Fear and risks

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. — 2 Timothy 1:7

I realized tonight that I have a lot of fear when it comes to relationships. This was shocking to me because I know the spirit of fear is not of God. When my seven-year godly relationship with a godly man ended, I was devastated. I thought he was the one God had for me and me for him. He was the one with whom I would marry and build a family and ministry. Throughout the relationship, however, he never, not once, said or indicated that we would be married. In fact, looking back, I can recall where he would often compare his live to that of Apostle Paul, believing he would live a similar life. The message was subtle, but it was there and I chose to ignore it.

Many details later, the relationship ended. That was when the rose glasses I was wearing shattered and I was able to see clearly. During the time I spent grieving the end of the relationship, God revealed Himself to me in so many wonderful ways and shared with me some truly awesome truths about Himself, and me. As a result, I came out of the whole ordeal a lot stronger and more confident than when I went in and I’m truly grateful for that. This is why tonight’s revelation was such a shock. After going through that mourning period, I didn’t think I would suffer any repercussions, any residual effects, but I did. A few months ago, I ended a relationship with someone I had only been dating for a month. When he asked why, I told him it was because I didn’t trust him. I didn’t feel that he was being honest with me, but I couldn’t explain why, so I bailed. When I said to him, “I don’t trust you,” what I was really saying is, “You’re not trustworthy.” The problem with that is, he didn’t really do anything that wasn’t trustworthy. The reality is, I didn’t trust him. In other words, this was about me, not him.

I don’t want to take the risk of being hurt again so I end relationships before I get emotionally involved, or I don’t encourage them at all. I didn’t realize this about myself until now. I don’t want to take the risk of being lied to or being with someone I don’t trust. I don’t want to take the risk falling in love with the wrong man. I’m afraid the guy won’t be holy enough or Christian enough. I have all of these expectations for being with someone who loves God the “right” way and someone who loves me the “right” way. I have visions of courting and getting together with someone the “right” way. And I’m afraid that the way I do it won’t be right, but will, in fact, be wrong.

The irony is, the last time I fell in love was with someone who, by most Christian standards, was the “right” man and we had a “right” relationship. What does “right” mean, anyway? I know what the bible says about being right, but somehow, over time, the meaning of being right has shifted from being godly to being perfect or something else. Besides, who am I to expect perfection when I am not? Who am I to have such high expectations from someone else’s personal relationship with God when I have enough trouble managing my own? Who am I to place myself so high on a pedestal that no one can reach me, then complain because I’m alone?

In my mind, I know that right does not equal perfect. I know there’s no such thing as perfection when it comes to relationships because there are always going to be humans involved who will muck it up. Even still, I have this burden. It is this burden that has prevented me from being in relationships that didn’t appear “right” or didn’t match up to this unrealistic expectation of who I think should be with and how I should be with that person. I know that I should consult God and trust only Him and do only what He says and not worry or be concerned about the rest, but knowing and doing are not the same.

Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts. — Proverbs 21:2


You know me well

One of my Facebook friends recently posted some spiritually led encouragement, to women in particular, and then posted this song below. It’s called You Know Me and is being sung by Steffany Frizzell. That was the first time I’d heard this song and I was blown away. As I was listening I couldn’t help but think about the words. I listened to it five times that day. It reminded me once again of God’s grace and love for me. I’m a flawed person. I don’t get everything right. In fact, I get a lot of things wrong, but even still God loves me. He knows me. He knows my thoughts better than I do. He knows my actions before I make them. And yet, he loves me still. He looks out for me in ways I didn’t even know I needed and if I lose my way, He always leaves breadcrumbs for me to follow to make my way back to him. He knows me.

