God Encounters: Woman Caught

“God Encounters” is a series of fictional stories based on encounters with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit found in scripture.

I do not condemn you either.Jesus

John 8:3-11 “The scribes ad Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, he straightened up, and said them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stopped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”

 

How did I get here? I’m a good person. I come from a good home and family. I have completely disgraced my family. Even if I were to live through this, they would never speak to me again. I don’t understand where I went so horribly wrong and off course! What’s going to happen to me? Oh God, if you are there, please rescue me. But why, why would God rescue me? I deserve this to happen. I must have a serious character flaw that I was just able to hide from everyone and now I’m getting what I deserve. I am seriously evil and no one noticed. I’m not worth any amount of kindness. This cold cell is exactly what I deserve and the horrific anticipation of the guilty verdict that’s coming is my lot. I’ve been playing with fire and now I’m getting burned and it’s what I’ve got coming to me. How did I get here?

I remember the day we met back so many years ago. He was a friend of my husband and we just saw each other occasionally. Nothing major other than he was funny and we seemed to click. God, I never want to click with another man again. Don’t need to worry I guess, I’ll be dead by morning. I remember that he was large in stature and personality. As I look back over the years, I realize how high on a pedestal I put him and how much of my heart I gave him. Who knew I would be giving my life because of him now.

He was beautiful. Actually, he still is beautiful. Dark hair, tall, large arms, deep eyes, and a big smile with an even bigger personality. He was everything I wanted and everything I thought I needed and yet everything I shouldn’t go near. He was so different from my husband in how he treated me because he made me feel important. He told me I was important. He made me feel important. I hope I was important because if not, I’m going to die for nothing. I’m going to die.

All the years of being careful are gone. All the years of hearing him tell me of his dream to be with me are gone. All the years of giving all of my free time are gone. All my years are gone. I’m gone. Actually, I’m not gone yet, but I wish I was gone. He’s gone. He left so quickly it was like he was never there. No goodbye, no I’m sorry, no I love you. I’m here and he’s home probably going to bed. How could I be so stupid?

I wonder what is taking so long? Why are they keeping me in this cold cell waiting? Why can’t they just stone me and get it over with! I deserve to die. There is no mercy for me. I heard them talking about some new teacher in town that they wanted to consult to see what he would do. I think they called him Jesus. What’s the purpose in this other than to humiliate me even more?

Humiliate me. That’s an understatement. When they burst into the room and caught us in the middle of our moment I screamed and fell into this deep pit of fear and darkness. Every ounce of fun we ever had over all these years drained out of me as if I were a glass that lost its bottom and all its contents. The look of disgust in his eyes was more painful than any pain I’ve ever felt. He hated me at that moment like somehow it was MY fault that we got caught! They ripped us apart and started screaming at us to get dressed. They threw me down on the ground and hurled all types of insults at me. I was wishing they would just hit me because the pain in my head from their voices and the spit on my face from their anger was more than I could bear. When I looked around I noticed that one man had taken him outside and was talking to him in a normal voice. I couldn’t believe that this was going to be all my fault but I was slowly realizing that was the truth of the situation. He was going to walk away. He wasn’t going to even try to save me. And as he turned to leave he looked at me and killed me with his glare. The stones coming my way won’t hurt as much.

Jesus. Why are the leaders going to this guy? Who is he? Moses gave us the Law and in it is the clear direction that anyone caught in adultery is to be stoned to death. Why drag this out more? No one goes against the Law so what’s Jesus going to do for me? This pain in my heart and body is turning to frustration as I sit here waiting. I have no hope and no reason to hope that the judges will find me anything but guilty. There’s really no way to deny what they saw when they came in. My life is over so let’s just get this over with please. I hear the footsteps now. Wait! I’m not ready! I don’t want to die! Please God, save me. I can’t stop crying but I want to be strong and face my judges head on. Someone save me.

I’m moving as fast as I can, they don’t need to push and shove me so much. I’m hurting enough and I’m headed to my death, can’t they show me even an ounce of kindness and not be so rough? I hope I’m standing where they said correctly because I don’t want them yelling at me anymore. Jesus. He looks so average yet he looks so kind. Why isn’t he glaring at me like the others are? Is that love I see in his eyes? I must have lost my mind already and started to go crazy from fear because there is no way he’s looking at me lovingly. I’m not lovely. I’m evil, doesn’t he see that?

