Do You See It?

Seek It

Do you see it?

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27

If you’re a Christian, you’ve probably heard this scripture quoted many times, you’ve probably even read it many times.  What I want to know, is if you see and hear what I’ve missed?  Let’s read it again, only slower.

“Religion – that God our Father accepts – as pure and faultless is this – to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”

Yep, that’s what I’ve heard quoted time and time again over the years.  What a wonderful God we serve!  He cares for each of us and wants us to love each other too.  He wants us to look after each other, to feed the hungry and clothe the poor, to mow the lawn and visit the lonely.  Meet the need!  Doesn’t it feel good when we get to do so?

But, did you see it?  It’s so often overlooked or just never said.  We read the verse.  We quote the words.  We have it quoted to us.  Though like in the above, it’s rarely said in its entirety.  We often stop reading before the “and,” or if we do read it our minds have already stop listening.  Why?

For those of us who have heard it regularly, I think we’ve been conditioned to stop before the “and” because we think we already know the verse.  Our human nature kicks in and we’re already onto wanting next.  I mean, ok, take care of widows and children who do not have parents.  Now, tell me something I don’t know!  I also think we fail to see and hear the “and” because it’s the hardest thing to do.  Giving a meal to a hungry person or hugging a child is easy compared to what else is required of us.  Then again, maybe we stop hearing it because we simply don’t want to, or it just doesn’t fit in with our agenda we’re trying to push that day–if ever.

Here it is, the “and,”

“and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

WHAT?!  Yep, it’s really there!  I read about eight different translations and they’re all the same.  How does keeping “oneself from being polluted by the world” fit in with looking after orphans and widows?  It does tie in, because the worldview is for us to do anything and everything that makes me feel good about me, and to be or become whatever will gain me social accolades.  Sure, feeding hungry children can get you those accolades, but then the heart’s motive is selfish (polluted) not God pleasing.  Try saying you believe in and long to live by the Ten Commandments today.  See how the world responds to that.  They will be quick to point out where you fail, treat you as if you are a lesser species, and many will call you intolerant, even if you are caring for the needs of others.

God knows that for us to have a pure heart, we have to have our heart right with Him.  If we allow the world to pollute us with its ideologies, then He can’t pour Himself through us to love those in need around us.  Sin will erode our minds and harden our hearts toward God and others.  It will hinder us from experiencing all the tenderness He has for us and dampen our ability to give and receive sincere love.

We’re told in verse one that James was writing to the Christians, “To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.”  So this tells me, a Christ follower, that I am vulnerable to the sins of this world and must guard against its deception.

We’re reminded in verse fourteen, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” The New Living Translation states it this way, “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.”

It is my responsibility to “keep from being polluted by the world.”  I will only have myself to blame if I don’t.  The temptation will look and taste good for a moment.  It’s enticing!  But, it will soon become bitter in the stomach and poison the body, leaving us unable to care for the needs of others.  What goes in will come out, so we must stay on guard!

Am I the only one who has failed to see the “and” in James 1:27?  It makes me wonder how many other ands, therefore, ifs, or buts I’ve missed.  How many times have I put a period on a verse where there’s only a comma?  It may just be time to revisit a few of our favorite verses, those we think we already know, and the words surrounding them.  God’s word is alive!  He is always speaking!  We will hear Him if we’ll pause to truly listen, and see.  It’s our responsibility.

How do we stay on guard against the pollutants of this world?  By filling ourselves with the entire Word of God, all of the ifs ands and buts.

~Shannan

~ Lord give us sight ~

He Had An Affair – Seven Years To Trust

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I wish I could say I fully trusted Warren when I agreed to marry him, but the harsh truth is it took many years.

Though, isn’t that the way it is for most of us?  We think we expose our heart fully to the other person, but in reality it often takes many years of marriage before we let down our guard.  Sadly, some never do.  The truth is, it took over seven years for me to come to know that I could surrender and trust that Warren really loved me, and I know the moment all my walls crumbled.

We had just received word that a fellow minister, a cherished friend, had a moral failure.  He had an affair.  To say we were shocked would be a huge understatement.  We were breathless from the news.  Warren and I sat in silence for a long time.  A million questions coursed through our minds, but few made it across our lips.  Any answers would have been nothing more than a guess.  What we did know, is how much our friend loved God and treasured his family.

For a long time we just sat side-by-side on the couch.  The pause button had been hit on our busy life.  All the big things suddenly became small in comparison to a broken relationship.  No words were spoken between us, only hands held.  With a pat on my leg, Warren got up and disappeared down the hallway.  I did what I normally do when I’m stressed, I began to clean.  A million more questions began to race through my mind, but soon those questions turned into tears that prayed words I didn’t have for our beloved friends.

I don’t know how much time had passed when I realized I wasn’t hearing the usual sound of Warren pounding out a melody on his keyboard.  I began to walk toward the back of our tour bus but stopped half way back.  I found him lying on the top bunk with his face buried deep in a pillow.  I gently rested my hand on his arm as I asked if he was ok.  His muffled reply, “How do I know I’m not next?”

I asked him what he meant by his question.  I was sure I knew the answer, but I wanted to make sure we were both on the same page in this conversation.  Warren lifted his face from the pillow and turned toward me.  His eyes were red with tears and he was clinging to his Bible.  Clarifying, he asked again, “How do I know I won’t be the next to fall?  How do I know I won’t cheat on you?”

