Amazing Love

Published October 16, 2019 by Dawn

Everything I am about to share with you is true. It’s also in the past, where it’s staying. I just want to tell you something I learned about God through a recent parenting experience I had. Two things: I didn’t really want to share this with anyone, but I have to be obedient. And, “if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Please remember this as I tell you about my broken heart, and my son. He used to be a drug dealer.

I have a fifteen-year-old son who’s been a hot mess for a long time. He’s struggled with depression since he was four, he’s grown up with insecurities and brokenness over things he had absolutely no control and like many people, that drove him into reckless decisions.

I did everything to shield my kids from the pain of life. I raised them alone rather than try to make a relationship work, so I could devote all of my time to them. I went to college while working full-time to provide for them. I refused to have cable so we could spend all our free-time playing games and laughing together. I sang them to sleep every night, kissed all their boo-boos, and loved them fiercely. But nothing that I did was enough to shield them, I guess, because my kids have still suffered from an absent parent, and it has manifested in our home in various ways. One is an over-achiever who never gives herself a break, and the other … well, he’s been rescued from inner turmoil and self-destructive behavior through a combination of tough love and grace.

I don’t know when it started. I know the evidence of self-medicating with substance usage started in seventh grade. He’ll admit that he might have dabbled in sales around that time too, but it really got serious the summer after eighth grade into his freshman year. By the time I came across all the evidence I needed to confront this lifestyle, he was in pretty deep. He was making good money, had a plug and a steady stream of buyers. Ask me how I didn’t know this was happening in my home and I will admit that there was a season here where we rarely talked. He was hardly ever home, and when he was, he just checked out of all interaction with us. It should have been weird, but my daughter had made a similar retreat and I was naively appreciating the peace and time to myself. Being a single parent is hard work when you make yourself available to your kids 24/7.

When my worst fears were finally confirmed through an unguarded phone and motherly curiosity, I made the hardest decision of my life. I called the cops on my own kid.

There are two responses to this from the peanut gallery: You’re either going to applaud me for doing the hardest thing a parent can do, or you are going to shake your head in disgust because I did something most parents wouldn’t. I not only let my kid face the natural consequences of his actions without shielding him, I invited those natural consequences into our home.

Long story short, this revelation into his life, and a few other things, led him into juvenile detention. Wanna know how I handled that? I cried, I prayed over him fervently, I took every phone call he made home, and visited him every chance I got. He knew I put him there, but he also saw me loving him in the midst of his worst moments. This is tough love and grace working together to save my son. You can argue with me about how effective you think this strategy was and I will simply smile at you and encourage you to ask my kid how it worked in his life. He’s no longer dealing drugs, or using them. He’s no longer stealing from us or lying. He doesn’t disappear for days. He’s living peacefully in a home that has the same boundaries it has always had and he tells me every day how happy he is and how much he loves his life. I can’t wait for him to share this with the world!

Until he does, though, I will share what I learned as his mother. Let’s recap: I recognized my son was doing something that was detrimental to his safety, his emotional and mental health, and his freedom. I didn’t overlook it, I called him out on it. I let him face the consequences, but walked with him through the process and loved him every second of every day. I sought the Lord in this difficult time and sane people will agree that this was good parenting. Tough love with a heaping measure of grace. It’s over and we don’t talk about it anymore.

I used the same strategy God uses in scripture to deal with us, and I have seen how powerful it can be. God has clearly given his standards in scripture. We’ve taken that list and subdivided it into sins we come down hard on (homosexuality, adultery, etc.) and sins we pat people on the back for (gluttony, lust, etc.). That colorful list we see is still black and white in God’s eyes. We all sin and fall short, according to Romans 3:23. All of us. We attack people for their obvious sin while ignoring our sin-filled lives. God sees it all the same. And He calls us out on it. He doesn’t tell us our sin is okay. None of us.

God allows us to suffer the natural consequences of our actions, but He loves us in the midst of them and stays with us during those trials we bring upon ourselves. Why? Because we are all also “justified freely by His grace” (Romans 3:23). Loving parents do not stop being loving parents while their kids struggle. God is gracious and compassionate, abounding in love (Psalm 103:8). What we would consider a good parent. He’s not going to wink at our sin. But here’s where the church turns the world off: we act like we have it all together and that’s why God loves us.

