This morning as I was reading in Jeremiah, God is telling the captured Israelites to multiply in their new location–Babylon. He is using Jeremiah to pass this message along to them. The means in which God communicates this message leaves me seeing that children and grandchildren are jewels. He wanted them to prosper in this new territory because in due time He would bring them back to Israel.
Jeremiah 29:11 says: “For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.” There are so many times in my younger years I read this or heard this from a pastor’s sermon. I didn’t know how to translate it into meaning for me. I would think there may be some hope for me with all my hidden filth but there would be no way God could prosper me while I kept the ugliness a secret. God just doesn’t bless filthy rags I KNEW. Somehow though, God has taken what I knew was filth and turned it into a message of love and support. He hasn’t just done this for me but for those He wanted my story to help. I can’t fathom how He does this, but He just does. Yes, we have to eventually take the steps I’ve learned to take trusting that the verse in Jeremiah is true– “…plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.” I feel as though I’m living today in the final outcome days. The bondage I’ve known is gone and instead of bondage it’s a message being used to help others. It’s a message of FREEDOM.
God is truly AMAZING!
As I begin this entry today I type the title and then ponder, continues from what? Instantly I know the what but I don’t often put it in the blog. I never want to lose sight of the freedom God is granting me from the mental torment and bondage I lived with all my life. Freedom from the grip of addiction: pornography on the internet; freedom from the fear of someone always lurking close by wanting to take advantage of me somehow; freedom from the fear that I’d never be free from the voices of dad in my head criticizing every decision and thought I had, often paralyzing me. There is more but this is enough. These days are now much behind me. Yes, there are moments in a week when they start but for most of them I am able to put them at bay right then.
Freedom is never something to take for granted. There is always a battle, and sometimes many battles, to be fought in order to gain freedom. For me, most of my battles were already fought through Christ’s Work on the Cross. I was the one who didn’t accept them nor did I know how to accept His Work. Once I let go of believing the sin of my brother to my body was not my sin and that the criticism of dad was his sin, not my makeup, I began to find greater freedom.
Much of the freedom is crippled by being owned by fear. Now that fear is on the outside of me rather than inside owning me, I can see this. It is one of the greatest reasons my journey to freedom exists. I wake up each morning with fears wanting me to believe them as true. This morning God reminded me that evil is present always around us. Know this. But, also know that The Holy Spirit living within us recognizes the evil and will deal with it if we surrender the fear to Him rather than battle the lie ourselves. We do this by trusting The Holy Spirit and telling Him to take care of the lie and then moving forward with what God has in store for the day.
I am only one step away from the torment of my past. But, now that I know I am a new creation and this new creation is not one of fear, but one filled with God’s Holy Spirit who has already won the battle, I move forward with victory rather than the fear of another defeat. Join me in this belief if this torment is still within you. God does not wanting you or me believing there is no peace this side of death for there is GREAT PEACE when we can let it go!
Last night was Celebrate Recovery. We had our kickoff a week ago so the lesson last night was lesson #1–DENIAL. There is so much in this lesson that is finally being understood by me. It all started for me as we read Principle 1–“Know I am not God….” I have had no idea how much the abuse of my past taught me hang-ups I’ve needed to address. In this sense of powerlessness I learned to take tight control of what goes on around me so I could keep my sense of power/control once I was able to grow past the years of abuse. I’ve never wanted to be a control freak, but as much as possible I’ve either said yes to what I care little about and hold fast to what I care a great deal about. All this time God has been wanting me to recognize a huge piece about HIM. He can be in control and I can TRUST HIM to be. The peace of mind, the contentment one wants when a job is finished, the people around you don’t need to be controlled by me (us). God wants to take control of these items. He wants me to simply do the job He’s given me at the time in whatever circumstance.
Now that I see this about myself much more clearly I can see my sin of selfishness. If I choose to control for selfish sake I sin. If God has led me into a something He wants done I need to do this as He shows me. The amazing thing is that it never appears selfish to anyone involved when God’s Work is being completed. Last night I knew a small group of us needed to meet and address “an elephant in the room”. I had told the group a week ago we would meet last night ahead of Celebrate Recovery’s dinner time. It wasn’t easy to get everyone at the table, for some, I could tell, were trying to avoid it. However, once we were all at the table and we identified the problem, it was owned and addressed. We were completing what God wanted to have happen.
