Thursday, November 27, 2008

Never Cease to Amaze

Where does the time go? It's been over a week since I posted. I very faithfully and regularly posted on our Bible study. I think because the study got my thinking and writing juices flowing. I've been having withdrawals from writing. As I've said before, writing is truly a time of deep communion with my Lord and Savior. I've had many thoughts and subjects come into my mind...thoughts of thankfulness, thoughts of testimony, thoughts of "let my people go". Yet, never the time to sit down and allow God to expand those snippets into a posting.

So, I sit here on Thanksgiving evening feeling the close of a very full day, feeling unexpectantly peaceful, joyful, and deeply thankful. For a month, I've been dreading the upcoming holidays. I feared this season would be worse than last year. Yesterday was so full of emotions. Work closing early brought memories of times shared with my beloved on such days. Making a new kind of turtle pumpkin pie brought desires of wanting to share this new recipe with beloved. Deviling my eggs brought reflection of times past and desiring more. My heart is heavy in the midst of joy spurts.

Even with a very restless night of insomnia and anxiety, I awoke with a joy for this day. I was surprised by a very lovely phone message from Lelia and two others contacted me via blogland and phone. I was ready for the day. I wanted to arrive at my mom's early and tempted to skip my daily reading of God's Word but I didn't. Thank you, Lord!

I'll spare you of all the details, but as I reflect on the day, I can clearly see how talkative I was to everyone. I cracked some pretty good jokes and made others laugh. My one cousin said he didn't think he'd been to my mom's house before today. Everyone was saying they thought he had. He said maybe he had. I chimed in and said "Maybe you should ask your kids since they still have their memory." He laughed and said "that's a good one." (He's my age, young.) Then there are the comments or inquiries that we can very perfectly and easily skip by just not contributing but I didn't. I was my extrovert side today. When talking with my dad and brother at times, I thought to myself, "shut up Paula" as I was just rattling about nothing essential.

I share all this to say...God never ceases to amaze me. I'm positive He doesn't you either. I'm pooped now and ready to chill with some CSI but I'm much at peace reflecting on today.

I do find it very odd that beloved as been on my heart, mind, and prayers, persistently the last week. Even in my dreams and you know how hard and emotional that can be with the person's presence feels and seems so real. :-( Even with that, I'm amazed at the peace of this day.

I knew that my mom would most likely ask me to say the prayer over lunch. Maybe's it not right, but I pondered on what I could say of meaning more than just a generic "we are thankful" and knowing that there are unbelievers and believers there. I'd like to share that prayer with you. It's nothing grand but I want to record the thoughts of my heart on this day, one expected to be difficult. Of course it's paraphrased as I do not have a photogenic memory. :-)

Father God, we come to you so thankful for all you provide for us. Lord, you offer salvation, love, and forgiveness for all of us to take. Thank you, Lord, for each and every person here. It is a true blessing to be with a house of 15 people. I have a very special friend who is with her mother only. So, to be in a house of this many is just an amazing gift. Father, we ask that you watch over those who could not be with us today. You, Lord, provide us with everything we have. We have so very much more than so many people. Jobs, cars, houses, food, health. Those simple things we take for granted. Lord, we thank you for this over abundance of food. Father, it is more than we could ever imagine. It is so much more than we deserve. I thank you for the hands who've prepared it and especially for my beautiful mother who worked so hard. We ask that you use this food for the nourishment of our bodies. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Again, nothing special about it. But, if I recall correctly, I was not able to pray last year as it was too, too close to my heart being freshly broken, crushed, and ripped out of my body. I believe my mom knew I couldn't pray without breaking down since it was only a week after the legal system declared me single...I don't even like the word or to be classified as it (d word).

Granted, when I pray with others I pray with respect to those in my presence. That is I try not to be too Christian in my words. I don't want to close someone's mind with talking too much about thankfulness of spiritual things. Those things I'm most thankful for are of a spiritual matter. Yes, I'm very grateful for work, job, money, house, family, friends, etc. But it goes so much deeper: His Word, freedom to worship, His sacrifice, His healing, His leading, His sovereignty, His concern for my specific life, needs, and desires. Yet, those are personal to me and not necessarily to those in my presence. Maybe I'm over cautious but I really struggle praying with unbelievers and even more with unbelieving family.

