I know only that I do not know what lies ahead

“Girls you’ve gotta know when it’s time to turn the page.”
Tori Amos, Tori Amos: From the Choirgirl Hotel

This is going to sound so weird, but I killed a big part of myself.  Not literally, obviously, but it’s true.

Two weeks ago I walked into work and turned in my resignation.  As of 5 p.m. Friday I officially became a former disc jockey.  My transmitter went dark.  I hung up the headphones.  My broadcast day came to an end.  My station went off the air.  I retired from the broadcasting field.

From the time I was 14 years old I wanted to be in radio.  Music has always been such a huge part of my life that a career in broadcasting just seemed a natural fit.  I wanted to talk over songs, give away prizes, take requests, meet celebrities, and have people love me.  I needed that love and adoration.  I needed to be needed.  So when I was 23 years old, in March of 2000, I enrolled in Broadcast Center in St. Louis.  They had a very focused program that led to actual jobs in radio.  I loved it!  I loved doing my airshifts at school.  I loved learning how to produce commercials.  I took great satisfaction in cutting and splicing audio tape, and I totally rocked it!  I was eager to get out into the world and begin my takeover of the airwaves.  I was hired for my first job before I even finished the program.

In January, 2001, I moved to Paducah, Kentucky, where I took my first job with Withers Broadcasting.  I worked for a cluster of 3 stations:  WZZL-FM, WREZ-FM, and WMOK-AM, which were all housed in Metropolis, Illinois.  The radio station was tiny and far from high-tech.  I was broadcasting to cows and corn.  The pay was terrible, and I had no benefits, but I loved it.  I was doing what I had dreamed of for 10 years.  I was literally living my dream.

A few weeks after I started working for those stations we moved into our new-to-us building.  It was bigger and prettier than the building we moved out of.  But things were a little backwards in that building.  This was most evident in the fact that the hallways were carpeted (in horrible blue carpet), but the studios all had ceramic tile floors.  **Note to readers:  when soundproofing a room, don’t put ceramic tile on the floor.**

I was with that company for 3-weeks-shy-of 11-years.  In that time I learned how to do everything except sales.  I was on-air, commercial production, music scheduler, program director, traffic manager.  I was a well-rounded and valuable employee.  BUT my pay still sucked and I still had no benefits.  By the time I left the company I was married and had a 6-year-old son.

Somewhere around 2004 I discovered a frog on the radio . . . Froggy 103.7.  It was a country station out of Murray, Kentucky.  I fell in love with it immediately.  All the jocks had adorable amphibious names.  They wished listeners a hoppy birthday, and they went out on frog gigs.  There mascot was a giant anthropomorphic frog named, fittingly, Mr. Froggy.  I was hooked.  A coworker told me that if I were ever to go to work for that station then my name needed to be Heather McRibbits, which was a play on my maiden name.  I had a new goal in my career.

December 27, 2011, I walked into the offices of Forever Communications in Murray, Kentucky, for my first day of work at Froggy 103.7.  I was on the midday shift where I spent 6 years as Heather McRibbits.  I was still living the dream.

But eventually all dreams come to an end.  A person must wake up and move on with life.  It’s funny but even when I was going to school at Broadcast Center I couldn’t see myself still in radio at 40 or 50.  I think maybe deep inside I knew I would not spend my entire working life in radio.  After all, nobody wants to hear their grandma trying to into the latest Top 20 song from some skanky pop star.

I have no regrets about leaving the only career I wanted and the only real career I’ve known.  I knew it was time to move on the same way that you know when it’s time to buy more toilet paper.  In my 17 years in radio I have met many amazing people that made great impacts on my life.  I made, and lost, lots of friends.  That’s the thing about radio . . . everybody is always looking for the next best gig, and a market like Paducah is always a market that is a stopping point on the way to somewhere else.  Some friends were in my life for less than a year.  Some friends were in my life for several years, but ultimately everyone moved on.

