Broken

I am learning a lot about loving people lately and I'm learning that there is a lot more to love than I had thought.

There's a passage in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus talks about the day of judgment when each of us will stand before the Lord and Jesus will welcome those who know him into his fold and cast those who don't into hell.

In this passage Jesus tells his sheep (those who know and love him) that they fed him when he was hungry, clothed him when he was naked, visited him when he was sick or in prison etc. Jesus says that the people will question him, saying "Lord when did we see you sick or in prison to visit you?" and he answers them saying "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." This is love.

I read that verse a few weeks back and ever since I have been praying that Jesus would give me his eyes for the world. I have been praying that he would break my heart for what breaks his and show me how to love people as if each one of them was him in front of me.

There's a great song that we sing at church called Hosanna and this one part always gets me and is exactly what I'm talking about here:

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me

Break my heart from what breaks yours
Everything I am for your kingdoms cause
As I go from nothing to
Eternity


So I've been praying for this but I didn't expect to feel what I've been feeling. I thought that loving people the way Jesus loves people would be all joy filled and happy, a great way to go about my day as if I'm snow white singing to the animals in the forest. I was wrong, it's far more painful.

Instead the Lord has really burdened my heart for the world, and it hurts. He's broken my heart for what breaks his and now two out of the past three nights I've gone to bed sobbing through my prayers at the thought of all the sin and brokenness in everyone around me and in our world today.

Then this morning I read this verse in Philippians:

"For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.." Philippians 1:29

This made me think about my prayer and loving people. Not only will I suffer for Christ because I love him more than anything and just by that very statement I will be persecuted by those who do not, but also I'll suffer in my loving others on his behalf.

I cannot explain this faith that is inside of me, the way Jesus changed me five years ago when he came into my life, showed me my sin and my need for him and ultimately saved me from hell; but I know that it's real and that it's never going to go away. I lay in bed at night lately agonizing over those around me, people that I love dearly, and even those that I don't, who don't know Jesus. I can't stop thinking about the fiery hell that they will one day endure, forever, unless they give their lives to Jesus.

My heart aches because I can see the sin in their lives, the brokenness and I know the only answer is Jesus, the only true joy is Jesus and the only way to redemption and salvation is Jesus....and most likely they see me as a bible thumping idiot.

The truth is that I love them, I love you, so much so that I suffer now on your behalf. I suffer in my prayers and in my day because I want you to be with me one day in heaven, on that judgment day when Jesus says welcome home.

So that's where I am this week. I'm exhausted, I'm sad for the world and all of the lies that Satan is telling and people are believing, but I love Jesus so I'll be thanking him through my tears.

Here's a video of the song Hosanna, I hope it hits your heart the way it does mine:

I have always had a sense of entitlement, a feeling of superiority or as the world would call it, a confidence in myself. It sounds disgusting, and it is, but I'm just being honest. No matter what I was doing or involved in I have always had an underlying feeling that I was better at it than most, and I usually had about six reasons up my sleeve as to why person X or person Y needed to change...but not me.

I was the youngest in my family and yet I was the bossiest. I, for some reason, felt like it was okay to tell my sister, brother, mother and father, what was what and where to go. I remember my catch phrase growing up was "I know, I know!" whenever my Mom would try to impart some wisdom or teach me something she felt I didn't know. I was stubborn and self-righteous and I still am.

When I gave my life to Jesus and he saved me from hell, he thankfully also saved me from myself. He did strip me of a lot of this superiority and self-righteousness but I am still in my flesh on this earth and lately I've seen how much of this selfishness is still in me.

Lately I have been attacking the word, reading my bible with new eyes and with real intentionality and, surprise, surprise (feel the sarcastic tone here), I have been hearing from the Lord a lot! I am praising the Lord for this and I have to confess that a lot of what I'm seeing, a lot of what He's revealing to me, is my ugliness, my pride, and my desire to not only be the best but to somehow let everyone in the world see that I am the best. Yuck!

Here's a piece of scripture that really spoke to me recently and sort of rocked my world:

"Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." Matthew 6:1-2

In a lot of my life I am one of those hypocrites in the streets. I do have a real God given desire to do good and love others well but I also really want others to know and see me doing these things. Ugh, kinda takes away from the good deed altogether.

Here's another one that hit me the other day and made me feel a little sick because I knew the Lord was speaking directly to me:

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." Matthew 23:27-28

I read this and felt a little bit empty. I am in many ways this beautiful whitewashed tomb that is filled with death and cob webs. Upon reading this passage and feeling its weight I had to stop and pray. I know that my heart belongs to Jesus and that my sins are forgiven, past, present and future, but I also know that he wants me to grow in my faith and to do this I have to see the sin of my flesh and repent, give my sin to him, so that he can bear the burden and change my heart.

