Faith Through Fog

Foggy days are fun as long as I don’t have to drive in them. There’s something mysterious and quiet when the clouds enfold us. It makes me want to slow down, have coffee, read a book and rest. We have few days like this in Southern California, so I make the most of it when we do.

But extreme fog while driving is stressful. It’s unnerving to drive when you can’t see what is coming. Wise drivers will slow down, inching their way through the unknown, keeping their eyes on the lines so as not to cross into oncoming traffic.

I’ve found much of life to be foggy days, the not knowing how situations will turn out. When will we meet the “right one”, get married, have babies, figure out career goals, buy a house…and all of the how’s? How will we overcome the obstacles…marital strife, financial challenges, health issues, family dynamics, relationship tensions, employment disappointments? So many questions and so few certainties. We have little control, really none, outside of our own choices. Life is foggy.

We can choose how we approach the fog. Either plow ahead, taking chances, and trying to control the unforeseen in our way and our timing, or maintain a posture of surrender, trusting God for the unknown, moving in His timing and His way.

I remember the fog being thick as pea soup through my infertility days. It seemed endless; an abyss of heartache. Nothing seemed certain except my relentless desire to have what I couldn’t. How could that be God’s plan?

The fog settled long, dark and suffocating. I stopped seeking God’s will and went my own way…getting lost, causing injury to my marriage and even my own body. It was only in my surrender that I began to believe God could see what I couldn’t. He required that I let go of my own pursuit, pick up my cross and follow Him. There was great pain in letting it go, trusting the Lord for what my future would look like, possibly far different than my hopes and dreams. Still, inching along with Jesus through the fog was safer than my own instincts and choices.

As I began trusting again and moving forward with Jesus, the fog lifted and I could see new plans on the horizon. My husband and I made plans to birth a new church. It was exhilarating, scary, and purpose-filled. We couldn’t birth a baby, but we could birth and build a church. (Want to grow your faith, plant a church!😉) While on this new path, a week before our first church service, God provided for my hearts desire. We were pregnant! Doctors had said it would never happen, but I know someone that makes the impossible possible.

We only see in part what God sees fully, and that is probably better. It forces us to trust the One that sees it all, made it all, and knows it all. There are no obstacles for God. He sees with perfect clarity.

I’m sure of one thing, what we see as impossible in our lives, is actually completely possible through God. Our inability to see it just makes us human and Him God.

What are your how’s, when’s or why’s? Do not be discouraged or dismayed my friends. Slow down and seek Him through the fog. Rest in Him knowing He will make a way where there seems to be no way, but don’t stop moving! (Uncertainties and depression can cause us to stop altogether.) Move forward, drawing closer to Jesus. He’s always the right direction. He has a plan for you through the foggy uncertainties. While you are living and breathing there is purpose for your life…don’t get stuck in the muck of unknowns. Pain can propel us into His purposes….like church planting.😉

There is great freedom in surrender; accepting we are not in control. Breathe in His presence, grab hold of His hand and let Him walk you through the fog. He knows where He is going. He’s got great things in store. You just can’t see it yet.

Prayer: Lord, so much of life is uncertain for us, but You are certain. You are our constant, even when we lose sight of You. Help us trust You through foggy days. Increase our faith as we walk through the valleys without visibility. You can make the impossible possible. Help us trust You as we inch along the road of life with our poor visibility. Allow us to enjoy the journey, finding strength and rest in You alone. Your will be done, not ours. In Jesus name, Amen

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Envision Hope

I have vision problems.  How about you?  I’m not talking about nearsightedness, but I have that too, with a stigmatism.  Genetics.  Thanks Dad.🤓 Thank God for the invention of glasses and contacts.  I can’t imagine how much I would miss out on if it weren’t for corrective lenses.

