Love Thy Neighbor

“And there is something more important to God than all the sacrifices and burnt offerings: it’s the commandment to constantly love God with every passion of your heart, with your every thought, and with all your strength—and to love your neighbor in the same way as you love yourself.” -Mark 12:33

 

Last week we prayed that God would use us in big and small ways to truly love others, and to show them the love of God. Funny how God answers some prayers faster than others. Funny how those answers are often not at all what we expected…

Yesterday as I got home from running hours of errands, I pulled up to the mailbox to grab the Sunday paper. As I reached into the paper box I heard that still small voice of the Holy Spirit. It whispered “give your neighbor a Christmas card”.

Whaaaaat???

Seriously, you want me to give the man who shot and killed my dog last spring, and then lied about it, until he realized he was caught, and then confessed to the police? Surely you do not mean that neighbor.

I knew right away that He meant that neighbor.

I had a flood of thoughts rush into my head. “What if thy neighbor responds to me? I don’t want to talk to him!”, “What will Tom say?”, “Sure- I will send him a card. Can it have a picture of Nana (my dog) on it…”

I then tried to reason with God. “Isn’t it enough that I don’t hate him? Isn’t it enough that I pray every time I drive by and say “I forgive you.” Often I even say “Bless them Lord”. Okay, most the time I say that. Sometimes I say “feel free to move out of our neighborhood”, but for the most part I say “I forgive you” :).

I text my friend and said “I think the Lord just told me to give my neighbor a Christmas card. I am going to need serious confirmation on that one.” She said she would pray right away. She really didn’t need to…

Sometimes you just know as you know you heard the still small voice of the Lord. It usually happens when you do just as I did; you find your mind reeling and your flesh objecting.

You also have words of scripture and sermon snippets rush through your mind. Words like How many times must I forgive? Love covers a multitude of sin. Unforgiveness hurts you more than the offender.

This morning as I closed my eyes to pray and ask what I should write about I heard in my heart “Love thy neighbor”. Can I just mention one more time how “funny” it is that God answers clearly and directly on some prayers…

So, I am assuming the Lord wants me to share this with you for two reasons. The first is so I will actually follow through with it. Now that it is out there, I have to do it.

The second is there may be someone in your life you need to forgive. Perhaps you have been like me. You have done the “partial” forgiveness. You have felt as though the fact that you no longer hate the person is enough. You have felt as though not wishing them evil, harm, and payback is enough. You have washed your hands of them and are just fine with never seeing them again. You can forgive them…from a safe distance.

But God isn’t a God of partial forgiveness. He is a “no more record of guilt, as far as the east is from the west” kind of forgiver. And he has called us to be the same.

What better way to show the love and character of God than to start with the unlovable? We can do this. He promises that his grace is sufficient!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for being the God of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Give me the strength to love others as you have loved me. Give me the grace to forgive as you have forgiven me. Give me the courage to do what is right. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Love For Thy Neighbor,

Jen

 

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Heavenly Perspectives

For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people,  which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News. -Colossians 1:4-5

I thought I was going to finish out the year studying Colossians, but at the rate we are going we will be finishing out the year studying love instead. Not a bad idea as we could all use a little more, and give a little more, love these days don’t you think?

I want to go back to the verses that kicked off this love study. We saw a couple days ago that the people of Colosse were known for the their love for others. We spent our time that day focusing on that love and our need to follow in their example.

Verse five gives us another insight as to how they were able to love others so well. It says they had confident hope of what God had reserved for them in heaven.

Why would the confident hope of what God had reserved for them in heaven help them love others so well while on earth? I was thinking about some of the reasons we don’t love others well. When you look at the common obstacles to loving others, you see that all of them are overcome when you take on a heavenly perspective.

What if when someone hurts me on earth, I was able to meditate on the truth that there are no tears, no pain, in heaven? What if when I am on the receiving end of a huge injustice, I remember that God is a just God and in the end His justice will reign? What if every time that rude, obnoxious person in my life offends me, I focus on the grace and mercy I have received and I ask the Holy Spirit to help me extend the same to them?