You see, by this time in our marriage we had witnessed so many affairs, alternatives lifestyles, and abuse issues within our field of ministry that we had become extremely guarded with our marriage and ministry.  Our personal battles within and the battles that surrounded us seemed relentless at times.  We had learned to talk openly about our own relationship and the struggles we faced.  We decided to be each others safe place, where we could freely talk out our fears, our insecurities, and the things that tempted us.  We had to if we wanted to succeed at doing life together.  We sought out the areas we had left unguarded in order to establish the necessary boundaries to safeguard our relationship.  We knew that the fiercest attacks from the enemy would be not on our ministry but on our marriage, because if the enemy could destroy us as a team he’d also have the ministry.

The answer to Warren’s question came without hesitation.  The words came out of my mouth with such a bold confidence that I knew it was God speaking.  I knew, because I too was learning the answer as I spoke.

I said, “As long as you keep this heart.”  I then rested my hand on his chest.  “As long as you have this fear that you are capable of falling, you won’t.  It’s the moment we think we’re strong enough on our own that we will be in danger.”

This is the moment I knew I could fully trust Warren.  I saw his heart for me more clearly, as well as his sincere longing to be found faithful with God.  That is the moment I came alive to the fact that Warren deeply and truly loved me.  It’s a love that is rare these days.  He loved me with a pursuing love.  Warren was pursuing my heart after seven years of marriage the way he did when we we’re dating.  From the outside, with our busy life, his love looked different, but he was fighting for us.  Warren was wrestling for us, clinging to God for us, surrendering himself to God for us – loving me like Christ loved the church.  In that moment God humbled my heart.  God stripped blinders from my eyes to see the man He had given me more clearly.

I can almost hear the thoughts being whispered in some of your minds as you read my words now.  Please don’t let the accuser attack your spouse with his luring lies.  Don’t listen to that voice that is so quick to pipe in with thoughts like, “I wish my spouse was doing that for me.”  Or, “That’s great but my husband/wife doesn’t… “  You get my point.   Don’t forget, I said this happened seven years into our marriage, and I believe the only reason we came to this realization when we did is because both Warren and I chose to love God and seek Him.  Neither of us loved each other enough in the beginning.  We didn’t know how!  Had we not chosen God and His laws first, we never would have survived the first few years of our marriage.  We were fallible humans before we were ever ministers.

Marriage has the great ability to illuminate all the things we’ve kept hidden, and bring to surface so much that we ourselves didn’t even know was buried deep inside.  The things we think, say, and do can be really ugly sometimes, leaving ourselves stunned by our own yuckiness.  Marriage forces us to come out of hiding in order to have a healthy and sincere relationship.  To refuse full heart exposure, is a choice to stay blinded by the accuser.  Maybe this is why people don’t get married these days, but that’s another topic…

I had a choice to make the moment God let me peek deeper into Warren’s heart.  Like Warren chose to pursue me, I had to choose if I were willing to still pursue him.  It takes all three to make an unbreakable bond.  I’m so glad I did!  Little did I know the gift God was handing me at that moment.  That was the beginning of our last 2 1/2 years together.  Warren was killed by a drunk driver while we were out ministering, January 2006.

Our friend paid a high price for his decision, but God’s grace has covered he and his family.  They weathered a tough storm, but they’re doing well.  God still redeems!

To trust your spouse or not, is not the first decision.  It’s being willing to see them through God’s lens or not – the way we want to be seen, and it’s a daily decision.

Yes, God still redeems!  Will you let Him?

~Shannan

Another lesson along the journey…

Why Someone Like Trump Can’t Have My Vote

In the last debate, Donald Trump was adamant that the chemical weapons didn’t exist.  Let me share with you just one reason Mr. Trump cannot have my vote.

Ring - 10th Mountain Division

Just weeks before the terrorists bombed our Twin Towers, our Pentagon, and took down planes full of people, P3 sang for the 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, NY. They were the first deployed after the vicious acts of 9/11. A base active with life became a ghost town over night. I was honored to stand face-to-face with the bravest, the true heroes that fight for freedom. They believe all lives matter, including the generations ahead.

Many… many months later, we were back in Fort Drum, NY. We were off base, but we met a soldier who made it home. Visibly hurt by what he was hearing in the American media, he told me of the weapons of mass destruction they found. He told me about the massive drums of nerve agent they found and the shells it was to be loaded into. He told me about how innocent civilians were gassed, like how we spray a bug with Raid. Masses of people were being paralyzed and dying slow deaths because their own government was drenching them with chemicals.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  – John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton

Just because the chemical was not loaded into the shells near it doesn’t mean they didn’t find the weapons. But hey, if it works to win a political war to say they didn’t exist, go ahead. After all, many deny the evidence of all the gassed bodies of the Holocaust too.

I was heartbroken for this soldier, his family, our true heroes who never made it home, and for the thousands of innocent men, women, and children who were murdered by their own country.  Caught by my broken heart, I can’t recall the soldier’s name, but I will never forget his eyes.

I will forever be overwhelmed with the honor I received, that God chose me to share His love with the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division – our brave U.S. Army – before they deployed.

It’s human nature to want to hide from pain, but if we continue to just believe what we want to believe we will bury our own nation to the powers that “corrupts absolutely.”  I’ll believe a soldier over the U.S. media every time.  Facts matter, even when they’re painful, and especially when we vote for someone to lead our nation.

If you believe good exist, you must also acknowledge evil and fight it with absolute truth.  That is power uncorrupted.

~Shannan

Seneca Rocks -10th Mountain Division, Tribute

It’s A Great Day To Release Your Stinky!

Mr. Stinky

It’s ok to name your stinky, but don’t get attached!

