Tag Archives: life as a Christian

A Tree, Some Water, and Your Heart

treeWhat does a tree planted by water have to do with the state of your heart?

A lot.

I was sitting in a relatively comfortable chair across from a kind, older gentleman who was listening to me berate myself for the kind of a person I was. I mean, who drives their husband away? What kind of “Christian” is angry all the time, frustrated that what she reads about in the Bible is basically a fairy tale for her because she has never experienced any “fruit”? Anything positive. Rather, I was stuck, stressed, and basically ready to give up. My husband had already walked out, so why try?

After letting me expound for a relatively polite amount of time, this really nice man starts to tell me a story. Gosh, I wish I could remember his name… Anyway, apparently he used to be a pastor before he retired and went into counseling. He recounted a time when he was leading a small group study on the fruit of the Spirit, and used Psalm 1 as the passage. His focus was on the fruit and how important it was, when he felt God arrest him right where he was at, and shift his focus from the fruit — to the trees.

“Oh the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with scoffers. But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants; day and night they think about his law. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail. Their leaves never wither; and in all they do, they prosper.” Psalm 1:1-3

Verse 3 makes it clear that the only way that these trees bear fruit is because they are planted along a riverbank. Not only do they bear fruit, but they do it each season without fail. They don’t dry up and wither, but instead they prosper.

Let’s go New Testament now. Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4:4-26 that He was the chief supplier of living water: 10 “Jesus replied, If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me and I would give you living water.” and in 14: “But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

Here’s what I learned that day from the really nice man: There was way more to my story than how I had screwed up.

In order to produce anything remotely positive like the spiritual fruit written about in Galatians 5:22 I need to have a very real connection to this God who says He loves me. Even Paul emphasizes that it is the Holy Spirit who produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It is not by my striving that I will achieve these things on my own.

I tried. And failed.

When this truth started to trickle into my awareness-receptors, I decided that I wanted more. I was thirsty. Parched actually. What has happened in the time since is that I have been reminded that Jesus wraps up the law spoken of in Psalm 1 with these two: Love the Lord your God  with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-40)

Let’s not stay on the same horse but just change the saddle… It is not about what we do and how hard we do it that creates change in our hearts at first. Yes there are many passages that urge us to love God and to love one another, but we must remember where it starts:

1 John 4:19We love because He first loved us.

Let it wash over you, this life-giving, cleansing, refreshing water He offers.

Soak in it.

Drink it.

Allow it to carry away the pain, the burdens, the mistakes, the failures, the wrongs.

Spending time every day at His feet, consciously making an effort to understand how much I am loved — not because I deserve it, but because He washes away all that would separate me from His perfect righteousness and smiles upon me because He now sees me as He intends me to be.

Worthy.

Delightful.

Made in His image.

Unique.

Beautiful.

So, as Paul writes in Romans 12, let’s actively renew our minds with the truth of God’s unshakeable love for us.

Let’s let it transform us. Because then great things happen.

Like fruit.

Like caring for the poor, the needy, the widows and the orphans.

Fear is abolished.

Anger is deflated.

Wounds are healed.

Pain is soothed.

Let’s learn to rest in the Living Water. May your heart never go thirsty again.

– Shev

“Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus. (Matthew 11:28)

“Arise my love, my fair one, and come away with me.” Song of Solomon 2:10

You Are a Masterpiece. – What?

absolutelyMasterpiece: a work of outstanding creativity, skill or workmanship.

You are a complex being.

You are a masterpiece.

Your thought life, your experiences, your physical well-being, your perceptions, who you think you are, are all vital components that help make up the quality of your existence.

I want to encourage you to not just accept what is o.k. or passable, but to challenge yourself to live fully. But I would remiss if I did not touch on the importance of recognizing the God of the universe and how much He digs you.

It is not about what you’ve done, or what’s been done to you.

It’s about who you are, and what He’s done for you.