When I look back on who I was when I first moved to Paducah I see a 24-year-old woman who was still just a scared little kid.  I moved to a new city and state where I knew absolutely nobody.  I may as well have moved to a foreign country.  I am not the same woman now that I was then.  I don’t need the same things now that I needed from my career then.  I don’t have the same priorities, and I am a little more wise, and a little more jaded than I was then.  The insecure and naive little girl that moved to Paducah in 2001 got lost somewhere along the way, but she had been replaced by a woman that is strong, independent, and secure in who she is and what she wants.  I have made mistakes in those years, but I have learned even more.  When I first moved to Paducah my career was my life.  It was all I could see and everything revolved around that.  Now my career is something that takes up 40 hours of my week, and is pretty low on the priority list.  My career is a necessary evil.  But that rearranged priority list had allowed room for new priorities.

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
Corrie ten Boom

I am back in school.  I am active in my church, and I eager to see where the future will lead.  I don’t know where my life will go from here.  I have hopes for the future, but I am open to wherever God chooses to lead me from here.  Am I scared by so many unknowns in my life?  Nope, because God has seen fit to put me exactly where he wants me in this exact moment, and I have complete faith that He will continue to put me where he wants me in my future.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but that is not a scary thought for me.  I am not frightened of all of the change going on in my life.  I am excited about it.  Change used to instill a butt-puckering sense of fear and anxiety for me, but now change means possibility.  It means something new, clean, and exciting.  Change means something fresh and unknown.  Change means a chance at discovery and exploration.  Change means the future.

I spent too long fearing change, and thus staying somewhere where I knew I was safe but unhappy.  Today I don’t know where I will be tomorrow, but I am happy and I am hopeful.

“Do not let the memories of your past limit the potential of your future. There are no limits to what you can achieve on your journey through life, except in your mind.”
Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

i-dont-know

Until next time . . .

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People vs. Love

keep out

I was talking with a friend recently.  For the sake of this post I shall name this friend Erin.  Erin is an great friend to many around her.  She is a devoted spouse and parent.  She is a positive influence.  But Erin is wearing a mask.  But, honestly, aren’t we all wearing some form of mask?  We are one person with our family . . . hopefully that is the most true version of ourselves.  We are another person with friends, and still yet another person with our co-workers.

Masks come from a deep-seated insecurity.  Every morning we wake up and put on the mask of the person that we want others to see and to like because we are afraid that the person that really lives inside our skin is not good enough.

Erin is very good at wearing her mask.  Yet as I was talking with her recently she slowly took her mask off.  I could tell that it terrified her to do so, but once the mask was off I was blessed to meet the real woman inside my friend.  She is wounded and afraid.  She is insecure and filled with doubt.  She is beautiful and broken.  She is filled with shame, doubt, and guilt.  But even deeper than that is a desire to rise above it all and make a better life than what she has ever known.  It was an honor to be one of the few people that have truly seen inside Erin’s heart and soul, and because she took that risk with me, someone that she has not known but for a short while, I am indebted to her for her level of trust in me.

I have been where Erin is.  I have lived through ugly things that left me hating myself, doubting myself, and feeling unworthy of anything good in my life.  I have been beaten down verbally, mentally, and emotionally by others and by my own hand.  I have looked at myself in the mirror and hated the person looking back at me.  I have been empty and searching for someone or something that would fill the void that seemed to be nothing but a black hole.

All of that stems from love, though.  An old friend once told me that he gave up on people because they were always walking out of his life.  I was eventually one of the people that walked out of his life, too.  But he was never willing to invest himself into a relationship.  Without that investment from him, people had nothing to hang on to.  He was so scared of being hurt that he built a wall around himself to keep people out and then wondered why nobody stayed in his life.  He was unwilling to make the choice to love, and no relationship can stand with only one leg.  Relationships of any kind are a team effort.

No matter what Hallmark cards and romantic-comedies lead us to believe, love is a choice.  Love is something we wake up every single day and choose to give and take.  Love is not an emotion that magically grows in the heart the way that my sunflowers grow in my garden each summer.  One day we look at a person and we make the decision to love them, to accept their quirks and idiosyncrasies, to take off our mask and be real with them, and maybe even get them to take off their mask, too.  But, conversely, sometimes we wake up and decide to stop loving that person.  Love is a choice.

