The Cruelty of Death

I believe it was the book of Ecclesiastes that really sums up human life in a very impersonal but truthful way.  Basically, the human condition is rather dismal; we are like fish caught in a cruel net.

Do you see My step-dad Michael? He is in that brown clay pot on that unnamed (2)table with the white cloth on it.  He is no longer the man who married my mom when I was four years old, no longer the one who would make funny monkey faces at me and no longer is the man who built me a clubhouse from scratch.  His physical life has now been stuffed into that clay pot.

unnamed (3)                                                     He was such a handsome young man.  He was adopted and did not know his birth parents.  His life was scarred with manic depression, prescription meds, back pain, and emotional outbursts.  But that was not all he was.  Michael was my step dad.  He was the first one to tell me about Jesus, and I listened, even though I struggled because of his imperfections.  He was kind-hearted and had a joyful innocence when the mental illness was at bay.  He was excited to give and excited to make you feel loved.  I have cried many tears for Michael and look forward to our reunion in heaven; mostly to tell him how much I love him and how sorry I am for not making more time for him in the few years before he died. I have a beautiful ring he had made for me in 2010 when I graduated college.  After he died, that ring became the most important thing I own.

Ecclesiastes also reminds us to feel the sun upon our faces and enjoy it.  To work with our hands for however long or short God has allowed us to live.  Other parts of the Bible remind us to study what love truly is (1st Corinthians Chapter 13) and to live it.  We also must forgive.

So as this human condition is wasting away quickly, we are called to embrace each day in gratitude.  Today my back pain rages, but I can still taste my morning cup of coffee, I can still feel the sun on my face, and I can tell my child that I love him.

My humanity is fading.  My human experience will one day soon be a memory to those I leave behind, but my spirit will experience new life and the Bible says it will receive a new glorified body that is eternal. No more back pain. No more emotional scars because of divorce and no more foul and wicked reports on the nightly news.

The most important lesson I take from all of this is L-O-V-E.  I want love to always come out of my mouth. I want to saturate evil with love, offense with forgiveness.  I want my hands and feet to be quick to rush into love. I want to look deep within myself and let go…. let go of any selfish ambition and insecure motives left within me.

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That will put the meaning in my otherwise meaningless days. Love will allow my works on earth to echo into eternity.

 

 

 

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Flip the Script

Sometimes my life feels like a scene from a movie.  Right now I would say that I am on the edge of something great.  But this is a literal edge, and something evil is pursuing me.  I must jump off the edge and believe flight is possible in order to get to a place that I was destined to be.  I cannot stay lazy in this moment.  I cannot stay selfish, or lose precious time sitting on the sidelines doubting.

This destiny has been spoken over me but I have to put in the hard work to make it a reality, if that makes any sense. My first daily task is to believe.  I must believe that I can accomplish greatness as I allow Christ to work through me.  I must believe that he wants to use my talents to bless others.  My belief has been sideswiped by doubt many times, the doubt that says I cannot make a huge attack on the gates of hell.  These gates are strong and the gatekeepers come against me relentlessly. They attack my health, my finances, my marriage, and the worst attacks are the ones on my mind.

But I know how powerful Jesus truly is despite my failure and weakness.  He has told me he would do this great work through me.  I have his promise so I continue to get back up through the assaults. He has shown me clearly that all the powers of hell cannot overtake me.  They are like having a nightmare…they can only scare you for a moment, but they can go no further.

God is in the business of glorifying himself.  He allowed his servant Joseph to be mocked and taken into slavery only to later be risen to royalty because God was on his side.  So many times in scripture when people exalted themselves against others, it was those “others” that God rose up.  God likes to flip the script.  

When you struggle, and hell is coming against you, and you decide to stand and not cower, walk forward and not waiver, believe and not doubt, you should be prepared because God is up to something.

*The future will be revealed to the humble and not the proud*

When We’re Wounded

A long time ago I had a friend that wounded me constantly. Not major wounds, but little verbal jabs here and there coming from his bank of insecurities. I continued to be in his life because I knew of some existing problems and I wanted to extend compassion.  I felt convicted to BE a change agent in this person’s life; that would certainly require me to lay down my rights and take some hits.

