Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Applause of God

    How do I adequately share the feelings towards my children as I watch them step into a calling? There are really no adequate words to explain the emotions.  There’s this place in my heart of sheer delight as I watch them rise up into who they are.  It all started several years ago when my firstborn did her first worship dance.  I couldn't hold back the tears as I watched her step onto that stage.  

     It's happened with each child.  Whether stepping into a role in a play, raising their hands in worship, boarding an airplane to go on overseas missions trips, or watching them play in the youth worship band, I delight in watching my children be who they are.  I take great pleasure in seeing them bask in the giftings of God on their lives.

     I don’t want to miss one event.  I don’t want to miss one moment watching them step into who they are.  My eye is always on them. In fact I can’t take my eyes off of them.  

     I've come to understand something I've never known before.  As I step into the desires of my heart, living out the gifts inside me, my Papa God can't take His eyes off of me.  He stands up, applauding me, cheering me on.  I can hear Him say, "that's my girl". Why has it taken me so long to see that?


     Why have I looked to others for approval or disapproval so easily?   He’s the proud Papa who is watching me at all times.  His eyes are captivated with what I am doing, yet I haven't seen Him there watching, nodding, cheering, affirming.  

      I have spent too many years looking for the acknowledgment of man.  I wanted to be known by what I could do.  It was easy for me to talk of the Bible studies I had led or taught.  It gave me some type of value when people noticed my abilities.   I looked for affirmation from man because I could not see the applause of God.

     What must it do to His heart to watch me struggle to embrace who He made me to be?  Why is it that when I desire something and He gives it to me, I back away from it, thinking it couldn’t possibly be true?  For example, I struggle to call myself a writer.  There’s something about the title that throws me. Why haven’t I seen that it was He who placed those desires within me.   I love writing because He put that love in me.

     His invitation into the desert has opened up so many areas that have been distorted to me.  I can now see more clearly what is really true.  He delights in me.  In the intimacy of the desert experience, He has uncovered misconceptions about me that I have carried for so long.  His truth breathes life into those places.  Man’s approval and affirmations, though nice, will never fill me up.  Neither should man’s disapproval take from me.   I was made with a cavern in my soul that was made by Him, for Him.  He is the depths that reaches into my depths.  HE is my affirmation.

      As I step up to offer what's inside me I acknowledge the breath of God flowing through me.  I am a writer who writes because He breathes the words into me. It's not about me.  It's about Him in me.  My Papa God, with eyes glued to me, stands up to applaud as I step into who He made me to be.  I have captivated His heart.  I can be me.  I have the approval of the one who matters.  I am His daughter, the one He made for Himself.  He has poured His heart into me, for I am loved.

     What about you?  Do you see Him applauding YOU?

     Fifty one years ago today my first breath of life was breathed into me.   Today I celebrate my birth.  For the first time in my life I feel free to celebrate who I am.  I love who He has made me to be.  Thank you Papa God for the revealing your heart towards me.  Thank you for breathing the breath of life in me.  Thank you for delighting in me.  You are my life.

©copyright:  2008 Julie L. Todd

Friday, October 17, 2008

His Grace Covers Me

     The emotions are lying under the surface.  I feel them.  I know they are making their way up to exposure.  It's been an enduring week.  Things are swirling around in the atmosphere of our lives here.  My husband's had some meetings this week with people in our church body.  I've had conversations with hurting people.  My dad was diagnosed yesterday with an incurable lung disease. 

     People I care about are struggling in deep places in their lives.  I feel the weight of the enduring days on this earth, in my own life and in the lives of those around me.   Things are not what they were meant to be.  We have come so far from the Garden of Eden and the perfect life that He envisioned for us.  This is not what He wanted it to be.  None of these things were in His original picture.  Yet it's where life has taken us.

     I ache for those who are hurting.  I know He aches too.  He is allowing me to feel a little more of His heart today.  It is the fellowship of His suffering that Philippians 3:10 talks of.  I can't fix any of the things I've seen this week.  I hurt with those who are hurting.  How He must ache for those who are wrestling with this world.  Even still I know, with His grace, He covers it all.  


