Lies or love?

Satan comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. How much of your life has he stolen? How many of your dreams has he killed? How much of your faith has he destroyed? His lies have taken you captive for far too long. He is the father of lies. Lying is his native language. There is no truth in him.

Well, guess what? You don’t have to believe those lies. You don’t have to listen to him. You don’t have to succumb to defeat, discouragement, or disappointment. Stop swallowing the lies he is feeding you. Spit them out! Replace those lies with the truth. The truth is:

You ARE worthy.
You ARE loved.
You CAN do this. (With the help of the Holy Spirit)
You are NOT alone. (God is with you.)
You DO have strength. (GOD’S strength.)
It’s NOT too late. (This very second, right now, is the opportunity to start anew.)

I believe fear rests at the root of these lies. See, fear becomes the choke-hold satan uses to take you captive. He knows that if you believe the truth, you will be set free. The instant you choose to believe God is the instant satan loses his power over you. Remember, satan’s ultimate goal is to steal. Kill. Destroy.

And he does it all by lying.

Can you trust me on this? As one who was a former prisoner, a captive to lies? I know the fear. I know the lies. I know how hard it is to trust. But I also know the way out. I know who tells the truth.

Start meditating on God’s word. Speak truth to yourself. Satan is a liar, and it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to lie. The Liar offers death and destruction. Jesus offers life and deliverance. Fear or faith? Which one are you going to choose today? I know you don’t trust God because you have little faith. But little faith? Faith as small as this period (.) will sprout trust. And trust will grow that faith. And more faith more trust.

Lies or Love? Because that’s the difference. Satan and his lies, or God and His love. Satan’s already tried to convince you that God doesn’t love you, that if God really loved you, you wouldn’t be going through what you’re going through. But those are lies. You may not understand God’s purposes, but you can trust His promises. God’s word is true. Will you believe it? I’m praying for you, friend.

Blessings,

Angie signature

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Exodus

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Our church has been exploring the book of Exodus recently through a sermon series titled, “Becoming God’s People.” Believe it or not, it’s been amazing. I think many people hear “Exodus” or “The Old Testament” and their eyes immediately roll back in their heads and a yawn ensues. Oftentimes, I’ve heard remarked, “The Old Testament doesn’t apply to our times; it has no bearing on us now. It doesn’t really relate to today.” To that I say, “Wow! You’re kidding, right?!” I’m a bit shocked, really, because when I think about it long enough, I realize we are no different from the Israelites. We complain, we grumble, we disobey. We, like Moses, are oftentimes reluctant leaders. The Israelites had the very presence of God (through a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire), and we have the very presence of God (through Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit). Yet we both murmur and fret, disbelieve and turn our stubborn hearts away from Him.

It’s amazing to think about, really. The more I read about the Israelites, the more I see myself in them. Like many of the chosen people of Israel, I find myself getting caught up in legalism, trusting in rules over relationship. I, like them, fail to give grace, but offer plenty of judgement. I am stingy with love, but don’t hesitate to dump a truckload of harshness.

I particularly identify with Moses. Here he is in the wilderness, minding his own business, doing his own thing shepherding when God grabs his attention and gives him a mission. It’s not like he misunderstood or misheard God, either. God was abundantly clear in His instructions for Moses. (Ex. 3) Like being hit with a 2 X 4, Moses couldn’t deny what was being asked of him. He knew what he was supposed to do.

But how does Moses respond? Is he happy to leave the wilderness, to step out of the place to which he had run when he fled from Pharaoh? (Ex. 2:15) Was he eager to serve God, confident that God would be with him and work through him? Did he reply, “Yes! Finally! This is what I’ve been waiting for!”

No.

No, in fact, Moses responds by saying God’s got the wrong guy, that he is a nobody, that God is asking a completely unqualified guy to do the job. He continues by trying to convince God that no one will believe him and throws every excuse he can think of not to obey. He even resorts to begging God to please don’t make him go, don’t make him be the one to speak. Friends, does this sound familiar? Or am I the only one that can relate to Moses? I don’t think so. I believe there are many Christians like me who know what God wants them to do, but, like Moses, argue with God. We plead with Him to send someone else. We recite our list of faults to God, hoping that he’ll pick someone else to speak. Oh, friends. I relate.