I also think my understanding of God is still too small. If I really understood how awesome and magnificent God is I would not waste my time with feelings of jealousy, insecurity, and inferiority.

If I understood that God doesn’t bless one person at the expense of another I would not feel like someone else is “living the life I am supposed to be living!” every time I see a public speaker or writer. The hairs on the back of my neck would no longer raise when people say the name Jen Hatmaker. I would not fight the constant battle of comparing myself to others if I truly understood and believed that God has a special plan and purpose for ME and he also promises us that HE will see to it that we are on the proper path for our lives (read Psalm 25 if you need reassurance in this 🙂

Yes, a greater revelation and understanding of who God is, and what He has planned for us, not only in heaven, but here on earth as well, will help us truly love others more. Looks like we have some more studying to do…

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your passionate love for me! Increase my revelation and understanding of the reality of heaven. Increase my awareness of the plan you have for me here on earth. Guide my steps today. Show me the proper path. Give me the grace and courage to respond when I hear your still small voice. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Greater Revelation For Us All,

Jen

 

 

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Gonna Need a Little Help Here!

He’s informed us of the many wonderful ways love is being demonstrated through your lives by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  -Colossians 1:8

Yesterday I said I was going to spend next year loving more, rather than doing more. It felt good to declare it. I meant every word of it. I, Jen Gilbert, am going to be known for my love. Yes- they will know I’m a Christian by my love, by my love. Then I left the house…

I don’t know about you, but I find it much easier to love others when I am all alone in the comforts of my home. It’s a totally different story once I actually come into contact with people. Sometimes I don’t even have to come into contact with them. They can irritate me by screwing up the parent drop off line, or with an annoying email, or heaven forbid my voicemail message light is on when I get to work.

Cleary, if I am going to truly love others more, I am going to need a little help!

Praise God for today’s verse that assures us that the ability to love others does not come from our own striving and self effort. The ability to love others comes from the Holy Spirit. We are told in John 14:17 that the Holy Spirit leads us in all truth, and that we know him because he lives and dwells within us.

It’s that still small voice that says “don’t say it” when you want to saw something snarky to your husband. It’s that still small voice that says “go tell that woman you love her sweater” even though you don’t even know her. It’s that still small voice that whispers “write her a note of encouragement” even though you haven’t spoken to that person in months.

We are guided daily by that still small voice. Unfortunately, we often ignore it. We just HAVE TO get that little jab into our hubby because really, he “deserves” it. We feel too silly to walk up to a stranger and give them a compliment. We don’t have time to write a note to someone who probably doesn’t want to hear from us anyway.

Sometimes we miss the guidance altogether because we are too lost in our own thoughts. There is no room for guidance when our mind is racing through our next errand, email, and carpool assignment. We are in mental overdrive and their is no space for a new thought.

The Holy Spirit is the least understood part of the Godhead. We understand God the Father because for the most part we have all had a father figure in our lives. We understand Jesus being His son because we are sons and daughters. But who is this Holy Spirit character? How are we supposed to understand and relate to Him?

I know I don’t fully understand Him. Even as I write this I am filled with questions and doubts as to if I am presenting the truth accurately. The internet is no help. I did a little research and there are clearly some that have been led far far astray in their understanding of the three persons of the Godhead!

I will leave it at this- I believe the Holy Spirit lives and dwells within us and guides us in all truth. As much as I believe that I know I don’t fully grasp it. I know this because if I truly understood that God himself, as the Holy Spirit, lives and dwells within me I wouldn’t dare ignore one word of his advice. Yet I do. All the time!

Though I don’t have all the answers, I do know that if I am going to truly love others more I am going to need a little (okay a LOT) of help. I also know that the Holy Spirit empowered the people in Colosse to love at a level that they were famous for. I believe what He did for them, He will do for any of us that truly desire His help.

As you go about your day, remember that it is the little acts of love that often matter the most. We all want to do big things for God. Sometimes those BIG THINGS come in a series of small seemingly insignificant events. They come in compliments, notecards, and tongue biting :).