I hope you are still reading this, because I’m about to share the best thing I have ever written. Ready for it?

2 Peter 3:9 says that God is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

God does not want or long to destroy His creation. He did that once in Genesis and it devastated Him to such a degree that He promised it would never happen again. At the end of this age, there will be people in hell, but not because that’s what God wanted. It will be because they did not come to know Jesus as their personal savior.

You can expect, though, when you come to Christ, that the Lord is going to come to you about your sin life. He’s going to ask you to let go of some things that endanger your peace of mind, you physical, mental and emotional self, your freedom from internal bondage, and your eternal life. Because he’s a good parent and good parents do not allow things to destroy their children!

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him, there is no darkness. If we claim we have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 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, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:5-9).

He is faithful as a parent to walk with His children with an abundance of grace. Hebrews 10:14 further explains this work of eternal salvation by saying that by one sacrifice (the death of Christ) he has made perfect forever (it’s a done deal) those who are BEING MADE HOLY. That’s an ongoing process. You will be made perfect when you accept Christ, but you have a walk that will take time and massive patience and obedience. It will take work to put to death the misdeeds of the flesh (Romans 8:13). It’s a daily walking out what God has done inside of you.

Remember the 180-change I described in my son earlier? This is the kind of evidence that should be a testimony to the sanctifying work of the Spirit in someone’s life when they accept Jesus as their savior. If a person’s profession of faith includes open rebellion,  hostility toward the law, and a continuance of sin that the Bible says is unpleasing to the Lord, that person has not been saved. I say that with no apologies, but rather with fear for the lost who are comfortable with such a hollow belief. It’s not supported by scripture. This is my tough love talking again. You still need Jesus!

It is so good to be set free, friends, and that’s why I’m sharing all of this. There are people who are hardened toward the church because they’ve received a message even the church cannot accept, and they’ve been beaten with consternation over sins we can see, knowing all the while that sin is everyone’s struggle, not just their own. I hope if you are one of those people – if you are struggling with something you know is a sin but you can’t let go of it and maybe even don’t want to – I pray you surrender it to God and let Him take it from you with the care of a parent who wants better for you. He doesn’t hate you. He hates sin and the destruction it causes in our lives. He loves you. You are precious to Him!

After all that struggle with my son – years’ long pain and turmoil – I still love him as much as I ever did. We are closer now than we have ever been. That’s the power of grace. It breeds intimacy. It’s a powerful thing to know you can mess up badly and still be forgiven and loved fiercely. “But God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). That’s an amazing love, friends!

 

Advertisements

Welcome to the Family

Published September 30, 2019 by Dawn

My son has this friend who’s stayed at our house every weekend pretty much since school started. That’s about a month and a half ago. We’re talking Friday and Saturday nights. He’s been here long enough to eat all the food, dirty his fair share of towels and experience the human side of everyone in the house. Today, I felt compelled to let him know he was welcome to our house (he always seems as if he feels like an intruder on the periphery of our lives). I inscribed a book with the phrase “welcome to our family” and gave it to him as a gift. In that moment, he truly became a part of us.

A few hours later, I was lying across my bed worshiping the Lord and organizing pages worth of thoughts for another book. I heard a kid holler. They’re teenagers, so I just thought they were messing around. Not long after, I heard some more yelling and thought maybe someone has just yelled for me. Too bad, I’m busy …

Then my son rushed in my room looking really disgusted and bewildered. “I just yelled for you several times. I need you! Blake just threw up all over the bathroom!”

I know you’re probably thinking, “Big deal, I’ve dealt with projectile vomiting before.” But friend, we’re not talking about tiny newborn tummies. We’re talking teenage boy who eats like a … teenage boy. There’s no comparison to the amount of food a teenage boy can consume in one sitting. They’re beasts!

I will spare you most of the details, but suffice to say it was up the walls, the door, in every crevice from the door to the bathtub … I seriously thought about just burning the house down and starting over. My flat iron had been knocked in the floor and left. It was a colossal mess and I was the only person in the house capable of dealing with it.

