New Year, New Word, New You

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Here we stand, breaking into another new year!  How will we begin? First steps are always a bit tricky. I’m just wondering how you have started in previous years. Are you a resolution maker, a list producer, or do you pray asking God for a word? I had recently heard of this idea and being a lover of words in general I latched onto it with enthusiasm. Because in my world, words have power. So a friend explained that you begin by praying for God to unveil a single word that would guide you as you go through the year ahead. Just one word.

If you are like me, you want to live a clear and focused life for Christ. And let’s be honest, having a neat, precise target lets us breathe a little easier. We are people who long for a plan, a little direction, and the freedom to follow at our own pace. So having just one single, solitary word seems like a good way to get that clarity of focus.

For example, my “word” for 2017 was “fearless”. I felt God was showing me that word over and over in the early weeks of January. So I adopted that word as my guidepost as I journeyed through the year. As the months passed by, I found myself measuring my level of “fearless” living against the lives of those I admire, those I see desperately chasing after Jesus.  I wondered if I was even close to the target I aimed my efforts at for the year of living fearlessly.  Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing to look in the mirror and evaluate your strong and weak places. A little quick glance into that reflection helps us grow, and lean in closer to Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I have found that sometimes singular focus can lead to a bit of anxiety because it gives me room to compare myself to the standards of my world.

So my friends, this year I am determined to fix my mind, body and soul on a different path. Instead of looking for a word to define the areas I need to reform, refocus and reset, I am determined to simply yield. Every day…just yield.

Are you with me here? Hi, my name is Karen, and I have control issues.

Not only do I like a plan of action, I want to be in charge of the charge!  Sometimes I allow my passion to lead me, and I leave Jesus in the dust.

So what if I fully embraced yielding?  When I looked up the word on my dictionary app, the thesaurus unveiled this stirring truth. Jesus was the living, breathing perfect example of the word yield. And if my intention, my longing, is to live a life like His am I willing to yield?

Here are a few words to turn over and examine.

Yield: to give way…am I willing to give up my way, for His way?

Yield: bend…am I willing to be flexible, moldable, movable?

Yield: let go…am I willing to embrace change, every day, every way, trusting Him?

Yield: surrender…am I willing to resign from leadership of my life, let God run things?

Yield: submit…am I willing to allow the Holy Spirit to break me and make me into a beautiful reflection of the love of Jesus?

Okay, these are the things I want to carry into the new year.  I want to declare there is no word I can cling to in order to be better, love better, live better without yielding to the One who takes my messy self and molds it into His likeness. Today I stand flooded with gratitude that He is able, if I am willing.

So, as I face a new beginning, I won’t pray for a clear “word” that points to a plan of action. I will pray that yielding to His Word will point others to Him.

 

My prayer for me and for you…

dear Father,

Thank you for new beginnings. Thank you for fresh, clean, do-over days. As we face the starting line, remind us to let you lead. Help us give way, knowing without a doubt your way is better than anything we could possibly dream up. As we face changes in the days ahead, help us to depend on your promise that you are with us. Father, we confess that submit and surrender are not words we embrace. We like control. Help us to relax and release that control into your loving hands. Lord, you have proven over and over you are trustworthy. Help us to keep our eyes on Jesus in this journey. Your Word has given us a clear picture of how a yielded heart lives and loves. Strengthen us for the course you have set out for us. Let our declaration to yield to You bring you glory upon glory.

amen

.

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Will we choose to break through or break down?

My Dear Sis,

As I stand at yet another crossroad in my life, I look around and wonder if you’ve ever felt the same anxiety the unknown future brings.  It drops in unannounced and unwelcome. Oh, I am confident in so many other places, but in the future there are unseen moments that make me quake and shake and stumble.

I am about to move to a new town. Again. I have been in this place just three short years. Honestly, I have only recently found my people. You know who I mean. The people who think like you, laugh at the same things, find joy in simple, silly things, love the same coffee places you do and love to sit and talk and talk and talk about Jesus til the cows come home. The people you call home. Your tribe.

