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“Change is mandatory for extraordinary results.”

 

I noticed this quote on an electronic information board. That day the words cut like a knife, not just because the words were truth, but the changes I have been going through have been less than easy.

 

In fact, I would relate it to a wrestling match, except I was getting body slammed by my past which has influenced my present.

 

I was angry. Angry at people and yes, even God. I questioned why would He wait so long to have me deal with these things? Because it didn’t just affect how I see myself, but how I view God and the way He sees me.

 

This particular wrestling match lasted a month. Tears, fatigue, and anger were constant companions.  I felt black and blue, emotionally and mentally.

 

What I’m beginning to realize is that through the brawling, even when the fear is overwhelming, that’s where hope is.

 

In the messiness and wrestling, with each blow I’m breaking through the cement of my heart so that I’m able to receive and accept God’s love, and healing.

 

These struggles are not only the gateway to healing but also to sanctification which is a fancy word for the process of purifying, to make me holy, to make me clean.

 

I guess another way to look at it is restoring of a home.  An old house has to go through some tremendous breakage, sledge hammering, pulling up and tearing down in order for the new to be put up.

 

Wrestling things out can be part of that process in our lives. God is the master renovator and He will take His time to do things right. He will contract the work through His Spirit and even through other people, if He sees fit.

 

The change is mandatory in order for me to move forward.  It’s hard. Oh, my is it hard, and terrifying at times. However, the results He gives will be extraordinary and for my beautification. That is something I am anticipating with excitement.

 

Oh, and don’t think this is a one – time deal.  He is wrestling and renovating along with us until we are called home.

 

 “I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6  (NASB)

 

 

 

 

I wasted time a few weeks ago waiting for my daughter to finish work. Walking a few shops down, I found a wall hanging with this statement, “Until God opens the next door praise Him in the hallway.”  My first reaction was, “Yes, Lord I am in the hallway, but there aren’t any doors to open.”

 

I smiled to myself with tears rolling down my cheeks.

 

I’ve stepped out temporarily from ministry, which started a strong tug of war. The two sides pull hard with the intent of winning. On one end of the rope, confidence.  I have made a good decision to rest.  One the other end is busyness and the need to be back in the race.  As I talked to a friend about this struggle, he mentioned a devotional by L.B Cowman Streams in the Desert which gives a wonderful illustration of the periods of rests in our lives.  This is the author’s take on the period called rest:

 

 “There is no music during a musical rest, but the rest is part of the making of the music.  In the melody of our life, the music is separated here and there by rests.  During those rests, we foolishly believe we have come to the end of the song… He (God)* brings a sudden pause in the choral hymn of our lives, and we lament that our voices must be silent.  We grieve that our part is missing in the music. The process is often slow and painful in this life, yet how patiently God works to teach us! And how long He waits for us to learn the lesson.”  (Cowman pg.43,44)

 

Resting periods in my life (a masterpiece) is part of the grander piece. Sometimes these come as hardships, illness, struggles and trials or the everyday mundane.  These rests are times of silence and solitude in which He uses to grow me in my relationship with Him. God is the composer and conductor of my life and He creates rests for reasons.  Some reasons I see some I don’t, but all are for His glory and honor.

 

I love what Margaret Feinberg said in her book Fight Back with Joy, “Always be suspicious that God is up to something.” Even in the resting there is the hope that God is going to do something wonderful through it.

 

For me there are a couple of reasons for my rest: 1.  to grow closer to Him which in itself brings about rest  2.  To understand better who I am in Him, and how He sees me.  There is probably more to it, but that is what I’m observing now.  How cool is that?

 

Yes, I’m in a hallway right now that has no doors. I sit and wait in expectation when not only a door appears but opens and I walk through.  Praise God.

 

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” Psalm 46:10 (The Message)

 

Hope 2018

It’s been a long time since I have visited Solitude with the Father. Deep down I have longed to be here, but God has had different ideas. Which brings me to the word for my year; Hope.

 

In today’s world the word hope has strayed from its original meaning.  It’s usually associate with a “maybe” connotation.

 

The true meaning of hope is “expectation, expect with confidence.” As I have been studying this word, I found a hard saying by Paul in his letter to the Romans.

 

“…but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character and proven character, hope;” (Romans 5:3-4 NASB)

 

Here it comes.

 

“and hope does not disappoint…”

 

The first time I saw this I froze, tears welled up and a little anger welled up with the tears.  If hope (anticipation and expectation) doesn’t disappoint, then where was the transformation I prayed for last year?  Where is the totally changed person I expected?