There is no shame in who He created you to be. You are a masterpiece, though you may have had a few mishaps or tragedies along your way. You’re still a work of art, and He is the artist.

I used to think that God had to love me because it was just how it worked… I didn’t see His love as a deep, all-encompassing, knock-your-socks-off kind of love, because well, that was kinda weird. I was just one of the gazillion people ever to walk the earth and therefore not very important.

Funny thing is, when I slammed to the bottom of my pit of hell and finally reached out to God, begging for mercy, you know what happened? He gave me more than I ever dreamed.

It hasn’t been easy. I’ve had a lot of work to do, skewed perceptions to right, and responsibility to take; but not once have I been alone. Because I took the risk to ask Him to walk with me, He has never left my side.

It’s been hard.

It’s been painful. But it’s also been full of joy. And now, as I continue this journey of becoming all that I was created to be, I recognize His smile. His beckoning. His direction.

Friend, it all comes down to this: His love and mercy is free. It cost Him immensely, so that you and I could benefit. He gave us the ability to choose. (Why do you think the world can be so messed up, and yet so good? Because He gave us the freedom to make choices and we regularly exercise that.)

When we choose to do life with Him, and when we choose to let Him love us completely as He so longs to do, that is when transformation happens.

God’s love isn’t some wishy-washy-fruity-kinda-icky-sweet-mumbo-jumbo for the weak and flighty. It is a powerful force that completes.

It is the gas in the car, the food in the system, the reason for all that is good. It makes life happen.

And it comes from one source. Jehovah.

He is Absolute, and He loves you. Absolutely.

He desires for you to become all that He intended for you to be. And He will be right there with you if you ask.

I hope you ask.

Be you. Absolutely.

Tell me, what are some of the things holding you back?
I can’t wait to read your answers.
– love,
Shev

Fear, Anger, and Dying a Slow Death

angerIt feels wrong to complain. With all the horrific things going on in the world, I am really and truly grateful, way down deep.

But times like this tend to transport me to days in the not so distant past where I was existing on the dregs of yesterday’s coffee and whatever sugary treat I had baked for “the kids”. Juggling three children along with the denial of my pent up anger, my feelings of never-quite-doing-it-all-good-enough, and my fear of the unknown was wreaking havoc on me.  I was exhausted.

Rolling out of bed in the morning was an act of sheer will.

I knew I wasn’t supposed to complain. To rock the boat. My marriage was not ideal, but I said vows, and I didn’t believe in quitting, so tough luck. My middle daughter had special needs that I was continually struggling to understand, but I had suffered the loss of her older brother, so I would suck this up too.

The result was a slow death of who I was because I could not reconcile the pain I endured, building walls around it to try protect myself from further damage.

Desperately afraid of the next wallop that I could not predict or control.

Maybe it would be an accident involving either my oldest or youngest daughter.

Maybe a freak natural disaster, like a tornado, would flatten our house and we’d be left homeless.

Maybe there’d be a fire and I would survive, but barely.

Or an intruder, or a stalker, or a drunk driver, or a wild cat prowling too close to our home, or, or, or…

Fear is debilitating. It sucks the very life out of you, leaving no room for anything else. And it got free reign in my little world because I couldn’t trust that God was good. To me.  You know, beyond sending Jesus to die and give me a ticket to eternity if I wanted it.

As a result, anger was the go-to emotion for years, fueled by my fear of … everything.

What a way to live.

I was completely at a loss as to how to stop the continual anger until I was able to reconcile that fear was at the root of it all. Fear was the reason I was dying a slow, uncomfortable death.

So what now?

Well, interestingly enough, it’s right around this particular time of enlightenment when God began to woo me. Began to teach me that He is good, and that He can bring good out of my pain. I would have preferred no pain at all, but since we were past that point I found myself drawn to know more. And as I drew closer to Him, He came closer to me, just like He promises. He taught me to trust Him in various ways, and spoke to my heart so softly, so firmly, that I slowly learned to live again. To breathe again.

