Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Outsider No More!

"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off
have been brought near by the blood of Christ"
Ephesians 2:13
A few years ago I was a volunteer youth leader. I had been there for awhile so when  women would join the volunteer staff they would often come and ask me question. On more than one occasion I had women tell me they weren't sure they could do this type of ministry. When I asked why, it was never ever about the kids. They thought they were awesome! It was because when they walked into the room, all of the insecurities they had felt in junior high and high school came flooding back. I could so relate to them.  
I now work in support groups and many of the women, including myself think we have gotten over our "stuff" and then all of a sudden find ourselves in a situation that triggers deep feelings of our pasts. Sometimes the trigger reminds us of when we were new moms. Sometimes it reminds us of something we experienced in college. Sometimes it reminds us of something we experienced even earlier like high school, junior high, grade  school, or even preschool years. 
I recently experienced such a trigger. I am not a young thing and have grown children and grandchildren old enough to hold intelligent conversations and all of a sudden I had strong feelings a child would have. The feelings of wanting to be special to someone, to belong to an inner circle, to be a teacher's pet, to be valued, for someone to be glad they saw me. You know the feelings, don't you? Nobody was mistreating me, it was all stuff that was going on inside and caused me to shut down and to not be able to relate, which made me feel even more isolated. And a few times when I did try to express myself, I felt like no one got it. I have talked to enough women to know that many of them struggle with the same thing. Some express it a bit differently. Some say they are afraid of what others might think. Some say they feel like they often don't feel like they fit in. Some state that they are outsiders when no one else sees them that way.  
I have the privilege of picking up my grandsons once a week. One is a gregarious and outgoing guy who will probably seldom experience loneliness and if he does he will quickly initiate connection and it will dissipate. The other is a precious little Eeyore who will pull back if he is feeling a bit down and wait until someone asks him to play. If they don't he will have a very painful day. I so have his temperament and totally get where he is coming from when it happens and am thankful his parents are so wise in how they seek to understand and work with both boys.
But it is really hard when we are adults and these same feelings get triggered. The triggers expose a deep neediness that at our age seems abnormal because it causes emotional memories to rise up and it is as if that little child we were is once again an invisible child or a mute child, clamoring for attention, clamoring to be heard, clamoring to be loved, or clamoring for someone to notice. To be an adult and feel like an invisible, silenced child is hard. It exposes such a deep longings and hurt, causing us to want to run. So, we run, we isolate, we use drugs or alcohol, or we succumb to eating disorders, depression, social anxieties disorders, or simply lash out. If the trigger is strong enough, we vow to never put ourselves in that situation again. Sadly, with these feelings often comes shame which keeps us from talking about them. 
I have thought long and hard about where these feelings might come from. It could be because a child grew up in a home where parents played favorites or maybe a child grew up in a large family and there wasn't enough time and energy to give each child the attention needed. Maybe a child grew up in a home where an addiction or some kind of abuse was present and was zapping the energy out of the family. Maybe a parent was ill or absent. Maybe a child had experiences at church or at school in which they were either ostracized or bullied. Maybe a child had a learning disability that drew negative attention and caused shame. Maybe a child wasn't athletic and was always the last child chosen for a team. Maybe a child experienced trauma that made her feel different from other children, causing her to believe she couldn't relate to other kids. It could even be that a child perceived everyone else as fitting in better than her. Maybe it was true or maybe it was the child's perception. 
