“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.” Brennan Manning

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Experiencing Love Changes Everything

When I was in nursing school, I carefully studied textbooks, listened to lectures, and memorized material. I would spend hours practicing skills such as inserting an IV, foley catheter, or changing a dressing for a wound. I would memorize the procedure and practice on mannequins. However, there was no amount of studying that could supersede actually taking care of real patients in the hospital. The textbooks gave me a good base of knowledge, but without the experience I still couldn't fully grasp the concept or procedure. The textbooks lacked power in a sense, because real life scenarios can be complex and do not follow a textbook.

Every person is unique with their own history and needs, so many times you have to think outside the book and bend the 'rules' in order to actually give people what they need.

Well, similar to nursing school, I've spent years studying the Bible. It gave me a good knowledge base, but I lacked the full experience. I knew God was with me many times throughout my life, but I doubted He really loved me. Though I wanted to believe, trust was hard. I tried to emulate the Bible but it was difficult and heavy. I attempted to do everything just 'right' and not do anything 'wrong'. I was afraid of slipping and falling and feared God was watching, ready to punish me and that His patience would run out.

I disciplined myself to read, study, memorize, and be as perfect as I could. But without the foundation of God's love and acceptance, I was susceptible to lies and confusion. Despite all my efforts, I couldn't muster up love and forgiveness when it counted. I knew the Bible says that if you don't forgive others, God won't forgive you. I knew my heart was ugly and I believed I was damned if God didn't save me. I wanted to forgive, I just lacked the power to do it.

Disillusioned and discouraged, I sunk into a deep pit - hiding from God and people, burying the pain, and just trying to move on. But the pit grew deeper and deeper and I couldn't stand the darkness. I was so afraid, alone, and desperate for help. I doubted Jesus could rescue me. But even when I was hiding and running away, God pursued me and captured me in His gentle embrace.

Despite my mess, my unforgiveness, my pride, my self-righteousness in trying to do it on my own, He didn't let me go. He gave me mercy when I deserved judgement. He forgave me. He showed me His intense love for me and I believed Him.

He took my calloused, unforgiving heart, and gave me His heart of love and forgiveness for those who hurt me. And now God's voice is real to me. I'm no longer just trying to follow a book, I'm actually living what it says through the power of God. I'm actually experiencing His grace and love, His goodness and forgiveness, His kindness. And it is changing my life.

"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." While I was still running from God, He found me and loved me despite my unworthiness. He called me His own and accepted me as I am. His love is the foundation. "God loves us as we are, not as we 'should' be." His love is what changes us, not our own diligent efforts.

Instead of trying so hard to make His word true in my life, God is making it true in me. "My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love — so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God." 1 John 4:7-10.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I was running, gasping for air, afraid, hurt, and alone. No where to go or hide, but running away from it all. Life was too hard and too scary and I just couldn't handle it. I've been running since I was eleven. And when I couldn't run anymore, I had to go back to the confusion and pain; there was no escape. So I'd cry at night, so afraid and alone. I would never show it. Too much shame like it was my fault, I was not good enough and unworthy.

I tried harder to be better and earn love and acceptance. I worked very hard but any accomplishment meant nothing to me. I longed to be loved and free. And I kept running. And the loneliness sunk deep, the hurt buried far beneath the surface to cover any traces of who I really was, and my fears weighing me down, paralyzing.

Who knew? Who cared? What was love? I was longing for it, but could never reach it. I wanted to believe, but then doubts and fears would flood my vision. I was lost, rejected, and undone. Running for my life.

After a long time, I knew that I was being pursued. Was it love? Could I trust? I was unlovable. No one knew me, how could I be loved? So I ran away afraid to be torn apart. I couldn't handle any more pain - I already was dying. But He caught me and held me tight. I fought Him hard, so angry, hurt, and afraid. And He whispered gently, "I love you. You are safe with me. I won't hurt you. You are Mine." And slowly my defenses weakened, and I let myself be seen and held- captured in His embrace, enveloped in His love, and I was changed.

Stepping in the tube

July 3, 2013 Gotta share what God's doing in me. OK, so I've been afraid of God for a long time. I knew He could see right through my masks, and I knew I was in big trouble and I thought He was going to nail me. I believed my acceptance depended on my performance and I just couldn't fix myself and get it together. And so I've been running from God, but He has been chasing me. I knew He was chasing me and I was afraid because I knew I couldn't really hide all my mistakes and failures from Him. I knew I had tried to be a Christian and do all the right things, but I just didn't add up and I didn't deserve His mercy so I kept trying harder and harder and falling in all kinds of ditches, trusting the wrong things and people, turning to food for comfort (more shame), and kept getting hurt and stained and more desperate to be found and loved.

So I dared to open up to a few people, still very cautious, worried it could all turn on me. But I had to do something cause I felt like I was dying and no one knew it and I was so hurt and torn up and angry and lost and afraid and lonely inside. And I didn't even know who I was. But last night Jesus found me while I was so lost and afraid. And He held me still shaking. And I didn't fight it, just let Him love me. And He is kind, not harsh. And I let Him see my mess but He didn't scold me but gave me grace and forgiveness and love. And His love is changing me like I never could. And it hurts in a good way. And I feel loved. And my fears are becoming less. It's true I am still a sinner full of mess and sins too numerous, but He is breaking down my walls of pride and self sufficiency and washing me and showing me grace and kindness. His love changes everything.

