Clean, grace, mercy, messy, sin, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry, nonprofit

Surface: Allowing The Lord to Deep Clean Our Hearts

When it comes to our hearts, a surface cleaning won’t suffice; the Lord is in the business of deep cleaning in order to set us free.



The other morning, in a bit of a rush, I accidentally knocked over a big glass containing a fruit smoothie I’d just made. Thick, dark purple liquid splashed all over the counter, blanketed the stovetop, and promptly drained down into that deep, dark abyss–otherwise known as the small crack between the counter and the stove! Needing to get out the door, I hastily wiped up all of the visible mess on the surface. But I knew that upon my return, the goopy, gelatinous puddle in the abyss would require some serious deep cleaning.

When it comes to our hearts, a surface cleaning won't suffice; the Lord is in the business of deep cleaning in order to set us free. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #clean #messy #mercy #grace #sin

The hidden, nasty mess…

Later that evening, after the kids were in bed, my husband and I settled in on the sofa to watch a movie. It was shaping up to be a nice, relaxing evening…until…dun dun dun… Cue the cheesy horror film music…reent reent reent! I remembered the hidden, nasty mess awaiting me in the kitchen.

For a moment I entertained the notion of postponing my deep cleaning job until the morning. After all, getting all that gunk out would require pulling out the stove, perhaps vacuuming, mopping, and who knew what else.

But I had a sneaking suspicion that by morning, there was a strong possibility my kitchen would reek. So, I got off the couch and got to work. I’ll spare you the dirty details, but suffice it to say, the scene I encountered underneath and behind my kitchen stove was disgusting…borderline disturbing!

To think, at least twice a day I’ve been cooking meals in that room, and all of this filth was lurking there, just below the surface! It’s a wonder my family is still alive! Ok, so perhaps now I’m overexaggerating a hair…

Downright dirty…

As I knelt down and scraped up those nasty globs of who-knows-what off of the floor, I thought about the parallel between my cleaning and the cleansing work God does in our hearts.

When it comes to our hearts, the Lord is not satisfied with a cursory surface wipe. In fact, when He does an important work in us, the process can get downright dirty. As believers, in order to truly be clean, we simply can’t stay on the surface where things feel orderly and comfortable.

Friends, we need to be willing to open up the cluttered cabinets of our minds, pull back the dusty drapes shrouding our dreams, and expose the grimy residue clogging our hearts. This means that sometimes our walk of faith requires getting down on our knees and delving into the muck and mire of deep spiritual cleaning.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisees, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

Matthew 23:25-26
Sometimes our walk of faith requires getting down on our knees and delving into the muck and mire of deep spiritual cleaning. Click To Tweet

Surface cleaning…

But admittedly, too often, surface cleaning is the way I tend to keep my natural house and my spiritual house. I like for there to be order in my home, so I keep clutter to a minimum. I don’t leave things in places where they don’t belong, and I don’t allow messes to accumulate. But I confess that it’s not very often that I really and truly deep clean my house.

Polishing the spiritual side of this coin, we can see that it looks similar. I’d wager to say that, as believers, most of us try to keep a tidy, sanctimonious outward appearance. We attempt to maintain some kind of daily quiet time routine. Perhaps we listen to worship music in the car or post scriptures and uplifting memes on social media. Most of us regularly attend Bible study, small group, or a weekly worship service.

Scratching the surface…

But in a sense, don’t all of these religious routines constitute forms of mere maintenance cleaning? Albeit good practices to be in, taken together, these activities barely scratch the surface of the deeper spiritual walk that’s required of a true believer.

But how often do we turn our hearts and minds over to the Lord to really allow Him to scrub, and cleanse, and purify us? Scripture strongly warns against the danger and hypocrisy of this kind of surface cleaning.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Matthew 23:27-28

Skeletons in the closet…

Now, thankfully I didn’t find any dead men’s bones under my stove! But spiritually speaking, when I confess to the anger, hatred, and judgement, that I’ve harbored in my heart, I definitely have hosted some skeletons in my closet.