This is the very first post I've written free hand without preparation. I just wanted to give praise to the Lord for the beautifully unexpected day He gave me. There are many more things He did today but I don't want this to be a report of the day or my life. Rather, I want to use my life to point to Him and His light to shine, hoping the rays will hit another soul in anyway.

I've really been thinking about my blog mission and it's my deepest heart desire that I fulfill it. I pray that in some way for every reader each and every post will:

enrich your life
strengthen your walk
encourage your heart
enlighten your mind

The scripture that comes to mind that I want to share with you is this.

Rejoice in the Lord. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:4-7

You all mean so much to me. You really do. I pray for many of you regularly for your specific needs that you've shared with me. I sincerely consider all my bloggy friends REAL and true friends. The Lord has blessed me beyond my wildest imaginations with the bonds and friendships formed in just seven short months.

We [I-Paula] always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our [my] prayers. 1 Thess. 1:2

I pray the Lord's peace, healing, and strength on you all. Please know anytime you need me, contact me. Many of you have my email already stored in yours. If not, you can find it through my sidebar.

Much love to you by God's grace.

Standing in Awe and Amazement,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Truth: The Real Deal

Peeps, is it winter or what? I don’t know about your parts but winter officially started yesterday at 4pm. That is when I left work to discover it was colder than when I arrived at work and I was regretful of not wearing a coat and especially gloves. Yes, I missed my gloves even for my three minute drive home. Cold hands, warm heart?

Now weather that truth hurts is up to each of us. (Get it, weather, instead of whether--winter.)

Seriously, as we examine the final chapter of Behind These Eyes, we see that the Truth heals. Do you remember the name of chapter one? It was “The Truth Hurts”. How poignant, Lisa, that we end with the chapter titled “The Truth Heals”. It’s kind of like wrapping some cold cuts and cheese with two slices of bread.

Lisa speaks of three truths: recognition (God created us exactly the way we are), admission (God created us with free will), and resolution (God created us to discern and discover who we are).

The truth can hurt initially; we know that. But, we must recognize the truth to get to the healing point. As painful and hurtful as the truth may be, admitting it begins the process to heal and set us free. Yes, holding the truth does create not only baggage but bondage. With that freedom comes healing.

Lisa discusses the difference between a soothing balm and a healing balm. There is a huge difference; a difference in the end results. Soothing balm is what it sounds like. It sooths the pain but soothing is only temporary. It sooths the symptoms. Healing balm heals to the core. It heals the soul. Lisa says “The balm of our heavenly Father is the gift of peace and joy and spiritual growth and unconditional love that is for our taking.” When I was reading the pages on the two balms, my mind instantly wanted to find an analogy to body lotion. Soothing balm made me think of lotion. We put lotion on our skin to smooth, moisturize, or aid our drying winter skin (ugg). However, doesn’t lotion just heal the symptoms and it’s just temporary since we have to reapply it hour after hour? Maybe a healing balm for our skin would be drinking more water, wearing gloves outside, ingesting vitamin E. The latter are more internal issues getting at the core of our bodies. Isn't that what the Jesus does with His healing balm?

Lisa says "The truth only heals because God is Truth." Isn’t that the truth? I am the way, the truth, and the life. John 14:6

If we also resolve to be “me”, to be ourselves and no one else, then our role-playing will be no longer. There will be no need to play the roles of Ms. Perfection, Ms. Confidence, Ms. Happiness, Ms. Spirituality, or anyone else. Now isn’t that a relief? Aren’t these roles just really to cover up our brokenness? Think about that. We are broken and that is where we find the desire to be perfect, confident, happy, spiritual, and so on. Lisa is reminded daily “that God often uses broken people—the people with the most baggage—for His honor and glory.” That is so true. I believe it is once we fully reach our brokenness that God uses us. Now, that brokenness may occur more than once in our lives on different occasions with several issues. We have to get to that point of brokenness, falling on our face, and allowing Him to put the pieces back together. Until then, what value are we to Him? The following was soothing to my soul. “Jesus wants to fix everything in us that has ever been broken, not temporarily soothing it on the exterior but healing it in places not able to be seen by the human eye.” Now, that is unimaginable to me.

