Was, Is and Will Be

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moving-forward-1445758-mIn March of last year, my parents threw a big party. It was a special event to show off their grandkids who live out of state and to celebrate the publication of my first book, The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story. When they chose the date, no one realized that it would land neatly on top of the same weekend they began moving from the house they’ve lived in for seventeen years.

It was a bit maddening for my mother! Half of her life had already migrated to a new address, while she was expecting up to 80 guests at the old house! But, the dynamics created by the convoluted schedule were magical; it was in the chaos that I found redemption.

Part of moving is inevitably going through piles of old “stuff”—letters buried at the back of the desk and forgotten five years before, stuffed animals loved right out of their fur, photo albums lovingly created and abandoned on book shelves, paperbacks enjoyed once but not worth reading again, dusty silk flower arrangements, school year books, gymnastics trophies…but, among the mundane, we found precious things like blankets crocheted by Grandma and handmade baby dresses.

I plucked a photo album from the stack and flipped through the first several pages. My own face, barely recognizable stared back at me. There I was, sitting in this same room, ten Christmases past, a shell of myself, a skeleton of a woman. My eyes were haunted by dark gray shadows and ringed with fatigue. Though I must have been watching someone open a gift, there was no light in my eyes. I remember now, calculating how many calories were in that cinnamon roll my mother made me eat and wondering if anyone would notice if I left and went for a run.

God says He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Praise Him that I am not so! Because He is, my was, is not my is. And my will be is even better.

One reason for the party was to celebrate the publication of my book. As I wrote the book, I effectively closed my “was” chapter, and stepped bravely into “is”. That weekend, plowing through my parents’ closets brought the differences between was and is into distinct contrast. I can see clearly what God has done to redeem my past.

Some things that marked this final stay in my parents’ old home as the dawning of a glorious is:

Every morning, I sat and sipped coffee with my Dad instead of leaving the house to go for a 20 mile run.

I took cat naps with my mother instead of fearing how many pounds I would accumulate while resting.

I looked at my baby pictures and thought, “I was adorable!” instead of despising my appearance.

I walked my mom’s dog and stopped to smell her neighbor’s flowers instead of trying to turn it into a power walk.

I ate some of my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies.

I didn’t fall asleep in church because my brain was starved for energy. Instead I relished the pastor’s sermon and lifted my hands in worship.

I didn’t overhear my parents discussing my illness in anxious, hushed tones.

All of these observances culminated on the Saturday afternoon of the party. Almost 80 of my parents’ friends poured through the house. These were people who had prayed for me and held my parents’ hands when I went to college, and when they received worried phone calls from my dorm supervisor. These people prayed for me even though they didn’t know me. These people knew my story, knew my family’s pain in the middle of my eating disorder and held us before the throne. These people are part of the reason I am here today.

Today is new. I am fuller, happier. I am free from fear of food and compulsory exercise. Today, I see the world as so much bigger than myself. Thank God that I am not the same as I was.

And even more glorious? I’m the not same as I will be. God has promised that I cannot conceive of the good things He has planned for me. He has promised that one day I will behold the face of my Savior and I will be like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). He has promised me a future and hope.

Last year, I recognized redemption. One weekend was a microcosm of the span of my life and I can see clearly how God redeemed me. It is in that context that I am more excited than ever, more grateful than ever that God has redeemed my soul. I love is and new, I am joyful now, but I am ever so excited about what will be.

Questions:

What is one evidence that Christ has made your life new? How is your “is” different than your “was”? Can you use this to share the Gospel with others?
2. Are you still struggling with the guilt and fears of “was”? What do you think you need to truly feel new?
3. If you let your imagination run, what do you think “will be” will look like?

 

Who’s Responsible for Your New Year’s Resolution?

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Happy New Year!

I wonder what your resolutions are? No, I’m not talking about all your good intentions (the ones we all wonder why we make in the first place!). I want to know the deeper things, the places you want to go with the Lord, the things you want Him to teach you, the prayer life you want to have, the grace you want to grasp and the humility you want to develop.

These are quite honestly, the hardest things to accomplish—in fact, impossible. But the good news is (the Gospel) you don’t have to develop them. You also don’t get to check them off your “I did it” list, pat yourself on the back or move on to bigger, bolder ambitious things.

Here’s the thing, when it comes to cultivating holiness and God-centered lives, only God can do that. The one who created our physical lives, is the one who began our eternal lives and the only one who can work and harvest any good from our lives.

Philippians 2:13 says, “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

Micah 6:8 tells us that God wants us to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him.

1 Peter 1:6 says, “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’”

Paul writes to “pray without ceasing”.

