Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In Remembrance

       On Memorial Day, veterans gather across the country to remember.  Their lives spared, they recall wars fought and won, while honoring those lost in battle.  It’s a time of reflection.  They survived.  But not only that, they live to tell the stories.

      I have my own memorial day at the end of each year.  With journals in hand I steal away to a quiet place to remember.  There’s something about reflection that stirs the soul, feeding and boosting the seed of faith dwelling within.

      It’s been a monumental year, bringing the diversity of life and death.    Jesus told me this year that death had to come so that life might emerge.  He was true to His Word.

      I have felt the pruning shears of the Gardener sharply cutting away dead appendages.   It was brutal seeing things that still held me captive.  Like any ailment, pain leads to the abnormality.  Once revealed, the Divine Healer can do His most brilliant work as He breathes His breath of life into what once brought death.

     The cry of my heart at the end of 2007 was for new beginnings in 2008.  Little did I know that the road would lead me back to maladies in my own soul.

      It seems to always come back to that doesn’t it?  When we are dissatisfied in our lives, doesn’t it somehow come back to something inside us?  I longed for a deeper intimacy with my husband.  It’s a good desire.  But in the process of longing, the more I experienced the more I pressed for.  My desires turned into requests, which when unmet, became failures.

     Papa God opened my eyes to see through His.   I was sabotaging the most important relationship in my life with my ominous expectations.  In my plight for intimacy I imposed standards that carried a hefty weight.     

     Someone once asked me a brilliant question.  “What’s the desire behind the desire?”  Love, I wanted to “feel” loved in the deepest places of my soul.  What I truly longed for, though I didn’t know it, was the deep, inner sanctuary of intimacy with Christ.  

     It’s much easier to turn to flesh and blood to meet the longings for love.   But unless the depth of love is met in Christ first, it will not manifest anywhere else.  Expectations will become demands that dampen the fire of intimacy, bringing accusations of failure.

     Jesus heard my cry for love and intimacy.   He stirred my heart to long for more and then He invited me into the dance,  with Him.  

     It all began with a longing.  He took the lead.  I followed.   He invited me to conversations with Him in a new and different way.  His whispers of tenderness spoken to my heart have settled something deep within.  I am fiercely loved by the one who created me, for love.

     With each stripping of my dead branches, He has touched me with His love.  I will never be the same.   There is no relationship on earth that can give me what I so desperately need.  The more I expect them to, the more I vandalize them.

      I was made in the image of relationship for relationship, but until I can grasp the fullness of love from the one who is love, I will cripple the relationships with expectations that lead to resentment and failure.  


       In remembrance, this day, I thank Him for the dance He has invited me into.  As I have followed I have been transformed.  With each step my gaze fixes more on His and the love that is steadfast and immovable.  His love conquers all my expectations.  He fills me with value, and intimacy.  Once I am filled with Him it is then I can offer from His heart to another.

     It’s been a hard year.  There have been many battles.  At times it felt like the hits would take me out.  But Jesus....  He carried me.  The Holy Spirit comforted me while Papa loved me into the truth that set me free.

     On this my memorial day I come to remember.  I have made it through the year of battles, loss and death.  More importantly, I have found love.  Battles have been won.  I have survived.  Not only have I survived,  I now live to tell the stories.  

©copyrighted:  2008 Julie L. Todd

Friday, December 26, 2008

Receiving Extravagant Love

    The rectangle box lay at the end of the stack of presents to be opened.  One by one I worked my way down to it.  Seeing the delight of each child as I opened each carefully selected present, spoke volumes to my heart.  The joy that filled their eyes as they lavished their love on me was indescribable.  Their eyes told the story of their hearts.  Would I receive their gift?  One of my daughters had told me the day before, "Mom, remember I like to give gifts, don't look at how much it cost." 

    It was my last gift of the day.  As I picked it up, I found a note in his handwriting declaring his love.  The words themselves were a gift.  Slowly pulling the paper away, the white box lay in my hands.  As I opened it, the weeping began.  My dear husband had bought me a new laptop.  You have to understand the history to gain the significance of the gift.