There is a huge difference between obedience to God and obedience to self. On the exterior one might look the same until you see the outcome. God’s Holy Spirit does bring harmony when we are all tuned into Him and His assignments for us.
The little tests of life God gives us. I walked straight into one of these yesterday and found myself wanting to respond to it in my willfulness. Instead, I sensed the Holy Spirit telling me to slow down. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I wasn’t to give my “Earnie response” at that moment.
The test came from my day with the school yesterday. I had told the principal I wanted to observe the core teachers (ones teaching English, Math, Science & Social Studies) both in the junior high and in the high school. I had the class schedule so I had prepared a schedule for us which had us in each classroom from 30-45 mins per teacher. By the time the day ended we were mentally drained. After each observation we had taken time to talk through what we’d seen and what effectiveness from student learning was visible. As soon as we got back to the office from the last one the principal needed to conduct a fire drill. When we sat down together following that he said, “You know, we have 3 years for this project. We can slow down a little.” My instant response wanted to be, “Are you kidding? Yes, we have 3 years, but in them we are to bring student learning in a years time to reflect strong achievement instead of little or no achievement. Then we are to build a pattern for which this will maintain itself so others can follow it with our without us.” I knew this response was me, so all I said at the time was, “Well that’s true.” I knew I needed to address it but not with those words.
This morning in talking with God about it He reminded me how most of us live life. Our sense of urgency is more about secular things: getting to work on time, taking our lunch on time, making appointments on time, etc. God’s sense of urgency is His Kingdom Work. However, when we join Him in it, there is no sense of urgency unless His Spirit has inspired that sense. The Holy Spirit’s sense of urgency is all about the individual’s readiness to receive Him. God seemed to be saying to help them see the value of the change. It is in value we find urgency. If something is valuable and we don’t have it but could have it, we build a plan to get it. So help them see the value in helping kids learn well and all that is to be taught. Experience the joy of seeing kids learn and then use their learning. This is the joy of teaching. This is intrinsic and that is exactly where God works–inside us.
With all of that I’m reframing my approach for next week. Learning selflessness and leaning solely on God’s leadership is going to take me a while–likely the rest of my life. However, I want to know God’s urgency and live it out rather than my urgency and try to force it out.
I’m amazed at the consistency of God and that our living each day proves what He says is exactly what will happen. An example, yesterday I wrote that I want to be obedient to Him in all of my life. Today’s devotion is about God’s testing moments to see just how committed one might be. The example is given of Peter’s statement of never denying Christ yet when the test came, that is exactly what he did. He learned from the test, but the tests come so that we can either learn and improve our walk or walk away. I had a couple of those tests yesterday. They weren’t of the significance of Peter but they were nonetheless–a test.
Last night was night two of our recovery classes. I had said I’d have babysitting present for the first couple nights in case anyone came needing it. Last week I had ones present for the daycare and the need wasn’t there so they left. The thought of having babysitting never crossed my mind again until last night 5 kids were present due to newcomers. They offered to go home and start next week but I needed to stand true to my word so I left my group to the co-leader and babysat for a couple hours. It turned into a great couple hours for me. It also embedded into my memory bank that I won’t let this happen again! Selfishly, I didn’t want to miss the group’s lesson, however, God wanted me to be faithful to my commitment. I learned a good lesson.
We actually had 6 new ones come last night for our classes. One class which had no one last week had 3 last night. That was great. It does pay to be faithful to God and wait for His timing–relying & trusting Him. He is the One Who works in the hearts of man preparing them for their next steps with Him. He wants us to be present and patient while He is Working. I want to remain being a faithful and good servant.
Today is not different than yesterday in that I am consumed with this realization that man is totally selfish. Selfishness put into action becomes a sin. It robs us of the joy God is waiting for us to find from being obedient to Him and discovering the fruits of obedience. When I am selfish God simply waits for me to stumble and awaken to the fact I am much better off when I am responding to Him rather than to my own selfishness.
The bible defines the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. I’m noting this morning that the fruit of obedience for us is completing what the Spirit of God is nudging us to complete. For me this doesn’t just mean what I “do” (that part is much more natural for me for I enjoy doing). The part that will take time is “being” (that part is much more difficult). Being silent and waiting, being patient when there are things to get done when the timing of them is not up to me, etc. These things I tend to push through to get to completion only to find there is then no joy in completing them. People are frustrated and sometimes mad that they were made to complete something they felt was irrelevant.