It was a usual night.  The dinner dishes were washed and set aside to dry and all surfaces were wiped clean.  I began the final descent of my kitchen duties by reaching for the switch to the garbage disposal.  I flipped the switch but quickly turned it back off when I heard a loud grinding sound.  The sound of metal on metal coming from the abyss in the sink is never good.

I slipped my shoes on and ventured out into the freezing cold garage to retrieve my big flashlight.  I came back to the area of operation and shone the light in every angle, but I could not spot anything.  I turned the disposal on and off real fast to get whatever it was to move, then searched with the light again.  I could not see anything that would cause that horrible sound.

In my search for what was causing a disruption to my disposal ability, the light in my hand began to uncover some other hidden stuff.  I really did not want to acknowledge what I was finding.  A big part of me just wanted to put the cap back over the hole and pretend I was still clueless.  I was a little more than frustrated at this addition to my chores.  It was late, and my body ached from a medical procedure the day before.  It was a bad night for this, but really, is there ever a good time for such an interruption?

I like to think that I’m a clean person.  Some of my friends even like to tease me about being a little OCD.  I’ll admit, if I had the time and energy I could allow myself to be, but I have met OCD and that I am not – not entirely anyway.

Despite my exhaustion, I needed to find what was grinding down in the hidden parts of my trusty garbage eater.  I began to reach in – not happily – and pull out the several layers of rubber rings that fit snug beneath the black cap.  Just to be clear and for future reference, I’m speaking of the black cap that I bleach often.  What I discovered underneath was disgusting!  The bottom side of those rings, that was hidden from my eyes, was growing something.  Though, I’m sure it had eyes staring right back at me.  Stuff was blooming in every crevice.  Every fold had something that was mutating and it held a very tight grip to those rubbers seals.  Something unpleasant had taken up residency and was not about to let go easily.  I tried to hose it off with hot water, but it was not budging.  It was gross, and I had no choice but to reach in and pull those seals completely out in order to get rid of the unwanted invader.  So in my hands went, and out came all the stuff as my stomach did a flip-flop.  I submerged all the parts in a bowl of strong vinegar and water overnight.  What I’d hoped would be a quick fishing job had just turned into a much larger one man expedition.  It needed to be done if I wanted a healthy environment.

The next morning, I walked out of my bedroom and was punched hard in the nose with the strong odor of vinegar.  It was not pleasant!  To clean up can really stink things up for a long time.  It takes a less than pleasant smell sometimes in order to detox a toxic area.  I began to rinse off what I could, but the layers of unwanted stuff was strong.  It was going to take a whole lot more than a soak to clean this now exposed mess.  I put everything back in the bowl and reached for the bleach.  The vinegar killed the unwanted fungus but bleach was a must to release its iron-grip.  It was really getting stinky now!

Several hours later and a house overwhelmed with the smell of a vinegar and bleach cocktail, I was finally able to chisel away the growth and put everything back in its place – healthy.

As I dealt with this detour in my routine, I couldn’t help but think of how often we need to dig deep into those hidden places within ourselves.  God, in His mercy, will allow a less than comfortable wrench, like “metal on metal,” to be thrown into our lives in order to bring awareness to a deeper issue, a toxic thought or action that needs to be aired out.  He allows us to smell the stench of our own selfish pride and arrogance, or to draw attention to how we’ve allowed fear and hurt to grow into something that keeps us from having the joyous life He longs for us to have.

We’re all in a constant need of transformation.  The only way to hand God our not-so-clean self, is to remove our caps that appear so polished.  Remember my black cap that gets bleached often?  We must allow Him to scrub us, chisel if He must, so that we can truly be healthy, inside and out.

I did not want that job.  It was gross and inconvenient, but it was necessary if I didn’t want the toxins to keep growing.  If we ignore those hidden places, they will eventually make us (and those around us) sick.  The only way to get healthy is to expose the yuck to the light.  In the case of my garbage disposal, it was the light from the flashlight in my hand.  In the case of our hearts, it is in the light of Christ’s truth that we can be thoroughly cleansed.

By the way, there was nothing down in my disposal.  There wasn’t anything to cause such a racket.  Miraculously, once I cleaned the stuff off those rubber seals, the other noise stopped.  Sometimes it takes a scare, an unwanted interruption to our routine, and a major stink in order for us to truly be healthy – nontoxic.

At times, I can really stink!  I can’t even stand to smell my own polluted self.  Pride and insecurity reek, and there’s not a shower hot enough to rinse that disgusting odor away.  Give me time.  God is peeling away those toxic layers and marinating them in His cleansing light.  In His mercy, He is scrubbing me (sometimes chiseling me) and washing away all of the yuck, so that the Shannan He created can shine – healthy – in His light.

Go ahead, reach your hands in and dig it all out.  It’s going to be ok.  God will help you and those who love you will be with you the whole time.

It’s a great day to release your stinky!

~Shannan

“All who do evil hate the light… But those who do what is right come to the light…” -John 3:20-21

Apparently I Am WAY Right!

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I’ve recently been told by a friend that I’ve been described as “One who sits way far to the right.” I don’t believe the person was talking about politically either, since I’ve never had any personal conversation with the one making the assumption about me.

Really? If that’s the worst someone can say about me, praise God! I hope I’m guilty. I am trying to live an uncompromised life, but I will be the very last person to say that I’m a success at it. So, why then does this accusation from someone I barely know trouble me?

We live in a world that’s doing its very best to cut down those who are trying to do good, or “right”, yet it elevates and honors those who are for every vile and immoral thing. My heart is troubled because even in our churches compromise is applauded and masked by a freedom speech.

I do believe!

