Archive for May, 2013

Strongholds vs The Power of God

Chrysanthemum

I closed the book (so to speak) “early” last night. I caved around midnight. I was fighting a heavy heart. Frustrated.

There is such a war going on right now. And if you don’t see it, you might at least “feel” it. It’s a Spiritual war (spiritual warfare). It’s real. It’s serious. And it is overwhelming me right now.

Let me make ONE thing clear. I know who God is. I know He is fighting for me. But that doesn’t mean the forces of Satan aren’t out there trying to do his dirty work, too.

I can already hear the enemy bantering from the the sidelines:  “What’s your problem? God’s not enough for you? You talk so much about what a BIG God He is. If He’s so BiG- why aren’t you happy SMARTY? You’ve got everything you want in this life, sounds like your GOD isn’t living up to YOUR standards!

Any of those questions sound familiar? So what could be causing me (or anyone else) to live life anything less than satisfied?

Well for starts: Watching the news.  Opinion, beliefs, wants, frailties, betrayal, anger…the list could probably fill an entire page. However, I am not here to further infect (yes, infect the wound) and am searching for a way to heal the injuries. I’ve been anxious to unearth an antidote and realized last night you can’t get a prescription for it. The best thing is.. this “brand” isn’t new and it doesn’t cost a penny. Its name is “Cap-Squared” or “Capture & Captive, Inc.” and I’ll be happy to tell you EXACTLY how it works for me!

The theory is: For every thought, image or sound you are “exposed” to – you take IT and capture it as if it’s YOUR hostage. Yes, hostage. Then you hold it CAPTIVE and ASK God to take the information (image, thought, sound) upon HIMself. Let’s play this out, like a movie…frame by frame and hopefully it will make sense. We all have a “stronghold” – something that we can’t stop (or don’t want to stop doing.) It’s something we like or that “feels good” BUT it may not be the best for us, good for us or even SAFE. Some people like food, money, swearing. It is very easy in this life to have a common every day thing BECOME a stronghold. It’s something that we develop an affinity for…and at some point our exposure or “use” of it gets HOLD of who we are and it gets the best of us.

Strongholds do not have to hold us captive. A “stronghold” is best conquered by something larger and bigger than it is. The one thing you’ve got to understand is a stronghold aims to TAKE YOU CAPTIVE in baby steps. Strong holds are like that. Once you know that something has you in its grip (even something as benign as coffee or as serious as alcohol) the ONLY way to get this “TWO step” program to work is to acknowledge it’s there in the first place. So, here’s what I did.

Take facebook for example. What I’ve discovered is that even people that I’ve friended may not always “post” things that I agree with. Things they say, pictures/images they post or items they “share” from another fb user may conflict with my own ideology/beliefs/values/faith. This has REALLY troubled me lately.

So, last night as I “scrolled” the days “updates” and saw things that were “clouding” my vision…I had an inspiration (an epiphany, if you will). I decided to “hide” those posts. At first I almost felt guilty about doing it. But then I realized, I am not in control of what my friends post but I can control what I SEE. Just as I chose not to watch the BIG 3 (TV Networks) to get my news updates, I can take control of what I see on my fb newsfeed and filter it to MY needs and what is best for me. If a friend is constantly posting things that run contrary to “my belief” system I can stop receiving their newsfeeds. Stopping newsfeeds is easy.  Hiding posts is cake. Unfriending someone is unpleasant and hopefully unnecessary.  I hope I never have to resort to unfriending.  Having cleaned up my newsfeed, I felt empowered and just like that, “shackled chains” were gone.

