The War

I wrote this poem a few weeks ago during a worship night with some incredible women. I didn’t realize then how often I would turn to these words and repeat them to myself. I hope they give even more strength and courage to whoever needs it. 

 

In the midst of the battle,
when I feel like I’ve lost,
I know You’re there.
When I crash to my knees,
and I’m too weak to fight,
I know You’re there.

You stand in my place.
You’re my shield and my sword.
And the war goes on.
I can hear Your battle cry.
I can rest in this moment.
I can cry out Your name,
And You’ll be there.

In the midst of the battle,
when I keep marching on,
I know You’re there.
When I face the new day,
and I’m not afraid,
It’s because You’re there.

You stand beside me.
You’re my courage and strength.
And the war goes on.
My cry echoes Yours.
We fight in this moment.
You spoke my name,
and You promised You’d always be there.

 

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Love Languages and God

The other day my dad called my mom while he was on his way home and asked what the family wanted for dinner. We couldn’t decide on a place, as usual, so he made the decision to go to Chick-Fil-A. My mom and I shrugged and agreed and my brother nodded.  Then Dad asked what our orders were. Peter smirked and said “if you know me, you’ll know what I want,” and my first thought was oh, here comes a blog post! My dad was flabbergasted since Peter tends to change his order pretty regularly. I stepped in and said “Spicy chicken sandwich, no pickles,” and Peter smiled at me. “You know me.”

Later on, the family and I were sitting around the table with my dad passing out our orders from Chick-Fil-A. Dad started getting picked on since he didn’t get our orders 100% correct – not that we had exactly told him to get well-done fries, diet Dr. Pepper with no ice, or bar-b-que sauce. We just decided that he should know those were our extra requests. “I think I know why it bothers me so much that Dad didn’t know what I would have wanted to drink,” I said. Everyone looked at me with a puzzled expression.

This incident had me thinking about our love languages. My dad looked hurt at our comments, my mom was frustrated, and I was disappointed (Peter got exactly what he wanted because I ordered for him). “It’s because my love language is Gifts,” I said simply.

“What does that mean?” Peter asked. My dad also gave me the same puzzled look and I could tell my mom was trying to figure out where I was going with it.

“Well… there is this book I read called The Five Love Languages. It helps you learn how to make others feel loved. My language is Gifts. That means I like receiving something that makes me feel like you thought about me when you saw it. Or you knew I would appreciate it. So to me… when Dad didn’t get me something I would like, I felt like he didn’t know me enough.”

Peter nodded and looked over at our dad. “What’s his love language? And mine? And Mom’s?”

“Dad’s is Words of Affirmation. He loves being told he’s appreciated. So when we tell him how we’re not pleased with something he did for us, it hurts him more than it would hurt us. ” I went on to explain how different and similar we all are, according to the book, and how knowing each other’s language helps us all feel like we’re known and loved. Peter smiled after I explained and nodded. “You really do know me. You spend a lot of that quality time with me.”

 

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After dinner I started thinking about God’s love language. Is it gifts too? People used to offer their harvests to Him, and now we tithe in His name. That counts as a gift. Or maybe His language is quality time. We are supposed to seek a space to be alone and dedicate time to him. Could it be acts of service? He has called us to work for His good, to spread the gospel, to be His light in the world. Surely it’s not physical touch…although He heals us with a touch and we can feel His presence.

I think I’ve settled on my answer. He is all of these languages. How could He not be? We are made in His image. We never have to say “if You knew me, You would….” to Him because He knows us intimately. He is pleased with us when we spend time with Him, praise Him, do good in His name, offer Him gifts, and seek the presence of His Spirit. Since we tend to give others love based on our own language, He accepts our love in each way. He also gives His love in each language. He offered His son for our sins. He spends time with us when we seek Him. He performs miracles. He gives us the warmth of His presence.  His Word guides us and tells us how much He loves us. And since He loves us all equally, no one language is worth more than another. Psalm23_64

What is your love language? If you don’t know, you can go here and take the quiz: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/.

Do you agree with my thoughts? Let me know!