In a spiritual sense, we can miss out on so much, if we aren’t fixing our eyes upon Jesus.  We can be spiritually nearsighted and farsighted.  Either we are worried about the future or overwhelmed by what is right in front of us.  We fear what we can’t see, seems impossible, or look so far ahead that we miss what’s right in front of us.  I’m convinced a lot of us, even Jesus believers, are walking around in a state of spiritual blindness….me included.

I looooove the words penned in Romans 4:18 where Paul says, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him.”  Abraham in HOPE believed and so BECAME.  His hope was bigger than his obstacles.  God had called him, he believed, and so miraculously, he became.  This passage floored me this morning.  It was a drop the mic moment.   God literally meant these words for me today, as I sit in the McDonalds, reading my Bible, praying for people that are hurting and feeling hopeless.  But, ahhhhhh, there is HOPE!

Abraham became not because he got all the things he wanted, the way he wanted it, in his timing.  Nor was it because of his education, his upbringing, or his status.  He just wore the correct lenses.  His vision was better than his circumstances and so his hope remained…and he became.  

We are all in the process of becoming who God wants us to be, or not, depending on what we choose.  It’s easy to get short sighted and me-focused.  If only we choose to fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen.  You can’t see hope anymore than you can see love or air, but it’s there, because He is. No matter how lost, alone, afraid, unsure we might feel, He is ever present and longs for us to “only have eyes for him”.  See beyond your circumstance.  What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  

What if today we just do our best to love like Jesus?  Look beyond your circumstances.  You are only seeing in part what He sees perfectly.  Trust Him for what you can’t see and grab hold of hope.  With hope, you can become…or circumstances will change…or people will become…you get the point.  

What if nothing needs to change for you to have hope?  Hope is present because Jesus is hope.  Let’s make Him the focal point.

Prayer: Jesus, we don’t see well.  What we see is blurry, deficient, often self centered, uncertain and even frightening.  But You see perfectly, the beginning, middle and end.  Help us remain in You and fix our eyes upon You alone.  Infuse us all with Your hope today so that we can become all You want us to be.  Lord, above all let love and grace be the lenses we see through.  Correct our vision today.  In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen

The other side of the “but”

 

There are “buts” in life that are out of our control. We wanted to have a baby way sooner than we did BUT God had other plans for us. We finally had babies BUT we had major complications in all 3 pregnancies and nearly lost one child. My hubby and I have tried our best to lead people to Jesus, though imperfectly, BUT some people have still found reasons to focus on our flaws, missing the whole point. We have loved “the church” BUT have been deeply hurt by it at times. I’ve tried to be a good friend BUT I’ve still lost friends along the way. I’m passionate about dance and exercise, BUT I got injured many years ago, forcing me to lay down my passion for a season and modify it for life. These are just a few of my “buts”…what are yours?

Some buts can’t be helped, they are just a part of life. Others, we choose, out of pride, fear and pain; those times we don’t want to go God’s way or wait on His timing. I have a laundry list of those buts too, but that’s a subject for another time.

Joseph and Mary had to deal with some major unexpected buts. They were pledged to be married, BUT before they “came together, she was found to be with child.” (Matt. 2) Yikes, Houston we have a problem! Imagine the shock they both felt, the initial shame, and the dreaded rumors they would face. I wonder if they had thoughts of, “what did we do to deserve this?” They were trying to do things the right way, BUT here they were dealing with pregnancy before marriage and Joseph knew he wasn’t involved. I’m sure that was a pain in the….gut! 😉 Joseph, being the righteous dude that he was, decided he would break things off quietly, so Mary wouldn’t be publicly disgraced, BUT “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream” and told him not to be afraid of marrying her. God had WAY bigger plans for Joseph than he could have ever dreamed…it was just on the other side of the but.

The truth is Joseph and Mary had a good plan for their lives, but God had something way bigger in mind for them. I’m sure there were days they wondered “why them”, maybe they even secretly wished God would have chosen someone else. Parenting Jesus required a lifetime of sacrifice and we all know sacrifice isn’t easy.