What amazes me in these first chapters of Exodus is how God specifically states what He will do. He emphatically tells Moses that He will provide. He makes it clear that He knows every detail and foresees even Pharaoh’s response. He reassures Moses that he is not alone and will not be forsaken, that Moses will go in God’s power and strength. (Ex. 4) Friends, is there something you know God is asking you to do, but you keep giving Him excuses? Does what He’s asking you to do terrify you? Are you doubting your own ability? Have you questioned God, wondering if He’s made a mistake, chosen the wrong woman (or man)?

Ultimately, Moses obeyed God. He and Aaron went to Pharaoh and spoke God’s word. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was downright hard. I always remember, though, something a precious friend of mine once said: “Just because it’s a difficult road, doesn’t mean it’s the wrong road.” (Wise words from my dear friend Julie who died 12 years ago, yet is alive in heaven.)

God will ask you to do hard things, my friend. But, just as He did with the Israelites, He will do for you: Provide.

Blessings,

Angie signature

There is no “Get Out of Jail Free” card for child loss

22 years ago on May 1st, I was heavily pregnant with our firstborn child. We were everything first time parents are: scared, excited, and naive. My husband and I didn’t know what the next 24 hours held for us as we sat on our Boucle sofa late afternoon all those years ago.

But then my water broke.

I’ll spare you all the labor and birth/c-section details, however, and cut to the chase: 23 hours after my water broke, our precious baby was born. I heard the words, “It’s a boy!” but the long labor, the drugs, and the c-section left me barely conscious. A nurse held my newly-born son next to my cheek so I could greet him, but, instead, I drifted off to la-la land. It was hours before I was awake and alert enough from surgery to “ooooh” and “aaahh” over him.

22 years ago at 4:59pm on May 2, my son was born.

And I will never think of his birth without thinking of his death.

See, that’s the way it is with child loss. There is no “Get Out of Jail Free” card when you’ve lost a child.

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Every birthday, every holiday, every family gathering, every family picture, and every celebration is overcast with a faint cloud of grief. The longing for, and the absence of, my son fills every one of those memorable moments. There is no rhyme or reason with grief, as those who experience it will attest. This sixth birthday without Matt? I’m tired of trying to be strong. I’m weary of putting on a happy face. I don’t want to “Pollyanna”-up today.

And you know what? There is sweet relief in admitting it. There is a peace that fills my aching heart because I know I don’t have to do this child loss thing alone. I don’t have to be strong. I don’t have to pretend it’s okay. I don’t have to buy into the world’s way of thinking that says it’s all or nothing, that we’re either happy or sad.

No, because the truth is that joy and sorrow coexist. The truth is that I am held. The truth is that I can be incredibly thankful for the gift of my son and incredibly sad that he’s not here with us for his 22nd birthday. The truth is that when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 corinthians 12 verse 9

It’s hard to find hope when hurt obscures our sight. But God already knows this, which is why He calls us to walk by faith and not by sight. It’s why we, like David, hide His word in our hearts. (Psalm 119:11) Pain tempts us to lash out, to stumble and fall in our faith walk. Yet God tells us, not to see this world and it’s hurts, but to see beyond, to see Him and His hope.

God knew my heavy heart this morning even before I opened my eyes. He had already prepared the devotional I was about to read, the exact words He knew I needed to hear today. It made me weep because of His love and tenderness toward me.

Choosing to See Beyond Your Grief
Jennifer Rothschild —- May 1, 2017

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” Ephesians 1:18 (NIV)

I remember when I heard the news. I was elated and squealed and cried! I hugged our kids, my husband, the dog and anyone else close enough to grab!

I asked my son and daughter-in-law a million questions. And then, hours later, alone in my bed, I processed the news … alone in the reality of fresh loss. The sadness closed in like the final curtain after a beautiful play. Elation was replaced by reality — a reality that brought feelings I never expected.

The reality is, I’m blind. I am about to become a grandma, and I won’t see my grandbaby’s eyes. I won’t know if he has Clayton’s nose or Caroline’s mouth. I won’t see his smile. I won’t see his tiny hands balled into fists as he toddles on chunky little legs taking his first steps. I was deflated. I wept. I asked God a million questions as I hugged my pillow.