Lisa believes “that it’s time for us to stop wasting our time trying to be the girl to our right instead of being the best me all of us can be for the glory of God. He deserves it, and we owe it to Him.” Now that is convicting, in a good way though. Do it for Him. Okay. That’s a good motivator. Therefore, I urge, you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1

I love the example Lisa gave of the dieter who falls off the diet wagon by blowing it one day. Upset with herself and instead of acknowledging the mistakes, the dieter just continues with the excessive eating and gains weight. Mess-ups can be the same. One mistake can lead to another, resulting in a snow ball effect. I love that God gave us so many examples to reference in His Word. Such people who messed up but God still used are: Paul, Martha, Thomas, David, and Peter. Lisa points out the same commonality in these people and us is “that of a divine and holy God bringing colossal failures back to His fold and restoring them once again.”

Anyone who ventures this life thinking he/she is immune to mess-ups is living naively. We all mess up. We all will continue to mess up. That does not mean we should beat ourselves up; satan would love that. Lisa says so beautifully. “But rather, we should use our mistakes as reminders of what life is like without God’s guidance and determine to reject going down those paths again.” Can you imagine life without God’s guidance? I love the acronym someone made for the word Bible. Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Amen!!

Lisa says “We need to praise God for the downsides to our personalities and gloriously embrace them.” I guess I have a lot of praisin’ to do, huh? He gave me multiple downsides so I have multiple praises. (Smirking here.) Seriously though, she continues “were He to have made us without downsides and weak areas of our personalities, we would have no need for Him in our lives! We would be adequate without His help—not the way He intended it to be.” We are all made with weaknesses. One with a sharp tongue, one with lustful eyes, one with untruth words, one with addictions. We are all tempted in our different areas of weakness.

He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He. Deuteronomy 32:4. When I read this, I know it to be true but I still want to counteract that by saying we make mistakes, which can alter our temperaments and personalities from what God intended. I don’t believe I was a mistake but sometimes I feel the mistakes I’ve made have changed me and the person God intended me to be. Since God doesn’t make mistakes, I cannot say my creation was an “oops” moment of His. However, I do struggle with what He created verses what life, atmosphere, and circumstances have created or altered in His creation of me. He didn’t make a mistake with me but He has to continually correct the mistakes I make. I don’t know that the life I have and am living is wholly what He originally intended. That’s not His mistake though.

I most definitely have owned my mistakes and I can separate owning them from punishing myself for them. I will always feel a sense of responsibility in my mistakes and feel my life is what it is in part by them. I’m remorseful and regretful of the biggies, especially. I try to acknowledge that those biggies involved others and I am not responsible for their mistakes and their part of the responsibility.

The verses Lisa summarized on pages 190-191 are a perfect reflection from beginning to end. The distinctive link between all these verses is a very deep love God has for us…for me! From His creation of me (Gen. 1:27)…to His desire of a relationship with me (1 Cor. 1:9)…to His detailed knowledge of me (Luke 12:7)…to His forgiveness of me (Ps. 65:3)…to His sacrificial death for me (John 3:16)…and ultimately, His return for me (John 14:1-3). See the perfect circle? It begins with His creation of us and ends with His return for us. Beautiful!

Lisa asks a tough challenge question. Is the truth behind my eyes the same as what others see? Probably not. I struggle with seeing all the positives and values in me. My self-esteem has always been on the lower side. Through my experience in blogland and my small group, I’ve begun to see my positive sides through the eyes of others. That is, to see my good characteristics. Others definitely don’t see the struggles I have…that’s the point isn’t it? To hide the struggles to lessen their burden.

I’ve been lavished with such wonderful comments in the last six months. Trust me when I say it’s not about swelling my head or boosting my ego. But, I believe it is God’s way to show me my value, my gifts, my contributions, and for me to see myself through others' eyes. I think it hit me hard when Nichole commented to this post (last week) and said “Has anyone ever told are beautifully gifted at writing?!?!” I do not say this to devalue the beautiful comments of others but this one hit me between the eyes most recently. I had to step back and say “Really? Wow!”

