Thursday, 22 November 2018

Why I'm Thankful For The Labels That Challenge My Worth


Bristled.

No, that’s not quite it.

Chafed.

Hmmmm - not that either.

Ruffled. Maybe that’s more like it.

I love words. They are powerful. But sometimes they can be tricky.

I wish I could find the right words to match the muddled, confused soup that was ‘my feelings’ as I stared at the label on the application.

There it was, typed neatly under the box titled ‘Occupation’: housewife.

For me, as a visual person, words in writing carry an extra punch. Compared to their audible counterparts, they embed themselves a little deeper in my mind.

Housewife.

The soup stirred. Prideful flesh was aroused.

I glanced at my husband. I wondered if he could sense it… could see my discomfort.

I bit my tongue… wrestled with the impulse to qualify this label… to explain what else I was doing… to justify why it was enough.

I was determined to win this latest battle in the long, drawn out war on my worth.

I remained calm, said nothing and pushed my pride back down, but as I left the bank and, in the days following, the hard truth sank in – I have a far way to go yet.

You see there are other labels… labels that make my pride jump right up and pay attention. 
And often, with those labels, I don’t squash him down, smug as he is. I allow him to stand tall and strut his stuff.

Even now, I am resisting the urge to tell you what those other ‘finer sounding’ labels are.

It’s like I said, I have a long way to go.

My sense of worth cannot be grounded in my pride’s reaction. One minute it’s up, and I’m smiling, the next it’s down, and I’m frowning. It’s like I’m on a see-saw, and I am getting giddy from the ride.

Yet, I’m thankful for this roller-coaster, especially for the lows. I’m thankful that labels that challenge my sense of worth cause me to stop, examine my heart, and face the truth.

Would you join me as I dig a little deeper? Perhaps we can do this together.

Stop and examine my heart: 

Why do labels hold such power over me? Why are they so intrinsically linked to my worth… to my usefulness or importance?

Why do some labels cause me to bristle while others cause me to strut?

Whose labels affect me the most? And why?

There are labels that I pin on myself. Some are pleasant, others not so much.

There are the labels that others offer me. These can be weighty. But I get to choose which ones I wear. The choosing is not easy but it's a snap when compared to living out my choices.

And then, there are the labels that God uses to describe me. God – the same One who made me – who knows all about me. Perhaps, I should choose His.

But, whose labels do I really attach to my heart?

Now, it's time for the results of my self-examination. How's yours coming? 

Face the truth:

Labels hold power over me because in my mind they reflect my doing… my doing reflects my performance… my performance reflects my worth in the world’s eyes… okay, to be honest… sometimes, even in my eyes.

And don’t we all long to be worthy? To be significant? Important? Not passed over?

‘If I’m not doing enough, I’m not enough’ - my pride chides me as he wrangles to pick the best labels.

So, we rack up the labels… the prettier sounding the better… the longer the list the sweeter. We write in, erase, check again, to get it right. Labels define us.

In those moments, when I find myself caught once again in a battle for my worth, I’m reminded that I’ve chosen my labels, others’ labels instead of God’s.

‘See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’ 1 John 3:1a

Child of God

The only label that truly defines me - not based on what I’ve done, what I am doing or what I can do, but wholly on what my God has done to draw me close.

I’m reminded that it’s all about Him, not me... not me in my weakness, nor me in my might.

I’m reminded to shift my focus to my God, His love, His death in my place, His indwelling presence that guides me.

And I’m reminded to wear this label proudly, confidently, and thankfully because He is worthy.

'Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.' Psalm 145:3

Thankful.

Again, not quite the right word. But it’s a start.

In this long, drawn out war for my worth, I am so thankful for the truth that brings me victory.

**********************

What about you?

Do labels hold more power over you than you would like to admit?

Have you chosen labels for others that affect how you treat them?

God's word is filled with many labels for His children. 
Which one is your favorite?

Child of God… three ‘small’ words… one powerful label.

Let those words sink deep into your heart today… 
ponder them… chew on them… live them out.


Grace to you,

Carlie

Thursday, 1 November 2018

What If God Listens the Way I Do?


I am a good listener.

At least that’s what my pride told me.

And I believed it for a long time.

Even when it was clearly no longer true.

To be fair, I used to be a good listener.

I had learned the sacrifice well… had honed the skill and enjoyed the rewards.

But then, I got lazy.

I got selfish…

Well, to be honest, I am always selfish, but I allowed my selfishness to take over.