Lord, I won’t be able to care for him or take him to the park or color with him or even play peek-a-boo.

Will he think of me as the grandma who isn’t fun? Will he feel safe with me? Will I be the grandma he’s unsure of until he’s old enough to understand?

As I tossed and turned and prayed and cried, I thought of how much I wanted to feel gratitude, not grief. Joy, like when I first heard the news … before sorrow clouded my vision.

I lost my sight at 15, but now at 53, becoming a grandma is forcing me to grieve blindness in new and unexpected ways.

Grief and gratefulness can share the same heartbeat, but they don’t always share the same viewpoint. I want to see beyond grief and fix my eyes only on gratefulness.

That’s why I need to see with my heart. And, sister, I have a strong feeling I’m not the only one. But we can’t unless God opens the eyes of our hearts, as our key verse says:

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people” (Ephesians 1:18).

When God opens the eyes of our hearts, we can see the hope to which we are called. We’re not called to despair or constant grief; we are called to hope.

God wants to open our spiritual eyes so we can see hope with our hearts. When we see with our hearts, we see blessing and potential tucked within loss and disappointment.

When we see with our hearts, we focus on what we have, not what we’ve lost. We view our situations, our whole lives, through the eyes of gratefulness. And grateful eyes will always see hope.

Seeing with our hearts doesn’t mean we won’t still hurt. It doesn’t mean we see everything through rose-colored filters. Grief is still real, and grief still hurts. But when we ask God to open our spiritual eyes, we see beyond the
loss.

I may not see little dimples and dancing brown eyes with my eyes, but I can feel wonder when I touch that satiny skin. I may not see that baby’s sweet face, but I can hear a thousand anthems of praise in his giggle. I can caress infant skin bearing the fingerprint of God and feel gratefulness and hope radiate through my grief. I can and will see that baby with my heart.

You may hold unexpected grief in your heart today. Maybe you carry a burden that makes you grateful or a gift that makes you cry. No matter what life looks like for you today, God can help you see it with the eyes of your heart.

I know He can, my sister, because that’s what He’s doing for me. When we see with our hearts, hope bursts on the horizon, no matter how cloudy or dark the day.

God is the one who opens eyes. He opens eyes of the blind and those who see perfectly but are blinded by disappointment, loss or grief.

So, if what you see discourages you, ask God to open the eyes of your heart and fix them on what is unseen. Because what is seen is temporary, and what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Dear Lord, focus my spiritual eyes so I can see Your hand, Your heart and Your purpose in all I experience. Let me see with my heart today and every day, so I can see hope. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (NIV)

– See more at: http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/choosing-to-see-beyond-your-grief/#sthash.4eYVSxr5.dpuf

I don’t have to look ahead at the day today (or tomorrow) and wonder how I’m going to get through it. Instead, I need only to look at Him, Christ Jesus, who bears my sorrows, my sins, and my weakness and becomes my strength, my song, and my joy.

Blessings,

Angie signature

Dear Matt,

As your 22nd birthday draws near, I’m finding it harder and harder to “deal.” I want to scream at the clock to stop ticking. I yearn to crawl into bed and lie there until May 3rd. I want to shut down, drown out the world, drift far, far away. I am angry at everything and nothing because sometimes it’s just easier than falling apart. You know what sucks? This. This trying to celebrate the birthday of a child who died. I still want to scream, “It’s not fair!” It still feels surreal that you are not here, and I wonder if it always will. I want to make a cake and buy presents for you. I want to see you open your gifts and hear your deep, quiet voice while I watch in delight as you respond with that trademark smirk-smile.

But I can’t.

Because you are gone. You died.

And I am left to make the best of it. I’m left to try to find things to be thankful for when all I really want is to have you back with us. I’m left to remember and cherish the memories of you, the memories that were once all joy but are now all bittersweet. It SUCKS. It really, really sucks.

Oh, my son. How I miss you so.

This is hard.

But here we are, marking your 22nd birthday without you, the sixth one since you left this earth without warning one bright, sunny summer morning. Your birthday this year falls on a Tuesday, just like the year when you were born. I’ll never forget, of course, how surprised we were when the doctor announced, “It’s a boy!” We were so sure we were having a girl. So sure, in fact, that even though we had had a boy’s name picked out, I called you Rachel almost the whole pregnancy. Haha! I’m not sure I ever told you that story, Matt.