Here’s the thing though, we can not give or take love until we make the biggest decision regarding love.  We must decide to love ourselves.  The friend with the wall built around himself saw little worth within himself.  He didn’t feel good enough to be loved, and thus he saw himself as flawed and broken.  He didn’t love himself enough to be willing or able to take the risk on loving someone else.  Because of that, he spent a very long time alone and unhappy which made him dislike himself even more.  The only reason I was in his life for as long as I was, and the only reason I made the decision to love him, was because I saw behind his mask.  I pushed my way into his life.  I scaled his wall, and earned his trust, and eventually his (guarded) love.  But love was the reason I had to walk away.

Erin is in a similar boat.  But where the walled-heart friend was unwilling to let people into his life, Erin is open to those healthy and fulfilling relationships.  Erin is unable to see in herself what those around her can see in her.  She is terrified of becoming the person that scares her the most . . . the woman she hates, the woman she can’t forgive, the woman that caused hurt to others . . . the woman she used to be.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t fear becoming the woman I used to be.  There have been times where my past has come back to haunt me.  It has happened within the last couple of weeks, and that is something that I am struggling with, because I know that I am not the person I was three years ago.  I am not the person I was one year ago.  But the person I used to be is always lingering in the shadows waiting for her opportunity to come back to the forefront.  But every single day I wake up and make the decision to keep the old Heather in her place, and I make the decision to love myself more that I loved the things of my past.

In coming to see myself as someone worthy of my own love and the love of others I had to make one gigantic, and nearly impossible, decision.  I had to see that I was worthy of forgiveness.  When I was able to see that and then forgive myself, I was able to go to the people that I hurt and ask for their forgiveness.  My husband was one of those people, and I honestly did not expect him to forgive me, but his did, and it was in that moment that I saw how much he chose to love me, and in that moment I was also able to finally see that I am worthy of being loved.  That is when I started to finally love myself.

Erin is not a bad person.  I am not a bad person.  My walled-heart friend is not a bad person.  YOU are NOT a bad person.  We are all good people.  The thing about people though is that we sometimes make some really stupid decisions.  Those decisions can lead to anger, regret, guilt, and self-loathing.

You are not defined by the stupid decisions you have made.

I am not defined by the fact that I cheated on my husband.  I am defined by one simple and immovable fact . . . I am a forgiven, redeemed, and LOVED daughter of God.  He loved me even when I thought I was the worst person in the world.  He loved me even when I was cheating on my husband.  He loved me in my darkest moments, and he knew that one day I know his love for me and that would be enough to fill the black hole in my soul.  As soon as I was able to accept His love for me I was finally able to see my worth to him, and love myself.

Erin is still looking at herself through her own eyes.  I’ve been there.  But one day Erin will hopefully wake up and look in the mirror and see a strong, beautiful, intelligent woman.  One day Erin will hopefully wake up and see herself through God’s eyes instead of her own.  One day Erin will hopefully wake up and see the woman that God is shaping her to be instead of the woman that Erin is fighting to leave in the past.  One day Erin will hopefully wake up and the choice will be made to love herself.

Do you love yourself?  If not, what is holding you back?  Isn’t it time you look in the mirror and finally see the person staring back at you is a good person, a decent person, a person that is worthy of your love?

chess

Until next time . . .

Spew forth the word-vomit

Forewarning:  I have a feeling that this particular post is going to be a like a geyser spewing forth.  It’s going to be forceful and largely unproductive.  The meanderings of a brain needing to word-vomit.  I don’t really have anything to say, but the fingers have that need-to-write itch.

I am exhausted today.  I am mentally and physically spent.  I have felt this way for a while.  Too many directions.  Too many destinations.  Too many commitments.  Not enough down time.

battery

I got an email from my advisor at school today.  It’s time to register for next semester.  I’m thinking of not registering for next semester.  I am having one of those days where I am wondering if the time that class consumes, and thus takes away from my family, is really worth it.  I am having one of those days where I am discouraging myself with how long I have until I graduate.  I feel like I will never get there, and if I do, I will be too old to even put that degree to work.  I am having one of those days where I am talking myself out of school because of a class I have to take next semester that I know is going to kick my ass, and I am convincing myself that I am not up to the task.  I’m just having one of THOSE days.

