“When They Began”

I woke up this morning and felt doubt trying to steal my hope, so I began to pray before my feet ever touched the floor.

     Dear Abba… You’ve promised that if your people delight in You, then You will give us what our hearts long for.*  I am at rest knowing that You are good and You cannot lie.  I believe You!  In my weariness, please help my areas of unbelief.

Morning Praise 2

Am I the only one who struggles with doubt?  Oh, my faith is strong for others and my vision for you is great, so why do I wrestle with belief for my own heart’s desires to be fulfilled?  Could it be because I know my faults and the areas of struggle that I’ve yet to surrender?  Is it that I’m bracing myself for another “No” from God, because of the heartache I’ve known in my past?  I don’t see others as having to be perfect to receive their request from God.  If perfection was a requirement we would all be buried under the weight of despair.

I believe a huge part of my struggle is that I often fail to recognize that God is leading my every step.  Society has conditioned us to only acknowledge the giant leaps.  Rarely is anything seen as valuable unless it has a parade of accolades trailing behind it, so in the mindset of this world it doesn’t look like I’m stepping at all, but if I am pressing into God I am in motion.  Paul and Silas, even while in chains, trusted God and sang praises to Him.  With every breath of praise, they were stepping in faith.*  

What seems desolate today may lead to greater victories tomorrow.  It was after Paul and Silas began to sing praises to God that their chains fell off, along with the chains of all the other prisoners.  Our praise is not only for our own gain.  Paul and Silas not only celebrated a personal miracle but they got to rejoice with many others as they too were freed from both physical and spiritual chains.

God?  That’s really crazy!

God told Jehoshaphat to send the worshipers ahead of the troops into battle.  God gave a promise that He would fight the battle for them.  “You will not need to fight in this battle.  Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!  Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you…  Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets and you shall prosper.” (2 Chor. 20:17 & 20b).

Sing Praise

“When they began to sing and to praise”

Jehoshaphat was obedient to God’s crazy request, so God caused his enemies to fight against each other.  God’s love is true and pure.  His love is unchanging.  His love is the same for all of us, so if you believe that God will restore the lives of those you pray for, then you must believe for yourself also.  If I believe for you but fail to trust when I pray for my own needs, then I have become prideful.  Ultimately, my lack of faith is stating that Jesus is enough for you but He is not enough for me.  Ouch!  To think I can be so arrogant, that’s a really painful thought.

Jesus paid a debt He did not owe and I owe a debt I could never pay.  I can’t, but Jesus did!  When I gave my life to Christ, He covered me with His perfection, and I too can take my request to God and ask believing – even when I’m still struggling with my faith.  Wrestling with faith shows the presence of faith.

“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24

Having emotions is not wrong, it’s what we do with them that matters.  This morning as I felt hope draining from my heart, I called to the One where hope begins.  In faith I called to God as I surrendered my unbelief.

“ALL the promises of God are “YES”!*  So take a deep breath, rest in Him, believe for yourself like you believe for others, and say “AMEN!” – 2 Cor. 1:20

In the words of a wise friend of mine, “It’s an honest request that God delights to honor; and when we see our faith increase, we know to give the glory back to God.”, (Kimberly Wyse).  The more I recall what God has done, the more I find rest in knowing that He will continue to amaze me.  God is good!

What chains have you bound?  Are you physically shackled?  What emotional weights keep you hidden in fear rather than functioning in faith?  Are you burdened by people’s false accusations?  Or, are you struggling with forgiving yourself for wrongs you’ve committed?  Whatever it may be that taunts your mind today, take the thoughts captive and give God praise.  He’s still writing your story.

~Shannan

2013, Growing Forward In Love!

* Scripture references, Psalm 33:18, Psalm 37:4, Acts 16:25-34, 2 Cor. 1:20

Apparently I’m The Bubble Girl….!!

I backed my car into my garage and watched the door slowly close to shelter me from the elements of the world. I shut the engine off and melted into a puddle of tears. I had just come from visiting with a friend who has been so vindictively beaten down by another person. They’ve suffered so much needless pain that they hit an emotional wall and are unable to trust any longer. I am witnessing this wall in many people. I have hope for the friend I was with tonight, but my heart deeply aches for those who can’t acknowledge that there’s even a wall there. Without facing our pain(s) head on and coming to the place to courageously plow through them, hope is dismal.

How do you break free from this fear when it’s been so burned in by an outside source with such cunning skill?  Fixing my own faults is doable, but the actions of another person are out of my control.

As I think about my friend, I am suddenly aware of my own wounded heart. Despite my great effort to keep fear at bay, it continues to whisper it’s lies. Day in and day out, this conniving spirit craftily devises ways to cause my mind to doubt – my self-worth – my abilities – wondering if I will ever be enough.

Tonight my hope is attacked.

With Warren’s death being so tragic and sudden, on occasion I will stop in to talk with a counselor to make sure I am progressing forward in a healthy way.  Even without a tragic life event, I believe it’s good to check ourselves and have others give feedback from their point of view.  Too often we live inside our own mind where the enemy whispers lies.  It is essential to talk out life’s stuff with a trusted other in order to not buy into the deception he plants.

The last talk we had was over the fact that my heart was hurting.  I was frustrated over a sudden end to what I thought was a hope-filled relationship.  One day everything seemed good and peaceful and the next day I ran face first into a brick wall.  The wall was not one I built but one built by the other person.