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your extravagant love for me. I want to show others the love that you have shown me. I thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Empower me through your Spirit to love others in big and small ways each and every day. Give me ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart to receive the guidance you give. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Holy Spirit Empowerment for Us All,

Jen

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Love For All

For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. -Colossians 1:4-5

I have been reading the book of Colossians the last week or so and find myself jotting down a lot of comments, questions, and aha moments. I plan on hanging out in Colossians for the remainder of the year. I would love it if you would join me :).

A quick background on the book of Colossians. It was written by Paul, the apostle previously known as Saul- the infamous, Christian persecuting, Jewish rabbi in training, who was radically changed by an encounter with Jesus (life changer :).

The letter was written in AD 60 to a small home church in Colosse. Colosse is located about one hundred miles inland from Ephesus (think book of Ephesians). It was a small, second rate town, but it was also an important town as it fell along a trade route, making it a meeting point of the West and the East.

Why am I boring you with these details? As we move further into Colossians we will see that this small home church was facing many of the same problems our church is today. Their faith was tainted by things such as religion, tradition, and Eastern influences (sound familiar?) They had wandered from the pure truth of the gospel and adopted ideas and practices that are not part of the Good News.

Despite these troubles, they did a lot of things well. As we see in today’s verse, they were known for their love of Christ, and for each other. The scriptures tell us  The whole law can be summed up as love your neighbor as yourself, and, only three things remain, faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love. With these scriptures in mind I believe that if the church is only going to get one thing right, it should be to get their love for Christ and for each other in order.

When I look at the church today, I do not think we have our love in order. I think we have great music. I think we are entertaining. I think we have great buildings, bumper stickers, t-shirts, and other “Jesus swag”.  I think we do good things and are generous with our money and resources. However, I am not sure we have love.

Though we may have love for Jesus (many lukewarm lovers out there), we definitely do not have on fire love for Jesus and devoted love for all of God’s people as the Colossians did.

Now please don’t go getting offended or defensive. I know none of you Girls are lukewarm for Jesus :). I am not really even talking about individuals, or individual churches. I am talking about the Church as a whole.

Growing up we used to sing a song that says “and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

I wonder if today we are known by our love. Is the church, to “outsiders”, known for it’s love, goodness, kindness, and compassion? Or, are we known for our judgmental, harsh, self-righteousness? Are we known for our unity and love for one another? Or, are we known for our inter-denominational squabbles?

I may not be able to change the entire Church, but I can change myself. It’s not that I think I am unkind or judgmental (I sure hope I am not anyway), but I do know I am quick to get frustrated and even give up on people. I know I struggle with a “God helps those who help themselves” mentality (which is not scriptural by the way).

This year, instead of worrying about doing more, I want to purpose to love more. Just like the old song says, they will know I’m a Christian by my love…

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your fierce love for us. Please help us, your Church, to truly love others. Let us be known for our love. Use us to show the lost and the hurting the love you have for them. Use us to be a light and a blessing in this world. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Love, Love, and More Love to Be Shown To All,

Jen

 

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Prodigal Cat

Remember the cat I wasn’t going to get attached to? Let me tell you a little story about her…

I finally found time in our hectic schedule to bring her to the vet for an initial check up. This was about two weeks ago. Her check up went great. She received two vaccines and some ear drops for the dead mites in her ears-GROSS!

Two days after her vet visit she was not herself. She was lethargic and would not get up off the couch. She was swollen and her little face was so puffy that she could barely open her eyes. She didn’t want to be pet.

I went into an internal panic. I felt bad for the cat, but the real panic was for my kiddos. They have lost three pets in the last four years (stories for another time) and I knew they could not handle losing Cat right now.

We went back to the vet. Cat had a fever and some kind of infection. I personally think she got a bad vaccine but what do I know? They kept her for the day and treated her with fluids and sent us home with an oral antibiotic and new ear drops.

