Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
The more I learn about the butterfly, the more captivated I become. I love the picture it paints. I love the story it tells. It speaks to a deep place in my soul.
When it’s time for a caterpillar to shed it’s final skin it finds an isolated place where it can metamorphose. The outer skin of the pupa then hardens forming a chrysalis which protects and hides it while it transforms.
When I moved to this small rural town almost three years ago now I came sporting my credentials. I had just finished teaching a 12 week class on the book “Captivating” at a former church. I had seen a gifting that I had not known was inside me. It exhilarated me. I was chomping at the bit to be used for God. Truth be told I was chomping at the bit to be of value.
His words came to me clearly one day. “Stop promoting yourself. I will promote you if I want you to be used.” It became clear He was up to something.
Relationships that I thought would take off didn’t. Ministry opportunities that I volunteered for were filled by others. I’d been here before. I knew it was an “invitation of God”. I knew He was calling me away to the stillness, where the gentle whispers could become loud in my ears. For the busyness of ministry often drowned out that still small voice.
These last 2 years have been filled with something I never saw coming. God began to teach me how to find my value in Him alone. He began to change me from the inside out. He invited me to live as one who is loved. He guided me into loving myself as He loves me.
This week He pulled back the curtains and revealed more of the masterpiece He’s been sculpting with my heart. Given an unexpected invitation to speak at a women’s tea exposed the work of His hands.
Instead of jumping at the opportunity, I tried to run. It was the opposite of what I had done before.
He wouldn’t let me run. It was His door opened for me. So I went, I spoke.
As I sat down in my seat after speaking I realized something. I’ve changed. The desire to promote myself has vanished. I no longer need to speak to have value. I have no desire to seek to have a ministry or a gifting. I have found my place in His heart. I am absolutely and completely content living as one who is loved.
I stand amazed as I look at where I once was and where I now stand. A woman who for a time found great value in striving, performance, busyness, and knowledge no longer has a desire for those things. The heart of the father has won my heart... I have been transformed.
Our reality is we are fused with Christ. God cannot tell where one life ends and the other begins. When we get that, really get that, there will be no need to find value anywhere else.
The God of the universe chose to tabernacle in us. Would that we could see the value He places on us. That He would choose to dwell within us. It’s astounding when you consider it.
He wants you to know and live in your reality, so He comes. He invites you to enter into the metamorphose of the life of Christ which dwells within. In the shelter of grace He will love away your insecurities and teach you how to love yourself. For He's known you for a long time. He's loved you forever.
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; remain in my love. John 15: 9
©copyrighted:2009 Julie L. Todd
Sunday, November 29, 2009
When she walked out onto the dance floor I don’t think she really had any idea what was about to happen. Neither did the judges or the viewers for that matter.
The daughter of a famous musician, she had lived quite the life. She spoke of how she viewed herself. She talked of the drugs she had taken to cope with the ridicule she had faced as a child in school. It was a means to escape the pain.
What happened over the course of the next ten weeks was breathtaking to say the least. Kelly Osbourne entered the dance floor rough around the edges. She exited with a hidden beauty revealed. You couldn’t help but see the transformation. She came alive as a woman, seeing things she’d never seen before about herself. The more she danced the more her confidence grew, the more people were drawn to her. At the end she said it was a "life changing experience".
It all started with trust. Each week there were new dances to learn, sometimes two. Each time she started out knowing absolutely nothing about what she was doing. She relied on her partner to teach her, guide her, take her where she needed to be.
It wasn’t always perfect, but she followed as best she could. Before you knew it she was dancing with poise and dignity. The journey invited her to see something about herself she had not known. She was indeed a lady. All she needed was one person to believe in her. One who would show her the way into the dance.
I’m struck each time I watch Dancing with the Stars. I absolutely love the metamorphosis of the dancers. I love where they start and where the end. They are out of their genre, out of their league. They are completely reliant on their partner. I love the picture it paints.
For you see, I believe Jesus is the Lord of the Dance. He loves to show us what is inside us. He loves to reveal who we are for those around us to see. It is after all His heart inside lived out.
The disciples followed Him and were transformed. There wasn’t much required. Just go where I go, see what I see, take it all in, and I will make you. As the disciples followed Jesus they were changed.
That’s what I saw in Kelly Osbourne as she danced. She followed her partner and she was changed. The journey of the dance revealed more of the woman hidden inside.
It’s what I see life to be. Jesus extends His hand to each of us inviting us into the dance of living as one who is loved. It doesn’t require anything, but trust. He is our One true partner, the one who believes in us. If we will follow He will make all things known.