I think I have finally figured out for myself where the feelings came from. There was a starting point and then several different hurtful things that happened over the years that exposed those feelings again and each time I stuffed them down, making them more intense. I have learned to look at those feelings with curiosity which helps to figure out the root.
Now, that I understand where they came from I am really more interested in how I can silence those needy feelings. Today as I have contemplated those feelings I had a picture in my head of a little kid standing at the fence on the playground. A bunch of kids are playing and her little hands are intertwined in the fence, her little face pressed up against the chain links and everyone inside the fence is happy playing together. Everything inside of the little girl is crying out, "Please notice me!" But she is silent, believing no one wees her and wants her. It could just as easily been a woman walking into a new Bible study for the first time and sitting in the midst of a group of strangers where everyone knows everyone and seeing their history and feeling hurt because it triggers what she left behind at a previous church. It could just as easily been a woman wanting her husband to notice her and ask her how her day has gone. It could just as easily been a woman struggling with the loss of child or a best friend who wishes someone would ask her how she is really doing today with the pain. Hurts can make us feel isolated. And sometimes we tend to let our feelings become our truth and then we begin to live out that truth, sabotaging our connections with both God and other humans. 
But, the truth found in the verse above is true, not what we believe. Because of what Christ did on the Cross, we are absolutely and radically loved. We are no longer little children, on the outside of the fence looking in, powerless and speechless. When we accepted Christ, He took us from the kingdom of this world and placed us in His kingdom. He made us joint heirs with Christ. He calls us children. He calls us chosen. He calls us beloved. He calls us HIS!
The way out of those feelings is for all of us to choose to set aside shame and talk about them with safe people who understand the powers of the enemy who wants us to remain broken little children caught up in his lies. Te power of a lie power is broken only when we bring the lies to the light by speaking with others who won't shame us, but will allow us to process the lie until we come back to the truth of who we are in Christ. We know those things in our heads if we know the Word, but very often stressful situations we begin to respond emotionally out of old beliefs. Beliefs that were ingrained so deeply that we may not even be aware that we have them. Our work as believers is to take every thought captive and to take that truth from our head and replace the lies we began to believe as children, lies that are at our core.  
If we believe the truth of what God says about us, we will begin to react differently to the situations we are in. We will no longer carry ourselves as ragamuffins longing to be noticed, heard, or loved. We will carry ourselves as women who know we are--radically and unconditionally loved by the God, the God of the Universe, by the King of kings, by the God who chose to be an Abba--a daddy--to those who come to Him by faith. Maybe then we will be the ones who speak encouragement into our spouses' hearts. We will be the ones who enter a group curious about the others there and curious about why God had our paths cross. We will be the ones not missing a chance to connect at deep levels.  
This is an important part of what it means to be working out our salvation. It is an important part of taking our thoughts captive and allowing God's truth to heal wounded hearts and to transform painful emotions into joy. In God's economy, there is no chain link fence! In God's economy, when we experience deep painful neediness, we are welcomed with open arms, with joy, with glorious smile, and a heavenly love song sung by the Savior. We are never an interruption, never unwanted, never unloved, and never a bother. By faith, we are all beloved children. His character itself is love and it is eternal and there is enough to go around. It never ever runs out, doesn't require perfection, and doesn't require hard work. It simply requires we embrace His truth by faith--truth that tells each one of us that we are outsiders no more! 

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Desire of My Heart

"What is desired in a man is a steadfast love,
and a poor man is better than a liar."
Proverbs 19:13
Every year when I look at the Easter story different things stick out. Some times it is the sacrifice Christ made. Sometimes it is the suffering He endured. Sometimes it is the fact He bore my sin in His body. Sometimes it is the pain He faced in being deserted by friends and disciples. Sometimes the scene of Him praying in the garden grabs my heart. Sometimes it is the picture of Him on the cross with His mother was watching. This year the theme that keeps coming to mind is love--the love that He demonstrated. The love fulfilled on the cross actually began in Genesis when Adam and Eve chose to sin. Even as God laid out the consequences of their sin, His words were laced with grace as He replaced their inadequate attempts of covering their shame with adequate clothes of animal skins that pointed them to the coming Savior who loved them and would lay down His life to save them. 
As a child I went to church, but I didn't discuss sermons at home. As a result, I distorted some of God's words and believed things I've learned weren't true. First, even though I understood salvation was by grace through faith, I thought I had to become "a really good" girl to be close to God, which meant I had to be perfect. The harder I tried, the more sinful I felt. Even if I didn't cuss, my mind was filled with curse words that were like fire crackers going off in my head. I tried really hard to be kind, but often the motive behind kindness wasn't love. It was a selfish attempt to earn love from both God and others or to hear praises. I might act forgiving, but I knew there were times I either built walls around my heart that no one could penetrate with painful words or deeds (or loving ones either) or simply withdrew to avoid facing the truth that bitterness was slowly brewing in my heart and twisting life out of me. There was just no way I could be good enough to feel close to God. I knew what was going on inside of me.
I believed I had to just get over the pain I experienced so I could feel joy and that would allow God to move toward me. But the problem was, I didn't know how to remove the pain from my heart myself and, ironically, without intimacy with Him pain was there to stay. I also thought I had to give up certain sins to be close to Him. Sadly, all that did was stir up Pharisaical judgments in me along with self-contempt because of the strict bar with which I judged others and myself.   
I also thought I had go to church and serve others to become close to God. But, the times I experienced the deepest loneliness was when I left church and went home. I was seeking people in the church to fill this void in my heart and God seemed to meet me there, but it was temporary. The people didn't go home with me and somehow I didn't feel connected to Him at home. I couldn't go to church enough times in a week to have a feeling of connection with God that filled the vast God-shaped hole in my heart. I felt defective.
When I came across the above verse that states, "What is desired in a man is steadfast love!" I thought maybe this deep need of love I have in my heart was written on my heart by the Creator Himself. This need doesn't make me defective, less than others, or a bad person. My real problem was that after accepting salvation by grace, I was going back to legalism to try to create a deeper relationship with God and it wasn't working. A pastor showed me Colossians 2:6 years ago, but it was years before the truth of it began to permeate my heart. "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." I received Christ by grace through faith. The only way I could overcome sin, find healing, and serve and love others from a pure heart was to lean into Him just as I was so that I could become rooted built up in Him. I had to let go of my trying to earn a deeper relationship and walk by Faith that He was there always loving me with His steadfast love.  
I had been picturing God's love from a human standpoint. Based on feelings and based on how things are going between two people. His love is not like that. His love is steadfast. The love demonstrated by the cross is the nature of God. He doesn't change, therefore His love is steadfast. It didn't ever, doesn't now, and never will depend on me being sin free, joyful enough, or serving hard enough or loving enough people. 
His love is steadfast. Its big enough to love me at my worst for while I was in my sin Christ died for me and brought me to faith! He loves me always and as I draw near to Him and experience His love and Holiness He will expose my sin -- visible or invisible -- and give me the desire to confess and repent and the power to over come it. I can't do that apart from Him. Intimacy with Him will come in the wrestling with ambivalence of my will verses His will. It will come in the crying out to Him in the face of strong temptation that is so overwhelming that all I can do is fall on my knees and cry out to Him to help, finding that He meets me there and strengthens me to walk away from sin. It even comes in the failures in that it humbles my heart to know that I need His mercy and His grace daily and He is there just as He says to meet that need. I just have to remember to fall towards Him in humility when I fall, rather than crawling away in shame.
His steadfast love is big enough to meet me in my pain, my anger, my confusion, and my frustration. At times I've been so overwhelmed with emotion I wanted to climb a tall mountain and scream at the top of my lungs until someone sees and hears me. I have been good at hiding pain that few people would know I was experiencing it. When I broke my ankle, one of the elders from our church was pushing the wheel chair I was in so he could visit with my husband and I. He asked me if I was in physical pain and explained that he was asking because I was smiling so much he couldn't tell. It was a bad break and hurt a lot! I realized I hid emotional pain just as well, while longing for someone to notice I hurt. I came to realize even though I hid it, God noticed and was continually inviting me to express all the yucky, messy stuff to Him. After spending time in the Psalms reading David's honest cries, I began to picture God meeting me on that mountain top. I don't picture Him turning away from me in my tears, pain, anger and then coming back when I am done. I picture Him taking me in His arms and loving me until the pain is released. When I'm angry, I picture Him taking me in His arms as I lash out and holding me until the anger melts, exposing the pain underneath. His Word says He is our Healer, yet I had thought I had to come to Him already healed. So not true!  
The story of Mary and Martha helped me let go of my obsessive serving to get close to God. Sitting with Him in prayer and Bible reading and discussing the Word with others helped me begin to let go of one thing at a time to find out what it was He wanted me to do. Business didn't fulfill me, it depleted me. Business didn't fill my heart, Jesus did. Out of the full heart a different ministry began to take place--it's not a ministry about me doing anything, but simply being a part of something He is obviously doing in the lives of others. I can walk away from the nights of ministry full, because I have the privilege of seeing God at work in hearts and lives doing only what He can do and remembering He is doing that every single day for me, too!.
How gracious God is to write on our hearts the desire to experience steadfast love and then Himself step up and be the One to fulfill that in our lives. O that we would quit looking for it in the wrong places and quit trying to earn it. We just have to receive what He has already lavishly given and lean into Jesus in faith so we are rooted and built up and offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. We will experience Him because we will be more prone recognize Him and His presence and activity in our lives. I am so thankful God not only writes that desire on our hearts, He desires to meet that need in ways we can't even imagine. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lessons from the Garden -- Lent #5

"And they went to a place called Gethsemane.
"And He said to His disciples,
"Sit here while I pray."
Mark 14:32
(Taken from Mark 14, Luke 22, and Matthew 26)
Jesus often escaped the crowds to spend time alone with His Father in prayer. It was no different the night before His death. After sharing the Passover meal, Judas left to betray Him. Then Jesus and His disciples walked to the Mount of Olives where Jesus and three of the disciples entered a private garden called Gethsemane to pray. Jesus tells the three His soul is so "sorrowful, even to death" and told them to wait and watch while He goes deeper in the garden to pray. The three soon asleep and He prays.  
It is easy to gloss over the words of His prayer! At first glance, they seem to be simply stated, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." However, Luke's account gives us some idea of the intensity of His prayer time and the emotions His disciples' are experiencing. The Lord tried to wake His friends a couple of times to pray, but Luke says they slept because of their sorrow. Luke also said as Christ was praying He was in such anguish He sweat big drops of sweat tinged with blood and the Lord sent an angel to minister to His beloved Son. 
I love Christ's prayers in the Garden for several reasons. First, it is a beautiful model of how we should handle the situations in which we experience anguish. I used to shut down when emotions rose and I couldn't even think of praying.  As I have grown in my relationship with God, I have learned to take things to Him. There were a couple of times I experienced the angst described in this passage--the push-pull of wanting my will and God's at the same time. One was when my son was hurt in an accident and His spleen ruptured. Before that night if any one asked if I wanted God's will for my children, I would have automatically said yes. That night as they rolled him away to surgery, I wanted my son to live and I wanted God's will and was terrified they might not be the same. Thankfully they were. Not long after that, our granddaughter was born three months early and I experienced the same angst. Thankfully, she survived and thrived. While we were waiting her arrival and while she was in the NIC unit, I patterned my prayers after Jesus' prayers in the garden and I did it with great emotion.   
Second, I love these passages because there are no other passage that shows both the humanity and the deity of Christ so clearly. I used to think He was wrestling with the idea of death and that it was His humanity that was struggling with dying. But a few years ago God helped me see it differently. I was out walking and listening to Christian music and praying. As I began to confess a habitual sin of which I was both ashamed and frustrated, a song about the cross started playing. In my mind I could clearly see Christ on the cross with the names of my sins etched into His body. In my mind I glanced at His face and saw Him looking at me in love. It hit me that my sins weren't just nailed to the cross They were put on Jesus Himself. As I think about that this week, I realize Christ didn't hide in the temple to avoid sin. He came face to face with sin in all of its ugly forms as He rubbed shoulders with people just like you and me. He became very familiar with the evil that dwelled in the hearts of humans. He saw the ugliness of the sins they committed against and each other and the ugliness of its impact on people and He saw the pain it caused.

He knew as He was praying that every sinful act of abuse would be placed on Him. That included every act of physical abuse, every act of sexual abuse, every act of emotional abuse, and every act of spiritual abuse. He knew that every murder committed would rest on His shoulders. He knew that every act of betrayal, whether it was physical or acts of adultery or spiritual adultery in which we allow other people or things to take the place of God in our lives. The sin placed on Him also included the sin of those who torture, control, and use others to satisfy sick needs for power and control. The sin placed on Him included addictions and all the other atrocious acts that people carry out to get their "substances" of choice. The sin placed on Him included every unkind name, every hateful word spoken both deliberately and in haste, and every lie told in the name of bullying which tears holes in human hearts and gossip which murders the reputation of people. It includes the trafficking of human beings.

The sin placed on Christ not only included sin of commissions, but sins of omission as well. Those things we know to do but fail to do. The sin of parents who fail to love, to bond with babies, to affirm with their words, to nourish hearts. feed bodies, adequately clothe, and teach them when they had the means to do so. It covers the sin of a husband failing to love his wife and a wife refusing to respect her husband. It cover the sin of not honoring parents. It covers the sins of those who have plenty selfishly refusing to feed the hungry, house the homeless, educate the needy, and even worse those of us who refuse to and share Christ with those who don't look "Christian."  It includes those who fail to witness, pray, praise, encourage, and confront cruel gossip and a believing brother or sister who is dabbling in the world. It even included Pharisees' sinful pride that kept those who were hungering and thirsting for God bound in legalism and bondage to rules and regulations that drove them away from God so the Pharisees could feel important and deflect attention away from their own evil hearts.

Christ not only knew that night He would bear the sin of man and experience the pain sin causes. He knew He was going to be facing His Father's wrath for sin He was to bear for us. He knew for the first time in eternity He would face separation from His Father. The perfect relationship would be severed. As He bore our sin, He would feel alone--so alone He would cry out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" .

I don't think Christ was wrestling with the concept of dying as much as He was wrestling with being both God and Man. As the perfect man He would bear the horrible burden of all the sin of the world-- the sin He, as a Holy God, hated and was repulsed by. He was also struggling because He knew He would soon experience the severing of the perfect relationship that had forever nourished and sustained Him. His love for man never wavered as He kept coming back to the will of His Father, but maybe He feared watching His Father's face turn away. His struggle tells us how much He cherished the relationship He had with His Father.

There are a couple of things we can take away from the Garden. First, love, real love, isn't easy! Love is sacrificial and sacrificing doesn't feel warm and fuzzy. It feels hard and it feels scary. It feels unjust and unfair. It requires delayed gratification and goes against what feels good. It requires we go to our own Gethsemane and fall on our knees, praying for His strength to obey when we are weak and incapable of doing His will. Sometimes it is only with His help that we can find the strength it takes to lay aside our wants and our desires to love God and to love others as He has loved us.

Second, we can remain faithful by keeping our eyes on Jesus who endured the cross for us even though He despised the shame and the sin that came with it. We must never forget He endured the hostility from sinners and faced the wrath of God in our place so we wouldn't. (Hebrews 12:3) We don't want to forget the price He paid. For there is not a one of us that doesn't face a struggle with sin or a struggle with obeying God's will at some point. There is not one of us that will have resisted the temptations we have faced to the point we shed blood like He shed in the Garden.. God doesn't take us through things to strengthen us, He takes us through things that reveals how weak we are so that we can learn to lean into Him through prayer so He can give us both the will and the strength to obey. Oh that I would reach a point in my own life I would want what He wants so bad I would wrestle as long and as hard as it takes to obey.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fully Living in Imperfection

"The Lord is like a father to His children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear Him.
For He knows how weak we are;
He remembers we are only dust." 
Psalm 103:13-14
It has been a very hard couple of weeks! When Lent began there were many suggestions on the internet on how to have meaningful quiet times during Lent. One of the suggestions was to read through the New Testament. But, this year I had made a commitment to myself to slow down as I read the Bible so I can process what I read and connect more intimately with God, hoping this would enable me to recognize His voice more clearly and to live a life characterized by radical faith. So, I chose to read through the gospels only. 
But there something impacting my quiet times, which colored how I interpreted what I read and my mood spiraled down. One of my defense mechanisms has always been perfectionism. I've worked hard to overcome it, but, it is easily triggered by comments others make.  The last few years, I've helped a retired professor and counselor in a grief and trauma class he teaches. Over the last few years, I've experienced many losses some of which occurred during the classes in different years. During some of the losses I have had some unkind words hurled at me. When I suffer a loss I tend to rush grief process and return to life as it was before. 
When the class began this year and people shared their stories and I began to wrestle with feelings I thought I were long gone. I mostly pushed the feelings down and then one morning I read a post on a blog by a lady who had suffered the loss of someone that was similar to a loss I had experienced with one major difference--she had gotten to say goodbye and I hadn't. Some of my the losses were of people with whom I had complicated relationships. As I have listened to stories in the class and processed the blog post, the stinging remarks resurfaced and my core of shame kicked in and my perfectionism wrapped itself tightly around me and all sorts of "should have's" ran through my mind.
I was reading the Scriptures through these filters of perfectionism and toxic shame. Ordinarily, I love looking at the gospels and seeing Jesus relate to people. But it seemed like every time I read the Word, my mood kept dropping. I wasn't convicted, I was condemned. As I was reading, I noticed Jesus always knew what to say and how to say it. He loved the unlovely, gave grace to people in desperate need of it, boldly confronted leaders who were binding people with legalism, forgave those seeking Him, knew where to go to meet those thirsty for God, and knew when it was okay to withdraw from people for to connect with His Father. 
Jesus was the perfectly differentiated God-Man. He didn't need the religious leaders approval. He didn't need His earthly family's approval. He didn't need His friends' approval. He was content in His Heavenly Father's love and approval. Every decision He made was right and it was made in obedience to His Father. I have tried to do that, but, oh man, I so often fail. Life is sometimes painful, my heart so messy, and relationships are complicated, and I fail often miserably. As I found myself comparing myself to Jesus through the lens of perfectionism my list of "should's" grew exponentially. And my joy was gone.  
I met with a Christian counselor yesterday who I occasionally see. When he asked me what I wanted to talk about, I began to tell him about the grief surfaced by the blog and class. I shared how it was complicated by broken relationships and shared with him the remarks someone made to me that I hadn't realized were still playing around in my head. The counselor took me to a book called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, penned by Peter Scazzero. He read a section of the book called "Jesus' True Self" to help me remember how to live, differentiated and true to myself. But as he was reading to me the voice of perfectionism was screaming in my head, "BUT I AM NOT JESUS! I ALWAYS FALL SHORT. I CAN'T DO WHAT HE DID!"
But the truth is I wish with all that I am I could do life as perfectly as Jesus did. A lifetime of things might have been different. I'm an introvert, so I didn't scream those things at the counselor, I sat their quietly processing. He asked a few times what I thought about what He had read. Finally, I quietly said a few things. Because of the emotions I was feeling, I don't remember exactly what I said or asked. Had I been able to process I would have said it like this, "But, I am not Jesus. I am not sure if I, in my pain, made decisions that were godly. If I had gotten help sooner, would I have made different decisions? Was I a weak person for withdrawing when I believed I couldn't handle more pain? Could I have shown God to someone, by loving better had I been stronger?"
Thankfully the wise counselor saw the toxic shame and perfectionism and He pointed those out. He knows most of my story and reminded me of the major depression and pain that brought me to seek counseling many years ago. He pointed out some parts that weren't my responsibility and some that may have been and gently reminded about freedom in repentance and confession. 
Then He said some things that resonated in the deep parts of my heart. He said, "Wendy, that old perfectionism is there. Jesus was omniscient, you aren't! You didn't know things that would have helped you make different decisions at the time. He is omnipresent, you aren't! You couldn't be more than one place at a time! And those Omni words--they helped free me! I hope they do you!"
The rest of the day I thought on those things. Jesus knows in full, I know in part. He can be everywhere and can intervene when it is His will, I can't. He is all powerful, He can do things and bear things I can't. Even though He is an emotional being, He has the power and the eternal wisdom to do right even when it is extremely painful to do so. He bore anguish that caused Him to sweat drops of blood as He contemplated the cross. As a human I am hardwired to stop pain. I didn't always have the ability to bear additional pain upon the pain I was experiencing. It was okay to set boundaries until I had some healing and when enough healing had taken place to reengage was fuzzy. Jesus knows and understands that. He knows I am but dust and how weak I am and He is tender and compassionate!
On the cross, Jesus bore my sin--the ugly things I have done and said in rebellious pride. On the cross, Jesus also bore my bore my imperfections--the things I failed to do or say because I am not an "Omni" being. I am not God, I am human.  
As I process all of this in light of the cross and the empty tomb, my "should's" dissipate and my toxic shame melts into godly sorrow and the realization of how poor in spirit I am surfaces. This leads me to repentance, allowing me to grieve the losses of loved ones as well as the losses incurred from living in a broken world full of painful relationships, and frees me of regrets that come from being a human and making decisions from a human perspective rather than a God one. 
Because of Jesus, I am once again moving away from the old core of toxic shame and perfectionism and praising Jesus for who He is. It isn't leading into toxic shame, but to humility, where my joy has returned, a place where my heart is full of gratitude that the omnipotent, omniscient, Holy Savior is loving me and setting me free me from the shame of not being "Omni." 


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!