So with this new revelation about myself I am praising the Lord and I'm excited to see what he is going to do in my life. I don't feel defeated or disheartened by this propensity that I have to be self-righteous but instead I am confident in Jesus and that he will weed it out of my heart, even if that takes the rest of my life. I am on a journey with Jesus.

Holding Hands

(Ok so I wrote this months ago and must have forgotten to post it! I guess I had pregnancy brain even back then.)

I was reading some C.S. Lewis the other night and I came across this quote which actually brought me to tears (easier to do these days with the pregnancy hormones but still...).

When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it. (Mere Christianity)

Sometimes I forget that God is our Father and that he is a perfect Father. I forget that he loves us the way a father does which means at times he will discipline us when we need it, but perfectly and in love. Most of all I forget that he will guide us through life if we are willing to listen to him. "The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise." (Proverbs 15:31) But no matter what the situation we find ourselves in he is always holding our hand and giving us pieces of himself to help us.

The imagery of God holding my hand, always with me and guiding me by giving me his character and his love, has really helped me this week. The past week I have seen some things in myself that I really haven't liked, some serious areas of sin that need weeding out. Normally when I come to a place where I acknowledge sin in my life I feel defeated and broken down, but this time, knowing that my Father is holding my hand and guiding me out of my sin, I feel humbled and at peace, I have hope.

I have come to Jesus, I am asking for forgiveness and I am confident that over time my Father will pull me out with his strength, grasping my hand with a grip that will not be broken. I know that I can't do any of this without my Father, without my Jesus and without the Holy Spirit who lives in me and shows me the way and I am forever thankful that I am in the right hands.

C.S. Lewis said is well but God himself says it so much better:

"For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, 'Fear not, I am the one who helps you." (Isaiah 41:13)

and another goodie:

"I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;" (Isaiah 42:6)

Identity

For the past week the hymn "It is well with my soul" has been running through my mind. I remember hearing an incredible story awhile back about this hymn but the details were fuzzy so I looked it up. Perhaps that was God's providence because I have also been pondering the concept of identity a lot lately and as it turns out the two are very connected. Let me explain.

The hymn "It is well with my soul" was written by a man named Horatio Spafford. In 1871 Spafford's wife and four daughters were on a ship headed from the US to Europe that collided with another vessel and sunk. By the grace of God his wife, Anna, survived the shipwreck but their four daughters did not survive. After the loss of his four daughters Spafford, who loved Jesus, wrote this hymn praising God.

Here are the Lyrics:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
* Refrain:
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

So here's where identity comes into play. I am sure Mr. Spafford was devastated by the loss of his four precious babies, I cannot even imagine that pain, but even so he was able to say that God is good and that Jesus is Lord. In the midst of his pain he was able to write a beautiful song praising Jesus and proclaiming that it was well with his soul because Jesus was bigger and more important than anything else in his life. His identity, ultimately, was in Jesus and not in his daughters, his wife or any other created thing. Amazing.

Today when I got to church the first song we sang was "It is well with my soul" and the sermon was incredible and all about our identity in Christ and the glory of God. Amazing, I love how the Lord weaves our lives together day by day.

With all of this said I've been thinking about my own identity lately and what that means. In my life I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a home builder; I have been a worker, a student and so many other things but none of these things can be who I am. If I claim any one of these things as my identity, put all of my hope in one, I will ultimately be let down. None of these things can truly fulfill me because they are not God.

If Spafford had put all of his hope in his children he never would have written this hymn. If he had made his life about being their father and invested all of his hope and joy in them and their future then his world would have ended when their lives did. He probably would have grown bitter and angry and perhaps taken his own life as a result of their loss, but he didn't. He didn't because his identity was in the only thing that cannot and will not fail you, ever, Jesus.

So even though I am a mother and a wife and it would be so easy for me to put my hope in Ryan or my babies, to make my world all about them, I can't. Ryan has in the past and will continue to, let me down at times (as I have, and will him) and the same goes for my children. God is the only one who will never leave me or forsake me because I have put my hope in Jesus, his son who died for my sins and rose from death because he is God.

I can't claim that I will live a perfect life, in fact I can guarantee that I will not, but I can say that my hope is in Jesus. I pray that I do not have to endure the tragedy that Spafford endured but I also pray that no matter the trials I face I will always be able to say that God is good, Jesus is my savior and it is well with my soul.

