Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Restoration of a Father's love.

God woke me up early the morning of my dad's memorial service, words pouring into my mind.  When I had finished writing my mother said to me, "You have to read this at Dad's memorial service."  It was by God's grace alone that I was able to read what is written below, through many tears shed in the process.  Below you will find my tribute to my precious daddy's life.  Thank you for all who have prayed for me.  I have felt each and every prayer.  
   I'm up early this morning, memories of my dad flooding my mind.  It's all so surreal.  I expect him to walk through the door at any moment, yet I know in my head, he won't.  He's waiting for me in heaven where one day I will be swept up in his arms once again.  For now, I feel the void of knowing those arms will not wrap around me again on this earth.

     I think of the verse in Joel 2: "I will restore the years the locusts have eaten, declares the Lord".  Yes, he has done that.

     My father attended church religiously, serving as a deacon, Sunday School teacher and even an elder.  He was a religious man who wanted to do what he was supposed to, yet he didn't know God.  There was no connection with the heart of the Father.  For you see he was a broken man.

      There were many ups and downs in our lives.    When you don't know the heart of the God, you don't really know love.  Therefore receiving and expressing love becomes difficult.  My dad, in his broken state, offered what he had to give.

      But God knew Him.  He pursued him through a fellowship of people.  They sit behind us here in the church.  There were 8 people who saw my dad, not as a damaged man, but one who needed to be loved.  They loved him well.  It was in this "acceptability group" that my father first found God.  It was somewhere in the mid-1990's, I can't remember the exact year now.

      I will never forget the day he was baptized.  My oldest daughter was baptized with him.  I wept like a baby as I heard him testify of this great love he had finally discovered.  It had been the prayer of my heart.

       Dad began to live from his heart.    God began the process in me to restore the years the locust have eaten.  I wanted to know His truth above anything that I had felt or perceived.

      A few years ago my husband and I were in a difficult season.  He was working too many hours for too little pay.  Life was just exhausting. One desperate day as I journaled my heart, I heard God say, "Call your daddy".   As soon as daddy answered the phone I began to weep.   I so desperately wanted him there in the room with me, hugging me tight.  "Daddy will you pray for me?"  I'll never forget the tenderness in his voice as he spoke and prayed.  Peace permeated my being as Daddy cried out on my behalf.  It wasn't just another moment of restoration, it was a time of revelation.  God was using my dad to show me Him.  I heard the love, hurt, tenderness in my Daddy that God wanted me to know about him.

     You've heard the grandchildren talk of how he would say to them, "you're my favorite, but don't tell anyone else."  I can still see the smile on his face and the twinkle in his eyes as he would tell each one.  It was so true.  Each one was his favorite.  It's another great picture of God that Daddy displayed.  I can see God looking at each one of us with that same look of delight saying,  "You're my favorite, but don't tell anyone else".

      Moments of healing and love are scattered throughout the last 15 + years.  God has been restoring my broken pictures.  I know in the depths of my soul that I am my daddy's girl.

       There is something sacred about watching a child of God take their last breath.  I will savor the moment of watching Daddy enter into heaven.  As I sat there holding his hand, weeping for my loss, I knew.  I was deeply and tenderly loved.  That will be my memory.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Father Met Jesus Tonight

Dear Friends,
I watched my father meet Jesus face to face tonight.

I will be away from here for several days.

Please pray for our family.

Thank you,

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Consuming Fire Burns The Land

     Several years ago I first uttered the prayer; “God, remove the tares from my life and make me the finest of wheat.”  I didn’t know what I was asking.  I only knew I wanted to be cleansed of any baggage that kept me from living in intimacy with Him and with others.

       He put that prayer on my heart.  It was His invitation to my healing.  In the years since, He has been exposing the decay hidden away, not only in my life, but my husband’s.  It has been like a domino effect.  After all, in a marriage, one person’s stuff does affect the other.

