Wednesday, August 3, 2016

No Blame, No Shame, No Guilt

I am not ashamed! I am not ashamed of who I am, where I come from, or my past experiences! God has been speaking to me lately about blame, shame, and guilt. He has been mercifully showing me that we are not meant to live in a state of guilt or a life full of shame... we're just not meant to, PERIOD! Of course, I am not perfect... none of us are. I've messed up, made huge mistakes, regretted some past decisions and I'll probably screw up in the future; but, I am LOVED unconditionally by the Creator of the universe and He does not want me (or anyone) to live in shame because of my past, present, or future sins. Now don't get me wrong... the Bible teaches us to strive to be Christ-like and He was perfect and without sin during his time on earth. So it is our job to try to live our lives like Christ did but we all know that we aren't perfect like He is. The Bible does give us lots of instruction and ways to live this way. Like in Romans 12:2 we are told not to conform to the ways of the world but to be transformed by renewing our mind so that we will know what is good, pleasing, and in God's will. We are supposed to stay in the Word, renew our minds and focus on following God's will for our lives. Will we mess up? YEP!!! We are humans born with a sinful nature, but God knows this! He knows EVERYTHING and He has known since before He even created us. That is why He has provided us with a way back to Him through the REDEMPTIVE and RESTORATIVE blood of His very own Son, Jesus Christ. WOW... do you guys realize how AMAZING that is?!? His love for us is so strong that he gave us His perfect Son's life and death so that we can live our earthly lives under His love, protection, and guidance and then spend eternity with Him in Paradise! That's pretty awesome if you ask me.
So what about this blame, shame and guilt business? If you look back in the Bible at some key stories you will see where different individuals really messed up but God always used their circumstance to show just how much He love us. Even as the first sin was committed when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden, God showed his love and mercy for us. After they ate of the fruit they felt guilt and were ashamed because they didn't want God to see their nakedness. After God came to them and dealt with the issue of their sin (similar to how the Holy Spirit convicts us when we have done wrong), He created garments for them to cover themselves so that they wouldn't continue to live in the shame of their nakedness. I mean, that's a clear sign of His love for us right from the get go and the Bible is full of lots of other examples of how His love is UNCONDITIONAL, REDEMPTIVE, RESTORATIVE, and PERFECT!
So as we strive to be Christ-like, keep in mind that even when we mess up God has provided us with a way back to Him in every circumstance. He understands that we have sinful nature and only expects us to follow His Word, listen to the Holy Spirit, and love others just as He has loved us! When we do fall short (because we all will... the Bible tells us this in Romans 3:23), we can trust that the blood of His Son has already cleansed our unrighteousness and He will cast our sins away from us as far as the east is from the west if we will only come to Him in repentance. Once we have confessed our sins and repented... there is no more condemnation! NO SHAME!!! Can I get an AMEN!?! As children of God we do not have to live with shame and guilt from our mistakes! That's a whole lot of love that God is pouring out on us! It's time to accept it and move past the condemnation and allow God to work through us by loving, forgiving, and releasing others in our life from any blame, guilt, shame that we have placed on them. Let go, Let God, and Just Love!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Treasures in the Trials...

I'll just go ahead and admit... this has been a tough one! It has taken me a little while to write this post and even longer to actually publish it. Although all of my posts are straight from the heart and exactly what I feel God is teaching me at the time, this one has laid heavily on me for a while... the circumstances surrounding this particular revelation have been grueling and I have been unsure of how to express the things God had laid on my heart. But, I have decided to trust that He has given me the words and the wisdom to effectively communicate how I have experienced His unfailing goodness and power in my life. So here goes...

Temptation, trials, tragedy... and treasure? How does the word "treasure" possibly fit in with these other obviously negative words? It's not exactly a word that we usually associate with the difficult circumstances that come to mind when we begin to think about those other words.  But why not...

Why do we not seek out the treasures that can be found in the midst of life's tough times? For the most part, it's not in our human nature to look for "treasures" as we trudge through life's dark moments like unemployment, the loss of a loved one, sickness, marital problems, or financial struggles... But what if we did? What if we made the effort to redirect our focus and search for the treasures that might be hidden in difficult times of life? How might our situations turn out differently if we deliberately look beyond the pain and disappointment? What if we just choose to run in to the arms of God which are full of everlasting "treasures" just waiting for us?

