“Grace, grace to it!”: a YouTube message

A couple of weeks ago, I shared the message below with our congregation.  Many people have since approached me to tell me that they were encouraged and applied the word immediately to their lives.  That, of course, is the best news I could ever hear!

  • Are you in a season that seems impossible?
  • Are you facing an impossible challenge that’s pushing you to the breaking point
  • Are there habits whose hold on you seem impossible to break?

God has promised to pour out a grace for the impossible, but we have to know what that is and how to access it

If you’re facing an impossible situation, I’m praying that you will be encouraged by this message. I hope that you will find something in this message that will not only give you hope but that you can apply to your life starting right now!

Open wounds: When the Hurt meets the Healer (Part 2)

Two hands touchingContinued from “Open Wounds: When the Hurt meets the Healer (Part 1)”

Let’s review and expand on my Takeaways from my husband’s hand injury:

  1. Men – listen to your wives! I try not to be the “I told you so” wife, but for some reason, when it comes to the care of my family, my gut has never steered us wrong.
  2. Every part is needful. One injured digit can hinder your entire life.
  3. Fake news isn’t good news; so don’t be afraid of the truth.
  4. Serious wounds should not be left covered.

I will resist the temptation to expound on Takeaway #1. (wink-wink!)

Takeaway #2: Every part is needful – one injured digit can hinder your entire life.

My husband has told me often since this accident how much of a hassle it is that he can’t fully use his dominant hand and how challenging it is to execute the most mundane tasks, like writing and shaving. My poor husband. He has seriously struggled to keep a level of normalcy in his life all the while being in pain, enduring swelling and pressure within the bandage, and having trouble sleeping and executing his everyday tasks. I have become a lot more conscious of what he cannot do in order to help him. I’m oftentimes in my own little world, so I’ve really had to concentrate on being aware of what he’s doing so I can step in to assist when he needs me.  Every part of his life has been affected by this temporary handicap which has really driven home the message that every part of the body is needful and that we take it all for granted until we can’t.

The same is true in the body of Christ, and I would even expand to say, any community that requires people to interact in an interdependent way. Let me ask us all this: Are we noticing the wounded? Are we on the lookout for those in our community who are missing, silent or seem to have slunk back into the shadows? And if we’re the one who’s wounded, are we seeking healing in a purposeful way? It’s so easy to remain wounded and, as a result, remove ourselves from being an integral part of our community. But the Lord is the Great Physician and He came to bring healing for our woundedness. He sets the lonely into families because the community needs us and we need them.

Psalm 68:5-6a (NLT) – Father to the fatherless, defender of widows–this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.

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Open wounds: When the Hurt meets the Healer (Part 1)

“Cecily, we have to go to the hospital right NOW!”

My husband, John, was standing in the doorway between the mudroom and the garage clutching his hand in a towel. He was still wearing his snow blowing gear and furry hat.

It took me a few seconds to process what was happening. I had been upstairs, still in my pajamas with crazy morning hair, when I heard him shouting my name from downstairs. The tone of his voice was unlike anything I had ever heard so I came running. That’s when I saw him in the doorway.

“I cut my finger off. We have to go NOW.”

Oh my gosh, oh my gosh. This isn’t happening. I ran upstairs to change into clothing and then oddly stood there paralyzed. What should I wear? Really? Can I really not find clothing – ANYTHING – to put on? I grabbed jeans out of the closet, a sweat shirt and a baseball hat to cover my bedhead.

Earlier that morning, John had gone out to snow blow our driveway and also the bottom of our neighbors’ driveways when the accident happened. I had taken the day off as a vacation day because we were scheduled to leave for a trip to New York City with my parents once the roads were clear enough to drive on. This is why I was still sitting in my pajamas in no hurry to get ready. But now I was in a hurry that made my thoughts blur.

When I finally got downstairs, John was already sitting in the car. I could hear moans that made my knees buckle.  Oh my God, oh my God. I can’t believe this is happening.