Why are they asking him if they should stone me? If they are coming to him for any kind of answers shouldn’t they assume he knows that I deserve death? What kind of game is this they are using my life to play with him? He’s looking at me with love again. STOP! I want to scream at him to stop looking at me like that but I don’t. Is he writing in ground to stone me? Is he drawing a diagram for them on the best angle to hit me and make it the most painful?

What did he just ask them? I must have heard him wrong. Did he just tell them that the one who has no sin in his life is the one who can throw the first stone? Why isn’t he just confirming what Moses already directed and confirming that I should die? What game is this? Why would he go against the Law for me? I can feel my body getting tense as I close my eyes and wait to feel the first stone. But I’m not feeling a stone. I look over at Jesus again and he’s drawing more on the ground. Doesn’t this guy understand what’s happening here? It’s not art hour, it’s dying time and he’s drawing in the dirt!

Wait a minute, do I hear footsteps behind me. Listen. I do hear feet and they are walking away! What is happening here? More people from in front of me are starting to walk away. Jesus isn’t even paying attention!! Is this a trick? Are they walking away to find bigger stones to kill me with? Where on earth is everyone going? I don’t think I can take more of this fear.

Jesus. He’s looking at me again. Of course he’s looking at me again, it’s only he and I here in the court! Everyone has left. Everyone has left? Why on earth did that happen? Why would these leaders just walk away and not challenge him and stone my anyways?. I can barely breathe and if my heart pounds any harder I think I’ll die. He’s just looking at me lovingly again. My eyes are full of tears and I feel myself shrinking inside at his gaze. He is absolute love. I’ve never seen anyone like him.

He just asked me a question and I don’t know how to answer. “Did no one condemn you?” What does that mean? I don’t think I understand the question, give me a minute. Focus on breathing and trying to wrap my brain around the situation and answer. Did I just squeak out a simple answer? I think I said “no one” didn’t I? I’m so confused. There is no one here to stone me and certainly he’s not going to do it alone. That’s not how it’s done.

What did he just say? Go home? Go home! Go home and sin no more. I can’t move, those words are just rolling over in my head and I can’t move. Is this mercy? Why would Jesus give me mercy? My judges left it up to him to judge me and he says go home. My face is hot and I feel the tears just streaming down my cheeks. I’ve never felt this type of love from anyone and I’m not sure what to do. Go home and sin no more. Jesus isn’t condemning me, he’s forgiving me. I’m free! I’m free! Today is not the day I taste death’s sting. Jesus has known my sin and let me go home!!

Oh Lord, let us feel your love like the woman caught in adultery felt your love. All of us at one time or another, or maybe now, have put someone or something in place above You and committed adultery. We have cheated on you with our time and our love and we are condemned. Yet you grant us mercy when we didn’t even know mercy was an option! You forgive us before we even know how to ask for forgiveness. Thank you, Jesus, for letting us go home. Keep us from every straying. Keep us on Your path and in close to Your heart.

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Unchained and Prostrate

 

Unchained and Prostrate“And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God,”Revelation 7:11

To be prostrate means to lay face down on the ground, in submission and reverence. It is also a position that takes place when a person is reduced to physical weakness due to distress or illness. This morning, I came into my usually morning time with God feeling distressed. So much of my today and my tomorrow are completely unknown to me and I’m struggling to stay present with God in all that He is doing and I’m weary.

I’m weary from the work in my life. I’m weary from the work in my daughter’s life. I’m weary from the work in the lives of those closest to us. I’m tired of the enemy finding new entrances and I’m tired of doing the deep work with God that is disrupting the ground that I had so carefully laid over things I didn’t want to process. I love God so deeply and I want with every fiber of my being to be all that He created me to be and, just being honest, I thought it would be easier.

I was sitting in my chair this morning just soaking in praise music and I heard God invite me to lay prostrate before Him. I immediately responded with no, that’s weird. Why do I need to lay on my face before you when I’m more comfortable sitting my chair? As a few minutes passed, I had this internal argument on why, or why not, to lay prostrate before God in my living room. In the end, I decided what I truly believed was God’s invitation. I got down on my face in my living and I fell apart at the feet of the One who knows me better than I know myself and loves me more than any other being every could. I was undone and wrapped in love.