But I still feel hesitant to trust completely, afraid it's too good to be true and that the rules might change and that God will turn His back on me. And so I'm asking Jesus to show me His love and help me to trust Him and not fear. So today, I'm at my in-law's lake house and we took my boys tubing (in a really big safe tube). My 3 year old was excited and jumped right on the tube with my husband. But my 5 year old really was too afraid even though he really wanted to get in. We encouraged him, but he couldn't find the courage and so he watched with me in the boat. After watching for a few minutes, he found an ounce of courage and he told me he wanted in the tube. This time he was determined even though he was still very much afraid as he stepped in.

He sat down, hands griping the handles tight, eyes wide with fear as the boat started off slowly. He saw the waves and felt the tube rock, and tears just started rolling down his cheeks. His daddy whispered gently in his ear, “You can do this buddy. You're going to be all right. You are very brave. I am with you. I got you.” His daddy knew the driver would go slow and easy and that he was safe. But the tears continued to roll. He didn't try to stop them and he didn't ask to get off; he just sat there and cried with his daddy whispering courage in his ear. And after a long time, he began to loosen his grip, he looked beyond the waves at his daddy who was cheering for him the whole time and he gave him a knuckles. Then, he smiled and waved at me. He was free. His daddy's love and encouragement helped him see past the waves. And he began to trust and he was able to enjoy the ride with a smile on his face. All the while, his little brother was standing on the tube, both arms flung in the air, unafraid and free.

This was so good for me to watch. For some, like my 3 year old, trust is easy. But, for others it's hard and their may be bad memories of the past to overcome or just more hesitation. The struggle of my 5 year old is the same as mine. I fear stepping in the tube even though I want to get in so bad and be free and have fun. And after just watching other people ride the waves, I determine to step in. But I go in afraid, still looking at the waves and not trusting they won't hurt me, but my Daddy is whispering in my ear, “I love you. You are safe with me.” And slowly I begin to trust and I loosen my grip and my eyes turn to Him and He smiles at me and I am changed. And I am free. And all the waves that looked so terrible are not as scary because my Daddy is with me and He is not going to hurt me. He loves me.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

About the Bible- venom or medicine?

I think God likes to use illustrations to help me. :0)

About the Bible- venom or medicine?

If you've been beat with something, you tend to shy away from it.  Well, the Bible has been used to beat me over the head and make me feel condemned. However, in college God used the Bible to comfort me and help me to see Him. But then I started hearing what other people said and thought about the Bible. And somewhere all the other voices drowned out God's and I was so focused on not sinning, being perfect, and evangelism that it became a heavy burden. It became a law book, full of do's and don'ts, and confusion for me. The very thing God gave us to help us see Him and feed us and help us grow had turned into poison to me.

So I remembered a young girl I had taken care of that had gotten bit by a Cottonmouth snake while hiking. When someone is bitten by a poisonous snake prompt treatment is imperative because they can be fatal. The venom of this snake destroys the blood cells, which leads to a reduction in the clotting of the blood, and finally hemorrhage (bleeding) of the body parts. Symptoms include pain, swelling and bleeding at the site of the wound, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, numbness and tingling, skin-color changes, thirst, tiredness, tissue damage and weakness and can lead to shock and death.

The only effective way to save the patient is by giving them antivenom intravenously as soon as possible after a bite. Antivenom is created by extracting venom, or poison, from the animal whose bite needs to be treated. In snakes, this refers to a process known as milking. Another animal, like a sheep, a rabbit or a horse, will be injected with between 1/10th to 1/100th of one lethal dose of the venom. Over the span of several weeks, the animal will be injected with an increasing amount of the venom until it can comfortably handle a dose that is several times larger than the initial lethal dose. Then blood is drawn from the animal and centrifuged, which will separate the white blood cells from the red blood cells. The white blood cells contain powerful antibodies that fight off the effects of the venom, and they are the antivenom that is sent off to the hospitals. When I handled the antivenom, I had to be very careful because one dose I was told was worth around $2,000.

Someone had to risk their life in order to get that medicine. Snake milkers have an insane job; every single day, a snake milker handles deadly, venomous snakes. They put their fingers millimeters away from the sharp, fangs of asps, vipers, cobras, corals, mambas, kraits, and rattlesnakes. One slip of a finger and, well, its all over. However, they know that that venom is valuable. Newer medical research is showing that venom can be used in medicines to help with both strokes and malignant tumors as well. Snake milking is a dangerous job, but by saving lives it can be quite satisfying.

So, like snake venom, the Bible can be poisonous and dangerous. It must be handled with the care of a snake milker. We can't survive if we're just injected with venom. It has to be filtered to make it not lethal to us. In order to create antivenom, the horse acts as a filter. The horse is injected with a diluted amount of venom and slowly builds up antibodies that identify the poison and attack it relentlessly until it's destroyed. And those antibodies are the life-saver. So God knew that we also needed a filter in order to be able to find life and healing in His Word. So God sent His Son to take the venom for us. The venom of the law of sin and death killed Him, but He rose again defeating that Snake and death. And by His blood, we have a cure. In Him is the most powerful antibodies ever that cover our sins and heal our bodies. He gives to us freely. So the law in the Bible brings death until it is filtered through the precious blood of Jesus. But when filtered through His grace and love, we have hope and life in Him.  And God speaks to us personal messages of love in all of our everyday experiences.  His Voice is quiet and strong, full of peace and hope, and gives us the courage to keep going.