Had I never spilled my smoothie, I probably would not have thought about cleaning under and behind my stove. Meanwhile, dust, mold, and bacteria, would have continued to fester there, to the detriment of my home’s air quality and our family’s health.

Often, this is the way spiritual problems reach our radar. Maybe our “spilled smoothie” looks like an argument with a loved one where anger and harsh words spill out of our mouths–exposing deeper roots of bitterness that have taken hold inside. Or perhaps we see someone getting praise or recognition for the same kind of thing we would like to do, and thoughts of jealousy and envy rise up in our spirit.

A spiritual makeover…

Friends, I hate to say it, but all of us have an ugly, dark abyss that needs deep cleaning, and this time I’m not talking about the crack between your countertop and your stovetop. I’m referring to the shadowy recesses of our hearts where our unhealed wounds, sin, and shame reside. Those hidden places where we fear that God’s grace can’t, or won’t, reach. But the Lord sees the exact spots on our hearts that need His thorough cleaning and healing.

And no amount of outward adornment–pretty clothes, makeup, half-hearted smiles, or even well-rehearsed Bible verses–can hide our spiritual blemishes. Sisters, we must be willing to ask the Lord to do a full-on deep cleaning in our hearts. Yes, this makeover is likely to hurt our pride, expose our weaknesses, and destroy our false sense of security. But, ultimately letting go of our dirt–jealousy, shame, failure, and fear–allows us to truly be clean. To be beautiful. To be free.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

Have you resorted to surface cleaning spiritually? Does your heart need a deep clean?

When it comes to our hearts, a surface cleaning won't suffice; the Lord is in the business of deep cleaning in order to set us free. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #clean #messy #mercy #grace #sin

*All scripture references are from The King James Version of The Holy Bible.
unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt
Lessons, messy, stories, redemption, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Stories: There is Always A Mess and A Lesson

What is your story? I’m sure it is messy because everyone’s is. God teaches us through real-life stories. He is there with you through the mess. That is His promise.



Imagine being nine years old. Your mother has just passed away from AIDS, which was horribly debilitating and you saw her wither away. You and your twelve brothers and sisters are placed with various people (some in foster care, some with other family members, and some with grandma).

You are placed with your grandmother. Going to school is pretty crappy because they want you to read all the time and that is super hard. The teacher keeps fussing at you to watch your language…What the !#*@ does she know???

Everyone's story is messy. God teaches us through real-life stories. He is there with you through the mess. That is His promise. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #lessons #messy #redemption #stories

Looking Deeper

This was a student of mine years ago. He taught me a valuable lesson. Everyone comes with a story. I admit the first week he was in my class, I kept hoping someone had made a mistake or that he would move out quickly to a new school.

This boy was a handful in a class that already had some handfuls. I am embarrassed to say I didn’t know his story until he had been in my class for a while. Eventually, I called his grandmother to come in for a conference because he was cursing all the time and refused to do any work.

Once she came in and told me that he was missing his mom, but she (grandma) was certainly glad not to have that burden anymore, my heart bloomed open. I recognized him for the first time. A child who was lost and hurting. Of course he didn’t care about his work. He was grieving. Of course, he was angry. He had just lost his mother and no one really cared about him.

You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.

John 8:15, ESV

Seeing Through the Mess

Over the next year and a half, this boy faced so many challenges. He was abandoned, forced to cut drugs, shoplifted to get clean clothes and shoes, went hungry more than not, and was finally put in a foster group home. And through it all I loved him. I told him so, from the moment I understood his story.

He learned to read (enough to pass the EOG). I took him and his classmates to art museums, plays, and science museums. We went to eat at restaurants and learned how to make simple meals with cheap ingredients. And I saw a smile that still makes me feel like a million bucks when I remember it. He still lives in my heart even though I don’t know what happened next in his life.

God taught me so much about seeing children, about loving them when it was hard. He taught me about perseverance and seeing past the now but into the whole story. I will forever be grateful for this precious child of God and how much he brought to my life.

How precious is your unfailing love, O God!

