Saturday, January 31, 2015

Love Those Mighty Oaks!

I started attending church with friends in grade school. I wasn't familiar with church lingo and what I heard often raised questions, which I would boldly ask in Sunday School. I now realize that some of those questions probably made teachers uncomfortable. For example, one Christmas I asked what a virgin was. The teacher hesitated and then mumbled that it meant Mary was a good girl. In high school when I was reading the Christmas story in the Bible the truth of what a virgin really is hit me.  As I read, I struggled with doubt, because I knew virgins don't have babies. This created guilt because I had never doubted before. As I continued reading I was able to reason that God doesn't lie so the story had to be true. A host of other questions whirled through my head---questions like did she sense the conception or did she simply wake up one day with morning sickness. 
Needless to say, I began to read the Bible with new eyes and a questioning mind. This lead to new a understanding of what the Bible was about, but it also lead to many more questions. I discovered other confusing stories in the Old Testament. Stories of people who were liars, and murders. I also found stories of unfaithfulness in marriages and unfaithfulness in people's relationships with God. I secretly wondered how much wrong had to be done to be too disgraceful for God to redeem. And of courses there was the problem of my own failures and my own sins, both open and secret that left me wondering if I was truly saved. I felt guilty all of the time--guilty for what I thought about when I read and guilty for the sinfulness that dwelt within me. 
After I was married, we moved to Mississippi and sat under a pastor-teacher who taught the Bible verse by verse and who was energized by questions. For eight years I got to hear his teaching and ask all my questions and discuss the Scriptures with him and with other believers. It was there that I fully understood the significance of the virgin birth and believed the truth of the God-man, Christ. In that church I made peace with many of the stories in the Bible. I also changed my view about the Bible. I had mistakenly believed people in the Bible were good and earned their Salvation and God's love. But, I came to understand the concept of grace and the concept that the Bible as a redemption story. Even though the doctrine is complete and provides all that we need to know, redemption stories are still being penned in the lives of people to this day by God Himself.

I fell in love with the Savior who saved me by grace through faith. I became grateful for grace that
was big enough to save liars, murderers, prostitutes, and unfaithful people who just like me had visible sins and hidden sins of the heart. I fell in love with the Savior who is in the business of transforming broken and sinful people into the people He created them to be--people who reflect His loving image to a lost and dying world.

I wish I could say I've made peace with every story in the Word. But I can't. There's one story in particular that haunts me every time I read it. When I read it, a strange mix of compassion, rage, and frustration rise up within me--emotions so strong that I want to scream. The story I am talking about is the story of Ammon and Tamar. They are siblings who share a common father, King David. But they don't have the same mother. Their story is found in 2 Samuel 13:1-22. It begins with a description of Ammon's lust for his virgin sister, Tamar. She lived in her mother's home and as was the custom she was kept in seclusion as a King's daughter. So, he had no access to her. His lust was so strong for her that he literally became ill.

That makes me angry! It's not because he experiences lust, but because he doesn't deal with it. Men given to lustful patterns don't seem to grasp that lust isn't love and lust doesn't make a man a man. Confessing and dealing with lust as it surfaces and choosing to do what is right in the face of it is what makes a man great. Choosing to treat a woman with honor in the face of lust shows godly strength, not giving into lust and pining away longing for what's not rightfully theirs to have.

Ammon's cousin Jonadab comes to visit. He's a crafty guy who noticed Ammon's  melancholy state and asked about it. Ammon confessed his lust to him and Jonadab devised a plan that gave Ammon access to Tamar.

That raises my anger a couple of notches! The last thing Ammon needed to do was share his struggle with someone known to be conniving! And the last thing Ammon needed was for someone to encourage his lust! What happened to reminding a friend of laws forbidding such relationships? What happened to an offer of accountability? What happened to the reminder that wrongful actions as a king's son would have far reaching consequences? What happened to the reminder that, as a brother, his was to protect and care for his beautiful sister? Is that really the best you two can do? 

Ammon carries out the plan by feigning illness and asking King David, to send his sister Tamar with food. David complies.