My ‘me-ness’ rose to the surface, refused to be kept down, demanded its time…

And I stopped listening well.

It started off slowly…

Not giving my full attention while listening to my family…

Not taking the time to listen to those within my circle – those in need of sacrificial listening.

But then the disease spread to my walk with God.

I would read His word yet quickly forget the truths found within.

You could tell it in the way I lived.

Not convinced.

Not fully accepting who He said He is, what His intentions are, who He says I am, and how He longs for me to respond.

Instead of being quick to listen, I was often painfully slow.

Even worse, I loitered in acting on His word.

What if God listens the way I do?

What if He becomes too distracted with all the thoughts in His mind to pay full attention to me… to us? 

What if His sovereignty over His creations - this world... this universe kept Him so busy that He had no or very little time for me?

What if I was dying for Him to hear me, but He was unwilling to sacrifice the time… the attention… the love that listening requires?

What if…?

But then the thought crashes in…

Who am I that God should listen to me?
‘Do I, a mere mortal made from a handful of dirt, dare open my mouth again to my Master?’ Genesis 18:27b
I am reminded of my frailty… my unworthiness… my ‘filthy rags’ and I wonder…

How can it be?

How can I… in all my sin and shame… even consider the thought of approaching the Lord of all this earth - the Lord enthroned in all-surpassing holiness - and expect that He will listen to me?

Yet, I am assured that He does listen –

‘The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on Him in truth.’ Psalm 145:18 
‘Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’ Jeremiah 29:12

I don’t even have to speak the words for Him to hear.

Have you ever been there? Carrying a burden so large, desperately wanting to talk, but not being able to find the words - God listens even then.

‘Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.’ Psalm 139:4

And my unworthiness… my unrighteousness doesn’t even block the way, for I am assured that as a child of God, Christ’s righteousness flings open the doors for me.

‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.’ Romans 5:1-2a 

‘Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’ Hebrews 4:16

Did you get that?

Access to God.

Approach with confidence.

Receive mercy.

Find grace.

When I ponder these precious truths, they pierce my soul… bring me to my knees… and infuse me with a renewed desire.

A desire to be still…

‘Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.’ Job 37:14b
A desire to be slow to speak…

‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ Psalm 46:10

A desire to listen…

‘Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me; for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.’ Psalm 25:4-5

To listen wholeheartedly to the One who incredibly listens to my heart, my thoughts, my words and to savor my time with Him.

And when I listen, I hear His heart.

I hear…

His desire for me to sacrifice my time, my attention, my love, my prideful hunger to be heard… 

His desire for me to reflect His listening heart to those He places in my path...

His desire for me to be a good listener.


What about you?

When last did you consider the amazing truth that God listens to you?

Does this truth motivate you to be a better listener?

Which is your favorite ‘listening’ scripture?

Monday, 15 October 2018

How I Get Back Up When My Mirror Tears Me Down



Have you ever walked past a store window, caught a glimpse of your reflection and gasped? In silent confusion you wonder, ‘What? When did that happen?’

Ever had one of those moments? When you realize that you don’t look the way you imagined you did.

Well, it happened to me recently, and I’m still recovering from the shock.

No, it’s not what you think. It wasn’t a physical mirror depicting an older, less fit me that startled me. Instead, it was the mirror of my peers.

Someone… not just anyone… but someone close to me used the word ‘irritable’ to describe me. It was a quick, off-the-cuff remark, but I felt it like a punch to the gut. I took it like a big girl, but the ache lingered long.

‘Irritable?’ How come I didn’t see that when I looked in the mirror?

Yea, I know that sometimes I’m a bit grouchy after nine at night, especially when sleep is pulling me under. Everyone close to me knows that – it’s just how I am. My family accepts that, I think.

Or, sometimes I can be a little impatient with negative or judgmental people. I mean, their infectious negativity floods my spirit and drains me.

Do you hear it? The way I try to justify my ‘irritability’? The way that my pride has sneaked in and convinced me that this ‘little’ sin is justifiable and acceptable.

What about you? 
Do you also sometimes feel justified in what you do because of circumstances that happen to you, things others have done to you or even the ‘bad’ genes you’ve inherited? 
Like me, can you too easily explain away the sin in your life? 

It seems my battle with pride never goes away. Just when I think I have it mastered, it raises its ugly head. Here it was masquerading as my mirror, acting like a veil blocking the real mirror of my soul - the word of God.