As we've traveled this journey together, whether you did the actual study or not, I hope you are coming out a different person with a new Godly perspective. I believe God sees us in such a vastly different way than we see ourselves. We are missing so much by not seeing ourselves through His eyes. Won't you put on God's glasses and then view yourself, your life, and the world around you?

To see what others said about this final chapter go to Lelia's blog.

Soaking in His Truth,

The picture is of my burning bush. I'm blessed with two.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fleshly, Flawed, Forgiven

I have to admit that I never made such a clear connection between being flawed and forgiven before reading chapter nine of Lisa's book, Behind These Eyes. This chapter is called "We Are Completely Flawed Yet Forgiven Completely". What a fresh look at being flawed this has been. We have to have one to have the other. We need to be flawed to be forgiven. We need to be forgiven because we are flawed. We are always, completely, totally, and fully forgiven. There's no half or partial forgiveness when we repent and seek His face. Lisa says: "We are flawed and forgiven all at the same time. And not just partially forgiven. We are sinful, down to our very core, and we are sanctified, down to our very soul."

Being flawed is a good thing for our relationship with God. One, it shows our need for Him. Two, it allows us to be forgiven. Yes, you heard me...being flawed allows us to be forgiven. Can you imagine never experiencing forgiveness? I guess if we really were Ms. Perfection then we wouldn't want or need it. However, that is not reality. Reality is that we can't have one without the other. We can't be completely forgiven without being completely flawed.

Ah the sin nature. Nature is one's natural state. Webster's defines it as the inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing. That's right, our inherent character is that of sin. S.I.N.! Our humanly natural state is indeed sinful. It seems to come natural to our sinful flesh to do the less desirable things if we don't allow the Holy Spirit within us to control us, our thoughts, and our actions. In my mind I really want to obey God's law, but because of my sinful nature I am slave to sin. Romans 7:25 NLT. Slave to sin!

Paul was such a great example of recognizing his sin nature and the evil grip of sin. He expressed his frustrations in Romans 7. If the great Apostle Paul struggled so much, can we not expect to struggle equally or even more than he? He calls himself rotten through and through. I love this true but seemingly tongue twister in verses 15-16 and 19.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Romans 7:15-19

Lisa so poignantly says: "Even when we are the best self we can ever be in our own strength, we are still influenced by our fleshly and sinful tendencies...Even at our best, we are not quite good enough."

Lisa termed us with the words "perfectly imperfect". I've never been perfect at anything so I take pride in being able to say I'm perfectly imperfect. To say I'm imperfect means I'm in need of a Savior who will make me perfect. But when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 1 Cor. 13:10 (This references Christ's second coming (perfection), then our imperfection will disappear as we are made perfect.) To be seen as perfectly imperfect is to admit our flaws and failures. It allows us to seek the help of others and most importantly the help of God. My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor. 12:9 His power is made perfect in my imperfection. I'll be His vessel for His power to reign any day!!!

Being flawed does not mean we are bad. It is by our nature to be flawed starting with the first sin in the Garden. We cannot escape our flaws. Just as we overcome one, we may inherit another one as our seasons change. When I was a kid, I had a very smart mouth - no not intelligent but as in smart alec. I am not that way anymore. For whatever reason, as flawed humans, we strive for perfection. So to be anything less, seems to be perceived as bad. However, we can see how there truly is so much beauty in being flawed. Listen to Lisa: "The most beautiful part of this equation is how that flaw gives us the ability to be better. For if there were no flaw, there would be no reason for forgiveness." No flaw, no forgiveness. Period.

I love, love, love the description of God's forgiveness being as wide as east to west. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12. This verse is the basis of popular song, "East to West", by Casting Crowns. It shows the vastness of His forgiveness. It is never ending. It is not limited. It is not conditioned. It is not capped. He never runs out of forgiveness. Rather, His forgiveness is unending just like the description east to west is unending. Lisa says: "God used those words because He wanted to illustrate for you and me that His forgiveness for us cannot be matched or measured!" We cannot measure east to west. We cannot measure God's forgiveness.