There came a time however, where I was flesh-weary.  I had gotten to the point where I was ready to write him off. I prayed in my bathroom full of anger one morning, “Lord, I cannot stand him and I never want to be around him ever again!” As soon as I prayed that I felt a noticeable shift in my spirit, or maybe the Holy Spirit rose up within me and my thoughts changed. “Lord, what about me? What have I done?” 

No sooner did I speak those words, than the Lord spoke to me, “Never lose that attitude Julie.” 

I am so thankful I was taught that lesson.  Without it I would not purposefully seek out my blind spots. Without it I would trash relationships and I would trash people. Most importantly, even if I was able to fool myself and others, I would not be fooling God.

We all have those blind spots that make us point the finger at another and refuse to think that WE could be at fault or at partial fault.  We have those spots and situations in life where we justify our sin because of the initial act of another person.  But we are not justified.  We are accountable for our REACTIONS, just as much as they are accountable for their initial sinful action.

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results:  the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group” Galatians 5:19

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.

Condemnation, Calvinism, and Grandpas

This past weekend I debated the Bible with my 81 year-old grandfather.  He’s getting old and believes something created humanity but is not personally involved with us and praying to “it” would be as effective as praying to a coke can. He knew I was once on drugs and trashing my life and he also knows my life has drastically changed its course. But to him, I had some of his “blood” and/or genes therefor, I persevered and pulled myself out of it on my own.

Our debates were not heated. I love my grandfather so much.  He’s funny, strong, smart, and hard-working.  He has failed in certain areas, which devastated some people, but enjoyed much success in his corporate life as a younger man which benefited many as well.

When our conversation was over, I threw up my proverbial hands in my head and surrendered. I gave my best arguments. I even shared some intimate prophetic details of my existence, thinking fulfilled prophecy would convince him. Nope. To him it remains coincidence. During our debate it became painfully aware that my grandfather was smarter than I am and his debate skills were superior to mine, just like his intelligence quotient.

Ok God. This man has absolutely no concern for you nor does he feel he needs you, even though he will be crossing over in the not-too-distant future.

Psalm 14:3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.

Here’s some verses that really piss me off and God knows it. However, I surrender. I am so convinced of his existence and biblical truth that I will bow my knee to him.

Romans 9:20 Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? 22 In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. 23 He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory. 24 And we are among those whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles.

You don’t hear that much in Sunday church. Why? Can God not defend himself?

I never really cared to debate Calvinism, Armenianism, and Lutheranism with people. Now I wonder if God is having me to think about these doctrines because it is shaping some issues in my life. It all started with a You Tube titled, “Can I Lose My Salvation?” By Mark Driscoll.  Mark’s answer is basically a no. He believes in the doctrine of election and while he is not a “Calvinist”, he agrees with much of Calvin’s interpretation of biblical doctrine. When your “picked” your “picked”.

My problem is condemnation. Ever since I was born again by the Holy Spirit, Satan found it amusing to tempt me to doubt my salvation. He mostly would use my divorce when I was newly saved and also uses every time I fail to get me to doubt God’s hold on me. Satan has used church people to perpetuate this lie and that was an extremely powerful tactic. However, with my knees feeble and shaking, I get back up in faith and choose to believe. God didn’t pull me out of that depraved wicked sewer for nothing. I was once lost and now I am found…it was his power, not mine and that’s why I’m convinced of biblical truth, and that’s why I love him.

For me, its powerful to believe I have a father that predestined me to be a vessel of honor (Romans 9) and his irresistible grace (Calvinism tulip point #5) drew me into my election that was made before I even married an abusive drug dealer in 1999. As I walk in the security that Satan may not tempt me into depression through a condemned mindset, joy, strength, and confidence flow out of me. I am than able to accomplish the good works the Lord prepared for me to do before I was even born (Ephesians 2:10).

Imagine your in a marriage and divorce is considered an option and maybe your spouse even threatens you with it. You are than operating out of a shaky foundation and are than tempted with giving up because, after all, there is a good chance, according to your performance, that you will end up divorced.