       I spent years putting unattainable demands on myself and my husband.  Seeking love and value, I have allowed my feelings to rule me.   I have sought value not only in my performance, but other’s actions as well.  I have looked to David to rescue me from my pain.  It’s not possible.  My demands for intimacy, which he could not meet, have left him with words of failure.

       My husband on the other hand, has lived to please.  Seeking love and value,  he has allowed his feelings to rule him.  If he can just keep people happy maybe they won’t be disappointed in him.  Maybe somehow he will deserve their love.  He lived so long trying to please others that he lost himself in the process, leaving him emotionally and physically detached.  His detachment has spoken abandonment, disinterest and rejection.  

       We have fed each other’s pain , completely unaware.  Life has been unstable.  Our choices have been costly.

       We entered our marriage battered and wounded, yet oblivious to the fact.  We played into each other’s pain without even knowing it, reinforcing lies.  We can never recover the years.  I have been mourning the loss.

      Jesus began to speak to my soul.  “Jewel, I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten”.   “Remember the forest fires.”  I knew  He was inviting me to reflect on a teaching I heard in 2004.  In remembering I believed He would unveil His heart amidst the ashes of the life I’ve lived.


     Trees grow so tall in the forest that they overshadow the soil, keeping vegetation from growing, leaving  animals in need of food.  It’s as if the heavens declare it’s time for cleansing as most fires start with a lightening strike.   As the fire ignites the forest floor it cleanses away debris, insects, disease, and excess wood, preparing for new life.

      Even the pine cone tells a story.  Made with resin covering over it’s outer shell, hidden away inside are fruit bearing seeds.  As the fire burns away the resin, the pine cone pops open allowing it’s new seedlings to expel onto the cleansed ground.

        The ash left behind fertilizes the soil.  Once the land settles down from it’s cleansing, the vegetation comes in stronger and more luscious.  The cycle of life has had it’s way, clearing away to prepare for a more nourishing fruit.

        As I reflect, He speaks, “I must burn away the chaff, Jewel”   You are being consumed by Me.”  “As I consume you, the disease that surrounds your heart and mind is burned away.”  “Debris is being removed.”  “Beauty will explode.”  I’m preparing the soil, sweet Jewel, for a more nourishing fruit.”  “Beauty is being exchanged for ashes.”

        Yes, Jesus, but the years that are gone.  We can never have them back.  So many years, Jesus.  “Jewel, a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day with Me.”  

        Death and life once again intermingle.  As I mourn, I also rejoice.  The consuming fire of His love is clearing the land.    Beauty is replacing the ashes, a garment of praise will replace our heaviness.  The steadfast love of my God never ceases, His mercies never come to an end.  They are new every morning.  

      A new morning is breaking forth.  He is overwhelming us with His love.   His restoration isn’t one that can be measured by time. The ground is being prepared, the life inside awaits.    The ashes will fertilize the soil for a rich, nourishing fruit.  Beauty will replace our ashes.  My mourning is turned to dancing as I consider, a new day is dawning on our horizon.

     “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."  Matthew 3:12

©copyrighted:  2009  Julie L. Todd

Saturday, February 14, 2009

How He Loves

What is it about love stories? Scenes from movies I love become etched in my brain: Aragorn’s captivation with Arwen in “Lord of the Rings”; Nathaniel’s pursuit to rescue Cora in “The Last of the Mohicans”; William Wallace’s passion for Murron in “Braveheart”; or Colonel Brandon’s patient love that waited for Marianne in “Sense & Sensibility”. There’s something about these scenes that speak to the deepest places of my heart. I was after all created for love.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful love story. I was seen, delighted in and loved, yet I didn't really know. A villain had previously entered my story, disguised his voice and told me lies about who I was. He told me that I was not loved or wanted. He whispered to me, “You are lacking”; “You are too much, and not enough all at the same time"; “You are a problem who causes problems.” And I believed him.

Hidden in the shadows was another who was watching, calling out to me. Even when I didn't know Him, He knew me. I never left his eyes. He was waiting to rescue me. He was waiting for me to need His rescue.