As I knelt on a floor that still needed to be mopped and stretched across the bathroom floor to the far reaches of the linoleum, I thought about the phrase “welcome to the family.” I had just taken this kid in in my heart. I had accepted him as he is and not as I want him to be. I had just given him the gift of love he didn’t have to earn. His sudden illness was not something I foresaw having to deal with today. It occurred to me that there’s a part of allowing others to be human that really tries us. It’s hard to embrace the messy parts of other people. That’s when the rubber meets the road. Do we really love people, or are we just loving the convenient and put together side of them? Can we stick by them when their humanness shows and we see them in their worst moments?

I was really grateful that I had spent the two previous hours in worship because I met this in something other than my flesh. The Holy Spirit was my strength in that moment. I did have to talk myself through the cleaning process, but thankfully, I did not respond to this event in the flesh. This kid had seen enough of our flesh in my home and I was grateful that God helped me serve his need in grace as I cleaned up the mess he had made.

It really does take the power of the Holy Spirit to meet people in their darkest moments and still stand by them and love them through it. In my flesh, I might have despaired over the ruined flat iron or the stains on the bathroom door. I might have even said things I wouldn’t normally say, or display some anger or resentment at the disruption to my beautiful, quiet afternoon. But I had spent time with God beforehand and He had prepared me to handle the situation with grace and love. I love how He does that. Goes before us.

I pray God continues to pour this grace into me. You too. There are people who come into our lives who need to be loved like that. Like Jesus. They need to feel safe. They need to feel like it’s okay to be human. It’s the kindness of God that leads people to repentance, so we need God to pour His supernatural kindness into us so we can meet the world with love that is undeniable, unmistakable and unflinching. Unwavering. Undeterred. People need to know they are welcome in the family of God.

Back Forty Pearls

Published August 22, 2019 by Dawn

It’s funny what we remember sometimes. I feel like I forget almost everything these days. But there are things from my past I can’t forget even if I wanted to. And some things I do. But there were pleasant things too, and today, I was remembering the pleasure of exploring our wild acreage when I was a kid. It was one of my favorite things to do. It remains one of my favorite things to do, only now, I have to enjoy reliving every bit of our land in my mind.

I loved walking in the woods when I was a kid. I don’t know how much land we had. I think about thirteen acres. We didn’t have television, and the house was too small to run around in. Our toy collection was limited, but our outdoor fun was limitless! We had a concrete slab right next to the end of our house that was the only flat place on the whole property. We put a cheap kiddie pool here in the summer. Trek back behind the house to the left, and there was a swingset way back in the brush, right in front of a lively stream where tiny minnows swam. We caught minnows for the ducks back there. If wefollowed that stream, it got a little wider as it cut horizontally across the back yard. My cousin fell into the only deep spot one cold winter because she was hanging off a tree over the icy water. We swam there a couple times, but it wasn’t common. Going barefoot in the stream by the swing set was our routine.

Past the stream was the wilderness. It was untamed. Mostly untouched. It stretched back for what seemed like forever, and it took hours to explore but I loved walking through it. We had a pond back there no one ever touched. It was never cleaned out and no one ever walked near it because we didn’t know where the cattails were growing out of dirt and where they were growing out of muddy pond water. We were convinced it would swallow us up, so we avoided it.

If we walked far enough to the left, we were in our neighbors yard, but he never knew it. There was a spring box back there with a copper tin cup and you could scoop out the coldest, clearest water to drink. It was daring, and we dared often, to go on his property. Directly behind the house, we could walk into the woods a stone’s throw from the back door and find our own spring, with a spring box attached. Ours was nicer, by far and we spent a lot of time there. Keep going in this line toward the back of the property and we came across very large boulders jutting out of the hillside, in the secret place beneath the trees. I was sure something lived under the overhanging cliffs back there, but this was a favored place to come and sit. We felt like pioneers in the outback.

To the right side of the house was a gathering of Crab-apple trees circled up. We had a sitting area down there. It was shaded and open under their widely arching branches. It felt homey. Some people have balconies over their backyards. We had this natural haven.

If we wanted to explore the front of the yard, we still had about three quarters of a mile before we ran into the gravel road. About two football fields away from the house, we had a barn with a very large main beam running the length of it. It was most likely not safe to play on, but no one cautioned us, so we climbed that thing all the time. There was no loft. Just a tree trunk holding the roof up. It was better than monkey bars. Growing off the side of the barn was a chicken coop and it was full of Rhode Island Reds. To the left of them was a perpetual set of tire tracks leading to the gravel road that I never remember anyone driving on, but they were always there anyway. To the right of the barn were a few pig pens, a man-made pond we dug and filled with water by hand one year. That was grueling work but we had ducks that loved it. Keep walking past the pens and there was a dense patch of trees that could take up a whole afternoon of my time.