God is absolutely in the business of tearing down our walls, covering us in our vulnerability and rebuilding our lives in Him. This is a terribly painful process some days and yet, He provides these amazing moments of peace and rest. I believe we are offered these beautiful opportunities often and we always have the choice to say “no”. I could have stayed in my chair this morning and I would have had a fine time with Jesus and we would have both known I wasn’t willing to fully submit. Instead, I ignored the voice in my head that was being rebellious, I got on my face and I met my Heavenly Father in a totally new space, unchained, prostrate and more deeply in love.

Say yes to God, I’m nearly begging you. Nothing you are holding on to is better than what God has for you. Nothing. No one’s approval is better than God’s. No earthly security is better than God’s. Nothing is better than God. Moving into an unchained life is not easy and, it’s worth all the pain and discomfort because it’s where He created you to live.

If you need a prayer partner, please email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com.

Shalom,

KA

Community, Unchained

All coming together to live stronger in Christ.

All coming together to live stronger in Christ.

“And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the feet, and they would be distributed as any had need.”-Acts 4:32-35

I’m a communal living hippy at heart. I love the idea of a large piece of land or a huge house lived in by many different families and people, all putting into the support of each other. And I don’t just mean putting money in, I mean putting time, giftings, support…the whole kit and caboodle. My heart is almost obsessed with serving people and showing the love of Christ in tangible ways to all people.

Here are two things I find really interesting about this passage in scripture: 1) not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; and 2) abundant grace was upon them because not one of them was in need. I think that these two points are the main ingredients of a life abundant in God’s love, grace, peace and mercy. They are the very definition of community!

Nothing that is technically “owned” by me if I’m focused on you and God. That includes my time, my attention as well as my money and my possessions. God says in several places that He doesn’t want our money or our sacrifices, He wants our hearts. That same idea is true of the people around us, He wants us to give them our hearts and then everything else falls into place. When I fully grasp that whatever I consider to be mine is God’s and yours, then I hold it loosely and I focus more on God.

Abundant grace is a natural result of a life that is full and not lacking. The more I have of things such as love, grace, peace, mercy and forgiveness, the more I am able to give those things right back out to the people around me. When my needs are met, I’m able to be open to meet your needs. God didn’t save us to have us build a personal kingdom on an island waving a flag of salvation for those, “over there”. God saved us so that we can be His hands, feet, hugs and meet the needs of the people around us and show them His love and lead them to His salvation. That’s community!

This weekend we have a global evangelist in our area for a 3-day conference. This conference is free and therefore, an amazing opportunity! The speaker has written loads of books and speaks all around the world plus on tv. She’s awesome and again, amazing opportunity! Months and months ago several of us put it on our calendars to attend. As the time got closer, I just wasn’t feeling like it was something God was wanting me to attend but I couldn’t really figure out why. My excitement level was low and I just honestly wasn’t interested in going. Crazy right?? The week of the conference, one of my dearest friends really had it heavy on her heart to go but she’s another single mom like me so it makes things like this a little more challenging. I immediately offered to stay home so that she could go and we could host her daughter. Easy breezy for me and our daughters are close so it was good all around. My time isn’t mine, I don’t own it, it’s meant to be shared and that’s what I did. I gave her my time and my care for her daughter so that she could go and hear God’s word for her.

Now, whenever we do something like this, we know that the enemy will be close by because the LAST thing he wants is for us to support each other and build a strong community. He also, obviously, doesn’t want any of us growing closer to God. The week of the conference, our friendships and our lives got rocked. Both of our daughters hit hard situations and revelations that we had not seen coming. There was a lot of drama happening at school for both of them and we, the moms, were getting pulled in. If God wasn’t central to us, if we weren’t both dedicated to community and living lives dedicated to others, we could have so easy gotten mad at each other and ruined absolutely everything for this weekend. Praise God, we both felt the attack and prayed against it both individually AND together. As I write this, the girls are hanging out and my friend is off at the conference.