The seemingly ever-present struggle

What do you do when you struggle between knowing the right thing to do, but not wanting to do it? How do you move past the point where you allow your fleshly desires to be fulfilled, even though this is something you should have let die a long time ago? How do you say no when all you want to do is say yes? What do you do when the yes is so strong that you know praying about it won’t help? Not because prayer doesn’t work, but because you know prayer does work, so you don’t do it. How do you stop wanting something that you know is not good for you? How do you walk away from something that you don’t want to let go? How do you place your spiritual understanding and know how above your fleshly desires? I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul when he wrote about this in Romans 7. I really love how The Message translates this text:

” ‘I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?’ Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” (Romans 7:14-25)

Paul described this struggle between our flesh and our spirit perfectly, which is encouraging only in that we know we’re not alone, but knowing this to be a common issue doesn’t help with knowing the solution. Yes, as he indicated, Christ is the solution. Knowing that and believing that, however, doesn’t really help with real world application because the question remains: What do we do?

I’m feeling this struggle so much right now. I believe the answer is in Romans 8 so I’ll start meditating on that, but I’d also appreciate your prayers.

I am the daughter of the king

It’s only been within the last few years that I’ve begun to understand what it means to be a child of God, the daughter of the King, to be exact. I am the daughter of the King. That’s heavy.

I don’t recall the exact moment in time when I started to realize what this means, but I do recall experiencing a shift in my thinking and expectations. I recall being counseled by the Holy Spirit to meditate on and think about the behavior an earthly princess exhibits. She knows her father is the most powerful person in the land. She understands the rights and privileges bestowed upon her, not because of anything she’s done or earned, or could have done or earned, but simply because of her pedigree. She has an expectation of ask and receive, seek and find, and knock and open. She has favor with the king. She knows that she will be granted her desires simply because she is the daughter of the King. She loves her father and knows that she is the apple of his eye and that he would do anything to protect her. She walks with an air of confidence that comes from knowing her lineage and the security it brings. Her place near the king is secure. After all, she is his daughter.

She can speak commands and the king’s servants will do as she asks. Even those that are not within the king’s circle or family understand and respect her sovereignty. The ones who would seek to hurt her can’t help but obey her commands and submit to her authority. Why? Because they know she is the daughter of the king.

Thinking on these things blew my mind. I am the daughter of the King. I am the daughter of the King. It was starting to sink in. I am the daughter of the King!

I began to think about my relationship with my earthly father. Even in this relationship I recognized the privileges I have because I am my father’s daughter. I have favor with him. I have access to him that others don’t because I am his child. No matter what I do wrong, my dad will always forgive me and continue to love me. Even though I am now in my mid-forties, I know that my dad will do anything within his power to protect me. All I have to do is pick up a phone and ask anything of him and he will do it for me. In fact, I don’t ask him for anything because I don’t want to feel as if I’m taking advantage of him. This frustrates him somewhat because I know he wants to do things for me. This got me to thinking once again about my relationship with God. Have I been treating Him the same way I treat my earthly father? Do I fail to ask things from God because of feelings of guilt? My answer? Yes. That’s exactly what I have been doing. God has already done so much for me, so why should I ask for more? Because God wants to provide for me. God wants to do things for me. I am his child, his daughter, but I haven’t been behaving like his daughter. When I realized this, I began to adjust my attitude. I began to walk with my head held high. I began to see myself as the daughter of the King.

This new understanding about my relationship with God isn’t about my ability to ask for things. It’s about confidence. It’s about privilege. It’s about knowing who I am. In the past, if someone had asked, “Who are you?” the easiest response would have been to give my name. Now, if someone asks, “Who are you?” I can respond, “I am the daughter of the King.”

Who are you?

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.
Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.

Listen, O daughter, give attention and incline your ear:
Forget your people and your father’s house;
Then the King will desire your beauty.
Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him.
The daughter of Tyre will come with a gift;
The rich among the people will seek your favor.

The King’s daughter is all glorious within;
Her clothing is interwoven with gold.
She will be led to the King in embroidered work;
The virgins, her companions who follow her,
Will be brought to You.
They will be led forth with gladness and rejoicing;
They will enter into the King’s palace.

Psalm 45:6-15

Father, help us to always remember that we are Your daughters, that we are daughters of the King. Teach us how to walk and speak in this manner, not with haughty attitudes, but with confidence, favor, and love. In Jesus name, Amen.

