Lessons from a Lobster- The Word Works Series!

Glad to have Niki and her candid, humorous storytelling kick off this series. Niki’s blog My Story, My God, is a brave place. There you’ll find frank, funny stories that point to the author of the One story we’re all a part of. She also offers a free eBook called Hearing God’s Voice - A Short Practical Guide. I’m looking forward to reading it soon!

nikiMSMG email mark

Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken… Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

-Psalm 62:2 & 6

Have you ever wondered how a lobster grows? How a small, baby lobster gets to be a big, strong lobster with a shell of steel?

Since their tough, rigid shells don’t flex or grow along with their soft, and might I say rather delicious, muscular bodies, growing as we do isn’t really an option for these mouthwatering invertebrates. Despite my penchant for devouring this tasty crustacean with copious quantities of melted butter, I’ve never really taken the time to fathom this mystery of the deep.

As it turns out, the lobster grows inside its shell and its body starts to push against that inflexible steel-like shell. Pressure builds up for our poor little lobster friend signaling that it’s time to go in search of a safe place to hide. Instinctively the lobster seeks out a nice rock or deep crevice, where it’s safe to shed its protective shell.

For a few short hours (which probably feel like a lifetime to our little friend) until his new shell grows, he’s naked and vulnerable, yet safe under the rock.

A few years ago I had no choice but to be a lobster and seek shelter in God, my rock, because I was diagnosed with cancer; rectal cancer. It was just six short years after I’d held my mum’s paper soft hand as she passed away from lung cancer, and a mere six weeks after I’d cradled my sister’s hand as she’d lost her battle with the same disgusting disease. My world was rocked and the ground fell out from under me. During the long months that followed, I hung onto this Psalm. These two verses smudging together to form, what I now fondly call, my “mish-mash verse”.

“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and my strength.”

I repeated these words at every turn. As I was scanned, scoped and waited for results.

“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and my strength.”

As I lay awake at night, alone in the hospital, with nothing but a morphine pump and IV for company.

“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and my strength.”

When we told our children that, like their grandma and auntie, I too had cancer.

“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and my strength.”

And now, as I deal with the after effects of a cancer like mine; always requesting an aisle seat near the loo, never leaving home without my Immodium, and learning that sometimes, when the bottom falls out of your world and the world falls out of your bottom, that it’s good and healing to laugh in the midst of the mess.

“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and my strength.” <ClickToTweet>

When I was faced with such overwhelming pressure that threatened to drown me, I had no choice but to seek comfort, love and peace in God’s presence. Looking back now, I see how my relationship with God, my faith and peace grew beyond measure.

I never thought I’d say it, but I’m actually grateful for that pressure and that journey. <ClickToTweet>

Now, as the stresses of life have eased off, I catch myself relying on other more worldly, less reliable, things when the pressures of life build up; my emotions, other people, food, myself worth. Sadly, these provide little protection from prowling predators and my faith starts to stagnate and I don’t grow.

So I wish I were more lobster-like today as I deal with the pressures, stress and discomforts of life.

The lobster-like me would instinctively understand that as soon as I feel squeezed, pressured, overwhelmed, and about to burst, that’s my signal to hunker down under The Rock. Under the safety of the true rock I am protected and safe to discard the emotions, beliefs and lies that are holding me back. Protected from the enemy I am safe to be naked for a while and free to grow.

When we feel the pressure of life, if we are willing to seek protection and safety under The Rock and be exposed and vulnerable for a while, He will grow us and give us all we need to go back into the world more like Him.

Lobster-therock

When we seek shelter in God, who is our one true rock, He saves us, strengthens us and protects us. When we look to the world for our strength and our salvation we find a paper-mache fortress that is quick to blow away, leaving us at the mercy of the storms of life, unprotected and unable to grow into all that God has for us.