Have you ever tried giving oral antibiotics to a cat? Think back to when you have had to give your kids the pink liquid penicillin. Remember how they cried, fussed, shook their heads, and let the medicine run down their chin? Now picture your kids with sharp claws, lightening speed ninja moves, and a strong clenched jaw hiding very sharp teeth.

Twice a day I engaged in this battle. First the penicillin and then the ear drops. By day two the cat did not come to me for attention. By day four the cat would run and hide whenever I walked into the room.

I hate to admit this, but it really started to bother me. I couldn’t stand the thought of Cat not trusting me and fearing me. She wouldn’t even come to me for food. I hated that she no longer followed me around the house at night when it was bed time, meowing at me until I got into bed so she could jump up and get snuggled in. I hated that I could not explain to her that I was trying to help her, not hurt her. So much for me not getting involved with the cat…

This morning at 6:26am Cat came into my room meowing. For the first time in almost two weeks she jumped on my bed and snuggled in wanting me to pet her and then feed her. We were back to our old routine. Even though I was planning on sleeping in today (in preparation for the youth conference I am heading to) I was so happy to have her back!

In my barely awake state I thought “The prodigal cat”, and smiled.

Ridiculous I know. Trust me-I am not over spiritualizing my sick cat. Sometimes God speaks to our hearts through simple things.

The joy I felt at 6:26am when Cat deciding to trust me again (even if it was for selfish reasons like affection and food), is NOTHING compared to what the Lord feels when we trust in Him and return to Him.

I am not even talking about the major “prodigal moments” in our lives; the ones where we completely run away from God and immerse ourselves in the world. I am talking about the little prodigal moments we have throughout our faith walk.

I am just coming out of a prodigal moment. I never stopped believing that God is good. But once again I have been tormented by doubt, frustration, and unbelief when it comes to the plans God has for me. I have praised God from a safe distance over the last few weeks, not fully trusting Him. I have even avoided him a time or two.

We are a lot like Cat at times. God is holding us close trying to do a work in us, for our own benefit. However, we don’t understand it at the time. All we know is that we don’t like it. We try to ninja move our way out of it. We pray with clenched teeth, and try to claw our way to a more comfortable place. We begin to doubt and even mistrust what God is doing in our lives. We eventually start avoiding Him.

If you find yourself in a prodigal moment today, take some time to be still and let the Lord comfort you and speak to your heart. He may reveal the work He is trying to do in you. He may remain silent and simply comfort you in a way that reminds you that even when you don’t understand, He does. He knows the plans He has for you, and they are good!

Dear Heavenly Father, I confess I have been running from you. I have been filled with doubt and unbelief regarding the plans you have for me. Thank you for loving me and pursuing me in the midst of my unbelief. Thank you for the gift of faith. Thank you for rejoicing in my return. Thank you for rejoicing every time I return! In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Love, Grace, and a Prodigal Return,

Jen

 

 

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Lay Down Your Scissors

I have a fantastic widow’s peak.  I love it. However, when I was a kid, I did not think it was fantastic.  I hated it.  I referred to it as my Eddie Munster.  I didn’t know how to manage it and I often walked around feeling like my forehead was an advertisement for McDonald’s Golden Arches.

When I was about eight years old my mom and dad went on vacation and our grandma came to stay with us. I took this as an opportunity to deal with my Eddie Munster. I was finally going to have a normal hairline, like everyone else. I went into the bathroom with a pair of scissors, climbed up on the sink, and cut that bad boy right off.

Imagine my surprise when I realized I could not cut it all the way off! True, my golden arches were gone, but in it’s place were these short hairs sticking straight out from my forehead. I was horrified. This was far from the expected and desired outcome!

I decided the best course of action was to cover up my mistake. I strategically placed a large bandaid across my forehead. “There!” I thought, “No one will suspect a thing.”

My older sister came home later and ran right to me to ask me what happened. She assumed I must have had some sort of traumatic head injury. In a way I did. In a way I still do.

When I think back to that funny story I realize that in many ways I have not changed. I am still trying to fix my “imperfections” and hide my mistakes. I often deal with my perceived imperfections harshly rather than patiently allowing the Lord to gently prune them. I would rather hack them off and pretend they never existed than learn how to live with them, work with them, and maybe even use them to my advantage.

