April 22, 2014

Exactly As I Am

I want to be loved whether I am a size 6 or a size 16, whether my face is porcelain smooth or has a few extra lines at the sides of my eyes from smiling. When did how we love someone or if we desire someone become about clothing size rather than heart size? When did we become so superficial and start measuring the outsides to the point that they make our choices of what rules our souls, when we don't even know what lies underneath? I want to be okay with my extra 15 pounds and some cushion around the middle, as well as the new wrinkles and freckles that I'm finding as I age. I want someone to look at me and see me exactly as beautiful and special as they always did, even with these changes, because that would mean that they truly were in love with my heart.

Instead, we're compared with how much inferior we are to the latest issue of magazines flaunting cover girls and chiseled guys, or the half human Barbie that just walked around the corner flaunting her stuff in scantily clad clothing. The same can be said for the men. When did we become more interested in their bank account and their hairline than in their soul and their mind? Comparing them to Matthew McConaughey and Brad Pitt…and all the while becoming livid if they are comparing us to ANY other female on the planet. They say if you want a perfect person to go buy a doll. Truthfully, I don't want to be a doll, an I don't want to be with one either. I want to be adored, accepted, loved, made to feel beautiful, shown that I am enough. I also want to give all of those same things to who I am with so that they know I see them in that same way.

And we are: man, woman, tall, short, skinny, a few extra pounds…we are all beautiful. We are all loved unconditionally. We are all enough just as we are. Do you know how I know? Jesus tells us we are, Jesus died for how beautiful and loved we are. If he can make that profound of a statement about us, who on earth are we to say otherwise? Who are we to turn around and say, "Yeah right, nice try but you're full of it". No, the Creator made us in His own image. We are not supposed to look like clones, robots, Photoshopped magazine ads. We are real, we are unique, and we are each precious in our own way. I am not saying we should not take care of ourselves. God tells us that our bodies are temples that should be holy and cared for in honor of Him. But I also accept the fact that we are human. Just because were size a 2 when we were 18 does not mean we should be expected to be a size 2 when we're 58. Just because we have a beautiful head of hair when we're 25 does not mean we should be expected to still have it at 45.

We are human, we are imperfect. Men go through midlife changes, women go through midlife changes…they are facts of life and they change your body no matter how much you fight against it. Why are we made to feel that it's wrong to embrace that, to still see it as beautiful, to see it as something that we have no reason to be ashamed of? Instead we are told we need to wear more makeup, have hair transplants, have plastic surgery done. All of society keeps telling us we are not enough the way we are, we have to be improved upon. God tells us that we have always and will always be perfect. He created each one of us, and He makes no mistakes. If only we could all walk around blind to the outside but able to look in and see everybody's hearts, minds, and souls. With that we would be able to see motive, intent, and trustworthiness. That would be a wonderful vision to have and something much better to base our decisions upon. Surprisingly, we can have that right now. But it entails letting go of the superficial ideals, the fleshly perfection that we keep trying to seek. It involves loving ourselves just as we are, so that we can love others just as they are. It involves digging into other peoples minds and hearts and personalities so that we can fall in love with them as the people God created them to be, and not the packages He wrapped them in. Some of the most beautiful women I have ever known are overweight, homely to worldly eyes, and "nothing special". And some of the ugliest women I've known have been slender, outwardly attractive, and "all that" from a worldly perspective.

My point to this all is, we let some of the best things in our life pass us by because we are so busy seeing with our eyes instead of with our hearts. May we look as Jesus did, may we love as God wishes for us to. Let's start looking at the important things that make us want to be in someone's life forever, instead of the temporary things that might make us want to be with them for just a moment. And let's stop always searching for more, looking around the corner, checking for greener grass, wondering what else is out there. The greenest grass you will ever find is your own, if only you will water it as much as you desire to water other grass. Let's look at what we already have right in front of us, let's embrace it, let's remember why we fell in love with it…whether it is a family member, a friend, a romantic relationship. Just the same way we need to remind ourselves how and why we fell in love with Jesus, we need to remind ourselves of those same things with people here on earth, and with ourselves. There is no "better than", we are all equal, just different. And we should all be loved just the same without being compared, scaled, measured. Just loved and accepted, plain and simple. Acknowledged for the beautiful creatures that we are, man and woman, each beautiful and God's masterpiece of design. Accept yourselves and love yourselves, accept others and love others. Close the worldly eyes and leave them behind, and open the eyes of the heart and let them allow you to see things and people the way they were meant to be seen.

