand out from the crowd… a man willing to challenge me and simultaneously nuture my walk.

I have no doubt God will give me the desires of my heart and more, but in hindsight I was trying to help God by forcing puzzle pieces together that weren’t a part of His picture….of course, all the while clueless it’s what I was doing!  Back to the trip…I wouldn’t trade that week for anything…even moments that weren’t “easy” and moments that left me “empty” – the following is directly from my journal:

I have to admit, there is still a big part of me that wants the wordly “romance” of a relationship – I have such a longing to feel loved that when I don’t receive the physical affection I so desire, I do one of three things: I invite myself to a pity party of one OR I pull away OR both –  yes even with those I love dearly!

But like every other lesson God seems to have to show me time after time (circling that mountain again!), I’m looking for fulfillment in the wrong place! Until I give up (surrender) trying to fill the void in my heart with anything other than God’s love – my deepest needs will not be met.

Crazy as it may sound, I’m thankful (today) I wasn’t shown the affection I wanted: holding my hand, putting his arms around me, telling me he missed me….the list goes on and on…I’m thankful because, you see, I have to fully receive God ‘s love first.

It’s hard writing this – it’s hard admitting how self-centered I can be: the last day of my trip, we parted mid-afternoon…AND HE DIDN’T COME BACK!!! I was crushed! I spent the next TEN HOURS crying over lost expectations – consumed by what I didn’t get – crying over a void I wanted filled….but my focus was misplaced – it wasn’t on God filling the void.

In my pity party I was thinking, “Well, I’m being stripped of other relationships, so it shouldn’t surprise me I can’t have the affection I so desperately want from the man I love either… for Pete’s sake, he introduces me as his friend! Does he really even see me as his future wife????”

Yeah….not exaggerating about the self-centered comment! Maybe it’s my skewed perception, but doesn’t my response prove the point????  Any efforts I attempt to fill the void are futile.  On the other hand, God will never leave me nor forsake me; His love truly endures FOREVER.

All these feelings??? This emotional roller coaster I seem to ride time and again???? I only find myself on board when I’m looking to myself or others to fulfill needs reserved for God! Will I ever consistently get my priorities straight?

“Come unto me
Open up your heart and worship
I am drawing you to Me
Don’t hesitate
And you won’t be disappointed
I am everything you need…”

These may only be lyrics to a song, but they surely speak Truth!

“Come unto Me, all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28

God didn’t treat Joseph any differently than He will treat me – but He won’t violate my free will either. God will see me through whatever trials come my way – He’s calling me and He’s calling you into a more intimate relationship with Him.

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The Trouble With Double Standards

God has been pouring out blessing upon blessing in my life and yet, I find myself dwelling on the impact past sins may have on the future.

We’ve all sinned, right?  Granted, in our minds some may seem much larger than others – some with longer standing consequences, but they’re sins all the same.

There is no sliding sin scale – a sin is a sin – plain and simple.

Do you ever find yourself being your own worst critic?  Having impossible standards?  Allowing yourself to be haunted by those past mistakes?

If so, you’re not alone.  If so, there’s hope. But it requires a shift.  It requires letting go of those sins.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to  them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

God tells me He is faithful – He tells me He will forgive me – He tells me He will cleanse me – He tells me He will work ALL things together for good.  When I stumble and follow with repentance, why then do I hold onto that mistake for dear life?

It is so easy for me to look at a person and see who they are – the good and the bad.  I can easily see how God takes a situation and turns it into something wonderful. And I completely believe He forgives those who repent of their sins.

And since we all know God is not a respecter of persons, why then do I continue to dig up my past mistakes?  I’m like a dog with his favorite bone – I can’t seem to let go.  God has forgiven me – it’s gone – it’s erased!  So why then, do I readily let go of others’ mistakes and yet hold on to mine?

The trouble with this double standard is that it’s almost as if I’ve decided what sins get forgiven – and it’s a mindset that can hold me back from fully moving forward into what God has in store for me – a mindset the enemy thrives on.

How exactly do I accept God’s grace and forgiveness? Daily.  Each time the enemy stirs up those feelings of guilt I must be reminded God removed those transgressions – not temporarily – He removed them permanently.  And I use the tools He gives me to reinforce His faithfulness –  daily prayers of thanksgiving, affirmations standing on His promises, and most importantly, leaning into Him and resting in His love.