This morning I wrote in my journal that I want to join God’s selfishness. God is balanced in all ways. His selfishness is never what ours is–something only done to gratify me. Even when God tells us to worship Him, in so doing, it completes a need in us. His selfishness is not just about Him but about Him and us. This need is recognizing that I am incomplete in and of myself. When I worship God I am letting Him know I love Him for completing in me what I cannot do for myself.
I have so much to learn in this area. I’m sure God will be teaching me here and opening my eyes to so much more in the days, weeks, years ahead. For now, I am grateful to be awakening to being a much greater servant for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and responding to His Gift–The Holy Spirit which He gave to me and to each of us when we invited Him to live in our heart.
The journey for today continues to be selfishness. Yesterday afternoon and evening our church sponsored a leadership training. This has been happening for a while now, every 3 months. Last night was Kathy and my last session–#4. Its topic was “My Faith Story”. The purpose is to help one see that in potential relationships God places around us, it is stepping into our story which opens the door for others to share their own. I found it to be much like how Celebrate Recovery works. When CR’s step studies end the attendees are encouraged to take an additional step–write their testimony of God’s work in their lives addressing their hurts, hang-ups and habits. This testimony is then to be shared with the large group. Over the ten years of our ministry I have seen scores of our people share their stories and I’ve then witnessed the effects of this sharing. Even in my own case I find that when I share my story it never fails to have others coming to tell me private things they “haven’t told anyone as of yet”.
In order to even start a relationship with someone one must take the step of initiating a conversation or responding to someone who might initiate one with you. More than anything, it is responding to the nudges The Holy Spirit gives us in all aspects of our lives.
This topic of selfishness is talking loudly to me these past few days. Jeremiah is telling the people of Judah their sacrifices are half-hearted as I’m reading it presently in my devotional time. Joyce Meyer writes in regards to this how God spoke to her regarding her own selfishness in this area. God despises half-hearted efforts to please Him. He wants us to be sold out to Him. If we are to live in the new creation God gave us through His Son Jesus Christ we cannot choose when we are going to be obedient to His Spirit’s nudges. He asks us to be obedient and to then TRUST that His nudges to address His Work even though we may not see any relevance at the time. This is true whether it is at home with family, at work, at play…. God is always present and His Holy Spirit is always within us. I asked God this morning to help me today to do as it says in the latter part of the Serenity Prayer: “Take one day at a time, one moment at a time–accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.” For me, the hardship is often taking the first step into obedience. This is my new assignment in addressing my selfishness.
For months now I’ve been wanting to know better The Holy Spirit who lives within me. I had learned this wouldn’t happen unless I knew myself better. I had to quit looking at myself through the lens of dad, my brothers, my sisters, a few important friends to me, etc. I was to learn to look at myself through the lens of God. The one thing about looking at myself through the lens of dad, I could blame him for those things I didn’t like. It was easy to transfer my selfishness, my fears, my moods onto him. However, now that God is awakening me to Himself and me, I find that the sinfulness of me is me. Yes, in times past, I could blame some of what I thought onto dad. However, I’ve learned that I can’t cling to that or it becomes my excuse. If I’m to become the new creation God intended me to be I need to own who I am (faults included).
This morning I began to read Jeremiah. It says that Jeremiah was called to be a prophet of God even while he was being formed in the womb. God had a specific purpose for creating him and giving him life. Joyce Meyers says God does this for each of us. In Jeremiah’s case, even though he fought cooperating with God at times, he still obeyed. I see the word selfishness coming to the forefront in this. I’ve been in denial to a large degree about my own selfishness. I didn’t want to see it because selfishness meant DAD to me. Most of what he did was out of selfishness as far as the way he treated his family. In the end, he was a very lonely man due to this. God this morning was showing me that selfishness is not bad unless it is taken to the degree of robbing others for your own satisfaction. God is a selfish God. Selfishness knows I need enough sleep, to be fed, to have proper care and grooming, etc. Selfishness can also mean intense anger when one doesn’t get their own way, holding oneself from another just to “get even”. There are many examples I could put here.
God, in His Infinite Wisdom, knows if I’m to get to know The Holy Spirit well, I must be fully awake to my own behaviors including selfishness. Yes, I sense the right thing to do most, if not all the time. I know this is the Holy Spirit prodding me. Just as Jeremiah had to learn, I can’t know the Holy Spirit well unless I learn to say no to my selfishness when it is sinful and yes to Him each time He prods.