I believe, “It was for this freedom that Christ set us free [completely liberating us].” The verse in Galatians 5:1 continues, “Therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery [which you once removed].” So what’s the yoke we’ve been freed from?

I like the way Bible Study Fellowship summed this up. They wrote, “True freedom, which God gives, is the freedom not to sin.” We’ve been set free from sin’s chains, set free so we do not have to live according to the flesh but are now yoked to Christ, able to live as He lived.

I’m not talking about living by a set of rules, as if the law will set me free. No one can earn the freedom found in Christ. We also cannot swing the pendulum so far to the other side, we’ll call it the left for the sake of this writing. Living by the law can bind me to a works based faith, which would be wrong, but we must also remember that Jesus also said that “He came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it.” Again, you cannot earn your freedom in Christ. It is a free gift, but as being people who have been given this free gift, should we not want to live lives that represent the Holy God we say we serve? There are guidelines we must hold fast to, so that the world around can see God and not just another image of itself.

It is belief and acceptance in Jesus being God’s own Son, and in His sacrificial death and resurrection where we obtain salvation. Christ sets us free – nothing more and nothing less than Jesus.

I know I’m free. I know that nothing I can do, or be, will pay my way into heaven. I know that I have been forgiven and I am already an heir to the Kingdom of God. It is because I know these truths that I don’t want to compromise my lifestyle – my daily walk – my life’s testimony.

Why boundaries?

What’s the harm if I choose not to do that thing that may be permissible, so that I can possibly obtain that which is God’s perfect desire for my life? Or I might choose not to do something that I know in my heart is ok because it will cause another person around me to struggle. Something may not be sin for me but could be a struggle for another person. Is it worth me proving my “freedom” over helping my brother or sister get stronger in their weakness? Certainly not!

I choose some strict boundaries in my life, not to bind me but to truly be free. Alcoholism runs on both sides of my family. I’ve buried many aunts and uncles and visited my own brother in prison because they were bound by the bottle. Knowing the addictive thread lacing throughout my family history, should I even risk it? It’s not just my family that have had struggles in this area. I know many. I stood on countless platforms in prisons, rehab centers, and churches where people were battling the “spirits”. I’ve talked with thousands of people and not one of them ever told me they dreamed about growing up to be an alcoholic, but most deeply grieve ever having taken that first drink.

One Christmas, I baked a dark chocolate chip rum cake. I had no idea that a person who struggles with alcoholism can relapse, or at least have a tremendous struggle by the smell or flavor baked into something, and someone did relapse. I don’t blame myself for the person’s regress, but I sure could have helped them by not putting the temptation in their midst. Will I make the cake again? Yes, but I won’t ever make it to take to a gathering because I don’t always know who it is that’s fighting that particular tug-of-war. Does that sound a little too “far to the right”? It probably is to some, but for me it’s about allowing God to stop a generational curse in my family and being a safe place for others. I’m ok with being my brother’s keeper when needed. It’s an honor, and I appreciate help from my peers when I’m facing a weakness.

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In a world that screams at us about not judging and being tolerant, I seem to be under a constant watchful eye, both by the world and the body of Christ. That’s all the more reason for me to do my best to live out what I say I believe. This is not a “would everyone stop picking on me” blog. Oh No! It’s a “hallelujah I must be doing something right” note. Most every day I pray for God to lead my every step, and I ask Him to never let me fall. I pray for His strength and guidance because I am well aware of my weaknesses. I cannot worry about what people think of my strong stand, but I must choose to make my life about Who people see in me.

Just to be clear, I don’t believe you will go to hell for having a drink. I’ve also faced scrutiny for the fact that I firmly believe it’s wrong for me to have a friendly coffee or dinner with a married man when his wife cannot be present, and take every precaution to never ride in a car alone with a married male friend. I’ve seen far too many innocent friendships turn into full-blown affairs and families destroyed because “We’re just friends” won a battle in a mind. Compromise usually does start out small and innocent, but can lead to massive devastation. I counsel women, asking them to put themselves in the shoes of the man’s wife. How would you feel? Even the most confident women fight insecurity, and even deep God-fearing saints can be lured into a sinful trap. I then ask the ladies to take some sincere time in prayer for their friend’s marriage, calling his wife’s name out loud to God. Knowing that marriage is a covenant commitment with God, I don’t even want to cause others to question.

Please know that I don’t write in judgment or condemnation. I fail and need grace like everyone else, but to choose to live a lifestyle of compromise is living under the world’s grace, not God’s. One of the greatest deceptions in the church body today is thinking that we can ingest the fruit of this world and still expect to produce the fruit of God’s holiness.

“It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.”  – 1 Peter 2:15-16

Life’s choices are not always a question of something being a sin or not. It could be as simple as pausing to evaluate, will this decision best represent the God I say I serve? Am I loving well in this moment? Don’t compromise who you are. Don’t swing the pendulum so far off-balance that you fear every decision. There will always be critics out there who are just looking for a reason to find fault, and often they’re trying to defer attention off of something in their own life. Love and obey God, and love people – even the critic.

How far to the “right” are you willing to be?

~Shannan

“Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble.”  Romans 14:20

“There is no greater way to love than to give your life for your friends.”  John 15:13

How Can Dirty Socks Weigh So Much?

It was one of those places that you hoped and prayed no one would ever discover.

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It’s often while I’m speaking from a platform that God reveals a deeper understanding of something to me.  I define a platform as any given opportunity to speak openly.  This can be from a stage with a mic in hand, one on one over coffee, through TV interviews, or even this blog posted here on WordPress.  I’m convinced God allows me to have “AHA” moments in situations like these so I can’t argue with Him.  He has a sense of humor this way.  If I’m willing to give advice I have to be willing to live by it.  I am accountable for my words as well as my actions.  Please keep in mind that any “AHA” moment we have in life must line up with the word of God.