     Graham Cooke once spoke these words;  "There are no longer good days and bad days.  There are only days of grace.  Some days you are given the grace to enjoy what is going on and other days you are given the grace to endure."

      I look around and see enduring days in the lives of people around me.  I see it many days in my own life. Marriages are falling apart, teenagers are hurting, sickness invades homes, financial strain is upon many. Some days it takes all there is within me to hang on and walk in hope.   

     I remember when my children were young.   I would go to tuck them into their beds before retiring to my own. Often their covers had been thrown off exposing their bodies to the chill of the night.  They were oblivious to the fact. With comfort and care, I would spread their blankets back over them. Tucking them into the warmth, tenderly kissing their little cheeks, I would whisper into their ears, "I love you."  They lay there unconscious to my presence. Though they were unaware, still I was there.

     As I feel and see the uncertainties of life surrounding me and the people I love, I think of His grace that blankets us all. He envelops us as we wrestle with the thorns and thickets of this life. He comes even when we are unaware and gathers us in under His grace.  He tenderly kisses our cheeks and whispers, "I love you". He will never leave us or forsake us.  He is ever present. With His grace He covers you, me, everything.

     We don't know the prognosis of my dad's illness at this moment. I feel Papa God's arms enfolding me as I wait.  HE is my comfort.  He blankets me with His presence and tucks me away in Him.  He IS the God of all comfort.  No longer are there good days or bad days.  There are only days of grace and grace covers everything.

     What about you?  What days of grace are you seeing; enduring days or enjoying days?  Can you see His grace surrounding you?  Even when you are unaware, He's still there tucking you into Him. Feel the warmth as He surrounds you with Himself.  Know that He leans in close, kisses your cheek and tells you once more of how deeply you are loved. 

    "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  II Corinthians 12:9


©copyrighted:  2008 Julie L. Todd

Monday, October 13, 2008

Still, In His Embrace

     Where do the years go and why do they have to fly by so quickly?  We encourage our children to take their first steps and before you know it they are running so quickly through life that we want to slow them down.  


     The toddler years brought the battle of restraint.  Finding their footing made each child eager to get down and run, independent and free.  But there were times when it wasn’t safe.  Holding my arms tight, my children often squirmed trying to break free of my hold.  A battle ensued testing the strength of my arms. 

      It was out of protection that I held them back.  It wasn’t safe to run, or even walk.  They had to be held and carried.  After minutes of struggling against my hold, they would finally settle down and nestle into my chest, often falling asleep.

     I had an active little boy.  He loved being independent and on the run.  I loved the moments when I held him close.  Those were precious times with memories that I still hold dear.  Now sixteen years old, I occasionally have to fight for hugs.  Those years of holding my son in my arms,  are still my favorite.

      Once again a picture spills into my mind revealing more intimately this place of stillness with God.  Aren’t many of us like my boy?  Could it be that we enjoy life more when we are busy for Him, running free and independent, while He savors the moments of holding us close?  


      I believe He loves it when I linger in His arms, depending on Him to carry me where I need to go.  Why do I fight to break free and run.  Why do I fight against His restraint?  He pulls me close to cuddle me and tell me how deeply I am loved.   Yet, I wrestle to be busy and independent.   The thing is, He didn’t create me to be independent of Him.  I was made to be carried by Him.

     For years I didn’t like stillness.  I found it difficult to sit through a meal without moving some body part around.  Energy coursed through me as a young child.  I wanted to be moving all the time.  To this day my husband still laughs when my foot starts to swing.   

     When God called me into stillness, at first I struggled against it wanting to be free to run.  Tenderly he clasped His arms around me and held me tight.  “Not yet, dear Jewel, it’s not safe.”  “Stay with me a while.”  “I have some things I want to tell you.”  “Rest dear one, rest.”  “I’ve got you.”  “When it’s time I will set you free to run, but for now I need you here with me.” Eventually I settled down and nestled into Him.  