 

The only transformation that came was a deep depression, where I would do anything to go to a far away place and be alone.

 

I was praying and in the Word daily, yet nothing changed except the dusk turned to darkness without even a flicker of one star. It was terrifying.  I have fought bouts of depression before, but nothing like this.

 

The last part of verse five says

 

“…because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

 

How could this be because of God’s love? The Holy Spirit whispered to my heart. “Christine, hope is expectation without your expectations to be fulfilled. Keep your eyes, ears, and heart open — not set and stubborn. Hope doesn’t disappoint because transformation springs from the love of God. In trials, hope is the expectation of how God is going to refine you.”

 

What I realized, God is going to transform, and grow me in any way He sees fit.  The depression was allowed, why? To show me, now is the time.  The time to take care of deep seated issues, fears, anxieties. I was going to need help with it.

 

It’s been a process.  And it isn’t over yet.  But one thing I do know, because I belong to God as His beloved child, I have hope that healing will come. Transformation will come. Experiencing God in ways I never thought possible will come. Experiencing stillness and knowing He is God will come.  I also know that it may not be in ways I think, but they will come.

 

It’s exciting and scary at the same time. With my eyes, ears and heart open to Him I wait in expectation with exuberant anticipation of what He will do. I have seen glimpses of Him through the dark. In fact, there are little holes He has punctured to let streams of light in.  He will continue to work through the trials to grow me.

 

That is the best kind of hope.

 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts. Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So My ways higher than your ways. And My thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55: 8-9

If you know anything about football (American) you know that there are four quarters played.  But right between the second and third quarters is what is called half time.  The players go into the locker room, discuss the good and bad of the first half, then strategically plan how to go into the second half.

 

It’s June, and we are soon to enter the second half of the year 2017.  It’s hard to believe.  There are still 24 hours in the day and yet the older I get the quicker the time.

 

The other morning I sat on the back porch with a cup of coffee in my hand being still before the Lord.  I was running our Sunday lesson through my head.  Can you guess the title?  Half-Time: Moving from Success to Significance.  I chuckled.   Halfway through the year and we’re talking about the second half of our lives being more focused on significance.

 

I thought of my word for the year, transformation, and wondered was I making any strides?  A lot has happened in the past six months;  however, was change being made?

 

Then a question from Brannon Manning’s book The Furious Longing of God, came to mind:

 

“How often do you monitor your spiritual growth?  Several times a day?  Once a month?  Every thirty days? Twice a year?”*

 

It’s good for me to sit and reflect on where I’ve been and where I feel like the Lord is leading, but I get in the habit of going through the day checking every action, every word, etc.  I monitor my spiritual walk and just about everything I do.

 

The funny thing is it’s not my job.  It’s His and His only through the work of His Spirit.   I’m not saying that it isn’t good to take inventory once in a while.  However, it is not for me to carry around the monitor of change and growth with me every minute of every day.

 

There are three things that happen when I take control of the monitor.

 

First, me being a doer, I tend to set my standards high – way too high. When I don’t meet those standards, I get frustrated, depressed and feel like a failure because I’m not growing.

 

Furthermore, monitoring of self also starts a slippery slope of comparison.  I can look at others and see “giants” of faith and say I must be doing something wrong. My standards aren’t high enough.  I turn spiritual disciplines into legalistic performance. My goals are attempted in my own strength.

 

Lastly, as I take the role of monitor, I am more focused on the “change” then I am on living life and allowing God to work.

 

When I give God the role as monitor, He will grow what He wants to, when He wants to, and how He wants to.  I think that’s why over the past year as I embraced the study, “Read for Life –Reading the Bible Chronologically” in my church’s women’s ministry. The growth God worked through this study proved to be amazing.  I was allowing the Holy Spirit to teach what He wanted me to learn just by reading the Word.  Not that studies from well known teachers — like Beth Moore or Pricilla Shirer — aren’t great, but many times the studies can be all about what I should be doing and I don’t allow God to grow the concepts in me.

 

I will continue to take these studies, but I have to be willing to allow God to grow character traits, or spiritual fruit, in me.

 

To give God the control of my growth, He has shown me things that need healing, changing and encouragement that I never knew I needed.  There is also relief and peace to know that I am not in charge.

 

Are you monitoring your spiritual growth?  “How often do you monitor your spiritual growth?  Several times a day?  Once a month?  Every thirty days? Twice a year?”*

 

I would like to challenge you to allow God to monitor your growth for a month and during those weeks be still, listen for His voice and obey.  I think you may be surprised at what you experience through His work and strength.  And when you look in the mirror months from now you may notice Christ in you a little more.

