Friday, April 30, 2010

The Embrace of Grace©

At the beginning of March, David and I were gifted two nights stay in a beautiful mountain town. The occasion was our 27th anniversary. The timing couldn’t have been better.

God had been calling new things into our lives more intently since the beginning of the year. A deeper excavation of our hearts has been His agenda. Things that have been hidden away are being brought into our eyes’ sight. He’s faithfully exposing those places where we continue to live by our own efforts. It’s a painful process sometimes seeing the flesh up close and personal. But the fruit that comes makes it worth the pruner’s shears.

The more we embrace this unbelievable grace the more the shame we've lived under is being made known. In the process the expectations and requirements we have placed on each other are slowly beginning to fade away. It's a domino effect, after all. When we begin to find what we need in Jesus, we don't put the pressure on another to deliver.

For most of our years together we have not lived that. Paths of destruction have been sown in our lives trickling into our marriage as we have lived under our blankets of shame. There are ruins from the years of trying to cover ourselves to protect our broken places. There is wreckage from the years of trying to be good enough to attain righteousness.

As we headed to our getaway we chose to leave the past and all it’s expectations and requirements behind. There was no agenda. We took our masks off. As we lived in the moments we followed our hearts, giving and receiving love. Something deeper began to happen in that place. We were reminded afresh of the beauty of our lives joined together as one. It happens when the heart leads the way. It happens when we come as we are, leaving our facades behind.

So much of this life parallels between the physical and spiritual that oftentimes I am stunned when the pictures begin to connect in my mind.

I said "I do" to Jesus 30 years ago.

Jesus invited me into a love relationship. I was His bride, He was my groom. I pledged my life to His. But because of my own shame, I put on my masks. I couldn't see what He saw. I tried to make who I was better. Instead of receiving love I began to try and fulfill assumed expectations. I embraced self-effort instead of grace. My felt insecurities became imposed on relationships around me. Things became desperately lost from where they were meant to be; and then He came for me.

Jesus allured me away with Him. He began to invite me to leave the past with all it’s expectations behind. He invited me to come as I am to live in the moments with Him. He told me He would live His life through me, that we would face my broken places together.

He is removing the rags of shame that I have covered myself with. He is wooing me to live as one who is loved. As a result my masks are finding their way into the fire that burns away the chaff. They are no longer needed. I am known, seen, adored just as I am.

The ruins that were created are being rebuilt right before my eyes as I dare to believe what God says is the truest thing about me. I am the righteousness of Christ. There is no need to prove anything ever again. It was proven the day Jesus conquered death. Shame has been removed forever.

He invites me to walk in the moments with Him trusting that He will show me what it looks like to live in this new nature.

This love, this relentless love is allowing me to see that grace covered all the bases so that I would not need to. The beauty of my heart is being released as I embrace myself as He knows me to be. And in that place, that amazing place I am beginning to believe that I am adored by the One who is love.

©copyrighted: 2010 Julie L. Todd

As I was editing this post, this song came on, how appropriate. Enjoy!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Life's Big Eraser ©

When I was a teenager the rage in school was rubbing our initials into the back of our hands. We took a big eraser and rubbed away the top layer of skin, making our unique designs. Once the outer layer was gone, the inner layer, raw and exposed, revealed what had been rubbed in.

Life is like a big eraser. Things happen throughout the years etching messages into the layers of the mind. I don’t often know they are there until God shows up and touches a place in a way that only He can touch. I’ve come to recognize it as His invitation into my healing.

It was just a simple question David asked one day, yet it hit a place inside me like an arrow piercing straight into a bulls eye. “Have you dealt with the shame you felt when that happened?”

There was something about his question that was unnerving to me. I knew that until I chatted with God, the quivering in my heart would not go away. I began to ask Him what was going on inside me. Why the emotions, what was I feeling or hearing? He began to open my heart to see what had been etched into my mind. Within seconds the emotions flooded my soul as I realized....

I have been ashamed of who I am for as long as I can remember. For the majority of my life I have felt that who I am is peculiarly unfit. I’ve been embarrassed to be me. I have felt like too much and not enough all at the same time.

I have believed that people couldn’t handle the “real me”, weaknesses, strengths and all. Which led me to hide parts of me away while at the same time, trying to be more, make a name for myself, do some significant ministry. Maybe if I could play the part, be the woman, do the good stuff it would get me the acceptance I so desperately wanted.

Shame caused me to create my own self-story to cover the wretched feelings of how I perceived I was seen in the world around me. It led me to try harder, be better, do more. I hoped one day I could be that good girl that everyone would want and love. I put on masks and pretended that everything was okay while layers of shame covered me.

Shame blanketed my soul like grave clothes wrapped around a dead body. I did not feel the freedom to be me. I often felt misunderstood and held captive by the story of my past.

That question, that simple question opened my eyes to see. I had never dealt with the shame I felt about who I saw myself to be through the eyes of others. What I couldn’t understand then, I now get. The world and it’s people around me will never give me an accurate picture of who I am. It is God and God alone who reveals the hidden things in my heart.

Words of love flood into those places in me as He tells me there is nothing to be ashamed of. He has loved all of me since before the foundations of the world. He sees me as I am and loves me in my totality, strengths, weaknesses and all.

I am adored by Jesus, just as I am. Knowing this takes away the need for a significant self-story. It allows me to be in the moments with Him, allowing Him to show me what it looks like for He and I to live as one.

This beautiful dance with Jesus is setting me free. As I’m learning to rest in this amazing embrace something stunning is happening inside my soul. I’m settling in more deeply into my place. I’m finding that place where I’ve longed to be. I am no longer peculiarly unfit. I fit perfectly with Him. No longer do I need a ministry, to make a name for myself, to be famous or seen. I am finding that place of rest that comes from being adored by Him.