Recently, God began to speak to me about the treasures that can be found in the darkness of life's trials... the type of priceless treasures that can only be discovered in the darkest of dark places... just like rare jewels that are uncovered and mined out of the deepest, darkest, most hidden caves. As I spoke with a close friend a few days ago, I came to the realization that my ever-faithful Father has laid before me one of these invaluable treasures that I may not have found if I were not currently trudging through one of my life’s most trying moments. Because of the trial that I am facing now, my faith and reliance on God has grown without measure. It has grown so much that I even struggle to find the words to describe the change that has taken place within my heart and mind. Over the past several months, I had begun to notice the changes in me but it did not really come into full light until the other day.

As is our usual custom every few months or so, my friend and I were catching up on the new developments in our lives over a casual dinner.  I (not wanting to throw a pity-party for myself) had already decided before I arrived at the restaurant that if the topic came up (and I knew it would), I was going to somehow find a way to discuss it in a positive light. So when our conversation turned to me and that area of my life I hesitated for a moment… I took a deep breath, prayed a quick, silent "God guide me" and carefully began to speak. By the look on her face and the tears welling up in my eyes I knew that the hurt, frustration, and disappointment that I was experiencing was undeniably and overwhelmingly evident. Carefully reading her expressions, I was so oddly aware of every word that came tip-toeing across my lips in my quivering but somehow confident voice. As I anticipated (and dreaded) the normal responses of pity and genuine concern that accompany these types of conversations, I felt like I could only emphasize the good that had come from my current situation. I conveyed to her how much my relationship with God had changed for the better because of the difficulties I have been faced with. With tear filled eyes and that burning achiness in my throat that only comes from holding back sobs, I told of how in spite of the hurt and disappointment that often overwhelms me, I have found such a peace and deep knowing that I am following God's will for me. I explained that even though I had a strong Christian upbringing and have always trusted in God's will and plan for me, this was something so much more. What I had stumbled upon in my struggle to find my own way out of this dark hole was a dependence and faith in God's sovereign control over my life like I have never experienced before. A glimmering treasure of hope had been exposed just when I thought all that lay before me was more hurt and despair. I was becoming more and more aware of my Father’s love for me and the peaceful rest that is only found in Him. I knew that I and my situation would work out for the best and I wanted to be certain my friend knew that as well.

So, as she listened to me reassuring her (and myself) of how much God had been teaching me and how He had drawn me under His protecting wing... I opened my mouth and heard God speak to ME through my own words and now slightly more stable voice. I uttered this exact sentence (through tears and sniffling), "I absolutely want things to get better, BUT not at the cost of losing what I have gained." … And it was in that moment that it dawned on me... It is this dark cave that I am still stumbling around in that has forced me to depend solely on God's guidance and draw closer to Him. It is the utter despair and hurt that I experience in that darkness that has taught me to not just listen to my Father's voice; but to purposefully follow it because only He can lead me out of this dark trial and into a peaceful place of refuge and restoration. It is the complete helplessness and inability to create my own solution that has led me to depend on my God's faithfulness to provide all my needs.

Of course I am more than ready for the hard times to end… I am eager to leave this gloomy valley and climb into the light of the bright future He has promised me. I almost feel crazy for the “but” that interjected that sentence that so perfectly describes the almost irrational outlook I have developed regarding my current struggle. He is molding me into a better person, wife, friend, daughter, sister, and Christian. Because I chose to redirect my focus to Him instead of dwelling on the negativity of my trial, I can now see the sparkling glint of light from the “treasure” of knowing His unfailing love for me and trusting in His control over every dark circumstance. I understand now more than ever how important a relationship with my heavenly Father is to the course of my life and the outcome of my everyday living. I have become inexplicably aware of His presence and power over every aspect of my life and even more conscious of my need for Him in my life. I know that it is only His goodness and mercy that will lead me through this trial as I continue to seek Him, still myself, and know that He is my God, my Provider, my Refuge, my EVERYTHING.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Laying it Down...