An old friend recently reappeared, much to my shock and surprise.  It was not the old friend that I was hoping for.  That ship has obviously sailed.  Yesterday I was alright with that sailing.  Tomorrow I may even be alright with that sailing.  Today, I am not alright with any sailing ships.  I realized recently though that I don’t miss that person.  I miss what that person meant to me, and what he was in my life.  I have no idea who that man is anymore, and he doesn’t know me.  I miss the person that I knew and maybe I even miss, a little bit, the person I was when we were friends.  But there was a reason he left, and that is that.

The amazing reappearing long-lost friend that recently resurfaced had been out of my life, by my choosing, for the past 3 years.  He once told me that when people choose to walk away from him that he is done . . . completely . . . with them.  If they don’t want to be around him, then he reciprocates the feeling.  So that is what I did.  I was a much different person three years ago.  I was struggling with some demons that could not be exorcised as long as he was in my life.  So, I cut all ties.  I turned and walked away with nary a word as to why.

But looking back, I can also admit now that part of me was testing his word.  Would he really allow me, a person he called a friend, to walk away as he said he would?  Would he “chase” me?  Would he call or text to find out why I was not contacting him?  Nope.  He was true to his word.  And that hurt.  It hurt a lot, because I had poured a lot of myself into that friendship.  For him to so easily allow me to walk away, it made me feel disposable, useless, like a friend of convenience.  It reaffirmed my feelings of our friendship being completely one-sided.  So when the amazing disappearing act occurred again last year with my long-time friend . . . same feelings all over again.  Why am I so disposable?  Why is it so effing easy for people to walk away from me?

Because some people are takers.  They will take and take and take until you have nothing left to give them, and then they move on to the next person that is of benefit to them.

That is where my head is today.  I am just a general ball of discontendedness today, and for that I apologize.  I have fallen into my head, because I am exhausted.  It would be easy for me to say that I don’t have the strength today to fight the negativity that the past is dredging to the surface, but that would imply that I rely on my own strength.

My strength does not come from within myself.  My strength comes from the Lord, but today I feel like he’s taken a coffee break in my life.  There are no obstacles that I am fighting to overcome.  I am simply my own obstacle, and I am getting in the way of Him.

Just for the record, I have forgiven both of those people.  They were just using the coping mechanism they had at the time to deal with issues in their life that I happened to be a part of.  I have been guilty of the same thing.  I run.  I am non-confrontational.  Which is why I walked away from one friend three years ago, and allowed the other to walk away from me one year ago.

Anytime I am leading a group at Celebrate Recovery I always tell my girls to find something positive from the past week.  A life can not be spent focusing solely on the negative things.  Life must be balanced.  Positive and negative.  I’ve already spewed forth negativity, so something positive . . . so far I am acing my Social Work class.  Perfect scores on all of my assignments.  Today I was able to use my job to help a friend in a fundraising effort for a need in the community.  My husband is getting baptized on Sunday!

Until next time . . .

Weight on the cross – Revisited

You may remember my post from right around Easter called “Weight on the cross.”  In that post we looked how much weight the cross could carry.  Maybe you even took the time for some self-examination to find out if there was any baggage you were carrying that needed to be laid down at the cross.

For many people, laying our baggage down at the cross is the easy part.  Not picking it back up . . . that is what we really struggle with.

There is no shame in admitting you have baggage.  We all have baggage.  I struggle with anger, codependency, control, resentment, and other things.  I laid them on the cross, but battle daily to not pick those things back up.  Some days I win the battle.  Some days I do not.

At Celebrate Recovery recently we each took a piece of paper and wrote on the paper the things we wanted to nail to the cross, the things we wanted to lay at the feet of Jesus.  It was a remarkable representation of not just the things we knew we could ask and receive forgiveness for, but all just how much weight the cross could bear.  Addiction, adultery, lying, stealing, anger, resentment, abuse . . . and the list goes on.

But it didn’t stop there.  This past Friday night we had a fire.  It was intention, and it was once again symbolic.  It was much like writing a letter to someone who has hurt you and then destroying the letter.  Sometimes you just have to get the negativity out of you so it can’t control you any longer.

Fire . . . it can be a tool of great destruction.  Look at the Chicago Fire of 1871.  300 people were killed.  100,000 people were left homeless.  3.3 square miles of Chicago were destroyed.  And one of the rumors as to how the fire started . . . a cow kicked over a little lantern.