Today is the first day of Fall. When the first day of Spring arrives I am in a state of rejoicing. Spring means gardens are coming to life and there is an entire 6 months of uninterrupted days for this purpose. When Fall arrives I know it means harvest, putting the garden to rest and enjoying the fruits of the garden, the last of the flowers, etc. But, it also means waiting through winter for spring to come again. OK, enough of that trivia.
The 60 day devotional I was given last July for my birthday is almost finished. I read day 59 this morning. It talked about the walls around our heart which we put up to protect it from hurtful, wounding words people say and more. The writer went on to say we cannot be effective for God when these walls are there. Our heart may get wounded at times from what man says but God wants us to use that as a moment to reflect on what the message may mean. Is the message truly about us? Could it be from a wounded heart speaking its own hurt in a distorted way? Then I went to my bible reading. I finished Isaiah this morning. In chapter 66 and verse 2b it says: …But this the man to whom I will look and have regard: he who is humble and of a broken or wounded spirit, and who trembles at My word and reveres My commands.”
I’ve always regarded this verse’s message as meaning God “feels sorry” for the person with a broken or wounded spirit. However, this morning as I began to journal and talk to God about this He began to bring to Light a much deeper purpose for it. Our own spirit is given/replaced with the Holy Spirit when we receive Christ into our hearts. The new creation Christ’s work on the Cross allowed us to become cannot complete itself unless we allow this “new seed” called The Holy Spirit to grow and take root. When our spirit is wounded or broken through verbal abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse as a child or even as an adult we build walls to protect it and it also most often changes our belief system about who we are. This happens most often if the abuse comes from someone close to us. From my many years of counseling and recovery ministry work I’m learning that in spite of what is true about all of this, God has wanted me to learn to not keep walls up. The words of abuse are the needs of the one speaking rather than of me much of the time. Yes, I may need to learn something from it but if I leave the walls up I judge, I fret, I worry, I do all these things Christ calls sin. God wants me to learn to let my heart be wounded and feel the message so I can sense the needs of man including me. It is in this that God can use me for His purposes in Kingdom Work.
Yes indeed, we need to protect our children from abuse and we need to protect adults from abuse, however, God has a much bigger, deeper plan for the wounds it creates when we keep ourselves focused on Him. His tender loving, caring grace will allow us to use these difficult times for His purposes as we surrender them and allow God to begin to use them with us. I know this all for a fact. I will need to stay in this spirit of learning for a while, but I am very thankful for this morning’s insights. Thank you Father!
This morning is one for taking a big breath and then relax a moment. In the relaxing I can rejoice as I reflect on this week. For months now we have been preparing for all the events which were having their start this week. Now that the first for each of them has taken place I can breathe more easily. There have been several moments of lessons to learn which have resulted from the week. God is simply never done teaching us lessons about life and living it out one day at a time.
Last night Celebrate Recovery’s kickoff was one of the most touching moments in my 10 years of this ministry. The reality of watching, listening, experiencing the testimonies of the 5 people giving their 3 generational story was truly God’s moment to shine. There was much darkness which was revealed from their stories. Darkness which most if not all family units often leave untouched. Yet, God has given tremendous LIGHT and recovery to these 5. It was a wonderful opportunity for the many newcomers to know there is hope for their own story yet to be revealed to man. Yes, God already knows it. Yet, it is in the sharing of our story through the share group time, the step study time, and the process of returning each week that we find the beginning of healing for bondages we never thought could be touched this side of heaven. How much I love our Father, His Son Jesus and The Holy Spirit for their continuous love and work making this happen. Our commitment is simply to obey. This is a tough assignment we think at times, but the pay off is just what we experienced last night–a 3 generation testimony of a family’s harmony resulting from each one’s obedience through the last 8 years as they each walked their recovery road and can now walk it together as a family–God’s united family.
My own little moment last night was when a lady came up to me when CR had ended telling me she had seen my name connected with a book and was that me? When I asked if it was the book: The Journey from Error to Heir, she said it was. I told her she didn’t need to order it as I had copies if she wanted. I even had one in the car so I was able to give her one last night which she asked if I’d sign it? These use to be very intimidating moments, but last night it was a touching moment where I was humbled and appreciative that this book of God’s healing work in my life can be important to someone I’m coming to know better.