Talking things out with others is a great way to gain healthy perspective.  Of course, not everyone is a healthy connection.  We need to be wise where we seek out and offer counsel.  As careful as we must be, without counsel we’re already defeated.

Would you agree that we cannot know what is in a room until we turn the light on?  We can have an idea of it’s content if we take a quick peek from time to time, but if the room has been closed off for a long time, we really cannot know for sure what’s in it.  There’s just no way to know if the spiders have come in and spun their entrapping webs or if dust has spoiled what once was fresh and new.

Have you ever stood in a room that is desperate for a good cleaning?  As you stand there, suddenly the overwhelming feeling of “Where do I begin?” causes you to walk out and close the door behind you.  You think to yourself, “I can ignore it for just one more day!”  But then another day passes, and then another…  Rest assure, the day will come that you will have no other choice but to sort through all the stuff and clean it up.  One day that phone will ring with a surprise announcement that company will soon arrive, and you won’t want them to see your mess.

A friend of mine in my youth had a very large closet in the bathroom of her family home.  She and her family had lived in their house for about twelve years, and I think that closet contained twelve years worth of clothes.  It was one of those places that you hoped and prayed no one would ever discover.  A place where all the dirty socks were thrown because there wasn’t the desire, nor the time, to deal with them.  Only the dirty socks turned into years of everything that overwhelmed the mind.  Socks, jeans, shirts, and blankets got piled higher and higher until they consumed a huge amount of space.  The literal weight of it zapped the energy from your spirit as you stood staring into its abyss, so the door got closed and the darkness took over.  Though, that didn’t solve anything, another pile just began to form in another corner of the house.  It was an exhausting task twelve years later when the house suddenly sold.  My friend had little time to move, and those two piles had grown to many more.  They had to solicit the help of friends to sort through it all.

Most of us have a place, or places, like this inside our heart and mind.  We continue to shove our “stuff” aside in hopes that it will work itself out.  We’re either too exhausted to deal with it, we don’t want to face the pain of it, or we’re in absolute denial.  The question now is, can we accept our value enough to risk opening up our internal closet and solicit the help we need to clean it out and get healthy?  Like it or not, we were created to need each other.

“And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” – Gen. 2:18

All the self-help and power of positive-thinking books cannot replace intimate human relationships, and certainly not a heart-relationship with God.

After my friend moved from that house into their new home, the same pattern of hiding their piles continued.  Even though they did their best to hide all the stuff, eventually it overtook their new space and grew too big to mask.  They had simply picked up the weight and moved it three miles away.  This pattern of masking followed them wherever they went.

I must decided that I’m worth letting the light in.

Have you ever heard the analogy that you can often tell what’s going on emotionally inside somebody by the clutter in their car?  We all have times of letting things get a little out of hand for various reasons, but we must find the courage to ask ourselves why we hold so tightly to meaningless stuff – both physically and mentally?  If we know that something is smothering us, why do we cling to it?

 How Can Dirty Socks Weigh So Much?

To ignore what pains us does not remove the pain.  We may mask it for a time with physical things or closed doors, but unless it’s honestly acknowledged and worked through, it will grow and filter into every area of our daily living.  Those things will develop a loud voice that condemn and cripple us in one way – or another.  Every time we open the door to let the light in, it will scream at us all of the false realities we’ve fed it in the past in order to cope.  Then we’ll feel the weight of all those “dirty Socks” as they press on our chest and smother our next breath.  They will rob us of the beautiful life that awaits us beyond the pile, beyond the stuff, beyond the fear.  Here is where we must choose to fully open the door, or allow the darkness to continue to rob us by slamming it shut again.

I’ve come to discover that the more I allow God’s light to shine on my emotional pains, the less likely I will be afraid to turn the light on in my physical closet.  Things begin to have less value and people become treasured – despite the risk.  But, it is our choice whether or not we open up and let God’s light shine on the most sensitive areas of our hearts.  I pray we all can become vulnerable to being exposed.  Our lives are far too valuable to be kept hidden and secret.

“…you hoped and prayed no one would ever discover.”

At first, it’s hard to let the spotlight of truth shine on all the painful stuff we’ve worked so hard to conceal, but is it any less painful to close off those areas and let darkness thrive?  Is sorrow and fear kept at bay by isolating our wounded parts?  The honest answer is, it only magnifies our hurt.

“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” – 1 John 1:7

It’s time to wash our dirty socks!

What are the hidden closets of your heart?  Are you tired of carrying around heavy dirty socks?  The willingness to open up to the light today will only make tomorrow brighter.

~Shannan

“If you look for me wholeheartedly (Open up every area of your heart), you will find me.  I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes.” – Jer. 29:13-14a, (personal thought added)

 

Are You Ready To Leave Familiar?

He's Making All Things New

Picture the place where the seed was laid.  The place where the enemy of your soul told you that you are any less than a beautiful masterpiece with great purpose.  Now see that God has hold of that weed and is ready to uproot it.

Are you ready to let go of familiar?

The uprooting process will be painful for a moment, but what God wants to plant in its place is radiant.  The pain will be brief, like a surgical procedure, but beyond it is a life filled with laughter.

Meditate on the moment the lie was planted.

Acknowledge the pain and why your reaction was helpful to you as a child.  You did your best to get through that time and the coping mechanism helped you to survive.

But now that reaction has become destructive as an adult.  The walls you’ve built around your heart not only keep people from harming you further, but they also keep you from the blessings God so longs to give to you now.