     Just recently I had a conversation with a good friend about being stressed with life situations and unmotivated to do the things that she (or we, because I am right there with her) need to being doing in our daily lives. She stated that she knew that she just needed to lay everything at God's feet and leave it there... not pick her situations back up again and try to carry them on her own... but didn't know why she kept picking them back up again.

     I understand exactly how she feels. I know that the problems, circumstances, and situations that I am faced with in my life belong at Jesus' feet and not on my shoulders; but for some reason I feel the need to constantly carry them with me. When reflecting on our conversation I was reminded of a screensaver that I had made for my computer at work several years ago. At the time, I was trying (on my own) to deal with a lot of stressful situations that were going on in my life and had decided to make a "Corbie's life motto" reminder to keep in front of me at all times on my computer. (SEE PICTURE) It was just a small reminder for me to lay everything at His feet and leave it there. As time went on and I became interested or focused on other things,  I changed my screensaver to another picture and forgot about my "life motto" reminder until our conversation the other day. Just as I had forgotten my reminder, I also had forgotten to leave my situations at His feet and not try to carry them on my own.

     All too often we get caught up in the things going on in our lives ... the stress, the worry, the overwhelming pressure of dealing with the things that life throws at us daily... that we forget that we don't have to carry those burdens ourselves. God has offered to take them from us and actually instructed us to give them to Him. Psalms 55:22 speaks of casting our burdens on the Lord and he will sustain us. And in Phillipians 4:19 we are reminded that our God can supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory. There are many other places in the Bible where we are reminded of our Lord's constant and timely provisions for all of our needs, situations, and circumstances.
     So... why do we insist on handling everything on our own? Why do we refuse to lay it all down at His feet and walk away from it? Perhaps it is a spirit of independence that we have developed over time. An independence that should be turned back into a dependence on God to take care of our every situation, problem, or need.

    As a result of God's gentle reminders through casual conversation, I have been brought back to my "life motto" that I came up with all those years ago. Because of this I will begin again to focus on leaving it all at His feet and walking away. I will remind myself again to focus on His glory, unconditional love, and ever timely provisions. Just as we read in Phillipians 4:6-8, I will turn it all over to Him and trust that He will take care of it all as He sees fit. I will choose focus on Him and all that is good in Him, and hold fast to the fact that I am His and that He will give me peace that surpasses anything I could possibly understand. That is why I am simply laying it all down...

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Life of Thanksgiving

Just like every year Thanksgiving Day has come and gone... everyone took the day to reflect on and make mention of all the things that they are thankful for in their lives; but somehow it just seems like it should be more than that. Daily we are blessed by God in so many different areas of our lives, but yet sometimes (in the hustle and bustle of life) we may forget to take the time to give Him thanks for all that He has done for us. In Luke 17, we read the parable of the ten lepers who cried out to Jesus and were cleansed from their leprosy, but only one of the ten returned to Jesus and gave thanks. The Bible tells us that he turned back and glorified God with a loud voice, and because of his faithfulness and his willingness to express his gratitude he was not only cleansed from his disease but also made WHOLE! So, not only was he cured of his disease like the other nine lepers, but he probably also grew back any bodily extremities that he had lost because of his leprosy... all because he returned to Jesus to express his thankfulness.

As I reflected on Thanksgiving Day, this parable of the lepers, and all the scriptures that specifically tell us to give thanks, I began to think about all the things that I am thankful for in my life. God has bestowed so many blessing on me that it would be a very long (and probably boring) read for everyone, but here are just a few of the things that I am thankful for today and everyday:

1. God's grace and mercy. Titus  1:12-14 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Just as God was full of love, grace and mercy for Paul, he has provided us with the same love, grace, and mercy.  Our God is a god of second chances and it is only by His mercy that we have been given the opportunity to commune and fellowship with Him. I have found that without this relationship with God first in my life, all other aspects of my life do not function as they should. I am thankful for His unconditional love, mercy, grace, and patience with me as I continue to grow in His will and walk in His way.

2. My husband. He is my best friend, constant companion, and the love of my life. He is a true blessing and I am thankful that God has placed him in my life. Although I may not express it often enough, I love him more and more each day and look forward to growing old by his side. I am thankful for our marriage (where we have been, where we are, and where we are going) and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for him (and us) as we continue to move forward in His will.

