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.


Think on these things

Why would I want to be with a man who doesn’t want to be with me? Why would I allow myself to be caught up in flattering words and “sometimey” and inconsistent behavior? Actually, his behavior hasn’t really been all that inconsistent because he has consistently disappointed me. He has been consistent in showing me that I’m not as important as  (fill in the blank) . He has only been inconsistent in his dedication to me. He says he loves me and wants to marry me, but then doesn’t call, doesn’t give me his time, and breaks dates. His actions do not match his words. When people show you themselves, believe them, right? I believe that statement and know it to be true, however how do I stop wanting to be with him? That’s the part I have trouble with. It’s not as if he is the only man pursuing me. There are others, but it’s him that I’m connected to. Can you say soul tie? I haven’t spoken to him since the last time he broke his promise, but I want to. I want to call him. I want to see him. I want to talk to him, but I don’t and I won’t because I know it’s not a good idea and will only end up with me getting hurt. I’m keeping my distance and I know it’s a good idea. I just don’t know what to do about the other thing. I understand that this battle I’m in is a spiritual one.

“…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Ephesians 6:12

I understand that and recognize it. I even know what I should do about it. It’s the doing that eludes me. Information and understanding versus application and practice. I’m sure there are some who will read this and think about how sad and pitiful it sounds. I’m equally sure that those people also understand it and recognize it because of their own personal experiences. I’m not ashamed of these feelings. Annoyed maybe because they point to a weakness that I have to allow the Lord to deal with, but not ashamed. The Holy Spirit keeps reminding me to “think on these things.” This is, of course, a reference to Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

I’m grateful to have godly friends who will not only listen without judgement, but will then pray with me and for me. This has truly been a blessing. In fact, it was one of those friends who sent me an article entitled, “Your Brain Has A ‘Delete’ Button—Here’s How To Use It” by Judah Pollack and Olivia Fox Cabane. This friend said that she hadn’t read the article yet, but thought the title sounded fascinating. I read the article and can confirm that it was indeed, fascinating. Throughout the article, the authors used gardening as an analogy for how the brain functions and should be maintained. There are a lot of scientific references and useful information in the article, but I believe the last paragraph summed up the entire article, and my current situation, nicely. It reads, “To take advantage of your brain’s natural gardening system, simply think about the things that are important to you. Your gardeners will strengthen those connections and prune the ones that you care about less. It’s how you help the garden of your brain flower.” Once again, this reminded me of Philippians 4:8. Wow, Lord. You really look out for your own, don’t you?

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.

God’s grace is everlasting

Wow, this last year has been awesome. God blessed me to finish my education and shortly after, I was awarded a position in Tokyo that was EXACTLY what I wanted. God has truly been so good to me. And, more importantly, I’ve learned some really good lessons about God and my relationship with Him.

I recently found myself in a sinful relationship. I don’t want to focus on the sex part. Everyone knows premarital sex is sinful. The most important thing that happened is in my understanding of God’s love which has ultimately elevated my relationship with him. Obviously, I knew what I was doing in this relationship and that I shouldn’t have been doing it. Sadly, it’s not the first time this has happened, but this time I didn’t have the same level of guilt I did the first time. That has nothing to do with the guy or the act. It’s about God. I know it seems as if I’m being callous about the entire incident, but I’m not. I understand the brevity of what I did and I’m disappointed in myself for allowing it to happen again. I accept full responsibility for my actions and cannot and will not place blame. The tone here is one of excitement because through this act of sin, I’ve come into a deeper understanding of who God is. God is not a vengeful God, at least not against His children. He’s not one who holds grudges. He is not one who punishes us for bad behavior or bad thoughts, or even sin. Those are things the enemy wants us to believe in order to deepen the crack in our relationship with God. No, God is a God of love and acceptance. If He is able to forgive our sins when we first come into relationship with Him, why wouldn’t He be willing to do the same when we sin against Him later?