Oh, Come on, David? I am sure you could have sent a servant instead! Why would you comply to such a request?

She arrived with food and Ammon orders everyone to leave. He called her to bring the food into his chambers so she could feed him.

When I read that part, everything in me is screaming, "Don't do it.!"

As she came close to him with the food he grabbed her arm and asked her to lie with him. She says, "No!" in every possible way. She directly stated her "NO! verbally. She resisted him physically. She reminded him that to take her by force would be rape and should not be done. She called it "a disgraceful thing that should not be done in the land," which served to remind him of the prior rape of Dinah and the consequences Israel faced. She even appealed to him to talk to the king about marrying her. Ignoring her pleas, he brutally raped her.

My anger has just about hit the top!

As so often happens in the aftermath of sin, Ammon's lust gave way to hatred fueled by shame and her pain. Ammon orders Tamar to leave. She pleas for him to make it right and marry her and he angrily has his servant cast her out.

She returned home to sit in his shame. She puts ashes on her head and tears the royal garment that had marked her as a virgin and stored it away. She sat in her grief. She grieved her disgrace. She grieved her pain. She grieved the loss of relationship that was now marred by rape. She grieved a wedding that would not ever take place. She grieved the loss of trust in men. She grieved the loss of a sense of self as her personal boundaries were denied and her choices were not honored. She grieved the hope of the longings of the loving married sex Solomon had written about and she grieved all else that was stripped away by brutal force.

Another brother, Absalom, came to visit her and asks about the events that took place at Ammon's. He was compassionate, offering her a home and protection. He tells her not to take it to heart, not realizing rape had already ripped gaping holes in her heart--holes not easily repaired. He doesn't speak to Ammon, but later takes revenge.

There are twelve words in the story that make me the angriest of all!

Those words are, "When King David heard all of these things, he became very angry."

The mighty warring king all of a sudden becomes a weak spineless man in the face of the disgrace that took place in his own home? 

There is nothing in the story that tells us that he confronted his son. There is nothing in the story that tells us that he carried out any type of justice on the behalf of Tamar. And even worse, there is nothing in the story that tells us that he went to his daughter and comforted her. I long to hear him confront Ammon.

I long to hear him take action on her behalf. I long to hear him comfort her and tell her she is still his beautiful beloved daughter. I long to hear him apologize that he had unknowingly taken part in such an evil plan. I long to hear him tell that Ammon's shame is not hers to bear and to give her an opportunity with his help to hand it back to him. I long to see him tell her that he will carry out justice on her behalf. I long for more. I long for more, not just for her, but for every other woman victimized by abuse. But there was nothing more said of the action of David's first born son!

I am also very frustrated!

We are told that she lived her life in Absalom's home in a desolate state. The word desolate indicates she lived in a bleak emptiness, wretched and unhappy. It should not have ended there. The verses in Isaiah 61:1-3 convey to us what God desires for his people. They state, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion--to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD that he may be glorified!" 

These are the verses God gave me as He gave me the vision of a ministry for women who struggle with past sexual abuse. They come into our groups because they're stuck in the pain of their past and it is governing their lives in some way. Some come in to work on stuff for the first time and others because the work they did wasn't enough. Some come in because they have been labeled and lead to believe they'll never ever get better because their core beliefs are so entrenched their emotions, thoughts  and actions have begun to affect their personality. They were essentially told the most they could ever be is a shadow of who God created them to be...kind of like being a bent tree in a forest full of tall strait trees.