Small Moments, Big Memories

It was late at night when I was finally getting ready for bed last Saturday. I’d said goodnight to my parents and then headed to my brother’s room to collect my dog. (He likes to keep our pets until I go to bed. It’s our new ritual.) I had guilt on my heart – I had scared him by shutting off all the lights right after his shower as a joke, not knowing how scared he would actually be. He wouldn’t tell me why he was so afraid, so I teased him about it. I know we’re siblings and we tease each other all the time, but this round felt bad. I told myself that if he was still awake, I’d apologize.

I opened his door quietly and checked. He was asleep. I sighed, leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek, and jumped when I felt his hand hold onto my arm. “Do you really want to know?” he asked, his eyes opening and landing on my face. I nodded, pet our dogs lightly, and focused my full attention on him.

He explained his bad dream, how it had been pitch black and this thing was coming from the ground and reaching him. Actually, he didn’t say “thing.” He called it the devil, and he was afraid of it. I nodded and started asking him questions: “Did it touch you? Were you afraid in the dream? Did you wake up before it could touch you? Did you pray when you woke up?” He’d been nodding yes to my first questions, but shrugged and shook his head no at the last question. I was tired and it was late, but I knew this was important.

I explained to him how God pulled him out of that dream. The devil cannot touch him because he is a child of God. He is protected by the Father for as long as he keeps God in his heart. (At church, our pastor mentioned that we draw our protection from God as long as we continue to seek Him. The longer we go without keeping the Father in our lives, the further away from His protection we get.) We continued talking about his prayer life, about whether he has accepted Christ into his heart. Then we talked about what that meant – to accept Christ. It’s a lot for a twelve-year-old boy to understand…. it’s a lot for an almost twenty-six-year-old woman to understand. I told my brother that I pray the sinner’s pray almost every week – not because I’m unsure of my salvation, but because I want to continue to invite Christ into my life. I made the mistakes before of sealing off doors of my life to Him. I thought I knew better, that my way was the right way. I explained that to my brother, making sure that I didn’t give too many details that could distract him from the point of our talk.

We talked about fear, and how we shouldn’t let that control our hearts and minds. We talked about how the worst thing that could happen to us on this Earth would be dying. And then he said: “But when we die we go to heaven, so that’s a good thing in the end.” I couldn’t have said it better. Then he asked: “I just hope it won’t hurt too long or too bad.” I sighed and nodded and then replied: “Yeah, but it’s nothing Jesus didn’t go through, too. He was beaten and broken and hung up for us. There is nothing you can go through without Him having done it first. Of course, we all want to go to heaven in our sleep, but even if it doesn’t happen that way you are never alone in it.”

Then, I leaned over to kiss him goodnight again; I whispered a small reminder to say his bedtime prayers. He grasped my arm again and asked me to pray with him. In that small moment, it didn’t matter what time it was or how tired I was. I nodded, asked him if he wanted to go first (he didn’t), and then I began praying. I started with thanks: “Thank You, God, for our many blessings – those we have already received and those You have yet to give us. Thank You for our family, our friends, and our pets. Thank You for Your guidance and Your protection. As we get ready for bed, I ask that You shield our minds from unwanted dreams and thoughts. I ask that You continue to protect us all night, and help us slip into our dreams quickly.” Then I nudged him to continue. When we said amen I gave him another kiss, scooped up my dog, and closed the door behind me.

I know it’s easy to get swept up in our fears, our worries, and our concerns. I know it’s easy to forget that no problem is too big for God. I also know how easy it is to get overwhelmed when we’re struggling with bills, family, and trying to have a social life. The ease of keeping these problems makes it difficult to trust that someone else can take care of them. But that’s also the best part. We don’t have some random person that we can’t trust to take care of our worries and our strife. We have God. We have the awesome creator who can walk on water, who loves us more than we can imagine, who WANTS to take on our problems and show us how good life can be. We just have to let go and let Him.

Father,

Thank You for the small moments I get to share with my brother. I hope these lead to memories he can rely on when he needs them. Thank You for answering my prayers when I ask You to grant me the right words to tell him.  I know I’m not the best at letting go of the control I try to have, but I’m working on it and I’m pretty sure my brother sees that. Lord, thank You for always being by my side, especially during the times when I felt abandoned and lost. I know You held me in those days a little tighter. Thank You for protecting my family and I. I know the devil is always waiting for a moment to distract us from Your mercies and blessings, and I am so thankful that You provide us with blinders when it comes to that. I am thankful that even when we stray Your hand is always there to guide us back to the path You have created for us. Help us to always remember You are there and that we don’t have to carry the weight of our world on our shoulders.

