Do you ever feel as though you are coming completely undone? Has there been anything that occurred to make you feel like that while you were wholly committed to our Lord Jesus? I’ll give pause to that, lol, what has happened lately while you are belonging to our God?
Music always speaks to me… I was listening to a song this morning that has a phrase “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God”. And I felt moved by the Spirit. And then the next feeling was, while worshiping, I should clean off my kitchen table. I’m not being flip here, but serious. You see, about 2 months ago I brought my sewing machine out of it’s closet hiding spot and placed it and all other related sewing goods on the kitchen table. That is where they have stayed for the past few months. Jammed off to the side, crowding up the area for any guests to eat, although, who is having guests these days?? Probably why I have been so slack in cleaning it off.
As I went to begin putting the items away, I was thwarted by my measuring tape… it was rudely bunched up, instead of cleanly rolled and because of this, the container that housed all the smaller items would not close. So, of course, I tried to quickly roll it up and shove it in the container. No luck. Then I had to take the time to completely undo the mess and then re-roll it properly. That’s when it hit me. Isn’t that what happens to us?
We come to Jesus all rolled (each person in their own different ways) completely improperly. We can not fit into the “Kingdom’s container”. And our Lord cares far too much for us than to haphazardly “shove” us in… he wants us unrolled… stripped down… made new… renewed in Him. Re-rolled.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. Now everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us.” (2 Cor 5:17-19)
Then the process can begin.
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ's behalf, "Be reconciled to God." He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor 5:20-21)
Calling others to be “undone” and “re-rolled”. Not for our sake… but for His.
Shaken. It’s what I do whenever I have any type of iced beverage in my hand. Maybe I’m the only one, but it is a habit I developed decades ago. Then I perfected it while working 10-hour days on my feet with the only thing getting me through was how many iced lattes I was able to consume. It is such a mindless activity I usually don’t realize when I’m doing it.
Psalm 55:22 popped up on my phone today, and as I read it, holding my “Pause” reusable cup I received at a women’s retreat (shout-out Bonclarken!), I realized that I was doing just that – shaking my coke with ice. It was making this clinky sound, well duh. It’s ice. But my point is, I thought about things being “shaken” and the “pause” that it takes sometimes to realize it is happening.
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will support you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” (Ps. 55:22)
Sometimes it takes the type of “pause” that is encouraged repeatedly in the whole of Psalm 55 to consider the weight of the meaning. (It’s in a lot of other Psalms too.) But the word is “Selah”. It is of Hebrew origin and interpretations vary from “pause and think” to “forever” as in declaration, praise, or promise. That being said, I had a pastor years ago explain it with this simple phrase- “meditate on it”. He used to say it with this super funny inflection, and now whenever I see the word, I hear his voice in my head, funnily saying, “meditate on it”!
There is a great song, the kind that will bring you to tears, that Brian Johnson sings called “We Will Not be Shaken”. I love it, especially singing it in worship at church, collectively with my brothers and sisters.
However, today it hit me (only when I paused!) that I may have misconstrued the song… in reference to the verse that it embodies. You see, I was focused on the being shaken part. Like it was a call for me to not allow myself to be “shaken”. Because the Lord is in my corner. But when you read it in context, the action I am responsible for is to cast my burden on the Lord. Like a metaphorical coat that I take off of myself and hang on the arms of my God. This requires me not only “shedding” myself, but coming to God, arms outstretched saying, “thank you for taking this and now I don’t have to wear it anymore.”
The following opposite insinuation must be, that if I don’t take off my burden and give it to God, I in turn, will probably be shaken. Or at least sweaty for wearing a coat when I shouldn’t.
The other thing that struck me about my silly little moment in my kitchen this morning, was that if I don’t pay attention, or Selah, and think about the present moment and what it means, I might not even notice the clinky sound I am making. What a thought – here I go in life talking about bringing glory to the Lord, all while clinking and clanging like a vehicle about to break down. What a joke that projects. Not to say that if you are doing things right that you would be immune to struggle. That’s just not biblical. Instead though, when we have cares, struggles, hardships, or even distractions, we are to present them to God. Like a heavy coat, that you don’t want to wear for a single minute more. You are inside (as in- His family!).
God gives a promise; He will never let the righteous be shaken. But that requires us to have the “right relationship with him” which includes casting our burdens and letting Him be our strength.
So, a few weeks back, my cat died. He was a great cat, but also sometimes a jerk. There was a whole span of time that he would wake me up at 5AM, demanding to be fed. He did this by repeatedly smacking my face with his paw- no claws, just paw, but still (Secret Life of Pets 2, LOL). I am NOT a morning person.