When we follow Jesus, sacrifice is required. We will make big plans and God might send us a big BUT, altering our course, but it will be gloriously better. Joseph probably never would have chosen the path God had for him, but he would have missed out on the honor of knowing Jesus as his son…and his Lord! Talk about the perfect kid! God knew Joseph would handle the challenge like a champ. Instead of doing what seemed natural, breaking up with Mary, He trusted God. His obedience helped usher in God’s precense, not only to their family, but to the world. It only takes one to do the right thing. Be that one.

Don’t trip over the but you’re dealing with. When you encounter the trial, remember it is likely the perfect place for Jesus to enter into. If You persevere, He will. Trust Him with what you don’t understand. His thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours. He works ALL things to the good, even the buts that others meant to hurt us with…He makes everything beautiful in His time. Pray, persevere, and patiently proceed with God’s plan.

Are you struggling with the unexpected buts of life? Maybe you’re not where you hoped you would be; happily married, in the career of your choice, with the “perfect” kids, loved by many, in the “perfect church”. (PSA, there isn’t one.) Or maybe you have physical limitations you never dreamed you would deal with, but it’s now your reality. Do not be discouraged or dismayed my friends for God is with you through it all. Don’t give in to negative thinking and behaving. It will only make things worse. Choose to trust Him. He’s got great plans for you…just beyond the buts.😉

Prayer:  Lord, thank you that you are with us wherever we go. You are in every moment we face, the triumphs, the trials, the unexpected, the failures. You see us through loving lenses, not critical ones. Help us trust you through the buts in life, those you designed for our growth and those that are thrust upon us because of other people’s sin. Make each of us fully dependent upon You so that we can persevere through this race of life, growing in our endurance and hope. This life is not the end. We thank You for the future You have in store for us. In Jesus name, Amen

Mountain Making

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33

Alaska experiences an estimated 1,000 earthquakes EVERY month.😮 Can you imagine? If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s the earth shaking! You’d think that being a California native would de-sensitize my fear of earth shakes, but I’ve never quite gotten comfortable with sudden movement beneath my feet. As a zumba instructor, shaking is what I do, but I prefer to shake on solid ground. If the earth is going to move, these dancing feet are making a dash to duck and cover! 😉

Though I fear the earth movement, I’m in awe of the beauty it’s trembling can create. If you’ve been to Alaska you know what I’m talking about. The mountain peaks are gloriously majestic, soaring high above the ocean tides, capped in ice, followed by vast hillsides exploding in hues of green, full of lush foliage and wildlife. It truly is a sight not only to be seen, but experienced. I can tell you all about it, but words are feeble at giving experience. There is a Grand Canyon of difference between knowledge and knowing.

Upon our arrival to Alaska a few weeks ago, I thought, “how lucky are these people that get to call this place their home?” But after hearing the reality of their rock and rolling hills, I thought,”Forget about it! You can keep your paradise!” I’ll take solid ground, thank you very much….that’s a laughable notion while residing in California.😜

But I’ll miss out on the beauty. Alaska’s beauty is experienced at a cost. Great beauty can come from great trials….mountain making is messy. The earth’s movement, and momentary madness, is what creates miracles and mountain tops. You can’t have one without the other. I remember something about compressing tectonic plates from geology class; not my favorite class, but the subject matter caught my attention given my predisposition to loathing earth quakes. The compression of the plates is what causes the earth to move upward in some places, causing mountains to ascend. (Or at least it’s something like that….if you are science savvy, forgive my elementary explanation.😉)

It got me thinking….I think life is a series of earth shaking experiences. Jesus makes it clear that in this life we will have troubles….BUT…take heart…He has overcome the world. We can choose to roll with the tremors, while our faith is compressed, and ascend to great heights spiritually, or we can crumble under pressure. In either case, we can’t control the shaking.