The women who walk into our groups are poor in the sense they are needy. They need to be heard. They need to have their stories validated. They need to be shown the way out of the abyss they are living in. They need to be deeply, profoundly loved in their pain and dysfunction. They are broken hearted by what was done to them and what was said to them or not said to them in the aftermath. They are captive to their past and captive to the lies of the enemy seeking to keep them from fully loving and trusting Jesus--the very One who can heal hearts, give hope, and make sense of painful stories. They need to know they have found favor with God and that the vengeance is perfectly meted out by His hands. They need to fully face their pain and go through a season of grief with others who understand and who can help them wash away the ashes of grief and the ashes of their dysfunctional lives. They need to sit with others who can teach them to focus on what is praise worthy so that their spirits would be strengthened and their hearts healed. They need to believe that the Lord is placing a beautiful headdress--a crown befitting His princesses and clothing them in His goodness. They need to know that God has not called them to live as weak bent over trees, but as oaks...mighty oaks, planted with His love and His power. They need healing so He can be glorified by their redemption stories. Most of the women come stuck because of strongholds that have taken root. But the truth is there is not a root that God's truth cannot destroy. The women don't have to live as shadows of what God created them to be. They can live full, productive, joyful lives. I don't care how strong the strongholds are, our God is stronger yet.

As I write this, I write with a heavy heart. While most people look forward to Super Bowl weekend, I find myself grieving. It is one of the heaviest weekends in the year for sex trafficking. More and more is coming out about sex trafficking. What was once called lightly, "the oldest profession" is being exposed as a sick, disgusting, degrading business in which young girls and women find themselves entrapped, kidnapped, drugged, and controlled so that others profit off of their bodies. I am asking you to join with me in asking God to provide all that is needed for victims to escape their perpetrators, for all the loved that is needed for survivors healing, and for all the patience that is needed for their growth in Him. Pray that He would display His power by releasing captives and  by growing them into might oaks that are a display His splendor for the world to see.     

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Way of Grace -- Part 2: The Lacing of Grace and Truth

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen His glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." 
John 1:14
I am a very curious person by nature. I like to know how things are made and what makes things work. I loved watching children's TV shows with my kids when they were young. These shows  would take the audience into factories and show how to make things like crayons, graham crackers, and musical instruments. I also love movies in which the plot not only reveals the actions of characters, but the reasons behind their actions. When we take road trips, I also love to get off the freeway and drive through small towns and take time to walk the main streets and look for a local restaurants to eat in. This fills my curiosity about the feel of the town and some of its residence. 
This curiosity I have is also often triggered when I am reading the Bible. Especially when I read a verse like John 1:14. When I did inductive Bible Studies, I often made lists of the names and characteristics of Jesus that I came across in the books I studied. There were many names and many characteristics on my lists. So, when I read the description of Jesus above I am curious as to why God chose just "full of grace and truth" to describe Him.  
It was not until I did a study on shame for one the books I wrote that I began to see the significance of the lacing together of truth and grace. We would do well to keep in mind that when Jesus came to earth, the Pharisee's had developed a legalistic religious system that was very burdensome for the people of Israel. They had written many laws that people were supposed to keep to insure that they were keeping God's laws. For example when God said to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, the Pharisee had written many laws to define what was work so that people could avoid working on the Sabbath. There were so many laws written to explain how to keep God's laws that they were burdensome. The religious system of the Pharisees was an in essence an appearance-based religion that looked only at people's actions. It failed to look at the conditions of people's hearts. The religious leaders even confronted the Jesus who was God for healing on the Sabbath. Jesus pointed out that their laws allowed them to rescue a animal, but here they were complaining about Him healing human beings.   
Last week we learned that most people have developed a core of shame because we haven't really understood how to get rid of shame. The Pharisees' developed a religious system and led people to believe it would help them deal with their sin and shame. They believed by keeping the Law and the additional laws that the Pharisees' had written they could obtain righteousness. Those who failed struggled with more shame and when people suffered it was usually assumed it was because of  was sin in their lives or the lives of their parents. They believed that sin caused suffering -- suffering like illness, loss, poverty, paralysis, epilepsy, unwanted divorces, demon possession, etc. Those who had been taught self discipline from a very early age could probably be pretty good at keeping the law and look pretty righteous outwardly, but for many the core of shame became masked by a core of pride and self-righteousness. This self righteousness was what drove people to be legalistic and judgmental.   
Then Jesus came on the scene and delivered the Sermon on the Mount. In that Sermon, we see Jesus strongly confronting their pride and self-righteousness and exposing the condition of their Pharisaical hearts. He does this by pointing out that adultery isn't just having sexual relationships outside of marriage, it was also the hidden heart issue of lusting found in their hearts. He also pointed out that murder wasn't just the physical act of killing another person, it was also an attitude of slow burning anger that lead to contempt, grudge-holding, and broken relationships. He even exposed their heart issue of wrongful motives when He exposed their giving to the needy publically to gain the praise of man. Then later in Matthew 15 Jesus tells them, "But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart and this defiles a person. Four out of  the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone." Mark 14 tells us the response of the religious leaders was to plot to arrest Jesus and have Him killed. Their anger serves as a cover and an alleviator for the core of  shame with which they had never dealt.    
If we don't understand shame, we will mostly like attribute their anger to pride alone. But I think  pride may have its ugly roots in painful shame. The Pharisees avoided facing shame by covering it with a religion that fostered comparisons and judgments that allowed them to believe they were good. But it was a religion that allowed them to hide their true selves, maybe even from themselves.