The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him. Daniel 9:9 Yes, even with our failures. Yes, even with our flaws. Yes, even with our imperfections. He eagerly awaits for us to seek His forgiveness and He eagerly forgives us despite ourselves...despite our sinful nature.

I had to smile and nod in agreement with Lisa. She said: "There have been times in my life when looking in the mirror was hard for me because I knew who I was and what I had done. I sometimes felt as if I had a Kick Me sign on my back, and I was the first in line to do it." Amen, sister! Oh that is so me. She continued though with what I call the cherry on top of that sinful sundae. "Being so deeply flawed left me with the ability to be forgiven by God equally, the flaws suddenly felt really important to the process."

Reading this last page reminded me of a beautiful scripture. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Can't you see the importance and beauty in being flawed and imperfect?

Do you feel forgiven? Will you begin to really believe you are forgiven and to live in that forgiveness?

I love this line of Lisa's prayer. "Help us to be spiritually strong so that we can allow ourselves the permission to be flawed." Do you allow yourself to be flawed?

Now quit beating up yourself for your flaws and rejoice in them as they bring forgiveness and an opportunity to be better.

Click here to see what others have to say about this.

Definitely Flawed But Forgiven,

The picture is from my yard. Flawed is beautiful. Dead is beautiful.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hope Restored

I had been nervously looking forward to it. The appointment was set. It was scheduled for sooner than later. Courage had brought me to this moment. Butterflies in my stomach. Hope in my heart. I waited, thankfully, not too long. I explained my history to the physician. He spoke. I listened. We conversed some more. I was direct with my question and he with his answer. Then, it felt like the hope I had was merely a poof of air with his answer. I had asked if this is what it is and always will be. I felt like my heart fell because I had such high hopes in what I desired and the resolution I had hoped.

I left the maze of the medical building just wanting to get to my vehicle. Focused on the long drive home, my mind was pondering on the negative, the doom, the gloom. Yet, my heart wanted to refuse the negative focus, the lost hope, and the less than favorable solution. I wanted to restore my hope by believing in God to provide a course of action and end result different than I was just told. As the information and papers lay on the seat next to me in my car, I declared to give the power back to God. I literally "laid hands" on the papers given to me. I prayed for God to use this course of action and the prescriptions provided. I felt empowered by the simple act of placing my hand on these papers while I prayed.

My mind then began to wander after that prayer. What about a new purse? You know, I could use one slightly bigger to hold my prayer log. What about a Bible cover? You know, one that would hold my Bible, notebook, and study guide. What about some shoes? You know, I've never found a good pair of brown ones yet. What about a new hair do? You know, that usually excites a woman. What about a new house? You know, I wish my house would sell and I could move.

I'm sure you can see what my mind was trying to do. I realized I was trying to fill a hole with something else. I wanted to sooth the disappointing words with something that would temporarily excite my heart. Of course, as expected that didn't work as I didn't even feel like making any of those purchases. Even those would not ease my heart's sorrow. I felt a cloud of disappointment and I didn't want to be under that cloud. Rather, I wanted to feel the ray of the Son shine. I felt in my heart, I needed to change the state of my mind and heart. I turned to His Word. No, I didn't crack open my big ol' bible while driving. I wanted to be proactive though and "do" something instead of wallowing in my disappointment and seemingly loss of hope. So, what does a person do? Turn to your dashboard. That is, if you have scripture placed on it. I hadn't memorized any new scripture strips* lately. So, I knew there was no better time. As I recited the verses over and over, I felt rejuvenated. In a time of disappointment and looking at the negative, I was restored with hope in this issue by God's Word. The residing theme of these got it...the rewarding but painfully difficult task of waiting.

Here are those scriptures. I hope one or more of them will speak a special word to your heart and life.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14a

Be still before the Lord; wait patiently for Him. Psalm 37:7

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10a

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped. Psalm 28:7a

You will seek Me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3

The Lord is good to those who wait on Him, to the soul who seeks Him. Lamentations 3:25

Now don't think I'm superwoman with a photogenic memory. I didn't memorize all eight verses in a half hour. Only the first two were new memory verses. The others were review. However, the combination of them all gave me such a combination for a great message from God.