1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Romans 5:1-5

God is On the Move!

I’ve heard people speak of a burning desire…a true hunger to dig deeper into God’s Word in order to know Him better – something I wasn’t convinced I could ever really relate to and doubting I understood how to get there.  Little did I realize I’m on the
right path!  Gee…I think there’s Scripture about not leaning on my own understanding….

Low and behold, over the past several months in the midst of chaos, He is clearly becoming my center – the One I’m looking to first and foremost – the One I lean on.  One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is so simple in theory – it’s the execution that proves to be a bit more of a challenge.  I’ve learned acknowledging and accepting are two very different things…

Finances:  Last Fall I acknowledged I needed God involved in my finances, but I wasn’t ready – I wanted to be ready, but I wasn’t – at least not until this past Spring…I prayed – engaged others in praying for me for God to give me the courage to deal with years of neglect…it was ugly, but there was also a sense of peace because He also equipped me with the tools to work through poor decisions of the past.

Little did I know after only a few short months into getting God involved in my finances I would be faced with huge home repair bills.  What started as a minor project, quickly evolved into major home repairs requiring immediate attention – repairs I did not have sufficient savings to cover; after the initial shock subsided, it was surprisingly easy to turn the situation over to Him and fully trust Him to handle it – and He did! Although the damage is extensive, actual costs are coming in thousands below original estimates.

Relationships: saying I wanted God’s will for a relationship and stepping aside for Him to reveal His will? Yeah…it didn’t happen…well, not at first.  And of course I prayed for Him to guide me – I just wasn’t ready to accept His answer.  What I did know?  I wasn’t giving my relationship with God the attention it so desperately needed.  I soon realized I couldn’t do both.  After my many failed attempts to fix things on my own, I finally relinquished control to Him, and I am now enjoying extraordinary peace and He is taking my relationship with Him to a completely different level!

So how did my perspective change so radically?  It didn’t.  I just wasn’t there yet – I was, however, doing EXACTLY what God wants me to do – loving Him through obedience, growing in His Word, and letting Him be involved in my life.  It’s not a magical formula, but it is a transformational process only He can manage.

He’s Big Enough

Yesterday my Words of Encouragement were on target (as usual!):

“Dear Lord, I trust You – regardless of what the situations around me say.  I know that You won’t leave me or forsake me and that You’re big enough to handle my dilemma.”

As I read the short prayer, I was thinking, “That’s right! – He’s got it covered!”

The frustrating thing is, it wasn’t two hours before I’d completely discharged that affirmation from my thought process – I allowed myself to be focused on my circumstance versus the One “big enough” to manage my circumstance.

Fortunately God isn’t expecting me to get the timing right in every situation – when I arrived at the office this morning, there was the prayer staring me in the face – a gentle reminder – I may have forgotten the words in the prayer, but not the truth in the prayer – He was ever present as I journaled before the day came to a close…

Mentally I know God has my dilemma covered – pesky home repairs – the damage may be costly, the bank account may be drying up, but He is faithful! His love NEVER FAILS! I know He will provide everything I need and will carry me through this challenge…now if I can consistently connect all of that to my heart.  And although it’s a uncomfortable process, I’m so thankful He is growing me!

The truths and promises I know to stand on come to mind – “He’s brought me this far, He’s not going to let me down now…all I have to do is TRUST HIM” coupled with a recent message on discipleship – it’s as if Jesus is running beside me rooting me on to victory cheering, “DON’T GIVE UP! DON’T GIVE UP! DON’T GIVE UP!”  

Who’s Your Healer?

April 24, 2011

Here’s a powerful verse – one of the first I memorized – God continues to show me the depth of its meaning:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
   and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
   and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Several weeks ago I asked a friend to pray for someone being rushed to the hospital and they asked a question in return.  I don’t recall the exact words, so I’ll paraphrase – it was along the lines of “Does she really believe God can heal her?” – that question has been simmering on the back burner of my brain ever since.  Although it may not have been directed at me personally, the question certainly applies to each and every one of us.

At the time, I was thinking of healing in medical terms and was taken back to a situation a couple of months ago – my daughter was on a school field trip several hours from home when she had an allergic reaction.  Typically, there’s a trip to the emergency room involved where drugs to counteract the reaction are administered. 