     Years ago I had prayed for a used laptop to begin writing.  Papa God saw fit to place a desire on the heart of one of my friends who had some extra "giving" income to buy me a new one.  Her words were the gift that lingered in my soul.  "I believe God has a ministry for you so my husband and I are giving this gift to you to help start you off." 

      A few months ago that very laptop had been accidentally dropped by one of my children and with it went some of my treasures.  Here months later, I sat with a brand new laptop, tears coursing down my cheeks.  My husband believed in me too.

     As I sat there weeping, seeing the tears in his eyes, it was then I saw it for what it was, extravagant love.  Being a one income family that lives on a very tight budget, I knew this had come with sacrifice, and cost.  In a millisecond the debate went through my mind...what would I focus on?  The cost or the extravagant love?  I am prone to focus on cost.  But the look in his eyes kept beckoning me to see love.

     Why is it so hard to receive extravagant love?  I mean I do OK with having my needs met. But there's something about extravagance that tugs at my heart, struggling to take up residence.  What is it about lavish love?  

     Love knocks at my door and I struggle to open it, for fear I have burdened another.  It's proof that I still don't understand true love.  In gentleness Jesus speaks to me.

      "Jewel, when someone loves with extravagance, it's not a sacrifice to them.  It's a natural response to love. The problem is, you see the cost, while all they see is the desire to love."

       Why is that, Jesus?  Why do I feel guilty?  Why does my mind go there?

     "You are afraid of what loving you might cost someone." "You don't want to burden anyone."  "But don't you understand, dear one, loving you is not a burden, it's a delight."  "Love bears all things...without knowing it's bearing them."  "When you feel guilty or that you are a burden you are still looking at love through your faulty value system."  "You do not see your true value."

     "You do not feel worthy.  You do not want others to sacrifice on your behalf.  But that's not true love, Jewel.  True love IS sacrificial, yet the person offering love doesn't see the sacrifice.  They consider the gain of giving love."

      "It's time to receive, Jewel."

      Receiving is so much harder than giving.  I can see why now.  I am looking through the eyes of what I think it must cost to love me.  I do it with Papa God too.  His love is extravagant, yet so often I diminish it because of my own unworthiness. 

      It's time to receive...  He wants to lavish His love on us all.  It's not a sacrifice to Him.  It is pure delight.  He sees that He will get to love us if we will see the love and receive.  

    His pure, unadulterated love is there, waiting to be received.  Just like me, in a millisecond of a moment you have a choice.  Will you focus on the sacrifice or the love?  It will make the difference in how you look at the gift.  The gift of love is offered.  It is You He sees, you in all your beauty.  His eyes beckon you to look beyond and see the love.  What will YOU see?  

      "I have loved you with an everlasting love.  I have drawn you with lovingkindness"  Jeremiah 31:3
©copyrighted:  2008 Julie L. Todd

Friday, December 19, 2008

Not My Picture, But Yours

     When I was a teenager I remember my mom saying to me, "If you get your will going in the right direction, you will be OK."  Needless to say I was considered a "strong-willed" child. You know the type that Dr. Dobson wrote about in his book. I had a will and a way to make my plans happen. 

     I remember hearing Chuck Swindoll say, "you know you are a planner when you have a plan "A" and a plan "B". Planning came naturally for me. In fact I thrived there. 

     I liked having a picture of how things should work. It made me feel safe. Once I had my snapshot I would move in to try and control the outcome. Life was good when my pictures were working, things falling right into place. They were my safety net, that is until Jesus came for me.....

     It all began in the "season of the jobs". It was 2001 when the “God delivered” invitation came.  At God’s initiation David left his job. We had no idea where he was going, but we had money saved to carry us through until another job was found.  It was then Jesus began to invite me to live a new life, a life without self-managed plans and pictures. David had 6 jobs in 4 years, all paying thousands less than our living expenses. Nothing happened as I planned.

     God is unpredictable. He's not caught up in how the plans look. He's longs to bring revelation of the truth to our hearts.  I discovered something profound. As long as I have my pictures and plans in place, I won't need or even look for His.  

     It feels safe to know how things are going to play out. But safety in plans and pictures isn't really safety. It's a mirage of control that holds me back from the true, living water. Until I am dependent on Him for everything, including the plans and pictures, I'm still in control of my life. 