One day I cried out. I became his, at least in his eyes, that is.

I wanted to be loved by him, but couldn’t resolve the facts. The things I had heard from the villain seemed so true. They matched up with the things that had happened in my life. I couldn’t believe anything else, for the lies had become my truth.

There was so much that was unlovely about me. How could he possibly love me? Maybe if I worked hard enough for him he would notice me and approve.

No matter how much I did it was never enough. I graded myself daily on my behavior. Surely he must see what I see. Surely he finds me lacking. Yet He waited patiently until I was done looking for love, in all the wrong places. He waited for me to see His. Could it possibly be true that I was being pursued for love alone?

He invited me to take a go with Him into the wilderness. He knew it would be arduous and long, but it was the only way to free my heart. The barren lands and empty springs left exposed what I really believed about me and about Him. I began to remember what had happened while in captivity. Though painful to remember I knew it was the only way to be free to be loved. The lies had to be exposed for what they were in order for the truth to take root.

He never left my side. He was my constant companion. With each memory he soothed me with his words of love, while applying salve to the open wounds. He spoke against the lies that I had believed. He began to tell me the truth of who I was to him. Like a tiny rosebud at the onset of Spring, life and love began to burst into my being.

Finally I began to believe. There was someone who saw me. There was someone who loved me. He had that look in his eyes. I captivated him. I never knew I could be loved so fiercely just as I am.

I am loved with an everlasting love. I am loved forever. I have always been loved. I will always be loved. I am His forever love. He is mine. His love has captured my heart.

Happy Valentines’ Day, Jesus. You take my breath away. I love you forever.

Your Jewel

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 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 Julie L. Todd

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Image Engraved

       It’s been a year since I posted my first devotional at the Internet Cafe.  I had never really considered myself a writer, though I knew I had always loved using words.  Layers of lies that I believed about myself hid away parts of God’s story in me.  As His truth has come, more of who He made me to be has been uncovered.

       I was made to write.   The sheer love of it brings pure delight to my soul.  He has not only given me a desire of my heart.  He engraved the desire into my heart to give to me.

     I see a revelation through an old inkwell that sits on my writing desk.  It was my Great Grandmother, Nannie’s.  It’s made of crystal with a ornate silver lid.   When I received it, years of tarnish marred it’s beauty.  

     I pulled out the silver polish and began to strip away the layers, one by one.  It took several coats to remove it all.   As each one was wiped away, I began to see the patterned design in the silver begin to emerge.  Eventually as the tarnish was stripped away I saw a  beautifully scripted monogram.  The engraving identified my Nannie’s personal possession. 

       I am like that inkwell.

      I have something engraved on me.  So do you.  We are the image bearers of the Most High God.  He has taken His hand and not only formed us, but engraved onto us something unique, something that presents a picture of His life in us.   We have been given gifts and talents, pictures of God that tell a story of His love. 

      The climate of life’s circumstances have tarnished us, to the point that sometimes we don’t know what it is that is placed on us.  Who are we to Him?  Daughters of God, yes, His Beloved, yes, but what is it that He has engraved on us that bears His image?  It’s the most amazing thing when I really consider it.  I am made with my own monogram of God. 

      He knew that as I entered into love it would all be unveiled.  I wouldn’t have to search for it, it would emerge.  

      He pursues me with His relentless love.  He takes me down paths of removing the tarnish of lies that hold me captive.  He reveals to me that it’s not my work that defines me, nor is it my sins.  It is He who gives me value.  It is He who defines who I am.  He made me to love me.  As I embrace His thoughts towards me as my own, I enter into love at it’s finest.

      Love can only be entered into if I am a receptor.  I can never earn it.  Nothing I do will ever be enough to pay back what He offers to me.   Part of receiving it is embracing it as my own.  That means giving myself love, a much harder thing to do.

     I have lived too long under the shroud of not loving myself.  When I refuse to give myself the love He offers, I cancel out His truths offered to me.  I’ve come to the realization that insecurities are places where I am not believing the truth of what He says about me.  