Oh, and just to remind me that the enemy is roaming, looking for an entrance to bring destruction, just today she ran into a bump with care for her dog. I immediately, completely acting under the power of God and the desire for community like in Acts, said whatever it takes, we’ll take care of the dog. So, we’ll go a little out of our way to take care of her dog so that she can focus on being present at the conference. I don’t tell any of that story for anyone to say, “Wow, what a good friend you are”, because that’s not my purpose. I tell this story to show that we absolutely can and should live in community where no one has a need and everything we have is shared. That’s what God is calling us to and I don’t believe that it is soft invitation, I believe that is His absolute expectation.

Sacrificing ourselves, sharing our possession, time, love is the way to live in unchained community. Everyone is equal and has something to offer. Everything is offered up for the good of the community. Once we embrace this life, we live in the abundance of grace, unchained.

Take stock, honest stock, of what you consider your possessions and make sure you aren’t holding on too tightly. That includes the tangible as well as the intangible. God is asking you to live like the believers in Acts, “not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them” (Acts 4:32). God will make sure all of your needs are met.

Shalom,

KA

Unchained Contentment

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13

The only way to know that you are truly content in all situations is to have God lead you to a new place that you truly never imagined. I think it’s really easy, and I say this from experience, to say, “Oh ya, I’m totally content no matter what”, and in that sentence is danger. It’s a good danger because it’s a silent invitation to ask God to prove how content you can be in all situations.

A year ago, I was completely content having plenty. Who wouldn’t be? I made a lot of money, had a secure job, great benefits and no major expenses. It is just me and my daughter and we lived well…really well. We ate out a lot. We bought pretty much whatever we wanted. We went away on weekend trips pretty much whenever we wanted. I had very little care about physical needs and I was convinced that living with less wasn’t really possible. I had become accustomed to the abundance and I had taken it for granted. Then God stepped in.

When God asked me to cash in my retirement and walk away from my career, I was nervous but I was certain that it would all be fine and that I wasn’t going to be asked to make a major change, just scale back a little bit. So, we scaled back, went out less and thought more about what we bought. We were living with less and we were beginning to see how to be content. I had no idea how much more content with less we were going to get.

Today I did something I never planned on doing, I applied for food stamps. Even typing out that sentence is hard. Whether or not you are willing to admit it, most of us consider food stamps for “those people” and not for us. We may say there is no judgment, but there is. We’re judging ourselves as more secure because we don’t have to use food stamps, we’re praising God that we can take care of ourselves without assistance and we are unable to consider that God would call us to a place that would lead us to this level of need. And maybe all of those “we”s that I just typed are just me and no one else has ever had these thoughts but I seriously doubt it.

Today, as I was answering questions about my current situation, I had to admit that God had called me to this level of need so that I could grow deeper with Him. The question at the time was did I trust God enough to believe that He didn’t love me less and that He wasn’t punishing me just because I was applying for help. My ego and the enemy were firing at me that I was above this need, that I was better than and that I didn’t need this help. God was asking me to face my arrogance and get like Paul, knowing abundance and knowing lack and truly being content in all situations because I know that God is with me and I am truly able to do anything through Jesus because He gives me the necessary strength.

I know that God is using this time to grow me deeper and deeper and to build a stronger sense of vision and ministry. I’ve been tempted many times to just go get a job because my faith wavers and I’m not certain God is actually paying attention. And as soon as those kinds of words come to mind, I know that they are the enemy. God is showing me a full spectrum of life as well as inviting to deeper faith with Him. I have said before and I say it again as a prayer that I refuse to be a trophy for the enemy by giving in and walking away from what I am certain is God’s call.

I believe a job is close and I believe that right now my season in life is shifting and I’m walking into an abundance like I’ve never seen or known before. Not an abundance meaning a huge salary, an abundance meaning an increase of faith and impact in the world around me. Daily dying to my ego and the old ways of defining my self-worth is harder than I imagined. Knowing that God is with me every step and inviting me to go further and further with Him is amazing and humbling.

God is inviting ALL of us to grow in our level of contentment in life and this contentment is solely based on Him. Are you willing to do whatever God is calling you to? Are you willing to lose what you thought you could never live without in order to grow deeper in Him? The invitation is there for all of us, I’m praying that you accept and find unchained contentment.