Psalm 36:7, NIV

Lifting the Cover

God can use our messes to help others, to teach us, and to illuminate His plan. Let me be clear, He does not create the mess. We do just fine with that on our own. Humans are great at breaking, tearing, and destroying. Our Father is great at making lemonade.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV

As you read through stories in the Bible, nowhere is there a perfect, idyllic situation. All of it starts or ends in a mess. God uses these messes to give us hope. No one is outside of His reach. Sometimes the messier the better. For instance, David (1 and 2 Samuel), Paul (Acts 9), and Peter (Luke 22:54-62).

God can use our messes to help others, to teach us, and to illuminate His plan. Click To Tweet

Redemptive Stories

We need to listen more. Hear and see those around us. I promise, God is using their stories to teach us, to grow our faith. At the same time, we need to dig into His word. Read our Bibles, daily. Find the stories that God has left there for us. Use what we learn to build our own redemptive story so we can love others more fully.

Dear God,

Thank you for showing me that everyone has a story. Help me to not judge those whose stories I do not know. I am so grateful that you can make my messes work for Your glory if I will just listen to You and feed on Your word. Father, you have given me so many examples of this throughout the Bible. Thank you for Your guide book that lights my path.

love,

me

Everyone's story is messy. God teaches us through real-life stories. He is there with you through the mess. That is His promise. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #lessons #messy #redemption #stories

unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt
anger, love, gifts, spiritual gifts, messy, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Fools: Do Not Be Lost Among Anger, Be Found in Christ

The way we fill ourselves reflects in how we live. Filling ourselves with Christ will produce great things. But filling ourselves with flesh will ruin us. Will we be like the fools and fill ourselves with things we know cannot sustain? 



Messy Room, Messy life

I’d like to take you through my most recent run-in with teen trouble and disobedience. I am still currently working through it. Please pardon my spotty storytelling and unrighteous anger that may seep into my words.

My room is always a mess. And when I say mess, I mean you’d think everything I’ve ever owned was on the floor. It gets pretty bad. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember and the battle between my parents and I has raged on just as long. As a defiant human being, as we all can be, I’ve never fully come to drop the belief that it’s my room so why should I have to keep it clean? It isn’t negatively affecting them, is it?

Well, let’s just say we all hit our breaking points this past weekend. My sister Natalie and I share the basement as our room and hear the phrase “Clean your room” just as often as we hear our own names. However, and saying it aloud is revealing to me how selfish it all really is, we’ve become entirely numb to the constant reminder…

The way we fill ourselves reflects in how we live. Christ sustains but filling up with the things of this world proves we are fools. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #anger #love #gifts #messy #scripture #devotional

Storytime

Early this weekend my dad told Natalie and I that for the next two weeks before we all part ways for spring break, we will not be allowed to go to any Young Life events aside from Club…

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Young Life, Club is where we have fun, sing songs, and try to introduce our uninterested friends to life with Christ. Campaigners are where the inner circle of believers grow in faith together and brainstorm how to get our friends to come to Club. I also have a small group Wednesday mornings that I’ve been prohibited to attend.

Keep in mind that I have a very uneventful social life, so losing these privileges was, well, no fun.

Last night, there was massive miscommunication. Natalie and I understood that if we cleaned our room and bathroom then we could go to Club. What we completely missed was that we weren’t allowed to go at all.

Both of our parents were out of the house, but we were unaware of their absence. So while walking out we announced our departure and took the lack of a response as a green light. Long story short we were picked up before the event even began and the uncomfortable conversations began. This devotional will be brief and I’d like to include last night’s journal entry…

Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.

Ecclesiastes 7:9, ESV

Angry Entry

Our world is full of fools. Unfortunately, we cannot exclude ourselves from them. We are the fools. We act foolishly when our foolish plans are foiled. I wanted to go somewhere but my foolish self is resorting to tears and anger. Some not so unfamiliar “friends” of mine. I don’t handle emotions well.