As a Christian, my desire is to reflect the love of God… to let His light shine through me in this dark world. And God instructs me in His word to not merely hear the word but to do it. As a servant of Christ, that is my joy-filled obligation.

Yet, here I was being told that I really wasn’t doing such a great job... that my desire and my actions didn’t match up well. I long to reflect Christ, but what others are really seeing is the me that stands in the way.

It seems like the ‘me’ in me often takes over and blocks Christ out of the way. And even worse, the ‘me’ feels completely justified in doing so. It’s ‘just the way I am’ I lie to myself.

It’s the age-old battle of the flesh vs the spirit.

I hang my head in shame. Once again, I’ve let God down.  

With my bruised pride, I wonder how to approach Him yet again with the same old failure.
I’m tired of this cycle, and I know now that I’m not strong enough to break it. So, God is teaching me how to love when He bruises my pride.

To be honest, I don’t love it at first, it’s humiliating, embarrassing and downright painful.
I feel like a failure… like I’m really bad at… well, in this case, I’m really bad at being really good for God.

Wait, hang on one minute, is that what it means to be a Christian? That I must be really good in order to please God.

It is then I breathe a sigh of relief. I exhale the lies before they consume me and inhale the grace of God.

And once again, He patiently guides me on a journey from bruised pride to the sweet harvest of a closer walk with Him.

It’s not always an easy journey, okay, it’s never an easy journey, but it is so worth it. Over time, be it minutes or months, God gently leads me from bruised pride to humility, through complete confession and genuine repentance, to a fuller dependence on Him in my daily walk.

It starts with remembering that it’s all about God, not me.

Not my ability, but God’s. Not my light, but His.

It’s all about Him and His grace.

 ‘Do you think the scriptures say without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why scripture says, God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.’ James 4:5-6,10


Once I accept my weakness, I open myself up to accept more grace. 

Did you get that? ‘He gives us more grace’, but sometimes we refuse to receive it. Sometimes, in our pride, we attempt to live a victor’s life by relying on our own ability rather than His grace, and then we beat ourselves up when we can’t keep up. But I can’t do it; I need help. So, I adjust my posture, bow low before Him, admit my sin, and humbly ask for and receive His help.

Then I arm myself with the only weapon of offence proven to be successful in this battle – the sword of the spirit – the word of God.

When I’m tempted to follow my own selfish desires… to be irritable or easily offended… to justify my grumbling or complaining… to give in to the prideful ‘me’ that tries to enslave me...

Or when, I’m cowering in the shadows, feeling ashamed that I’ve failed yet again…

For whichever temptation or lie of the enemy I’m facing, I can fight back with the truth of God’s word.



And that, my friends, is how I get back up when my mirror tears me down. That is the sword I’m choosing to fight with.

Yep, on my own, I fail to reflect Christ. But God has promised that he will complete the good work that He has started in me (Philippians 1:6), and I’m taking Him at His word.

I may not be there yet, but there is hope. God reminds me that I’m saved by grace. Empowered to do His will. I can get back up, receive the grace God continually gives me and share it willingly as I reflect Him to a world of people just like me… people in desperate need of His saving grace.

What about you? 

Which sins keep pulling you back down? 
How are you choosing to battle them?
Take heart, my friend, 
you can get back up 
and fight.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Did you make it Home this summer?


My son didn't come home this summer. 

It was his first summer away at college, so he traveled to visit friends, looked for a job and kept himself busy spreading his budding adult wings. 

I remember when I was in university thousands of miles away from home. I, too, relished my independence, but occasionally I would long for home.  

Like I'm yearning for home now.

It's been 11 months, and I'm still not back in my home. I'm not the only one. There are many of us who have been displaced by the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma and who are patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for the repairs to be completed on our homes so that we can return home.

Homesickness. It's a feeling I think we can all relate to. 

But what exactly do we miss from home? Is it the people? Is it the place? Or is it the feeling? The assurance that you are safe and protected? Known and loved?  

I've thought a lot about what home means recently and have marveled at the times I've found home in the strangest of places and the oddest of times. But once you find Home you never forget it. 

Take for example the days following Hurricane Irma. I would rise with the dawn, make my way through the rubble, climb out through the broken door and sit on what remained of my porch. With the roof torn off and most of the banisters gone, I had a clear view of my surroundings... the sea, the sky and the stripped landscape. It never failed to take my breath away. But as I sat there amid the shattered, unsafe remains of my home and my island, communing in silence with the sovereign God, I would find Home. 