     Jesus said, "not my will" but yours. He in essence said, "not my picture, or plans, Papa, but yours." He trusted the heart of the one who painted pictures in His life. Therefore, He didn't need to paint any. He could live in the moment not even considering how life was supposed to look.  All that mattered was living in the moment with His Papa, allowing Him to paint the canvas of life around Him.

     Abandonment to Papa God is the only path to true safety. The fact that we struggle to get there proves that we don't trust His heart completely.  Jesus trusted the heart of His Papa, therefore He could live in abandonment to the unseen revelations to come.

     Life didn't work out as I planned, thank God.  If it had, I would still be living in my limited pictures. He wanted so much more for me. He wanted me to trust Him enough with what I couldn't see. He wanted me to rest in knowing He had everything mapped out. He had it all covered.

     Living from a God picture means living in unpredictability. You can't map it out. If you don't believe that, look at the scriptures. He never healed the same way twice. Had He wanted us to figure it all out, He would have done things consistently each time.

     There is mystery in following Him without a plan, trusting Him to guide our paths and direct our ways. He wants the freedom to work without the agendas of man. He wants to show us how consistent He is. As long as we have our pictures, we'll miss His. He knows the plans He has for us. When we need to know them, He'll invite us to see. That is enough, it must be.

     Papa waits to paint the pictures of our daily lives. But the canvas is already being painted on by us. Abandonment invites us to offer ourselves to Him as a fresh clean canvas, trusting Him with the plans and pictures. No longer limited by ours He's now allowed to unfold His. Love is in every detail. Faithfulness is in each stroke. Goodness is in each color. His masterpiece waits to unfold in revelation before us. So what do you say? Shall we lay our brushes down and say with Jesus, “not my picture but yours?”

     "I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

copyrighted: 2008 Julie L. Todd

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Broken & Spilled Out

     Brokenness is a term tossed around in Christianity. The question often comes, "are you willing to be broken?" I don't know too many who would jump up with glee and say, "oh, yes, pick me!!!"

     A few years back after sharing, a woman came to me and told me that she'd had a vision while I was talking. In the vision there was a clay pot, broken into pieces. She saw the hands of Jesus taking one piece at a time and putting the pot back together as it was meant to be. What did this mean? Was I entering into a time of brokenness or was I already in it? I felt pretty broken. Life had been hard.

     I didn't realize until now what the picture really meant. I see something so precious that it rocks my world. God didn't break me. I was already broken. Instead of inviting me to be broken, He was telling me He was in the process of fixing my fractured identity.

     The one who loves me relentlessly was inviting me to be put back together as I was always meant to be. As was necessary, He invited me to face my broken places in order to be healed. Would I enter in? Or would I continue on, crippled but functioning?

     If a fractured bone hasn't healed correctly it hinders the limb from operating as designed. The doctor has no other choice but to go back into the original break and set things straight. That's a picture of true restoration. God sees me living in a crippled identity and wants to set things straight in me. He wants to take me back to that original picture of who He saw me to be and restore it.

     I think of the woman who poured out the expensive perfume at Jesus' feet. The story behind the story is; cost didn't matter. She didn't count the cost, she realized her gain. What mattered to her, was surrender to the one who would redeem her past. Though ridiculed in the moment, she would forever be remembered for her display of being spilled out because of love.

     He comes to redeem our pasts. Our pasts don't define us. Not in His book, therefore not in ours. Or at least that's how it supposed to be. Why is it that we keep account of things we've done or not done, as well as the things done to us when He doesn't? Those things become the ledger out of which life is lived. Until the debts are fully paid, forgotten, and removed from our record book, we still see life through debt colored glasses, totally oblivious that our vision is skewed.

     Many say that the past is the past, there's no need to look back. I can't fully agree with that statement. Until the effects of the past have been renewed, we are still captive to them. If He invites you into a memory, then it's possible it's His invitation to set things straight. Ask Him, He'll show you if there's something that needs to be restored there.

     He wants desperately to reveal places of captivity. Unforgiveness, lies, false identities, condemnation, guilt all secretly worm their way in. The deceiver convinces us that these things we believe are the truest things about us. Many of us don't even come close to realizing all that God sees in us.