God has blessed me with a heart three sizes too big, but with that increased love also comes increased sorrow. I overflow no matter the emotion and much of my inner turmoil over the years is because I go to isolation, anger, and sadness instead of God when I boil over. Clearly, I did not go to God first tonight.

That was me referencing the first half of my entry which included a lot of my anger towards the situation as I began to simmer down…

Humbled Entry

But God, forgive me for being angry with my parents even if I completely disagree with their choices. And Lord PLEASE help me with everything I feel. Take it. Ease it. Calm it. Calm this storm in me before I drown. Hm. I say that, but I know you will not let me drown. You will give me the strength to swim.

My heart is so anxious, so angry, so sad. I long for something I think I can find among flesh-wearing beings. I will not find it. In all honesty, I can’t name what it is I think I need. What is it I’ve convinced myself I can’t live without? Love? Friendship? Attention? God give me what it is I search for and help me not be angry or discontent when I don’t get it when I want. And open my mind to the possibility that I have no clue what I truly desire. Do not let me lose sight of you and remind me of who I am when I am among the fools. 

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.

Proverbs 28:26, ESV

Fools Full of God’s Love

It’s hard for me sometimes, despite my struggle with self-esteem, to remain humble in the way I do things with this blog and life in general…

Wow; people love my posts. Wow; I’m singing the national anthem in a parade this weekend. Holy guacamole I won the talent show at my school of 5,000.

But who am I to claim these gifts as my own? Who am I to not constantly be thanking God for these talents and ways I can reach other people’s hearts? It’s times like these when I experience embarrassment, hurt, and a lesson learned… I remember how small and needy I am. But what an incredible thing to have a God who fulfills my needs, quenches my thirst, and fills the gap between me with His infinite love.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

1 John 4:16, ESV

When we remember how small and needy we are, we must also remember we have a God who fulfills all our needs! He quenches our thirsts and fills our gaps with His infinite love. Click To Tweet

The way we fill ourselves reflects in how we live. Christ sustains but filling up with the things of this world proves we are fools. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #anger #love #gifts #messy #scripture #devotional

Patrick Tomasso

transformation, mess, Oh Lord Help Us, women, mentoring, Christian, ministry

Transformation: Allowing God’s Guidance to Use Us Where We Are

The transformation of Paul is a great reminder that God can use us, no matter what. When feelings of “I am not good enough for God to use me” sneak in, remember it is NOT true!



Power, righteousness, absolution, and control. Those were the coveted virtues of Saul of Tarsus. He wielded his certainty of righteousness like a sword, which would cut through the flesh of early Christians. This includes poor Stephen, who is considered the first martyr for God.

Saul extolled his power over the ringleaders of Christ’s church as he imprisoned not just men but women too. Saul tore families apart. He was assured of absolution from all this murder and mayhem because the Hebrew leaders told him he was holy in deeds.

The transformation of Paul is a great reminder that God can use us, no matter what. When feelings of "I am not good enough for God to use me" sneak in, remember it is NOT true! Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional

One Story Ends

Then an amazing miracle occurred: transformation.

As he was going along, approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.

Acts 9:3

God stepped in and changed Saul to Paul. Paul who became one of the most influential leaders of the early church, who is responsible for writing between eight and thirteen books of the New Testament. He received grace, mercy, love, and direction. In the end, these were the virtues that led him to eternal life.

Do you feel like me? Too broken, too tired, too useless or too far gone for God to use?

I am so out of sorts right now. Some days I don’t even want to crawl out from under the covers. Laying in bed, eating popcorn, watching Hallmark movies, and daydreaming I am anywhere other than where I am. Being overscheduled, having children, being a wife and teacher can drive me to think I should just give up.

The Transformation Begins

Just last week, in a moment like this, God spoke Paul’s story of transformation to me and reminded me that all is well. I am broken, messy, tired, and self-involved. BUT I am exactly the creation that God can use to spread His word. Hey, I’m talking to you, aren’t I? Amazing!

There is no sin too great, despair too deep, or emptiness too vast in a life that God cannot restore and use for the glory of His Kingdom. My goodness, a scribe of the Word was a murderer, blasphemer, and persecutor of the early church. Saul literally tried to put God’s bride, the Church, to death. And instead, Paul became her champion.