The bandaids haven’t gone away either. They just look different. They are the things I hide behind when feeling insecure. They are the ways I try to over-preform in one area to cover my lack in another. They are the fake smile I give when I am screaming on the inside. They are the “I’m great” responses I give when someone asks how I am doing. They are all bandaids to cover my mistakes, pains, and secret thoughts I don’t want anyone to see.

We all have Eddie Munster areas of our lives. Those annoying imperfections that get in our way. We all try to deal with them on our own and then try to cover up our mistakes when we fail to do so. The older I get, the easier it gets to embrace the Eddie Munster areas of my life. Oh I still have a few that can trip me up pretty good, but for the most part I have learned to work with my Eddie’s, and even use them to my advantage.

It says in Psalm 139:13-14 For you formed my innermost parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks and praise to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 

In other words, when God was knitting me together He at some point determined that I would totally rock an Eddie Munster. He also thought my enthusiasm and passion would be good things (even if they required some training). And believe it or not he allowed me certain weaknesses so that I could use them to help strengthen others. How cool is that?

I am trying real hard this week to let God deal with the Eddie’s that I can’t. I am climbing down from the bathroom sink, and laying down my scissors. Anyone care to join me?

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for faithfully loving me. Thank you for creating me so precisely and delicately in my mother’s womb. Help me to see myself as you see me. Help me to use my strengths and let go of my weaknesses. I surrender all areas of my life to you so you can prune the things that are preventing me from bearing the fruit you have planned for me. Thank you for patiently loving me. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Love, Grace, and No More Scissors,

Jen

 

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Self Pruning Disaster

Last week I wrote about Jesus being our Master Gardner. He is the one who prunes away all that is dead in our lives. He does this in His personal tender way. As I wrote that message I felt the love of God in my heart. I felt encouraged and excited for the work God has begun, and promises to finish in my life.

I started the week feeling so free, so confident, and so full of hope. Then something happened. I didn’t realize it at first. I just noticed that the freedom and peace were gone and in it’s place was the usual angst, frustration, and weariness I am trying so desperately to avoid this year.

Every day I had a list of things I believe God wanted me to tend to, and get back on track. They included things like eating healthy, exercising, and writing. However, each day I drifted further and further from these goals. The further I drifted the more miserable and frustrated I became.

This all came to a head Saturday night. My daughter and I were going to go to a special church service at our old church. I have been excited to go hear this guest speaker for months. I had great expectations for this service. It had been a long day and if it were anyone other than the guest speaker we both would have opted to go home and rest.

My daughter was late in meeting me which meant we were going to be late to the service. Mind you she was only 5 minutes late but something within me snapped. I spent the car ride to church lamenting about how I make sure to get everyone to their events on time and I put everyone’s needs first, and on and on like a mad woman. I tried to tell myself to shut up but I just kept ranting. (Since I know my sisters and mom are reading this and thinking “Oh poor Charley! Please know we had a great talk after and I fully apologized when we got into church and she is not emotionally scarred in any way 🙂

Truth is I wasn’t mad at her. I was mad at myself. I was mad because it was Saturday night and as I looked back on my week I felt once again as if I had failed. Not only did I not accomplish any of my personal goals- I actually got further from them and self imploded.

As praise and worship began, I couldn’t raise my hands as usual. Instead I hung my head and started sobbing and praying. My prayer went something like this “Jesus, I am so sorry. I know I am supposed to be worshipping you right now but I can’t. I am so sick of failing. I am so sick of falling short. I am so sick of believing big things and seeing nothing. I am so sick and tired of dealing with the same issues year after year. I want to quit. All of it. But where would I go? I give up. I don’t have it in me to try anymore.”

Sometimes it really boils down to that. It’s not that we have great faith. It’s that we have nowhere else to go. We have sought the world and all of it’s comforts and promises and repeatedly came up empty. We feel unsure of all the promises of God, but we do know that the world has nothing to offer. Even in our worst moments we have a little flicker of hope burning somewhere down deep.