On that day as my daughter was en route to the ER, I asked for prayer – the prayer received wasn’t that she arrive safely and the doctors take the correct course of action – no, it was that God heal her and baffle the doctors when she appeared to be perfectly fine.  In my finite mind of experiences I was thinking, “right – God, just get her to the ER and guide the doctors” – in theory, there was nothing wrong with my approach, but you see, even though God is growing me by leaps and bounds, I still so readily fall into the trap of depending on things of this world first rather than God. 

Not a month before the allergic reaction, my daughter called from school – she was in terrible, debilitating pain.  I offered to drive two hours to get her – at first she said no, but the pain became so severe she said yes.  As I was scrambling to get on the road, I stopped dead in my tracks to pray.  I didn’t just know, I BELIEVED with all my heart God was my resource.  I prayed for her healing – not two minutes later she phoned – the pain was gone – she felt perfectly fine!

Now isn’t that something?  How can my responses be so dramatically different? It makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER, does it? But all too often, that’s what I do – I rely on past worldly experiences to guide my actions.  Slowly, but surely, He is replacing worldly experiences with faith-based experiences.  And the thing is, without fail, every time I seek Him, He’s always right there – waiting to show me just how faithful and amazing He is! 

My response to the allergic reaction was a gut wrenching experience – I felt so helpless, yet I was so stubborn not to completely rely on God to handle the situation – whatever that picture might look like – yet, not a month before, when I immediately gave a situation to Him there was such relief and peace (yes, another Alka-Selter moment).  Although God’s hand was on both situations, my responses were very different.  Perhaps I needed to experience the contrast.

When I finally connected the dots, I knew I’d be writing “Who’s Your Healer?” – but then God revealed even more…His healing powers  extend far beyond the physical.  He’s the Healer for whatever ails us…relationships, finances, you name it – when we’re ready to rip off the band-aide and address the poison in our lives, He’s there for us.  What are you waiting for? Let the healing begin!

Alka-Selzter Moments

 

April 15, 2011

It’s amazing what God can do…IF and WHEN I get out of the way!!!!  To say I was struggling with work issues last year is an understatement.  It wasn’t just ONE thing (it never is), but a combination of things…feeling like an outsider in my own group and undervalued by senior management kept me whizzing around on a roller coaster of frustration and discontent.

 God is always so good to put the Scripture I need in front of me – and leaving it there to mull over…and over…and over until it sinks in.  The recent biggie was and still is Phil 4:6-7:

 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (NIV)

 And if that verse sounds familiar? Well, it’s because I wrote about it a couple of months ago.  Back to the story…

 Year end in the accounting world is equivalent to chaos on steroids… ridiculous deadlines, questions, questions, and more questions… add in existing frustrations, another month-end before you’ve finished the last, a few major business changes, staffing changes, and changes on those changes and you’ve got the perfect storm – well, of course if you’re trying to steer the boat yourself!

 As much as I tried to remind myself (daily, hourly, and yes, sometimes even by the minute) to Let Go and Let God…somehow I was still managing to fight to do it myself.  It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but geez…I am one persistent human! 

 The thing about transformation is that it can’t be achieved on your own…let me repeat…TRANSFORMATION CAN’T BE ACHIEVED ON YOUR OWN.  It’s definitely a God Thing and in no way, shape, or form an overnight thing.    I thought because I recognized the obstacles ahead, I had the tools necessary to handle what was coming down the pike…nope, not even close…I was the proverbial duck: calm on the surface and paddling like mad underneath!

 I sought support from friends and family, posted reminders of Scripture, devotionals, (you name it) to help redirect me…I have all these little sticky notes with words of encouragement on my desk now… they’re really good so I’ll share a few:

 “God has brought you this far, and He’ll never let you down…but it’s up to you to trust Him.  If you do, then you can have all the success He has in store for you – spiritually and in the workplace”

 Psalm 18:39 “You armed me with strength for battle…”

“Lord, I am grateful that you have armed me with the strength I need for the battle ahead.  Teach me to persevere in prayer and not let down.  Enable me to pray through each situation until I see victory.  You are always with me, working in my favor.  Amen.”

 And one of my favorites – simple and yet so powerful…

 “Father, Bring Celeta peace in knowing that You are in control.  In Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.”

 You see, it wasn’t until I consistently (consistent being the operative word) started praying on God’s promises, that I was finally able to relinquish my unyielding grip on the situation.  It was an “Alka-Seltzer” moment indeed – oh what a relief it is!