The whole group kept quiet and listened to Barnabas and Paul while they explained all the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.

Acts 15:12

A recent sermon at church was centered around Paul and his good works and motivation to move the early church forward. I admit, I totally checked out as I felt compelled to read the “before” story. How did Paul get to be such a paragon of the church?  That’s when God told me… “I will always be able to use you. You are broken, messy, and sinful. But, if I can use Saul, oh how I can use you.” Maybe not out loud, but in a soft whisper in my heart.

There is no sin too great, despair too deep, or emptiness too vast in a life that God cannot restore and use for the glory of His Kingdom. Click To Tweet

Keep Moving Toward God

So, if that is possible, I must submit to the awesome plans of my God and allow Him to be my guide. I can’t give up, though I can rest. I shouldn’t spend so much time regretting where I’m not, but reveling in where I am.

God has made everything fit beautifully in its appropriate time, but he has also placed ignorance in the human heart so that people cannot discover what God has ordained, from the beginning to the end of their lives.

Ecclsiastes 3:11

So how do I do that? How can I find the courage to confess my sins of self-indulgence, coveting, and a myriad of other issues I see reflecting back at me on my worst days? How can I feel so worthless and still be an instrument for God?

He Has All the Answers

Starting where I always do with prayer, reflection, and acknowledgment, my transformation can begin…

I will cry out to God and call for help! I will cry out to God and he will pay attention to me.

Psalms 77:1

August 27

Dear God,

Please be with me today. I feel super cranky, and don’t even want to get out of bed. I want to lose my patience, yell and cry out that life isn’t fair. Really do I even have to “do” today? I can’t keep up with all of this and the kids, co-workers, family, ALL of IT is more than I can do. I feel like I am failing and falling. Please take it away.

Pity party, that is what I am having. I am focusing on the tasks and not the outcome. You’re right. If my mantra is to be a reflection of Your light in my everyday walk, I need to suck it up.

Forgive me for wishing my circumstances away. Help me use Your gift of today to do better, be better and give better.

Love,

me

The transformation of Paul is a great reminder that God can use us, no matter what. Think you are not good enough for God to use? It's NOT true! Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional

All scripture references come from the NET Bible.

Rest: Five Ways to Rejuvenate and Give Your Soul Rest

We often rush to convenient measures to cope with tiredness, instead of practicing rest in our Father. God has promised all who are tired will be given supernatural rest for their souls.



Picture it: You get comfortable on the couch, turn off your brain, and watch a few hours of Golden Girls. Yep, hours. “Thank you for being a friend[…]” harmoniously sounding. You are genuinely thankful for their lack of judgement. You can tune out, not think, let those four friends whisk you away to some retirement-aged fantasy world. All the while, reality surrounds you. Messes, finances, relationships…

Welcome to my world…

Most recently, my daily routine consists of: Taxi-cab driver for my kids. Looking at half-done chores. Questioning the unknowns of life. Thinking, thinking, thinking. Shutting down. 🎶 “Thank you for being a friend[…]”

Disguising Rest

Like many people, most of my exhaustion happens in my brain. I internalize almost everything. Questions about life’s unknowns bounce around in there sucking bits of energy, little by little. Sometimes for weeks, or until there’s an answer to the question. My mind races around “ifs”, “whens”, and “hows”. I ultimately shut down; turn off completely.

Unfortunately, life is a great big ball of unknowns. So, as you can imagine, I’ve watched through Golden Girls and other mindless shows, more than once. Recklessly abandoning reality. I’ve found myself on the couch more often than I’d like to admit.

For some reason I believe “checking-out” brings refreshment. “I’ll have more energy, later.” Of course, this is a lie. This routine just puts important items on hold. They don’t go away. One could say this is a major procrastination habit. It is.