Though I was disappointed at having a c-section after 23 hours of labor, I was never disappointed in having a boy. God gave me exactly what I needed. You were a gift, a gift beyond what words can describe. I still can’t believe the hospital let us take you home! Like most first-time parents, we didn’t know what we were doing, but we knew we were blessed beyond belief. We had a beautiful baby boy who stole our hearts the very second we knew we were expecting.

The pain of separation overwhelms me at times like this. Yet God tenderly whispers reminders of the truth: You are alive. You died, yet you live. God’s story is life, death, life. This life is not all there is. This is not forever. Death does not reign. Grief is temporary. Our “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” (2 Cor. 4:17) We will be reunited, and never again will we be separated. God Himself “will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4)

Matt, you are and were God’s gift to me, to us. I cherish every memory, every photo, every moment we were allowed to have with you. We’re keeping it simple this year for your birthday and spending the day hanging out at the pool, which you loved. Your dad and others will drink a McDonald’s Mocha Frappe, also a favorite of yours. More than anything, I will lean into the One who holds you. I will look to the Giver of life and the author and perfecter of my faith, Jesus Christ, who died for me and for you…so that we could have life eternal.

I love you, Mateo.

Love, Mom

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Ah…that look. Matt, age 15.

Doing it God’s way

A few days ago, I posted When bad news comes. The situation hasn’t changed, circumstances remain the same, and I vacillate between unquestionable faith in God and outright perplexity in God’s dealings with mankind. Like a kid on a rope swing, my faith swings back and forth, a slow momentum of quivering fear rising in my belly as God takes me higher and higher in this place of trust.

I’ve never liked heights.

But I am learning to trust the strength of the One who holds me.

This morning, I read the entry from today’s study in the First 5 app. (By the way, if you don’t have the First 5 app, I highly recommend getting it.) The post for today spoke directly to my heart.  It’s written by Wendy Blight and titled Trusting God in the Hard Places. It ends with the following:

Are you in a hard place? Do you wonder what God is doing? Take courage. The one who God called a man after His own heart struggled too. Press into God for understanding.

David’s life teaches us that it’s in the unanswered questions that we gain depth of faith. We come to know more … not about our circumstances … but about our God.

Give God your anger. Give Him your fear. Give Him your questions. He is waiting to come alongside you and bring you to the other side … to a place of understanding, healing, wholeness, blessing and even celebration.

Prayer: Father, I confess that sometimes I don’t understand why You allow what You do in the world and in my life. I struggle with, and sometimes even question, Your goodness and faithfulness. Help me process my questions and doubts with faith and not emotions. When circumstances tempt me to doubt that You are good and trustworthy, enable me to remember that You are moving and accomplishing Your plans, and no matter what I see with my eyes, I can know those plans are good because You are good. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Oh, how I want to reach out and yank everything aright like David and Uzzah. I want to run ahead of the Lord, but deep in my heart, I know it would be wrong. Waiting on God is hard. (Can I get an ‘Amen’ to that?!)

But doing it His way is always best.

Always.

Blessings,

Angie signature

When bad news comes

What do you do when things don’t go your way? What happens when disappointment hits hard, makes you feel like you’ve swallowed a bitter pill? I don’t know about you, friends, but I have a hard time swallowing that pill. I grimace, choke on it, try to spit it out. Disappointment leaves a nasty aftertaste.

News I received this last week concerning a loved one left me deeply disappointed. I’m angry, sad, and confused. I’m wrestling with prayer and grace, both of which I honestly don’t feel much like giving right now. I don’t understand God’s plan or certain people’s actions.

But I know that is my flesh speaking, a heart crying out in hurt. I want to lash back, let my tongue slash, let loose biting words. But I resist only by the power of the Holy Spirit. I know that hurt people hurt people. Far better for me to bite my tongue than hammer words like nails into someone’s heart.

Instead, I determine to trust God yet again. But how many times do I trust Him? How many times do I have to wait for God to act? Oh, my soul. As many times as it takes, it whispers back to me. God’s grace and mercy are enough. He is enough. His love is greater, deeper, wider than any disappointment, fear, or hurt.

Do you know what tackles disappointment?