Let God transform your mind as He has your heart.  Let Him love you.

Now let Him be the first to dance with you in your new season of absolute freedom as He hands you your heart’s desire.

Picture the place where the seed was laid.  Now picture it never taking root.

God Redeems!  He can make it better than it was before the painful season.

Are you ready to leave familiar?

~Shannan

Living Forward and Loving Deeper – 2013

Letting God

Can The Melon Atop Your Shoulders Contain Him?

Sometimes I look up to Abba with my hands grasping the sphere upon my shoulders, and with deep emotion I declare, “You… You… You… are so BIG!  You’re so deep, so wide, so high, so overwhelmingly (in the words of Elf) Ginormous!  I feel like my head is going to explode just trying to understand the first fundamentals of You.”

Melon Atop Your Shoulders

I’m grasping just a fraction of why no one can look upon God and live, (Ex. 33:17-23).  Just a fraction is all I need to understand that I would be mere dust once again to see His face.  He is so wonderfully magnificent.  His Majesty is too much for the human mind to comprehend, yet He made our hearts able to house Him.  Wow!

Only One so great could love me so wonderfully in all of my imperfections.

To say thank You is not enough, but I cannot stop giving thanks.

“Thank You for pursuing me, for forgiving me, for continuing to lead me to places where You can teach me.  Thank You for purely loving me for who I am today, yet You love me enough not to leave me in my present condition.  Draw me closer to You.  In seeking You I find the whole Shannan You’ve known since before my conception.”

I feel the more I learn the less I know, even so, may my mind be a sponge for God’s truth alone and my heart always be gripped with the wonder and awe of Him.

“Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, “Lead these people”, but you have not let me know whom You will send with me.  You have said, “I know you by name and you have found favor with Me.”  If You are pleased with me, teach me Your ways, so I may know You and continue to find favor with You.  Remember that this nation is Your people.”

“The Lord replied, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Then Moses said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.  How will anyone know that You are pleased with me and Your people unless You go with us?  What else will distinguish me and Your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

“And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” – Ex. 33:12-17

God, Most Holy, knows my name!  He knows your name!  Love sees me and I am enough.  I am whole in Christ, and He allows me to discover who I, Shannan, am with each step I take toward Him.  All the treasures of this world cannot afford such wealth.  Oh!  If we could only absorb the beauty of this truth…

No doubt that we will face storms along this life’s journey, but God’s love for us has not changed.  When brokenness rocks your world, trust Him.  He knows us.  He knows what we can and cannot handle and when.  Just as He cared for Moses, He too will protect us at every angle, “I will put you inside a crevice in the rock and cover you with My hand.” *

“God is too wise to be mistaken.  God is too good to be unkind.

So when you don’t understand, When you can’t see His plan,

When you can’t trace His hand, Trust His heart.”

I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” ~ God

Love not only sees me, Love lives in me!  Now tell me, can the melon atop your shoulders contain Him?

~Shannan

2013, The Adventurous Faith Journey Continues… He’s still writing my story!

Nightstand entry, 2:00 AM, June 17, 2013

*Ex. 33:22b

“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.  With unfailing love I have draw you to Myself.” – Jer. 31:3

I Want To Be Like Mary Magdalene

I want to be like Mary Magdalene, the Mary of Magdala after she met Jesus that is.

What a great story of redemption and courage.  Mary is another example of what can take place in a life when Jesus is allowed to step in and take over.  Our past does not have to dictate our future.

When we hear the name, Mary Magdalene, we will most likely think of a demonically possessed prostitute from the ghetto.  The Biblical recount of her story does confirm that she was controlled by seven demons, but I cannot find one verse that says she was a prostitute.  I also find nothing in scripture that tells me Mary was from a poor family.  The scriptures actually lead me to think otherwise, though a deeper historical study may prove me wrong.

“Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.” – Luke 8:1-3

The women that followed Jesus cared for Him and the disciples out of their own “substance” – their own property.  Whether it be actual monetary wealth, or the wealth of things, they had to already have had something in order to provide for them.

~ Physically wealthy yet emotionally poor ~

What we do know about Mary, is that the first half of her life she was controlled by seven demons.  It was when she met and accepted Jesus that she was set free from her tormentors.  She was freed from a life of shame and struggle.  She went from being an outcast to becoming one of Jesus’ disciples.  Mary never forgot what Jesus did for her.  Her life’s testimony from that time forward was filled with love for Him.

It’s ironic to me, not only did God chose a woman, this alone went against the culture in those days, but He chose a woman who had been possessed by demons to be the first one to see Jesus after He rose from the dead.  Can you imagine the thoughts that might have filtered through Mary’s mind as she made her way to the rest of those she now called her friends, and now grieved with?

Her first trip back was to tell them that she went to the grave and that it was empty.  Think about it for a moment.  This woman, who’s companions were once demons, had to go back to those who witnessed her in her moments before Jesus set her free.  They saw the evil that gripped her.  Mary was bound by the same familiar presence that just nailed Jesus to a cross and tortured Him three days earlier.

She must have wrestled with her thoughts.  “They’re going to think I’m crazy!”  “What if they think I’ve given up and allowed my past to come back and take me over again?”  “What if they think I am a phony and tricked them the way Judas tricked us all?”  “Oh but I must tell them, so they can find out what has happened to Him.”  “What else matters at this point?”

~ Now emotionally rich and full of courage ~

With her fist tightly gripping her clothing, pulling it up enough so she would not trip, Mary ran as fast as she could.  With each step gaining speed and her heart beating faster and faster, courage began to rise in Mary.  “What else matters now?  I must tell them!”, her mind resolved.  “I’ll go to Simon Peter and to John!”

