Tag Archives: living in grace

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

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

 

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

Blessing Prayer

Have you ever prayed a blessing prayer? Pray it over yourself, your friends, and your family.

 

Blessing Prayer by Michael W. Smith

In the name of Jesus Christ, I bless you with the promises of God which are “yes” and “amen.”

May the Holy Spirit make you healthy and strong in body, mind, and spirit to move in faith and expectancy.

May God’s angels be with you to protect and keep you.

Be blessed with supernatural strength to turn your eyes from foolish, worthless, and evil things, and to shut out the demeaning and the negative.

Instead, may you behold the beauty of things that God has planned for you as you obey His Word.

May God bless your ears to hear the lovely, the uplifting, and the encouraging.

May your mind be strong, disciplined, balanced, and faith-filled.

May your feet walk in holiness and your steps be ordered by the Lord.

May your hands be tender and helping, blessing those in need.

May your heart be humble and receptive to one another and to the things of God, not to the world.

God’s grace be upon your home, that it may be a sanctuary of rest and renewal, a haven of peace where sounds of joy and laughter grace its walls, where love and unconditional acceptance of one another is the constant rule.

May God give you the spiritual strength to overcome the evil one and avoid temptation.

May God’s grace be upon you to fulfill your dreams and visions.

May goodness and mercy follow you all the days of your long life.

Amen.

Divorced Christians: Black Sheep of the Flock?

ringsThe unknown is a rather scary place to be, never mind in the valley of the shadow of condemnation.

To be honest, I feel as though couples sporting the scarlet letter D are the black sheep of the Christian flock. There is something nerve-wracking about walking in to church knowing that there are people who are looking at you differently now that the cat is out of the bag regarding your failed marriage.

There is speculation as to whether or not you tried hard enough to save it. There is judgement about your decision to vacate it. There is pity. There is awkward silence. I know, I feel it acutely, – but I also used to be on the other end of the stick: looking, judging, mentally fixing the obvious. Never in a million years would I have dreamt that I would be on the receiving end.

beachwdgMarriages were not meant to be broken, and if they were, then there was definitely a problem with someone’s relationship with Jesus. Right? Yeesh.

It’s taken quite a bit of counseling, praying, soul searching, and guts to get to the place I’m in right now. To be able to say, “I don’t want to remain in a marriage where there is no trust; where I have stayed, I have tried, I have hoped, to no avail, and I don’t want to anymore.” There is guilt involved. There is this feeling like I need to explain myself to the church-world. To the people who know nothing of my life, but believe that I am sinning anyway. I won’t explain myself because that would mean throwing my kids’ dad under the bus, and I have no desire to do that. I’m not lily-white in this thing, either, not at all. I have contributed to the communication problems, and am painfully aware of my shortcomings. My failure as a wife.

So, let me just say that I have given up all control. I continuously turn my face to God’s and deposit my life in His lap. If He wishes to make some miracles happen in my neck of the woods, I am willing to go and do and follow and obey. He says I can come to Him with my requests, and so I do. I also come to Him humbly, often ashamed of my inadequacies, very grateful for the gifts He showers me with, for His grace that completely consumes me, washing me clean even though I don’t deserve it.

The unknown freaks me out, but after years of wooing, showing up when I thought all was lost, proving His love for me in ways I never dreamed of, I am getting better at trusting the One who loves me most. To be honest, the hope of heaven trumps everything, but He has made it clear that life here and now is worth living too, no matter what I face. I have been so lonely, and He comforts me, filling up the empty space inside. I have felt abandoned and forgotten and He has assured me I am priceless. I have felt discarded and unwanted, and He has filled me completely, causing me to feel loved and treasured.

So the unknown is just that: unknown. But faith, hope and love, grace, mercy and devotion override the uncertainties. I don’t know what tomorrow brings, but I am not a black sheep. I am a daughter of the King, and I will follow where He leads. I may grumble a little, but He knows I’m feisty (and He’s ok with that).princess