      It’s in the stillness as I cease from my efforts, that I truly hear His heartbeat.  It’s there I become acquainted with the tenderness of His true nature.  I am His beloved, the one who rests securely in His arms.


     As the months and years have plodded by I have come to appreciate this place called stillness.  His Spirit washes over me, as His words calm me. I discover in this place that He is becoming a verb in my life.  No longer is the action up to me.  He is the action in me.  He invites me to rest in His work through me, allowing me to see things from His bird’s eye view.

     There’s nothing like being in the rest of God’s embrace.  It enfolds, soothes and nurtures you all at the same time.  It’s in this tender place that I find Him as the one who delights in holding me close.  As I’ve settled down in His hold I’ve come to see more of His heart.

     Though I have loved watching my children grow and change, my favorite memories are the times I held them close.  The gentle kisses, the sweet whispers of love were precious times.  I tend to think God feels the same way about me.  I think His favorite times with me are those endearing times that He gets to hold me close and whisper in my ear how desperately, deeply and intimately I am loved. 

      He is so safe, loving, personal and deep.  I think I’ll linger here in this stillness for a while.  For one day, I believe, He will set me back down on my feet to run.

    How do you feel when there is stillness in your life?  Do you see it as a time of hearing His heartbeat or do you try to fight your way down to run?

     "Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders."   Deut. 33:12

©copyright: 2008 Julie L. Todd


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Rebel With A Cause

   I don’t read my Bible every day.  I never thought I would broadcast this news.  Admitting this after years of being drilled with the importance of daily reading, makes me sound and sometimes feel like a rebel.   Early on I had been told that if I loved God I would read His Word daily to prove it.  

     It wasn’t that long ago that I realized I was trying to earn His love.  I didn’t believe that in and of myself I was enough.   I performed, and strived hoping that somehow it would make me enough.  The problem with this theology is that life became about Me.  It was all about what I could and would do.

      It’s not His way.  He wanted me to know the true way.  He wanted me to know I was loved for who I was, not for what I could do.  Quiet times didn’t prove my love for Him, like I’d been told.  What He longed for was my response to His pursuit.   I didn’t know Him as the pursuer of my heart.  I thought it was up to me.  He wanted me to know that it was He who pursued me.  

       It all began with Him alluring me into the desert to speak tenderly to me.  In the desert His Word became the streams that watered my soul.  It was no longer about a daily reading.  A question of desperation would lead me to search through the scriptures to know His heart for me in the moment.  During that time I dissected His Word to discover truth.  I loved treasure hunting in His Word.  In moments of the barren desert, I was desperate for Him.  He not only revealed Himself to me, He stored up treasures of truth in my heart for the season to come.  

     The next season He began to take the demands of reading the Word off of me.  At first I struggled to remain there.  I felt so out of balance and guilty.   The feelings of guilt indicates that my reading had been more requirement than relationship.  Were I living out of the response of the relationship there would be no guilt.  After all guilt is not in His vocabulary.  That was what He was coming for, the lies that brought the guilt.  He wanted me to know that I could just “be” with Him, without “doing” a thing.  

     Many days I spent confessing to Him my guilt for not reading until He whispered to my heart.  “Jewel, it’s OK that you are not doing anything.  I don’t want you to have to do anything for love.  I want you to rest here with me.  Just be you, Jewel.  Just respond to me the way your heart tells you to.  Forget the assignments, forget the requirements, just be here with me.”

     Could it be that simple?  Could I let it all go and respond to His pursuit of my heart as I felt led?  Were there really no requirements?  Somehow in the midst, the guilt dissipated and I began to relax.  He knew my heart.  He knew I wanted Him more than life itself.  He knew I loved His Word.  He wanted me to respond to His invitation without a set “to do” list?