To understand the actions of the religious leaders, we must keep in mind that shame is a very uncomfortable emotion experienced in the presence of others. It is an emotion that intensifies when it is first faced and that can feel unbearable at times especially if there is a strong fear of rejection. We must also remember that anger is a secondary emotion that can  cover or numb shame. Anger at others often comes across as contempt and being judgmental. It helps us avoid our shame by keeping all eyes(including our own) off of us and on others. This is especially true if we have a propensity to point out the flaws of others. Anger can also be turned inward where it can become self-contempt and depression. This helps us  avoid shame as well. If we are really hard on ourselves, no one else will confront us for fear of hurting us more allowing us to sidestep the feeling of shame that comes with the exposure of our wrong. If we are turning the anger in, we beat ourselves up and others become afraid to confront us. Both kinds of anger help to deflect the experience of shame--deflect but neither has the capacity to truly heal it. 
Going back to John 1:14. What if God chose to describe Jesus as being full of grace and truth because He wants us to understand the lacing of grace and truth are the key to setting us free from our shame. The shame that hurts. The shame that is caused by knowing we fall short--short of the glory of God, short of His righteousness, short of loving as He loves, short of being as faithful as He is, short of forgiving as He forgives, and short of being as truthful as He is.
If we want to truly be free of shame, we must experience grace and to experience grace we must face truth and face the experience of shame. First, we must face the truth of who God is--the Creator, the Sovereign Almighty God, ruler of Heaven and Earth. He is the righteous One who saves.  He is perfect and loving in all of His ways.

Second, we must face the truth of who we are. We are not God. We are fallen human beings who have a strong propensity to sin and live life apart from God. We are people who need to be honest enough to confess that we are people in desperate need of a Savior.

Third, as believers, we must face the truth that working out our salvation means that we live messy lives where fleshly desires war with our regenerated spirits on a daily basis. We desire to do good, but find ourselves not doing it. We hate sin, yet find ourselves at the end of the day longing for "do overs" so that we can excise harsh words we spoke, recapture moments where we missed the opportunity to love and encourage, take back the choice we made to numb emotions instead of feeling what God has designed us to feel, to rebuke the judgmental attitude that kept us from seeing our fault in the conflict we had, and to swallow the pride that kept us from apologizing for our failure to do good in the face of evil. 

Fourth we must face the truth of who we are in Christ. We are beloved children who, by faith, have entered a relationship with a powerful loving God who never ever stops loving us. That's humbling! To be able to accept that we are loved not for what we do, but because of who He is and because He chose to love us is a gift.

Fifth, we must face the truth that the way out of shame is to live in the truth. We must live out the truth of our stories. That includes the truth of our failures, because without facing them God can't complete the redemption story He is writing. That includes the truth of  the painful parts of our stories, because without the facing pain, there can be no healing. That includes facing the truth that we may have born an abuser's shame way too long and handing it back to them where he or she can choose to deal with it or not. That includes the negative thinking we have towards ourselves when we belittle our own hearts and live in disbelief of who God says we are. 