Lobster-looktotheworld

Let me invite you to set your inner lobster free! Or, rather more spiritually put; when you feel the squeeze and pressures of life, seek cover in The Rock, who will save you, strengthen you and protect you in His fortress.

Then you’ll be free to grow into the person (or lobster) He created you to be.

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

THE WORD WORKS

A simple “I love you” can take root in a person’s heart and change them. Hearing “I believe in you” or “you’re special” makes all the difference to children- and confident adults. Likewise, disparaging words can wreak havoc on anyone’s life.

Our words are powerful. How much more are His?

Over the centuries, people have used God’s Word for many powerful purposes. Some have seen it as a rule book. There are people who find it so unlike any other book that they won’t approach it without an intercessor. People have used it to punish, dehumanize, build up, excuse, justify, and permit any number of wrongs.

On the other hand, many have found God’s Word to be a valuable self-help book. It has been used in diverse and plentiful ways to teach morality. The Bible has informed cultures and governments. On a more personal level, it has been used to encourage and to build up.

But Scripture isn’t a tool for us to use and mold as we find convenient.

God’s Word- breathed by Him upon us- is alive and active.

His Word is at Work.

A weapon we wield, a light for our path, a refuge we run to, Scripture does more than work for us. God’s Word works in us. <<click to tweet>>

In 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul thanks God:

“because, when you received the word of God…you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.”

As Christians, the Holy Spirit uses the God-breathed Word to breathe new life into believers. His Word works in us to:

Equip us. Correct us. Teach us. Train us.

Guide us. Bless us. Grow us.

Free us. Transform us. Exhort us. Sustain us.

Flow through us.

(all those links are to Scripture- breathe it in!!)

We don’t always feel like God’s Word really works in our culture, our circumstances, or our lives. But He does- and it does.

I’ve experienced this in my own life and study of Scripture. I know many others have too.

For several upcoming Mondays, some wonderful bloggers will be sharing posts in this series reflecting on how God’s Word Works in their lives. Each Wednesday, I’ll reflect on a particular Word from His Word related to each blogger’s post.

We would love for you to join us as we praise the Lord and rejoice in His Work in our lives through the Word! 

Join in this multi-week series of bloggers sharing how God’s Word has worked in their lives! <<Click to Tweet>>

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

 

What If My Best…

What if my best is simple?

More than a writer, I’m a thinker. My brain is constantly active- digging, absorbing, sorting, putting together, observing, etc. Etc.

As a thinker, I like details. I like to organize them all and fit them together to create a big picture. I love making points that lead up to a concept that sticks. And I suppose, as a writer, that’s a good thing.

But sometimes, my best writing is my simplest.

Sometimes, my best…anything…is simple.

My best worship is often a single lyric stuck on my lips, stuck on repeat. My best witness is often a sincere sentence spoken in regular conversation about ordinary things. My best praise is often a simple “thank you” thought-prayed to the Lord who knows what I’m referring too.

Though there is certainly a place for going in-depth, I think simple really is more powerful than we often realize. 

Some of the most powerful words in Scripture are the simplest- so simple a child could understand them.

“God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

1 John 5:11-12

In fact the Gospel, the good news that leads to salvation through Christ, is simple enough to be shared around the world, in a few sentences, in every language, and in any circumstance.

When we read His Word for a few moments, we can take in just a simple line and be grown by it. A simple prayer can change our perspective. Simple blessings can boost our faith.

Following His example, I’m believing that when my best is really simple, God makes it more than enough. 

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

 

Peace With Who I Am Not

When Lisa Murray asked me to be a part of her book launch team for Peace For a Lifetime, I didn’t know what to expect. It didn’t seem like fiction –but was it a textbook? A self-help guide? A lengthy theological statement?

Peace for a Lifetime is written by a counselor. A friend. A believer. A woman who knows what unpeace is like- and who is well-acquainted with the many dimensions of peace as God created it. This book is a gift that exhorts and encourages. It knows too much about me…and it set out to prove that today.