     The Word of God is vital to my life.  Both the written Word and the spoken Word.   His spoken Word erupted into my world during this time and I was undone.  I wondered how long had He been waiting to speak to me.  I had never  heard such words of love and affirmation.  All this time He had been waiting for my ear.

        Each and every day He woos my heart to “be” with Him so that He can love on me.  Sometimes it is with the written Word and sometimes it is with the spoken Word.  He amazes me with His presence as He delights in pursuing me with His relentless love.  

     An amazing transition has taken place.   I am breaking free from the rules to live in the freedom of responding to His pursuit.   Everything is by His initiation.  He invites me to come to Him so that He can love on me.  Guilt has fallen off of me.  I am free.  Maybe I am a rebel after all, a rebel with a cause, to know how deeply and intimately I am loved by the pursuer of my heart because I am made for love.

        The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:  "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.  Jeremiah 31:3


©copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Allure of the Desert

    As I was listening to a tape one summer day in 2002, the words out of the speaker’s mouth unleashed a deluge of tears.  “Therefore, I will allure you to the desert to speak tenderly to you.”

    I was hurting from the barrenness of my life.  Every close friendships had been shut down for various reasons.   I couldn’t understand it all.  Why had God removed all my friends?  Why was I so alone?  Was I being punished?  Why was I in this wilderness?

     As I listened to the speaker I realized, God had allured me to the desert, not out of punishment, but because of love.  He wanted me all to Himself, all crutches removed, learning to walk in His love with Him alone.  At first it scared me, but now, six years later,  I am no longer afraid.  I’ve seen too much of His heart in this place to be afraid.  The truth is, the desert has become a place of refuge.

     I never thought those words would come out of my mouth.  I never thought I would learn to rest in the barrenness.  Being a people person made for relationship, I wrestled against the aloneness.  It wasn’t where I was comfortable.  I had been busy for a reason.  I didn’t like being alone.   In all honestly I didn’t like being with “me”.

     But it was in the isolation that I began to see what was really in my heart; what I truly believed about God, and what I believed about myself.  As things began to surface, I was stunned. 

      It was all laid bare in the desert.  All the “feel good” was removed, peeling the layers back of my belief system.  Like a virus my beliefs were eating away my identity.

      I had been quite the self-reliant person.  I thought that was what I needed to be.  Hidden away underneath this layer was self-protection.  I didn’t trust.  I didn’t trust that I could be loved for who I was.  I didn’t trust God’s Word to be true.  He loved the world, but how could He love me?  After all I was so flawed.

     I had learned to be self-reliant to protect myself from the possibility of being hurt and let down.  What if who I really was wasn’t enough? 

     Alicia Britt Chole says in her book, “Anonymous” “From Father God’s perspective, utter dependence, not self-reliance is the true friend of our souls.”  It was in the wilderness that God began to strip me bare of the self-reliance, wooing my heart to depend on Him and Him alone.

     I couldn’t reason my way out.  I couldn’t protect my way out.  I couldn’t control my way out.  He had to be my rescue.  He had to be my salvation.  As long as I was capable, He could not be.  As long as I lived under this veil of masked identity, I couldn’t be who He made me to be.  

     In the desert  He began to peel away the mask of lies that made up who I believed I was, which dictated what I believed He thought about me too.  You know what we believe He thinks about us often has it’s foundation in what we believe about ourselves.  It’s not He who has the faulty beliefs it’s us.

     I began to see what had imprisoned me.   I found the truth that has set me free.  The desert has been the most invigorating, challenging, restorative place.   As the masks have been peeled away I see myself through His eyes. He has given me beauty for ashes.  His tender words have been placed inside me.  This place that once felt so barren has now become my sanctuary.  He allured me to the desert to captivate me in His embrace and now I see.  I am my Beloved’s and He is mine.

"Therefore I am now going to allure her;  I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.

There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor(Sorrow)a door of hope. 

There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. "In that day," declares the LORD, "you will call me 'my husband'; you will no longer call me 'my master."

Hosea 2:14-16


© copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd