Sunday, November 29, 2009

Follow the Leader

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

What's in the Doorway?

*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

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Clearing Away the Clutter

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!