If you need a prayer partner, email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com

Shalom,

KA

 

Fall Tuna Spread Chronicles-Part 1

“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat…naked and you clothed Me;”-Matthew 25:35-36

I woke up Saturday morning and I could hear the downpour of rain. Usually I love rain, seriously, it’s my favorite and yet on this day, I was drowning under the weight of what the rain meant. Rain meant that people would be hiding in covered spaces trying to stay dry. Rain meant that we wouldn’t be able to see them as easily. Rain meant that I considered canceling.

Every three months, I take a team of people into downtown Seattle to an area that is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of homeless and struggling people. We go armed with love, tuna fish and this time, clothing and hygiene bags. We go to the same park every time and during the months when the weather is nice, all we have to do is show up and people flock to us. This time was different and I knew it the moment I woke up.

This time, we had more tuna fish than we had ever taken, over 700 cans. We had a hundred or so hygiene bags ranging from soap to shampoo to tooth brushes and hundreds of pieces of clothing in all sizes, colors and styles. And to my surprise, we had a team of 27 people heading in to love on the homeless! It was truly the largest event so far in every single aspect.

As we were driving in to Seattle, rain pouring down, I was praying for God to let the rain stop. I was only looking the immediate need that I had and truly nothing more. I was worried that no one would be out in the park and I was bummed that we were all going to get soaked. I was right on both parts and yet, in the midst of my worry and depression over the circumstances, God showed up in ways I never imagined.

As we got parked and rallied together in the rain, we were able to attract a few folks who were in need. We had a long way to go to give out a TON of stuff. This team of mine, they were up for the challenge! We split into smaller teams, grabbed what we could carry and started walking. It’s my guess that we easily covered a 10-block radius if not a little bit more. And when we ran out of supplies, we just walked back to the cars, reloaded and launched out again.

For my little team, we immediately found two men who were under nice cover and as we told them about where we were just on the other side of the park, we could see the concern in their eyes. There was no way for them both to leave their prime real estate. One man couldn’t walk due to an injury and the other couldn’t leave for fear of losing his home. (If he had left, it’s highly likely someone else would have moved in to his space and the man who couldn’t walk wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it.) So, my little team of three walked back to our home base, grabbed blankets, coats, tuna and other snacks and brought it all back to them. Awesome!

Jesus went to the people, He didn’t ask people to find Him. These people have no other option but to live on the streets. Many of them have mental illnesses that stop them from being able to live self-supporting lives. Quite honestly, how they actually stay alive is nothing short of a miracle. I’ll share more stories later but one of our teams found a woman walking down the street barefoot with feet that were bloodied and battered due to a lack of covering. This is just not ok.

My organization is never going to end homelessness, even Jesus said we will always have the poor. However, if we can reach just one person and give them a moment of hope and love in the form of tuna fish, tooth paste or clothing, then we are doing what Jesus has asked us to do: feeding those who are hungry and clothing those who are naked. It’s simple really, but in order to accomplish this simple task you have to be willing to head out in the rain and find the people in need. We could have so easily canceled before we even began because of the weather, but we went. We could have so easily turned around and headed home when we saw the park empty, but we stayed. We can all so easily turn a blind eye to the homeless in our area and when we do that, we turn our backs on God and His people.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing more stories from many of the team members. It’s exciting to see what God did not just in the lives of the people we reached, but in the lives of the people on the team. If you are willing, God is able and wanting to use you. Small ways are HUGE in the kingdom of God.

Shalom

KA

People at Tuna Spread

Tuna cans

clothing

Chains of Judgment

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2

Picture this: you’re sitting in a coffee shop reading and just relaxing. A woman walks in and her hair is a beautiful shade of brown and it is in a lovely style. Her makeup compliments her skin and eye color perfectly. Her clothes are impeccable and the style is what you love. She holds her head up high as she walks in to place an order for some drink that has a list of ingredients a mile long and feels to you like the quintessential hipster drink. Can you picture it? Can you feel it in your gut?

Now picture yourself walking in the door. You’re wearing jeans that are a little too big and baggy but they’re comfortable so you love them. Your hair is grey and curly and likely has a curl that looks like it’s trying to escape your head. And to add to the style, you’ve pushed your glasses up on your head so there are about 20 strands caught up in the nose guard, sticking straight up like a lightening rod. Your top is a basic light blue and if you’re lucky, you haven’t spilled anything on it yet. On your feet are your signature hot pink walking shoes. When you walk in to order, you’re looking down at the ground because that’s your typical stance. Can you picture it? Can you feel it in your gut?