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Falling: How we fall and how we get up (Part 2)

Falling_ashley-bean

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.  Psalm 37:23, 24 

Now let’s look at the fall. When I fell three years ago in my house, I fell so hard that my children who were in the basement came running up to see what happened. They said it sounded like something blew up in the house! The pain was immediate and the injuries were long lasting. The cost and time involved to remedy the injuries was extensive.

I have heard many Christians who have fallen in sin say that they couldn’t believe that they were capable of doing what they did. They say that their fall seemed to sneak up on them from behind and blew up everything in their lives.

Many years ago, I found myself in that situation. I became involved in an ungodly relationship. Two weeks after the sinful relationship began, I woke up from my trance. I looked at what I was doing and realized that I was at risk of losing everything! I felt as though a hex had been cast over me that caused me to act and think in a way that was totally contrary to all of the pursuits of my life to that point. Who was this person in the mirror that could be so vile and selfish and blind?

I had to face the sin, come clean, and go through a season of deep cleansing with the help of my Pastor. The cost was extensive. The enemy had set a trap for me and because my eyes were not fixed on Jesus as my All-in-All, I fell right into it. I felt as though one day I was walking well with the Lord and the next day I was lying face down in my sin.

But the reality is that for a season of time I had not been guarding my heart and dealing honestly with my thoughts. The ground was beginning to freeze all around me and I wasn’t paying attention to the chill…until I slipped and fell. I was not taking sin seriously. I felt that I could handle it. Until it handled me.

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Falling: How we fall and how we get up (Part 1)

Falling_ashley-bean

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.  Psalm 37:23, 24 

I caught myself just in time. My foot started to slip out from under me as I walked to my car on our snowy driveway, but I managed to catch my balance before the slip turned ugly.

I live in New England and winter here can often mean slipping and falling on ice and snow. Therefore, after driveways and walkways have been shoveled, we bring out the salt and sand to ensure that people can keep their footing and not take a header due to slick conditions.

I have been fortunate this winter in that I haven’t slipped or fallen even though we’ve had record amounts of snow and a layer of ice underneath that snow. I’m so grateful for the fact that I haven’t fallen and here’s why: I fell three years ago – in my own home, of all places!  It took six months, hundreds of dollars and countless hours of office visits to recover my strength and the fitness level I was at when the accident happened.

So why am I blogging about NOT falling? How is that interesting at all? Well, this morning, I was meditating on the Scripture in Jude 1:24, 25: To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—  to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” (Underline mine)

God keeps us from falling. That’s really good news! Obviously, the writer of that scripture is talking about spiritually falling, so that makes this even better news! But we have a part to play in cooperating with the Lord as He works to keep us from falling.

Let’s look at the results of falls first and then make the correlation to what happens to us spiritually when we fall.

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Workout your thought life!

Workout2If I could stay in bed, sleep in and still stay fit, I would do it. While I enjoy the camaraderie of my workout classes, if I could avoid the intense exertion five out of seven mornings a week, I would totally do it! But because I enjoy being fit and keeping my weight and mental clarity at a certain level, I make myself rise at an early hour so that I can have time with the Lord and also have time to exercise every day. I say, “No”, to hitting the snooze button 14 times for the greater “Yes” of feeling good after a hard workout and for the rest of the day.

The other morning, when I was doing my devotions, the thought came to me that we can put our thoughts into the same workout regimen that we put our bodies in.  The same way I control what I put into my body and how I exercise it to stay in shape, I can control what I put into my mind and exercise those thoughts to get the flab out of my thought life. Just as my body without exercise would revert to a state of untoned muscles, my mind without exertion becomes slack and untrained. My thoughts will automatically go towards negativity, fear, and low self-esteem. That’s what my mind looks like when left to itself.