It seems, for the elect, there is security. But who is elect, and who is not, is not for you or I to determine based off many scriptures, but here is just one:

2 Timothy 2:25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. 26 Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.

I will continue further in studying this concept…but I will say believing that the Lord is more like a loving parent, than a God who is ready to deposit me into hell according to my performance, or a spouse willing to divorce me if I mess up one to many times, is freeing. To believe that God has elected me as a vessel of honor before I was even born (Jeremiah 1:5   “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”) disengages Satan’s condemnation weaponry within my mind.  If you want to guarantee insecurity and depression inside of a person, put their security with you on a rocky foundation.

But it is love and unconditional commitment that changes people and brings the blessing. My dear grandpa knows what I stand for. Now my duty is to love him and tryst God with the rest.

A Tragically Beautiful Woman

(Originally Written May of 2010)

megan-fox

While finishing up my degree at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, I took a part time job at a tanning salon. I encountered many women who were impatient and selfish with their identity all wrapped up in their sex appeal.  These women that I would encounter daily had extreme standoff-ish outer beauty that is uninviting at best.

But one afternoon a naturally beautiful woman walked in. I noticed her because her demeanor was gentle and she didn’t look all done up.  She was there to get a spray tan and had a funny request. “Do you have any trash bags? I need two of them for my legs.”  I got them for her and she engaged me in a delightful conversation.

natural-beauty-face-md-2Her heart was so loving, so soft. She revealed to me that she lost both of her legs 10 year ago in an accident. I would have never known that she had two fake legs. She was wearing skinny jeans and walked normally.  She told me she was a model and ran a non-profit organization too.  I was so blessed by her that day. 

I couldn’t help but wonder if she was not involved in her accident, if her heart would still be that beautiful….or would it be hard like so many young women today?

I grew up in southern California.  I saw my first Cosmopolitan magazine when I was 11.  Sadly, it made me obsessed with beauty.  ”Wanting to be beautiful”  held me captive for many years. Endless wishing, striving, and wanting more than God gave me, never being satisfied and content.

One day I was reading the bible and came across the story of God’s prophet Samuel.  He was supposed to go to Jesse’s house and find the next King of Isreal.  Jesse had several sons and Samuel thought Eliab would be the chosen one.  But here is what GOD said, “Do not look at his appearance or physical stature, because I have refused him! For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  

In my own life, The Lord has used the tragic things to remind me that there is a life to come and what I currently see and can touch is quickly passing away.  I can’t help but wonder if what is stated in Matthew chapter 18, about cutting off and throwing away the part of us that can drag us into sin, is tied in with our personal tragedies of life.  Will what we suffer here echo for our own benefit into eternity? No one can know for sure until we are on the other side, but as I was emotionally struggling that day at work with my own two feet intact, a women who tragically had hers taken from her was able to warm my heart and leave me with more hope than I had.

 

Control < Trusting God

Don’t you love it when God shows up? This morning he proved again to my mind of flesh that he sees what I am going through and will provide understanding so I can conquer this world. #BOOM (Yeah, I know hashtags don’t work here)

I have been having some anxiety about parenting and my past. Wondering what it will take in his life for my son to see the reality of not just sin and the coming judgement, but the immeasurable love of Christ.

Now-a-days boys have girlfriends at 13 years old (uh, huh? yeah.) Yet it’s my job to steer him toward integrity and marriage.  This is my task in a culture that switches boy/girl friends like underwear.  A culture of “do what you think is right” and pushes pornography on young minds that continues to get more degrading and violent with each passing decade. And just because a kid is in a Christian school or you are sure they attend youth group, statistically does not release them from these cancers in our society….yet as parents we hope.

Enough of my own understanding.  This morning as I woke I started praying. I was releasing my worry about the whole thing. I am pretty good at going back to trusting God after I have a little anxiety breakdown session.  He is either God or he isn’t.  Right?!    I can only teach my son truth and display it- but I cannot force him to “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” That’s between him and the Lord and I will display love to him either way.

I opened my bible and the Holy Spirit spoke “Philippians 3″ to me. I was not sure if I heard God correctly, but after some of its content was unlocked for me, I had my proof.