The way out of shame is to face the fear of exposure, acknowledging and confessing all that we are most ashamed. It is the confessing of the words so sharp on our tongues and words we spoke only in our minds. It is the confessing of all that is not honest--the misuse of company time, the white lie covering tardiness, or excuses of why we fail to love well. It is the confessing of hurtful actions as well as the passiveness of withholding ourselves and our love. It is the confession of betrayal through the failure to love on a daily basis. It is the confession of spiritual adultery when we go after or return to old idols of the heart--idols of self, people, jobs, monetary wealth, body sizes, or education. It is the confessing of passivity in our relationships with the One who loves us most. It is also finding believers who get the "grace-truth" concept and are open to building mutual relationships in which we confess our faults to one another and expose our own messy, sinful hearts so that we can experience grace and love in return. For it is in the relationships in which we speak truth to one another and encourage one another that we are most free to flesh out the truth of who we are in Christ that allows us to experience grace--and it is that grace alone that truly heals our shame.     

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Way of Grace -- Part 1: And Shame was Born

"Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.
And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God
walking in the garden in the cool of the day
and the man and his wife hid themselves 
from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden."
Genesis 3:7-8 

Shame is an interesting emotion to study. This emotion first shows up in the Scripture in the account of the first sin. We are all familiar with the story. God had given Adam and Eve one simple boundary and that was not to eat of the fruit of a specific tree in the midst of the garden. Satan approached Adam and Eve in the form of a beautiful serpent. Oh, how cunning he was as he carefully crafted a plan to tempt them. His plan had several parts to it. The first part was a simple, but poignant question designed to get them to question the goodness of the Creator. The question was followed by a lie and then a half truth. The lie was that they wouldn't die. But hindsight shows us they died spiritually, which led to physical death. 

The half truth was that they would become like God and know the difference between evil and good. What Satan didn't tell them, was that the boundary God had given them was a boundary of protection, not deprivation. It was a boundary designed to keep them from death. Neither did Satan tell them the boundary provided them the opportunity of a choice to love God through obedience--a needed choice because there can be no love without choice. What Satan didn't tell them was that disobedience would have painful consequences--consequences like guilt and shame, broken relationships, and generational sin that would literally break their hearts as parents. What Satan didn't tell them was that he was trying to thwart God's loving plans for them. What Satan didn't tell them was that he had a desire to destroy the hearts of those God had so lovingly created. 

Satan was successful. He drew Adam and Eve's focus away from their God and the good they had in their relationship with Him. He also drew their focus away from the joy they had as man and wife living openly without shame and guilt. He drew their focus onto the one forbidden fruit. They were so enthralled by the exchange that they didn't even realize that Satan's words were stirring new thoughts in their minds. We all know the thoughts all too well. "I deserve more." "If God really loved me, He would let me have this." "Who is God to keep me from this?"

Little did they recognize that along with those new thoughts came feeling that until now were foreign to their hearts--the feelings we, too, know well--feelings of deprivation as they gazed at the beautiful fruit God had created, the feeling of insatiable hunger as they imagined the taste of the fruit upon their tongues, and the feeling of pride as they desired to be wise. 

Oh their human pride grew strong and their thoughts grew loud. The fruit in hand, they took a bite. And while the juice of the fruit was still on their lips, their cloaks of innocence fell, leaving them standing there, naked and exposed. The feeling of exposure gave way to something new--a burning hot sensation we all know as shame. And not just a little shame, lots of it. They worked together to fix the problem of their shame, designing loin coverings out of leaves. But as soon as they sensed the presence of the Lord. they found the leaves inadequate to cover the hot shame now residing in their in their hearts. So they hid from the presence of the Creator.

They hid from Love Himself. But the Lord, full of grace, called out to them, asking them questions of His own. But, His questions were not designed to breed discontentment as the enemy's had been.  His questions were designed to bring them back to the truth--the truth of who He is as almighty God, the truth of who they were as His creation, and the truth of the relationship He wanted them to have with Him. But they learned well from their encounter with the Enemy.  