I’m working in autistic support as a compliment to my freelance writing. I love it! And I heard for the umpteenth times five time today that I ought to get certified as a Special Ed teacher. While the suggestion is truly encouraging to me, I also have a problem with it.

When I wrote papers for everyday college courses, I was told I ought to conduct research professionally and was invited on trips and into internships. When I excelled in biology in high school, I was told to become a doctor or at least a veterinarian. I’ve heard that if I tried, it wouldn’t take much for me to get certified in…this. And that. And the other thing.

The fact of the matter for not just me, but for all of us is that we’re capable of a lot. We are capable of more than we can actually do in one lifetime.  

We have one life to operate from: one budget, one pair of hands, one cycle of twenty four hours per day. We only get one set of however many years the Lord blesses us with.

These capabilities He gives each of us are gifts, not to be wasted. But they aren’t all to be invested in, honed in on, and exploited until there’s nothing left to do. That we’re capable of something doesn’t mean that we’re also called to it.

But isn’t it tempting? Isn’t it tempting to get prideful? Or overwhelmed? Or bitter about what we could be doing but aren’t?

It’s hard to hear that you could run something…while someone else does. While you know that if you obey the Lord, you won’t. Because He’s got you somewhere else and His plans aren’t the same as other people think they ought to be. And if we’re honest, His plans aren’t the same as we think they ought to be.

We find ourselves telling God how to use us best. Telling God who we are and what we’re good for. Defending our causes and running the “busy” mill to prove our worth…ironically, to the only one in whom we can actually find our worth.

I came home frustrated because of the compliments and the turmoil they stir up as I feel that maybe I am wasted or wasting, though I’m assured I’m exactly where He wants me. In the course of the evening, I picked up Peace for a Lifetime.

Guess which chapter lay before me? Fostering Authenticity. An entire chapter about our counterfeit selves, the lies that tell us we ought to be someone other than ourselves, and the truth:

Nothing fake will ever satisfy our souls like a true connection with a friend, a genuine encounter with God, or an authentic understanding of ourselves.

The whole book is worth a read, but this chapter met me today right where I was. Only the Lord can do that.

“Somehow, in our efforts to be what everyone else thought we should be, we miss out on discovering ourselves, whom God has created us to be.”

What words! Thanking the Lord today for this lesson and this book. Praising Him that just as I start to question who I am in the face of who others want me to be, He reminds me that He has created me. And you. Just as we are. For the good, good purposes He has called us into.

What peace we find when we accept the purposes He gives us as gratefully and humbly as we accept the capabilities He gives us to fulfill them.

This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup 

Bringing the Old Into the New

 

Living anew amongst old things is tough. Young people working in offices filled with pre-dominantly middle-aged adults know all about that. It’s hard to “be” the change when it seems nothing is changing around you.

But it’s also hard to have a set way and to adapt when newness comes along.

Middle-aged adults in offices struggle to work alongside young folks just starting out. It’s hard to feel like old news. It’s difficult to be set aside for the younger, fresher, and more exciting.

As the old adage goes, though: make new friends, but keep the old. Some are silver and the others gold.

All throughout Scripture God demonstrated the importance of unifying what has been with what is current –and even future.

Jesus referenced the Old Testament with respect and as if it had authority, even as He brought a new covenant into being.

We are charged with the care of the elderly and the widowed.

Jesus explained the important of bringing the old up to the new in Matthew 5:17:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

Something the Lord understands (as the creator of time itself) is that time builds on itself. History makes way for the future. The elderly must have existed for there to be the young.

Though newness in Christ, and in much of what He provides, is a blessing, we’re never to stop being grateful for all the long-past, well-loved gifts He’s given. We’re never to be fooled into thinking that the old, ill-fitted is worthless simply because it’s done it’s time.

About much more than just utilitarian value, our Lord places worth in fulfillment. That’s the Word He uses in reference to the melding of the new and the old covenants. It’s the word used to describe His relationship to the old prophecies.