3. My family. I love them all dearly! They are my support system in every sense of the phrase. I am truly blessed to have been raised by God-loving parents, who have taught and trained me in the way that I should go. It is because of their continuous, loving guidance that I have become (and am still becoming) the person that God has called me to be. Through them (and God), I have been blessed with three amazing siblings who are the best friends any person could ever ask for. They are a steadfast source of encouragement and joy in my life; and without them and their significant others, my life simply would not be the same.

And because family is sometimes more than just blood relatives...  My church family and "adopted" family (the friends who are more like family than just regular friends) are also such a blessing in my life. Without these people, life would be much harder to cope with on a daily basis. I am thankful for every member of my family (immediate, extended, church, and friend).

4. My life experiences. God teaches us so many things through our life experiences; and whether they are good or bad experiences, we can always learn something from them. It is our choice to learn from the experiences that God allows us to go through and then grow in Him because of them. We are also supposed to give thanks for those experiences. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. So, regardless of the situation, I will try to give thanks and learn whatever lesson God wants to teach me from it.

There are so many other things that I am thankful for in my life and I could easily write about many more of them. Instead I will try to do as Colossians 3:15 says and BE THANKFUL every single day!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Taking It to the Rooftop...

"Keep pressing forward until you break through..."

Just recently a dear family friend and spiritual mentor pulled me aside after our Sunday morning church service and began to tell me that he felt God was asking him to share something with me. He opened up his Bible and read the parable in Mark 2 about the four friends who took their paralyzed friend to Jesus with faith that he would be healed. We then began to discuss how those four friends pressed forward with such determination and faith to reach Jesus because they knew He would be able to heal their friend. Their faith was so strong that they were willing to climb to the rooftop of the house in which Jesus was teaching and tear apart the roof to get to Him!

That Sunday morning my friend from church had no idea that I too have been pressing forward in hopes of a breakthrough... honestly, until our conversation that day, I am not even sure if I knew how to describe what I had been feeling. I knew my relationship with God had been changing and I knew my hunger to be closer to Him was growing; but it wasn't until that moment that I knew what I had been looking for was a breakthrough. For some time now, I have felt that I need a breakthrough in many different areas of my life; and it was then that I realized that with this hunger and desire to be more in God's word, will, and presence... that I am "pressing forward until I break through!"

I am so thankful that my friend listened to God's instruction to share with me that parable. After we read the passage from Mark, he turned to me and said, "Corbie, just keep pressing forward until you break through." Immediately I felt tears well up in my eyes (yeah... I'm a crier) because without me even realizing it, I had been feeling discouraged and tired of pressing forward in some areas. It's a daily struggle to press through all the chaos, confusion, and distractions of this life to break through to true communion and fellowship with our God. Thankfully we have the gift of the Holy Spirit with us at all times and we don't have to fight crowds of people, climb trees, and tear apart stranger's roofs to reach our Jesus. But nonetheless, we have to press through moments of wavering faith and past disappointments until we break through to unwavering trust and complete dependence on Him. We have to take our situations to the rooftop, tear it apart, then lay it all at His feet and trust that His will for us is best and will be done. It is then that He will meet all our needs unconditionally just like He did in the parable of the paralytic and his four faithful friends!

I WANT to be like those four friends... I want my faith to be so strong and my determination to be closer to my God to be so overwhelmingly present that I would do anything to be in His word, will, and presence! I mean... I'm talking... willing to tear apart a stranger's roof STRONG!!!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Daily Pop Quizzes... on Obedience!

Every morning the Bible app that I have on my phone sends me a notification to read that day's verse and passage. It's pretty convienent and has really caused me to stay in the Word on a daily basis. I usually read the verse and passage that it has scheduled for that day and then try to keep that particular word in my mind and heart, and really focus on it as I go through my daily activities. The verse that comes up each morning is just an individual scripture that is randomly selected for that day; so... when I started using this app, I decided just to trust that God had picked that particular scripture for me for that day and go with it! Several times just during this week it really seemed to be that God was using that randomly selected verse to teach and test me on being obedient to His word and will.