 The peace I’ve found in the workplace is nothing short of a miracle – I no longer feel like an outsider…my focus is on others vs myself (duh!).  I no longer feel undervalued by senior management – God has me EXACTLY where he wants me and after all, He is the ultimate Senior Manager!  The staffing changes? They’re never easy, right? Oh my goodness! The changes far exceeded my wildest expectations – that in and of itself should show anyone what God can do when you let Him. 

 Will there be challenges ahead?  Absolutely.  Will I still struggle to do it on my own? Inevitably.  But the assurance I’m embedding more and more firmly each day guarantees not only will I recognize He knows exactly what He’s doing, but I will gladly turn it over… and yes, as always, He’s got it covered!

Distracted by Circumstance?

November 1, 2010

 

Have you ever noticed when you’re driving that if your eyes shift from the road to something else, it’s so easy to veer to one side or the other?  The thing is, it happens SO FAST!  Our relationship with God is exactly the same – distractions can be all sorts of things…good things…seemingly harmless things…and yes, of course, the not so pleasant things.

 

And, have you ever noticed how often God answers prayers through opportunities?  I suppose I knew that subconsciously, but the awareness came to me yesterday at the oddest time…in a movie!  I was listening to Evan Almighty playing in the background and a quote grabbed my attention,

 

“Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If they pray for courage, does God give them courage, or does he give them opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for their family to be closer, you think God zaps them with warm, fuzzy feelings? Or does he give them opportunities to love each other?” 

 

It gives an entirely different perspective when it comes to embracing opportunities… or as some might view, challenges…

 

The opportunity God has repeatedly set before me the past few months has been ministering to women and witnessing.  Yes, we are ALL called to do that – but how many of us actually embrace the calling?  I can’t say I’ve stepped out there to embrace this opportunity…lean? Yes…but not really pushed out of my comfort zone and lean on God to manage the details. 

 

For several months, I’ve been invited to participate in an outreach ministry sponsored by my church.  Each month volunteers attend a women’s service at the local detention center.  I never seriously considered participating and I suppose it’s mainly because I didn’t see how God could use me in the circumstance…yes, I know…my desire to see the picture before I move and irrational feelings of not being skilled enough to really help someone in that particular situation rearing it’s ugly head. 

 

Then I was reminded of a devotional from a month or so ago entitled “The Perfectionist” – the author used Ex 4:10 – the story of how Moses tried to convince God to choose someone else because he wasn’t an eloquent speaker and 2 Cor 12:9 “…for my power is made perfect in weakness” to make a point.

 

“Have you ever not pursued something because it had to be perfect? There is a fine line between doing things with excellence and being a perfectionist. Perfectionists easily become argumentative with God.  When God places His anointing on you He uses whatever level of skill you have to fulfill His purposes in your life. This is why you need not fear moving into an unfamiliar area if He calls you there.  What is God waiting for you to do? It may be time to step out. He specializes in “cliff-catching.”

 

Well, yesterday was my time to step out!  Out the door at 5AM – that in and of itself is a small miracle…I went with a friend only to discover I was surrounded by friends…friends of God…all eager to serve Him…even though I had no idea what to expect, I wasn’t anxious at all…even though I had no idea how to pray for the women I was about to meet, I too was eager to serve.  We went through the technicalities (forms, ID, etc) and made our way over to the building where service was to be held.  I was so pleasantly surprised by the large number of women choosing to attend the service.  Although my partner took the prayer lead, I silently prayed for him – that the Holy Spirit would guide him – WOW! Talk about powerful! I know, it sounds so simple, right? But I’ve never applied it before – needless to say, I had one of the wettest faces in the building – such sweet tears!

 

It was as if God was saying, “See? I really do know what I’m doing!”  The message that followed was a fabulous reinforcement.  Focus.  Keeping our focus on God in the midst of our circumstances – the message and experience gave me such a wonderful point of view – one He continues to build in me.  It doesn’t matter what is going on around me…as long as my focus is centered on God, whatever circumstance (pleasant or a bit more challenging) crosses my path, I can work through…with Him.  And when I view circumstances of others, if I take a moment to try and see it through God’s perspective, I just might see, as in the case of the women at the detention center, we have so much in common!  First and foremost, God loves each and every one of us equally.  We all live through the consequences of our actions and in each circumstance there is an opportunity to grow and know Him better.