We see how waiting for God is not only good for us, but He asks it of us and rewards it. We also see that in our times of not only waiting but also times of trouble, He is there to help us. He either gives us strength to endure the waiting or help in our trouble. Waiting has so much to do with being still and seeking God.

I don't know what you may enduring but I can also guess that there is a need for waiting, a need for being still, a need for seeking Him. It seems much of our Christian walk involves waiting for something, many somethings at different seasons in our lives. If you are tempted with not waiting or not seeking Him, may you gleam strength from one or all of the verses above. He is our strength. Lean on Him as He so desires us to do. I know for myself in several areas of my life I cling to Lamentations 3:25. I have to believe as I'm faithful to wait on Him for answers and resolutions to several issues, that He will be faithful and good to me as I wait and He'll provide a result out of this world. Remember, Ephesians 3:20 tells us that He is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever imagine or ask...but it also goes on to say...according to His power that is at work within us.

Allow His power within you to work in whatever your life presents to you. Let Him be your strength and He will fulfill you.

Hoping in Him,

*Scripture strips are my creation of strips of paper about one inch tall and five inches wide with about three or four verses typed in small font. The strip is small enough to not inhibit my view of the odometer, speedometer, etc. on my dashboard.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Comprehending His Love

If I were to take a poll, I would guess that love and acceptance would be on the top of the list of things people seek in their life. Isn't that the ultimate feeling of be loved and accepted? We can search the earth all over and we will never find the kind of love that our soul earnestly seeks. The love for which we long can only be found in God. However, God did create us with emotions and feelings. He created us to desire relationships and therefore to desire human love. That is good and well but that love will not satisfy us fully until we accept and embrace the love of Jesus.

If that is hard to comprehend at this season in your life, you're not alone. I know that my heart wants to be fully satisfied in Christ's love alone. Truth be told there are still certain human and relational loves that I still seek, even knowing Christ should be enough for me.

In chapter eight of Lisa's book, we examine how we are completely loved and accepted by God. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1. Lavished. That's not a sprinkle, a dash, a spritz, nor a smidgen. That's a big ol' lavish! That's more than we could ever feel, know, or understand.

Lisa so poignantly wrote at the beginning of this chapter something my heart has felt as of late but didn't realize until I read her words. Listen to this: "the depths of God's love for us is hard to comprehend. So are the height, the width, and the breadth of His love. Our human minds will not allow us to process the greatness of the love of our Father because we are programmed by the world's view of love, which has great limitations." When I read her words this past weekend, I captured my instant thoughts in the margin: This is so true. If I could comprehend His love, I think things would be easier for me...easier for me to understand the things in my life. The world teaches us to define love in fallible ways based on conditions and expectations, sometimes unknowingly. The only true love that never fails is from God. It is hard to comprehend God's love because we do not experience it from any other source. Relationships have conditions and expectations that we try so hard to meet. God does not condition His love nor does He have requirements He expects us to fulfill for us to receive His love and acceptance. When we have never experienced free unconditional love, it makes it difficult to understand how anyone, including this huge and great God, could love us so.

I shared with Lisa how I struggle with finding my identity solely in my relationship with God and His love. Instead, I look to the roles and relationships I lack. I try to measure my life on the typical life of an American: husband, children, dog, white picket fence, grandkids (okay, not grandkids...I am only 34 ya know). My identity and love should not be wrapped up in what I lack compared to what is sociably the norm. Lisa shared with me something very encouraging to my heart when I needed it. I want to pass that along to you: "It's my belief that in times like those He looks at us, not in judgment of what we SHOULD believe, but with eyes of love and grace for us to see how our life can be rich and full without anyone or anything but Him."