But today, we are considering adopting again. I miss the companionship. And yes, I will probably talk out loud to the new cat. Or cats… my husband wants two. Anyway, the idea of adoption is something that I have contemplated recently. Everybody wants the cute ones. But what about the not so cute ones? Past their prime, have a disease, gone through several foster homes… those guys. The misfits and the ones looked over. But changing pace here, isn’t that who Jesus picked? The regular Joes, the angry hotheads, the too young to know better, and even the one who would betray him?
“He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He had no form or splendor that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like one people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn't value Him.”
This verse isn’t to make us feel poopy for being so mean to Jesus- it is to say that if we are His followers, we probably won’t be to awesome looking ourselves. Or to at least suggest that surface is just that, and as we come to know Christ more intimately, we will examine ourselves more closely and see all our stains. (Ps 139)
Today in our bible study the author was going over Gomer from Hosea, the beautiful story of redemption and repurchasing of the Lord and His people. (See, well, the book of Hosea)
You see, God know us. And knows we will break his heart over and over again. But yet he chose us. And just as the verse in Isaiah isn’t to make us feel bad about how we treat Him, the reality is in the choosing of each of us. How valued we are in the sight of God. How wanted we are by him. How included we are in his family. How he wants us to truly know Him. But before you get up in arms, no. This is not an excuse to be flip with God’s grace. We are to humbly come to him knowing our sin as he shows it, and repent.
And the takeaway is not how dirty we are, but a call to return to our first love.
“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
So, consider- family. Restored by the grace of God. Welcomed by his great love. As we should restore and give grace to others. Stained, but he sees through it. Loves with it and gives opportunity for improvement. What are we going to do with that kind of love? Waste it? Or show that we appreciate it by our actions and attitudes? I may have strayed, but he loves me just as much now as in the Beginning. And that is an adoption worth thinking on.
Last night I had a dream that included a soundtrack. Don’t judge. They say Covid has made people have bizarre dreams, and for someone who was always a vivid dreamer, it has only intensified. The song that stood out the most was Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady”, which, of course, only made me think of one thing. Mrs. Doubtfire.
I’m going somewhere with this, I promise. In this movie, Mrs. Doubtfire is a nanny to three children, which actually are his own. Yes, Mrs. Doubtfire is Robin Williams in disguise as a squishy old lady. The character is making a desperate fatherly attempt to be present in his children’s lives after being less then “fatherly” and “present” for all the time before that. And this got me thinking about our Heavenly Father. He never comes to us in disguise. His love for us is real and constant. It never falters, never is questionable, and never diminishes when we don’t live up to expectation.
And the reality of expectation is a serious one. Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) Seriously? Perfect? That’s a tall order. But I don’t think it is actually one he meant to scare us with. Funny, as I contemplate this, Jesus was perfect. But he didn’t command us to be perfect like him, but yet be perfect as our heavenly Father. Why would he do that, say it that way? I think, total opinion here, that maybe it was because the reality of being perfect is daunting. Maybe the reality of a perfect human is extreme. And maybe the reality is that perfection is only found in and through God.
For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy. And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For he says, “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the LORD : I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.”
With that said, on this rainy day, I am going to go watch Mrs. Doubtfire with my children. Hopefully it is as funny as I remember from my childhood. But more importantly, I am going to pause on the covenant my Lord gave me. One of inclusion, one where I respect his authority and his commands. And one where through the blood of Jesus, he forgives and forgets my imperfections, and takes notice of my heart striving to please Him.
When I first started going to my church, I was astonished to find that not only did the minister pray, and they had an official prayer team available, but that they actually had about a 10-15 minute time set aside smack in the middle of the service where they expected all of us to get together in groups and pray. I don’t mean generic prayer either. I’m talking about getting together in groups of 5 or 6 and sharing what is on your heart. Struggles, praises, pain, whatever. I hated it. It was not comfortable. Who were these people who wanted to be all up in my business? Why did they need to know my struggles? Typical church gossip would probably follow.
So, when that time came, I would suddenly need to go to the bathroom, or perhaps I realized I forgot something in my car, or I had a work phone call that was urgent. Anything to get me out of there. However, the rest of the church experience was wonderful, and this soon became our church home. So, my habit of “stepping out” continued.
“Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord.”
Well fine, I thought, if it is in the bible, I suppose I should do it. This was about 11 years ago. Since then, I grew to realize that not only had I been cheating myself out of support by not being involved, but I was also disobeying my savior and cheating others from an honest relationship with me. I have, for the past few years, not only looked forward to sharing and praying, but I had come to depend on it. My family in Christ knew what was going on in my life, and they, in turn would lift me up throughout the week. They even rejoiced with me when God would redeem situations. The good, the bad, and yes, even the ugly. But isn’t that what a unified body does? We feel when other parts hurt?