It says in John 6:68-69 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

I have come to know that Jesus is the Holy One of God. I don’t claim to understand all that that means, but I do know that He is good. As I walked into the restroom to wash the mascara off my face (I looked like Alice Cooper), I heard in my heart “He prunes with a tender and gentle hand.” I scoffed at the words, thinking they were my own thoughts poking fun at me.

I went back into the service and cried some more and left feeling just as bad as when I got there. I reverted to my old behavior and crawled in bed with my two boyfriends, Ben and Jerry, polished off a pint of Tonight Dough, and went to bed feeling depressed and frustrated.

I did not want to get out of bed on Sunday. I did not want to go to church. I wanted to lay in bed lamenting about my failures. I got up and made my coffee. While in the kitchen my daughter started giving me tips and suggestions on how to achieve my goals. Bless her heart she is a go-getter.  I have never met a fifteen years old with such conviction and determination. She inspires me everyday.

I thanked her for the pep talk and went outside with my coffee. Again I heard “He prunes with a tender and gentle hand”. Being a little thick headed I still didn’t get it. I did however start feeling as though the frustration and depression were lifting. I actually looked forward to going to church.

Don’t you love it when you go to church and you feel as though the entire message was put together just for you? That is what it was like for me yesterday. Again, I heard “He prunes with a gentle and tender hand.” It took me awhile but I finally got it. I had once again come up with a self-pruning plan. It my excitement to have the Lord begin the pruning process in the dead areas of my life, I jumped the gun (so unlike me) and came up with a master plan of my own, assuming it was the way God would do it.

God’s ways are tender and gentle. My ways were not. Though I would love to rip off all of the ugly branches  of myself, such as insecurity, doubt, negative body image, impatience, food struggles, etc. God has a gentler way. Not only is it more gentle, it is longer lasting.

I am so quick to try to hide the branches of my life that I don’t like that I take short cuts in dealing with them. The thing about short cuts is they never lead to lasting change. Eventually you revert back to old ways and habits. God’s tender, gentle, and often gradual process is painful in a different way. It can be painfully slow at times. However, in the end we have lasting change rather than a temporary fix.

If you find yourself stuck in a vicious cycle of defeat, perhaps you are trying to do your own self- pruning. Self pruning has worse side effect than the average pill advertised on tv. Self pruning side effects include, but are not limited to: frustration, depression, anger, irritability, and complete disdain for anyone that seems to be enjoying a care free life. If you experience any of these side effects please go straight to the Healer and let Him treat you to an antidote of lovingkindness, tenderness, and mercy.

Dear Heavenly Father, I confess I cannot do life on my own. I keep trying to make changes in my self and I continue to fall short. Thank you for loving me enough to help me be the best me I can be. Help me to see myself as you see me. Help me to love myself as you love me. Help me to receive your gentle pruning and help me see when I try to prune myself. In Jesus’ name, Amen,

Love, Grace, and Gentle Pruning For Us All,

Jen

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Master Gardener

Master Gardener: Someone who has been trained in the science and art of gardening with the intent of educating and advising others 

A Master Gardener I am not. I never had, nor intend to have, a garden. Those who know me know I don’t even like getting plants or flowers. I appreciate the gesture, and my first thought is always “Oh- isn’t that nice and thoughtful?” followed next by “Great- one more thing I have to keep alive”.

It may sound ridiculous, but it’s true. I do not have the time or the desire to change the water, pull out the dead leaves, and nurture a plant. I often give my flowers away as I know they will last longer in someone else’s care.

One of the final analogies Jesus gives his disciples is of Jesus being the true vine, and his disciples as the branches. It says in John 15:3-4 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

I have heard many sermons on these verses, and I am sure you have as well. Sometimes when you hear a message over and over, it loses impact, rather than solidifying it. I feel that way about these scriptures.