On Monday, both my husband and I were struggling with trying to understand God's will for us and the fact that it may not match up with our wills at this time. My verse for that day...  Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on you own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. When I read that verse on Monday morning I couldn't help but let out a little giggle and say, "Thank you God! Thank you for reminding me that You are in control and all I have to do is trust in You!" And as I went throughout my day, every time I felt myself falling back into discouragement and questioning "why?" I would pull that scripture back up and read over it again. Then... God impressed me to text that verse to my husband. I was like, "ummm.. okay God...  he is gonna think I'm weird just texting him a Bible verse randomly!" But I trusted Him and did it anyways, and that night when we were getting settled for the night my husband asked me if I had picked that verse especially for him or if it really was my random verse for the day. I explained that it was just my random scripture and all said was "hhhmmm... .okay!" That was enough confirmation for me! I knew just by the tone in his "hmmm" and the look on his face that it was the perfect scripture for him at that time. So... not only did Monday's little pop quiz on trust and obedience lift my spirits and reassure me that God is in control; but it also encouraged and ministered to my husband. That's pretty amazing!!!

Tuesday's pop quiz, on the other hand, was a little bit tougher! Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Now when I read this on Tuesday morning, I was like "oh yeah... I got this one! I don't talk corrupting talk!" Ummm WRONG!!! I should have known that if Eph 4:29 was my scripture for the day... I was going to be tested on it. As soon as I got to work on Tuesday, it seemed like everything thing that could have gone wrong...DID go wrong. It was a stressful day, I was in a bad mood, and EVERYONE around me was talking corrupting talk! Nothing good for building up of anything or anyone and definitely no grace at all! I was overwhelmed with the negativity and felt myself falling into the complaining and murmuring that was going on around me. And then I realized what was going on ... I started repeating the verse over and over and OVER again to myself. I think I probably looked back at that verse 15-20 times throughout the day and asking God to help me control my thoughts and my mouth! And then He did... all of the sudden, in the midst of everyone else complaining, I said: "my scripture for today said for me not to let any corrupting or bad talk come out of my mouth. So I'm not talking about this!" I thought to myself, "wow... did I just really say that out loud!" and all the others around me just kind of stopped and stared at me for a minute. I didn't even really care that they may have thought I was weird. All I know is that I was obeying God and they stopped talking negatively about everything (at least around me anyways)! But wheewwww... what a test!!!

So now every morning when I read my randomly selected scripture, I realize it isn't really random at all! It is God's little pop quiz for me on how well I am going to obey Him that day... and I like it! I feel like He is training me and preparing me for bigger and more life-impacting situations that may come along in the future. So I'll keep taking these pop quizzes on a daily basis and pray that God teaches me unconditional trust and obedience through them!!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Being Still...on the go!

Psalms 46:10 Be still and know that I am God...
       This is perhaps the most well know Bible verse where God is telling us to be still and if you go back and read the entire chapter before we get to this verse, you will see that there is quite a variety of chaotic circumstances going on that would cause anything but "stillness." Yet He says "be still and know that I am God." He tries to remind them that He is in the midst of all the chaos AND He is still in charge of all things.
      Our lives are so often full of chaos and clutter that, like in Psalms, we forget who is in charge of it all. God wants to remind us that He is in the midst of all things and He will be our help and place of refuge if we will just allow Him to do so. I know, I know... being still in this day and age is so hard. Between work, daily tasks, and maintaining personal relationships with those around us... who has time to be still? We are constantly on the go. But somehow we have to find a way to still ourselves... our inner selves, our minds, hearts, and spirits. We need give God an opportunity to be our help and our place of refuge.
       Recently, I have found that it is in the moments when I am doing my most routine, daily activities that I am able to still myself, my mind, and my heart. Now while this could never take the place of truly being completely still in mind, heart, and body, it is during these basic daily tasks that I am able to tune in to God and listen to Him, converse with Him, and worship Him. I may still be physically on the go (getting ready for work, driving to and from work, fixing supper), but I am still. The routineness of those activities allows me to tune out every other thought and know that He is my God, He is in control of my every situation, and He will be my help and place of refuge if I will only realize that He is in the midst of it all. AND... guess what... He says that once we are still and know that He is God... the rest of the world will also begin to know that He is God! They will notice a change in us. He says that He "will be exalted among the heathen." Imagine that... there are a lot of great things that could come from us just taking the time and making a conscious effort to Be Still...even when we are on the go!