But fire can also be a tool for great purification.  Iron ore in its raw state is very unrefined.  But put that iron ore in a smelter with enough heat, and those impurities will be removed.  What is left is steel, a metal stronger than the iron ore was to begin with.  But it had to withstand a little heat.

We all have impurities.  We all have those little spots within us that are our weakness, that keep us from being as strong as God wants us to be.  We endure fire in our lives.  With family, friends, in our job, in our life in general.  Too often we avoid that fire because we don’t think we can withstand the flames to get through it.  Too often we shy away from the flames because we are afraid to see what is on the other side.  It may seem easier to stay in our safe little world, and avoid the risk that the fire brings.  But by avoiding the fire we are denying God the opportunity to work in our life.  We are taking away from God the opportunity to purify us for Him.

Our own free will brought the impurities into our life, but we are given a path to be clean, strong . . . through salvation in Jesus Christ.  The path was never guaranteed to be easy though.  Those flames can be tall, bright, and hot. But Philippians 4:13 gives us a comforting reminder in times of fire, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me,” just as iron ore is strengthened into steel when the impurities are removed.  You will not be left alone in your flames.  You will not be thrown into a smelter while God watches idly from the sidelines.  Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us to, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

He will never leave you nor forsake you.

You may feel like you are surrounded by flames.  You may feel like you are having the worst day ever and wonder if it can get any worse.  We know it can always get worse.  But no matter how hot the flames burn, no matter how completely those flames surround you, you will never be alone.  Those flames are purifying you.  They are making you a man or woman who will be stronger instrument of God.

Daniel 3 tells the story of King Nebuchadnezzar.  He decided to build a huge golden statue that he commanded everyone to worship.  People from all over his kingdom fell before the statue and worshiped it as Nebuchadnezzar had commanded.  All except for 3 men.  Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego.  They refused to worship a golden idol, knowing that they could worship the only true God.

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not afraid of the furnace.  They were not afraid of the fact that they had been tied together.  They did not fear the fact that the furnace had been heated seven times hotter than normal.  They had faith.  They had faith that God would protect them no matter how hot the furnace got,  that God would be with them in their time of distress, and they never lost that faith.  God saw them through without one hair on their heads singed, and not even the smell of fire on them.

Is your faith that strong?

You may not stand in a fiery furnace, but you will withstand trials and difficulties.  But will God ever leave your side?  No.  He will protect you.  He will stand by you, and he will see you through the flames.

And once you’ve come through those flames you will notice a new flame within yourself.  A passion that God has laid in your soul.  Maybe it will be a passion for helping addicts find their way out of addiction.  Maybe it will be a passion to teaching children, or sharing the gospel.  Maybe it will a passion for helping the poor, or being the best spouse or parent that you can be.  Whatever your passion is, it will start small, like the cow that kicked over the little lantern in the Chicago fire.  But once you recognize it, it will grow.  The flames will burn bright inside of you.

Colossians 3:23 reminds us to, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

Yes, fire can destroy.  But fire can also purify you and make you stronger.  And that same fire will fuel your passion in the world.

What impurities are you ready to put in the fire?

What are you passionate about?

Take a moment to think about what impurities, what sin, you may still be hanging onto.  What are you ready to let go of that you haven’t yet?

Now think about what you are passionate about.  If you could go anywhere, do anything, in service to God what would you do?  What talent or skill would you love to be able to use for the glory of God?  How is God already calling you to serve Him that you don’t even think you can do?  Remember, God doesn’t call the qualified.  He qualifies the called, and He has called you for a reason.  So what is holding you back from putting that passion to work in your life?  Are you afraid of the flames, or do you trust God to protect you in the furnace?

Get a slip of paper.  Think about what you need to let go off, and think about how God wants to use you.  On one side of the paper write down what you are ready to let go of, what baggage you are ready to turn over to God.  On the other side of the paper write down what you are passionate about, how you would like to see God use you.  If you don’t know what you are passionate about, but know that you are ready to God to use you as an instrument for His kingdom then just write down the word, “Yes!”  You are putting your “yes” on the table and letting God know that you are willing to let him guide you to where he wants to use you.

Now fold that paper up and burn it.

God will use the flame to burn away your impurities, and then He will turn it into a flame that will fuel your passion.  And besides you can pick up baggage that has been destroyed, and you can take back a “yes” that you have given to God.