But God has given me a great “gym” for my thought life. It’s called the Word of God. For every flabby negative thought that wants to keep me in a cycle of failure, I can purposefully replace it with God’s thoughts about me and my circumstances. But those thoughts aren’t natural, just like working out doesn’t feel natural. I have to MAKE myself dig into the Word and find God’s thoughts on a matter and then I have to WRITE them down so I don’t forget them, and then I have to REHEARSE those words over and over until they get into my brain. Eventually, my thoughts will get into godly shape.

But here’s what I see so often…many of us hear the Word on Sunday and think that a one-time hearing is going to make a change. But let me ask you this: if I went to the gym once a week, do you think I would notice any measurable change in my cardiovascular health or in the shape of my physical body? And if I ate junk food all week and then expected that one visit to the gym to work magic, do you think I would see the results I hope for?

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What About Woundedness: How to Find Healing For Our Soul

Life wounds every one of us.Broken heart

Disappointments, betrayal, our own mistakes, and the selfishness of others can leave deep and lasting wounds. Oftentimes, we think we have moved on from the situation that caused the wound and feel that time has healed it. It’s just water under the bridge. But underneath the scar tissue of the memories lies a festering sore that has not healed as we thought. We are not even conscious of the wound’s existence or its effect on our lives. But if we are honest, we can see how in certain areas of our lives we are being held back from our highest and best. Something seems to always hold us back that little bit. We’re not experiencing complete joy. We’re not experiencing our complete potential and prosperity. We continue to fall back into old habits and negative mindsets. We continue to repeat the same cycles and mistakes.

So what causes these limitations and repeated ‘trips around the mountain’? I believe many times the issue is woundedness. Like an infection seeping into our system and causing widespread and varied symptoms throughout the body, the infection of woundedness keeps us from the complete freedom that Jesus purchased for us. The enemy has a goal and a plan: If he cannot take our eternal identity, then he would like nothing more than to see us lead an impotent life bound in misery until we die.

But God’s plan is the opposite. Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 ESV) That abundant life includes healing for our woundedness. I don’t know about you, but I realize where I am wounded by how I react when life presses on a certain spot. Just like a bruise that doesn’t hurt until I touch it, certain wounds seem to be gone until life presses on them. And then all of a sudden, I am keenly aware that I am not as healed as I thought! I know I’m wounded when I find my faith in certain areas becomes hard to walk out because of past failures and disappointments. Or when I find that my love walk is hard to maintain because of past betrayals. Or when my identity in Christ becomes hard to hang on to because of my awareness of my own personal failures and areas of unworthiness.

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Don’t Quit: Keys to ‘keeping on’ when your drive seems broken(Part 1)

Man and mountainI have a problem with a serious urge to quit when things are unraveling.  Or when the uphill trudge just goes on and on with no end in sight.  I assume that it’s tightly braided into my perfectionism and my need for relentless improvement.  One of my core values (my default personality) drives me to constantly try to improve myself and the things I’m involved with. That’s not a bad mindset until things don’t improve – or even worse, they fall apart.  #Reality.

My perfectionist tendencies drive me to abhor making mistakes (although that doesn’t seem to inoculate me from them), and to have other people notice how flawlessly I perform my tasks. GAH! That’s nuts. And not achievable.  Because it’s not an achievable goal to always succeed, always improve, always have people remarking about how impressive my achievements are, I tend to quit – at least I really, really want to quit!

I didn’t know I had a problem with this until recently.  But looking back over the history of my life I realize that I have been this way for-EVER!  My Mom can attest to the fact that I quit tennis when I was a kid because I wasn’t the best.  In later years, I tried golf and quit because I hacked the course to pieces the first two times I played,  Because I wasn’t an instant PGA golfer, I gave it up with the excuse that I don’t have time for golf (partially true).

I have quit ministry and volunteer commitments because life got too busy and I couldn’t handle the stretch of having to fit SO much into one life. I have quit friendships because it was too much work to maintain them. I didn’t mean to quit them. It just happened because I resigned my ownership in the relationship. #MissedOpportunities

  • Do you have missed opportunities because you quit before you could cross the finish line?
  • Do you struggle with quitting?
  • Do you have regrets about things or relationships that you have quit?