     So, He comes in all His glory, envelopes us in His arms of love, and offers to heal us. It's love that invites us to surrender to the "setting straight" process of our broken lives. A Love that cannot bear to see us walk any further, crippled by the past that has held us captive. He's the Redeemer of all things. Not just our sins, but our heartaches too.

     It is said that on the cross when they pierced his side, blood and water flowed out. I've heard it said that His heart was pierced. Water and blood flowed out, fulfilling the sacrifice and cleansing my sin. He knows the pain of a broken heart. He entered into His so that He might heal mine and, yours. The invitation is not brokenness, but "fixing".

     The picture that was given to me, I now give to you. He sees the broken pieces of your shattered identity lying on the ground. With tender eyes of love, His nail scarred hand reaches out taking one piece at a time. He begins to put them back where they were always meant to be. His love seals any cracks, filling in the gaps, and making all things new.

     He came to heal the broken hearted, and bind up their wounds. Will you let Him bind up yours?

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61: 1b

copyrighted: 2008 Julie L. Todd

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Trapped Where I Didn't Belong

     As I sat in the great room of the cabin I noticed a wasp gliding across the window, trapped inside. Seventy degrees weather one day to winter temperatures the next had thrown everything into a state of confusion, including the wasps. 

     One wasp after another found it's way into the cabin. The windows created an illusion for them, blocking their flight.  Lethargic from the change of atmosphere it was easy to take them out with one swat of a shoe.

     I couldn't help but see the lessons to be gained. Wasps were created for spreading life, through pollination. Trapped inside the cabin there would be no pollination. Their followed path of seeking warmth led them into places they were never meant to be.

     It applies so much to our lives today in our Christian communities. We are awakened to the warmth of love, inviting us to live in relationship with God, and others. Soon after, the lures of "to do" lists come bounding in, weighing us down with requirements, killing the relationship.

     The lures were familiar to the Pharisees. They called them laws. It was what they were supposed to do to fulfill the requirements of the broken relationship. The law wasn't made to fulfill, it was made to expose. It was established to show man's desperate need for salvation. No one could fully keep the law.  A rescue was needed.  Christ, the one true sacrifice fulfilled the law.

     So why am I still trying to fulfill what was already fulfilled? Like the wasps, I was created to bear life. But instead of dwelling where I was created to dwell, I found myself trapped in places I was never meant to go, stifling out the life poured into me.

     I was made in the image of relationship for relationship. I am made for love. Instead of being taught how deeply I am loved, I was taught to "be about the Father's business".  What is the Father's business anyways? Wasn't it love?  For God so loved the world....

     When I accepted Christ's offer, immediately I was given a list of things I must do to follow Him.  Now that I belonged to God it became about what I did for Him that became the focus. 

     Doesn't that somehow take me back into the law, trapping me where I cannot possibly live? Isn't salvation about love making a way to live in response to relationship instead of requirements?

     What about love? In 22 years of Christian living I never heard anyone say that I was intimately and passionately loved. Oh I heard that Jesus loved me enough to die for me, but no one told me about His continual, relentless pursuit of my heart. No one told me that He would move heaven and earth just to love me. I had no idea that I was the object of His affections. I had no clue of how He truly saw me.

     It is all about love. Jesus didn't come to show us what to do. He came to make a way for love. He broke the binds of the law. He focused on love and what love with invited Him to do.  All that He did, He did to reveal love.

     I was created to live in love. That's it, nothing else. There are no requirements, but only an invitation. Come and be loved.  Allow love to invite you to do. I don't have to discipline myself to have a quiet time, evangelize, make disciples, or have a prayer list. If I am living loved I will naturally choose those things.

     As I grasp the depth of how precious I am to Him I cannot hold the love in. It will come out. I will be drawn away with Him to hear and read His Word, pray for those things that burden His heart and make disciples because the love in me will not keep silent.

     The traps of religion fall away as I enter into living loved with the one who loves me perfectly.  The warmth of His love frees me, inviting me to bear life exactly where He desires it to be offered.  Unlike the wasps, a door is opened for me and I am set free.  I am not only free to live as love directs.  That is the invitation.   