Make the decision to longer let your baggage have power over you, because you are flawless, my friend, and you are called by God.

Let God do the work in you to continually remove whatever he sees as an impurity.  And keep your eyes open for the spark of passion that He will grow in your life.

Do you have your slip of paper ready?  Then what are you waiting for?

Until next time . . .

“Make a u-turn, if possible.”

I opened a blank page to type another post  in the 365 writing prompts by thinkwritten.com.  But writing about going to galaxies far, far away does not seem to be what wants to come out of my fingers today.  Truth be told, I have no idea what will come out of my finders.  I know that there are words that have been sitting in my head for several weeks.  There has been a lot of stuff that I have not spoken about to my husband or friends because how I feel is strictly a product of my own imagination.

The Spring semester at school ended this week.  I am extremely happy about that.  I took on too much this semester, and my grades suffered a little bit.  Because of the amount of time I had to focus on my classes I have not been getting into my Bible as much as I should at all.  I have not been praying as much as I should at all.

My pastor says that times may come where we feel like God has abandoned us.  Yet if we take a moment to do some self-examination then we will find that it was us that walked away from God.  Perhaps it was not done intentionally. You just wake up one day and the realization of the situation hits you in the face like arctic wind.

I never decided, “today I will abandon my relationship with Christ.”  I simply woke up several weeks ago and realized that I had been ignoring God for too long . . . for months.  MONTHS!  How can the relationship grow, deepen, become more intimate if  I won’t give Him any attention?  I focused on reading textbooks, completing assignments, writing papers, and taking tests.  But those things did not take up every single waking moment.  There would be entire days where I would sit on my couch, watching television, and say, “I’ll get in my Bible tomorrow.  I’ll pray later.  Right now I just need to relax.”

It’s not that I focused on the wrong books.  Textbooks are necessary to learning when a person is in school and working toward a degree.  I just gave too much attention to the school books and no attention to the most important book . . . the inspired word of God, the most influential teacher I will ever have.

As I focused on Sociology, Intro to Social Work, and Intermediate Algebra, my bible collected dust.  My relationship with Christ collected a layer of dust to match my bible.

I was focused on myself instead of dying to self.

As a result, I have found myself to be completely out of sorts the last few weeks.  I feel like a puzzle that has been torn apart and all the pieces have been thrown to the wind.  My temper flares too easily.  I find it harder and harder to worship each week at church.  As a matter of fact, the only reason I have shown up at church the past couple of weeks is because I had to.  When I do pray it seems curt and perfunctory.  Thoughts about people and situations are tending to be more and more negative.  Old habits are trying to resurface.  Jealousy and bitterness are creeping back in.  Isolation is becoming more and more predominant.  I am getting a small glimpse at who I was before I found a relationship with Christ, and I know for a fact that I was a bad person with an ugly soul.

It is really easy to use the excuse, “there just isn’t time for me to get in my Bible today.”  After all I am a wife, a mom, a full-time employee, a student, a servant at church . . . but those are all just excuses.  We make time for the things we really want.  I have not been making time for Jesus.  So, does that mean I don’t want Jesus in my life.

Nope.  That is not what that means at all

I have been the worst kind of friend.  I have expected Jesus to do all the work in this relationship while I do nothing.  I have been lazy, self-centered.  I have not been an example of Christ . . . and it’s all been my choice.

That is what happens when a Christian does not give time to Jesus everyday.  When you don’t feed a relationship . . . when you don’t feed yourself with God’s word . . . the relationship atrophies.  It becomes a shell of what is used to be.

The good news is that u-turns can be made.  Just because I have strayed from my walk with Christ, I have not lost my relationship with Him.  Repentance .  It is a word that many take to mean a person is begging for forgiveness.  Yes, to repent is to admit where you went wrong, ask forgiveness for those things, and then turn around, change your mind and behavior.  Repentance is part of resuming the line of communication that I alone shut down.

God created me and knows every single thing about me.  He knows me better than I know myself.  He knows that I will occasionally stray from the path.  But He also knows that I remember what it was like to be lost, and I don’t want to go back there ever.  He knows that I will look to Him to lead me back onto the path to Him.  And He is waiting for me right now, with open arms.