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Chain Breaker: Keys to breaking free from depression and anxiety (Part 2)

Broken chains(This is Part 2 of the message, Chain Breaker: Keys to overcoming depression and anxiety. See the last post for Part 1)

  1. God’s presence is our refuge. Psalm 62: 8 and 9 says, “Patiently wait for God alone, my soul! For He is the one who gives me confidence. He alone is my protector (my high rocky summit) and deliverer. He is my refuge; I will not be upended. God delivers me and exalts me; God is my strong protector and my shelter. Trust in him at all times, you people! Pour out your hearts before Him! God is our shelter!

Years ago, when I first started pondering on this and other scriptures that talk about God being my refuge and my shelter, I would imagine myself as a tiny bird tucked away in the cleft of a huge mountain face with the wind whipping all around me.  But in my safe little spot, tucked away in secure rock, I could wait out the storm, enfolded by the mountain.  You are the most secure when you run to the Rock and hide in the security that is God’s presence.

So how do we do that? The Scripture says, “Pour out your heart in his presence.”  Look, we’re like glass to the Lord.  He sees right through us, so trying to act as though we’re all full of faith when we’re not feeling it is only going to heap shame on top of the negative emotions we’re already dealing with.

But, on the other hand, if we stay away from the Lord because our thoughts are such a mess, then we’re staying away from the only one who can right the ship.  When we’re capsized in our thinking, we under water.  We can’t get on top of it, or we would have by now.  But in the presence of the Lord, we can cry it out, let it out, get mad and even question what’s going on.  He’s not threatened by or upset by what we’re thinking because he knows what we’re made of.  And He knows He can bring alignment.

In His presence, every chain is broken. Exodus 33:14 says, “My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” The chains may not feel broken in the instant, and it may take a little while before you see what He has done, but faint not.  Keep coming.  Keep soaking in his presence.  Cultivate that place of refuge and shelter and you will see Him pull the chains off of your mind.

Because he is the Chain-breaker, you are free. You are no longer captive. You will see his victory over the lies of the enemy. You will hear him speak to you personally. And that leads me to my last Key which is that God’s voice is our necessity.

  1. God’s Voice is our Necessity: When I started journaling years ago as a young Christian, all of my journal entries were one-way conversations with the Lord. I poured out my concerns and prayer requests and that was pretty much it. Sometimes, I would find a Scripture that would encourage me and I would write it down. But over the last decade, I have received great teaching on hearing the voice of the Lord specifically for myself and it has revolutionized my relationship with Jesus and is shattering the bondages of depression and anxiety in my life.

So to rehearse my first two keys: we said that God’s Word is our lifeline and God’s presence is our refuge.  So with this third key, we wait upon the Lord and expect Him to speak to our soul about our soul because God’s Voice is our necessity.  It is our urgent need.  Jesus opened the way to the Father so that His children could freely approach Him in whatever condition they are in and hear His voice of loving alignment, direction, and tender affirmation. But unfortunately, many of us aren’t accessing what has been opened to us so we stay bound in shackles that the Lord wants us to walk out of.

I have a habit when things are absolutely ‘Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs’, of asking the Lord what He has to say about the situation that I’m desperate about.  Below is part of a journal entry from one of those times. Feel free to read this as though the Lord is speaking to you. You can take my Word and apply it to whatever you’re going through:

“You are coming out. You are in the middle; this is not the end. The enemy is a liar who spews forth venom and accusations against you, against Me and against others. Love draws together, believes the best and speaks life. My love is in you but lies have thrown dirt over it.  I wash you and cleanse you.

I have compassion on your weakness and I am on your side. I fight for you and appreciate your heart turned toward Me. Keep crying out. Breakthrough is coming.

