Monday Morning Meditation: His Treasured Possession

What is your most treasured possession?

We are in the process of moving (again). In fact, shortly after this posts, the movers will be here. As we pack, we have been setting aside things that we will drive to our new home in Massachusetts. Fragile things, awkward but important items, expensive or irreplaceable keepsakes – they will travel in the cars, rather than risk them being damaged or broken in the moving truck.

Some of them won’t even look like much to others. Some boxes of Freedom Book will be in there. We have an airplane propeller that my dad gave to my oldest son (his first grandchild), a couple pieces of driftwood, a box of old cameras. These things have value simply because we decided they have value.

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The book of Deuteronomy is one long admonition from Moses to the Israelites. They will soon be entering the Promises Land, and, since he cannot go with them, there are some things he wants them to remember. In the midst of warnings not to intermarry, cautions not to bring detestable things into their new homes, reminders to not forget God, we find this gem:

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” Deuteronomy 7:6

It would be easy for the reader to become overly focused on Moses’ numerous warnings of “Don’t do this, don’t do this, and don’t do this.” Sometimes I know I get overly focused to those things myself. But we must not lose sight of the why.

God had chosen the Israelites. He called them by name and set them apart. He absolutely treasured them and did not want to see them harmed.

As I put a piece of driftwood that my dad saved because it reminded him of a dancer in my car, I carefully wrap it in a blanket. I pad the sides to insure nothing bumps into it or damages it. If someone else were to move it, I would call out, “Be careful!”

Because it is just that important to me.

How much more so does God treasure us! He encourages us and admonishes us to grasp the “Life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19), an abundant life that will satisfy us so much more fully than anything else (John 10:10). Because He doesn’t want to see harm come to us (Jeremiah 29:11). Because His love is better than life (Psalm 63:3). Because He delights in us (Psalm 18:19).

Because we too are His treasured possession.

Happy New Year! Wherever You Go……

Happy New Year, Freedom Friends!

2013 is officially over, and 2014 is in full swing.

The New Year’s resolutions have been made. We’re excited about a fresh start. Out with the old – in with the new! Right?

Right?

That’s the hope, isn’t it? Isn’t that why we love this season? New Years brings a fresh round of “Change Your _____, Change Your Life!” Have you ever played this game? It begins with “If Only’s”:

If only I lose weight…
If only I move…
If only I find a new job…
If only I found a good partner…

Then my life would change.

Then we might lose the weight, or relocate; we find the job or the new spouse. Usually, we’re not successful. The outcome doesn’t necessarily settle the disillusionment we feel because we thought for sure things would be better “if only.”

Why is that? Because the saying is true:

Wherever you go, there you are

Have you ever thought about what this really means? We get so focused on changing our external circumstances that we forget this simple truth: most external issues flow out of internal issues. So no matter where you go or how much weight you lose, inside you are still you. If we don’t allow God to change the internal, changing the externals will not have the hoped-for result. We will experience the same trials, the same struggles, the same unhelpful thought patterns. We will do the same thing again and again and expect different results.

I started re-reading the book of Joshua today. The Israelites are about to cross the Jordan to head into the Promised Land. God gives Joshua a string of directives and things to remember, ending with, “For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

The Israelites had a few things they needed to work on. They needed to trudge forward without fear. They needed to remember the instructions God gave Moses on how to live, meditating on them day and night. They needed to choose courage and not discouragement. And finally, they needed to remember that wherever you go, there God is.

What would happen if in 2014, we played the “Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life” game?

What would happen if we began the New Year focused on who He is rather than who we want to become?

How about we make it goal to take God at His Word in 2014, no matter what comes our way, meditating on that Word day and night? What if we allow God’s Word and His Holy Spirit to change the internals and allow the external changes to flow out of God remaking us from the inside out? What if we chose hope and courage instead of fear and disillusionment? If we really believed that nothing is impossible with God (Matthew 17:20), and that we are to live by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), if we truly believe God is with us wherever we go (Joshua 1:9), how drastically different would our lives be?

Wherever you go, there God is.

What about you? What is God speaking to you about your hopes for the new year? 

Freedom Friday: Watch For God

Have you ever noticed that sometimes, God gets our attention in the strangest ways?

So often, we beg for God’s guidance in a situation.

We ask for a sign. We generally have an idea of what that sign might look like.

Yet, all around us, God is speaking to us. He has His hand on our situation, guiding us, directing us, but we’re so busy looking for a particular sign that we miss Him completely.

I was at a Spin class yesterday morning, and I noticed the man in front of me had the word “God” on his wristband. I strained my eyes to see if I could decipher exactly what it said.

The message of the bracelet?

Watch for God.