Praise.

You know what helps the pill of bitterness go down?

Praise.

You want to defeat darkness, disappointment, and despair?

Praise.

 

 

 

Blessings,

Angie signature

That’s not love

I’m finishing up part four of a Bible study on the book of Romans. Yep, part four, Precept style. We’ve been studying Romans for two years. Two years of richness, of depth, of satiation in God’s word. And this is the second time I’ve studied Romans. It’s been incredible, of course. God’s Word never fails to amaze me. It is powerful. It is convicting. It is encouraging, comforting, and surprising. His word, for me, doesn’t grow stale. It isn’t like other books where once I’ve read them, I’ve no need to read them again.

Digging into Romans for the second time has refreshed my mind and soul. Living by faith is not for the faint of heart. It is not easy. God’s grace is sufficient for this Christian, and for this Christian life, but it is not a magic pill. It is not a pain reliever. It is, however, a peace infuser.

Peace isn’t easy to come by in today’s world. Too much division, too much fear, and too much hurt have stolen from many the peace that could be theirs. We cannot be reminded enough, however, of God’s grace and sufficiency. His peace really does surpass all understanding, and His love transcends circumstances. The book of Romans reminds me that I can live by faith because God’s love reaches beyond what I can see, beyond the hurts I’ve experienced, and beyond the pain I’ve endured.

I want people to know God’s love. I want them to know how much He hurts when they hurt. I want them to know that their sin and my sin nailed Jesus to the cross, where He died so that we might have life, life eternal. Because He loved us. Without Jesus, none of this life makes sense. The book of Romans not only shows us the gospel (the good news of Jesus Christ), but shows us how to live in response to this crazy hurtful and overwhelmingly sinful world.

We are to love like Christ. We are to so identify with Christ that we look, act, and think like Him. But we can not look, act, or think like Jesus until we know Him, until we know God intimately. How well do you know God, friend? If your idea of God is that he’s some big guy in the sky who strikes down lightning on “bad” people or is some sort of magic genie who grants wishes, then I’m guessing you don’t know Him very well.

You can’t know what love is until you know who love is. God is love. God is love, and love?

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

Love does not envy.

Love does not boast.

Love is not proud.

Love does not dishonor others.

Love is not self-seeking.

Love is not easily angered.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil.

Love rejoices with the truth.

Love always protects.

Love always trusts.

Love always hopes.

Love always perseveres.

Love never fails.

(1 Cor. 13:4-8)

There are some who believe that every painful thing they’ve experienced in this life is God’s fault. They blame God for the hardships, the suffering, and the bad things that have happened to them. They don’t know God, and they don’t want to. They are believing a lie.

That list above? That’s what love is. I’ve also seen what love isn’t. I know what when someone claims they love you, but keeps you isolated and afraid that that’s not love. I know that when someone uses fear and threatens harm that that’s not love. Love doesn’t destroy. Love only builds. Someone I love is in an abusive relationship with someone who claims to love them. Friends, that’s not love.

I’m asking you today to spread love. I’m asking you to today to step out of your comfort zone and make the call for help. I’m asking you today to share the love of Christ, to love someone where they’re at, to reach out to them with the truth of Jesus Christ. They may reject you. They may tell God to F- off . They may threaten you or harm your loved one. But know this: There is peace. There is hope. There is love for the worst of the worst because Christ died for all.

If you see these characteristics below in someone or in their relationship with someone, then for the love of love, get help. Because #thatsnotlove.

If the person you love or live with does these things, it’s time to get help:

  • Keeps track of what you are doing all the time and criticizes you for little things.
  • Constantly accuses you of being unfaithful.
  • Prevents or discourages you from seeing friends or family, or going to work or school.
  • Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs.
  • Controls all the money you spend.
  • Humiliates you in front of others.
  • Destroys your property or things that you care about.
  • Threatens to hurt you or the children or pets, or does cause hurt (by hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, or biting).
  • Uses or threatens to use a weapon against you.
  • Forces you to have sex against your will.
  • Blames you for his/her violent outbursts.

———–Read More————

True peace and love are found only in Jesus Christ. How much peace do you have, friend? You are loved by a God who gave up His life for you. Will you surrender to Him? #Thisislove (1John4:10)

Blessings,

Angie signature