     For God, SO loved the world that He invited us to be loved, fully, completely, just as we are.  It is the good news of the gospel of salvation.  We are invited to put away our "to do" lists and enter into the embrace of God. He will love us into what He wants us to do.  I smell the fresh air of His Spirit as it breathes into my soul the truth.  Love is what He asks.....

     Love the Lord, your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.

©copyright:  2008 Julie L. Todd

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ruined for the Ordinary

     It all started with a sentence during a deep conversation.  "Julie, do you feel like a black sheep?" I replied,  "Amy, I cannot tell you how many times I have used those words over the years to describe how I feel."  No matter how much I tried to be normal I still felt like the black sheep.   

     I was the most active of the 4 children that made up our family. I couldn't sit still.  I couldn't keep my mouth shut, getting into trouble all the time.  I constantly asked questions.  Why couldn't I be good like my quiet, respectful sister?  Why did I have to challenge things so much?  No one called me a black sheep, but it's what I felt and therefore believed.

     I didn't learn the way they taught in public school.  I wasn’t an auditory learner.   No matter how hard I tried I didn't learn well in that setting?  I was made fun of for being too skinny,  having crooked teeth, you name it..  Even my middle name, a family name. was under ridicule.    I dreaded those first days of school where they called out your full name.  Girls who sat behind me made fun of my name.  Why did I have to be so abnormal, so peculiar?

     Years ago at a Bible study I was told I was too deep.  For goodness sake, I couldn't even feel normal around Christians.  I've felt like I wanted too much, expected too much, talked too much, was too vulnerable, and now I am too deep?  I guess that meant I wanted God too much too.  Would I ever feel normal in this world?

     My friend’s question was  hitting a place in me.  I had to know more.  So I asked Jesus. "Am I a black sheep, Jesus?"

     “Jewel, would I have been considered a black sheep in my day?”  “By some, yes, Jesus, after all you did break the rules.”    

     "Jewel, I lived an extraordinary life.   If you follow me, you will never be normal, for I am abnormal by the worlds' standards."  "Normal is the world's term, Extraordinary is mine."  "Do not compare to the world.  Compare to Me."  "Was I normal?" 

     "No Jesus, you were not normal.  You were Extraordinary."

      "Take heart if you are seen as abnormal.  You relate to me.  We are Extraordinary to Papa, Jewel.  Isn't that amazing?"You are not a black sheep, Jewel, you are His extraordinary one."

       In forgetting who we are, we become most vulnerable to the enemy's lies. We end up fulfilling self-proclaimed falsified prophecies.   It is only as we know who God sees us to be that we will walk free.  He sees us as Extraordinary.  

      We’ve been deceived.  No one in life can fulfill or steal the truth of how deeply we are loved and valued.  As children the first people we look to are our parents to give us what only God can give to us. It’s not possible.  I didn't see it until this week.  I cannot possibly give my children the complete love and value that is theirs.  As much as I don’t want to be, I am imperfect in love and life. 

      But there is one who is perfect.  He sees me as Extraordinary and loves me perfectly.  He sees me complete in all my value.  No one can take that from me. The sooner I get that, the sooner I live as I am. 

      I am His Extraordinary One.  So are you. Every moment of every day it is vital to my life to take every thought captive to Him.  "Papa, this is how I feel today, what do you think of me?" 

      I am not who I thought I was.  He sees it.  He invites me to see it too.  He removes the tattered covering of the shroud labeled “black sheep”  and replaces it with HIs cloak of identity.  His covenant robe is exchanged for my old, worn-out, rotting self-imposed labels. As His bloodstained robe covers me, no longer do I have to live fulfilling the prophecies of my past.  Now I am free to see.  Life never was really meant to be normal.  I have been ruined for the ordinary.

     What about you?  What prophecy are you living in your life; your self-fulfilled one or His? Do you see it?  Who are YOU, really?

    But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;  I Peter 2:9

©copyright:  2008 by Julie L. Todd

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Love Brings the Increase!