In Your precious name, I pray. Amen.

Seven Times Seventy

I’ve been wanting to write about forgiveness for the last two weeks. Okay, that’s a lie. I haven’t wanted to write about this which is why I haven’t posted in two weeks. It’s been heavy on my heart and I’ve been struggling because I don’t think I’m really one to talk.

It’s a difficult thing to do, to forgive someone who has hurt you. How do you know if you’ve truly forgiven them? Do you just accept the apology and stay friends? Sometimes you know that the friendship isn’t healthy for both parties, but if you don’t stay friends did you really forgive?

The answer is yes. You don’t have to maintain a friendship just to forgive someone. You can part amicably and never have the cloud of unforgivingness over your head, or even worse, the resentment toward them in your heart.

What happens if you forgive someone, but they continue to mess up? Do we forgive even after they come to us asking for forgiveness for the fifth or twelfth time? In Matthew 18:22, Jesus says, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” If you don’t have a calculator handy and are as terrible at math as I am, that looks like this:

7 x 70 = 490.

Jesus says to forgive someone four hundred ninety times. Now, should we attempt to keep track of how many times we’ve forgiven someone?

What if Jesus did that? What if, throughout our entire lifetime, God was counting the amount of times we apologized for our sins? Do you realize that God views all sins on the same scale? We as humans don’t. We feel certain issues are worse than others. But it’s all a sin against Him. Jesus did not die on the cross to only save us when we lie, cheat, or steal. He forgives murder, abuse, and rape. He was on the cross, telling His Father, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Those people hadn’t even started to ask for forgiveness. They were dividing Jesus’ possessions instead of apologizing for crucifying Him.

I know forgiving someone who has hurt you is hard. It doesn’t matter what the deed was, how easy it should be to get over it or not. If you claim to love the Lord and trust in Him, you need to forgive. “For if you forgive men for their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men for their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14–15).

Onto part two of this struggle: Accepting Forgiveness.

 I thought forgiving someone was hard. I thought that trying to move past sins committed against me was hard. I thought writing about forgiving others was difficult. Admitting your own struggles is more difficult. Nothing is more humbling than realizing you are wrong and having to apologize. Nothing is worse than someone telling you that you are forgiven but you still feel guilty. You still walk around feeling that nothing you do is good enough. That you’ll never be forgiven entirely. That what you’ve done is too big of a deed to ever be completely forgiven.

For me, it’s not something that I’ve done against a friend or a stranger. It’s something between God and me, as a result of things that I am working on forgiving others for. It really calls into light Matthew 6:15, “if you do not forgive men for their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins.” I have lost sleep praying and crying. I have spent days in bed, not feeling strong enough to get up. This guilt, shame, and hurt just hangs on my heart, holding me down.

I’ve recently started going to church again. I thought everyone would just know what my shames are, what my fears and struggles are. But they didn’t. They welcomed me and I thought I could just keep hiding things. But God’s been working on me, more like in me.

The messages I’ve been listening to keep repeating in my head. I’ve opened my Bible more times a day in the last few weeks than I have in the last twenty years. Verses that I’ve heard in church before, so many times, are still being repeated—but I’m understanding them now. And on days where I’m feeling so low that I wonder if I really have any worth, that I’m afraid of not being valuable, Scripture starts running through my mind by the grace of God. Matthew 10:29-31 (my favorite Bible verses) says,

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear. You are more valuable than many sparrows.”

And 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:

“What? Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God, and that you are not your own? You were bought with a price.”

Our God sent His only Son to die for all of our sins (John 3:16), not just the minor ones. We have to accept that the Jesus who forgave those who crucified Him is the same Jesus who forgives us. Then, we have to release that guilt that burdens our hearts and live.

Lord, 

I pray that whoever reads this can have a sense of peace in their life, over their struggles and hurts. Lord, I know I have a lot of growing to do. I know that I am not perfect in any sense of the word, but I ask that You help me to accept Your forgiveness and that You help me forgive daily. Every time resentment stirs in my heart, every time the same people apologize for the same mistakes, I will forgive and move on. I will not carry guilt or shame in my heart after I lay my troubles out to You and seek Your forgiveness. 

In Your name, amen.