Lisa spoke of a story about a man and wife visiting an orphanage to adopt a child. They had much to offer the child. However, the boy declined if that was all they had he'd rather just stay put. They were puzzled and asked him what in the world else could he want. Listen: The boy replied, "I just want someone to love me." Oh, how those words pricked my heart. At this season in my life, I feel that is what my heart is screaming. I find myself envying more and more those marriages of longevity. To have a lifelong spouse of 10-15-20-30 years. Wow...what that would feel like. Lisa says: "...we long to feel the warm embrace of love wrapped around us." Oh yes. She goes on to say: "Even the best of our earthly relationships with the strongest bonds of earthly love cannot quench the insatiable thirst of our souls for a deeper much so that we're not even sure anymore that it really exists." I know this to be true. My head knows but my heart is a little behind...slow at catching up. I do have the love of the One so why am I still wanting earthly love, a love that can never quench that thirst? The love of a particular one but really the love of anyone. I feel I'm missing out not only being loved but to give love...someone with which to share this journey of life...someone with which to share all the marvelous revelations of Christ that I learn.

That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height--to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians. 3:17-19

Unlike human love, God's love is without conditions and limits. We limit our love with hidden expectations, conditions and unforgiveness. I believe many times we don't even realize when conditions and limits are placed on love until a relationship is put to test and the conditions are revealed. We can say we love unconditionally but that's hard to believe and rare to see. Human love within itself is limited but when we invite Jesus into the relationship and it's a circle of three, there is no limit, no power we can't utilize. A circle of three could be any relationship...spouse, friends, relatives, parents, children. Any time we invite Christ to truly be present and ask Him and His power to reign, the possibilities are limitless.

I love how Lisa pointed out that basically we can place the feelings we have about our worldly relationships onto God. Listen to what she says: "The truth is we never totally feel accepted every day by anyone on this earth, even the people who love and care for us the very most. We often feel judged and compromised by the people around us, and we just can't seem to shake the feeling that God also somehow reserves His opinion of us, depending upon how we behave or what we say and do." Have you felt that? I sure have. We cannot place God in the same category of how others may or may not treat us. God does not judge His love and acceptance based on our actions. Otherwise, we could earn His love and that is not possible. We can earn His favor and blessings. Maybe we mix up His favor and blessings with His love and acceptance.

Lisa shared seven verses revealing God's deep concern toward us and His acceptance of us. Two of them are ones written on my heart.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. Jeremiah 1:5

At times my flesh can rationalize that God wrote verses in general and to everyone yet somehow not personally and specifically for me. He formed everyone so my flesh says what makes, me Paula, different? Yet my heart knows it is. He did it all just for me, even if there were no one else. Yes, He formed Sally and Bob and Missy before they were born and He also formed Paula and set me apart. I know God has adopted me as His child for I am a believer and follower of His Son. I also know that He has accepted me completely. Yet, I struggle with whether my life, thoughts, and actions please Him. He accepts me as I am and who I am but am I a pleasing aroma to Him? I can say I'm accepted by Him because of His character but I can still stink at times.

God shows His love for us all the time but we have to look for it. I shared a couple weeks ago in this post about how I was angry with God yet He reacted by reassuring me of His presence in my life. In short, I was mowing the yard and vocalized my anger at God for not seeing His Hand working in my life. Rather, I had felt His abandonment and punishment. That is not what He was/is doing. I still am not quite sure what it is but He's not punishing or abandoning me. He showed me that same evening that He's working but it's in His time and His way. The entire incident has remained with me. It has grown into even more of a mark in time calling me to remember. Remember He has not forgotten me but rather He is doing His own thing, in His own way, in His own time. My flesh tries to equate my lack of understanding things to God not caring about me, my desires, wants, or needs. Instead, my heart knows He does care; I just just cannot understand His almighty ways in my finite mind constrained to an earthly view.

Lisa challenged us to consider whether we most need to know if we are completely loved by God or accepted completely by God. I would say I need to know I'm completely loved by God. To be completely loved by someone means to be completely accepted in my mind. To be completely loved means I would be taken care of, my needs fulfilled, my best at heart. I don't know how God sees it but I feel when we truly love someone we also accept them for who they are.

The way I see it...
To love is to be forgiven.
To love is to be accepted.
To love is to be cared for.
To love is to be put first.
To love is to be given the best.

What do you need most from God? His love or His acceptance?

I had to smile when Lisa said "God already knows that He accepts us just as we are...with all of our failures and faults and insecurities, but He wants us to know that--to really know that." Do you really know that?

Seeking to Comprehend His Love,

To see other thoughts on this subject click here.