My mind’s eye wanders back toward the house; I forgot to mention the burn pit. It was massive! And the bypass that led to the driveway. I don’t know why we had a second entrance from the driveway. Maybe it was for closer, easier access to the barn. Our driveway was forever long. But in this bypass was a tree we climbed all the time. It was a pine tree, which hurts if you aren’t careful, but it was great fun for four kids with no TV. We had a shed, which I hardly went into. It was full of things that, while I’m sure were useful to adults, all looked like junk to me. But do you know what didn’t look like junk? The huge chalkboard leaning up against the side of the shed. It was the source of hours of daydreaming and playacting with my siblings.

Up from the shed was a fruit cellar. It was the place we ran to if the weather was bad. It was above ground, made of stone, same temperature year-round, and – we were told – might be full of snakes. But when mom’s fear wasn’t watching, we’d sneak in there to play too. No place was off limits for fun.

If you walked away from the fruit cellar, away from the house, you were going toward the driveway. On the other side of a rickety, rotting makeshift fence that didn’t connect to anything, we had a row of trees we often decorated during Christmastime. We had a basketball goal nailed to a persimmon tree, but if we wanted to play with it, we had to have a ton of energy because if you missed and didn’t have a spotter, that ball was gone a good two-hundred feet before stopping outside the front porch.

There was a spider by the persimmon tree. Our closest neighbor. It was a banana spider and we were told if we messed with it, that spider would spell our name in it’s web, and we were its next victim. Of course, we had to find out! But soon, our attention would draw us back to the woods. Up the driveway a little, you could shoot off into the woods on the left and there was a spot where some trees had been chopped down. There were six stumps in a semi-circle and a fallen tree trunk, and to me, this was a church. I’d go there often by myself, sit and pray to God, whom I knew must adore this place as much as I did. And I’d preach to the trees, because this was my church.

A little further up the driveway was a random stop sign. My dad put it up for reasons unknown, and it remains to this day, though the property is no longer ours. You can see the stop sign from the road. I have driven past there many times since because these are my fondest memories of my childhood. These are the places I gave my heart to and delighted in growing up.

The one part of this property I hardly know is the farthest corner of it, way back behind the house. Ten acres away from the back door. I’ve only walked all the way once. There was a road at the top of our “hill,” and on the other side of it, I was pretty sure my best friend’s property began. We were going to meet there in fourth grade and run away together, but I walked up there to check it out and it scared me. I never went back. And for that reason, I have no idea what other parts of this uncharted territory I might treasure today. I never took the opportunity to overcome my fear and explore “the back forty.”

All this reminiscing so I can tell you about the back forty. No man’s land. The uncharted land of my youth. The uncultivated, mysterious, hidden, forgotten acreage I might have loved if I’d only overcome my fear.

I was praying the other day and the Lord asked me if I would go minister in the back forty. I could see it in my mind. It was dense, green, untamed wilderness. It was beautiful. Uncultivated. Wild. And it stood for something much more than what I could see with my eyes. He was talking about a people. People who aren’t sitting in the front rows. In fact, they aren’t in pews at all. They are convinced their uncultured selves are not good enough to grace the doorways of our churches. They are the people we struggle to love and accept because they are wild. They’re the drug addicts, the drug dealers, the criminals … God sees them as the broken.

I will humbly admit this was not my choice of ministry. I’m ashamed of myself, but to be honest, this demographic has been a tough one for me to look past the fault and see the need. I watched someone I loved with every part of myself descend into this wilderness. It stole from me and hurt me deeply. I did not want to go there, into the back forty. But then, my son took a foray into the dense and terrifying jungle and I realized how very human are the hurting who are lost back there. I put my heart into the search for him, and I wrapped my momma-love around his quaking shoulders and loved him in that place until he was ready to come home. Thank God, he did.

But there are many, many more. Sons and daughters. Fathers. Mothers. Men and women, boys and girls. People who have found comfort in darkness, in places most of us won’t look because they are tired of being looked at. Or rather, being looked down on.