     I see my own reflection, poorly, as if looking in a mirror and seeing my flaws.  But when I see what He sees I live as one who is loved, by Him, by myself.   Layers of the tarnish are washed away and I begin to see that monogram of Him on my life unveil.

     Love removes the tarnish that life’s circumstances have brought.  He takes my ashes and exchanges them for beauty.  Love reveals His story  etched on my life.

       We are the image bearers of the Most High God.  He has engraved His name on our hearts.  We belong to Him.  We are loved.  Nothing can change that.  

     Now the question is,  what will we do with ourselves?  Will we dare to see, believe and tell ourselves what He sees?  

      And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 

II Corinthians 3:18

    This is also posted at the Internet Cafe:

©copyrighted 2009 Julie L. Todd

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Door is Always Open

As I stood at the edge of the threshold, a hush filled the room. What would He think when He saw me standing there? I don’t deserve to be here. Will He see me? Will He wonder why I’ve come? I don’t think I can bear to see the look of disappointment on His face.

My eyes look down, embarrassed to have them looked into. I want so desperately to enter in and feel His embrace. What must He think of me? I haven't lived as I should. I haven’t been who I was made to be. Is He disgusted with me too? Will He talk to me today? I don’t deserve to be talked to. I don’t even deserve His glance. I don’t deserve to be here. Should I turn and leave before He sees me?

Suddenly I hear His voice. “Come here, Jewel.” “Come sit with me a bit”. Tentatively I move forward to sit.

How can He look at me that way? How can His eyes light up like that as I move towards Him? Doesn’t He see how dirty I am? Doesn’t He see my sin covering me? I feel it shroud me and I am ashamed. Surely He sees it too?

I don’t want to fall back into these places, but I do. If it’s not who He says I am, then why do I keep falling back here?

He pats the seat next to Him and tells me to sit. I see the kindness in His eyes and I am undone. How can He look at me like that? How can He love me so?

He knows what I am thinking. After all He knows everything. “Jewel, you are still looking at your performance aren’t you?” “You’re still grading my love for you based on how well you perform.” “It’s not your good behavior that invites you here with me, it’s love.” “You belong to me, Jewel, it’s that simple.” “That’s why I created you.” “ I moved heaven and earth to be with you.” “Nothing you do or don’t do can change that.”

I hear His words yet they are still so hard to grasp. He loves me apart from anything I do? He loves me just because He does? He will never be disgusted with me? He doesn’t see me the way I see myself? He knows that my sin does not define me? He knows that the choices I make are not my identity?

But I don’t deserve this love.

His voice penetrates my thoughts. “Jewel, if you look at your behavior as a barometer for love, you will never deserve.” “Love isn’t based on what is deserved” “That makes it about you.” “It’s not about you.” "It's about the Father." "God is love." “We created in order to love.” “Unconditional love means there are no conditions to being loved.” “You’re just loved... period.”

“Think about your children, Jewel” “You have always loved them.” “They are a part of you.” “This love you have for them runs so deep that nothing that they do could ever take it away.” “You don’t love them because of their choices, or actions.” “You love them because they were made in the midst of love to be loved.” “That’s me with you, Jewel.”

Truth begins to awaken my soul. No matter how many times I screw up and make the wrong choice those eyes of kindness look up at me, welcoming me to sit right beside Him and feel His embrace. His kindness leads to repentance. I feel the tenderness of His heart as He reminds me that He reveals my sin to take it away. He only wants to cover me with His love. He doesn’t grade me or keep record. Neither should I.

This intense love draws me in and I am undone. I have never experienced anything like this. As His truth washes over me, I linger there in His embrace, feeling the full affects of the cross, and resurrection.

The door is always open. I am always welcomed in. He delights in loving me. I will never be graded again. There are no conditions, nothing to fulfill, only love awaits. I am a daughter of God, created in the midst of love. I see it now. He's been waiting to love me.

Let us then approach the throne room of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

©copyrighted: 2009 Julie L. Todd