Fulfilling is about bringing to completion that which was begun previously.

Young people in offices aren’t to destroy the foundation laid by older workers. Older workers aren’t to despise the youth.

As we set out in a new year, in new jobs, on new projects, with new friends and in new opportunities, the past isn’t to be forgotten. New good habits shouldn’t replace old good habits. New discoveries about the Lord shouldn’t push old truths aside.

That’s hard, too, isn’t it? We’re an all-or-nothing sort of people. In our pride, we place more value on things when they’ve come at the expense of something (or someone) else. My plan is only as good as how much better it is than his.

Humility. It takes humility to bring together the old and the new. Whether in the law, in relationship, at work, or in our faith, we can humble ourselves to give thanks for both.

Watch as He fulfills, step by passing step, making all the old new and all the new old until eternity is met.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus and #LifeGivingLinkup.


 

New Amongst the Old

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment,

for the patch will pull away from the garment,

making the tear worse.”

–Matthew 9:16

With the New Year, new resolutions are made. New outlooks are had, and, if nothing else, a sense of hope and possibility is renewed. Within weeks, it all tends to fall apart though.

It’s difficult to live anew amongst the old. We go back to the same jobs and the same co-workers. Day after day, the routine is much the same. Our needs have hardly changed. So as we try to maintain a better perspective and uphold our resolve to do or be better people, it soon seems our everyday lives are even harder than before.

What we experience in the New Year is much like this passage describes: the new making the old seem worse. The old does not adjust to the new easily, making the new feel ill-fitted.

Do you have that sense in your days? As if it isn’t really feasible to improve because nothing around you is?

We aren’t the whole issue. It isn’t just you and I that need improving. Our circumstances, relationships, and lives (though outside of our control!) all need to be renewed.

Fortunately for us, the bridegroom has come.

The “old has passed away; behold, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17.)

His renewal in our lives affects everything and make all things new for us. His mercies are new every day. He causes the sun to rise new every day. There are new opportunities each day. And moment by moment, He renews in our hearts a right Spirit.

What an encouragement to us!

Though we sometimes feel like new patches stuck on an old, worn-out dress, the Lord assures us that He has clothed us anew. When we wait on His timing and trust in His continuing-creation, the old becomes new, and we do too.

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory

18. BEHOLD: The Re-arranger

There are certain things required, in many people’s minds, to build the perfect Christmas. From the tree to the gifts to the food to the company, every piece fits just so to create beloved traditions and memories.

To make it all fit, couches get pushed back. Coat racks get cleared off the rack. Space is made on crowded counters for jars of cookies. Some people give up their beds for a night or two. Some people travel by donkey to far off towns while pregnant and end up giving birth in a stable.

From the very first Christmas, re-arranging was a part of welcoming Christ in the world.

“God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change— he will hear them and humble them, because they have no fear of God.”

–Psalm 55:19

Christ’s coming to the world brought to us salvation, hope, and eternal joy. For those in the Bible, and for us today, Christ also brings humility as He does not change, but our plans and ideas must. When the Spirit comes to live is us, we ought to:

“Pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

Ephesians 3:16-17

As is the case any one settling into a dwelling place, Christ dwelling in our hearts rearranges. He humbles us, as mentioned. There’s also a strengthening, and an empowering. He creates in us purer hearts and sets up a battle station against our flesh.

Sometimes, His rearranging extends to our circumstances and our plans. Like Scripture says, we plot our own way, but He establishes our steps. To live well through all this sort of re-arranging, we need to be flexible.

Being flexible is a Godly trait when flexibility means being open to anything God gives, regardless of what it requires from us.

If the Lord has to re-arrange our priorities, take it as a good gift. If making room for Him to settle deeper into our hearts means tossing out some of those secret, sneaky, “less-bad” sins, we can have the flexibility of faith and respond with “thank you.”

