Monday, January 26, 2009

Hearing the Heartbeat

      Though years pass by in warp speed, the memories hold strong, as if they were yesterday.  I loved the moments of my children resting on my chest.  They came crying, tormented by a fall, anger or restlessness.  I would grab them up into my arms, as I spoke over them words of comfort.  My breath washed over them as I wiped away their tears.  Eventually they would snuggle in close, laying their heads upon my chest.  As they listened to the sound of my heartbeat, the unshakable strumming soothed them into silent rest.

     Other memories flood my mind of snuggling in close to my groom, laying my head on his chest while his arms surrounded me.  I could hear his heart beating, strong and steady.  A soothing sound, the consistent beat would bring me to a quiet slumber.  I was safe in the arms of love. 

      There’s something about hearing the heartbeat of one who loves you soothing you to a stillness that consumes your body.  As you nestle in close, between their shoulders, the anxiety that you feel seems to dissipate.  You are securely enfolded in love.

     This place of stillness with Papa is unlike any other place on earth.  With tears or words of frustration and anger I  make my way in.  He takes His arms and wraps them around me, inviting me to this place of hushed rest.  It’s the place where His voice soothes away my aches with truth.

      It was a hard weekend.  Conversations with a couple of family members went “south” taking with it my peaceful home.  On top of that a dear family member, my great aunt, died.  She was my 3rd grandmother.  She represented Papa God to me with her heart of giving and care.  

      Feeling a rawness from life’s circumstances I stumbled in this morning to tell Him where I was.  Sometimes it’s hard to put words to the emotions that are consuming me.  Sometimes words are plentiful.  Either way, His invitation is the same.  

     “Come nestle up close to me, Jewel.”  “Tell me what’s going on.”

       I feel His arms surround me as He breathes His breath of life over me.  I can rest secure in the arms of the one who loves me perfectly.  It’s OK that I’m not perfect.  It’s OK that I mess up. He doesn’t care.  He doesn’t see my imperfections.  His love covers it all.  He sees through the eyes of love that draws me in.

     “Be still, my love, I will hold you.”  “I’ve got you.”  “You are here nestled in next to my heart.”  “Do you hear my heartbeat?”  “Be still, listen.”  “Let it settle you down.”  “Dwell here today.”

     His heartbeat strong and steady soothes my heart as I rest enfolded in His arms.  His arms are always there to welcome me in.  He waits to love me.  The beauty is, I don’t ever have to leave this place.  I have an extended invitation to dwell here for as long as I desire.

     There is no place on earth that feels like this.  I am consumed by His great love for me.  For years I didn’t know how to be here.  I stayed on the outskirts of love, hoping that somehow my sacrifices would invite me in.  A child afraid to hop into her Papa’s lap, I stayed back.  What if He didn’t want me up there, I reasoned.

     So, He drew me up to sit.  His invitation is extended every moment of every day to rest between His shoulders.  He waits to love us.  I see it now.  Freely I come.  For now, I know that there is no safer place on earth that this place.  It is here I hear His words and am comforted.  Now I know that He would move heaven and earth to have me here.  He already has.

     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

©copyrighted:  2009 Julie L. Todd

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sloughing Off The Old, Dead Places

     As the layers of my “old man” are peeled away, sometimes I feel the rawness.  It am reminded of my children’s skinned knees that ached until the fresh skin settled in.    It is integral that I enter into the new creation Papa God gave to me when I accepted Jesus’ invitation to life.  But sometimes I feel the scraping away of the “old” in order for the new to settle in.

      Yesterday was one of those days.  It all started with a perception of something.  There were no facts to back it up, just vain imagination.    Something I perceived from someone was speaking to my identity.  

      As it ate away at me I knew that the only way to find the truth was to draw away and talk to Jesus.  He is the only one who sees things as they are and tells me the truth.   His gentle rebuke brought me back to my senses with words that cut to the quick, dividing the soul from the spirit.