False Energy

Another way I disguise rest is in actual rest; sleeping. Now, I’m not sure if you are aware, but motherhood has a funny way of screwing up sleep habits. When I say screwing up, I mean turning sleep on it’s beautiful head and shaking until unrecognizable. “I can sleep when I’m dead”, has been stated five times, this week alone.

The weekends usually allow for some extra z’s. However, I am still tired. How much vitamin B do I have to take!? How many cups of coffee do I have to consume?

Ahha! There’s that glorious word. Coffee. If life had a beverage of choice, coffee would be very high on the list. If not #1. “Come here you beautiful cup of coffee, and lie to me about the things we will get done today.”

That’s just it. Another lie. Coffee is a bandaid for tiredness. I drink coffee all day. It helps me pretend I actually have the energy to finish the laundry, run errands, be taxi-cab driver. Pretend. I lie to myself and those around me that I’m operating on a full tank. Just one more cup will top me off.

Come here you beautiful cup of coffee, and lie to me about the things we will get done today. Click To Tweet

We often rush to convenient measures to cope with tiredness, instead of practicing rest in our Father. God has promised all who are tired will be given supernatural rest for their souls. 

Soul Rest

We can’t pretend with God. He sees our empty tanks. He sees our check-out’s. Our lies. “Why don’t you intervene, God? Don’t you see this mountain of stuff? Don’t you see how tired I am?” Is that for real?? Did I really just say that to God?! I sat on my bum for three hours, watching fictitious characters and I’m questioning Him? No wonder I’m tired. My soul is tired.

God can’t energize me when I continually usher Him out the door. I allow convenience and tangibility to trump God. Worldly “rest” is easier than waiting on the Lord. But Jesus says…

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30, NIV

It’s my own fault I am tired. I procrastinate, lie, ignore God. Yet, He still invites me to lay it down and seek refuge. I can’t emphasize enough how GOOD our Father is. We create the mess, He helps tear it down and supplies ultimate fullness. The truest form of rest, is only found in Him.

We often rush to convenient measures to cope with tiredness, instead of practicing rest in our Father. God has promised all who are tired will be given supernatural rest for their souls. 

Practicing Spiritual Rest

This is all fine to write/read about, but let’s get down to application. How in the world do I rest in God? There are obvious ways, like meditating scripture, praying, and worship music. But, sometimes the pit we are in takes a bit of ingenuity to climb out of.

Sleep. I already addressed this, but, if I’m honest, I do not get to bed at a decent time. This is so important for health, mind, and soul. Enough sleep creates clarity. Clarity allows us to actually SEE God.

Look for God everywhere. If my mind and eyes are fixed on Him, I see Him everywhere. It’s uplifting and encouraging to recognize God in my daily life.

Set boundaries. Limit ourselves. We are not super-humans. We can’t do it all. Setting achievable goals for the day, allows for spare time with the Lord.

Journal. (Scripture journaling for bonus points.) For someone like me, journalling is extremely beneficial. It gets the jumbled, unknowns out of my head. Again, creating clarity.

Get in nature. I am never regretful of time spent in nature. I’m able to quiet my mind and see the beauty of creation. Also, fresh air is so rejuvenating!

 

How do you seek rest in the Lord? What practices help you cope when you feel tired?


If you have found this inspiring, share the encouragement…

We often rush to convenient measures to cope with tiredness, instead of practicing rest in our Father. God has promised all who are tired will be given supernatural rest for their souls. 

 

Toa Heftiba


This is where the story changes.
You may feel tired, and worn, but God promises us comfort and rest.

mug, but God, coffee, tea

desperate, abuse, forgiveness, mercy, redeemed, redemption

Desperate: God’s Redemption Covers Our Messes

God has heard the cry of women throughout history. Living through abuse may result in desperate actions to protect ourselves, but God’s redemption covers our messes and can bring Him glory.



Throughout the holiday season a song by Pentatonix has been playing both in my home and on the radio called “Good to Be Bad.” If you are a fan of the group, I’m sure you’ve heard it. It’s a fun tune that causes a smile to light your face – I imagine kids love it for its message! In fact, my husband has teased me throughout the season, saying it reminds him of me. I can’t imagine where he would get that idea!

