Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Lessons of a Tricycle©

It was my very first tricycle. Christmas Day brought it to me. I couldn't wait to get on it and ride; so I did, all throughout the house. I've been told that I was unstoppable. I was determined to ride it no matter what obstacles lay in my path. I would start out, hit a piece of furniture, back up, turn around and push forward.
It was a clear revealer of the spirit inside the young child.

I've been known to set my face like a flint when going after the things I wanted. In my quest toward the goal, giving up was not an option. The words of my mother to this day still ring in my ears, "If you get your will going in the right direction, everything will be all right." I didn't really know what it meant then. I am beginning to now.

I remember early on in my years of parenting being given the advice, "you have to break the will of the child." I look back now and see the absurdity of those words. You cannot break the will of a child, it has to be given up. It cannot be forced. It must be chosen.

Life often feels as if it asks more than it gives. Difficult days find their way into our lives. Aren't I supposed to set my face like a flint to keep walking? Aren't I supposed to persevere? Yes, but somehow, somewhere in the mix of it all something can get so cunningly twisted. It's a subtle thing you know. I had been told to hang tough, keep at it, fight the good fight. Life often requires that to some degree. But what about God?

How does all this balance out? Christ is the hope within me. He is the lifeline extended to me every single day. Where do my self-willed efforts hinder His?

It's so easy to find myself much like that young girl on her tricycle. Push forward, hit the obstacles, turn around, and keep going. I find myself now questioning where does that leave me to look for the strength of the One who is my strength? Whose strength does that leave me enduring in, really? Where is it me instead of Him?

In some hidden, subtle way it's easy to find myself living in the old way of the self-willed life.

Barriers fill our road these days making it difficult to maneuver around. My husband just lost his job. There is no income coming regularly into our home. We have no clue what to do next. What now God? Will we choose to endure for the sake of endurance, setting our faces like a flint or will we cling to the One who endured it all needing His perseverance to come in us? There's a subtle difference there. One requires my efforts and disciplines. The other requires His.

Life often comes around full circle for me. Need suddenly opens the door for humility extending an invitation that readies my heart to receive. I cannot, nor do I want to do this life alone. It's starting to make some sense to me now. I'm understanding more and more the words my mother once spoke.

Life's obstacles are awakening a place within me, allowing my will to be placed in the right direction. I'm learning to receive what Christ waits to give to me; all that He accomplished for me when He walked out of that grave. He, is my perseverance. It's not up to me. He perseveres in me, through me, into life around me. He is my hope, my endurance, my strength, the one who keeps me hanging on.

I see Him there. He rides on the heavens to help us and underneath are His everlasting arms. He invites me to fall into them allowing their strength to move me forward. I need Him, oh how I need Him. I am convinced it's the invitation He's been waiting for.
©copyrighted: 2011; Julie L. Todd

Friday, March 18, 2011

Living in the Unseen©

Who hasn't heard the saying, "when a door closes a window opens?" It's one of those infamous cliches that one uses to comfort when things go wrong. But what does one do when the door’s been slammed and the window has yet to open?

We are there.

Last Thursday my husband was laid off from his job of almost 6 years. We knew the possibility existed, we just didn't think it would be us......

Being a one-income family has caused this abrupt end to rattle us. Honestly we don't have a clue what we’ll do next. Some days we’re still in the shock stage. These are the times that try a man's soul.

Our emotions have been all over the place. The questions rise up from some place deep. Is God really good? Will He really take care of us? Do I really trust God with me, with us, with what all this will look like?

The words have been spoken repetitively. "God's got something better."

I want to believe it, I really do. But I contemplate how there could be something better than what we had? As I type the words I see how easily my focus goes to what I can see working out. I can easily equate the goodness of God with the goodness of my circumstances.

I've been around the block enough to know that the "God has something better" might not mean the most pleasant of circumstances. Can I really trust God with this unknown territory? It doesn't help that years ago we lived through the season of the jobs. Though much good came out of that time it's hard not to remember that long hard winter and wonder.

At times the battle is fierce. There are moments when the uncertainty of it all shakes me at my core. The enemy whispers his taunts hoping to discourage me. "How can this possibly work out?" "Look around you." "How in the world will you guys make it?" His voice resounds in this seen world around me. Yet Jesus' voice trumps his when I choose to trust Him with what I cannot see.

I find myself remembering the words in Hebrews, "more blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe." They take on new meaning at a time like this. If I look at what I can see there is not much hope here. I live in a small, rural, mountain town where jobs are few and far between. But isn't it in the unseen world that the unexplainables happen?