The second person in this story is me, it’s what I look like pretty much every single day. I’m overweight, middle-aged, with a comfortable style and when I look at the woman who walked in ahead of me looking amazing, I judge myself and determine that her life is better than mine and that she must have it all figured out because she LOOKS like she has it all figured out. I wish and dream that I could walk in and command attention like she does because I immediately place a value on her that is higher than myself. I also judge her. I determine that she is so far ahead of me that I have nothing to offer her. I don’t really look at her, study her, pray for her because I assume she doesn’t need it. I judge that her life is awesome and yet, I have no idea.

See, I’m a firm believer that judgment has many different faces and all of them are damaging. If I judge that your life is great, I won’t see your pain. If I judge that your life stinks, I won’t see your joy. If I judge that my life is less than, I won’t offer myself. If I judge that I have it more together than you, I won’t love you. Judgment is deadly no matter what facet you are experiencing. Judgment kills our joy, destroys our peace and renders us utterly alone.

Stop judging. Stop comparing. Stop assuming. My outward appearance has nothing to do with the inward condition of my heart. My weight, my hair color, my makeup…none of that makes me a good or bad person. Judgment of myself and of you only chains me to comparison and envy and both of those emotions are deadly. Judgment keeps me from entering in to your story and it keeps me from allowing you to enter in to mine and both of these states create loneliness and hopelessness.

Rewrite the language in your head and heart. The next time you find yourself making a judgment about somebody or yourself, stop and think about why. Am I judging this person because they appear strong in an area where I feel week and therefore I’m envious? Am I judging this person because their style doesn’t match mine? Am I feeling frumpy because I’m comparing myself to the woman next to me? When you have an answer to these questions, be thankful for the insight and ask God to show you how to change your language. We need to be in community with each other everywhere we go and judgment is like a large fence between us.

Unchain yourself from envy and comparison and find freedom in a non-judgmental life. Non-judgmental toward others and yourself. God created you in a fearful and wonderful way and guess what, He created me the same way. It’s time to stand up for the beauty that is within each of us. I need to know that I can be authentic without judgment and you need the same. The next generation needs our example of loving all and judging none.

Live unchained in God’s love, grace, peace and mercy. You are beautiful!

If you would like a prayer partner, email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com.

KA

New Things

God is making a new way, can you feel it_

Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:19

New is fun and exciting…most of the time. However, the moments before the new arrives can be terribly challenging and a deep testing of our faith. This verse in Isaiah invites us to stand in the space between old and new and have faith that God can be trusted and that new is here, even when we can’t see it.

This time last year I walked away from a 20-plus year career to follow the way God was speaking to my heart. It’s been a year like I’ve never had and I wouldn’t trade it for anything! Yet, now I see my savings account down below where I would like and I’m forced to stand in this space holding what I see as truth, my bank account, and what I know as truth, God’s provision. God is in the habit of clearing the brush in the wilderness and entering a river in the desert, the question is: do I believe God loves me enough to truly do a new thing in my life?

Like most people who follow God, I’m desperate for the amazing in my life and I want to see Him work in awesome ways where my only answer is to glorify His name. And like most people who follow God, I’m uncertain He’s paying attention and knows my current situation and therefore, uncertain He will provide. It’s a terrible and wonderful place to stand. Terrible because it’s a painful faith and wonderful because you are alive to all of the possibilities.

As I read this verse in Isaiah this morning, knowing that my bank account is getting uncomfortable and believing that God has already started the new thing that will be the river of provision for me, I’m scared. I deeply want to feel seen and loved by God and I deeply doubt that I am. That’s a hard sentence to see on my screen. It makes me cry and also cry out, “God, help me in my unbelief!” In this space, I have to face the chains that still bind me and keep me from a deeper relationship with God.

I don’t know where you are in life today. I don’t know what wilderness you need cleared or river to appear and I do know this…God is starting something new today, can’t you feel it? Right now, God is inviting you to take Him at His word and trust that He is able to overcome your challenge and even better, He wants to! This invitation is large because it begs you to not focus on the challenge, rather, focus on the God who is bringing newness. Look up! Get excited! Be filled with this amazing hope that God does see you and He deeply, deeply loves you and wants you to be filled with faith in Him.