He is the Lord of the dance. Transformation comes as we follow. Little by little the beauty of the inside emerges out of the ashes leaving them behind. It is then we will begin to see what He has always known. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.
“The King is enthralled with your beauty” Psalm 45:11
©copyrigted 2009 Julie L. Todd
Friday, November 27, 2009
*Note: I wrote another post about the experience below a few months back. But as Papa is prone to do, He has given me another revelation of His heart through this experience.
It was 9:00AM on July 9th when I got the phone call. My daughter’s unintelligible words mixed with tears told me something bad had happened. “Mom, I think I just got bit by a poisonous snake”.
I tried to stay calm as I rushed to get my clothes on. Maybe she was wrong. Did she really know snakes that well? Moments later a conversation with her father confirmed it. My daughter had been bitten by a baby copperhead while walking through the doorway at work. It lay hidden between the thresh hold and the door.
It took several weeks of healing before she was back on her feet. From that point on, she watched where her feet were planted.
Months after her healing, I realized something profound. That is a picture of my story.
Jesus came to me and offered me salvation. I accepted. I had no clue what it all really meant. I knew that I had alot of sin and needed forgiveness. I knew I needed love. It was by grace that I was saved.
I walked through the door and was immediately bitten by the serpent that lay hidden in the doorway of religious activity.
I was loaded up with a list of things that good Christians do. If you want to love God well, you should spend at least 30 minutes a day in quiet time, preferably in the morning, like Jesus did. Every good Christian made prayer lists, volunteered to teach Sunday School, attended Bible study and every church service, evangelized, signed up for VBS. You get the idea.
I look back on it now and realize something astounding. Grace brought me to salvation. But I left grace behind once I walked through that door. The list of “should’s took over my life. I lost sight of the invitation to just be loved. In fact I didn't really know that being loved was the offer. The serpent had his bite into me and I didn’t even know it. With my imperfections he began to spread his poison of shame throughout the veins of my life. I never seemed to do enough to feel loved.
The serpent lurks about seeking who he might destroy. If he can keep me bound to a life of should’s he will keep me bound to shame, for I will surely fail. If you don’t believe that, think about how you feel when you miss your “quiet time” for several days or haven’t prayed for anyone. Guilt and shame rear their ugly heads.
Here’s my reality. For God so loved He sent Jesus to restore me back to love. I am an image bearer of the Most High God. I and all my old, dead flesh have been crucified with Christ. I no longer live. Christ now lives in me.
I didn’t get it back then, but I am starting to now. Jesus brought me to salvation to bring me back to living as one who is loved. The One who knew He was loved because of who He was to the Father says to me. “Just as the Father has loved me, I now love you.” It’s a love where there are no conditions, no expectations, no requirements because all was fulfilled by Him.
It’s the most stunning thing I’ve ever known. Words of invitation are extended, “Jewel, let me love you into who you are.” “Take off the shackles of slavery to the should’s”. “You are free.” “Live out of my love.” “Don’t return to a yoke of slavery.” “Not to sin.” “Not to works.” “It’s no longer about what you need to do.” “It’s now about Me and what I will do.” “Follow me, Jewel”.. “I will make.” “I made you to love you, it’s that simple.” “As you live in love, you will fulfill all the Father desires for you.”
I’ve been on this path for a few years now. He’s held true to His promise. My true identity is emerging as I receive His love. Guilt and shame have for the most part dropped away. They frequently try to visit, but have become unwelcome guests.
His Spirit has taken me to places I didn’t know existed, straight into the heart of deep intimacy with the Father. I've never known love like this before. As I’ve settled into His embrace, I’ve found the place of grace. It’s the doorway where love covers a multitude of sins. It’s where love covers me.
©copyright: 2009 Julie L. Todd
Also posted at the Internet Cafe:
Sunday, November 15, 2009
On February 4, 1974 Patricia Hearst, heiress to the Hearst fortune, was kidnapped by the terrorist group, the Symbionese Liberation Army. The country was astonished when videotaping of her holding a machine gun in the midst of a bank robbery surfaced on national news. It was uncharacteristic of her to have such erratic behavior. Those who knew her well came to the conclusion that she must have been brainwashed. Once she was set free, it took her months to grasp her freedom.
It's taken me years to get here. It's proof of His relentless love that pursues to make all things new. The more He reveals to me, the more I see.
I was brainwashed by a hodgepodge of beliefs I’ve allowed to collect in my mind. It’s come through many different avenues in life. As a result, I have lived under the auspice of a false identity.
Little by little the clutter in my mind is being cleared away, revealing the true identity that has been hidden within.