Nevertheless, despite the silliness around the song, it spurred me to ruminate over the bad girls of the Bible, as Liz Curtis Higgs named them in her 2013 book. To be honest, it further spurred me. My thoughts first turned in that direction in early December when our pastor preached a sermon from Genesis 38 about Tamar, a daughter-in-law of Judah.

Now ladies, let’s be clear; I am a Baptist girl, raised in a Southern Baptist church, attended 2 Baptist colleges, even a short stint at Southern Seminary, so let’s just say that I had heard of Tamar. I practically drowned in Biblical theology and doctrine! But let me tell you girlfriends, this gal had never heard, at least not in my remembrance, that for Tamar, it was good to be bad.

How do I know?

Check out the lineage of Jesus…she’s there, a couple of lines above Rahab, the harlot.

In fact, as my pastor, Jamaal Williams, was stating, Jesus’ heritage is comprised of the very people He came to save! In addition, Pastor Jamaal reminded me of an important truth, which I believe conservative Christians too often forget when we become wrapped up in the doctrine of the “Thou Shalt Not’s“: God is tenaciously for vulnerable women, regardless of their pasts.

You see, Tamar had been chosen to be the wife of Judah’s firstborn son, Er. No falling in love or courtship there…still isn’t acceptable today in many middle eastern countries, by the way.  However, and this is difficult for us to grasp, God chose to kill him because Er was evil in His sight, (Genesis 38:6-7). It’s very likely Tamar was abused.

As was the custom, Tamar was then given to Judah’s next son, Onan, so that Er could have an heir. Turns out, (shocker), Onan had no desire to perform such a selfless act and allowed his seed to fall on the ground. Did he really think God couldn’t see in the dark? This angered God, so he killed Onan.

Whoa.

No sons left to give; the last one was too young…and truly, the apples hadn’t fallen far from the tree. Despite the honored cultural tradition of levirate marriage, Judah had no plan to give his last son to Tamar, even though it would bring destitution and shame to her life. He didn’t want that son to die, too!

And we thought #MeToo was a new thing.

Years passed, Tamar waited, no husband was forthcoming. What’s a girl to do when she is treated unjustly? She devises a plan…and what a plan it was!

Desperate: Self-Protection

I recommend you read the story in its entirety, but to condense it: Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute, tricked Judah into sleeping with her, and conceived a child. When he was first told that Tamar was pregnant, he wanted to have her burned alive. I kid you not; such was his self-righteousness and double standard of justice. However, when Tamar sent Judah proof that he was the father, uh-oh! He began to feel shame and rightly so.  He said, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.”

Wouldn’t you have loved to see his face when Judah received that 11×14 envelope of proof?

This can be confusing, however. Tamar’s actions were not an act of faith, but sin. Out of desperation, she took matters into her own hands instead of trusting God to provide for her. However, Judah had power over her and chose to abuse it. For reasons we don’t fully grasp, God forgave her and used one of her sons (she had twins!) to carry the seed forward in the line that led to Christ.

Living through abuse may result in desperate actions to protect ourselves, but God's redemption covers our messes and can bring Him glory.

Desperate: God’s Redemption

God chooses to use weak and complex people to accomplish His will. Again, refer to the genealogy of Jesus. He doesn’t excuse our sin- there must be repentance (Psalm 86:4-5), but He uses ALL things, even the consequences of our sin, to accomplish His glory (Isaiah 46:8-10).

Rejoice the soul of Your servant,
For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.

Psalm 86:4-5, NKJV

In many societies today women are still treated as property, no better than dogs, really. It’s easy to judge those cultures as backward or archaic.  Yet, in the U.S. 4,774,00 women experience domestic violence by an intimate partner every day. America’s abuse of women has just been more subtle and hidden…but not from the Father.