Bursting through the doors, her clothes were tousled and dripping with sweat from her sprint, John and Peter looked through their own heartache to see this distraught woman trying to speak.  Mary grabbed just enough air to get the words out.  She finally squealed, “HE’S GONE!”  JESUS IS NOT THERE!”  “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”  Tears streamed down her cheeks as she collapsed at John’s feet.

~ Courage is worth it ~

They believed her!  Wasting no time, Peter and John bolted from where they were standing and ran as fast as they could to the tomb of their friend, Jesus.  Mary followed.  Once Peter and John arrived and witnessed that Jesus was truly gone, they turned and went back to their homes, but Mary stayed.

Mary stood weeping outside of the empty tomb.  She was trying to make sense of these last three days.  Every tear that poured from her eyes had too many questions to find words for.  She was exhausted in every way, but Mary found strength to look again into the hollowed out rock.  “Jesus, where are you?”  “This cannot be happening.”  “This makes no sense.”  Her mind was racing while she remembered her days spent with Him.  As her heart cried His name, “Jesus”, her eyes were opened to see.  Two angels in white were sitting in the tomb, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

~ He spoke ~

“Mary!”

Mary of Magdala Holds Onto Jesus

Mary, stayed in her place of pain long enough to see the truth and hear from heaven.  She saw the logical truth through her human eyes, but her heart knew there was more that her eyes could not see, so she stayed.  She stayed in the place where she last knew Jesus was until her answer came, until she knew her next step.

Through all of the emotions and all of the confusion, she heard His voice call her name, “Mary!”  “Teacher!”, she cried out with overwhelming joy as she clung to Him.  Jesus told her the truth of what was happening and gave her the instructions to go tell the others.

There’s so much to learn from this small glimpse into the life of Mary of Magdala.  Her journey led her from being spiritually ravaged to being made spiritually complete as she embraced the resurrected Jesus.  This brings a whole new level of hope to us all as God uncovers the dark areas of our own hearts.  If we will face our pain, ask the questions that plague our minds, and be willing to wait there for Truth to reveal Himself, we too can be completely free to run forward.  I’m sure she felt totally hopeless and alone, but Mary wasn’t left weeping at the tomb.  She was willing to wait there until the answers were revealed, and because of this she was able to set out on her next run, renewed with words of hope.  Her physical strength was restored by the words of Jesus, “go find my brothers and tell them..”  At this point I probably would have struggled to let Jesus out of my sight, but in faith, Mary leapt to her feet and ran as fast as she could to deliver the joyous news.  “HE’S ALIVE!”

Jesus is just as present and alive today as He was standing in the garden with Mary of Magdala, and He’s alive in our circumstance right now.  The question is, do we have the courage to wait in faith on Him?  If so, it is in this place where our eyes will be opened and our ears will hear Him call our name.  It is in this place where we’ll breathe in hope again and where our strength will be restored.  Our past will no longer dictate our future.  We will be more than able to run in strength and courage when He says, “Go and tell.”

Her life’s testimony from that time forward was filled with love for Him.  This is how I want to be like Mary Magdalene.

~Shannan

“Diamonds can be found in the trials of life.”

I can truly say, the night the most pain-filled storm sliced through my heart is also the night of my greatest treasure – God’s embrace!

“Love Remain’s”

The story of Mary of Magdala, John 20

When The Clouds Would Dance

Light Breaks Through

My eyes slowly opened from a night’s rest.  As usual I was the first to wake.  My dad, mom, and brother all would remain asleep for a few more hours yet.  I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, then slowly rolled out of my twisted mis-matched sheet.

My nights were almost always filled with much motion.  Once, while on a family vacation to Niagara Falls, I was the one chosen to sleep with mom and dad.  My brother got to sleep soundly on a hideaway bed next to the heater in our tiny little motel room.  If memory serves me correct, that was the last time mom was so willing to share a bed with me.  That night I managed to literally kick her to the miniature couch that was across the room against the window.  I woke up the next morning with my feet in my dad’s face.

As my feet hit the floor, they began to follow their usual pathway that led them through the kitchen and out the main door.  Just a few feet outside the door, my two-year old bottom plopped down on what mom called the front “stoop”.  It was sometime between 6:00-6:30 am when the show began.

For years I had forgotten about these special moments watching the sun break through the cumulus clouds.  Those quiet moments before the world got loud.  This was the time when God caused the clouds to dance.  I know that sounds crazy, but I promise you they danced.

As the morning dew dripped off of the sweet purple morning glories, the sun’s rays pierced through the giant cotton-like billows and lit them up.

I don’t quite know how to describe the unravelling scenes I witnessed on these mornings.  Sometimes it was like the clouds were on fire with bright glowing shades of orange, and other times it was more like the sun’s rays were about to wrap me in a warm hug.  Watching the bright beams stretched down from heaven to the earth, it looked like God poked holes in heaven’s walls and let some of His light escape.  I didn’t know what to call it back then, but now I identify it has God showering me with His mercy.

I remember hearing thunder one morning.  For a moment I was disappointed that my alone time would not happen.  The clouds rolled open as roars of clapping sounded in the distance, but it wasn’t a storm that was exposed as the sky unfolded.  That morning my eyes watched the sun’s beams bounce from cloud to cloud.  The clouds continued to spin and roll, seeming to grow larger as they did.  All kinds of different colors filled the morning sky behind the expanding puffs.  Just moments after this glimpse into heaven, a rainbow appeared!  It never touched the earth but each end found a resting place on neighboring clouds.  “Wow!”