      “If you look to others actions to give or take your value, Jewel, where does that leave me?”  “If someone determines your value by what they do, then what am I?”  “How can a person’s actions knock out what I say?”

       “When you allow a person to take your value, you agree with your enemy while judging them by their actions.  You give them a power I did not give them.”

      “Not only that, you put a heavy yoke on them that they were never meant to carry.”  “You make them God.”  “I alone give value.”

      OUCH!  I feel His words cutting down through the sinews and marrow, straight to my heart.  How often through the years have I fallen into seeing value through others’ actions? It has been my life.  I have looked for approval in others.  If they did not include me or give me the significance I looked for, then I hurt.  I judged people by my perceptions of their reactions.

     I’ve played games, showed off, spoken of my “credentials”, tried to please, all for the sake of significance.  The saddest part is that each time I have allowed someone else to give to or take value from me, I have given them God’s place.  No one was made to bear that yoke.

      Not only that I have been left hurting, uncertain of being loved and wanted.  Jesus has been waiting there all along to settle my heart’s longing with His truth.  I’ve been blind for so long.  What did it do to His heart to wait and watch?

     We as people try to find others who want us, places we are needed, ways we can be useful all for the sake of being esteemed.  We look for approval, and identity in what we do, and see significance in how we are treated, and received.  All the while our value and identity are sealed inside us and we don’t even know it.  Jesus is the only one who has our identity and value.  Do we look to Him alone? Do we ask Him what He thinks about what we are hearing and believing?

     There is something inside each one of us, a signature, an image, a stamp of Papa God on our lives.  We are created by Him for Him... to be loved.  Why is it we look so easily to others for what only He can give? 

      He waits to love us into who He knows us to be.  He watches and waits for us to be done with looking to others for what they can never give us.

      As He spoke to my heart yesterday, I felt more skin of the old man being scraped away.  I am raw today.  I ache for the years, that I have wasted looking to others, to be restored.  I long to nestle into the sweetness of His embrace and heal, while He whispers to those deep places how grateful He is to love me.

     He is my value.  He is my approval.  He is my inclusion.  If I am included in Him I can never be excluded again.  I will always be wanted, pursued and loved in His eyes.  They are the eyes that matter.  

     As I snuggle in close I feel His heartbeat, and hear His breath.  The tenderness of His love draws me in and I once again settle down into Him.


     "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."  Hebrews 4:12

 ©copyrighted:  2009 Julie L. Todd

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sabotaging Relationships with Expectations

     As I sat on my daughter’s bed listening I was struck with the simplicity of it all, yet the complexity of living it.  The only place we can receive our value is from God, period.  There is no other place.

     We just don’t get that.  Therefore, longing for approval and value we go seeking.    Every one of us longs to have something about us that is valuable.  But not many of us know where to find it.

     I didn’t have a clue what God thought about me.  All I had was my perceptions.  I didn’t believe I was wanted, or worth loving.  Would anyone choose to love me?  I latched onto relationships hoping I would find the answer.

      I remember counseling with some mentors 18 years ago.  One of them looked at me and said “what is it that David isn’t doing that he needs to do to make you feel loved?”  My response was “I don’t know, but whatever it is, he’s not doing it.”  I wanted my husband to destroy the lies I believed.  I wanted him to prove my value.

     The more I longed for it, the more I put unrealistic expectations on him.  Expectations became resentments that sabotaged our relationship.    I shudder to think of the damage I’ve done to my marriage through the years.  How much failure have I spoken to my husband?  It hurts to even consider it.  No matter what my husband did or did not do, he could never prove my value, or fill my need for love, therefore his efforts failed.  They weren't meant to succeed.


      My expectations through the years have weighed him down, encumbering him.  No matter how much he has loved I’ve said in my silent expectations,  “it’s not enough, do more.”  I have grabbed hold of David to rescue me and in the process I have almost drowned him.