Image from ebay.com

Before Spin, I had been reading 1 Corinthians 2 (finally done with Jeremiah!). I prayed on my run over to the gym: for myself, for others, for God to be revealed in my life and the lives of my family. You can read the whole chapter here. But a few verses caught my heart:

“But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.” verse 10

God’s deepest desire is that we know who He created us to be. He longs to reveal His perfect will to us. Yet we often pray as if we somehow have to beg in order to get God to speak loudly and clearly enough for us to hear.

God spoke to me through that bracelet. He said, Watch for me. I am working, always and everywhere. Open your eyes. I am calling you to hope (Eph 1:18).

The passage continues:

“No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.” verses 11-12

God has freely given us so much.
His Son (Jn 3:16-17).
His life (Jn 3:16-17).
His Spirit (Acts 1:8).
His joy (Gal 5:22).
His peace (Jn 14:27).
His mind (2 Cor 2:16).

Today, I encourage you. Watch for God. He calls you “beloved.” He calls you “mine.” He says, “You are my favorite!”

God is working around you, in you and through you. Watch for Him.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

Freedom Friday: He’s Coming for a Pure Bride

On October 14th (yes, the day after the marathon), I spoke at a church north of Boston as part of their series on the book of Revelation (the text for the day was Revelation 2:18-29). It was a slightly different version of my testimony, focusing on the importance of purity and embracing weakness, and I thought I’d share it here.

I was born prematurely in May of 1975. I spent my early months, isolated in an incubator, as premature babies were not touched or held. Those first months seemed to set the tone for the rest of my life. I have distinct memories of songs and stories that scared me as a child. I’d zero in on themes of abandonment with great fear, sure that at any moment, I would be alone.

I began experimenting sexually with girls at a young age. As a high school freshman, I began a physical relationship with my female best friend. I looked up “homosexuality” in a health book. The book said that if you had attractions for someone of the same gender, then you were gay. I remember thinking, “There it is, in black and white. I am a homosexual.”

For the next decade, I had several long-term and short-term relationships with women. I was not happy. At age 22, I found myself at music school in Boston. It was there I started learning more about Jesus. Christians seemed to start coming out of nowhere to share about His love. They never took it upon themselves to say that I should not be a lesbian. Like everyone else, I was a sinner in need of Jesus in my life. My sexual behavior was only one of many indications of this need.

My life spiraled out of control in many areas, not only my sexual identity, as I also had an eating disorder and a struggle with self-injury. A friend gave me a CD by a passionate Christian artist. His voice sang of a friend who was always there, a friend who would give everything for him. That friend is Jesus. In the midst of that song, I cried out to God saying, “I want what he has!” God, in His great mercy, met me on that day in January of 1999.

I had one more lesbian relationship after Jesus became Lord of my life. I felt stuck. Was it really even possible to break free of the chains that still held my life in so many ways, and give myself fully to my relationship with Jesus Christ? I eventually said yes to God after my girlfriend broke up with me.

Some days were a moment-by-moment practice of surrender. I went to a Christian counselor who helped me transform my life and my thoughts. God made it clear that I was to share my story. His power, perfected in my weakness, is also perfected when I boast in those weaknesses. I eventually married. And yet, purity is still a daily embrace, a moment-by-moment decision.

That is not to say I still struggle with same-sex attraction at the level of intensity I did 12.5 years ago when I finally surrendered my sexuality to God. I don’t. But every day, I’m faced with the same choice as all of you, no matter what you struggle with. It’s a choice as to whether or not I will trust God in the face of uncertainty. And those times where I don’t choose to trust, I find myself longing to trust in other things, whether it be food or envy and greed.

The lyrics of a song have gripped my heart recently:
He’s coming for a pure bride.What are you doing when no one is watching? Children get your hearts right. God’s coming for a pure bride!

Just the magnitude of His holiness inspires me to choose Him, to make the right choice when no one’s watching, even if no one besides God would ever know. Today, I do not obey God out of a place of fear, or a worry that His feelings for me are somehow as fickle as mine often are. I obey God out of a deep, deep place of love, respect and complete abandon to the God who spared no expense to rescue me.

He’s coming for a pure bride.

Freedom Friday: Will I Choose to Love?

I first heard the song “Legacy” at a mom’s group I attended.  A member had lost her battle with cancer, and her friends put together a slide show to celebrate her life with all of us.

I wanna leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?

It hit close to home.

I’ve mentioned here in passing that I have a dear loved one battling terminal illness.  A week ago today, he lost his 12-year battle with cancer, but won the race of life and was received into Jesus’ arms.

My dad.

His joyous smile

When my parents divorced, my father was awarded primary custody of me and my older sister.  I was already living with him and continued to do so throughout high school and into college.

Prepping to walk me down the aisle

My father was such a role model to me. What I’ve learned since his death is the impact his life had on so many others.

The comments that have come have been truly astounding. His generosity, humor, fullness of life.  His magnetic presence, his joy, his clear love for his family (including my mom’s 9 brothers and sisters, as my dad was like an older brother to them).