If you need a prayer partner, email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com

Live in God’s love, grace, peace and mercy fully looking for the new thing that is springing up today!

KA

A Shake-Free Life

I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8

God doesn’t force Himself on us, we have to choose Him. That’s the awesome beauty of free will. The downside, of course, is that we can choose loads of other things too.

Choosing to set God at the forefront of our lives is a moment -by-moment endeavor, it’s a discipline. David knew the secret to a shake-free life, a life secure in faith, which us to continually choose to set God first. Did he make other choices sometimes? Absolutely! We all will. And when that happens, we have to make a choice to set God back in front.

How do you continually set God before you? You enter into to each moment focused on Jesus, listening for the Holy Spirit and then making different choices that aren’t about you and are about Him. It isn’t easy and sometimes, it’s downright exhausting! However, the benefits of having God on your side and living a life that is not shaken by fear and anxiety is worth the sacrifice of our selfish desires.

Set God before you today. Rewrite the words of defeat and fear floating around in your head and fully trust God. A life unchained is not a perfect life, it’s a shake-free life with God leading the way.

If you need a prayer partner, email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com.

Live unchained in God’s love, grace, peace and mercy.

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A Season of Pruning

“Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit.” John 15:2 AMP

Pruning is an interesting process. After doing a little research (thank you www.sicktree.com for your information!), I found that that are 3 primary reasons to prune a plant/tree: 1) training the plant/tree to grow a certain direction, 2) controlling the size, and shape of the plant/tree, and 3) improving the quality of fruit in the future. There are 2 primary pruning cuts: heading, which removes the head and stimulates growth at the spot of the cut and thinning, which is meant to provide more light penetration which allows for new growth. In both types of pruning, healing follows naturally.

Pruning is necessary for a plant to grow as strong as it is meant to be and bear as much quality fruit as possible. It requires a master’s touch in order for pruning to accomplish the perfect outcome. God is that Master Gardener in our lives. He looks at all the branches of our lives, our friends, personality traits, habits, etc., and prunes us to help us grow and bear higher quality fruit for His glory.

Pruning is a continual process, not a one-time act. As we grow up and life changes, we are introduced to more outside influences that cause us to either grow closer to God or turn away from God. In each situation, our responses are like branches that sprout. Some of the branches are good and may just need a little trim now and then in order to keep growing well. Other branches begin to move us in a direction contrary to God’s plan and must be thinned and removed to bring us to full health in Christ.

I’ve been going through a season of thinning pruning. God has been removing my reliance on myself and my career. Removing my need for the approval of those around me. Removing my desire to feel my self-worth based on my career and my income. He’s also been showing me areas in my personality that need thinning like taking things personally, feeling shame over past mistakes and feel like I don’t matter. He’s been showing me that all I need is Him and the more I see that, the more all I want is Him. I can feel the light penetrating through the darkness and I know that if I continue to abide where He has me, I’m going to produce quality fruit for His kingdom. That’s exciting!!!

I love that in nature, healing begins immediately after pruning! God has set it up that at base level, pruning and healing happen hand-in-hand. God will never prune you without bringing comfort and healing. Pruning may feel like a punishment but it is critical that we grasp the truth: pruning is an act of love with a desire for healthy growth. No gardener cuts back a rose bush because they are mad at it, they cut it back so that it produces beautiful roses the next season! When God is pruning you, remember it’s an act of love and in your best interest.

Here’s the last thing to think about when it comes to pruning: the plant/tree has no choice. No plant yells at the gardener and tells it to stop. The plant simply exists to produce the fruit and has a natural ability to heal and keep growing. When God is pruning areas of your life, don’t fight it and don’t get angry. Seek His healing comfort and know that He is preparing you for quality growth in the future so that you will receive all that He has for you.

Live in God’s love, grace, peace and mercy. If you need a prayer partner, email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com.

KA

 

Running Unchained

“…let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1b

“Run in such a way that you may win.” 1 Corinthians 9:24b

About 6 months ago, give or take, I started exercising. I was 45 years old and 100 pounds overweight and I wasn’t being a good steward of the gift given to me called my body. Early in January, God convicted me of this when I was asked to be part of a mission team going to Nicaragua and He spoke so clearly to me that He wanted me to go but He couldn’t send me in the shape I was in at the time. I had a choice: stay heavy and at home, get healthy and get launched. I chose to get healthy.

