Thursday, September 26, 2013

Heal my wounds but leave my scars

     I was listening to a song on the way to work this morning, singing my little heart out :) but a line in it got me thinking. She sang, "Heal my scars, Lord". Something didn't sit well with me. Why? Why am I uncomfortable asking God to heal my scars? We all have scars, don't we? Some of our scars are emotional and some are physical but the reality of them is the same. Our scars serve as reminders of  a wound or a hurt. Some scars are new and others have faded into the color of our lives but they are a definite part of who we are.
     This may be a topic that makes you feel vulnerable or exposed so I will be transparent with you and hopefully that will spur us to conversation. I'll talk physical scars first. I have 2 definite and dramatic scars that are well covered by clothing but are a constant reminder of a cancer diagnosis, a scary time, in which my family clung to each other and to God all while dealing with fears and the anxiety of this unknown disease in my body. They remind me not only of diagnosis but also of surgery, extensive treatment, and healing. They remind me of the fragile nature of life. But they also remind me of a closeness with God, of grace, of mercy. Of family, friends, and my God that loved me and carried me through a dark time. Redemption. That's what my scars spell out for me and that is why I need my scars. I need them to remind me that the same God that allows the tough circumstances also redeems me. Calls me by name. Walks through the flood and the fire before me and beside me without letting me get consumed or overtaken.
     Your scars may be emotional, unseen to any eyes but tattooed to your heart in your quiet moments. They are no less important to who you are in Christ. I pray that they also tell a story of redemption and grace that go beyond the hurt and loss. Christ wants to redeem your scars. He wants to redeem you. He wants to take you to a place of freedom and mercy. A place where we are whole, not defined by our scars but reminded by them. Reminded that God uses wounds so that in our moments of fragility we are forced to trust in Him.
     The wounds of Jesus on the cross were ultimately used for our healing and salvation. His scars were what physically identified him as Savior to those he met after his resurrection. So, I don't pray for my scars to be healed. May God use you and me and our scars as He allows us to be a part of His story. If you need prayer for your wounds or if you are seeking God, please feel free to contact me anytime. Much love, Laura

But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds...
Jeremiah 30:17

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Promise of Restoration

"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten..." Joel 2:25

    It is my big brother's birthday today and we kept joking that he was only 32 (he's my older brother). I was good with that because that would make me 29. :)  Wouldn't that be wonderful to rewind a bit, perhaps give our older and mature future self some gentle warnings about the days to come? Jeremy overhead my end of the conversation and said, "NO! Don't say that! That would mean we all have to go through everything again!"
     That got me thinking about restoration and this verse instantly came to mind. How many of us feel like locusts have eaten some of our prosperity, peace, or security? And sometimes the locusts seem to have pulled a chair up at an all you can eat buffet of our lives!
     When we experience times of loss, regret, and difficulty, it can feel impossible to see past what could have or would have been. But then He gives us a promise. God promises not only to walk with us and hold us up but also to actually pay us back for what has been lost. This repayment may be in unexpected ways but it is always displayed in extra measures of grace. Perhaps in relationships formed, kindnesses shown by others, or in actual physical means. God knows exactly how we need to be restored and He will do it. We just need to be open to restoration and not locked into regret or bitterness.
     Hold onto this promise, my dear friend. I'll be holding on with you!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

An Altar of Peace

So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it THE LORD IS PEACE.
Judges 6:24a

     In Judges 6, The Israelites (those crazy, blessed, disobedient people!) were being oppressed by the Midians. Their tents and crops were constantly ruined by them and the Israelites were generally just ravaged by these Midians day and night. When the Israelites reached their breaking point, they cried out to God. Why didn't they do it earlier? I have no idea. Why don't we cry out to God right away? Probably because we think "we got this". He sends the Israelites a prophet who basically gives a reprimand from God himself. Something along the lines of "I delivered you, I rescued you, I told you exactly how to be obedient and still you don't listen." An angel then appeared to Gideon who is busy working and Gideon says "Pardon me, my Lord. But if the Lord is with us, why has all of this happened to us?". For some reason this line made me laugh. I think could see myself saying those same words (Ok, I'm pretty sure I have said those words to God before). The Lord Himself then appears to Gideon and commissions him out to save his people. " 'Pardon me, my Lord, ' Gideon replied, 'but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.' " Oh, sheesh, Gideon! God himself is telling you that you and He are going to save the chosen people together! The Lord assures Gideon that they will strike down the enemy together. Still Gideon asks for a sign and the Lord says he'll wait for him to return. God had to be worn out with the lot of them, no? But, oh, let's not be too quick to judge. We are just like the Israelites and Gideon in so many ways. Gideon brings some food back and the Lord instructs him to put it on a rock and fire flares up and consumes it all. At this point Gideon finally acknowledges the presence of the Lord and builds an altar of peace.
     What is an altar really? I'm ashamed to say that I googled the word to see an official (ok, from Wikipedia) definition of the word. I know what it is but I had a time articulating it. I'm kind of embarrassed that I had to google such a simple word but I figure I'm all out there these days anyway. Haha. So, it says that an altar is any structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made. Stick with me on this one. I got to thinking about building an altar of peace in my own life. At first thought it sounds like a lovely idea. All peaceful and fragrant. And then I started thinking about the sacrifice that is required to actually make an altar, well, an altar. Sacrifice is a stinky, nasty, and painful situation. There is pain and blood and all sorts of unpleasant things that have to take place at an altar. Now, we know that there is no actual physical bloodshed required anymore at an altar since Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and pouring out of blood for everyone. But still, what would a sacrifice look like if I was building an altar of peace in my life? I think I would have to sacrifice all of the yuck in my life that takes away my peace. I might have to give up my need for control, my self-centeredness, people-pleasing, fear, anxious tendencies, my quest to ensure God's love for me, and anything else that gets in the way of peace in my life. If I could truly go through the nasty process of sacrificing all of that in my life (which is the journey I feel like I've been on for some time now), I believe I could actually have an altar of peace in my life. And just maybe I could get to the place where I could see that an altar is not intended for the well-being of the one bringing the sacrifice (me) but it is to honor the one to whom the sacrifice is being offered (God). Get it? It's not about you and me, my friends. It's about the God the altar is supposed to be honoring. My quest for peace all of these months has been all about me and my ability to have a calm spirit and a peaceful heart. Here's my Aha! moment. When I am at peace and totally trusting my God to provide and love me, I am honoring Him. It becomes less about me and all about Him!
     Ok, so God just showed up here on my couch in my living room through this post. My mind is blown at the realization that God just taught me something totally new as I was writing and praying. When I am at peace, I honor Him. That is how I build an altar of peace. I sacrifice all of the uglies that keep me from peace and God is lifted up and honored above all else. As a result, people will see God for who He really is.
    I know that was a lot. And maybe that was just more for me than for you (I said during one post that this blog functions like a good therapist sometimes). But I ask that you think on and pray about how we can build an altar of peace in our lives. Not for our happiness but for His glory.

Much love, Laura (an Israelite at heart that keeps disobeying and is continually shown grace time and time again)