God hates injustice and watches over the needy, the fatherless and the widow. His Word speaks clearly concerning these issues; I’m only naming two due to space (Deut. 10:18-19; Isaiah 10:1-2). When we turn our backs to these groups and gather in our Christian huddles for more Bible studies, prayer meetings, or leadership trainings, I wonder if the Father grieves, as Gene Edwards posited in his 1993 book, The Divine Romance. (There is a place for equipping; of course there is, but let us equip ourselves in order to go, not to sit and simmer.)

My prayer for you this year is the same for me, that as we love Jesus more deeply, His love will flow through us to the needy, the abused, the fatherless and the widow…and whomever He places in our paths.

Living through abuse may result in desperate actions to protect ourselves, but God's redemption covers our messes and can bring Him glory.


If you have interest in the books mentioned, please consider purchasing them through these affiliate links. A small portion will go to help support this ministry at no extra cost to you (to read more about affiliates see the disclaimer page):

Bad Girls of the Bible

The Divine Romance


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Living through abuse may result in desperate actions to protect ourselves, but God's redemption covers our messes and can bring Him glory.

Joel Filipe


We all have messes in our lives.
If we allow Him to, God will redeem our stories and make them beautiful.


loved, pursued, redeemed, beautiful, enough

You Are Beautiful

I acknowledge that my life has been blessed. I was raised by a mom and dad who loved each other, and loved all four of us kids. I still have good relationships with all of my siblings. I married a man who adores, supports, and encourages me. He is hard working and has provided well for our family. My children are healthy, and (most of the time) fun to be around. I wonder at times if others see my life, and think that I have it all together. I’m not sure what they see, but I know that they don’t see it all.


What others may not see…

People didn’t see me when my mom died, and how I lost it at work having to excuse myself from a patient because the tears just would not stop. No one saw the chasm that was growing between my husband and I during that time because we were both so steeped in self-pity. They didn’t see the guilt I carried because I was the only one of my siblings not present when she died. Others didn’t see the whirlwind of busy work I was doing because I wanted to avoid dealing with the grief.

Others also didn’t see me grow bitter when my husband’s job wasn’t enough to support us. Or when he was out of work. They didn’t see the bitterness grow to anger against God when we stepped out in faith to begin a business, only to have years of financial hardship follow.

No one saw the hurt I held on to when rejection from others happened, and then happened again, and then yet again. They didn’t see me sitting in church alone because I was told “no” when I asked to sit next to someone. People didn’t see me crying in the car, begging my husband to not ask me to go back to church.

They didn’t see me as a new mom, completely unsure of myself, not knowing what I suppose to do. Wasn’t I suppose to love this little person, half me/half my husband, right from the start? I didn’t. I felt trapped. I screamed, and cried, and had melt downs. And when the second child came, it all started over again. People didn’t see the bruises on my legs from where I hit myself repeatedly because I hated who I was. It’s hard when you don’t like yourself, there’s nowhere to go to get away. Unless I chose to drink. Yeah, they didn’t see that either.

People don’t see the days that I can’t seem to do anything other than lose myself in mindless activities, trying to find things to do so I can ignore the things I need to be focused on. No one sees me struggle with certain aspects of my faith, questioning in silence because I’m afraid of the response from others.

My life is kind of like my house. It looks clean when you walk in, but please don’t go into my closet, or try to open a drawer. It’s the inside where the mess lies. My life, like my house, can be quite messy.

No matter how good the lives of others may seem, we don’t know what mess there is inside of them. Inside of all of us there is a mess, but… Oh friends, I am so thankful to have a “but” in my life story. I am messy, but God… thinks I am beautiful. When he sees me, he sees someone who is perfectly imperfect. He has taken my messed up life, redeemed it, and is making it beautiful.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6, ESV


How about you?

The Lord also tells us, through the prophet Isaiah, that He will replace our mourning. He will give us beauty. His healing and redemption is what makes us beautiful.

Mourning involves admitting that there is, in fact, a mess. It’s acknowledging the reality of our situation. When we stop pretending, stop running, stop lying to ourselves and others, then we give the Lord the freedom to transform it into beauty.

So… What kind of messes are in your life?

Messy, but God… thinks you are beautiful.

 

(And I think you’re beautiful too!)

beautiful