Release disappointments to Me. Arrest negative images and keep declaring My Word to create an atmosphere of faith.  Faith is not a feeling.  Faith is action. So when you choose to repent and resist and declare my Word even when your emotions contradict it, you are in faith.  Your actions speak a better word than your emotions.

You are not as your appear to yourself or even to others. Do not be afraid. My love is holding you. You will NOT be lost or rejected. I have given you a heart to seek Me and find Me which is why you are experiencing such great opposition.

You are increasing in strength. While the enemy has told you that you’re losing your mind, I say, No. He is a liar. I say, You are Mine. I have purchased you and you are holy unto the Lord. I have given you to my Son and we are one. Rest in faith that I delight in you. I see you and I know you. I created each facet of who you are. I am not surprised or appalled or angered by what I see in you. I have conquered all that would try to overcome you. You win. My life in you has overcome sin and death. Smile and laugh because you are my daughter and I am yearning for you and delighting in you.  I am not disconnected from you.  You are in my sight every minute.

I see you dancing, singing, light and free in My presence. No more sadness or heaviness.  Give thanks for your season of joy – great and lasting joy – has come.”

There is a lot in that word. It’s probably hard to catch it all, but I hope you heard a few key things:

  1. The Lord loves us and he does not see us the way we see ourselves
  2. When the Father corrects us, he gives a vision for where we are going rather than beat us up over where we’ve been
  3. He is working in us and fighting for us.  We may feel weak and under it at times, but in His presence we break out of our chains.

Because He is your Chain Breaker, you are free – you are no longer a captive.

In closing, I want to exalt the work of Jesus in order to set us on the right course.  What Jesus did for us in his life and on the cross is what makes Him our chain-breaker.  Simply telling you that Jesus is our chain breaker without supporting it with Truth doesn’t give you the power your faith needs to set you free.

When Jesus hung on the cross, he uttered three words that are the most powerful words that have ever been uttered on this planet.  Jesus cried out with his last breath, “It is Finished!”

Before Jesus even got to the cross, he took the beating of 40 lashes with whips that tore his flesh off and exposed his internal organs.  That beating paid for our complete physical and emotional healing. And on the cross, the justice that satisfied our guilt was completely fulfilled. Jesus didn’t just take on our sin – the Spotless One became our sin. So when he uttered those three words, “It is finished,” our TOTAL salvation, which is our healing AND redemption was paid for and won.

Now we can all expect to be healed from everything that is not of God. I wish I could answer why some people are healed right away and others aren’t. But I can tell you that God is the God of the In-Between. There is often a season of waiting in between the promise and the manifestation. And it’s in the waiting that we learn to grow in faith, to practice our faith and to lean into the Lord when it looks as though nothing is happening.

So while we are waiting for the complete manifestation of our healing, we are going to experience freedom by remembering that God’s Word is our lifeline, God’s presence is our refuge and God’s voice is our necessity. Because He is our Chain Breaker, we are Free – we are no longer captives. We are free now!

Now you:

  • Do you know how to access the Presence of the Lord?
  • Have you made a habit of asking the Lord to speak to you about things that concern you?
  • Do you write down what you hear in your heart? Do you have anyone who is scripturally grounded who can help you screen those words?

The Word says that the Lord is enthroned upon our praises (Psalm 22:3), and we know that worship is the atmosphere of heaven (Revelation 7:11-15), so when we worship either in song or with our words, the Lord’s presence is magnified.  While He is always with us, we need to learn to increase our awareness of His presence. Worship, praise and thanksgiving focus our attention on Him and clear our minds of worldly clutter.

I encourage you to schedule some time with the Lord, like a date with a friend.  Turn off the phone, and focus on Who He is.  As you learn to direct your thoughts to the multiple facets of God’s greatness and love, you will begin to be aware that chains are falling away that were once impossible to get free from.