When I think about many of our modern day “Heroes of the faith”, those that inspire us to live more for Jesus, their successes (the mountaintops) were developed by persevering through trials. Patsy Claremont, Marilyn Meberg, Joni Tada, Francis Chan, Greg Laurie, Rick and Kay Warren…they didn’t get mountain sized faith without overcoming some massive, monumental, life shaking circumstances. While I admire each of them, if I’m honest, I’d like to have their faith, minus all their pain. Can I have the mountain peaks without the tremors please? Nope. Life doesn’t get to be all smooth sailing, because God’s not interested in my comfy, boring, life. He’s creating a beautiful landscape from each of our lives, one that will either point to Him for generations, or be a flat, dried up desert.

I’ve spent much of my life trying to navigate the sudden jolts life can bring, hoping to avoid them altogether, but they are inevitable. We have about as much control over earth movement as we do the trials we will face in life. There is no stopping it, avoiding it, or escaping…sometimes you’ve just got to roll with it and learn to find your joy in all the uncertain shaking. Hold on and wait for the beauty that follows. He brings beauty from the ashes of our lives.

I got some earth trembling news a couple months ago. A mass on my right kidney has started growing for the first time in the three years we’ve been monitoring it. Boom. All of a sudden, my faith became jostled by the reality of this life. Life is fragile. It’s ever changing and all that is certain is death and taxes….not really!!😜 Even taxes will one day end! (I hear the Hallelujah Chorus when I think of that glorious ending. Lol)

There’s really only one thing, or person rather, that never changes, and that is our God. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. His love never fails and He has overcome the sting of death. Ya know why? Because He loves us. His death and resurrection, sealed the deal, so our future is secure. It’s rock solid, in fact. There is no shaking that truth. It.just.is. And to that I say, “Hallelujah” and “Amen”! My future is secure in this life and for all eternity.

I don’t know the outcome yet of this menacing mass. I had a biopsy this past week…another earth moving experience that I hoped to avoid, but was unavoidable. While I wait for the results, I’m not going to lie, I’ve lost some sleep. I’ve contemplated my life and what feels like the impending end. Of course, it’s likely I would just lose a kidney. But the mind has a way of racing toward worst case scenarios if we let it.😳The fears are kind of silly really. I mean worst case scenario is being with God in heaven for all eternity….not bad!

The usual fears have come in crashing waves. One minute I feel victorious riding this massive trial like a skilled, secure, surfer and in the next moment I feel crushed by the tide of terror at what it all means, picturing my kids and husband dealing with the tidal wave of grief. That one gets me. It feels suffocating and I can hardly take it in, but then, I don’t have to because….my God has overcome the grave.

I can take heart and have faith in what I hope for and faith in what I do not yet see. My hope is not in my own life, but in the life, death and resurrection of my Jesus. He has said He will never leave me and never forsake me….and He has done the same for my sweet family…and He has done the same for you too. Do you know Him?

This is serious friends. Eternity is not to be taken lightly. At some point we are all going to deal with the end of this life and the reality of what lies ahead. I hope you know Jesus. He is the solid rock upon which you and I can stand, even in the fiercest of earth shattering storms. He is the One and only that can save you, not only can, but LONGS to save you. He is THE Savior.

The trials that shake us to the core, can make our faith soar on wings like eagles, soaring from the mountain peaks. I want to soar and more importantly, I want my kids and husband too. I’m clinging to my Savior as my life faces another jolt of reality. As I face the twists, turns and bumps that are inevitably ahead, whether near or far, I can be sure of one thing….He has overcome. May my days reflect His ways and create a beautiful landscape with mountain peaks that point to my Savior….the Rock upon which I stand. All praise and honor to Him forevermore! We can do all things through Him that gives us strength!🙌