You see, we’re not careful, church. We wear the righteousness of Christ like it’s something we’ve done ourselves, forgetting that, but for the grace of God, there go any one of us. Paul said that we have been saved through faith, and this not of ourselves, lest any of us should boast. It’s a gift of God. Working out our salvation and pursuing holiness is a message for the church, but the message to the unsaved is simply “repent and believe.” Well, how can they know unless someone tells them, and how can someone tell them unless they are sent? Perhaps we have been sent and we refuse to go because the back forty isn’t the front of the property. It’s not in the spotlight, it looks a lot like it might take some real effort. It appears we might need to sharpen our tools. This might mean we have to dig deep into our Word and really get to know God. Because people know whether you’ve been with Christ or just think a whole lot of your own opinion and I think the world is sick of our opinions, church.

There are so many churches struggling weekly to pay the bills, and pastors wondering why they don’t see souls saved. It’s because we’ve ditched the Bible and we’re giving motivational speeches to dying people. Imagine, a sick person on their death bed and we’re like, “You got this! You can live a meaningful life!” Without offering medicine, we expect life to happen from a mere pep talk?

People are dying.

“Christians” are lost and don’t know it.

All because we have traded the powerful, living, sharp Word of God for something that elicits soothing comfort. You know what it is? We’re offering hospice … a calm, quiet death that disturbs no one. Christ came to give life, and life more abundantly! How diametrically opposed are we to the will of God today?!

Perhaps it’s because we’re afraid. We’re afraid to seem fanatical. We don’t want people to be disturbed by our words or our actions. We don’t want to use words like “sin” and “salvation.” We don’t want to talk about Jesus like he’s more than a nice guy who said a lot of cool stuff that made people think differently. Heaven forbid we admit that he is God wrapped in human flesh, in love with His creation and desiring that we all be saved rather than forever damned. It’s scary to admit we believe in a literal heaven and a literal hell. What will people think of us! These are such ancient belief systems! They’ve been here since the dawn of creation and we’re beyond that, right?

We act like we are. We don’t want them to know this is our hope! We don’t want to lose our jobs for talking about our savior, our hope for eternal salvation, or the holiness without which none shall see God. These things don’t help us make or keep friends!

This. Cuts. Me.

I understand if you don’t like me now. I get real about scripture and most people don’t. Sometimes, I don’t even like myself because I have to take a hard look at the Word and decide if I want to lose my life for it. Do I want to sacrifice my own will to do His? Do I want to jeopardize friendships and family-ships in order to talk about this fear I have that the lost will remain lost because I can’t face my fear and walk into that dense wasteland?

I can’t help but wonder what treasures are hidden there. Didn’t He say He’d give us treasures hidden in secret places? In Genesis 50:20, Joseph told his brothers, “You meant this for harm, but God meant it for good for me.” Imagine! The nasty bit of sand that makes its way into the softest part of the oyster and irritates it! What harm it causes until the oyster begins layering nacre. Layer upon layer until the intruder is no longer an irritant. It’s a priceless pearl. What pearls await in the back forty? How many people are there, dealing with hellish circumstances and feeling forgotten? How many are hardened because they’ve cried out for rescue and the hands and feet of Christ haven’t moved an inch? Are we deaf to the hurting, church, or just indifferent?

God, put it in our hearts to love like you love. We have too much of ourselves alive in the flesh, but if you help us die to our own feelings and desires, we might be effective for you. Plant the love in us that walking into the unknown requires. Give us courage! Give us peace! Fill us with Your wisdom and all that we need to reach the lost for you. Help us to speak the truth in love, not just speak the truth. Help us to see ourselves as we are and not as we wish we were. Help us not to take our own righteousness personal, like it’s something we’ve done ourselves. Give us an insatiable hunger and thirst for your Word. Fill us to overflowing with your Holy Spirit and send us into the back forty with a fire for deliverance. 

A Child’s Betrayal

Published August 16, 2019 by Dawn

During a conversation with a couple ladies from church last week, I said something that I immediately wished I hadn’t. We were talking about suffering and I said, “There came a time when I almost felt like looking up to heaven and saying ‘If this is what the anointing costs, I don’t want it!’” It was irreverent and as the words left my lips, I felt the pang of hurt that must have grieved the heart of God. I know it hurt me to think about how I might have offended Him in that moment. The conversation stuck with me every moment of the next 24 hours and became THE topic of prayer every time I turned my heart and mind to Him. The truth is, His presence and anointing is all I’ve ever wanted. I don’t know why I said that, but I immediately regretted it.