Jericho

I was reading through Joshua today and I couldn't help but marvel at how God helped Joshua and the Israelites conquer Jericho.

When I face a problem (not that any of mine are as big and scary as trying to conquer a city like Jericho) I look at it from the most logical angle, sort out the options and details and rush head on in to try to fix it...logically. But God doesn't always work like that and truthfully I need to be relying on my faith more than logic.

God told Joshua to march around Jericho for seven days with the Israelites and on the seventh day to shout at the top of their lungs. God told them that if they did as he instructed then the walls of Jericho would crumble at their shouting....and it worked! Amazing.

For awhile now I've been facing my own mini Jericho, a bunch of walls in my way that seemed impermeable. I could see the promised land, a place where I knew I wanted to be and where I really felt the Lord was calling me to be but there were too many road blocks. I had no logical solution on how to get from A to B but I did have faith in the Lord. So I started to pray and have been waiting and praying ever since.

I've been waiting on the Lord for some time now....and not so patiently all of the time. My plans to break down the walls fell short and I knew all I could do was wait. He hears my prayers and knows what I need better than I do so all I could do was have faith and wait.

As time has gone on the walls that once stood in my way have crumbled at my feet. Not all at once and not in the way that I thought they would, but bit by bit, stone by stone and by methods I could never have imagined he has brought me through. Today I am where I felt he was calling me to be and I didn't do anything to get here, it was all Him. God gets all the glory for defeating my Jericho.

If the past year has taught me anything it's that God knows so much better than I do. Although he usually has a different way of going about things than I would, his way is perfect and mine is flawed. Although I may not always love the path he leads me down, I at least know I have Jesus at my side the whole way and I am going to learn and grow as a result.

Thank you Lord for this calling you have given me and for providing in the way that you do.

Building a Home

I'm building a home. Not a house of brick and mortor, dry wall and beams, but a home for our family that glorifies God. Our home is being built on a rock, Jesus is our corner stone, and our home is being pieced together day by day, hour by hour, and prayer by prayer.

"By wisdom a house is built,and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." Proverbs 24:3-4

Lately the Lord has placed a huge burden on my heart to be more intentional about our home, our children, my husband and most importantly my walk with Jesus. I have always been a sort of fly by the seat of my pants kind of person. I've had enough structure and organization in my life to look good and not be labeled a slob or a sluggard, but in reality that is what I am.

Most of my life I have been a very good deceiver, a liar with crafty ways of making it look like I've had it all together. The truth however is that there is usually a lot of chaos in my home, in my mind and in my heart.....and it is almost all a product of my poor planning and laziness. (Please don't post comments about this saying that you disagree and think that I'm great. I'm sharing my heart here, the truth, and what the Lord is working on within me right now so it's ok. I am actually happy to admit this because now that I've owned up to it and I am talking to Jesus about it, he's changing me.)

For a while the flexible Annie, fun-loving and easy going, sort of worked, sort of. But now that our family is growing and becoming increasingly more complicated I've noticed that I'm failing. I'm failing at being a wife who pursues her husband and gets to know what is going on in his heart and his head, instead just making sure the facade looks good, lunch packed, laundry done, dinner made etc.....and even with that I've been failing. I've been failing at being a mom who teaches well and loves well. I've been failing as a friend to those around me, thinking of myself before anyone else. And most of all, and most shameful of all, I have been failing as a worshiper of my sweet Jesus. I've made selfishness and comfort my God and put Jesus on the shelf along with a dusty bible and unprayed prayers.

So I'm building a home, a new home, and Jesus is my architect. The holy spirit has burdened my heart and my amazing Jesus, who forgives and gives grace abundantly, is saving me from myself...once again. He has taken this lazy, prideful failure and renewed me. He has given me a very strong desire to sluff off the lazy sluggard, the lying comfort seeker that I was, and work hard every day on my home and my family.

I have so much more to say about this, so much that I'm learning and I'm excited about but instead I'll leave you with this, think of it as the foundation. The cement has been poured and is hardening, becoming a solid foundation for my home and soon I'll begin to frame it.

"Prepare your work outside;get everything ready for yourself in the field,and after that build your house." Proverbs 24:27

I just saw this article and it breaks my heart. The article is about a doctor who performed abortions, specifically late term abortions, who was shot and killed outside his church. This isn't right.

I don't agree with abortion however I also don't agree with killing the people who perform them. I am praying for his family and for those around him.

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