Behold, the deep-cleaning of the Lord through re-arranging.

Behold, the re-ordering to restore order to the world and to each of our hearts.

Behold, the gift of godly flexibility, given through faith in Christ.

The Nuts and Bolts of Building Your Faith

Photo from: pixabay.com

You know the monumental moments of your faith.

When you take the first step of faith and your foundation is laid in Christ.  Days, months, years later when crucial decisions arise and you find that you indeed want to live with Him as your cornerstone, it’s big.

There are moments of obvious growth and transformation as piece by piece you’re built, a temple to glorify God. The moment when you gave up on a certain sin and it stuck. That time when the Lord provided something extraordinarily spectacular.

But in the building of your faith to His glory, there is more than just the big, memorable, and obvious. There are also the nuts, bolts, screws, and drops of glue. Little victories -these are what hold all of the major framework in place.

Little victories are as simple as:

  • An unspoken prayer answered
  • A silly picker-upper in your day
  • A call at just the right time
  • A gentle kick in the pants when you need it
  • A reminder that you get to choose your attitude
  • A verse that stays in mind
  • An extra three minutes with nothing to do but get quiet with the Lord
  • A song on the radio speaking to your heart
  • A gift you needed but never asked for
  • A smile and a hug, just warm and full of love
  • A step out of bed when you feel you can’t get up
  • A sunrise you wouldn’t want to miss when you didn’t want to wake
  • A moment of clarity in a pattern of mess
  • A laugh by yourself that just has to be loud
  • A sense that you are not alone, even when you kind of are
  • A little conviction from the Lord, coupled with grace
  • A broken bad habit, maintained
  • A Friday waking up to realize that you’ve formed a good habit in just a few days
  • A glimpse into what may be coming, filling you with hope

Simple. So simple are these. But they are the thousands of “littles” that make for big faith. Remember the verse?

If you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in large ones. (Luke 16:10)

Even a house with big beams and solid boards breaks and creaks if little screws haven’t made the planks a secure resting space.

Look on your little victories as faith builders, not “almosts” or “steps.” They have a purpose too. Tack them in. Drill them in place. Hammer away with gratitude, with recognition, and praise. Those little victories are built to last.

When your house of faith rocks and shakes…

When you climb its steps and enjoy the view…

When another large addition is in progress…

When the Lord wants to show off His handiwork…

You’ll be glad for every short moment you spent ensuring that you saw the victory, the gift, and put it to work in your faith.

This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory.

Praying After Has a Purpose

Photo from: www.missiochurch.com

We pray before we eat. Before our days begin. Before we go to sleep. Often, we pray before big events and decisions. We pray as loved ones face difficulties. But we don’t have to stop there.

Keep praying after.

In our limited sense of time, that can feel futile.

Why pray about something that has already happened? Can the Lord change even that which is in retrospect? Is He sovereign over history when it’s already been written?

Yes.

History, it is often said, is life’s greatest teacher. To build better futures, we look at the past. So praying in retrospect makes sense.

Unlike “changers” in sci-fi movies that erase and replant memories, the Lord is in the business of changing hearts. And while that may not change history, it changes our perspective of it. That makes all the difference.

After you complete that nerve-wracking conversation, pray. Turn to the Lord. He can work in your heart to use that conversation for good. He does, after all, work all things together for the good of those who love Him according to His will and great purposes (Romans 8:28.)

He can also change the heart of the one you spoke to. Or the loved one who faced the tragedy. And even the course of that decision you made that you’re not so sure about.

It’s never too late with the Lord,

…and that should effect how we live in this world and how we relate to others. Forgiveness is all the more possible when we live in the truth of that fact: grace has no expiration date. Not between the Lord and any of us, and not between any of us at all.

So pray after it all goes crazy, it all goes well, and you have no idea how any of it could go anywhere. He remains faithful and above all.

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.”1 Chronicles 29:11

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, and #DanceWithJesus.