Rediscovering who Sheavaun is has been a bit of an adventure, but I am grateful that I did not remain in a charred heap, never to experience the full life I was promised.

I am not a particularly “special” project for God. It’s not just for me, this change from a slow death to new life. It’s for you too. All it takes is a first step, and the willingness to hear Him, to rant and rave in His presence, and allow Him to persuade your heart to trust Him.

I hope you do.

So on days like today where I feel frustrated with my circumstances, and feel tired of waiting for things to turn around, I know I can lay it all out with this God who loves me and has made an unnecessary effort to convince me that He is trustworthy. And I can rest.

Living life is good.

– love,

Shev

Is God Personal?

churchThere was a time in my life when God was merely someone to be respected, revered, and even somewhat afraid of. I learned about Him when I was 11, then sailed through the rest of my school years attending churches and youth groups learning about Him, but somehow never actually caught on that I could know Him personally.

By the time I hit my twenties, I wasn’t ok with going to church just to follow a bunch of rules that seemed more geared to please people than to please God… if there was more, I wanted to know about it. I asked questions, I got aggravated with the answers because they seemed out of my reach, and I felt myself spinning my wheels while reaching out to try to grasp something — anything-– that would give me a taste of what I seemed to be craving.

Then life rolled off-kilter for me, and I got down to the task of barely surviving each time my heart was broken.

  • Deaths of two loved ones
  • raising a child with special needs
  • feeling alone in my marriage

I didn’t know how to process the disappointment I felt with how my life was turning out. This wasn’t what I had dreamed of.

When the only thing left for me to do was cry, I knew I was at the end of everything in my power. I did not give up readily, but this was it. The straw that broke my camel’s back was when my husband moved out, stating “it” just wasn’t working. I had nothing left in my survival arsenal to help me cope with this last blow, and I collapsed in a bedraggled heap.

It was there, in that heap, where I first experienced the presence of God. Something outside of myself covered me with a feeling of comfort, of rest, and calm.

I decided to investigate. I was hungry for more of this. Thirsty for it. Ached for it. Craved it.

And He made Himself known to me.

I have had many storms since, but God has faithfully walked with me through them. When the hopelessness weighed so heavily that I could not even raise my head, He came in and lifted it.

Time and time again.

Is God personal?

Yes.

Is God worth getting to know?

Yes.

I believe it with all I am.

– Shev

 

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13

“Call to me and I will answer and reveal to you wondrous secrets that you haven’t known.” – Jeremiah 33:3

 

Knowing Jesus

 

IMG_2091As a little girl, I can remember hearing my dad make disparaging remarks about Christians, and little tidbits here and there about why evolution was the only explanation necessary; but when a couple of my school friends managed to talk me into attending a kids’ Bible study with them where I first heard about Jesus and God, I was hooked.

Funny thing is, my dad decided to trust Jesus as well within a couple of years after I did, due to a Christian friend at work. My whole family was baptized together when I was in 7th grade. I’ll never forget it.

Yet, my learning filter was a little ‘off’ due to the lies I had been hearing in my head since a young age. Maybe you’ve had a few rolling around your consciousness too; you know: There’s something wrong with me, or I’m not good enough… They affected my perspective of myself,and how I believed God saw me. Throughout my remaining school years, my belief system was wrought with rules, rules, and more rules, without much grace. Hence, I wasn’t the kind of person that attracted good attention to the Name above all names.

So, when my safe, protected young life began to unravel as a 20-something, the church scene got pretty old for me. My husband and I had a singing career and traveled the country from church to church, but the adventure wore off, and my damaged heart got sick of church politics, the do’s and don’ts of what to wear, how to speak and act… I was turned off of Christians and of church.

But somewhere buried deep I recall there being a tiny flicker of hope that there was more to this God that I had been so enamored with as a child.

Every once in awhile I would come across some genuine people that believed in this same God, who seemed to know Him in a more personal way than I did; dare I say intimately. There was a trust I didn’t understand, but knew I wanted.