Until next time . . .

Stronger (poem)

I know where I’ve come from
I know what I’ve done
I know where I’m going
and what I’ve overcome
But sometimes silence tries to creep back in
when the day is near its end
Old demons come back haunting
regretting a battle they did not win
Sometimes I am weak
I stumble and I fall
Sometimes the darkness grips me
and am tempted by history’s call
Sometimes the past grips me
in claws so sharp and strong
Sometimes the fight for freedom
seems a fight that is so long
But the fight lies only with me
The demons are all my own
Self-destructive at the bottom
of a recovery path so long
The demons will live
only as long as I give them breath
The demons will fight for strength
until they are banished in death
My soul can not be had
It is no longer a prize to win
And though my demons rear their heads
I am stronger than my sin

Heather L. Flood
04.19.17

Weight on the cross

Look at this cross.

CROSS

How much weight do you think it could carry?

We know it carried the weight of a man.  If you look at the cross you can see his head, his arms, and his legs.  But do you see what is in the center?

Right there in the middle of the cross is the strongest and most overlooked part of the cross.  It is more than the intersection of two boards.  It is the heart of the cross.  It is the heart of Jesus.  It is the intersection of the path of the lost and the road of the redeemed.  It is right there in the heart of a man who loved us so much that he was willing to be hung on a cross and die for us so that we could spend eternity in Heaven with his Father.

So when you look at this cross, see more than two boards.  See more than the nails.  See more than that blood that was shed for our sins.

Look at this cross and see Jesus’ arms that wrap around you in your best and worst moments.  The moments when you feel hopeless.  The moments when you feel thankful.

Look at this cross and see Jesus’ head with his face turned to Heaven as he prayed to his father, knowing that he was dying for you.

Look at this cross and see Jesus’ legs that carry the weight of not just my sin and your sin.  But the sin of the entire world . . . on two little boards.  All you have to do is lay that sin down at the cross.

You may have already given your life to Christ, but we all still carry baggage.  Addiction, anger, lying, stealing, fear, anxiety . . . something that we have not yet been willing to give up.  You know that the moment Christ came into you heart you were made new.  You are not defined by the sins you carry around.  You are a loved, redeemed, and forgiven child of God.  So whatever sin you are still holding on to . . . even that secret sin that you think nobody knows about . . . now is the time to lay it down once and for all at the cross.

Jesus was nailed to the cross to cleanse us of our sins.  He was the ultimate and final sacrifice for anything that comes between us and God.  So what is still standing between you and God?

There is no sin too big or too small that can not be forgiven.  All you have to do is be willing to let it go.

Romans 3:9, 10 says, “What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.’”

1 John 1:8,9 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

ALL unrighteousness.  Even what you are still hanging onto right now.

Take a moment to think about what you need to nail to the cross.  This is just between you and God, but we all have something to nail to this cross.

What is God laying on your heart right now?  What is God saying that you’ve been holding on to for too long and that it is time to finally let go of?

Write it down.  Get on your knees and pray.  Do whatever you need to do right now to get that sin out of you, and confess it to God.  There is nothing that you can say to Him that will make Him turn away from you.  There is nothing that you can say to Him that He doesn’t already know.  He is with you always, so he already knows everything you’ve done.  But to be forgiven you must admit to him.  You must take ownership of what you have done.  Then the slate can be wiped clean.  Nail it to the cross.  Nail it to the cross, and do not pick it back up.

No matter how strong you think your sin is, this cross is stronger.  The love of Christ is stronger.  Whatever sin you are still carrying around, the forgiveness of God is stronger.

No matter how dirty you think your sin makes you, this cross can cleanse you.

Freedom from your sin is found in the intersection of those two boards.

CROSS

Forgiveness is found in the heart of the cross . . . in the heart of Christ and the love of God, because this cross was built strong enough to carry it all.

Until next time . . .

Life is good

It has been over a month since I have posted anything.

Silence.

It is wonderful sometimes.

Nothing new has happened in my life since my last post.  Things are going well.  I’m keeping busy with church, with classes at school (perhaps I did take on a bit too heavy of a load this semester, but I’ll get through it).  Things are staying on an even keel, so I definitely can’t complain.