If you’ve ever moved and had to rebuild your tribe, you know the anxiety I face. Starting over requires steps. You have to move out into unchartered waters and risk exposing yourself. You’ve got to find a way to trust there is a safe passage through to the new beginning.

Sis, have you ever stood in a similar place?  That place where you try to fool yourself into believing maybe you can just go around instead of through?  Oh yeah, I’ve spent days, months, yes even years declaring I would stand firm and not go through the thing that was just impossible.

I didn’t want to go through the sea of pain that threatened to pull me under.

I didn’t want to go through the roaring whirlwind of fear and anxiety that threatened to toss me about.

I didn’t want to go through the thunder rumbling in the sky all around me, loudly proclaiming I am just not enough.

I just didn’t see a way through when I stood blinded by the storm raging around me.

So sis, if you are standing in a storm, how do you take one step forward, how do I take one step forward? How do we move when all we see are crashing waves, one after another with no end in sight?

It reminds me of the Israelites and Moses. I picture them walking toward the Red Sea. A sea of uncertainty, with nothing to keep them afloat but a promise. I can just see them following Moses to the shoreline, looking out at the immense power of the crashing waves. They’re standing there sandals soaked, their spirits conquered by the plan that looked to be a dead-end. With the Egyptian soldiers coming toward them, their dreams of a new beginning seemed lost in the sea that stood between them and freedom.  I love their first response, because I would have done exactly the same thing. They decided it was time to turn back. Time to give up. This situation was impossible.

Because the Israelites could not see a way through, they were willing to go back. Back to pain, back to suffering, back to slavery. There was no way to break through so they broke down.

Sis are you like me? Do you find yourself standing at the edge of a sea. Are you hoping the water is warm and inviting and in the very same moment fighting the impulse to turn back because searching for a way through takes hard work. And some days it’s just plain exhausting.  We are willing to give up the promise of a new beginning because fear relentlessly whispers in our ear there is no way through.

Oh dear sis, I invite you and me to cling to the words of Moses. They may just keep us afloat in the wonder and worry of what tomorrow holds. “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today…The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:13,14

As I read these words I realize God asks me to just stand still and watch. I have to laugh as I have seen Him go before me and work throughout my life so many times I have lost count.  But somehow, I still fear I am on my own. Do you do that too?

If only I could remember to depend on His promise that He will fight for me.

There is no fear in the future if I believe He is my rescuer.

Okay sis, Here’s the big finish…

When you look up and see there is no way through. You’ve hit that wall of waves. You’ve stepped into the deep end. You’ve fallen into the darkest storm.  Grab this life-line.

“Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters–a pathway no one knew was there!”

Psalm 77:19

The Psalmist tells it like it is! God’s road leads through the sea, His pathway through the mighty waters….and it was a pathway…NO ONE KNEW WAS THERE.  Once again, it’s a trust issue. The way through was there all along.

Ah, now that’s a sweet break through!

Here’s my prayer for you sis…

Father,

Forgive us for forgetting your promises. Forgive us for fearing the future You have planned for us. The same future that holds the assurance of love and life alongside You. You have gone before us and come behind us and stand with us, so we will declare we can go through. We can go through whatever sea threatens to overcome. Because Lord we know You have cleared a path. Even a path we don’t even know is there. So Father, we will take one more step, a step toward You, trusting you are standing with open arms ready to guide us into the new beginning You have planned just for us.  And we will praise your name in that very place! Amen.

 

Sis, Is it Good or God?

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Dear Sis,
What kind of God peers into the heart and ignores the shadows? Looks right past the things I have placed between us and tries to catch my eye with the beautiful truth? Truth that draws me back to Him. Truth so big and so wide it breaks like the dawn.

And in the warmth of that light, I no longer shelter the shadows. I let them disappear because they no longer have any power or purpose. And I stand face turned toward him, locked in the embrace of his love. It’s the same love that welcomes me back again and again, no matter how many times I let the shadows slip in.