The next day, I was laying in bed reading and my son came into my room. It was late and he wanted to know if he could go outside and call his dad. I said, “Why don’t you go to your room and call him? I can’t hear you from here.” I knew it was because he wanted privacy. He said he’d prefer to step outside, so I told him that was fine. Just a few minutes later, he came back into my room and sat down on my bed. He said, “Mom, I didn’t want you to hear what we were talking about.”

“I figured that. I really hope it wasn’t something you don’t need to be doing. That’s the only reason why I would worry.”

Then came the part that broke me a little, but also healed me. He said, “No, you don’t have to worry about that. It’s just that sometimes, when I’m on the phone with my dad, he talks bad about you. And I don’t know what to say, so I talk bad about you too.”

That was a really humbling moment for me. Because I was still worried in my spirit about how God felt about what I said, even though I had already asked for forgiveness. I had hurt His heart and that broke me. But what I felt for my son in this moment was all that I needed to understand what God felt for me.

Was I hurt? Absolutely. Did it feel like a knife in my heart? Yes. Was I angry at him? I might have been if he hadn’t been so remorseful. But his repentant heart and his abashed honesty didn’t elicit my anger. I felt the betrayal of my kiddo, but loved him deeper still. As I sat next to him, rubbing his back and letting him know that I forgave him for that weakness, I was aware of this incredible relief and peace falling all over me. Because I could identify with a parent who’d been betrayed, and my Father was comforting me in that moment too.

I’m not a perfect Christian. I’m not a perfect child. But I’m not that person that’s going to glory in my shame. I’m not going to talk about my sins like they are no big deal. They separate me from God (Isaiah 59:2)! That’s so devastating! However, when I come to my Father’s feet and He chastens me, I ultimately find His forgiving embrace reaching to pull me up to His lap. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

A Single Heart

Published August 3, 2019 by Dawn

I was reading Genesis 2 this morning … it was a great conversation starter between the Lord and me.

“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone…”

Interesting, right? I’ve been single for 15 years and I don’t think I’ve ever heard the Lord say this on my behalf. I gave a side glance to heaven in silent inquiry, and the Holy Spirit said, “But It was good for you.”

I made a resolution this summer to work on my rebelliousness, so instead of questioning this, I simply listened. And I knew immediately what the Lord meant. Fifteen years ago, I could have destroyed someone with the bitterness in my soul. I definitely would have with the aching need I had for acknowledgment and validation. I also could have with my piercing words and unrealistic expectations.

I can’t say I haven’t brought this desire for companionship before the Lord many times over the past decade and a half, but I’ve always left it in His hands and thanked Him for being my constant companion. I’ve tried to wrestle it back many times, given in and handed it back. Wavered in my commitment toward this single life. But God’s been steadfast. And all this time, He’s been healing me. He’s been wooing me. He’s been softening the hardened places, removing my heart of stone and giving me a heart of flesh.

He’s been teaching me how to submit in a relationship with Him, which is something the Word says I must also do in relationship with a husband. Let’s just say, strong, independent women do not submit well on their own. But we can learn to.

He’s been teaching me how to verbalize things I usually push into the darkest places of my heart and mind, for fear of being ridiculed or rejected. He’s been teaching me how to be vulnerable. That’s also important in relationships. I learned how to hide my true self very early in life. God unearthed her and set her free.

He’s been teaching me forgiveness toward the one I love most dear. Truth is, God sometimes doesn’t respond to us the way we wish He would and we get hurt by Him often. Our expectations aren’t always the reality He’s moving us toward. But are we committed enough to stay by His side? In order to do so, we have to forgive Him our disappointments. This is also important in a marriage because we will be disappointed sometime or another with the human being next to us through thick and thin. I wouldn’t even know how to do this if God hadn’t walked with me all these many years.

He has been teaching me to be humble in sickness and patient in health. And to value both; sickness for the rest and health for the abilities.