How many times have I heard the focus of these verses and the ones following it in the context that God will “cut away” all of the sin and hindrances in our lives so we can be of use to Him? How many times have I heard how painful and difficult the pruning process is? How many times have I heard that God will have to take some things away in order for us to be effective in doing his work?

How many times? Enough to make me want to avoid be pruned! Why would I want to subject myself to pain and torment? Why would I want to spend time faced with all the reasons I am not yet qualified to do His work and be of service? No thanks. Not today.

Instead, I will try to clean myself up. Once I have pruned myself I will go to God. Once I have cut off my bad habits and grown some new Christlike leaves I will draw nearer to God. Kind of like losing ten pounds before I join the gym…

Ah, but as I mentioned before, I am no gardener. I cannot keep a cactus alive, let alone prune myself. I find myself in a dilemma.

Unless, I let go of the sermons I have heard before and meditate on these verses myself. For when I do, I see things differently. First of all, I see that Jesus says we have already been pruned by the message He has given us. What is the message that prunes us? It is Himself. It is his Word. It says in John 1 that the Word became flesh.

When we accept Jesus and his word, we are pruned. The greek word that they have translated to read prune is also translated to the word clean in some translations. We are washed by the blood. We are pruned by accepting and receiving his Word.

Yes, this is a continual process. As we abide in Him, as we spend time in His word, we undergo a continual cleansing and pruning process. The things that were once of great importance to us often fall away as we experience life with the Lord. The Word speaks to our hearts and brings us to a place of surrender and a willful letting go of all that would hinder our race.

It is not always easy, but it is not as painful as many sermons would say. When we surrender something, as difficult as it is, the difficulty is overshadowed by the joy we have in knowing that the end result of letting go is the feeling of a fresh beginning. A new bud of hope. A flower about to open and say “Look at what Jesus has done with my life!”

I have watched people prune their plants and tend to their gardens. They do not rip off the dead leaves. They tenderly pick them off and rearrange the branches to show off the most beautiful ones. Then they stand back and smile at their treasure.

We have a Master Gardener that loves us deeply and fiercely. He wants nothing more than to take away the dead areas of our lives and show off our most beautiful parts. However, He is patient. He will wait until we are ready. And when we are, any discomfort we experience will be overshadowed by his love and tender handling of all of our branches.

I encourage you to draw near to our Master Gardener. Do not be afraid of the pruning process. It is truly one of the sweetest experiences you will have with our loving Father.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your fierce love. Thank you for loving me enough to want to take away all that is dead in my life. Thank you for being patient with me. Help me surrender to your will so I am no longer hindered in running my race. Thank you for your tenderness and compassion. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Pruned Life For Us All,

Jen

 

 

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Don’t Let It Get Away!

Last week I wrote about the amazing peace I felt regarding the outcome of my job application. The peace I felt wasn’t only for the job, it was for my life in general. I had such a calm, solid peace about where my life was heading, even though I had no idea where that was.

I am still at peace with the outcome of the job. Each day something I enjoy doing happens at work, and I also see how the other job would have ended up being just as many hours and probably more stress than my current position. As far as work goes, I am at peace.

Though I am at peace, I have not felt as though I have peace the past few days. Not the kind of supernatural peace I experienced for a couple of days last week anyway. It’s one thing to accept the outcome of a situation, but what I had for a few days was a complete peace about life in general. It was amazing. It was comforting. It was exciting. Now it’s gone…

It says in Psalms 34:14 Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

That verse has been running through my mind the last few days. I have been meditating on the work to maintain it portion. What does it mean to work to maintain it? Do I pray harder? Study more? Get up at 4am to write and workout so I feel better about myself? What kind of work do I have to do to keep my peace? Somebody please tell me!

Today it finally made sense to me. We are not to work as in earn our peace. God freely gives us peace just as He gives us all good things. The work is not in earning. The work comes in not letting anything steal it. The enemy of our faith hates nothing more than a Christian at peace and rest. He will pull out all the stops to rob us of our peace and get us back into worry, anxiety, fear and frustration.

