healing thorns

 2 Corinthians 12:7 [ A Thorn in the Flesh ] Because of the surpassing greatness and extraordinary nature of the revelations [which I received from God], for this reason, to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to torment and harass me—to keep me from exalting myself!

 

Do you ever wonder what Paul struggled with? I have. Scholars don’t agree whether it was a physical affliction, emotional, or spiritual, but we can imagine that if he was “tormented” and “harassed,” it wasn’t a minor issue. 

With Paul having lived in the time period he did, it would be easy to accept a physical pain or illness, or an undiagnosed depression or anxiety to have been the source. Paul’s past life as a scourger and murderer of Christians surely could have brought with it guilt, or at the very least, wounding memories and dreams. Given all that the scriptures reveal about him, it seems appropriate to assume that Paul had given whatever it was over the Lord in prayer and repentance, but that he did not receive victory in that area in his lifetime.

Instead, Paul seems to have chosen to accept it as a form of a blessing – to keep himself humble. Useful.

Have you noticed that struggles you have walked through yourself, especially in areas where you have been victorious, oftentimes seem to be the connection most easily found with those around you? Some of my places of deepest wounding have become a launching point for my greatest ministry and care of others. Especially when those wounds produce emotional responses and behaviors that I don’t always like or find valuable. 

Our brokenness is the single greatest launching point through which God can extend grace from us to our fellow man.

I think the message we can tend to miss in reading this passage, is that each of us feels weakened in areas, just like Paul. The question is not whether we overcome or find healing, but whether or not God can use us in our damaged state. Are we willing to reposition ourselves in order to continue serving God’s purpose in our lives, or do we choose to wallow and wait for change to come as our purpose dims and eventually fades away to only a distant memory?

God never uses perfect vessels.

If we were perfect, or “had it all together,” our love and service would be human in origin. The problem with this, then, is that our victories would be dependent upon our own strengths and gifts. It is only when others see the power of God working through our lives, in spite of our “thorns,” that they find hope that God can do the same for them. Paul’s daily affliction could have caused him to feel disqualified, and could have kept him from writing some of the most significant scripture in biblical canon. 

What is your thorn? What are you choosing to relinquish your will to? 

The bottom line is that as Christians, we have endless examples in scripture of sub-par, sinful, broken, even unstable people, still trusting and leading in accordance with what God called them to do. We are given insight into their prayer lives and how the Lord intervenes, yet still often tend to scoff or sometimes laugh at the lack of faith in such biblical accounts; neglecting to seek to recognize the very same lack of faith and proper positioning in our own hearts and lives. 

Today, I am praying for courage – to see honestly where I am broken, and to ask the healing power of Jesus to enter in and do some heart surgery. May His grace heal that which is meant to be, and use that which is not.  

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trashy relationships

I stayed home the other day with a sick child, thereby giving me ample time to get caught up on some email, a little article reading and some Facebook trolling. While I typically would enjoy such a leisurely day, the closer we got to the close of the day, the heavier my heart became.

Relationships are rarely easy, and yet I find even the most challenging can be deeply rewarding when given the opportunity.

What I am discovering as years pass is a deep sadness for the loss of relationship, or tension within, for the sake of unmet expectations, unreconciled misunderstanding, or the result of having taken sides with another. Chasing the heart of one who does not wish to be found is heartbreaking, and I struggle at times between the desire to pursue and love at all costs, and choosing to allow the free will of others to engage when, and if, they find fellowship with me worthy of pursuit.

An interesting trend in our culture is that in spite of research indicating we are lonelier than ever before as a general population, relationships are seen as disposable, optional, and often take a back seat to our own desires, ideals and need for absolute autonomy. Somehow we have come to believe that in order to pursue our own lives, those around us must agree with all we do, and act and respond 100% in the manner with which we would like, or they are as easily disposed of as last week’s trash.

In the end, many of us are left to pick up the pieces – weighing what we could have done differently, condemning our own shortcomings, longing to connect – while others move on to greener pastures of personal indulgence and self-righteousness.

It would seem that the more freedom humans have, the less grace they extend to others. Our deepest need to control propels us towards a lifestyle of condemnation for anything we find contradictory, different or challenging. If it doesn’t look like us, feel good, or feed our ego, it is dismissed. Deemed unworthy.

Ultimately, our desire to do things “our way” dictates an intolerance for anyone wanting to live theirs differently.

Absolute freedom in the world easily ushers in delusions of grandeur, which deceivingly brings us into bondage.

From the creation of man, God said it was not good for him to be alone, and throughout scriptures we are admonished to be in relationship for our own personal protection, strengthening, and growth. Iron sharpens iron, and in all forms of diversity, we are able to discover our truest version of self. Our best version. Despite the occasional discomfort and risk.