      One of the "normal" clich├ęs in the Christian community is "I must decrease so that Christ might increase."  We've taken this scripture of John 3: and made it a focus, a mantra for living.  It was used of John the Baptist as his ministry was transitioning.  He had fulfilled his calling, preparing the way of the Lord.  Now Jesus was there. It was time for his ministry to lessen.  Knowing the context of the verse changes things a bit.  But still there are questions to be answered.

     Can Christ really increase in me? Isn't He already fully in me?  Can I receive any more of Him?  Doesn’t He come into my life all at once?  

     Didn't I receive all of Him when I exchanged my life for His?  Can I make myself decrease?  Is that really possible?  Doesn't that still make life about me, somehow and what I can do?  Isn't that still in some aspects hanging onto my life by making it my work?

     The performing flesh was never meant to be made better, it was meant to be crucified.  The beauty of the crucified flesh is that it's an invitation to come afresh into the arms of love, exchanging my works for His.  It's no longer about what I can do it's now about responding to love and allowing love to transform me.  The more love I embrace and experience the more my life decreases allowing Christ's life stored in me to be revealed.

     Everything Jesus did He did out of love.  He didn't have to beat His flesh, He just surrendered to love and out of that fulfilled the destiny of His life.  My flesh was never meant to be beaten, it was meant to be crucified, killed, forever.

     Everything falls into place as I move into being loved.  He is the life in me. He is the breath that moves in and out of my lungs.  He is the work in me.  He is the increase.  He is the love.

     Can you imagine what it would be like to not pray, worship, read the love letters of God, go to church, give money unless your heart was stirred by love?  And what if you felt the stirring but did not respond?  Would there be guilt and condemnation?  Would you give yourself the proverbial brow beating?

     Can you fathom a love that would delight in you even if you didn't respond, even if you never did anything?  Isn't that what unconditional love is really? Isn't unconditional love a "no expectations, no requirements, no strings attached" love?  

     When you really grasp a love like that don't you find yourself wanting to do all those things?  Think about when you fell in love.  Was there any effort to spend time with the one who pursued you with his love?  Wasn't it just natural to respond to the pursuit?

     As I am swallowed up in His love, life unfolds before me.  Worship is opened up to me in a deep and personal way.  I am singing songs to the one who loves me perfectly.  His love letters come to life while reading as I kisses from His lips to my heart.  Tithing is no longer a mandate, but it now becomes an opportunity to give away love.  Prayer becomes an intimate encounter with the love of my life. There's no longer need for discipline, it can now flow out of those intimate places of the pursuit of love.

     It's really that simple.  Love is the answer.  It's the message of the cross, the resurrection and the ascension.  Creation, and the rescue of man, are the Father's invitation to enter in and be loved.  It was love that brought us here.  It is love that will take us home.  Love covers a multitude of sins.  It changes everything, even you, even me.

     Cinderella, a servant girl, laid down mop and bucket to be swept up into a fairy tale love story.  An unlikely candidate to be a princess, she was seen in all her beauty and loved.  

     You are His Cinderella.  He created you to love you, no strings attached.  You are the object of His affections.  He has been pursuing you since you breathed your first breath.  What do you say, will you throw down your mop and bucket and be swept up in love?  Love never fails.

     For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39

©copyright:  2008 Julie L. Todd

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Will Not Bow Down

      I will not bow down.  I will say it again... I will not bow down!

     Why is it often difficult to see the enemy’s attempts to bring me down?  How easily I can get caught in a place of value seeking.  He knows that I want to have a significance on this earth.  Why is it so easy to get swept into that place of allowing man to give me or take value from me?

     The question  was asked; “what is it that satan uses to try and get you to bow down?  I know the answer, it comes to me immediately.  I want to make a difference, to have a value in what I offer.  I want to have something significant to bring the world.  I want to make Papa God proud.

     There’s this place inside me that wants to be seen and delighted in.  It’s a natural desire.  The problem is it often gets twisted and somehow begins to incorporate my value as seen through the eyes of the world, instead of the eyes of Papa.

     I love to tell His truths.  When He invited me to teach “Captivating” at my old church, the desire was birthed into life.  I couldn’t hold it back.  I loved teaching, speaking and talking about His heart.  Standing up front with a microphone attached, telling the truth of HIs heart, stirred something deep inside me.  With the awakened desire came an ache all it’s own.