***I wrote this blog weeks ago, but wasn’t able to take the time to post it until now. This past Tuesday, also my husbands birthday😄, I was informed that the tumor is benign! What a blessed day!! My hubby said it was the best birthday gift he’s ever been given. We praised God together…but we would have praised Him either way! He is good even when our circumstances aren’t. Praise Him in the pain, the joy, the fear, the anger, the anxiety, the waiting…let everything that has breath praise His name! Praising Him will give you strength to overcome and mountain peaks will begin to take shape as your faith is compressed. Press on friends! We can do all things through Him that gives us strength!💪🙌😄***

Hebrews 11:1~Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Ephesians 2:20~“built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
Psalm 27:14~“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”
‭‭Isaiah 61:3~ and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment
of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Power Up

I have the poweeeerrr!!!” Remember that old cartoon, He-Man? I know I’m completely dating myself with this reference, but once in a while that slogan bounces through my mind. Random, I know. Growing up, my brother loved that show and occasionally I would watch with him, though I preferred She-Ra. Lol. From what I can recall He-Man was some kind of warrior that would thrust his sword into the sky seeking his power source, when battling with the evil Skeletor. When lightening would strike He-Man’s sword, he was empowered to conquer the seemingly impossible. I’m sure the show had nothing to do with God’s empowering grace but for whatever reason, it comes to mind when I feel I’m in need of strength much greater than my own. 💪😉

Power has an interesting effect on people.  God’s power enables us to do what we could never do on our own strength, while human power is based upon our physical and mental abilities.  God’s power can propel us to do amazing things; conquering giants for His kingdom, winning souls, overcoming obstacles, achieving His plans, and pushing back against darkness in our world.  Human “power”, or will-power, can only take us so far.  At our best we can accomplish goals, acquire knowledge, and achieve influence over people.   At our worst, our pride can inflate….leaving a path of destruction. Inflated pride will always deflate God’s power in our lives.

Ultimately, we are limited,  since we are not God.  There are situations we will encounter in life that will seem insurmountable.  We will ALL face them.  Inevitably, we will get to the end of our own strength; for some this might take a lifetime, but it will happen.  It is at the end of ourselves, that we can truly find power.

I’ve never felt power-full, as I’ve often lacked self-confidence, but the truth is, I have access to great power. God’s power is made perfect in and through our weakness. He actually uses those of us that feel “weak” to do things we could never do on our own strength. For example, I could not pack up our home and kids, moving away from what is familiar and comfortable to a place I know nothing about and know no one, in order to help establish a new church for Jesus. I’m not strong enough for that, but that’s exactly what I did through God’s strength.  That kind of risk and change is not in my nature. I like predictability. I’m a creature of habit. I can eat the same thing, and do the same things day after day….and be ok with that. However, God has had, and continues to have, bigger plans for my life then my own small mind can imagine. His power has enabled me and my hubby to plant two churches, one of which required moving away from everyone and everything I was familiar with, leaving family and friends. Recently, God has called us to move again to begin a revitalization effort in an established church in Yucaipa, California. It’s meant uprooting our kids from everything they’ve known over the past 8 years. It’s been challenging, at times lonely, and we still feel the ache of those we’ve had to say goodbye to, and yet, we sense God’s power at work in this decision.🙌

With every move we have made, I’ve felt ill-equipped for the challenges, but God has proven faithful, giving us just what we need at just the right time. Experiencing His power only happens as we get to the end of ourselves. We witness the power of God as we cling to Him, as Jane to Tarzan, experiencing the exhilaration of a life surrendered to Jesus. He’s taken me to places that I never thought I’d go and I’ve done things I never dreamed I would do.

I was struck by God’s power exhibited through Paul and Silas in Acts 16 today. Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten and flogged without any legal or moral justification. They had actually helped free a slave girl from spiritual bondage and it bothered her owners because it effected them in the pocket book. The Philippian owners had been exploiting the poor girl for her fortune telling abilities and now she was useless for their financial gain. When they “realized their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities.” Greed can bring out the ugly in people and this was no exception. Things got U-G-L-Y.