Let’s pray:

Lord Jesus, this life is so busy and confusing.  I am pulled in so many directions and feel the weight of my burdens pressing down on me.  I am caught in “time” and can’t see how any of this is going to work out for my good. But I know that You are Good and that You are my Father. You promise to protect me, to deliver me from evil and to work everything out for my good. Jesus, please sustain me with your love. Pour out Your peace upon the fires in my heart.  Quell every frightful thought and release me from the  stranglehold of the enemy.  I exalt Your victory over every bondage of the enemy and your victory in me.  In Christ, I am free! There is freedom laying all my worries at your feet.  Your peace won’t let me go! In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Thought for the day: Holding unforgiveness against those who have hurt us is as self-destructive as drinking poison hoping that the other person will die.

Girl looking upThought for the day: Holding unforgiveness against those who have hurt us is as foolish and self-destructive as drinking poison hoping that the other person will die.

Unforgiveness is a trap of the enemy based on legalism.  Legally, we have the right to hold people’s offenses against them.  We have the right be feel angry, hurt and ripped off. We have the right to wish bad things for them. We have the right to accuse them in our hearts for everything that they have committed against us. And the enemy loves nothing more than when we do that.  Satan is the Accuser of the Brethren and a legalist, so when we accuse others we join him in his efforts.  When we accuse, we act like him and we don’t even know it.

Revelation 12:9-11 – And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

But when we forgive, we act like Jesus who kept silent even while he was being falsely accused, lied about and wrongly sentenced to death. He forgave those who were murdering him AS they were standing there watching him die.  

And on top of that, Jesus forgives us from ALL of our sin and iniquity when we come to him in repentance. All that we have done in rebellion against the holiness of our merciful God is NOTHING in comparison to what others have done against us and if we don’t agree with that statement, we are not in touch with the depth of sin that we have been forgiven of. 

Ephesians 1:7 – In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace

In the Lord’s Prayer, the Lord is specific in His command that we forgive those who have trespassed against us.  He is so clear that it should shake us all out of our complacency when it comes to holding unforgiveness to other people’s accounts.  God will forgive us AS we forgive others.  So the degree to which we clear the accounts of those who have debts against us is the degree to which we ourselves are forgiven by God.  Oh boy.

Matthew 6:12 – And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Now you:

  • Are you holding unforgiveness against anyone? 
  • Do you feel that their sin against you is something you cannot forgive?
  • Do you feel as though this person will be “off the hook” if you let them go in forgiveness?

When you forgive someone, you set yourself free.  Their sin is between then and God, not between you and God. When you forgive, you are not saying that what happened is OK. It probably isn’t OK at all.  But what you are saying is that you will not be their judge and jury.  You are allowing God to handle the situation.  He works in ways of love of redemption that are far above our understanding. 

When you are in Heaven with Jesus, you will not have this hurt.  But you will have the record of whether or not you forgave.  Unforgiveness will be a point of separation between you and God on that day.  Will it be worth losing your place in heaven to hold on to this fleeting pain? God wants to heal your heart right now and give you ability to begin the process of total forgiveness.  

Let’s pray:

Lord Jesus, I ask for Your help forgiving (name their name/s).  Please lead me in the path of forgiving and letting go of this pain and hurt.  I release to You those who hurt me.  I forgive them and let them go into Your hand.  I ask that You would help them to be all that You created them to be.  Help me to become all that You created me to be.  I will not allow this pain to identify me and define me any longer.  I am free to love with God’s love which is shed abroad in my heart.  My life reflects the fruit of love in every season.  I forgive and receive Your forgiveness for my sins, Father. Thank you for the grace to forgive and not allow the enemy to refresh these hurts in my mind.  I set up a hedge of protection by the blood of Jesus around myself and my thoughts as I walk out obedience to You, Lord.  I renounce all patterns of unforgiveness and decide as an act of my will that I will no longer attach myself to the sins of others through unforgiveness.  I release myself from them in Jesus Name. I am free, Amen!