 

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed in the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NASB)

 

 

 

 

In March I took solitude to a whole new level.  This in turn caused an increased hunger for it.

 

When I started this journey of solitude, the desire to have more time without the distractions and noise of the world grew.  The opportunity arose in March.  I went to a silent retreat weekend led by Laura Petherbridge.

 

How would I face almost a full forty-eight hours of no phones, computer, TV and absolutely no talking?   I admit I find it difficult to talk to God in my head,  so I have to talk out loud, so for me it was not total “silence”.

 

Communication was limited to two counseling sessions.  We could not even talk at meals.  That was a little awkward when you’re at an Abby and even the monks can talk to each other and your group sits there just looking at each other or our food.

 

My goal centered on this:  no expectations.  Let God be God and listen to what He had to say.   Apparently I went in with expectations, for the first morning I felt frustrated. I desperately wanted to pick up phone, call my mentor, JoAnn, and go home.

 

My greatest fear came true: God’s voice was non – existent.  I sat in the counseling session and cried and cried.

 

Laura looked at me paused then said, “Perhaps God is not giving direction because He wants to heal some things first.  You expect the “hallelujah” moment when all He wants you to do is be still, soak Him in and heal some of the perceptions you have of yourself. You struggle with a lack of trust, fear, even hatred of self.  I feel God is wanting to heal rather than give direction.” We sat in silence for a few moments.

 

“You’re also a doer,” she continued, “ You have to do and do and do in order to be a good Christian and what you really need is to learn to be. Then balance the two.”

 

I sat there stunned, but refreshed.  I realized solitude isn’t always about what God wants me to do.  Many times it’s just to sit and be still.

 

Laura spurred me on, “Let God speak to you and tell you who you are in Him.  Find verses so that when the enemy plants seeds of self loathing, mistrust, or fear you can say ‘It is written… say the verse’, and he will flee.”

 

When I left the counseling session my first reaction was “Okay, God let’s get those verses.”  But then the thought immediately came, “No, just be.  He will show them to me in His time, in His way.”  I found a fountain outside, sat down and enjoyed the nature around me.

 

The rest of the weekend went well.  I basked in who He was, my Father.

 

I discovered in a deeper sense, that solitude centers on relationship.

 

God will tell me when He is good and ready and most importantly when He knows I’m ready to hear that “next step”.

 

One verse that stood out to me that weekend was Song of Solomon 7:10:

 “I am my beloveds and my beloved desires me.”

 

God desires me.  His desire for me, is to know Him in a deep an intimate way.

 

As much as I wanted to hear where I was headed, I needed to hear that the Creator of the Universe desires me.  He desires all of me; every strength, every weakness, every flaw, every single part of me.  He loves me that much.  He desires to make me into more than I could ever dream. But most of all He wants me to be still.

 

How about it?  Is it too big of a risk to take some time to be away, at a park, away from the distractions of the world, and be still before Him? Go without the phone, or expectations and let Him direct the time.  He may just want you to enjoy a walk through His creation.

 

Be amazed and awed in the One who desires you.

 

If you are interested in attending a silent retreat, either click on Laura’s name within the blog or go to the link below.

http://www.laurapetherbridge.com/speaking/silent-retreats/

 

A New Name

We had a few couples over on New Year’s Day for a Thanksgiving dinner.  You read right. We had turkey and all the fixings.

 

We sat around and talked, the subject came up about our New Year’s lists or resolutions.  Many people don’t make them. I guess because they’re honest and figure resolutions are nice but will be forgotten.  My lists all came down to one word: “transformation”.

 

The weirdest thing happened during our conversation. My husband spoke.  It wasn’t the fact that he spoke up but it’s what he said that startled me, “Before Chris and I got married…”

 

I thought I heard wrong.  “Whoa! Why did you just call me, Chris?”

 

“I didn’t.”

 

“Yes, you did. You never call me Chris. No one has called me Chris since high school.”

 

He denied it until everyone around the table agreed.

 

One friend looked over at me and said, “You do look more like a Chris than a Christine. Hmm. Before transformation comes a new name.  It’s throughout scripture.”

 

“Well that settles it, this is a God thing.” My husband said, “From now on I’ll call you Chris as a reminder of what God is going to do this year.”

 

My first reaction was, yeah right.  That will never happen.  He’ll forget, so I blew it off.

