Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Don't ever lose H.O.P.E.!

My spiritual journey from the past couple years has continued even though my writing has been quiet for a few months. To be quite honest what spare time I have had has been used to speak directly to God rather than put into print. It seemed like the better choice.
  As I write this, today is Easter...My pastor asked me if I’d be willing to share a part of my testimony (you can read it here) during the service. Unlike being in a play where I relish playing a ‘part’ pretending to be someone else,  I find that sharing my heart, a piece of me, in front of people is not what I would choose to do. It is quite nerve wracking actually. But it seemed the thing to do. “It was time”, he told me. (at the time this statement gave me a questioning pause that I know he saw on my face)
  The topic of course was how God has changed my life. I used the example of being set free from the bondages of church imposed rules. Ones that you do not find in scripture yet sometimes they take precedent over God’s word.  How I found out that faith was not to be complicated by man-made rules...the Bible is clear about what is required for salvation...Accept Jesus as your Savior & repent of your sins. Period....it is man that complicates things.  What better time than Resurrection Sunday, to bury the past & be ‘raised up’? Reborn, if you will.
  I had no idea what my year of ‘HOPE with a side of Serenity’ would mean for me.  But within a short time of the word being chosen for me I was given a glimpse of it.
  I first saw it on facebook of all places....it seemed quite random, however you & I both know that God uses many different means to speak to us.  It was a simple statement....Hang On Pain Ends. ~ H.O.P.E.  Needless to say that hit me like a ton of bricks & immediately gave me the additional encouragement I so desperately needed. After more than a year in constant pain which I will admit has worn me down at times, hope was right there like a balloon string I only needed to grab on to! And like a balloon I felt just a little lighter too with this new thought to focus on....be patient it’s going to work out in time...this is temporary...the pain will end.

  Of course the pain I have hasn’t just disappeared but I did see a HUGE improvement as more people were also praying for me. In the meantime, I continued to share my hope & what was being revealed to me in my own life. I couldn’t help but to tell people about this journey I’ve been on because not only was I excited about it & just couldn’t contain it but I saw so many of their circumstances needing to be reminded of it too!
  On one of my harder weeks it came to me that somehow I needed to show on my outside that I was not going to let my insides steal my joy, peace and hope. (hmmm, I see a pattern here. Just click on each word to read about them. Scrolling to the bottom right of each post shows you that whole year)...Now rest assured I have had many conversations with God about my pain but this particular week my end of the conversations became rather heated....I became really angry. I can’t exactly say I was angry at God but rather angry at myself for not being able to figure out this whole pain thing. I did ask that He help me understand what I was supposed to learn from all of this because sometimes I can be dense & really need it spelled out for me! It also occurred to me that just like with Job in the Bible (it’s an awesome story you should check out if you’re not familiar) perhaps there was something else going on here. So I declared to Satan, my God is bigger than you & if I am to have this pain forever then so be it, but I will not lose my hope because I know He is with me & will see me through! ....Oh yes, this was out loud, actually very out loud to the point that our 4 cats went running from the room!
  That next week I went a step further and I got my nails done! Yep, I wanted to have a visual that my pain was NOT going to be my focus but my hope was!  When I look at my hands now I see my pretty hands & am reminded that in time the pain will end and they will feel as nice as they look!!!

  I can’t tell you how many times someone has come up to me and said “you know, every time I hear or see your yearly word of hope, I think of you which gets me to further focus on hope & I feel blessed!!”....They are blessed by my word!!! How cool is that?!    Please don’t misunderstand me here, I KNOW it has nothing to do with me but rather how God can use anyone or any thing to accomplish His purposes.
  Just as I am writing this something else occurred to me...in my testimony I gave the example that when my hands were free from carrying burdens I wasn’t meant to carry in the first place, they were then open & free to embrace my faith in a bigger way...Maybe it really WAS time like my pastor said, to say it out loud? Is it just me or do you also see the similarities?

My testimony on Easter Sunday

I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was 20 years old and soon thereafter got baptized...I was filled with enthusiasm for my new faith but quickly got sidetracked. The church I was in helped to direct that enthusiasm not into developing a closer relationship with God but rather in ‘stuff’....The focus became rules of ‘do this, don’t do that..here’s a list, check it off as you go’ kind of stuff.  Alot of it wasn’t bad, per se, but over time that focus seemed to overshadow the power of what the scriptures said. And a lot of the time it even took a place of real importance ABOVE God’s word.
   I can’t stress enough what a really big deal this was..It was in every aspect of my life from what you wore to who your friends should be,  to the point that common sense didn’t even have a say in things at times. And to question anything or to express your opinion was NOT an option..... It was a very heavy mantle of rules & things to do that I was carrying. And yet, I was under this bondage but at the time I didn’t even realize it.....But God kept putting the right people in my path that got me to thinking more for myself instead of relying on someone else to tell me what I should be thinking....and there came a point when it was just like in the scriptures when the scales fell off the man’s eyes, I was able to see things as they really were. And when that happened, I read the scriptures with my new eyes & my prayers totally changed as well....they went from being of a superficial nature to “I surrender, change me Lord, I want to know YOU more, please use me in YOUR will”....and from that point on, things were no longer complicated for me in my faith. I am reminded of the scripture in Matthew 11:30 that says "my yoke is easy and my burden is light"...
  Not only did He free me from the bondages of 'check lists’ & rules that were imposed upon me, But through His love & grace he has also released me from the baggage of bitterness, hurt, anger and everything else from that past as well. And when my hands weren’t so full from carrying that baggage, I was free and released to do what I wanted to do all along which was to follow Jesus and His example. He never meant for it to be complicated.