He’s teaching me how to trust in uncertain times. How to listen. How to disagree without being disagreeable and how to admit when I’m wrong. How to love the differences between myself and others. How to embrace their strengths where I am weak. How to encourage individuality, even if others are incredibly different. How to handle the inevitable conflict.

Most importantly, He’s taught me how to be comfortable alone. How to abandon the constant noise and commotion in favor of peace and solitude with Him. I think this is most important in a marriage, because people cannot complete one another, but God can complete us. People might leave us, but He never will. People will fail us, but His goal is to work out all things for our good. And when we spend time with Him, we become more like Him, and that’s the kind of partner I want to be. In our inmost beings, we crave the peace and security found in God. And when we spend time with Him, we translate that same peace and security to others. The steadfastness. The love that endures all things. The comfort to be who they are and not just who they think we want them to be. The patience and gentleness that makes being human less terrifying.

There are some people out there who are so resilient and do these things quite naturally. Perhaps for some, it isn’t good that they are alone. But there are others – or perhaps it’s just me – that need years of gentle teaching to become someone who can be a gift to another. And for me, it has been good to be alone.

 

Wolves in Sheepskin

Published August 1, 2019 by Dawn

A very frightening thing happened to me today: I made a friend. Well, I made a “friend,” on Facebook. A guy sent me a friend request and I did the prelim check. I looked through some of his recent posts, assessed that he was most likely who he said he was and added him. His posts gave the impression that he was a fellow believer and very vocal about it. I had no reason not to, and since I just published two books, I felt like I needed to be willing to be more open about adding people. So I did.

I read his most recent post after adding him. He was sharing things about his beliefs and I was like, “Yeah, ok. I’ve heard that before …” A little further into what he had posted, I ran into my first red flag. He posted that he stood by his beliefs that hell did not exist and most likely, neither did heaven. I thought to myself, “Ok, I thought he might have been a new Christian. I’ll ask about this.” So I posted a question about his obvious love for some scriptures being in contrast to this disbelief of others. Scripture is filled with references to hell and heaven.

He private messaged me and suggested I research some things. That was another red flag. I was giving him scriptures, he was giving me google suggestions. And very quickly, what started as one friend asking about the beliefs of another divulged into this man attacking me because I believed the Bible in its entirety. At one point, he even suggested I was “blinded by the word of God.” That was the moment I realized exactly what was driving this conversation. I did my best to end it shortly afterward, as this person seemed to only want to argue and attack me for not agreeing with him. Or for pointing out that the Word of God does not agree with him.

This whole thing unnerved me. Because there are people “preaching” all kinds of things that are not in the Bible. There are people listening to them, too. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim. 4:3).

The only way to protect ourselves from such pervasive false teaching is to know the Word of God. We have to be on our knees in communion with the Holy Spirit and in the Bible daily, soaking up the truths in God’s word so that when tempting doctrines come along, we will stand firm. The Bible says that even the very elect can be deceived. In fact, some things are in the Bible to warn us ahead of time because otherwise, we’ll become a part of the great falling away (read Matthew 24).

It’s important to know that the Word of God is sufficient. Google will not teach you any truth that the Holy Spirit cannot teach you through the Word of God. If Google leads you into “new” territory, and what you are learning contradicts the Bible, “let God be true and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). To continue pursuing understanding that is contrary to the Word of God is to be willfully deceived. If someone is teaching something and saying it’s the truth, they should be able to give you a scripture reference. Don’t believe “it’s in there.” Like the Bereans of Acts, seek out the scriptures for yourself.

Finally, “don’t have anything to do with stupid and foolish arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and think that godliness is a means to financial gain” (1 Timothy 6:3-5).

Please, please read your Bible. Church a couple times a week is not enough time to soak up all you need to know of the Word of God to avoid being led astray. Satan is good at what he does. He’s more clever than any human being and he knows the Word intimately. He knows what we would rather hear, and he knows how to weave just enough truth into the lie so it’s almost undetectable. Read your Bible! Don’t create a belief system based on your hopes about God. He doesn’t change according to our feelings or desires. He’s steadfast. The same yesterday, today and forever. Get to know Him through His word, friends because the world is a scary place and false doctrine is EVERYWHERE, leading people away from the truth EVERYDAY.