April 8, 2014

The Better Things Are, The Harder They'll Be

Huh? Is that the first thought that popped into your mind when you read that? When things are good, that means they are easy, right? So when things are going good in your life, it can't possibly make your life more difficult. That would be an oxymoron! Well, those typical worldly rules of "good people reap only good things" gets thrown out of the window when it comes to a devoted Christian. Now, that is not to say that the Christian life is one of misery and that you will spend your life doing good things and getting only bad back. Not by ANY means! The Christian life is the most beautiful and rewarding thing you could ever experience. But it is also the most persecuted and targeted life choice you can make. When you give your life over to Christ and lay your heart at the foot of the cross accepting him as your Savior, you will have an immediate target placed on your back. Satan, the devil, the enemy...whatever you want to call him, he will immediately start plotting ways to deter your path and make you second-guess your choice. Every inch closer that you grow to God, the enemy loses an mile of power. Power is what Satan craves most, and it is the only way he knows how to operate and manipulate. When we live for Christ and obey the Word (The Bible), we make the devil angry because he gets worried and scared by being reminded that the end of his time coming near. He wants to take as many souls with him as possible, and each time someone seeks The Lord, he feels one soul possibly slipping out of his grasps, and he panics.

So what does he do? He starts manipulating your mind and heart with doubt, worry, fear, and hurt. If he can get you to distrust God or take you away even a little, then he knows he has all of the leash he needs to pull you close enough to sink his teeth into you! One less hour a week that you spend studying the Bible, turns into 5 hours less a week. One missed service turns into 2 months of missed services. Involvement in several study groups turns into "I'll just study on my own." It happens slowly, and sometimes is almost unnoticeable until it has already damaged your life and your relationship with God. If you are secluded, the enemy has a lifeline into your mind to play his tricks and plant his lies. And if Satan isn't enough, we have his pawns. People planted on this earth that will ridicule Christ-followers, chastise us, and condemn us. If they can get us to doubt God or aid Satan in causing something bad in our life, then he and his pawns can likely cause us to blame God and turn from him when things happen in life, instead of praising God and turning to Him. So you see, trials are not a sign of us not being favored, not doing right in life, or not being loved by God. Rather, they are a VERY strong sign that we are on the right path, that we are growing closer to God, and that we are achieving victory. It shows we are on our way to doing great things for the Kingdom!

Keep in mind also that God will not cause you to have trials in your life, but He may allow them to continue and have you walk through them. This refines us, and teaches us to be more like Jesus Christ. This also speaks of our true heart and motives, and reveals our own strengths and weaknesses. This is not done to make us feel less than, but so that we can work on ourselves and improve our walk with The Lord in order to become closer in our connection with God. Trials are often blessings in disguise, if only we would look at them with an open heart instead of an accusatory selfishness. The harder we are pursued by trials, the greater glory and praise that is being brought to Our Father! Still confused? Maybe some of the below Scriptures will help to bring you understanding. For those of you who are already strong Christians, you know how this works and why it works this way. For those of you who aren't or are new Christians and still not quite sure why this occurs in our journey towards a closer relationship with Christ, please feel free to contact me for further discussion via phone, email, or web. I would love to converse with you about this, let The Lord guide me in aiding your understanding, and develop continuing fellowship with you! God has us all here to help each other, and community is one of His greatest blessings! Please feel free to email me at saviorsgraceministries@gmail.com , or message me at http://www.facebook.com/SaviorsGraceMinistries. God bless, my beloved brothers an sisters in Christ. Stay steadfast in your walk with Our Lord...the blessings you will receive in the end are immeasurable compared to anything this world can do for you!

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." (James 1:2 MSG)

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18 NIV)

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance." (Romans 5:3 NLT)

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12 ESV)

April 5, 2014

Positivity Is Power

Many people do not think it's possible to think positive in light of any situation. Indeed, some situations can be tragic beyond belief: death, sexual abuse, physical abuse, poverty, drug addiction, imprisonment, starvation, the list goes on. Most anyone would respond, "How on earth can you find positivity among any of those things?" The answer is, in our human selves, we can't. We can only find these things if we look to God for understanding and hope. There are times that we cannot see through our pain or sadness to find the silver lining. There are many situations in which one would say there is absolutely no silver lining. But if we look to Jesus, and we take a moment to step back from the situation and approach it as someone who is loved and protected by Our almighty Father, we are better able to see these things. That way when we put ourselves back into the reality of our situation, we are able to cope with it better and find joy in every circumstance, no matter how devastating.