Stepping out on faith

I’m starting to feel my age more every day. I’ll be forty-four this year and each week it feels like something different is hurting or about to fall off my body. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but only by a little. Yesterday I experienced an unexpected cramp, pinched nerve, or muscle pull in my right hip. I was off from work and was planning to go for a walk in my neighborhood to enjoy the beautiful day, but soon realized it hurt to move, it hurt to sit, and it hurt to walk, so I ended up laying on my bed most of the day. This thing caused pain that seemed to spread to the surrounding areas throughout the day and had me in tears. I just wanted relief. I really wanted the pain to go away quickly because I had plans to go to a local festival today and knew that would require a lot of walking. Last night before bed, I prayed that the pain would go away and that I would be able to walk with no problems today. This morning, I woke up fine, but when I walked to the bathroom, I felt the same pain again. I came back and sat on my bed and felt the same pain. I thought about my prayer last night and wondered what went wrong. I mean, God is faithful, right? So why is my hip still aching? I’m of the belief that if I pray about it earnestly, God will do it. He’s done it before so why not now? As I was asking Him that, I heard the Holy Spirit say, did you really believe God would do it? Was there any doubt when you prayed? Mark 11:24 reads, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” I thought about it and realized that I didn’t pray like I believed He’d actually do it. I was just hoping He’d do it. Then I chastised myself for my lack of faith and prayed again, this time with the understanding that as His daughter, He would not fail me. The pain didn’t go away immediately, but the Holy Spirit told me not to worry about it and to just start walking, so I did. I literally stepped out on faith. When I walked downstairs in my apartment building to trade my slippers for my shoes (Japanese residence, remember) I felt pain, but I kept going. When I sat down to put on my sneakers I cried in pain, but I kept going. When I lifted each leg closer to tie up the laces I cried in pain, but I kept going. By the time I’d left my apartment building and started walking, I’d forgotten all about the pain. Within two blocks of my walk to the train station, which is about 1.5 km from my apartment, the pain was gone. It was if it were never there. In fact, I didn’t even think about it again until I sat down on the train and realized there was no pain when I sat. Yes! Another win for faith. Another win for God. God is awesome.

I was going through my journal today when I came upon this entry about faith dated July 15, 2015, which reminded me that I shouldn’t be surprised at God’s faithfulness towards me. It’s not new:

“It is now July and I have been living and working in Tokyo for about two months. I really like it here. I can’t tell if I like it so much because I genuinely want to be here or because this promise has come to fruition. Either way, I’m in a good place.

The one major thing this journey has taught me is about my faith in God. He has truly shown me how important it is to have faith and to remain faithful. He has demonstrated to me that His promises are fulfilled on the backs of faith. Each time I step out on faith, He rewards me.”

Faith works people. The promise I was talking about here was getting what I’d prayed for, a prayer which was the result of a desire God placed within me. In one week, I will have been here for a full year and I still feel the same. I still feel the fullness of God’s faithfulness towards me and I still feel an equally longstanding faithfulness towards Him.

There’s a song I love called, He’s Able. In this song is the lyric, “Don’t give up on God, ’cause He won’t give up on you. He’s able.” To put a finer point on it, 2 Timothy 2:13 reads, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” Even when we fail Him, He will never fail us, because he can’t. That alone should give us the encouragement to always remain faithful to Him. It doesn’t really cost us much and doesn’t take much effort. Jesus said all we need is faith the size of a mustard seed. I recall one Sunday being in church when my pastor preached on faith. To illustrate his point, he brought in a wheel barrow full of mustard seeds and each one of us was invited down to get as many as we felt we needed. I grabbed a few and was in awe at how small they really were. That really impacted me, so I went home that day and printed out the scripture from Matthew 17 that I referred to above about the mustard seed and taped the seed to the paper. I posted it on the mirror in my bathroom and left another copy inside my bible as constant reminders about faith.

How big is a mustard seed?
Look at this dot “.” There you go. That’s all you need.