If all these things are what God wants for and from us, it follows from Philippians that He is the one to do them. Jesus makes it pretty plain in John 15:5 that we are impotent to improve ourselves:  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (emphasis mine)

One of the most succinct passages on this point is Philippians 1:5-6, “…in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

You see, from the very beginning—from the first day you recognized the Gospel until now, the work has been Christ’s. Why do we get confused every New Year’s Day and suddenly think it’s our job to become better Christians, or for that matter, better citizens, husbands, wives, parents or employees?

So, I’ve been pondering God’s to-do list this year. These are the good things He began and promised to complete. I rest in confidence that He will accomplish His will in my life. I am simply being obedient to surrender my heart, life, body and soul to His good purposes.

This concept reminds me of when my father asked five-year-old me to help him work on the car. Of course, I was impotent and maybe more of a nuisance than aid, but nonetheless, he called me to “work” alongside him. In those hours, he accomplished his purposes. I merely sacrificed what else I might be doing to stand beside him—prioritizing his desires for me above all else.

Through prayer, I have come to understand One Word that will focus my attention on God’s work in my life. This year, it is: hungry.
Father, your Word says, “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”. It also says that you fill the hungry with good things. You are the one who satisfies the hunger of all living things and all types of hunger. Father, this year, I know you will create and satisfy in me a deeper hunger for your Word, your wisdom, your grace and Christ-like humility and compassion than I have ever known before. Thank you for your good work in my life. Thank you for not leaving me to my own best efforts to please you. In the name of my savior, Jesus, Amen.

Continuous Creation

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I started off to wonder,
How the trees and skies were made.
How shadows follow fingers
And butterflies parade,
Round roses, daisies, buttercups
And only for a season,
Then disappear, to come next year
With hardly any reason.

How the breeze can be so winsome
And terrify me too.
One night’s sky an angry yellow,
The next one, navy blue.

How can my face be worn and lined?
The skin once baby-smooth and fine.
How can my one same spirit
Live inside an aged frame?
My one same spirit—
Growing through the change?

Perhaps it’s not that creation was—
It wasn’t yesterday.
Maybe God still speaks life,
And and breathes souls
Today and everyday.

I chased these thoughts throughout the day,
And took them last to Scripture.

“Lord,” I said, “I don’t understand
“How all these things can be.
You made earth once, but I still see
Your hand in everything.”

“Daughter,” Abba slow replied,
“The world spins within my hand.
And every breath that’s taken,
Yes, those are all mine too.
Yes, I once created,
But I’m always making new.”

Revelation 21:5 “And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”

Amos 4:13 “For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth—
the LORD, the God of hosts, is his name!”

Got Troubles? Here’s What To Do…

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Please enjoy this guest post by Esse Johnson:

Alesia Brown recently interviewed me on Touch A Heart Talk Show about my blog post, Breakthrough Now: From Stress to Rest. In the post I exhort that Jesus does not want you to bounce from joy to fear, paycheck to paycheck, and breakthrough to breakthrough, but from glory to glory, peace to peace, and faith to faith. That is, the breakthrough you need is not foremostly in the natural, but in you.
Fill in the blank. The Bible says, “Be anxious for _____________.”

Real People, Real Problems
A man called in to ask the question on everybody’s mind, essentially saying: yeah, but what do you say to the people struggling to pay bills every month? Maybe it seemed like I was out of touch, preaching from an ivory tower with no personal understanding of the struggles of life. I didn’t emphasize enough of my past and how I lived by miraculous provision for years. In any case, he was very kind and not just spewing out doubt. He genuinely needed an answer from the perspective of nitty gritty reality.

This is why Jesus was born in a dirty shed, made to rest in a cow-feeder (manger) and raised among common people, “for we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses (Heb 4:15 NIV). These truths don’t change just because we face challenges in the natural. It’s precisely then that we get to show up as real believers!

The caller mentioned the failing economy and the housing market. I imagined a single mother working full time and barely making ends meet. He asked me for the top two or three things I would say to people like the single mother in my mind. How can I expect them to find peace?

Lord, I thought, give me not just a word that is true, but the “now” word of Truth that will birth faith in every listener (Rom 10:17).
Before I could think, the words just flew out my mouth like a bird from a cage: ACT LIKE A BELIEVER!

The Gentiles Worry
The normal Christian life is filled with the fruits of the Spirit, which don’t include fear, worry, anxiety, or freaking out. They are love, joy, and peace. If you walk in fear, you’re acting like an unbeliever. The Bible tells us to be anxious for nothing. Don’t worry about what you’ll eat or drink or wear. Seek peace and pursue it. Be diligent to enter His rest. You know these verses. The scriptures are so clear; yet, we allow ordinary challenges and circumstances to rock us way off the Rock.

“So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ (These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things (Mt 6:31-33 GNT).

That’s the word. Either you believe it and act like it, or you don’t, and you act like a Gentile. Faith is a gift, but believing is a choice.