1 Cor. 12:18-20
“But now God has placed the parts, each one of them, in the body just as He wanted. And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? Now there are many parts, yet one body.”
And previously it states in these verses as a reminder – There is One Spirit. A unified Spirit of God.
“Carry one another's burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
I can’t carry something that you don’t bring forward. And likewise, I can’t get any assistance with something that I don’t admit exists. This is huge… and it is not pretty. In fact, sometimes it is downright messy. Yet it is what God requires we do as part of the body… His body. Honest? I don’t know that I have any stance to argue that.
So yes, I will share my ugly, and yes, you will share yours. And praise God, we are being molded and shaped, and all the better glorifiers of Him for it!
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful.”
I have a great friend who is my go-to for sharing my “mom fails”. She has a special way of making me feel like I am not the only one who has gone through those particular trials. I shared one such thing this morning- my daughter had secretly cut her own hair. She is six. Ahem… anyways, later after I spoke with my friend I began to think. Who do I share my Christian fails with?
We are all flawed. Saved by the grace of God (Eph. 2:8) – and thank God he continues to give that grace new every morning! (Lam. 3:22-23)
Eph. 2:10 says, “For we are His creation-created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”
But what do we do when we don’t “walk” in them? Well for starters, turn to the Holy Spirit and ask to be shown those things. (Ps 139:24) Otherwise we may be “righteous in our own eyes” and miss it! If repentance is the tune I continue to whistle, then I am more likely to see my own areas that the Spirit wants to work on. If repentance is the tune I play from a boom box (yes I am child of the 90s!), all I am doing is being a noisy gong. I would be habitually pointing out the splinter in another’s eye instead of dealing with the plank in my own.(Matt. 7:3-5) And FYI – those verses are directed to believers. It is not our job to go around to someone who does not share our faith and point out what they are doing wrong. We are to share the message of Christ – Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!(Matt. 4:17) Not the same as, “look at what you are doing wrong… you suck… you’re going to hell”.
Lam. 3:40 says, “Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord.”
One way to “examine” is by sharing the failings with a fellow believer. I don’t mean shout it from your church rooftop... “I have been lustful”, “I am struggling with anger”, “I have an addiction”, or I have unforgiveness toward a family member”, etc. But more of an accountability situation with a trusted person who you can go to in your struggles, and they will point you toward your Lord. Reminding you of who He says you are, and His promises for you. We are built for community because only in community (in truthful community, not the rainbows and unicorn kind… we are too “blessed to be stressed”) do we find the unifying grace of being the bride of Christ.
I was a makeup artist for several years. I never met a bride who got ready entirely on their own. I got married at the beach with two witnesses, and still I had others who helped me.
Matthew 7:21-23 says, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord!' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but [only] the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?' Then I will announce to them, 'I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers! '”
The reality is in the relationship, not the renovated outward appearance. Honesty really is the best policy. Besides, God sees the heart and your intentions anyway. Why not just move on that? If you are not in a safe space to do it in your Christian community, then pray to our Lord where he wants you to go. Our God never wants us to sit in shame and fear. We are to be real. Anything else is like having plastic surgery when you have an infection of Gangrene. Superficial, not sanctifying.
Sometimes, when you are right next to something it seems bigger than it is.
I was in my kitchen, looking out the window at my children playing outside when it happened. Now let me preface with the fact that I don’t like bugs. That said, there are only a few of them that completely freak me out. Cockroaches… ‘cause eeeew! If my child catches something and sticks it in my face… I don’t care if it is a rolly-polly, you just surprised me with it in my face. Or spiders… size doesn’t matter, I just don’t like them. I have heard over time that there is a type that jumps - this is what I experienced today. Out of the corner of my eye, right next to my face, I saw this GIANT SPIDER move. Yes, I squealed. But I have gotten better over the years (mom-strength) and I regained composure and went to kill it. Then it jumped. At me! Paralyzing fear ensued and I began screaming and yelling for my husband. More like shrieking for him. He is my hero, and he saved me from the GIANT SPIDER. Which, as it turns out, wasn’t actually any bigger than my pinky nail.
All I’m saying is, perspective matters. Fear causes things to be much bigger than they actually are. There is an old Veggie Tales song called “God is bigger than the boogie man”, and I think we should all heed its message.
Deuteronomy 31:3a, 6, and 8 (HCSV)
”The Lord your God is the One who will cross ahead of you.” “Be strong and courageous; don't be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you." “The Lord is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged."