Father, please keep us safe from false teaching. Draw us into your Word, giving us a holy hunger for your truth. Safeguard us from the enemy and all his tactics to lead us away from you. Father, you are holy and righteous. You are good. You are just. Help us to honor you as King. We do not want a God who panders to us, we want you as you are. Teach us who you are through your Word.

New Mercies

Published July 26, 2019 by Dawn

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

 I was caught up in adoring our God the other night, who loves us despite our stumbles. I was especially loving on our Savior, who covers us in his redeeming blood and makes us acceptable to a righteous Father. This truth of new mercies kept resounding in my heart as I prayed, and I think it was God prepping me for what was to come.

New mercies became practical realities in my own relationship with my son about 2 a.m. My small, yappy dog startled the house by going into fatal attack mode from a dead sleep. I jumped out of bed to see why the mutts were scrambling and met my son in the kitchen. He took the blame for arousing the dogs by opening his bedroom window for one reason or another and my groggy mind just asked him to be a little more considerate while I shuffled back to my bedroom. Then suspicion woke me up. I looked out the back-door window to see an elbow land on the ground outside his bedroom window. I quickly walked back into his room and climbed out after it. A couple scrawny teenagers were hiding in the shadows looking at me in morbid fear.

“Go. Home.” It was all I could say without getting really mean. I had four hours of sleep behind me. Not quite enough to make holding the tongue for long a good probability. One of them I recognized. The other I didn’t. They asked if they could grab their things and I repeated myself, “Go. Home.” Clenched teeth were holding back the monster in me. They left without another word. I turned to him.

I didn’t have to say much. I might have, I don’t know. I was so tired. And aggravated. I’m really sorry to my neighbors, by the way.

I took his phone and let him know he was grounded again. This kid’s been grounded since he was twelve, I think. Not my problem. I’m just responding to his continued disobedience. He’s slowly learning. It doesn’t sound like it, but he is. And so am I.

You see, in the past, I would have taken a while to get over this. I was up the rest of the night waiting to watch him fall asleep, waiting to see if anyone else came by. Awake because of the emotions going through me. I was so tired the next day, but when he woke up, I acted differently than I had in the past. In the past, I would have held this over his head FOREVER. Reminded him of it, along with an extensive list I’ve been adding to with every transgression. Defeated him with every reason why I’ll never be able to trust him again. But this verse had prepared me, as I mentioned earlier. When he woke up the next morning, I smiled at my son. I looked him lovingly in the eyes and told him I’d get his breakfast if he’d get ready to go. I had to take him to help a guy from church, and I loved on him while he got ready.

My mercies were new that morning. And do you know what happened? A repentant heart. He apologized. He listened while I chastened him more with wisdom and less with accusation. That was also new. I can see my kiddo making leaps toward maturity, in response to the kindness of people who are willing to discipline him without breaking his heart or will. Instead of breaking him, we are guiding him and he is gradually moving in a direction that makes himself, and all of us cheering him on, proud.

I thank God for this kind of love. Romans 2:4 says it is the kindness of God that leads men to repentance. His patience. I want to be that kind of parent. I am not yet, but I am learning. I can dislike what my kids do without disliking my kids. I can separate who they are from what they do, and I have come to see how important it is to speak to who I know they are, not just to the behaviors they are exhibiting. My son has been caught up in some really heinous things as he tried to navigate his identity. I have not approved of a lot of them, and I have shared my disapproval. But I don’t hate him. I can’t.

I can’t help but think about God and how He loves us. So much that He sent Christ to live the perfection we’re incapable of to satisfy the righteous requirements of the law, and also to carry our sins, being forsaken by God so we don’t ever have to be. God didn’t lower His standards to have us with Him eternally. He sent Christ to do what we could never do so He can see us through the blood. His mercies toward us are relentless and new every morning. He doesn’t always approve of us and He will never tell us that our choices are okay with Him if they don’t line up with His standards. He will call us to repentance, and if we are His children, we will respond in repentance. His kindness will lead us to it. His mercies will encourage us to seek His forgiveness.

Likewise, I pray we can be people who give new mercies every day. Who allow for the misgivings and transgressions of others, in that we allow other people to be human. Just as we allow ourselves to stumble. I believe people should be given the option to remake themselves every day if they want, because one day they might. And our mercies toward them should be a help and not a hindrance. No one is too far gone that the love of God cannot reach them, and is not reaching out for them.