I have a favorite clip in the movie, "The Last of the Mohicans". A group of British soldiers are escorting 2 women through Indian territory to their father. Suddenly their guide turns on them in ambush. Those in the midst of the ambush have no idea of 3 Mohicans who are on the run to rescue them. Suddenly out of nowhere, they appear. The ambush is thwarted and the remaining party is saved.

The story line makes me think of life behind the scenes in my world. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are always on the move. It's not dependent on what I can see happening. It's dependent on their faithfulness to move heaven and earth to come for me, simply because I need.

I want to trust in the way of a child. They don't question whether they’ll have food or shelter. They don't wonder if they will be cared for, protected or even rescued. They rest in the care of their parents because they know their place in the family.

I want to be there, all the time, with the One who Fathers me. I want to rest in knowing my place in the heart of Love. It’s the battle my mind now faces. These inner struggles are part of the “greater things” that He does.

Darkness meets light as fears that lay hidden make their way out in the open. In their moments I am invited to wrestle with God until I believe what is already true for me. It is then He can overcome me much as He did Jacob, allowing me to find that which has always been true. I belong to One who loves me to the point of death. Nothing stood in the way of His rescue then. Nothing stands in His way now.


“Those who are historically experiencing the greatest measure of the Holy Spirit’s power are those who doggedly choose to give up control over how their life must look and instead call good whatever God has allowed, caused, withheld, delayed or denied.”

John Lynch - 2011

©copyrighted: 2011; Julie L. Todd

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Another One Bites The Dust ©

The more I walk through this journey the more I am stunned at how much wrong I have believed. The God I have known is not the God I now know. So many things were distorted through the years. I don't blame the people who taught me. I see it for what it is. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. I have been realizing just how deceived I have been. Good news is God is exposing them all. One more bit the dust this week.

When I heard my friend John say the words I knew someplace deep that something had been powerfully distorted in my mind. "Faith is never the grounds for salvation, never a meritorious work in your behavior." "Your believing, while an essential response, proves only that His grace was extended to you."

"It is by grace you have been saved, yet it is not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."

For years I believed that I had invited God into my life. I had prayed the prayer asking Him to come in. We sang the song, "Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart, Lord Jesus." I literally believed that somehow Jesus entered my heart because of my choosing of Him. I didn't realize that I had it backwards. He didn't enter into me. I entered into Him.

I didn't choose Him. He chose me. It was His grace that was shown to me inviting me to receive His eternal gift. It's not just the gift of heaven. It's not even about forgiveness of my sins.

The invitation of God woos me to respond to a love that has been and always will be. It's a love that offers me to come as I am and be known for who I was made to be. It restores all that was broken, reconciling me to Him completely.

Somehow things got all mixed up.

I've used the term too many times to count.. "I need to get that from my head into my heart." As I type the words I see the disparity in them. If I truly embrace the gift of this God I love why do I struggle between two worlds of head and heart?

God gives His gifts for free. He expects nothing in return. He's just plain crazy about me. After all He made me to love.

As I have seen my justification, so I have seen my sanctification. The same way I believed I had my part in being made right with God, I have believed I have my role in being transformed. I've spent the better part of my life running around trying to make myself worthy, acceptable, lovable. All the while all He wanted for me was that I would receive the gift so freely given.

If Jesus paid it all then how can I owe Him anything? What could I ever do that would be enough? In some strange, warped way I believed that I owed Him my life.

I believed I played my part in salvation therefore I must play my part in cleaning myself up. I see how subtlety the lies wove their way into the fabric of my walk. I see how naturally I became the one who would work hard to make who she was better.

It is by grace I have been saved. It is a gift from God so that no man can boast. Without receiving I will do nothing but strive and try to prove myself worthy. I will need to "one-up" others around me. I will have to do more and be better.

In that one moment when I took His outstretched hand offered He joined me to Him. He called me righteous. He announced I was holy. He wiped out all my sins, past, present and future. Everything that had been broken was made new. I was totally and completely reconciled to God on no part of my own. It's astounding to consider.

Awakenings come frequently now. This beautiful thing that I have walked into is absolutely and totally His. Transformation is taking ahold of my life.

It is by grace I am saved. It is by grace I am changed... Grace - charis, a gift which is freely given. The extravagant love of my God not only has reconciled me to Him. He wants nothing from me but that I would let Him love me. Another lie bites the dust as this beautiful Spirit inside reveals the truth that sets me free. Freely He gives, freely I receive.
©copyrighted: 2011; Julie L. Todd