The first time this happened, a year ago, I beat myself up so much and felt so much guilt that I stopped praying, stopped reading the bible, and even stopped going to church. I was no longer committing the sin, but I also wasn’t feeding my relationship with God. In fact, because of that, I was so easily enticed back into doing the same thing a little over a year later. Ultimately, this is exactly what the enemy wanted. He wanted me to turn my back on God. If he couldn’t get me to continue to sin against God, then maybe he could find success in me starving my relationship with God. This time, God showed me that just because I had sinned doesn’t mean I should put myself through a self-imposed period of darkness. Think about it. If I had cursed or lied or gotten drunk, would my reaction have been the same? Those are all sins, too. IF I truly believe all sin is equal, and the bible says it is, then why did I allow this particular sin to break me, to further separate me from God?

The key here is “I.” In my guilt and shame, I hid myself from the One who could restore me. I felt that I needed to be punished for my actions. So, subconsciously knowing that He wouldn’t, I began to punish myself. I allowed myself to go into a brief depression. I felt a tremendous amount of shame. I cried a lot. I said things like, “I will never do this again as long as I live.” I listened to more gospel music and more gospel sermons, which are good, but not as a sole means of reaching God. This is akin to self-diagnosing and self-medicating. I still wasn’t praying like I should. Oh, I would do the cursory “Thank you Lord for waking me up” prayer and “Thank you for the day” prayer when I went to bed, but I wasn’t having real conversations and meditation time with God. On top of that, God kept blessing me. Really, God?? How can you bless me when I’ve done this terrible thing? I was still in school and doing very well. I knew this was a part of His purpose for me, so I began to focus on that and graduated with a MS in Education with a 4.0 grade point average. Really, Lord? This is what you do for me after all I’ve done? Little did I realize that pursuing my purpose in this manner was a part of my worship for Him. I punished myself spiritually even though the bible says there is now therefore no condemnation. If God was not going to turn His back on me, then I would just turn my back on Him until I got myself together. Here’s the thing, I never got myself together in the first place! That was all Him, so what made me think I could do it without Him? As pastor Joyce Moore would say, that’s “stinkin thinkin.”

God led me to a Christian fiction book called The Yada Yada Prayer Group by Neta Jackson. I downloaded the book from the library onto my iPod and began listening to it in my car. At first, I thought it was boring and almost deleted it, but something told me to continue listening, to give the book a chance, so I did. I kept listening and soon realized that there’s purpose in this book for me. I realized that the message in this book is for me. The heroine was going through a challenging spiritual awakening that led her to understand more about the grace of God. In the book, she came to the understanding that just because her life was spent surrounded by those who love the Lord and just because she loves the Lord and is in a loving family who also love the Lord, doesn’t mean she fully understood His grace towards her. In the book, there were a series of events that led her to that understanding. At the same time, I came to the same understanding about myself. I came to realize that I didn’t have to be a certain person or behave in a certain way in order to benefit from God’s grace. I learned that no matter what I do or say, God will still love me and extend His grace towards me and that because I am His child, I should be willing to accept it. Even though I didn’t deserve it, and still don’t deserve it, there’s nothing I can do to not receive it. I didn’t deserve it before and I don’t deserve it now. There’s nothing I can say or do to affect that. So why put myself through changes when all I have to do is lift my face and say thank you Lord and freely receive everything He has to give. Does this mean I should continue to walk in sin? Of course not. In fact, it’s because of His unending and everlasting grace that I want to become a better me and walk in a deeper relationship with Him..

At the beginning of this year, the Holy Spirit deposited something into my spirit that I saved as a note on my phone. I didn’t understand why until now. He said, “We are rewarded for being His children, just because and not for anything particular we’ve done. This is a hard concept for us because we are used to having to work for what we want and then are satisfied when we have earned it. We can’t earn anything from God. We have because of His grace and mercy and we are completely at His will.” I revisited this message this week when it became even more relevant to my current circumstances. No matter what we’ve been through before and during our walk with God, we can never do anything that will make us eligible to receive His grace. This includes non-sinful behavior or repenting from sinful behavior.

Lord, thank you for your grace and your love. We come before you broken and clothed in ashes and because of your love for us, your sons and daughters, we are now made whole and are beautiful. And thank you that no matter how many times we stray or walk away, we can always turn around and find you standing right where we left you. You are forever faithful and we love you for it. Instill in us the desire to keep moving forward with you, to be spiritually-minded, to not be distracted by or taken in by the temptations of this world and the things around us. And when we do fall, help us to remember that all we have to do it look up and you will be there with your arms outstretched. In Jesus’ name, amen.