7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 

 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

I have read this scripture two dozen times, but today it was spiritually discerned it for me…  My past is something I still conquer mentally even though I have left it physically.  Why did I have to get divorced Lord? Why wasn’t I raised in a home with Christian parents? My son wouldn’t have been fatherless (and all the crap that comes along with that!) if YOU Lord would have just…..

Then it hit me. What I have been through was not just for me, it was for others too.  I was entangled with so many people during my years I lived apart from Christ. How in the world did that glorify him? Well, that many more people saw my conversion. That many more people saw me walking away form a 7 year, all day, erry’ day habit of smoking marijuana.  That many more saw me completely change as a human being. Did most of them appreciate the change? No way! I lost all my friends, I lost my husband who was in love with drugs and the Vegas nightlife…I was laughed at and still am. I lost everything I knew and needed to rebuild my whole life. But I gained eternal life.

“the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”

What if the “why” questions we have for God can only be understood through the lens of humility?  Humility that says, tribulation produces repentance that leads to eternal life for some. Your tribulation is not just pain for you.  It will produce conversion in your soul and will magnify the reality of Christ to others. Will you accept that answer?

And my own son. What will be of him Lord? Same thing. “if BY ANY MEANS, I may attain to the resurrection of the dead.” I don’t want to even attach that verse to my boy. My flesh says, “that’s MY boy. Satan will not take him.”  But you see, I have no power over that.  That’s between my son and his creator.

Just like any person, God has put us on this earth to experience good and evil. Without evil we cannot know what’s truly good. My job is to intercede in prayer and let Christ live through me by his spirit.  That is the only control I am allowed to have over others; anything else would set me up as a god.  And I don’t want to be God, like, for sure!

My Son Has Christian Parents

My son will never know what it’s like to smoke a joint with me. Nor will he ever be allowed to have a member of the opposite sex in his bedroom with the door closed. Those things were allowed in my home when I was young.  I have long since forgiven my beloved mom for these things that I once believed were cool, but as I matured, came to realize they damaged my teenage soul.

Fast-forward to when Christ came into my life at twenty-three.  I was pregnant with my son.  This little man was now going to be growing up in a Christian home!

UsI must admit I am slightly jealous of him.  He will not just be learning about when and how he should have sex from his friends at school, he will be hearing what God has to say about it.  He will not be hanging out late at night with people handing him hits of acid behind a movie theater because I am too strict for that.  When he recently asked me if he can have a girlfriend, I looked my thirteen year old in the eyes and said, “No, invite her to youth group.”

I question myself constantly. Ever since he was little the Holy Spirit would instruct me as I raised him.  I read about spanking in the bible and believed it to be truth but I was so confused on the execution.  Than one day when my boy was almost three, he hit me, told me no, and threw a toy at me all at the same moment.  Very gently, yet with divine authority, I felt the Lord speak into my being, “Now is the time to spank him.”

I calmly told my son he may not treat me that way and gave him three hard whacks on the butt.  He stood there perplexed. My guess is that he was shocked I showed him who was in charge- and it wasn’t him.  He thought for a minute and than the tears and loud crying came.  I consoled him and told him he may not hit and throw stuff at me.  Worked like a charm. He learned that he may not walk all over me. Satan the counterfeiter would have loved to teach my son to rule over me so his life would be easier to ruin as an adult.

I have had to apologize to my son many times through the years. I believe it shows him that I am a real person.  However, I have always reminded him of God’s expectation that he is to honor me with obedience.  In doing that, I would remind him also of God’s promise to bless him and give him a long life.

I have been immersed in depravity and than rescued from practicing many sins. Yet I wonder about my son. I am proud of him.  His heart is compassionate. He is funny and genuinely loves people. He has a very strong sense of right and wrong.  I wonder though, will his relationship with the Lord be deep? Will he have to trudge through willful valley’s of sin and wickedness in his life?  Will he decide to reject what I have taught him?  I am content not to know these answers at this moment, but when these answers unfold, I will be relying on the Lord and trusting him to guide me, just as I did when my son was three.

My God is faithful. That I know.  What I also know is that I have the power to influence, I have the power to parent, but as he is nearing maturity, I may not control him.  God wouldn’t have it any other way.