Now these verses were all in reference to the Israelites losing Moses, and the change over to leadership of Joshua and their ongoing journey. However, God’s promise is just as true for us as it was for them. This was during the enormously miraculous time of Him taking them out of Egypt and going before them in the form of a cloud by day and fire by night. The fire wasn’t to freak them out, it was to light their way.
"I, the Lord, have called you for a righteous [purpose], and I will hold you by your hand. I will keep you, and I make you a covenant for the people [and] a light to the nations, in order to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, [and] those sitting in darkness from the prison house. I am Yahweh, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, or My praise to idols. The past events have indeed happened. Now I declare new events; I announce them to you before they occur." Sing a new song to the Lord; [sing] His praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea with all that fills it, you islands with your inhabitants.
I heard once from a speaker that it is sometimes helpful to replace the references with your own name to understand the gravity of the promise.
“I, the Lord, has called Niki for a righteous purpose, and I will hold Niki by her hand, and I will keep Niki…” and so on. Means more to me when I grasp the fact that God is holding me, walking with me. I also love that we are to sing. Isaiah 43:21 says this, “The people I formed for Myself will declare My praise.” God is expressing his redemption, and the thing he asks us to do is praise him. Sing.
This strikes me as our family is going through a time of hardship. We are right up in it, and it looks pretty big. GIANT even. But perhaps I should put more faith in God’s perspective, let him hold my hand through the difficulties, and sing a song to my Lord. Soon, I know it will turn from praise for who he is in spite of my circumstances, to a mighty song of praise for what he did throughout my circumstance.
“Ouch!” I was making the bed and stubbed my toe on the corner of the frame. Now those of you who know me well, are not at all surprised. I think I may be the clumsiest person who ever walked this planet. I have broken 2 fingers, one arm, and too many toes to count. In fact, we’ve come up with a phrase in my family, naming the third toe down. We call it the “Niki toe” because it seems that it is the one that always takes the brunt of abuse and gets broken most often. So now, whenever someone, whether be my husband or mother, bumps into something, they simply say they hit their “Niki toe”, and we all know what they are talking about.
So, if I am this clumsy in my physical life, have I expressed the same characteristics in my spiritual life? Do I bump around, get bruises, and keep moving forward praying not to do it again? I certainly have not been as purposeful as I should be. I definitely haven’t been prepared and looking out for “sharp corners”. But the bible says those things are real.
1 Peter 5:8 (CSB) “Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.”
The devil is actually prowling, looking for a way to trip us up. The NIV says it this way in Ephesians 4:27, “do not give the devil a foothold.”
Both of those verses are referring to two different circumstances, but the one in 1 Peter is in context of telling us to humble ourselves before the Lord. The complete passage discusses that God cares for us, and we should put our concerns on him. It lets us know others go through similar difficulties, and we should take heart because God will restore us. He is ultimately in control. (1 Pet. 5:6-11)
And let me just mention, for me – humbling doesn’t just mean saying “you’re God and I’m not”. There is a much bigger statement that I am having to come to terms with (don’t know why it took me so long to realize the significance!), as in Deuteronomy 6. The chapter discusses Fear of God, but also the fact of remembering him in times of prosperity. He is the one who gave the good things. He is the one who rescued and placed. He is the one who sustains and provides. But it’s the fear thing that I missed.
(Deut. 6:24-25) “And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes and to fear the LORD our God, that we may always be prosperous and preserved, as we are to this day. And if we are careful to observe every one of these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us, then that will be our righteousness.”
Our righteousness is in the recognition. Do I seriously recognize and respect the fact that I am coming before the Creator of all? Everybody has a dad. And no matter the rate of performance, most of us have daddy issues. But we have a perfect and good Heavenly Father that has adopted us as part of his family. Not a step-dad situation, but fully connected and beneficiaries of all inheritance that is the Kingdom of God.
Rom. 8:15-16 (NIV) "The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children."
As someone who was adopted, I totally get what this verse is telling me. Its about acceptance, inclusion, and confirmation of position. The reality is that we are only accepted through Christ, yes, but just as a step-kid can rebel (or really any kid for that matter – scary!) and be a pebble in the shoe of the newly acknowledged parent, that is not the case with God. The fear of the Lord is what is the way to having the “right relationship” or righteousness. We need to recognize who it is that adopted us.
So, let’s get humble and get the relationship right.
what is "spark"?
Its a small thing - like the flash on a spark plug that hopefully ignites something bigger to propel you forward.
Niki is a wife and mother of 2 children. She lives in Charlotte, NC where she enjoys everyday moments that ignite her relationship with our Lord and Savior.