Or even during the actual hurricane, when the noise was terrifyingly loud, and fear surged through my body and threatened to overcome me, I found Home in the words of the Psalms. 



There have been other times, too. Times when I struggled to let go the reins of 'control', times when I experienced deep faith-testing loss, times when I've been struck hard by my own weaknesses, times when I relaxed in a season of plenty.  And in all those times when life was a lot and I longed for home, I found Home each time I retreated in silence and remembered my God.  

Once you find Home you never forget it. 

It's difficult to find the words to describe Home. Accepted. Loved. Empowered. Where compassion and mercy are the norm... where life brims with possibility... where you never have to doubt who you are because you know whose you are. 

Home.

If you haven't found Home, you'll never find rest. 

So now, as summer nears to an end, please join me in taking stock. Let's take some time to pause and examine where we are. 

Perhaps you've found home before, but you've drifted a bit or maybe a lot. That's okay. You're always welcomed back. 

Or perhaps you've never found home, but in the quiet you long for it. Deep down, there's an unrest, and you've been searching for it for a long time. 

There's good news, my friend. For you and for me. 

'All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.' John 6:37

I may not be in my physical home, but I can always be at Home. 

For Home is not a place; it's not even a feeling. It's a Person, waiting for us to return to where we belong. He stands with open arms, offering Himself to quench the thirst deep within us.



It's still time to make it Home this summer. And I pray for you, for my son, for all of us... that we will find Home even when we are not at home and that we'll embrace the God who runs to welcome us back. 

Blessings,

Carlie

I hope you'll enjoy the video below as you ponder where you are.

'When God Ran' 
Sung by Benny Hester. Video by Theo Meade.



Monday, 11 June 2018

Why Love Demands That I Put Down My Chisel



It’s difficult. This thing called love.

It pulls me out of myself. Stretching me in ways that feel uncomfortable. Coaxing me to get up and help when I’d rather sit still. Then chiding me to remain still when I’d rather scream and shout.

It refuses to let me stay as I am, yet calls me to be the best ‘me’ only I can be.

But most of all it demands that I put down my chisel.

That’s the hardest part. The part that I struggle most with.

All along I thought that whipping out my chisel was just ‘tough love’.

I mean, I could see it so clearly.

I have this knack, you know, I can see the chink in my loved ones’ armor and more times than not, I know a way to fix it. So out of sheer love, (or so I tell myself), I reach for my handy chisel, and I scrape and cut, and pound and scrape, trying my best to smooth out the glaring flaw… trying to make them shine the way I imagine they could.  

Except, they resist. ‘Why don’t they see what I’m seeing?’ I think to myself. I know this is for their good. If only they would comply, they’ll understand too.

But when my chisel is out… you know all the subtle, yet unpleasant ways I have tried over the years to control what my loved ones say, do or even think…  when my chisel is out… my loved ones don’t feel much loved.

Rather they feel judged, condemned, less-than… quite the opposite from what I intend.

And I’ve been there, too. I’ve felt judged and misunderstood rather than fully loved, and I really don’t want anyone I love to feel that way.

So, why do I keep returning to my chisel? Keep trying to fit my loved ones into the perfect mold I’ve envisioned for them?

Love whispers to me. Oh, He has been calling to me for years. And He says to me, “Beloved, it’s not your job. You’re not called to fix; you’re called to love. It’s time to put down the chisel.”

But, I insist... walking around proud with my idea of love.

Yet, I’ve caught glimpses of what it can be like when I place my chisel on the shelf.

It feels right. And my loved ones feel it, too.

Love is patient, love is kind.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, 
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8

This weekend as my husband and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary it dawned on me that our best times have ‘magically’ coincided with those times we laid down our idea of love… with all its tangled strings of pride and fear…

Once again, I’m reminded that loving the way God intends blossoms intimacy, peace and growth.

In fact, our love... the way my husband loves me gives me a sweet taste of God’s rich love for us.

It’s a blessing I don’t take for granted.



One would think by now that I have it all figured out… that I would choose to remain in this circle of blessing…

But, no, I’m still tempted to pick up my chisel and fix him… perfect him…

But God keeps whispering…

Just as you are loved… you also ought to love.

And that, my friend, is where it begins…

The realization of this Love… this perfect Love… graciously bestowed on me by God, Himself… a Love that says I’m fully known, yet fully loved.