Rainbow In The Sky

During these mornings I would breathe in clean crisp air and whisper questions for God.  I was convinced these were private moments just between the two of us.  I knew at a very early age that I could tell God anything, even my most secret thoughts.  Most of the day that followed our morning visits I would remain quiet.  I would ask questions like, “God, is this what heaven is like?”   “When do I get to come?”  I didn’t want to die, but I wanted to go live where this peace lived.  I never saw angels but I knew they were there.  I knew they were protecting me at that moment and would continue to do so when the rest of the world woke up.

Fast forward now to the present.  It was just a few months ago while I was out for a morning run that God reminded me of my early childhood mornings with Him.  I’ve been struggling more now than ever with feeling so alone.  With my husband now in heaven, my family nine hours away, and many of my friends finding their next step in life, life has grown quiet.  To be completely honest, I’m finding it really hard to breathe.  Right now, at this very moment, I am sitting at a Starbucks across town just to get out of my familiar.  I knew if I went home all I would do is wash my face, put on my comfy pants, and crawl into bed with my laptop to stare into a false sense of belonging in cyberspace.  It’s the Christmas season and I’m just not strong enough anymore.  I’m not strong enough to put on a happy face and drag myself to the Christmas concert that my church puts on every year.  It’s about to start any minute now.  I just cannot pay $10 to sit in a crowd alone.  I have so many friends that would be there to wrap their sweet arms around me, but it’s not the same as sharing life with your partner, your best friend.  I still force myself to do a lot, but I really do not like going out anymore because the pain of coming home alone is too heavy now.  Life’s just not fun.

STOP!

Let me ease your mind.  This is usually the place where people try to offer words to encourage (and I am extremely grateful!), give a Bible verse or a talk filled with Christianese, try to fix me, or they simply disappear because they don’t know what to say.  There’s nothing you can say.  There’s nothing I can say.  After all, it’s been almost seven years since my world was turned inside out, since the death of my husband as well as my career.  What can be said?  It is what it is until God decides to change it.  I’ve said and done everything I know to do.  Over the years I have listened, read, sought God, walked when He said walk.  I’ve tried all I know to do.  I’ve tried to do what others have wanted me to do.  I’m just too exhausted to keep running down rabbit trails just to appease time and people.  I am at the end of myself mentally, emotionally, and physically.  Completely depleted.  Maybe this is exactly where God wants me?  Even with feeling like my heart is being cut out with a knife of fire, I am still at peace.  No.  I’m not crazy.  It’s just a season where my feeler and my knower are not lining up.  I feel hopeless, but I know Who my trust is in, and He has never left me.  Even if my mind and emotions are spiraling downward, my heart is at rest.  This is the time I myself must take the advice I gave a young girl last year when she asked for just one word of direction.  My words to her were, “Follow God’s peace above anything else.  Even when that peace leads you against all man’s logic.  Do not step until you have God’s peace.”  Yep, it’s time to swallow my own pill of advice – against all man’s logic.

This all brings me back to my dancing clouds.  During that morning run where God reminded me of the twirling beauties, I asked Him why I had not seen them again for so long?  When did I lose my eyes for those colorful cotton candy like puffs?  I don’t have the full answer to these questions yet, but I’m gaining some understanding.  I think the age when one becomes blind to the masterpiece of God’s creation is different for everyone.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLT)

We all have had, or will have, trials, pains, letdowns, and people who abuse our heart, and we all will choose how we process what this life throws our way.  Some of us will run head first into it, and some will run away from it.  Some will hide under the covers paralyzed by it, and others will plunge themselves into work to keep their mind from thinking about it and their heart from feeling it.  All can be beneficial and all can be destructive.  But no doubt that the pain sears the heart and leaves scar tissue.  We lose sensation in those scarred areas until we make a conscious decision to let God heal the hurt.  Sometimes it’s a matter of us choosing to take back what others have stolen from us by living and letting God bless us.  But even when we’ve come to the place where we’re ready to move forward, it’s still all subject to God’s timing, or it should be anyway.

I long for a best friend that will love me despite my faults, and that I can specially love in return, even when their beans have found their way under the covers at night.  Oh come on now!  That way funny!  See, I want realistic, but I want only God’s plan for me – so I wait.  I don’t know how long this season will last, but I’m taking this opportunity to get real, face my pain, and allow myself to hope even when hope hurts.

“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” Lam. 3:25

Maybe this season is for nothing more than me to stop and sit on the “stoop” and allow God to make the clouds dance like only He can.  You see?  He never stopped.  Creation still claps in worship and the clouds still twirl in delight of His presence.  Just because pain caused my vision to dim and fear of further heartache screams loudly in my ears, does not mean that God quit wooing me.  The fact that I allowed my focus to shift from faith to fear does not mean that God is not fully aware of me.  He knows every joy and pain I’ve felt.  He knows every right and wrong done to me.  He was with me at the age of two sitting on the front steps, and He has been with me every moment of every day, in every breath, since then.

I feel like a little girl anxiously waiting for her daddy to remover His hands from her eyes to reveal what He’s been preparing.  With this thought I smile.

I don’t have to chase after the dancing clouds, they’re already here.  I just have to trust enough to look up to see them.

~Shannan

Uncompromisingly Walking With Him In 2012!

The presence of pain is not the absence of peace.

You can help me during this time of waiting.  You can pray for God’s very best for me.  You can ask Him to keep my heart protected in His care.  Pray that my eyes will see all that He has for me, and that I will have the wisdom, strength, and courage to walk when it’s time.

Angels Unaware

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