Through the help of 3 amazing sisters in Christ, I started walking. I felt SO old and SO fat, quite honestly, that just walking 1 mile felt like a hike. These women, truly blessings from God, came beside me and encouraged me, cheered me and walked with me. I’m way below their physical capacity and you know what, they didn’t care. They saw a sister who need help and they helped.

At first, that ugly monster comparison reared its head. As we would walk, I would think about all the ways I wasn’t as good as they were. I was moving but I was chained to a defeated self-image that was drowning in the muck and mire of comparison. As we walked, we talked and it didn’t take long to realize that though I was looking at their outward appearance and feeling like they had it all put together, we were facing many of the same challenges in life and our walks with Jesus. So, the chains of comparison started breaking and not only were amazing friendships developing, but my weight was dropping!

Fast forward 6 months to yesterday. I woke up at 5am and headed out the door to attend my first 5k run by myself. Up this point, I had done 4 other 5k walks with friends with no big goals in mind for each. They were primarily fun. Yesterday was different. Yesterday I was taking on an Irongirl 5k run and I wanted to do my best and come in under an hour. As I was getting ready and driving in, the chains of comparison and fear started tightening their grip and several times, I almost turned around.

Fear of being at this race by myself. Fear of looking like a poser because my brain was telling me I was too fat and old. Fear of being the last person over the finish line. Comparing myself to the people who looked like the “belonged” there, not me. The weight was crushing quite honestly. I was there to show myself, and my daughter and my friends, that I could be more and do more. That God could and HAD transformed me not only on the inside but on the outside. I hadn’t factored in that the enemy would be right there trying to stop me. So, I text my friends and cried out for prayer.

They prayed and I ran. I felt sick to my stomach when we started jogging out of the starting gate. Runner after runner passed me by and for the first few hundred feet, I still considered quitting. I felt so defeated. Then I looked up. I looked up at the beautiful sunrise, the gorgeous red-orange reflecting off of Lake Washington and I started praying. “Lord Jesus, this is the race you have set before me today. Be my strength. Help me not look behind me to see how far back I am. Help me keeping looking ahead, pressing ahead and moving ahead.” I repeated this over and over. Not kidding…over and over.

I never once allowed myself to look behind and that was TOUGH! I wanted to so badly and yet, I kept my eyes focused forward and my mind focused on the cross. God was asking me to trust Him in this race and I wasn’t going to do anything less than my best. My heart didn’t want to come in last but I was determined to praise God if that happened.

I ran and walked for the 3.2 miles and all the while, I was thinking about my race in life. Thinking about how much time I’ve spent chained to comparison and fear and how tired I was feeling from that weight. So with each step, I was crushing those chains. Each step making me stronger. Each step drawing me closer to the cross and pulling me further away from the chains. As I huffed and puffed my way up the last hill and 2.5 miles, it was like saying goodbye to the weight of the chains. Through the strength of my Redeemer, I had conquered fear and comparison in this one setting and that meant that I could do it in other areas of my life. I was not only moving out the grip of the chains, I was stepping into living unchained!

In the end, I didn’t come in last and I know that if I had, it would have been ok. My place in the race doesn’t affect God’s love for me or the love of my friends and family. And, I did meet my goal of an 18 minute mile coming in under an hour at 54 minutes and 20 seconds! Elated isn’t a big enough word for how I felt.

We are all running a race in life but it’s not against each other, it’s against the enemy’s voice in our heads. His desire is to stop you in your tracks, stop you from getting where God has pointed you and stop you from living unchained. Don’t let that happen. Be bold in Jesus, move out into those spaces you know He is calling and move past the fear and comparison. God has so much more in store for you than you can even remotely imagine and it won’t happen if you don’t activate your faith and allow Him to unchain you. God is able where you aren’t, don’t doubt that ever.

If you need a prayer partner, email me at jesuseliant@gmail.com.

Run in God’s love, grace, peace and mercy. He will lead you to victory in your race!

KA

2015 Irongirl 5k This is me with my finisher medal. 🙂