So when the other shoe dropped, and my life completely fell apart and I found myself curled up in a ball, completely at the end of myself, the God who loves me and was waiting for me met me where I was.

This propelled me to start asking more and different questions, to look for Him in everything around me, to learn as much as I could, despite my aching heart. He met me and blew my mind.

All those years ago as a child, He was whispering to my heart, calling me to come closer, to let Him into my personal space, but I got caught up in the useless dressing of performance, and how I repeatedly seemed to fall short. So I’d try again, not recognizing that that’s not how it works with Jesus:

  • God became a man.
  • Paid a horrific price so we could always have access to Him, always walk with Him, and always know how loved we are.

When that truth began to seep into my weary, shattered heart – well, I can tell you that I haven’t been the same since. He has healed my brokenness, and blown a fresh breath of life into my soul.

It was not overnight, and it is not over, either. But it’s in HIM that I have learned to trust, to rest, to listen to and follow. When I get off track, he reminds me and helps me to reroute.

I am not alone.

I no longer care about the scarring scrutiny of closed-minded church-goers, because I now know that God’s grace has taken care of all that gets in the way of Him and me, and that’s all that really matters. And His love, man, His love! Fills me till I can’t help but overflow.

That’s the difference that knowing the actual person of Jesus Christ has made in my life, rather than knowing “of” Him.

He rocks my world.

Tell me: have you ever felt yourself wanting more, wondering if there was more to this whole God-church-thing?

I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment in the section below if you feel so inclined.

– love love

Shev

 

The Secret About Bad News and God

despairWhat do you do when you receive bad news?

I can’t answer for anyone else but myself, but I will tell you that I distinctly remember that when my Dad informed me of his prostate cancer diagnosis in 1993, the thought echoed through my mind: “This can’t be happening. This happens to other people… this can’t really be happening.” Each negative event that has occurred in my life has been met with the same disbelief; that is, until I finally became numb to the onslaught.

Horrible things like death, like illness, like abuse, separation and divorce, addiction, negligence, poverty, – these things are hard. They hit us with such a force that we find ourselves curled up on the floor in the fetal position, wondering how we will ever get up again.

We are not meant to live like this. This is not in the Original Design, and we are not wired to expect this torment, or to simply live with it.

So, what then? What do we do when we receive the news that our friend is faced with the return of her dreaded adversary, MS?

What do we do when we read that the family we’ve been praying for may have just heard the worst report possible?

When you are reminded that life and it’s heavy sledgehammer is still wreaking havoc around you, and you can do nothing to stop it?

Well… first you cry. At least, I do.

I weep for the pain I know they are enduring.

For the questions they are asking.

For the hole ripped through their heart, and the anguish that accompanies it.

The sorrow that settles in.

The disbelief. The sick feeling of being alone. Of feeling like they have lost.

The anger.

—–

And then I pray. First for myself, because I am recalling all the moments of torment that I have had to walk through.

And then I pray for my friends that are facing it right now.

You see, I have learned first-hand that despite the fact that I cannot fix things for them, as much as I long to, I know Someone who is keenly aware of what they are facing, and weeps for them as well.

Not because He is powerless.

Not because He slipped up, and the sh** hit the fan when He wasn’t looking…

But because He understands.

He knows that our lives are filled with unknowns, with pain, with unanswered questions, with despair. It is the nature of this life we live.

But can I tell you a secret?

His hands are not tied.

Now, before you get your panties in a knot, there is no way I’d go prancing up to anyone facing these dire circumstances and spout off a bunch of platitudes about God. I’m not an idiot. I’ve been where they are, though the details may vary, and it is just mean to talk about goodness in the midst of the heaviness weighing on them.

This is just between you, me, and the fence-post, OK?

I may not be able to tell you why the awful stuff happens to us, which may tick certain people off. I get it.

I can share with you that when I wasn’t looking, God showed up and covered me with that Peace that I couldn’t figure out. I cried out to Him and He answered. Not the way I wanted Him to initially, but He did answer, and you know what?