These Philippian owners must have had some power and influence over the people. Before long a crowd had grown and they were all hurling insults and accusations at Silas and Paul, convincing the magistrates to have them thrown in jail, even without a trial. This was a no no because they were Roman citizens. It was illegal to whip a Roman citizen and to put them in jail without a fair trial. They were about to encounter God’s power.💪🙌

This is when Paul help up his sword and said, “I have the poweeeeeerrrr!” Not really.😉 At this point they are sitting in jail, exhausted, beaten, bloodied, and fastened in stocks. I’m guessing they probably felt like they were at the end of their own strength….and the end of their ropes! Their solution?

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God…”

They prayed and praised God, realizing they could do nothing at this point upon their own strength. So, they trusted The One that could move mountains…and jail cells. 😀🙌. It was then that God released His power in that jail as a violent earthquake shook, opening prison doors and loosening everybody’s chains. This was no ordinary California shaker. This was the power of God!

What I love about this story is that Paul and Silas demonstrated such tenacious, steadfast faith in the most dismal of circumstances. Maybe they didn’t “feel” like spiritual power-houses, but they had at least mustard seed faith, and they knew their source of power. They tapped into His power by praying and praising! Their hope was in what God could do, not based upon their own abilities. This enabled God to get the glory in every way! The guards and other prisoners got to witness God’s power first hand; causing one of the jailers, and his entire household, to come to faith that very night! God often uses our weakest moments to draw others to Himself. But we have to let go of our frayed ropes and tap into His power.

God loves to get the glory for empowering us through impossible circumstances. But so often we don’t let Him. We try to control, manipulate, and maneuver to get our way. Or, as I often do, we lose sight of hope so easily and resort to “stinkin thinkin”. That’s what my hubby calls negative, downer thinking; as if all hope is lost.

But what if when we get to the end of our ropes, we let go and let Him swoop down and catch us? He has proven time and time again that He will never leave us or forsake us, so how can we lose hope? There is always hope, when we are clinging to Jesus! The trick is, you can’t see Him. We have to let go of our ropes by faith.

I’ve been there. Holding onto the remaining strings of my own abilities, knowing I can’t possibly make it without help. I was there when doctors said I would never have babies. (I now have 3 children). I was there when my son was dying in the NICU (He’s now in 7th grade). I was there when my marriage was crumbling and my rope became brittle bitterness. (I’m about to celebrate 22 years of marriage with my best friend). I was there when church leaders lied, accused, defamed us, and manipulated circumstances, having everything to do with the greedy pocket book. This has happened on multiple occasions; a sad reality. (God has provided for us every.step.of.the.way). He is faithful in every circumstance, through every trial, and every heartache. At my weakest, He has been strongest in my life….but I had to let go and trust in His power.

Each time I’ve neared my ropes end, He has been there to pick me up and catapult me to new heights, drawing others to Him through my weakness. It’s been glorious, faith building, and power-filled. Those moments have changed me and are shaping me still into the person He desires me to be. None of us are perfected yet, but we can spend our lifetime in pursuit of His holiness.

I don’t know what your week has been like, the circumstances you face, the hurt you feel physically or emotionally, but I know you have a power source much greater than yourself or your circumstance. He’s ready to swoop in, grab hold of you and empower you through. Maybe you need to stop right now in this moment and remind yourself, out loud if you need to….”I have the poweeerrrr!” You do! If you have Jesus, you have everything you need to overcome, press on, and become all that He wants you to become. He has such great plans for each of us. Don’t keep grasping hold of your frayed rope. Let go, and let God do His best work in your life. Pause to pray, praise, and power up! I’d love to hear your stories of how God has or is revealing His power through your weakness.💜 Feel free to share them below. I will be praying for you. Let’s give Him the glory! We can do ALL things through Him!!💪🙏🙌

2 Cor. 12:9~But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Acts 16:16-26~Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.

Distortion Glasses

“I see J-Lo.” I can only imagine how challenging it must have been for her to keep a straight face when I said that. The corners of her mouth were doing tug-of-war with the knowledge that this was not a moment for laughter. Honestly, as I think back to that moment, I laugh at myself. It’s like I was wearing distortion glasses; seeing my image in front of a fun house carnival mirror. Sin scrambles the brain.

Yesterday I was at the gym in my Muvz class and the instructor made a random comment,”this is what J-Lo does every morning.” (We were doing a routine full of squats and lunges, to a J-Lo song.) It’s crazy how our memories can get jarred by a simple statement. A memory flickered across my mind in the middle of class. Suddenly I was back in my counselors office 15 years ago, explaining to her that I didn’t want to have a….uhhh, ummm, errrr, J-Lo behind. 😳 I’m embarrassed to admit this conversation, but it’s a reflection of how warped my thinking was at that time.

My brain had been distorted by my own sin. I no longer viewed my own body image, or anyone else’s, in the same way God does. It became my goal to be the perfect weight and shape….a non-existent possibility. The counselor helping me was a wonderful, Jesus follower who had faced her own body image distortion years prior, so she knew all the tricks and blind spots. She had me draw my perceived body shape on butcher paper that was taped to a wall. When I was done she asked me what I thought was wrong with the outline I had drawn…that’s where the J-Lo comment happened. 😬 The only thing I saw on my drawing was a very large, round….well you know. 😉 Apparently, not even J-Lo’s body was perfect enough in my mind. Crazy, I know.

Our minds can get warped and out of alignment with God’s word and we don’t even know it. At the time I believed that I was loving Jesus and worshiping Him from the platform at church almost every Sunday, and yet I was literally dying in my own stinking thinking.

Once I realized I had a problem, I got down to business and did the hard work of cleaning out the garbage I had believed, making room for God’s word to be firmly planted in my mind and heart. It took years to fully embrace my new way of thinking. There are no quick fixes in our healing and growth.  It starts by taking one step in the right direction, and then another step, and then another….until one day you realize that sin no longer has any grip on your life….then you can run freely without any baggage. Not to say that I never tripped and fell along the way. Having partners in this race is vital to finishing well. If I fall, someone is there to help me up and encourage me along the way; reminding me of what is true.

Do you have stinking thinking? Ideas and beliefs that aren’t congruent with God’s word? Maybe you are stuck in a rut and you don’t know it; looking through your own fun house mirrors, unaware of how distorted your vision has become. Pray, ask Him to reveal if there is any offensive way in you. Be sure to check your thoughts with God’s word. These “offensive ways” will lead you down a dark path, unintentionally hurting you and those in your life. To be honest, I thought it felt good to be hungry. It didn’t bother me one bit, though it was hurting my marriage and my body. We can be fooled by our own selfish desires and foolish thinking. The longer you walk in the dark, the harder it gets to distinguish God’s perfect plan and will for your life. You can know Jesus, but not be able to walk in His footsteps…it’s hard to see footsteps when the lights are out.
Cry out to Him, He will set you free, and set you back on track. You don’t have to figure it all out in a day, just take the first step. The first step is always the hardest. You can do it! I’m rooting for you and so is Jesus! You can do ALL things through Him!

Colossians 2:6-7~Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

Psalm 139:24~See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

1John 1:7~But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Two Faced Clowns

Growing up I had a clown doll with two faces, popular in the 80’s. One side was a happy face, the other side was sad….though it looked more angry to me. That doll was the cause of many nightmares. There was something creepy and duplicitous about it having two faces. I mean, which was it? Happy or sad? (Even the happy face looked evil😳). It was kept safely hidden in my closet until it was finally given away. No more two faced dolls.

I’ve experienced the same kinds of duplicity in people, on a grander scale. It’s always unnerving when you encounter people that say one thing but demonstrate entirely different behavior. Their words don’t match their speech. There are those that are gifted in manipulation, if there is such a gift, and they use it on unsuspecting targets.