Tactical steps: So once you’ve captured and taken your subject captive what next? Lay it down, hand it over and let it go. Put it in the prostrate position and give it up. We (you and I are not equipped) to handle the problems this world gives us without some help. We weren’t born on this planet to survive let alone thrive of our own accord. Think what you will but there is someONE who can remove the “burden” from your life and “send it to the depths of hell.” SomeONE is able to take that “chain” or ”chains” – unshackle it and get rid of it forever. The one person who is stronger than your strong hold is Jesus. He is the strong-tower. Jesus is the only one qualified. He is eligible, able and willing. He is waiting. He is standing in front of you –standing in the gap- for you to “hand over” the very thing that is “holding you back.” He sees you holding onto it. But He can’t take it from you until you offer it to Him. Just as He Had to sacrifice Himself for us, we still have to be willing to hold out our hand and ACCEPT His hand of Mercy.

Jesus (as man) didn’t want to be on the cross. Because He was Man, he was scared. That’s why He literally sweat blood in Gethsemane. He was scared to face that cross. As scared as you are about facing a mortgage payment you don’t have the money to cover. He was scared of those nails being driven into His hands. Scared as you are about the lump you feel in your breast. He was scared to take His last breath; just like you are scared to take yours.  Except His last breath on Good Friday… was a lie. He breathed life again 3 days later. It IS possible. The price for Jesus life was death. But the ransom for Jesus life was the resurrection. He can resurrect your life, your chains, and your soul…If YOU ASK.

Back to strongholds: When you lay down THAT stronghold at the foot of THAT cross, that stronghold will be eaten up by the grave (it will follow Jesus into His death bed but will NOT return) and YOU will become resurrected from its chains. It’s only up to you to notice the stronghold and be willing to see Jesus outstretched hands ready to take it from you.  It’s His gift to you. He knew this moment was coming and He wanted to be ready to lend you a helping hand. It’s hard to be weighed down by challenges in our lives that WE’VE had a hand in putting there. It feels worse when we’re not able to get up because they’ve become too heavy. So make it easier on yourself. CAPTURE: EVERY THOUGHT, EVERY IMAGE, EVERY SOUND, EVERY IDEA as CAPTIVE and Let Him help you share the burden by taking it away. Pass it to HIM. He’s already proven He can handle it….

Remember “C-Squared”: “Capture & Captive” –

Then: “Lay it down, Hand it Over, And Let it Go.”

-Surrender the Strongholds, let them go…they are EXCESS baggage.

“Redeemed” – sung by Big Daddy Weave.

Levels of Faith – Candy Crush Saga

Tulips

Candy Crush Saga: A Godly lesson in stripes, wrappers and jelly

I have been swamped. It feels like a month since I sat down and committed thoughts to the keyboard. It’s mid-April now and Spring Break was a month ago. It should have only taken me a couple days to get back “into the swing” but NOOOO. En-route from our trip back to OK, I got sick. I was going help with half the drive, both days.

Yeah, not quite.

Day one, I was fine. But at 5am on day two…whatever “it” was felt like Montezuma’s revenge. And it clung onto me for at least 5 days. My stomach, my gut, my colon were my worst enemies. Oy!

So, now I’m scampering. Playing double time to make up for lost time. We are going through a major and yet blessed transition in our house. My father-in-law is coming to live with us for a while and the house is going through its own “Makeover.” This one doesn’t involve paint, carpet or physical construction. It involves re-purposing rooms, figuring out functionality and thinking outside the box.

My sewing/hobby/creative space needs an overhaul but until I get my hands on an unwanted dresser drawer or some other cabinet to hold my supplies; organization in this area will continue as a “need.” In my front room, most of the stuff is headed for the community yard sale next week, at least it’s boxed.

While my spouse would disagree, I do NOT consider myself a pack-rat. I think many men might have this pre-conceived idea that we (women) are. But I vehemently disagree. I have to orchestrate the world of the lives in this house: meals, laundry, cleaning, appointments, homework, etc. You get the idea. Granted, my smart phone has helped a great deal with facilitating all this since I started using it last fall. That smart phone doesn’t actually do the work though, it’s up to me – and the work never ends. The smart phone is also a great tool for distraction. I’ve used it to play words with friends and scramble with friends. Then, when we were en-route to my mother in laws funeral in December…my daughter asked me to install the Candy Crush Saga app. I’d never heard of the game and because of our drive “cross country” it took forever to install. Once it was available…she tried to play it, but didn’t really understand how it worked…so my phone got “passed” back to me and I had the “privilege” of figuring it out. That’s all it took.