 

He has called me Chris ever since.  Not only that, those who were there that day started calling me Chris.  And now it looks like the whole Sunday school is accepting my new name.

 

I’ve embraced it, too. It’s how I introduce myself now for the most part.  I’ve even changed my facebook page to Chris to the chagrin of my parents, who think I’m a little nuts.  But that’s okay.

 

“With transformation comes a new name.”  That statement from my friend has stuck with me.  If we look at scripture we see this frequently throughout;  Abram turned to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, Levi to Matthew, Saul to Paul.

 

Casting Crowns has a new song and the bridge goes like this “Throw down your old chains, Pick up your new name.”*

 

I cried the first time I heard it about a week after New Years.

 

When we come into a relationship with Christ we are being adopted in His family and given a new a life.   I know several couples who are foster parents.  A few have welcomed into their home as their own children.

 

At the adoption they changed the names of the children.  It’s as if they were saying, “This is your new family. You have a fresh start, a new family and a new name.”

 

God adopts each one who is His child.  He has no grandchildren.  We are a new creation. Our old life is gone, and a new journey with a new family begins.  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

 

I believe my husband is right.  This is a God thing.  Now I’m not saying that by changing what name I go by means that magically I will be a new person.  It will take time.  However, every time I hear Chris I remember God is going to work and transform me this year.  Now, when someone calls me Chris, I almost burst out laughing, and yet deep within – excitement wells up – wondering what is in store.

 

Are you one of His?  God’s desire is for you to be one of His children.  What is stopping you from becoming one of His?  He wants to create in you a new heart, new life and give you new name (Revelations 2:17).

 

If you want to know more about being one of His, open the tap “An Invitation” at the top of this page.

*

 

 

Keeping Records

 

I was cooking the other day, a Matthew West song came over the speakers.  I was taken back by the concept portrayed.  Love keeps no record of wrongs.

 

Does it sound familiar?  “Love is patient..it is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrong…”  (1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV84)

 

If you’re like me the first thing that comes into my head is not holding onto resentment.  It so easy to keep a list of the wrongs people have done to us.

 

However, there is another way we hold on to a list, a list of our own wrongs.   I find it’s easier to forgive others  than I can forgive myself.  If I sat down right now and wrote out every mistake I could remember it would be a doozie of a list.

 

Love does not keep a record of wrongs.

 

I think it’s the reason I and so many others are miserable, or freeze up when having to make a decision.  We’re reminded of all the mistakes we made, and they hang on to us like the chains of Jacob Marley in Charles Dickens’ book  A Christmas Carol.

 

The rehashing of mistakes and the fear that freezes me to moved forward replaces the calling God has given me to live and to live an abundant life.  I also push away from the rich love God has for me.

 

When I hold onto the list of my wrongs  and mistakes tightly, in essence I’m saying, “Your Son’s sacrifice was worthless, and your forgiveness is nothing.”  I’m doubting and that is sin.  Catherine Marshall in her book The Helper states this:

 

“He (Jesus)*  claimed to be the Savior, to be able to save us from any sin, any bondage, any problems. By disclaiming that with regard to any one of my problems, I am calling Jesus a liar and a charlatan – a fake prophet – as truly as did those who long ago howled for His death before Pilate and who drove in the nails…we think of sin as the breaking of laws, whereas Jesus thinks of sin as being bound.  Why would anyone with good will condemn a poor man bound with chains or tied with heavy rope?  Would he not rather want to free him?”

 

When we take our mistakes to God for forgiveness, He forgives and forgets.

 

See I have another problem that is linked to all this.  I can’t tell you how many times, the enemy reminds me of things I have done, and immediately I ask for forgiveness again, and again.  I can picture the Father smiling and saying,  “What mistake?”

 

Take a look at some of these verses:

 

“ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from  all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NASB)

 

He removes our sin as far as the east is from the west.”  (Psalm 103:11-13 NASB)

 

A person is blessed when they are forgiven, sins are covered and God doesn’t count it against them (Psalm 103:11-13 NASB)

 

“…For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34 NIV84 based on the new covenant that was fulfilled through Christ.)

 

Loving God means keeping no record of our mistakes for this simple fact, He loved us so much that He doesn’t keep a record of them.  The list was ripped up when we received Christ as our Savior.  Confession is for our benefit.  He forgave us at the cross.

 

It’s time that we forgive ourselves, let go of the past and move forward.  It’s not easy but through the work of Holy Spirit it’s possible.   If God is love then He keeps no records of our wrongs, so it stands to reason we should not keep a record of our wrongs.

 

*My emphasis

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