A love that empowers me, by God’s grace, to love.

Without God, I would remain powerless to love like this…

But God…

He continually pours into me… this love so rich and full… so undeserving… so freeing and empowering… that it enables me to put my chisel down...

And... experience this thing called love.

*******************
What about you?

What does it take for you to put your chisel down?   

*******************

Sharing today over at Ronja's GraceFull Tuesday Link-up!

Sunday, 20 May 2018

When God Is The One Who's Waiting



It was meant to encourage me, but something about what my friend had written in her message made me uncomfortable.

I read it again.

‘Keep strong until you learn what God has in store from all that has happened.’

I winced. There it was again. The uneasiness. The feeling of undue responsibility.

My eyes fell on these three small yet heavy words… ‘until you learn’.

I thought about all that I had learned over the past couple of years. Years where one disappointment after the other ran headlong into the other. Yes, it had been a difficult time, but I had not wasted the pain (or so I thought). I had learned…

That God is indeed sovereign.

That He keeps His promise never to leave me or forsake me.

That He is far better to me than I deserve.  

Those were major lessons. Ones that had etched their way into my being.

Was there more for me to learn yet? What was I missing?

But as I read her words again, I realized something. My friend was not chiding me to learn more lessons, more pearls of wisdom unearthed through the murkiness of life, no she wanted me to keep my eyes open, waiting to see what God has in store for me.

But it was that simple word ‘until’ that really unnerved me. It spoke of the passage of time. It symbolized that there would be waiting involved.

And I don’t know if you know, but waiting is hard.

Oh, it’s not so bad in the beginning or when you know exactly how long you’ll be waiting for. 

But when the time is uncertain and all you could hear is ‘the slow-moving tick of nothing really getting much better’, waiting becomes painful.

‘The slow-moving tick of nothing really getting much better’ – those were my daughter’s words written as she explained what it’s like living in a post disaster zone. But they apply to mostly all of waiting. Nothing changing. Nothing getting better. Just waiting.

Waiting to see how God takes the messiness and works it out for good. Waiting for your ‘purpose’ to become clear. Waiting to live that dream you know is tucked somewhere inside of you. Waiting to get your act together. Waiting to live fully… once you find the secret to balancing it all. Waiting for that elusive future you wish could be your present. Waiting to be happy. 

Just waiting.

So, that was it then. That was what disturbed me about my friend’s encouragement.  I was not looking forward to anymore w-a-i-t-i-n-g.

How long before God shows me what He has in store?

I have tried to be brave. I have fallen on my knees in surrender. I have promised to trust His timing.

But how much longer? Why won’t He show me now? What is He waiting on?

And then one morning, as I climbed out of bed to face another day of waiting, it struck me.

What if God is the One who’s waiting on me?

Waiting on me to stop waiting.

To simply step up and take what He has told me is already mine.


Consider what He has told me:

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature 2 Peter 1:3-4

Did you get that?

Please read that again slowly paying particular attention to the words I highlighted in bold. 

He isn’t planning to give to me. He gave to me... that I may partake in the divine nature.

And this:

I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10

There it is again.

God has placed LIFE squarely in front of me. On a silver platter if you will.

LIFE- 'the very highest blessedness of the saint in communion with God'.

A LIFE where sin has no control, where fear does not rule and where love and power overflow. A LIFE that breathes peace and exudes contentment, where each breath dances in glad surrender to a sovereign God. A God who is good… who has made it possible for us to have this LIFE in spite of the messiness of life.

I struggle to find the words to describe the blessedness of this LIFE.

Yet many mornings I get up and choose my own cocktail of life. Life filled with doing, with striving, with planning, with waiting.

While the offer remains. LIFE. Abundantly overflowing LIFE. Fresh every morning… every moment.

Just waiting for me to reach out and grasp it.

So why don’t I?

Why don’t you?

I invite you to pause and consider. 

In your waiting… yes, I know… I know you’re waiting, you’re like me, we’re always waiting for something, so, in your waiting have you settled for your own cocktail of life, the one that’s not mixed quite right, that leaves you yearning for more, or have you claimed the highest and best LIFE that God has in store for you?

It’s right there, my friend. Everything that we need. 

What’s stopping us from reaching out and laying hold of what is already ours?

Blessings,

Carlie

Linking up this week also at #HeartEncouragement. Looks like a fun place to be.