I breezed through the initial levels of the game, showing her how to play it. Until I got stuck, for 6 weeks at level 36(?) I nearly gave up the game in frustration. I know I should have. It was driving me crazy…I figured it was a lost cause and shouldn’t be bothered. I walked away for a few days and came back for one last “crack” at it. I’m not sure if it WAS the second try but I literally blew the level to bits. I sat there in complete disbelief wondering what had just happened. And then it hit me….well His words hit me.

                “..with me ALL things are possible. Why do you not trust? Why do you doubt? Why won’t you   focus on MyWord and our blog? Your purpose is waiting for you and yet you don’t believe in           YOURSELF? I know what you are made of…I made you. Don’t be afraid.”

So as I continue to sporadically play ccs, I see God accomplishing the impossible. God has been using Candy Crush Saga to highlight his capabilities. He uses it as a teaching tool…a modern form of strategizing on a virtual chess table. How did I reach level 125 so far? Many would argue it was sheer luck and the odds of “pure numbers.” I disagree. You have to understand the elements of the game. And once you do, you have to either “trial ‘n error” your way to the finish line OR Google for insight! Understanding how the stripes, wrapped candies, “color bombs” operate is important – after that it’s you playing against yourself.

For instance, just when I begin to believe that my days of successfully winning a level are over; He throws me a carrot as a blessing and I conquer another level occasionally achieving the high score. I think He does that to prove to me that with Him “All things are possible…”

I read last year that JK Rowling (author of Harry Potter) often played a video game to relax as a “stress” reliever. It may not be the ideal way to relieve stress, but ccs serves the same purpose. CCS is a game of strategy and tactical maneuvers. I find that fascinating…but I become all the more intrigued when I know God has shown up and given me the edge to win. I understand there are at least 300 levels to play in this game; which seems insane. But, it makes you wonder how many levels of faith you and I have to go through before God’s handiwork in using us takes on those same exponential proportions in real life. How many levels of Faith and perseverance must we endure before our faith is fully “vested” from a heavenly or holy perspective?

The only thing I know for sure is I am a watcher. I am constantly watching the world around me; events & people. I am awake, I have a heightened awareness I didn’t recognize before. I read the word¸listen in quiet discernment and wait (often waiting longer than I’d like). Make no mistake, God is waiting for the moment He can speak and you will listen, but His best work is done in the silences: whether He utilizes the whisper of the Holy Spirit within your soul or His whispers His words softly in your ear with His own voice. God will reach you if you’re willing. The real question is “Are You?” because He is waiting….and ready for you.

May blessings and favor follow you as this week begins…

Here is “Move” by Mercy Me. Perfect match to this week’s message. Even in our weakest moments we can’t stop, delay or despair. God is with us and we need to let our Faith in Him carry us through all our challenges; not just some….

“Strong Enough” by Matthew West. So, when you do have doubts…you don’t need to wonder how you’re going to make it through. God will take your weakness and “turn it into” a strength!

Love means EVERYTHING in Tennis

hyacinth bush

Love means EVERYTHING in Tennis

I beg God often for clarity, for wisdom, for insight. I know He will provide it. It doesn’t always come instantly but it does come. Little by little He is helping me piece my life together. Several weeks ago (ok, so maybe it was months – time is irrelevant in God’s world) I started asking Him why on Earth He ever had me spend so much time playing tennis. (Note: The majority of this blog entry is literally God speaking (quietly) to me. It’s not so much an exchange as it is Him honestly answering my silent prayers for understanding…hence the use of quotations throughout)

The Beginning

I came from a tennis playing family. All 4 of us kids played. I first stepped onto the court when I was 3 years old. That was the day I picked up my Dad’s racquet and started swinging it. (At least, that’s what I’ve been told. I was 3. How am I really gonna remember that?) Back to the story:

By the time I was 6, my Dad entered me in my first tournament. I was competing with the 10 and under age group. I guess I did ok because somehow or other my competition days kept right on going. The competitions started when I was 6 and didn’t stop until I was 14. By that time, the last year I was competitive I had progressed and was testing the waters of National Competitions. It was a necessary stepping stone. I wanted to get to the Pro’s. My ultimate destination was Wimbledon and the Grand Slam. I also craved receiving a college scholarship. It was the ultimate “prize” in a sport that demands a lot.

My “Olympic” sized dreams came to a crushing end far too soon…BUT that is another entry for another day – I hope it will be worth the wait. Here is the rhetorical question/prayer I asked God

Me: “Why on earth would you have me spend so much of my time…so much of Mom and Dad’s time, money and effort…only to have me not reach that goal and success? What was your point?”

The answer, or at least part of it arrived last week.

God: “What makes you think you weren’t successful, child? You committed yourself to a thankless, self-serving sport? The lessons you learned in training and competing were far greater than the fame or wealth the WORLD would have measured you by to be successful. I wanted MORE for you”

Me: to myself (Ok..that wasn’t the answer I was expecting…)

God: “The world was represented by the “audience” watching those matches and while you would have liked the world to appreciate your skills; I’d always intended to have you shine elsewhere later.  Yes, you trained diligently. But I didn’t want to provide you with ALL the keys you needed to achieve THAT goal because the goal you had set your eyes on weren’t part of MY WILL. I needed to develop you and that is what I was doing during those 7 or 8 years. That time wasn’t thrown away. Traveling the narrow path is harrowing. The skills you picked up from that experience will be invaluable in your WALK with me. You needed to see that you could train and do well, even IF your focus was off. Your focus was off because I did not intend for you to gain fame and success. NOT YET. Remember in The Word, how I told my own mother and disciples that my time had not come? (I know you do – John 2:4 and John 7:8)). Your time, as a tennis player, had also not arrived yet. I needed you to know what success looked like and be able to accept not reaching that goal. You were learning patience. Learning to Be Still (Psalm 46:10) I know it was HARD. I know you were disappointed. I know that disappointment has lingered. But it’s not all for nothing.

The enemy is all too pleased your dreams weren’t realized, but he has no idea what I have in store and at the moment you can’t see it clearly yourself.

Just remember and reflect on what you learned about the “Game:”

Competition                       Sportsmanship                  Humility

You’ve seen what can happen to sports figures in “The World” today and how they handle themselves in the limelight. You can recognize that “pride comes before the fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)”

Me: (silently reflecting this)..Sadly there are too many athletes of late this applies to.

God: “Also, One very important goal of yours was fulfilled. And you know what I am referring to. You didn’t see that coming either! I wanted you to taste what my goodness is like and know that in your faith and trust; I AM always GOOD. And I love you…my arms are open wide and ready to hold you and protect.”

Me: It was in that moment I realized how foolish I had been in my discontent over what I had deemed to be my failure. I was allowing myself to see what the world sees as success and not looking through God’s eyes; the greatest gift of all. I have finally found some peace and rest. I can start to let go of my disappointment.  I’ve been able to let go of my “Wimbledon“ and “Grand Slam” disappointments. But, He’s right. He did bless me with one of my youthful dreams and that will be a blog entry for another day. For the moment, I’ve already won the greatest prize…eternity with God.

The only question that remains is for you my friend: What about you? Where do you need clarity in your life? Pray for wisdom and discernment….

May you be surrounded by His blessings and until next week:

Keep watching and stay awake!

This week I’ve chosen two music videos: “The Voice of Truth” from Casting Crowns (highlighted by “clips” from Facing The Giants)

And “It’s Your Life” by Francesca Battistelli from the movie Soul Surfer. Both are sports related but carry two different messages. These are two of my favorite movies!