Grace has brought me a love that takes my breath away. It’s in this place, this beautiful place, He is removing my shame so that I might see we are woven together as one. Jesus in Julie. The glory of God and I are fused together showing up hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder as one. Who could be ashamed of that?

How about you? How do you see, You? Have you dealt with the shame you have felt?

©copyrighted: 2010 Julie L. Todd

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Ease of His Burden©

Little by little I’m starting to grasp the reality of what Jesus gave to me in that moment that He walked out of the tomb into new life. His sufficient, finished life now dwells in me. Though my mind has known what is written in the scriptures, realizing it has been a whole other matter.

God often allows the visuals of life around me to paint pictures that bring understanding to the deep things of the heart. It has happened once again for me as I’ve watched my teenage son.

Six weeks ago my son was fooling around and decided to hit the garage door head on with his fist. An emergency room visit confirmed what was suspected, he had broken his hand. A follow-up visit with the orthopedic surgeon brought the full diagnosis. Surgery was required to help adhere the bones back together as they were made to be.

For six weeks his active life would be virtually shut down. He would need to depend on another to carry his load. At first he struggled to let go. He had gotten used to his independence. He liked taking care of himself. But it wasn’t long before he finally succumbed. He realized he couldn't do it on his own.

It’s been an amazing thing to see. As I’ve watched my son, I’ve seen me.

I kinda liked being independent to tell you the truth. It was easy to rely on myself. I knew I could depend on me. On top of that I thought it was what was needful. You know, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling." I took those words as an indicator that I was supposed to work out life.

I prided myself in being able to figure things out. After all I was a gifted planner/administrator. I found myself carrying life's’ burdens with my own intellect, trying to reason it all out in my finite mind. That is until the bills piled up and the income didn’t.

The “what if’s” and “how to’s” began to invade my mind leaving me overwhelmed. Too many places needed too much, much more than I could decipher. My independence couldn't carry all this. With no other place to turn, I found myself needing God to come.

Most of my life I didn’t really get that part of the scripture where Jesus says, “take my yoke upon you and learn from me, my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” But now I'm beginning to get greater glimpses.

The yoke Jesus offered was a yoke of reliance. He invites me to depend on His Abba, just as He did. Though He had no place to lay His head, life did not overwhelm Him. He didn't try to figure it all out. He left that to God. Instead He lived in the moments knowing the cares of His world were under the care of One who created the heavens and the earth.

That same life He offers to me. I haven’t known that for the better part of my life. I’m starting to now.

Jesus’ yoke was easy, His burden light because He didn’t try to make life work. He didn’t allow the “what if’s” or “how to’s” to invade His mind. He trusted. He knew that all would be cared for. He knew God.

It is God who works out my life. Jesus knew that. He invites me to know it to. It's in that place that I will begin to experience the “be still and know Abba” kind of rest. The worries of this world will lose their power. Peace will come to the borders of my heart. For in this place, this remarkable place I find more deeply His life in me.

So where are you? Does your load feel heavy?

©copyrighted: 2010 Julie L. Todd

Friday, April 2, 2010

He Lives in Me!©

It's Easter, which means once again we remember what happened on the cross that fateful day. For most of my life I was encouraged in church, to get in touch with what happened to Jesus on my behalf. So many times I tried to "feel" the cross and what happened there. I tried to picture Jesus up on it, looking down at me covered in sin, saying, "I forgive you."

I tried to see His love for me through it all, but all I could see was my sin, my shortcomings.
Too many times I'd heard people say if I continued in sin, then Jesus died in vain. After all He died to take away my sins. If I continued to live in them, what then was the point of His death?

I felt horrible that Jesus had to be in that place because of me. I hated that my wicked sin had caused Him to go to the cross. Every Easter it was the same, I was to remember what MY sin cost Jesus. Each time I struggled with the thoughts that if I had never sinned Jesus would not have had to die. I tried to get in touch. I wanted to feel the weight so that it would change me forever.

If I could somehow grasp the greatest sacrifice of all, maybe it would cause me to be better, serve more, be more grateful. Instead it just left me feeling guilty that I couldn't get in touch enough to be all those things.

I had no idea that the cross wasn't really about my sins. That is until grace knocked on the door of my heart. Grace opened a door into a room where love could be realized. New life stood outside waiting. Grace invited me in to see what the cross was really about.

It wasn't for my sin that Jesus went to the cross and died. It was for me. Sin was the ransom that had to be paid to get to me. A fierce love that would do whatever it took to take me back into the embrace of love took Jesus to the cross that fateful day. He wanted to love me. When He looked on me, it wasn't my sin He saw. It was me.

My sins never are and never will be His focus. My heart will be. Sin doesn't change the way He sees me. After all love keeps no record of wrongs. Sin keeps me from living in His embrace. With it comes shame. Shame is a barrier that keeps me from living in who He has made me to be. Jesus came to remove the barrier to bring me back to love. That's what the cross is about.

He came to heal the broken-hearted. He came to set the prisoners free from their captivity; to restore ashes into beauty. He came to give me what I was always meant to know; true love.

The cross was HUGE but without the resurrection it would just be another man who died on a cross. What set Jesus apart from the other men who were executed that day was that He conquered death, hell and the grave. He conquered it all. It was finished once and for all!

I was crucified with Christ. All that was required of me was finished. I don't have to try to be better on my own. I was raised with Him to new life. Christ now lives in me. He will live out of me. I am invited to live by the faith of the Son of God who loves me and gave Himself for me.

The finished life of Christ in me, loving me as I am into who He knows me to be; that's the invitation of Easter. That I can feel. That I can picture. That I can rejoice over.

For by grace I have been saved.
©copyrighted: 2010; Julie L. Todd