       In the the movie, "The Guardian", Kevin Costner is a Coast Guard rescue swimmer.  In the opening scene of the movie, he’s on an assignment to rescue a husband and wife whose boat has capsized.  He goes after the wife first. The husband becomes overwhelmed and begins to grab hold of her, causing problems for her rescue.  The husband ends up getting taken up to the helicopter first.

      While he is getting settled in, a wave sweeps over his wife taking her under water. By the time the CG swimmer gets to her she’s stopped breathing.  He gets her into the copter, gives her mouth to mouth and she revives.   Her husband’s actions almost killed her.

      I see myself in the husband.  As I looked to David to rescue me, I not only weighed him down, but I endangered his rescue.   No matter how much he did for me there was something that I still needed that he couldn’t give me.  He continued to be plagued with the lies he has fought all his life, “I am a failure.”  No matter how much he tried to love me as I needed.  He failed.

      We endanger people when we look to them to meet our needs.  It’s not how it was supposed to work.  We were never meant to get love and value from them.  We were made for God.  Others were meant to display the love of God to us, not give it to us.  God gives us love.

     No one but God loves in the way we need.  He IS Love.  There is no person on this earth who can give my heart what it needs.  Only God can silence the lies I have believed with His truth.    Until I embrace that, I will grab hold of everyone around me to “save me” from my own insecurities.

     Insecurities are lies that still hold me captive.   The truth is if I know I am loved and see the value bestowed on me by the Creator of the Universe there is no need to be insecure.  He secures me in Him.  That is enough.     

      His amazing grace covers me and all the mistakes I have made in my relationships.  His love fills me in such a way that I am undone.  It is a fierce love that leaves me speechless.  Now I can let go of David.  He can be in his rightful place.

      My Rescuer has been there all along, waiting for me to let go.  His arms of love  gather me up and take me to that quiet place where He whispers to me how deeply, and intimately I loved.  Once I was blind, but now I see.  I have found my Rescuer but better yet,  He has found ME.

©copyrighted:  2009 Julie L. Todd

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Leaving It All Behind

   There’s something about the beauty and grace of a butterfly that captivates me.  As they flitter about in all their splendor, you’d never know that they were once something else.        

     A caterpillar is already a butterfly it just doesn’t know it.  Inside it’s body is the dna of a butterfly.  It matures into what is already true.  A caterpillar is made to become, a butterfly.  

      Clinging to a piece of silk it has woven, in an act of surrender, the caterpillar hangs its head down, sheds it’s skin and begins it’s transformation.  Hibernating inside the protective shell, it becomes what it was designed to be.    There is no straining to make something happen, no criteria to fulfill.  There is only a relinquishing of who it was to become who it is.

     This speaks something deep into my soul.  Inside of me is the dna of Jesus.  I am a daughter of the Most High God.  His robe of righteousness covers me, inviting me to enter into my transformation.  Like the butterfly, as I bow my head in submission, shed my old man, I can become what He always imagined me to be.

      I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loves me and gave Himself for me.   I don’t live by my faith.  I am made to live by His.  It’s His faith inside me lived out that makes the difference.

      Jesus spoke one phrase to the disciples, “Come follow Me and I will make you......  It was His invitation to their metamorphosis.  As they followed where He led, seeing what He saw, entering into what He entered into, they were transformed.

    In order to be transformed the disciples had to leave everything behind.  Nothing of what they were went with them.  Their identity was left behind.  They found themselves utterly dependent on the only one who knew the plans.  As they lived in the moments with Jesus, they were changed.

     That’s the way it works.  We leave behind the ways we have lived, walked, survived by our own efforts and enter into a place of resting in Him and His faith inside us.  As we bow our heads in submission His work inside us, waiting to erupt,  begins.  

     We will never be able to change ourselves into who we are.  The more we try the more we will hinder the transformation.   We must leave all our efforts behind, pick up our lives and follow Him.  