Forgive me for sounding harsh. It’s not against you, but against the oppressor, and for you.

What does the King “require of you”?

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent” (Jn 6:29 NLT).

Hallelujah! The word for “believe” (pisteuó) means “entrust.” To believe is not an intellectual exercise. It means to entrust yourself to Jesus. Entrust your life, finances, children, fitness, health, everything to Him. That’s acting like a believer. Every challenge is allowed in order that you might draw nearer to Jesus.

Your faithfulness to Jesus (through trust) draws heaven; but anxiety and fear attract darkness. Those emotions put you in agreement with the powers of darkness. If the Kingdom suffers violence and the violent take it by force, a Christian responds to a trial with violent diligence to cast her anxieties on the Lord, seek peace and pursue it, refuse to doubt God, go deeper in intimacy and worship. The other stuff is of the flesh, and (fill in the blank) the flesh profits _______________.

My Testing

Ever since I released that word, I have been tested it seems on every front. It’s not the first time. I’ve lived “lean” by supernatural provision alone. I’ve lived rich and poor. I’ve believed for healing. I’ve learned to act like a Christian. I’m so thankful the Lord is testing me so I can be reminded how the Spirit is faithful to rise up and multiply grace and peace to me when things in the natural seem to be falling apart. That caller maybe thought I was speaking from an ivory tower, but I was in the thick of it myself. Nevertheless, in eternity, God will remember that I chose not to doubt Him, but to remain in His rest and bring glory to His name. This is the secret behind miracles. It’s relying on Him alone.
Beloved, God is not challenged by your natural circumstances. He’s working day and night to teach you to set your mind on things above, and not things of the earth (Col 3:2).

The scripture says to be anxious for NOTHING. That eliminates the option to worry about bills, kids, even matters of life and death. I didn’t write it. He did.

I love how The Message translates this scripture (Phil 4:16):
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life (MSG).

And:
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil (Ps 37:8 ESV).
You are more than a conqueror. You are a supernatural being. Want to see miracles? When trials come, don’t spin your wheels. See the plan and intent of God by drawing near to Him. God, I thank You for giving my friend Your spirit of wisdom and understanding, even as Moses, to know the ways of God. Let nothing shake you from the assurance of faith.

If ever there was a rebellion, it is choosing fear and worry over the Holy Spirit who produces peace in you. I say this with tenderness of heart, knowing full well that I speak it to myself whenever trials come: ACT LIKE A BELIEVER!

Then, you’ll see the victory of a believer.

I hope you enjoyed this guest post by my Spirit-filled friend. Esse has blessed my life in so many ways and I know God intends to use her to bless millions. Please, please follow the links here to purchase the book, 50 Shades of Grace, and visit her blog.

Merry Christmas!

For a truly life-transforming revelation of God’s amazing grace, read 50 Shades of Grace: Free At Last, by Dr. Eddie Summers. You will never be the same. Purchase it here or instantly download a free excerpt.

Esse Johnson is a blogger, ghostwriter and burgeoning publisher through S.E. Works 111 ® . Read more from Esse at KissOfChrist.com and facebook.com/KissOfChrist.

All Things New, Life After Death

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I’d given up on that phone call years ago. Subconsciously, I just knew it wasn’t a good idea. I’d ruined my body for having my own babies, why would anyone else trust me with theirs?

But last week, a sister called me. My second sister isn’t much of a talker, so I knew something must have prompted the call. “What’s up?”

“Well, nothing is wrong, don’t worry. In fact, it’s not that big of a deal. Well, it’s a big deal, but…”.

“Now I’m really curious,” I urged her on with a laugh. What on earth could tie her tongue and yet still be so important as to warrant a phone call in the middle of her daughters’ bath time?

“My husband and I have been talking and praying about it. We would like you and Patrick to consider being the ones to take the girls if something were to ever happen to both of us.”

She paused. My heart hit the floor and took wings all at the same time. Giddiness washed over me. Me? They chose me—my husband and me?

Not so many years ago, I would have been a terrible choice to take care of my nieces if something happened to their parents. In the throes of a longterm battle with anorexia, it wasn’t a stretch to wonder if I might not live to see them reach high school. I let my mind follow that line of thinking.

Not so many years ago, my sister and her husband might have feared that living with me would warp their girls’ body image. They might wonder if I’d feed them well, tend to their precious bodies or teach them how to fully embrace all of life outside the numbers by which society measures happiness. Or they might have been concerned that I wasn’t mentally present enough to assume responsibility for their little girls. What if I fell asleep at the wheel driving to gymnastics? What if I was re-admitted to a treatment center—what would happen to the girls then?

My sister still waited on the phone; slowly my mind resurfaced and collected itself. I tried to control the waver in my voice and suggest following the proper protocol. “Of course, I’ll talk to Patrick and we’ll pray about it. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. But I have to ask one question—why did you pick us?