In my Grandmother's house was an attic filled to overflowing with artifacts and trash, evidence of life lived. When it came time to prepare the house for new occupants the attic had to be cleaned. We all dreaded it. There was over 80 years of stuff stored up there. We knew it would take us hours, even days to clear it all away.
We donned our masks and braved the steep steps into the dark to begin the daunting task. We had no idea what we would find. At times we would come across a treasure. It told us something about the person it belonged to. But the bulk of what dwelt in that attic was trash. Things that should have been thrown away years before, were hidden away in the dark, taking up space.
So it has been with me. Papa God has been cleaning out the nooks and crannies of my mind. He's been removing the debris that has cluttered it, keeping me from living in the truth. In the process, the treasures of who I really am are coming into the light. I'm learning to love what He loves. I'm learning to love ME.
The more I discover the more I realize. It is imperative that I know what He thinks about me. It's crucial that I live in the new identity which He has restored to me. It is, after all, who I was always made to be.
I've allowed life around me to define my identity. It is not His way. It never will be. For you see I was crucified with Christ. I no longer live. Christ now lives in me. My identity is Christ in Julie Todd.
He's always known me. He wants me to know too. He pursues me until I see. My sins do not define me, nor do life's circumstances. My behavior is not an indicator of who I am. It is my reaction to the world around me instead of my response to a God who loves me.
David invited God in Psalm 139: to search him and know if there was any hurtful way in him, to lead him in the way everlasting. As I pondered the Hebrew translation I realized something. David invited God to look inside him and reveal those things that have been damaging. He wanted to be guided to the everlasting way. It is the way that has been from the beginning.
I want to live like that. I want to live in who I was meant to be, before I entered a world covered in sin.
He's clearing away the clutter. Who I have believed myself to be is not who I am.
I'm finally beginning to see.
On my worst day, I am the righteousness of Christ. It just doesn't get any better than that.
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference. Romans 3:22
©copyrighted: 2009 Julie L. Todd
My friend, Tiffany from Tea With Tiffany, has me as a guest blogger today. Pop on over and visit Tiff. She's a dear friend of my heart. Let her know I sent you!
Saturday, October 17, 2009
The alarm goes off too early in the morning on Tuesdays. I often hit the snooze button hoping to escape my reality. The truth is I don’t want to get out of bed. It’s comfort and warmth invite me to linger as I lay there trying to block out the inevitable. Eventually I will have to rise up and face what’s set before me. No matter how many times I pound that snooze button, life always ends up beckoning me out.
I’m always amazed at how daily life often exhibits life in the Spirit. It happened again for me this week. My emotions are much like my alarm clock, especially anger. Like lights on the dashboard of a car, they will reveal what’s not firing correctly, if I will pay attention.
Emotions resounded in my body this week and I hit the snooze button. I knew I needed to leave my comforts and face them, but honestly, I just really didn’t want to go there. No matter how many times I pounded that snooze button, Jesus continued to come. His life inside, beckoned me out of the covers of self-protection.
Journal in hand, I drew away to a quiet place. I know Jesus well enough to know, He loves me too much to leave me escaping the emotions. He won’t stop coming after me. After all He came to heal the broken hearted and bind up their wounds.
The feelings inside indicated my reality. There was a broken place still at work.
I’ve come to understand something about broken places. We all have them. They are a result of entering into a world filled with sin. Some of us acknowledge that we have them, some of us don’t. It doesn’t change the facts. If Jesus said He came to heal the broken hearted, we must be broken.
A few years back my husband’s work computer was stolen out of his truck. Months later it was found and returned. While in his possession, the thief had created his own password and entered in his own data. It was on the computer that bore my husband’s name but it was not the original data. We began to slowly remove all the old programming in order to restore the laptop to his original state.
Jesus came to restore my data. I’ve been under the influence of a world of sin, some of it mine, some of it what I received at the hands of others. All the while a thief programmed false information into my mind. It’s not the original data. I’ve been lied to, misled and robbed.
When my emotions get stirred up, the alarm goes off to awaken me. It’s an invitation to have my programming restored. Why do I hit the snooze button? Why is it when the invitation comes I shut it off, hoping to avoid it a little while longer? Sometimes I just don’t want to go there. I prolong my freedom.
Jesus came to heal my brokenness. He came to do a clean sweep of all the false data that has filled my mind. He wants to restore me to my original place.
Healing comes when I allow the resounding of my emotions to invite me out to walk with God. It’s in those moments of telling Him how I feel that I find truth that sets my heart free. What I am feeling indicates what I am hearing. The false data is exposed.