     Our identity is sealed inside us.  As we surrender ourselves to follow, it’s then He begins to unveil what’s already there.  We mature into who we were made to be.


       We have been given a complete new core identity.  We are not who we thought we were.  We are more, so much more.  We bear the image of the Most High God.  We are His Beloved.  We have been given the dna of His righteousness.  Christ’s dna is now our dna.

      We cannot get more “godly” than we already are.  We are complete in Christ.  We have all of Him.    We are loved, totally and completely.  Our sin no longer defines us, nor do our efforts.  He completes us.  He perfect us.  He makes us right.

        Will you dare to believe that whether you see it or feel it it’s true; you are a new creation, right now.  Would you dare to believe that even though your behavior might not be godly, you are, because He is, in you.  

      The dna is set.  Nothing can change that.  Will you enter in and be who He already knows you are?    May you dare to believe that you are a new creation right now and that nothing more is required of you than that you enter into that “cocoon” of righteousness and be changed. 

      With a twinkle in His eyes, a smile on His lips, and a motion of His hand Jesus says to you and to me, “Come follow me and I will make you....”

     “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”  

   II Corinthians 4:17

    This is also posted at the Internet Cafe

©copyrighted:  2009 Julie L. Todd

Friday, January 9, 2009

Dance With Me?

    There’s this cheesy movie that I love.  I used to think that I loved it because it was the picture of the feminine heart coming alive.  But today as I sat with Jesus talking about this dance that He has led me in,  I realized something.  I love the movie, “Strictly Ballroom” because parts of it  represent, me.

     The movie starts out with a dancer who wants to dance his own steps.   Everyone is bound by the dance federation steps.  They don’t want to break the rules and dance outside what the federation says is allowed.  Scott is unlike the others.  He wants to be free in dance but cannot find a partner who will comply.  So he dances alone, that is until Fran shows up.

      She appears on the scene, inexperienced, looking like “frump girl”.  Timidly she looks at Scott and says, “I want to dance with you, your way.”

      Scott begins to take her one step at a time.  Though she knew some of the basics, this was different.  There was much she didn’t know.  Therefore she gave herself over to him to lead  and teach her the way of the dance.

     With each dance lesson you see a little more of “frump girl’s” guises disappear.  The more she dances in the arms of Scott, surrendered to His lead, the more her beauty unfolds.  First she loses her oversized glasses, then the outlandish hairstyle, her clothing changes, and her complexion clears up.  Little by little Fran’s hidden beauty spills out as she learns the way of the dance.  By the end of the movie she is absolutely stunning.

      I see parallels that speak to something inside me.  Jesus wants to dance His steps with me.   For too many years I have been bound by my religious activity for Him.  I have been traveling down a path of “pleasing God”.  I didn’t trust that I could just “be” in His embrace.  He invites me to abandon the law and learn to live in the moments of life with Him, trusting His work in me to be enough.  

      He comes to me and extends the invitation.  “Jewel, will you dance with me?”  “I want to dance my way.”  “Will you trust me?  “Will you dance with me?”

     I put my hand in His and the dance begins.  He starts out teaching me the steps of accepting His love.  As He reveals His thoughts towards me the guises I had established begin to drop away.   No longer in need of my performance giving me value, I begin to enter in to who He tells me I am.  His love carries me to places I have never dreamed and awakens me to truths I have never known.

     It all began with an invitation.  “Dance with me?” Jesus asked.  “Yes, Jesus, I will dance with you”, I reply.   He says to me, “Put your hand in mine, follow my lead, step where I take you, rest in my embrace.”  “Don’t try to implement your own steps.”  “Trust ME with the dance.”

     In the beauty of the dance, something profound is happening inside of me.  There’s a settledness finding it’s way in me as I am being changed.  Old things that once held me captive are falling off as He beckons me to rest in His arms that hold me close. The beauty of Him in me is being revealed and I am undone.  