Oh sis, don’t the shadows edge in so quietly, unnoticed? It’s like they tip-toe in when we’re not looking.
If they were evil things we would be on the alert. But, so many times they are good. Good people. Good places. Good choices. Until they become the good things between us and the God thing.
We are tempted to believe the good things don’t need to go. Because after all they are good. How do we determine if the good thing is good enough? Or is it standing in the way of a God thing?

I have asked myself this question so many times I’m sick of my own struggle with it. And every time I ask it, I already know the answer. Because God has given me the Holy Spirit to awaken me to wrong turns. And as much as I would like to deny I see it, there’s no denying the kick in the gut feeling I get when I begin to sense a need for turning.

Sis, have you ever seen the truth you didn’t want to face and just wish you could turn away and ignore the urgent signs he keeps giving you? Oh, how I have stood in that very place. Stood crying, kicking and screaming, because that thing I needed to turn away from was so very good. And I had convinced myself, God wanted to bless me with it.

But Sis, here’s the thing, obedience always requires turning and trusting. Turning away from the good thing, and trusting there is a God thing in the making.

Sis, I’ve learned to count on this, when we lay tired from the crying, kicking and screaming He lays out lovely things that remind us that turning toward his embrace is always the best thing.
He will use every word we read, every song we hear, ever friend’s encouraging words to remind us, he sees us, he hears us, and he knows how hard this living in obedience to his voice really is.

Because this God, this compassionate, forgiving God, peers past the dark places in my heart and still tries to catch my eye with his beautiful truth, I turn toward the light. I have to believe the one who can break forth like the dawn has the power to eclipse all the shadows of goodness that stand in the way of my drawing closer to him.

So Sis, let’s turn. Even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it isn’t clear why. When you feel this thing standing between you and God, and you want it gone. Choose God over good. He’s looking right past your shadows, trying to catch your eye with the beautiful truth, He’s all you need

Love,

Your Sis in Christ,

Karen

Are you willing?

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It all begins and ends with being willing to do something. It’s the down and dirty catalyst for change. This story begins with a man looking for Jesus, desperate and determined enough to risk all. He was willing to take the first step.

Mark 1-40-41′”A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed.”‘

I imagine the man’s journey to see Jesus. The risky path he took to get close enough to kneel in front of him. The crowd pressing in around Jesus would have stepped back in disgust as he drew near. A wide berth on all sides. This man barely remembers what human touch feels like. Yet, he comes full of faith and hope, not just begging Jesus, but believing Jesus. “if you are willing, you can…” I see the crowd standing as close as they dare to this unclean man, leaning in, no one taking a breath as they watch closely to see what Jesus will do. Jesus slowly reaches out his hand, eyes fixed on this man’s face, compassion brimming…and. he. touched. him. And I hear his voice, maybe a mere whisper. I. am. willing. be healed.
Isn’t this how I approach Jesus? I feel too unclean to come?  I come as a beggar, pleading to Jesus…if you are willing, save me from the pit I stand in. I come as a believer because I know he can, he’s the only one who can. And honestly, he’s the only one willing. Willing to reach out his hand from the cross with compassion in his eyes and touch the brokenness that defines me. And I am healed.

With this healing, I am both changed and challenged. I hear him whisper, are you willing? Willing to do the same? Will I reach out and touch the people in my path longing to be seen, to be known, to be loved, as Jesus does for me?

Dear Father,
Thank you for being willing to do whatever it takes to draw us near. Thank you for being willing to sacrifice your Son because of your great compassion and love for us. We live thankful you extend your hand, your heart from heaven and touch the unclean and by your love we are healed. We are desperate and dirty longing for change and your beautiful Word reminds us to come and ask, with hope and trust. Help us to always be willing to love the “unlovable” in our path with the same tenderness. Because you took the first step toward us, let us take the first step toward others. In the power of your love lies the catalyst for new beginnings. You simply ask if we are willing. Yes, Lord, let it be so! Give me a willing heart! Amen