My dad lived a life that impacted far more people than he likely ever realized. He was a role model to many.

I don’t remember hearing him say an unkind word about anyone. He was not one to complain. Even to the end, he alternated telling jokes with displaying his concern for his loved ones.

Did I choose to love?

He wasn’t perfect, of course.  Neither am I.  We certainly had bumps in our relationship.  But I can honestly say that my grief over his passing is not at all complicated by some of the questions that plague many who lose a parent.  I know he loved me and my sister deeply and was overflowing with pride at what our lives had become.

I just wish he didn’t have to leave so soon.

My father never failed to ask a store clerk, “How’s your day going?” with all sincerity.  He even would ask the nurses and doctors this during his long cancer battle, even when the situation was an emergency, or he was in a lot of pain (I witnessed this myself when I accompanied him to the emergency room).

He once shared with my stepmom that some people aspire to greatness in their lives; he aspired to goodness. This is what he instilled into me from a young age.

This is the legacy he chose to leave behind.

There were other things instilled in me from a young age, though not by my father. Venomous things that taught me to emphasize people’s flaws, to expect perfection of myself and others, that taught me not to trust.

Sometimes that venomous voice is so loud I cannot hear anything else. It’s also insidious. I’m only now starting to recognize the hold it still has on my thoughts.

What legacy will I leave?  Will I choose to love?

 

On the days when it’s hard to breathe, the days when I can’t imagine taking another step without my dad around to see, I remember his strength battling cancer, I remember his kindness and huge heart.  I remember his daily choice to love.

Oh, Lord, let that be my legacy…..

 
Dad, thank you for all you taught me, even if it was taught through silence (a skill I need to work on!). While I grieve that you were only here 64 years, I rejoice for the 37 1/2 (exactly to the day) years you spoke into my life. You had an amazing heart, and I can only pray that my life will be a light to many as yours was.  I miss you so much.  But since you are in heaven, give Bunny Boo and Grammy a hug for me, and could you please tell Keith Green I said, “hi”?

Freedom Friday: His Goodness

Folks, I have a Freedom Friday post brewing for you.

But we’ve had to leave town suddenly to be with a loved one who is facing the end of life.

And my kids had food dye for the 1st time in a while, and my 2 year-old is literally bouncing off the walls, screaming, “It’s fun time!” over and over, swinging from the long curtains in this extended stay suite, and riding down the table leg as if it’s a fire pole.

I’m not kidding.

I just pray for you that you’d know how good God is. So often I doubt His goodness, and yet He is faithful to His promises.

I finished the marathon.  Barely.

For the kids at Happy Horizons Children’s Ranch.

And I’m learning to let go of someone I love so dearly and feel I desperately need.  Jesus is waiting for him.

I am so thankful and so heartbroken.  And yet, God is faithful.  He’s amazing.

Be back soon. I promise 🙂

Freedom Friday: For The Kids

I need your help, readers.

We often talk about freedom in this blog in terms of being free from metaphorical chains of bondage.  Or the freedom to be who God created us to be.

There are other kinds of freedom and other kinds of bondage.

It is believed that there are currently 21 million people worldwide caught in slavery (forced labor). Approximately 50% of trafficking victims are children, most of whom are caught in sex slavery.

Tomorrow, I will run 26.2 miles for those who can’t speak for themselves.
You can help by praying.  I have pain in my right leg due to what is likely tendonitis.  I also have been having some shin pain this week.  I am just, in general, not a natural when it comes to running.
The kids need your prayers, too.
I am running for the kids.  For those still caught in sex trafficking and those trying to climb their way out.
I will share more on Monday.  But pray for us. And pray about giving.  Don’t just look at your finances or circumstances and decide you’re not able to give.  Pray.  
This is a general admonition, even if I weren’t fundraising.  So often we wait until we have extra in order to give, but don’t stop to pray as to how God would have us respond. I do it as well.  

And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44

This widow did not wait; she gave.
The God I love and serve didn’t wait until He had extra to give extravagantly.  
He gave His Only.
This is not to say we should enter into giving lightly.  We need to hear God speak to our hearts, but our hearts need to first ask and then be willing to respond.
I’ve responded to God’s call, to give of my time, money and physical resources to run for those who can’t.
Thank you for your prayers.
Lord, help me to give extravagantly this weekend, as You did when You sent Your Only Son to earth.  Help me to run the race You’ve set before.  Thank You that Your power is made perfect when I have nothing to give. Be the Sustainer that I know You are.  Move in the hearts of many, that the hearts of these little children would have the opportunity for You to heal them.  Jesus, Your Name is power. You are mighty.  In Your wonderful name I pray, Jesus, Amen.


For The Kids
My recent personal best at the Zooma Half Marathon