I have a friend who's daughter fell off the curb and cut her whole face up badly in doing so. She stated what a blessing it was, and people looked at her like she was out of her mind. Until she went on to tell them that about five steps further ahead there was a very deadly snake hidden in the grass that the daughter would've stepped right on or near and most certainly been bit. The bite to this child from this particular snake would've absolutely been fatal. So the blessing? A scraped up face that will heal in a week or two, versus losing her daughter's life in an instant. Her daughter (who was 6 at the time) even stated, "Mommy, God saved me from that snake." Gratefulness and positivity, even in her pain. Another friend I know lost her child in a tragic car accident. Anyone would logically say there is absolutely no positive angle you can pull from that. But again, if you look deeply and lean on God, you will see it. God gave her that child to enjoy for all of those years, God has given her the memories that sustain her every single day and keep her near to her son. She finds joy in looking at his pictures, joy in remembering the times they spent together and how much they love each other still. Those are the hidden blessings that stem from a tragic occurrence.

I know another friend of mine who battled cancer, and he lost. In a matter of only four months he went from not knowing anything was wrong with him (working full time, playing on his basketball league, and being filled of life), to almost unrecognizable and passing away surrounded by friends and family. I was holding his hand when he received his diagnosis, and also when he took his last breath at the age of 34. This was only 2 years ago, and the pain is still deep in missing him. No blessing in that? Again, there are plenty present, but it took even me some time to see them. He brought joy to so many peoples lives, and that was evident by not only those surrounding him at the hospital, but those at his celebration of life, those that remember him every single year on his birthday and the anniversary of his death, and those that don't go day without thinking of him...of which I am one of those. The positive we bring out of this is that he is no longer in pain, he is no longer slowly wasting away, he is no longer wondering or scared of what will become of him. The positivity for those of us still here on earth, would be the memories, the time spent with him, seeing how many lives he impacted and the passion to keep his memory alive. The sheer gratitude of him existing in our lives for the period that he did.

This world knows a lot of pain, a lot of sin, a lot of unanswered questions. I know a rapist, I know a murderer, I know molester, I know a physical and emotional abuser, I know someone with a severe drug addiction, I know someone with a severe sexual addiction, I know someone with a deadly eating disorder. None of these are beautiful things, none of these are things that we enjoy to hear, see, or know about. But yet they are still reality on this earth, and we will be affected by them whether we like it or not. The difference is in how we approach these things? What will we take away from them? Will we learn to change the way we look at things, or will we let these things change us and our faith in God? I am not saying trauma is easy to overcome, I have had more than my fair share of many kinds of betrayal and assaults against me. But I am living proof that forgiveness and positivity can take you worlds apart from feeling like a victim, to feeling like a survivor. Positivity does not change your circumstances, but it does change how you are able to get through them. It gives you strength, it helps you focus on your blessings, it keeps you in the present instead of lingering in the past or fretting about the future. Positivity is a very underestimated emotion; yet it is also one of the most powerful. It takes much practice, but it is possible. We can find the good when we see God, we can find the good when we think of Jesus and his sacrifice for us. If he would give his life for our sins and suffer unbelievably more than any of us could ever imagine…doing all of this as a perfectly flawless and beautiful human, should there be one single thing in our lives that we cannot give thanks for what find gratefulness in?

That does not mean are supposed to jump for joy, send up balloons, or throw a party when something terrible happens. Of course not. But this does mean that in order for us to bear things better, in order for us to support others who are going through terrible ordeals, we need to focus on the positive and focus on healing. Focusing on the bad or staying in the past only keeps us in the clutches of the enemy, right where he wants us, slipping away from God. I hope the following verses will help you to see that finding the positive in things is not only possible, it is essential to live the joyful and abundant life that God desires for us to have. Through the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly…He never leaves our side for a moment. It is we who leave Him by giving up or becoming hateful towards Him and the situation we are in. Find your strength in Our Savior, find the blessings all around you in your life, and pull something positive from every situation in order to make you stronger for the next one trial to come. There will be more, but at the end, there will be the ultimate reward of seeing Jesus face-to-face and sitting at the right hand of God. Press on!

"Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 MSG)

"Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass." (Psalm 37:5 AMP)

"Do not pay back evil with evil or cursing with cursing; instead, pay back with a blessing, because a blessing is what God promised to give you when he called you." (1 Peter 3:9 GNT)

"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8-9 NLT)

"Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]" (John 14:27 AMP)

"Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts." (Proverbs 4:23 MSG)