     This has been unlike anything I have ever experienced before.  He has swept me off of my feet and I am ruined for the ordinary.  This fierce love that I have found consumes me.  I am captivated by the gaze of my dance partner and He is captivated with me.

     To each of us He extends the invitation.  “Will you dance with me?”  There are no two dances alike.  The dance of living in the beauty of the Lord is tailor made to each person.  If you will but put your hand in His and allow Him to teach you the dance of love, He will.  

     He’s had his eye on you.  His gaze has found you and He seeks you out.  With every fiber of His being He longs to love you into the dance of His arms.  What say ye, will You dance His steps?

©copyrighted:  2008  Julie L. Todd

Friday, January 2, 2009

In the Moments....

     Years ago we were blessed to visit the Rocky Mountain National Park.  I had never seen mountains of such grandeur.   The sights took my breath away.   Red tailed foxes, elk grazing in fields, picturesque views, all displayed the splendor of His Majesty.  Taking it slow around the curvy roads allowed you to savor what was in your eyes’ gaze, never knowing what that might be.

     Many days I’ve lived life looking out on the horizon.  All I could see is where I wanted to go.  In the process I lost sight of living in the moments.  God signatures in my life were left unseen as my eyes fixed on what lay ahead.

     Why is it we live to map out our lives?  What is it about planning ahead, finding our purpose, figuring things out that is so alluring to us?  We need purpose statements, visions, plans to make our lives work.  Why is there so much emphasis on figuring it all out?  In our need for structure could it be that somehow we end up boxing God out or in?

     Why can’t the vision of “I want to know you, and the power of your resurrection and the fellowship of your sufferings” be enough?  Why isn’t it enough to know that He will lead us on the unfamiliar paths, showing us the way to go.. you know, don’t turn to the right or the left, here’s the way walk in it.”  Why are we more stimulated with having a plan than waiting to be led along the unfamiliar path?  Unfamiliar means we don’t have a clue.  It has to be revealed.  Why then do we spend our days trying to figure it all out?

     Throughout scripture people lived in the moments without plans.  Moses was herding sheep in the wilderness when God showed up in a fiery bush.  Abraham was living life with Isaac when God tells him to go to Mt. Moriah.  Joseph was a prisoner when the prison cell opened, releasing him to be the second most powerful man in Egypt.  Mary, a young virgin was living as a teenager when an angel showed up to tell her she will bear the life of the Son of God.  

     Not one of those people had a 5 year plan, purpose statement, or even a vision for their lives.  Not one of them had their lives mapped out.  None of them imagined the unfamiliar path God had lined up.  They were available and alert when God showed up in all His splendor, to reveal the plans.

     In this day and age I believe we have lost sight of living in the moments, depending on God to show up with the next step of our journey.  We live for the destination, seeing where we need to get to.  We box God in or out, limiting Him to our pictures, and plans, our need for security through structure.  But He and He alone is our security.  Why don’t we trust Him enough to wait in the moments?

     I wonder what it would look like to awaken each day to live in the moments with God with no idea of what that looked like.  What would it look like to live every day without a plan, other than to follow, know and love Him? Would we find ourselves right where we were always meant to be?  Would our senses be sharper because of the need to be alert?

       It’s quite simple really.  Jesus told us about it in Matthew.  Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and everything else will be added.  Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself.  Live in the moment, seize the day.  His ways are higher than our ways.  He knows the plans.  He’s got them.


      Living in the moments, allows me to see the one, true God in all His splendor.  Much like that drive in Estes Park, untold beauty unfolds as He shows up at just the right instant to guide me to His planned destination.  He is a wild God with a wild sense of adventure.   The more I live without my plans, the more I see of Him.  

     He waits for me to seek Him, know Him, love Him.  He waits to show off His splendor to me.  He waits to lead me on the unfamiliar paths of life, allowing His plans for me to unfold.  Will I wait for Him in the moments?  Will you?

     O Taste and see that the Lord is good;  How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.  Psalm 34:8