     As is often the case, desire is awakened to then be taken into hibernation.  The hibernation brings with it a time of dormancy.  Living with the birthed desire has had it’s moments of pain and heartache.  It’s in those moments that the enemy comes trying to convince me to bow down.

     Another desire awakened when I started to write again.  I love it, yet it can be painful sometimes.  Last year I lost 30 devotionals when my hard drive crashed.  Two weeks ago my laptop was damaged and once again, taking with it more writing.  The taunting I hear tries to convince me that I am wasting my time.  It’s not whispers this time, but shouts...”give it all up”...”what you are doing is worthless.”

     I will not bow down! I will not allow my value to be challenged by the one who comes to steal, kill and destroy.  I choose to combat the lies with the truth.  I am significant because I am His created one.  That is what gives me value, not a ministry, title, teaching, or even evidence of influencing someone’s life.  I am significant because I am His.  It has nothing to do with what I do.

     I am loved, seen, and delighted in.  I have incredible value to Him and if I never did another thing, but live loved THAT would fulfill my destiny.  THAT is why I am here.  It’s so easy to miss the truth.  It’s so easy to think that what I do here on this earth is what really counts.  

     The reality is, my Papa loves me just because I am His Jewel.  If I live in that, I fulfill what I was created for.  I am loved by the Creator of the universe.  That is what makes a difference on this earth.  THAT is my reality.  Therefore, I will not bow down!

     What about you?  What is it that the enemy uses to try to get you to bow down?

©copyright:  2008 Julie L. Todd

Friday, November 14, 2008

Being Laid Bare

It won't be long before the beautiful trees of these mountains are laid bare. To prepare the trees for new life, leaves once vibrant with color will fall away, decomposing on the ground to feed the soil their rich nutrients. Old things must die so that new things might be birthed. It's the cycle of life, "the old has gone, the new has come." In order for the new life to be awakened in us, the old life must be removed.

For years old things have held me captive. I have been stuck in the old way of thinking. Who I believed I was, who I believed God was and what I believed was expected of me, have all played a part in my captivity. Growing up in the church I was trained to consider all the things that a good soldier of the Lord was required to do and be. Life was about what I could and should do. "Should" drains the life out of living? Living in the "shoulds" of Christianity kills the heart of the relationship.

He came that we might have life and have it to the full. Was it really up to me to find that life? Or was it He that brought it to me? Was it my life lived out in attempts to please Him or was it His life lived out of me in my bankruptcy? Was it I who loved Him first or He who loved me first?

Papa God got out His pruning shears and one by one began to snip away the false beliefs I held about Him, and myself. What was it that He truly wanted from me? Who was I to Him? All He ever wanted with me was what I wanted with Him; love, true love.

He created me to love me. He wanted me to respond to that love. He wanted me to see what He saw in me. He wanted me to know His true heart. He wanted to be my strength and live His life through me. He would not rest until I saw what He saw.

About the same time in my life, my husband decided to cut back a shrub in our front yard. By the time he had finished, all that was left was a stump of empty branches. I thought surely he must have killed it. There was nothing left but the foundation of the plant. Was it possible it would ever again be filled with vibrant new life?

That shrub became a connection to my inner being. I felt as if limbs were being amputated. So much had to be clipped away to get to the foundation of my thinking. At times I didn't know who I was anymore. I felt like that shrub. Was there going to be anything left inside me when it was all over? I felt so dead and empty, were there any signs of life?

Week after week I watched that empty shrub for signs of life. It felt as if somehow we were enter twined. Maybe if new life sprang forth on it, I would see it in myself. I watched to see if it would survive the drastic pruning and live.

One day it finally happened. A tiny shoot of green burst out of one of the stubby branches. Tears streamed down my face as I saw it. It was a visual promise to me. Though I felt dead, life still invaded my body waiting to burst out. The seed of life indwelt me. Though I felt dead, I was still alive.

The Gardener prunes away all that is dead to make room for new life to emerge. It's nothing to fear. It's the way it was meant to be. Being laid bare is the preparation for new life. Pruning is the promise of a new beginning. A beginning of life as it was always meant to be.