It. Has. Been Amazing.

Those promises in Scripture where God says that if we come close to Him, He’ll come even closer? They’re true.

The wide-open wounds gushing my life-blood have been tenderly and expertly tended to and are healing as we speak. Gentle words of love and devotion have been whispered to my vulnerable heart, and breezes of hope have ushered in new life.

New life that is growing out of the ashes of anguish. Of defeat. Of despair. Of loneliness. And pain.

I don’t know how He does it, exactly, but He does. And it is good… eventually.

There can be beauty again. Even if our lives have been turned inside out, upside down, and burned to the ground.

Life may be hard, but His heart is not. He is Good. And His heart is for you.

You are His Beloved, and He died to show you.

That, my dear, is my secret. Isn’t it good?

Autumn Flowers and Happy Dances

autumn2All I did was wash my hands after vacuuming the living room carpet, glance at the vase of beautiful autumn flowers sitting on my hutch, and now I’m caught up in tears of joy as I thank God over and over for the small things that mean so much to me.

I can distinctly remember the days of gazing at houses twinkling in the darkness, beckoning to me as we would drive from motel to hotel during our days of music ministry. My heart ached for a home to call my own; to have lamps softly lighting the family room, the kitchen teeming with delicious smells, delightful sounds,and of course, laughter. To welcome, to nurture, to relax, to love. I wanted it all.

Now I do. I have it. My space may be small, and I may not have a husband to enjoy it with anymore, but my children want to be here with me, and I am completely grateful. It actually caught me off guard last night as I looked into the living room from my kitchen and noticed the way the light was casting a warm glow over the room… and my heart remembered what I had longed for so many years ago. SO many bridges have been crossed since then; so much learning and hurting and stretching. And now, not only do I have a space to call my own, but I also have a simple luxury like autumn flowers bought from the grocery store to add to my Thankfulness Picture.

See, today I also experienced the incredible satisfaction of being able to catch up on my rent. Years of always being behind on bills, countless moments of anxiety, hyperventilation-sessions, and stolen tears in the shower are all behind me now. Not because I’ve won the lottery or hit the business-big-time, but because I am in process of learning the valuable art of Rest.

What a glorious word. What a coveted concept. We all want it, but often don’t have a hot clue how to attain it. But my Lord is teaching me, and I am a slobbery-wet-mess-of-thank-you’s for it.

I had a deadline to come up with what I owed in rent by November, and I wasn’t exactly sure how I would pull it off without having my utilities shut off or go without gas & food. My paycheck as a care-giver to the elderly is adequate to just get things taken care of by the skin of my teeth each month, but when the unexpected happens (which it did), and I fall behind (which I did), I’m screwed. But in my time with God that I selfishly crave each day, He has been teaching me to trust Him completely. That my life matters to Him, and no matter what happens, I am not alone, and I matter. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll have unicorns flying around my head pooping rainbows with pots of gold at the end, but that there is Someone who gives a damn about me, and He calls me Beloved.

He makes me cry.

Good tears. Happy ones.

He sees me. He gives a rip.

I know that what He is doing is cultivating a die-hard trust in Him, because life will always have its yucky stuff to throw at and around me. But knowing that I am seen, that I matter, that there is purpose and goodness here too — well, that makes a big difference to me. There seems to be such an endless amount of pain in this world, so much dark stuff that overwhelms and chokes and disheartens, leaving us to feel helpless or hopeless or both.

The thing is: He Is Our Hope. That’s why He came. To help.

To bring us Hope.

And Faith.

And Love. Lots of strong, blow-your-mind kind of love.

So I chuckle at my silly tears (I’m still getting used to the ease with which they burst forth since I went for nearly 10 years without letting any slide), and let loose a gushing million thanks to the Lover of my soul. For the small things that make me feel so big. For being able to do a happy dance with the apartment property manager and celebrate a victory only God could win.

geez, where’s the kleenex?

xo

Sheavaun