My sister and her husband have done a remarkable job instilling the love of Jesus in the hearts of their little girls. A passion for Christ at the center of all things is the desire of their hearts, the defining trait they want for the home where their children mature.

“We think that you guys embody the way that we want the girls to grow up. We want them to know Jesus as a Person, not simply grow up in a religious home. We want them to feel His presence and learn to walk with Him.” (Not a precise quote, I wasn’t recording my sister.)

Not so many years ago, the mention of my name conjured worries, memories of treatment centers, confusion, deception and fear. I identified myself as anorexic. The dominant thoughts of my wakeful hours, and often even my dreams, were calories, food and exercise. But now…

Oh the joy, the sheer magnificence of a healing God! He healed me and allows me to experience abundant life, unhindered joy, Christ-filling. He redeemed the years, redeemed my reputation, redeemed my identity.

To be known as one whose mind, heart and home is consumed with Christ, is a greater honor than I can explain. To know that the old is so far gone, so far has He removed my sin from me, and the new has come—there are no sufficient words.

Of course, you’re likely wondering if I ever consulted my husband, who would share the responsibility of raising our nieces and what he said. He said, “Yes!”

Please don’t be put off or allow this to be seen as a morbid story, considering the loss of my sister and her husband. Rather, I believe her call, their question was meant first and foremost as God’s testimony to me, of me, that He makes all things new.

 

Feel the Sunrise

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shrimp-boat-sunrise-1445726-mSun rose, bold and brash,
Flaming bronze across the sky.
Horizontal in its peeking,
Not yet determined to push away the night.

I sat still as stone,
My feet grown useless,
A part of the splintered floor beneath them.
I sat still as stone, paralyzed by anticipation,
Awaiting glory.

The air is clear.
Not devoid of color, warmth or sound,
Indeed full of bird song,
Tenderness and blushes, tints, pops of pigment.
Waiting…

It is clear of confusion—
That slept away.
Clear of fear and timidity,
Not yet risen for the day.

Sun bold, streaks upward,
Advancing on the night.
But as I listen and feel for glory,
Eyes close to restrain my sight.

Have I felt the sunrise before?
This so remarkable, could I forget?

First a small toe, then five
As heat seeps up my ankle.
Goosebumps swell, pop and fade
As radiance explores me.

Glory.
I feel it stealing over me, slowly,
Awakening each pore.
Devours knee, thigh, waist,
Shoulder, neck, cheek…
And I am Glory.

Melded one and melted into
Divine joy, newness, declaration.
Life Lives! It calls:
Awaken.

How to be Served

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“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with beholding-his-splendor-111076-mGod something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Phil 2:6-7

Most of the time, when challenged to think about biblical servanthood, my mind charges into a list of opportunities: what can I do? Who has God called me to serve? What are my gifts and who is most at need of comfort, encouragement, prayer—anything?

Of course, I can list a myriad of ways that I fall short—things I’m not doing. And, I’m grateful the Lord allows me to serve others in many ways. But, as I mulled over being a SERVANT sister, the Holy Spirit trickled thoughts into my mind, like tiny cleansing rain drops, offering me a fresh perspective on servanthood. I distinctly heard Him say, Who is serving you? Whose kindness and generosity are you benefiting from?

He led me to a verse that I’ve skimmed over many times, “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me: to the one who orders his way rightly, I will show the salvation of God.” Psalm 50:23

Maybe there’s more to “ordering my way rightly” than simply doing as much as I can for other people—more to service than serving.

This last week, I went through my normal routine: cooking and cleaning in my home, volunteer work at the hospital, laundry, helping at church, praying for others. Occasionally, these things inspire me to pat myself on the back. Sometimes they even leave a little chip on my shoulder when I think I’m doing more than my share of serving.

But, what if biblical servanthood is equally expressed through a humility cultivated by knowing how well I am served? What if it includes gracefully acknowledging and receiving service?

I thought about who serves me:

My husband who works everyday to provide for our family

The kind lady on the phone who helped me work out a banking issue

The friend who texted back immediately when I cried of being lonely

The Starbucks guy who gave me my coffee for free after I waited in line

The man who came to fix my washing machine

The humorous cashier at the grocery store whose smile brightened my day

More than any of those and certainly more significant than any act of service I have ever performed, is the example Christ set in His service of me. Often, I forget to look at His sacrifice in that context. I fail to be grateful that He still serves me by continually cleansing me from my sin and always interceding for me before the Father.

Father, make me a servant like Jesus. Open my eyes to see and receive the goodness of others with gratitude and humility. And above all, thank you for Jesus’ willingness to be a servant and to save me. 

 This was first published on the delightful website http://www.servantsisters.org