But some days, I just want to hit the snooze button and ignore it all.
It is His constant love that refuses to leave me alone. His Spirit pursues me, wooing me into that place where He and I can meet, it’s the place where the freedom waits.
His truth sets me straight. His voice whispers to me what He & My Father see in me. He reminds me of my reality. I am valued by the Creator of the universe. No one can take that from me. Healing permeates my being as I allow His programming to replace what was previously there.
Life once again beckons me out of the comforts of that which has covered me. His beauty replaces the ashes of my past. He came to heal my broken heart. He came to set me free.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
“You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” It’s one of the most profound statements in the Word of God. I’ve come to discover it’s the key to unlocking the image of God etched on my life.
The more truth that comes, the more I realize how captive I have been. I am not who I thought I was. Much is being peeled away. With each layer uncovered, the beauty of God is manifested. He knows who I am. He’s letting me see too.
I’ve lived a bipolar lifestyle, spiritually speaking. I’ve lived in two extremities. We all do it. In fact, there’s only one who didn’t, Jesus.
One minute I live in the Spirit, the next I fall back into the flesh. One minute I live in the new identity, the next I’m back listening to the old man. It’s easy to run between the two worlds. After all I’ve lived most of my life reacting to the world around me. I became who my world told me I was.
I looked to other things for my identity. I didn’t look to the one who is truth. I’m learning what that looks like. The more I go, the more truth I find, the more release is realized.
What if my reality was, He was the only one I looked to? What if I took what I felt and asked God what He thought? What if I stopped trying to figure out my life and asked Him? What if I fought for weakness instead of strength, knowing that in my weakness He would be strong?
Christ was the strongest man who lived on this earth, yet He lived a life of weakness. He was totally and utterly dependent. He never looked to Himself. He never took care of things on His own. He didn’t react to His surroundings and what others said. He had only one place He went, to the one who is Truth.
My flesh is dead. Who I was no longer lives. Christ now lives in me. It’s now Him in me. A clean, slate, a fresh new start is my reality, whether realized or not.
Here is my actuality. If I am managing my world on my own, I am not living in who I am. For if I rely on my strength I do not live in His.
Unless I look to the Father I will not live in who I am. It’s that simple.
If I manage and control my life it will only hinder my revealing. When I rely on my strength, God in His totality becomes unrealized.
Many of us live unaware of who we really are. For if we did, we would know we are the objects of His deep affection. We would love ourselves. We would display freedom and life. Christ in us would not make a move without Him. It is He in us who reveals the truest things about us.
The truth sets free. I know, I’ve seen.
What if our lives truly did follow what Jesus knew. What if we tapped into Him in us. What if we saw what He saw, loved as He loved. What if we laid down the mantel of carrying our lives in totality and ran to Him in our weakness. What if we ceased our efforts, to save & protect ourselves, and rested in His? What if His strength could be realized in us as it is in Him. What if our old lives were completely exchanged for His?
It is the invitation of the gospel.
God knows exactly who we are. He knows the path that will reveal our lost identity. His invitation is there waiting every moment of every day. “Let me tell you the truth. It will set you free.”
©copyrighted: 2009 Julie L. Todd
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Monday, September 7, 2009
When I first became a parent, I had no idea I would learn so much about God from my children. I thought I would be there to guide them into His heart. Little did I know that it would be they, who guided, me.
As they have grown over the years, so have I. My husband and I started out with behavior modification parenting. It was common to hear those around us talk of “breaking the will of the child”. Breaking the will seemed to be an accomplishment that would bring obedience. We set out to make that happen. I shudder even now as I think about it.
The sad reality is, we believed God was the same way. That is until He summoned us to enter into true, authentic relationship. In that place love is the motivating factor, not behavior modification.
I discovered something. God wasn’t after my will. He was after my heart. Obedience wasn’t the most important thing to Him, love was.
It was in that place I began to learn something new. God will never be disappointed with me. His heart aches to hold me close. In sin I separate myself from Him. He exposes it in order to bring me back into His embrace. For He knows that my perception of what He thinks of me changes when I am captured by sin.
There is never guilt, condemnation or accusation. There is only, always, love, mercy and grace. He reveals to return me to where I was meant to be. My sin is not His focus. I am. He didn't come to make me perfect. He came to give me life. Sin destroys life.
When I entered into the world of motherhood, I thought I would bring my babies into the world and love them. It all sounded so simplistic. Yet, it wasn’t. There were times when a child would stray off the path and look in other directions. Choices that cost them were made. I ached as I watched. I prayed, I waited to welcome them back in. All I wanted was to love them. Didn’t they know that? They judged my heart by the way they felt about themselves.
