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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Alabaster Offering

The woman came to Jesus repentant, broken as her alabaster jar. Luke, chapter 7, reveals that she had lead a “sinful life”…haven’t we all? She came to Jesus weeping, bringing what was likely her most expensive possession, her alabaster jar of perfume, seeking compassion and forgiveness. She came to the right One.

She poured the fragrant contents of her broken jar upon Jesus head and fell to His feet weeping. The scent must have overwhelmed the room. It certainly got the attention of many at the table. Mark, chapter 14, tells of the crowds indignant chatter as they questioned her wastefulness…”why this waste of perfume?”. False assumptions and shame followed…“It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” She must not care about the poor…you can almost hear the pride swelling behind these statements, as if they would NEVER have done such an irresponsible thing. The final punch…”they rebuked her harshly.” Talk about some serious bullies. These bullies didn’t even care that the Teacher was in the room. They did all of this in front of Jesus! Can you imagine? Unfortunately, I can.

There have been times I’ve poured myself out for God, sharing vulnerably, encouraging people, giving of myself until I had nothing left, only to be falsely accused, misunderstood and taken for granted. Such is the life of a Jesus follower. There’s nothing quite like having a brother or sister in the faith emotionally wound you, especially when they group together. Yes, bullies are in the church too, BUT so is Jesus.

Jesus, with His lazer beam focus, looks straight at the heart of the alabaster lady and looks at the crowd gathered. He cuts through all of their pretense, manipulation, greed and what I perceive as jealousy of this humble woman. Maybe they were jealous that they didn’t think of doing something so thoughtful and heart felt for Jesus? Maybe they were annoyed at the ease with which Jesus accepted her….shouldn’t she be ashamed of herself? Who does she think she is….I mean, she’s not part of their “inner circle”, yet she was exactly where Jesus wanted her.

Jesus quiets the room. “Leave her alone.” She is with Him and nobody is going to talk smack about His daughter. He calls out their hidden agendas. “”Why are you bothering her?” And by the way, you do know you can help the poor anytime you want, right? While helping the poor is a good thing, what this woman does is more urgent. “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.” I love that He says, “she did what she could.” She had a jar of perfume and in that moment what she could do was sacrifice it for the One that would sacrifice everything for her, for you, for me and for all. Her action demonstrated the condition of her heart. Yes, she was broken, but that brokenness lead her to Jesus.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.~Psalm 147:3

She did what she could do in her brokenness, despite the judgmental murmurs of those present. It was a risk and I’m sure it hurt her feelings, but it was worth it. Approaching Jesus will always lead to grace, forgiveness and restoration. He’s in the healing business and He’s masterful at mending broken hearts…they are the easiest to reshape. A prideful heart becomes like stone, un-moldable. Remember, God’s power is made perfect in our weakness, not our pride. What’s the condition of your heart?

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.

She brought her perfume. What can you do, or what can you bring to Jesus today? Maybe your offering is just a broken heart, wounded by people and trials of life. He alone can restore what people have broken in you. Maybe, like her, you feel judged, accused and exposed…He sees you as blemish free, beautiful and whole in Him. Keep going to Him to find rest and renewal. He will quiet the bullies and strengthen you to rise above.

Do what you can to love God and love people, regardless if people love you back. You and I have been given gifts to be used for Him. Use them for His glory. You can expect people will challenge your motives, make assumptions, and even accuse. That’s ok. Pour out what you have for Jesus and He will defend You. Remember His words to this crowd and know He is saying them for you too, “Leave her/him alone.” He’s got your back and one day there will be an account for all things. If God is for you, who can be against you?

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for how graciously you receive us, even when we are at our worst. Your love restores us to wholeness as we put our trust in You. Help us seek You first in every situation so that we are empowered by You, not being lead by our feelings. Emotions ebb and flow, but You are consistent in love, grace and forgiveness. Help us speak and behave in ways that reflect Your goodness. You are so good to us. In Jesus name, 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.

Miracles and Madness

(This post was written last Sunday. I contemplated about whether or not I should share it, as it was more for myself, but felt lead to share it. Enjoy my Mommy madness.😉) 

Attitude is the mind’s paintbrush; it can color any situation.” -Barbara Johnson

I’m feeling a little bluish today…with a shade of grey, and a swirling bunch of colors that start to look like a muddled mess. The kind of mess that happens when we mix to many colors at once and they become this ugly blob of brown/grey. Yes, it’s been a rough week. I listened to my husband preach today about what to do when having a “bad day” and honestly my insides were pouty and I had an overwhelming urge to stick out my tongue at him or roll my eyes, like a temperamental toddler. 😝😂 Either that or burst into tears. My feelings are a little erratic this week, to say the least. Don’t worry, I resisted the urge, though no one would have seen me since I sit in the front row at church. Oh so tempting!

Moments like that reveal the condition of the canvas of my heart and mind. This heart and mind of mine is….well….tired.

It’s been a week of miracles and madness as I had to tend to my 3 sick children, a home I had to prepare for viewing to about 20 prospective tenants, a house in escrow with a mountain of paperwork and details to attend to, as we prepare,emotionally, for a big move…not to mention, meals to make, kids to tote around to doctors, school, sports, laundry, dishes…you know, Mom stuff. Add to that my own allergies, congestion and asthma; keeping me awake at night. I felt like I was managing the madness fairly well, but this week Momma slipped into overdrive and nearly burned out my internal engine.

I felt forced into overdrive as our youngest daughter had an allergic reaction to something.   We thought it was due to the antibiotic she was taking for her bronchitis, but now aren’t sure. She had hives ev-er-y-where. I’ve never seen such a rapid transformation to skin, but it was quick and awful, causing swelling over her ENTIRE body, hands, feet, cheeks, tummy…you name it, she was covered from head to toe. She saw the doctor three times last week and I called Kaiser so many times that I likely exasperated the nurses. When Benadryl, Zyrtec, ice packs, and cool showers don’t work…there’s just not much more to try. (Except showering in Cortisone, which I knew was not a good idea). I truly felt at the end of my rope last night when those pesky lumps, bumps, stinging red welts rose up once again. It was 10:00pm and I was already tapped out, but Mom’s don’t go down without a fight when their kids are sick, and so the war against hives ensued.

I’d love to tell you my attitude was steadfast in the Lord, but yesterday it was more like stomping my feet internally and demanding He fix my kid. I vasilated between tantrums and despair, wanting to raise my white flag of surrender and crawl back into bed. Yes, Pastor’s wives have temper tantrums…at least this one does, on occasion.😉

On Thursday I soared with gratitude from Him answering my prayer and completely healing my daughter of all her stinging itchies, (It really was a miraculous healing, at least for that evening), and yesterday I sank to the depths of despair when those irritating welts returned, feeling helpless that I couldn’t help her. It’s a good thing faith isn’t feeling based!

So, I want to re-paint my attitude today, right now, and maybe help you re-paint yours. Miracles abound in each day, but I have to choose to see them as I reflect on God’s goodness. Here’s what I see today….God is good. He answered my prayers this week when Ashlyn was at her worst. God is good. We opened our bible while she was transforming into a swollen, red lobster right before my eyes and we read scripture together, reassuring us that God works all things for the good. (Can you believe her Jesus Calling devotional was about “Embracing Your Problems”? Ash and I had a good laugh about that last night. How do you embrace hives?😂) God is good. We stayed up late into the night sharing stories and my introverted daughter talked my ear off. God is good. We got the hives under control about 1am this morning.🙌 God is good. She woke up this morning without a single hive or bump. God is good. We went to church and had people hug on us and shower us in love. God is good. My husband came home earlier than usual to bring us lunch. (Pasta and bread…be still my beating heart!❤️🍞❤️). God is good. My kids are quietly watching a movie they ALL agreed upon…that is a miracle in itself!!👏👏👏😜

God is so very good, in the miracles and in the madness. Some of His best work is done in the madness of our souls. He is good when people and circumstances aren’t. Even if Ashlyn had continued to have hives, He would still be good. He never changes and He sustains us, empowers us, and loves us, no matter how blue we feel or how out of balance our lives get. He helps us find balance, even amidst the storms, if we reach out to Him.

Each reminder of God’s goodness is like a stroke of brighter colors on the canvas of our hearts and minds. He’s adding brighter colors to my attitude today…hues of red, orange and yellow, that of a sunset. 🌅 There is nothing quite like a sunset, especially by the blue of the ocean. It’s brilliant, calming, and peaceful; just like Jesus. I love how God takes my blue blobby mess and shapes it into something beautiful….but I must have eyes to see His creative masterpiece.

What’s your attitude painting today? Try giving Him the paint brush and ask Him to color your heart and mind with His goodness. We choose what we allow our minds to ruminate on.  Think about His goodness. He makes all things beautiful in His time and in His way. We can do all things through Him!

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.
Romans 5:3-4~Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Phil.4:8~Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
Psalm 150:6~Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.

Unwelcome Cross

A court ordered mandate enforced the removal of a cross from the top of a Christmas tree in Indiana this week. The man that filed the lawsuit said it caused him “irreparable harm”. Just seeing the cross as he drove was a source of “unwelcome contact.” It was so unwelcome by him that he went through legal proceedings to have it removed. Imagine the harm Jesus actually endured on the cross for you, for me, and for the man insisting the cross be removed. Jesus is so gracious. His response to the man would be something like, “Father forgive him, for he knows not what he is doing.” He’s way more grace filled than I am. I can think of a lot more colorful, defensive, self-righteous responses. But, thank you Jesus for the Holy Spirit, which enables us to do what we can not do on our own strength. Often He helps us do and say nothing. Phew! Keeping our mouths closed takes divine intervention.😉

The thought of us “not knowing what we are doing” percolated through my mind as I considered the cross. My first thought was, Jesus how can you claim that we don’t know what we are doing? I mean seriously, did the Roman guards not know it was barbaric to beat you, whip you, hurl insults at you, while leading you to a torturous death on the cross? How could they not know??? How brainless did they have to be not to know that kind of behavior is wrong….even if you weren’t the Son of God? But you were…and they did. And Jesus, seriously, how can that man not know getting a court order to remove a small cross from a big tree is…wrong…and lame? Oh, but then the conviction set in. In the words of John Bradford, “There but for the grace of God, go I”.

The thing is, there was a time I was completely blinded to the truth….spiritually blind. I remember rolling my eyes at Christian friends as a teen; laughing at their pursuit of this unknown God. The cross carried no value for me until I met Jesus. In fact, I was agitated by it and felt antagonist toward it…though there was no rational explanation for my feelings. I truly did not know what I was doing.

Even while walking with Jesus, I’ve gotten lost along the journey, and needed Him to set me back on track. I get uncomfortable with the cross too, like the man in the article. It confronts my own behavior, selfishness, judgements and offenses. So much about the cross makes me uncomfortable, but the Bible says to pick up our crosses and follow Him.

When we carry our crosses, we can’t carry much else. There was so much love demonstrated on His cross, such selflessness. At times I’m so overwhelmed by His love that I’m eager to pick mine up. Other days, I’m ashamed to admit, I’d rather remove the cross from the tree, so I can focus on how offended I feel, how wrong someone else is, and throw myself a little pity party. Yet, Jesus so willingly gave it all for me and you, that there isn’t room for petty offenses, grudges, or self-righteous behavior in light of His love. Though my humanness tries to persuade me to speak out, get angry, push back when offended, I can lay the offense down knowing He called me to a different way of living; to carry my cross.

How do you handle the offenses of others? It’s going to happen, a lot, especially this time of year. Christmas can bring about lots of expectations while visiting with family; fuel for big offenses to occur. We have in our minds how things should be, people should speak and behave. Here’s what I know for sure; an offense + a defense = a relational train wreck. If we choose to get defensive and offended by every offense we encounter, we are headed to a very un-merry Christmas.

Our closest friends and family can often feel like our biggest offenders, since their opinions tend to carry greater value than strangers or acquaintances. Great expectations can leave us feeling greatly offended. We expect that they are going to speak and behave differently than last year, but they don’t. We expect they will offer concern, care, or even just a little kindness to us, wrong again. We expect everyone will get along, enjoying all the food and festivities, much of which took weeks to prepare, but that awkward tension remains….it’s like cutting through caramel, only not as sweet. 😬

I’ve felt offended and unknowingly have offended family and friends more times than can be remembered. Unfortunately, I have a pretty good memory, so offenses can often be churned again and again in my mind, leaving a curdled mess in my heart. Nothing good comes from sour thinking.

Jesus set an amazing example for us when it comes to feeling offended. He laid down his life for us while we were still sinners. Think about how offended and defensive He could have been. He was perfect, and yet constantly accused. He offended people by loving them, healing them, working on his day off, caring for the marginalized in society, waiting on His Father’s timing, and claiming to be who He was….God. The gossip train was out of control when Jesus walked the earth, and yet, Jesus refused to hop on. He did not get defensive, wasting energy on what wouldn’t change. He stayed on course; headed toward His Father’s will; a pain filled, arduous journey that no one else could endure. His love fueled that train which lead to His death as He welcomed the cross.

Are you prepared for the possible “unwelcome contact” you might have with family over the next couple of weeks? Will you collide with your offenders, offering up defenses, finding flaw in them, hurling insults, withdrawing emotionally, or starting your own gossip train? There’s a better way. Offer grace, offer forgiveness, offer Jesus in those moments. It will keep you on track and you will be blessed beyond the circumstance by remaining close to the conductor of your soul. You’re bound to have moments of feeling offended this Christmas…just remember the cross atop of the tree. He is why we celebrate. Let Him be why you forgive, offer grace, and understanding. The offense is just a blip on your travel plans. Offer your loved ones the greatest gift, His unconditional love. They don’t need your stuff, wrapped in pretty packaging. They need His grace and if you know Him, you have it to give. Let’s carry our crosses into Christmas. You can do all things through Him!

Luke 23:34~Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Matt. 16:24~Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
1Peter 4:8~Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Proverbs 19:11~Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

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.