It's out of love that the Gardener prunes us. He wants the light of His life to permeate our souls. Christ crucified bought us a new beginning, a new life. The slate is wiped clean, the old has gone, the new has come. The work has already been done, we now need to see it to live in it.

Being laid bare gives us the chance to have our perspective changed to see what He sees; who we were always meant to be. We are given the chance of a lifetime, fresh, beautiful, abundant new life. We can now be to be who we were always meant to be, as our eyes are opened we will see. It is then we become who He has always known us to be, His chosen and dearly loved.

The winds will come, the leaves will fall, trees will be laid bare to prepare for the promise of new life. As it is with the trees, so it is with us. For this is our promise. Pruning last but for a moment, but new life lasts a forever.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
Here's a great song to listen to that goes along with this: Inside of Me
©copyright: Julie L. Todd 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

You Never Walk Alone

      Have you ever been in desperate places when God seemed to be deafeningly silent?  If you haven't at some point you most likely will.  Even though the scriptures say God will never leave me or forsake me, sometimes the circumstances of life have left me feeling as if I am living in a relational ghost town.  How can He be here with me when I cannot hear, feel or see Him?  Does He have Caller ID, sees it's me and refuses to pick up?  Why does it feel like I am so alone if He is with me?  I find answers hidden in the story of the two men walking on the road to Emmaus.  

     Jesus had died 2 days before and on the 3rd day there is talk of the tomb being empty.  Two followers are walking along the road talking about all that has just happened when a "man" comes up and begins to walk with them.  He listens as they talk and then, as if he doesn't know anything, begins to question them. They’re pretty surprised that this stranger doesn’t know what’s just happened, after all the whole city of Jerusalem knows. Didn’t he see the skies go black and feel the earthquake? They try to explain what they have just witnessed.  

   They've just experienced a devastating blow.  They thought the Messiah had come to save them from the Roman rule and now he’s dead.  Not only is He dead, His body has now been reported missing.  They have no idea who is walking with them.  Jesus' presence is hidden from them.  Unbeknownst to them, as they wrestle with their faith, Jesus is walking right beside them.

     They get to their destination and beg the man to stay with them. They sit down to a meal, and the "man" prays.  At once their eyes are opened and they see.  Though they were unaware, Jesus had been with them all along. Their words are priceless.  “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us?”

     LIfe has dished out it's hard knocks.  Sometimes it has taken all that I've had within me to stay present.  When God's voice became silent I discovered something.  Hidden away inside me were questions.  Where was God?  Did He care?  What is this all about?  Have I done something to deserve this?  Has He walked out on me?  The silence of God comes, bringing with it a stillness that shuts down the outside noise, allowing the noise of our doubts and questions to rise up.   

     The hiddenness has a purpose, though I do not like the feel of it.  It’s in the hiddenness that I, like those two men, have to come to the conclusion about what I believe, see and know.

    How often when life isn’t what I thought it would be do I feel like He has left me?  How often do I blame myself for where I am? “If I had just read my Bible more, or prayed more, maybe this wouldn’t have happened?”  It was easy to tell myself that surely I had done something wrong.

    Though He is always with me, there are times He hides His presence from me.  He allows the beliefs hidden down deep to rise up to the surface. It’s in those times that my faith is given a good dose of fertilizer to grow.  As I grapple with what I feel verses what I know, something is transformed in me and I see.  The times of silence do not mean He has left me. They mean that He is hidden in order for me to find what I really believe about Him and what I believe He thinks about me.  He never leaves me or forsakes me.  He is always with me.  His Spirit is in me.  I cannot be detached from Him.

      He walks beside me, though there are times I am oblivious.   Hiddenness has it’s purpose.  When the time is right He will reveal Himself to me once again, my eyes will be opened and then I will see.  He never left me. He was here all along.  

    “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20

     Papa God, thank you that you are with us. You never leave us or forsake us. Thank you that we can know in those times that we cannot feel you or hear from you, you are still there. You walk on the roads of life with us. Help us remember what is really true. You came, You died, You rose again so that we might live.

©copyright:  2008 Julie L. Todd

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