I remember the agony of discovering the person we were partnered in ministry with was not who we thought he was. My husband and I had blindly trusted, hoping our pastor ‘friend’ would be an honest, God fearing person, but we were sadly mistaken. It was not the first time we had encountered duplicitous behavior in people, but it still left us reeling, uncertain of what to do next. The entire experience left us with a terrible aftertaste, particularly towards pastors….which is amusing, since my hubby happens to be one. The truth is, it’s not a pastor problem. It’s a people problem, for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Our ‘friend’ would smile from the platform and then plot against us behind closed doors. He would project sincerity and kindness, but we saw another side. There were all kinds of ‘secret meetings’ discussing how to control what we said and did. At the low point I was told I was not allowed to baptize my closest friend, we could not send out prayer letters to talk about our upcoming move to Modesto, and we received a certified letter informing us we were to remain silent about anything we considered an injustice, or we would not receive our paycheck. In addition, there was a sum of money voted on by board members and promised, that was never given to the new church we were planting.  It was God’s money, not ours, but he withheld it.  Not exactly a display of Jesus love. It.was.awful. How could this be happening? Our hearts broke and doubt was planted in the brokenness. Doubting people and their motives would be a process to overcome. Who could we really trust?

Jesus. We could trust Him and Him alone. Jesus experienced many betrayals while walking this earth. The religious leaders were often the most two faced, presenting themselves as righteous, but secretly plotting, manipulating and justifying their desire to see Jesus destroyed. In the end, it was one of His 12 closest followers that would betray Him. Jesus response was one of love in spite of the ultimate deception, leading Him to His death. He didn’t focus on Judas and the betrayal. When He was beaten, whipped, carried His cross and nailed upon it, He did not plead His case, nor did He point out the injustice, as evidenced in His words, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He focused on His purpose and offered forgiveness. Jesus never wavered in who He was and what He was called to do. He demonstrated how to handle duplicitous people and injustices. Keep loving, keep forgiving and keep moving forward toward His purpose and plan.

We ended up leaving our church tattered and bruised, but not defeated. The why’s and seeming injustice of what we had just encountered, would have to be laid down, in order to move forward. There were many moments we wanted to carry our hurt, bitterness, and grudges a little longer, but the weight of it was to much, like carrying around giant boulders.   It drained us of energy, distracted us from our purpose and kept us from grabbing onto God’s goodness.   So, we dropped our boulders and reached up.  God had called us to a new adventure and He used the pain to catapult us into His plan. The Well, our current church, was birthed out of our pain. God can work all things to His good, if we stay surrendered to Him.  He blessed us beyond our imaginations as He brought beauty from the ashes of our pain.

God knows us inside and out. There is nothing hidden from Him, which is both comforting and sobering. At the end of the day, we all have a little two faced clown in us. Our actions don’t always match our words and thoughts. We are all works in progress and that’s ok. He can shape us and mold us as we get honest about the hidden truths in our hearts. He’s good at making masterpieces out of ugly, messed up, fractured clay. Rest in His truth and He will begin to reshape your life into something beautiful.

Have you experienced the hurt of two faced people? Don’t lose heart, dear ones! Jesus understands that hurt. He can empathize. Take your hurt and confusion to Him and lay it down at His feet. You will feel lighter and free as you let go of the boulders you have been carrying. That new freedom will catapult you into God’s best plan for your life. He has something amazing in store for you, just keep trusting and delighting in the One that never changes. Press on toward the goal that is in Christ Jesus! He will guide you and shape you, making your insides match your outsides.

If you struggle with your own duplicitous behavior, get honest with Jesus and the people in your life. God sees all and knows all. There is no deceiving Him. Don’t be a two-faced clown. You will be missing out on the intimate relationship you can have when you remove the costume and makeup, getting real with Jesus. You can do ALL things through Him!

Psalm139:1-4~You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.

Romans 8:28~And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Psalm 37:3-6~Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.

Phil.3:14~I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.