I was not trying to seek out what was “wrong” with the other person, but sincerely wanted to know if I was wrong in my thinking. After all, I am new to this whole dating world.  I wanted to know if I was expecting too much with the amount of time that had been invested in the relationship.  I had listened to what my girlfriends were saying, and I had asked a few of my guy friends their opinions, but I wanted to hear from a dad’s perspective.  I knew the person I was talking with would be honest with me and not hold back whatever truth pill I needed to swallow.  The pill was much larger and harder to swallow than I anticipated.

He said, “Sadly, life has made you grow up, Shannan.  Society does not make people grow up today, but life has made you grow up far beyond your years.”  I was humbled and took this as a huge compliment, but I was frustrated at the same time by what it implied. I can change me, but I cannot fix another person. I can walk with someone, but only if that person chooses to walk.  I felt that it was a reality check of the world we live in. It’s a world filled with wounded people stricken with fear, or they just simply don’t want to “grow up.”  Just look around and you will see a sea of hurting souls.  Some of the wounds are self-inflicted, but many are brought on by others.  The pain caused by others sends us into a vicious cycle of self-destructive patterns.  It’s hard not to be fearful when so much pain is caused in ways out of our control.  Many of us must fight a mentality that we are owed something.  We pick up the mindset of, I’ve been through this, so I’m entitled to have a little fun, max-out the credit card, eat the entire tub of extreme chocolate double fudge brownie ice cream, etc…  One that I’ve witnessed and am also guilty of is when we throw ourselves into busyness to avoid feeling anything.  This avoidance is extremely self-destructive, and one way or another, we will eventually have to face the hurt we run from.  If we don’t deal with it, we will find ourselves hurting deeper, bitterness will grow, and then we will inflict undeserved pain on innocent others.  It’s Newton’s law lived out in our emotions.  “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Another illustration that was given, again taken as a huge compliment, was that of “The Good Bubble.”  My counselor held up his hands to one side as he formed in the air the shape of a large bubble.  He held his pose as if holding a giant balloon while stating, “You are in the good bubble. You are what is wanted, but the other person is not ready to give up their other life yet.  So, they say and do just enough to keep you around without committing.”  He motioned with his hands to his other side and continued his talk, “Over here we have the life they live.  This is who they are, but they will run back to check on “The Good Bubble” to make sure it’s still there hanging on.  Unfortunately, many never choose to let go of this other life.”  After his vivid explanation he posed a strong question with this statement, “You just have to decide how long you will continue to dance.”

There are many ideas as to what “the other life” could be: sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, or simple child-likeness – unable to accept the reality of time and age.  I’m not going to try to figure this other life out.  The fact is, it exist and I’m no longer dancing.  However, if I am “The Good Bubble,” then I can tell you what that life is to me.

I love God.  I want to live my life to please Him.  I want others to see Jesus before they see me.  I do not want to fall for what the world says I am to be, but I long for God to guide my footsteps.  I want to be the best friend I can be, the best daughter I can be, the best wife I can be.  I want to be a woman pleasing to God.  With all these things “I want,” I’m also extremely aware that I have a long way to go in my growth process, but I want to grow!  I’ve found that when I stop fighting the growing-up process I have more fun and more freedom than when I try digging my claws into the past to fight for something that’s long been dead.  I cannot get back what was stolen or what I’ve given up, but I can choose to live and not allow the spirit of fear to steal from me the potential blessing God has for me today.  God restored to Job a double portion of what was taken from him – when he chose forgiveness and trust over fear and self-sabotage.

It’s scary to keep hoping against what seems absolutely hopeless, but we were created to have relationships.

God said, “It is not good for man to be alone,” and God Himself walked with man in the garden. – (Genesis 2:18, 3:8)

I have prayed that God will protect me from all the counterfeits the enemy tries to throw my way to distract me.  As frustrated as I get because of feeling stuck, I believe He is sheltering me and I am thankful.  I’ve stepped out and have tested many different things, but I’ve yet to know exactly where God is leading me.  Despite hearing “No” time and time again, I cannot give up.  If I surrender to the spirit of fear, hope is lost.  Fear is a spirit, not an emotion; so if I let fear be my roadblock, then I am allowing the enemy to steal what God wants to give me.  I guess it all comes down to the decision of what I believe about God or not.

What’s the remedy to this bubble in which I dwell?  The only answer I have is to hold onto it with all God’s strength, because I am not giving up my “Good Bubble.”  My bubble has a whole lot of room to grow, but it is not an option for a trade in.  I don’t want whatever that “other life” is if it can’t fit in God’s bubble.

As I sat in my puddle of tears in the garage that night God asked me a very pointed question.  “Would you give up your relationship with Me to not be lonely here in this life’s journey?”  Without hesitation I replied, “NO!”  “God, NO!”  “Please don’t ever let me fall.”   The thought of losing this closeness with Him I’ve come to know and understand made me sick inside.  The “Good Bubble” only exists because He is good in me.  There was something that broke inside of me that night.  It was like I was bound up with chains and they fell off when I answered His question.  I don’t believe God was telling me that He was going to keep me alone the rest of my life, but I believe I needed to hear my response.  I’ve said many times that nothing is worth trading my relationship with God for, but to say it with feeling and absolute knowing from the very core of my being had yet to happen – until now.  I’m certainly a work in progress, but thankfully there is progress.

Hope wins the battle!

By the way, I don’t believe God and I are in a bubble, I believe it’s the other way around.  It’s the world that is bubbled in. God’s too big to contain.  God can drive a wedge in Newton’s Law.  I do not have to believe the lies of our society and I do not have to hurt others when I am hurting.  If I trust God, fear cannot win.

If I am “The Bubble Girl”, my bubble is blessed 🙂  Which bubble are you living in?

~Shannan

2011, Keeping It Real!

“Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today..” ~ Ex. 14:13a

There Is Always Hope With God!