He thought He would bring me into this world and love me. I have often taken wrong turns. I’ve gotten off the beaten path. I looked for love in all the wrong places. Yet, He doesn’t see me covered in my sin. He sees me in a robe of righteousness. He does not separate from me when I choose to return to sin. He is not angered or even disappointed with me. His response is always the same. He pursues me to come back home.
Like the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son, He runs to meet me when I return to be held. For just as I could never turn away from my children because of my unending love, He cannot turn from me. His heart is filled with a love that cannot be measured or challenged. It is from everlasting to everlasting, not based on conditions or behavior.
He knew I would be imperfect. He knew that the lures of this world would pull me in. For when He created the earth, He knew my sins, past, present and future. He couldn’t bear for me to separate myself from Him. He devised a plan. It was His plan of rescue.
The cross has been misunderstood. It’s not about sin. It’s about love. Jesus’ blood was spilled to annihilate that which separated us from entering in as sons and daughters. Because of love He paid the ransom note to bring us back into the embrace of God. He came to restore us to life, to the full. It was the life He always meant for us, before sin entered into mankind. Love was the motivating factor of the cross. His love for you.
There has never been a time when I did not love my children. There is absolutely nothing that they could do that would change that. I see beyond the choices they make. I love.
There will never be condemnation or disappointment with God. There is always and only love. Love welcomes you back. With arms wide open, it runs out to meet you, to restore you to where you were meant to be, in the arms of God.
Sin is not His focus. You are.
Also posted at the Internet Cafe:
©copyrighted: 2009 Julie L. Todd
Monday, August 31, 2009
I spent the better part of my life living as a religious woman. I did what I was told a good Christian should do. Performance and striving were a way of life for me. Guilt, condemnation and shame were frequent visitors. The more they visited, the busier I became.
In all honesty, I believed that my religious acts would somehow bring me the closeness I desired with God. If I followed all the rules maybe it would be enough to draw near to me. I could believe God would fellowship with me when I was doing religious stuff. But would He be with me in the mundane? I wasn’t so sure. I was afraid to slow down long enough to find out.
That’s when the invitation arrived.
“Jewel, come to the wilderness with Me.” “I want to teach you how to see me as husband, instead of Master.”
His isolation is the opposite of our isolation. He pulls us away in order to reveal. We, on the other hand, isolate in order to hide.
There’s something magical about the land of isolation with God. Pretense and performance are removed. It’s just you and Him. It’s in that place that you begin to discover what you are made of, what’s really inside of you.
One of my favorite movies is “Hildalgo”. It’s the story about a man named Frank Hopkins. He’s half Indian, half white man. Tormented by a painful childhood memory he loses sight of his heritage. He’s forgotten who he is.
He’s known for his endurance horse racing. A representative of an Arabian nation sees him in a wild west show. He invites him to come to his country and compete in a race against a royally bred Stallion. The race will be held smack dab in the middle of the desert. He will face elements he’s never experienced before while all alone in a foreign country. He accepts.
The ride in the desert was laden with obstacles and challenges. It was a long, hard, arduous ride. Frank’s determination and will kept him from giving up, though at times he wanted to. As he fought against each obstacle, the man inside began to break out. Little by little he reengaged with who he was. By the end of the race he knew what was in him.
One of the reasons I love that movie is because it speaks to me of my own story. God had allured me to His isolation. Alone with my kids, my husband and God, unable to serve in any capacity, I began to see the many masks I had worn. What I had relied on for value was what I could do. I had allowed my ability to fulfill religious requirements to define who I was.
In the wilderness, His words began to pierce into a deep place in my soul. He told me He had no requirements. There was nothing I “should” do. He ached for me to need to be loved by Him. That was all. He began to reveal to me who He was and who I was to Him. Life turned a corner for me. I will never be the same.
Aches within me began to rise up to the surface. I was made aware of longings that almost took my breath away. It was then I realized. That’s His heart beating in me, inviting me to join Him where He is.
In the yearnings of my heart I realize that those things I long for, are the things He longs for too. Made in His image, His fingerprints are all over my life. Coming to terms with who I am has unleashed Him in me.
Sometimes the desires unfulfilled bring a pain all their own. It’s in those times that I identify with Him the most. He longs for intimacy with mankind in a way that most will likely never fully understand.
His heart has been misrepresented and misunderstood. It’s not our fulfilled requirements He’s after. It us. God aches for us. It’s that simple.
"Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. Hosea 2:14
©copyrighted: 2009 Julie L. Todd