Their shame intensified, as it always does in the face of exposure, they tried to quiet its voice instead of letting it do its gracious work of exposing sin. They hid again, but this time they hid behind half truths of their own. Eve spoke honestly as she blamed the Serpent for his deception and Adam spoke honestly when he blamed Eve for sharing and pointed out that God had been the one to create Eve. But neither of them spoke the truth about the choices they made that fateful day. Neither of them spoke about the thoughts and the feelings that had been stirred up by the Evil One and his smooth talk. Nor did they confess the doubts that they had about God's goodness and His one boundary of protection.  Nor did they speak about the deep shame that had been birthed in their hearts even though their actions made it presence known. 

The shame that was birthed in Adam and Eve's hearts that day did not stop with them. It has taken root in every human heart since then. And when the shame isn't dealt with, it gets covered over with lies, denial, hiding and blaming, and it becomes toxic. The longer it stays the deeper it goes until a person has a core of shame. That core of shame plays out in our lives in all sorts of ways. It is the root of the beliefs that we are too much and not enough at the same time. It is the root of all of strongholds that cause us to believe that we are unlovable, unforgiveable, and invisible even to God. It is the root of our judgmental hearts that constantly compare and find fault with another or with ourselves. It is at the root of our hiding behind masks of the perfectly happy, struggle-free lives of faith.

When we don't deal with our shame and we marry, we are prone to developing a marriage that is shame based as well. You know, the marriage in which both parties hide their trues selves from one another because of the fear of rejection. These are marriages in which the pasts of the mates were never divulged, mistakes are continuously kept hidden, and lies are frequently told because neither feels safe enough to tell the truth. These are the marriages where deep intimacy is secretly longed for, but neither is willing to express the truth that they really don't feel loved. And the truth is, they can't be loved because they are afraid of truly being known. Sadly a marriage relationship cloaked in shame fails to reflect what God designed it to reflect--the love that Jesus has for His church.  

As a shamed based couple grows into a family, the shame permeates as the parents pass their shame down to their kids. They do this through shaming messages, lack of grace, masks of perfection, fake happiness, hidden family secrets, and family rules of don't see, don't hear, don't talk, don't feel, and don't ever rock the boat by pointing out the truth. And then the kids grow up and marry and pass the shame on to their kids and their kids pass it on to their kids. And the lies, the hiding, and the blaming continues and continues and continues. 

Shame that was originally designed to point us to the need of our Savior becomes a toxic strong hold when we keep it hidden. Shame can run so deep that we carry the shame into the churches we attend and their it grows turning churches into something they were never meant to be--shame based churches. These are churches where most people wear masks and pretend to be something their not because of the fear of being found out, because of the fear  of not measuring up, because of the fear of  rejection, and because of the fear of exposure. These are the churches that are filled with sin that no one calls sin. They are also the churches that are so seeped in legalism that what isn't sin is called sin and judgments run rampant and are harsh to the core instilling and deepening shame instead guiding us out of it. Sometimes they are churches being lead by leaders who themselves are so filled with shame and who are perpetually hiding sinful strongholds. They either avoid preaching on certain topics or may camp on those topics believing that if they continually preach on it no one would ever guess that is their secret struggle. These are also churches where people control others with judgments, manipulation, and intimidation so that people live in fear--fear of not measuring up, fear of rejection, fear of losing salvation, fear of criticism, and fear not doing enough. These are also churches in which sin is hidden to protect it reputation instead of being places in which sin is safely confessed and lovingly dealt with. These are places were confession is met with condemnation rather than love and grace. 

Next week I will share with you what I believe is the way out of shame. But today I want to leave you with a few questions to ask yourself:
  • Is shame an occasional emotion or a toxic form you feel like you are drowning in?
  • Do you believe you might be struggling with a core of shame? 
  • Is your marriage based on truth and honest sharing of both the past and present? Is it a safe place to be yourself and your spouse to be his or herself?
  • Is your church balanced in its teaching? Is it safe to ask questions or express concerns? Do you feel safe being real in your church or are you hiding behind a mask? If so, what is behind the fear? Is it something inside you that needs to be dealt with, a misunderstanding of the Word, or a shame issue your church needs to recon with?  



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!