As I look back on the last few days, nothing happened in my life. The circumstances of my life looked exactly the same. Nothing happened to cause me to lose the peace I had. The only changes in my life were the thoughts I had. I realized I had gone from excitement, hopeful, and confident to discouraged, frustrated, and weary. The feelings of doubt and discouragement crept in so sneakily that I didn’t even notice them until I was in full blown depressive and apathetic mode. Once I was there, it’s been hard finding my way back to peace.

I like the Message Translation of Psalm 34:14. It reads Embrace peace—don’t let it get away! I picture myself standing on the street with my purse and suddenly someone tries to grab it from me. I hang on for dear life, clutching it to my chest, not letting it go- and definitely not letting some punk get my goods!

If you find yourself struggling to find peace, I encourage you to take a moment to look at the thoughts you have been having. Has the enemy been filling you with doubt and discouragement? Is your head filled with “what-if” and “worst case” scenarios? Are you burnt out and weary? If so, you need to clutch onto Jesus and tell that punk satan to get his hands off your goods! Kick those negative thoughts to the curb and embrace God’s promises. I am finding my way back to peace. I know you can too!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your fierce and extravagant love. Thank you for the gift of peace. Help me maintain my peace by keeping my eyes on you and your promises instead of entertaining thoughts of fear, and discouragement. Speak to my heart when I say things that contradict the peace you want to give me. Help me to remain strong and hold on to the peace you give. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Peace For Us All,

Jen

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My Way Made Plain

This morning I didn’t have clear direction as to what I was supposed to read in my Bible. Many times I will study a specific word, book, or person, but today I didn’t really have a plan. So, I did what I normally do when I don’t have a plan. I read the Psalm for what day of the month it is. Today it was Psalm 5.

Knowing that I would most likely hear about the job today my spirit clung to Psalm 5:6 Lead me in the right path, O LORD, or my enemies will conquer me. Make your way plain for me to follow.

I did not have the time or mental energy to waver about the job. I refused to overthink it. I refused to entertain doubt, confusion, or worry. I refused to let it steal my joy or rob my peace. As I meditated on the verse I asked the Lord again to close the door if it not what is best for me, and I promised to walk through the door without doubt should it be opened to me.

I am blessed to work with so many people that truly care about me. Many people asked me today if I heard anything and how I was doing. I had such a strange sense of peace about the whole thing. I really didn’t think about it. I wasn’t excited, anxious, upset, or concerned. One of my friends said I seemed defeated. I thought for a second and said “No, I am just strangely at peace with whatever happens- to the point that I almost don’t care.”

I didn’t mean it in an “I don’t care” bad attitude way. I meant it in a without care way. It was like I was walking in a protective bubble of peace all day long. It was strange. Most of all, it was AWESOME!

I got called into my boss’ office at 2:15. I sat down and she started in with the “I wanted you to know we hired someone for the position, yada, yada, yada…….” I just looked at her and said “That’s okay. I am really okay with it.” She just looked at me like maybe I didn’t understand her. I am sure she was expecting me to be upset, or even cry a little (I cry at at the worst possible times and half the time it just happens without me seeing it coming).

There were no tears. There was no feelings of not being “good enough” (that right there is a sign that I was in a protective bubble). There really wasn’t anything except me knowing deep in my spirit that I had probably dodged a bullet and that there is something awesome and exciting down the road for me.

God is so good. I learned so much about myself over the last two weeks just by going through this process. More importantly, I got to know the Lord better. I got to experience His fierce love for me, as well as His guidance and protection. I know He was teaching me many lessons in this one event. I hope to retain the lessons and carry them into the next chapter of my story. The peace I had all day and still have tonight is a peace I want to carry with me always, it is so awesomely strange and supernatural.

If you find yourself wondering if you are where you are supposed to be, I encourage you to meditate on today’s verse. If you genuinely ask Him to make your way plain, He will! The key is to accept whatever and wherever that “way made plain” takes you.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your fierce love! Thank you for making my way plain. Thank you for watching out for me. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for knowing what is best for me. Thank you for surrounding me with your peace. You are good! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Our Ways Made Plain,

Jen

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