Who have you dismissed? Discarded? Discounted? Is there someone who genuinely loves you that is possibly worthy of the opportunity to walk in authenticity, AND alongside you?

The good news is, garbage day isn’t until Tuesday – there is still time…

all you need

I have fought the good and worthy and noble fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith [firmly guarding the gospel against error].

 

This past week I have experienced a couple of milestones which have brought me to a place of introspection. At this point in the game, watching my older two children approaching adulthood, I find reflection to come more frequently. My past experiences, failures, triumphs, and tragedies, all swirl around in my mind at the most unexpected of moments; dancing in and out of my conversations and alternating minutes.

I remember my mom when she was how old I am now. Being a teenager, knowing “everything,” and being in the middle of my own hormonal jungle, it was not always easy, if not impossible, for me to relate to my mom. Upon reflection, having the awareness I do now and the wisdom that has come with age and experience, I am amazed at how well she insulated myself and my siblings from the sometimes insurmountable pain and struggle she lived with daily.

Now in that same season, and having walked a little bit different road (but with some striking similarities), I marvel at how well adjusted and whole my children are. And, hesitate in my feelings of perceived success. To be perfectly honest, it’s only by the grace of God I still stand, only by His faithfulness my children have blossomed into the people they are becoming.

I think I would encourage anyone in a state of chaos, indecision, pain or loss, to walk this life out in faith. To take everything to God in prayer. To stand strong in personal conviction and to do your best to not retaliate or let bitterness take root. Let forgiveness reign. I am aware of my limitations, but even more aware of how strong and reliable my God is in those limitations. It is in my experience that only in walking out a life of true humility, faith, and obedience is God able to redeem those things which would otherwise be lost.

Please be encouraged today to keep fighting the good fight of faith. Please don’t give up. On yourself, or on Him. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. God has given you everything you need to flourish in the life, and season, you are in, whether it feels that way today or not…

plot twist

Whoever finds his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], and whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake will find it [that is, life with Me for all eternity].
 
Many Christians believe that to lose one’s life is to give up earthly things, to sacrifice their tithe and time in service, to sometimes step away from relationships that don’t honor and support our walk of faith. While these things may be true, I am discovering that to lose my life means to completely die to self – not in a sacrificial way, but to literally watch as one by one, little pieces of my personality, dreams, even values, are being chipped away.
 
In what has probably been my greatest season of isolation to date, I am discovering the beauty of losing all the things that I have ever known to be true.
 
As with us all, the years have unfolded into many seasons of loss and disappointment, breakthrough, healing, change and restoration. A life dedicated to Christ is never one of complacency or mediocrity – the adventure brings with it a predictably unpredictable ride. And yet, in the past few months of spending more time in a metaphorical bubble than not, I am experiencing a stripping of pieces of me I never fully recognized as me, let alone realize they required releasing. Some days my responses surprise me, and my inner dialogue seems only vaguely familiar. As hard as I try to hold on, the thread is thinning as I release the fragments of what is left of my former self.
 
More uncomfortable than the stranger I often catch a glimpse of in the mirror, is the void I sometimes experience now; the unknowing that can come with not having yet been filled back up, built back up, by His Spirit. It is this lack of direction and familiarity that feels like an actual death to me. And yet, how much more now, is my capacity to truly allow God to mold and redefine who He is truly creating me to be. 
 
Without true death, without a completely blank canvas, how can the Creator create?
 
Wherever you are in your journey, I would admonish you to begin to seek such an emptying. The desert (loss) often leads to an island (isolation), and islands to mountains. When we face the mountain and choose to climb (pursue God), it initially can feel as though we don’t have enough left to reach the summit, but when we do….
 
Press in today, my friend. Open your hands, let go of the wheel, let the Lord lead and trust in the journey. Do not fear the emptiness, for it is here that we find our greatest fulfillment.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

strong women

I love strong women. Not the kind who loves to “tell it like it is,” express every thought, judge the journey of others, or tell everyone they can how strong they are… but truly powerful women…

a strong woman loves in the face of hate, triumphs over the complacency of others, pushes through the exhaustion of service,
chooses faith over fear,
prays in light of insurmountable obstacles,
speaks kindly in moments of dissention,
values grace above volume,
extends forgiveness in spite of a broken heart,
elevates relationship over being right,
walks in love amongst the unlovely,
inspires those around her in her authenticity,
& pursues God with all her being, above all else.

I believe there is a reason that the most cherished book of Proverbs is closed with the decription of a powerful and godly woman – it is in these qualities through which women can change the world…

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised. Proverbs 31:30