I am thankful for the everyday mundaneness (is that even a word?) of my life right now.  I work.  I go to class or do my homework.  I watch tv.  I go to church.  I spend time with my husband and son.  Life is quiet, predictable, and simple.  Life is good.

I like the sound of that.  Life is good.

Life wasn’t always good.  I searched in many wrong places for what I thought would make life good.  I searched out the wrong people that I thought held the secret to making my life good.  I wasted a lot of time over the years searching for a life that was good.  It turned out that “good” was always there.  I was searching for better.  I was searching to fill a void that I didn’t even realize existed.  I was searching for the magic cork to seal my empty soul.

Life can’t be good if your soul is running on empty.

But then I found the cork, if you will.  Or, rather, I was found.  That void in my soul was a God-shaped void, and he found me at church one morning in November, 2015.  He tied a string around my heart and pulled me to him.  (That makes it sound like I was a steer that got roped by a heavenly cowboy!)  Then that night while sitting in a gold chair in my pastor’s living room the empty void in my soul was filled as only God can do.  My life has not been the same since.

Giving my life to Christ has not made my life easier.  Birds don’t always chirp.  I am not always walking on a perpetual rainbow of joy, love, and happiness.  But in those moments when life is dragging me down I always know that God is there to pull me back up.  He pulled me up from my darkest moments.

I spent too long in a very dark period.  I hurt the people who were closest to me, all of which is chronicled in the earliest posts of this blog.  I was not a good person.  I was a liar.  I was an adulterer.  I was a sinner.

Today, I am still not always a good person.  But I have God’s love and forgiveness.  I have the forgiveness of those I hurt.  I have forgiven myself.  I am not defined by the mistakes I made.  I am defined by the love that God has for me.  I am a sinner, and I am a loved and redeemed child of God.

Life is good.

Until next time . . .

Bible-In-A-Year Day 365: Revelation 20-22

66 revelation

Revelation 20 (NIV)

The Thousand Years

20 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They[a] had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

The Judgment of Satan

When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

The Judgment of the Dead

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 21 (NIV)

A New Heaven and a New Earth

21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

The New Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lamb

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia[c] in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits[d] thick.[e] 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.[f] 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.

22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Revelation 22 (NIV)

Eden Restored

22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

John and the Angel

The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!”

10 Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. 11 Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”

Epilogue: Invitation and Warning

12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you[a] this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

(text courtesy of biblegateway.com)

Download the reading plan schedule as a pdf here.

Bible-In-A-Year Day 364: Revelation 18-19

66 revelation

Revelation 18 (NIV)

Lament Over Fallen Babylon

18 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. With a mighty voice he shouted:

“‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’[a]
    She has become a dwelling for demons
and a haunt for every impure spirit,
    a haunt for every unclean bird,
    a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.
For all the nations have drunk
    the maddening wine of her adulteries.
The kings of the earth committed adultery with her,
    and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”

Warning to Escape Babylon’s Judgment

Then I heard another voice from heaven say:

“‘Come out of her, my people,’[b]
    so that you will not share in her sins,
    so that you will not receive any of her plagues;
for her sins are piled up to heaven,
    and God has remembered her crimes.
Give back to her as she has given;
    pay her back double for what she has done.
    Pour her a double portion from her own cup.
Give her as much torment and grief
    as the glory and luxury she gave herself.
In her heart she boasts,
    ‘I sit enthroned as queen.
I am not a widow;[c]
    I will never mourn.’
Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her:
    death, mourning and famine.
She will be consumed by fire,
    for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.

Threefold Woe Over Babylon’s Fall

“When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. 10 Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry:

“‘Woe! Woe to you, great city,
    you mighty city of Babylon!
In one hour your doom has come!’

11 “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore— 12 cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; 13 cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human beings sold as slaves.

14 “They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your luxury and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’ 15 The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn 16 and cry out:

“‘Woe! Woe to you, great city,
    dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet,
    and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!
17 In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’

“Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. 18 When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’ 19 They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out:

“‘Woe! Woe to you, great city,
    where all who had ships on the sea
    became rich through her wealth!
In one hour she has been brought to ruin!’

20 “Rejoice over her, you heavens!
    Rejoice, you people of God!
    Rejoice, apostles and prophets!
For God has judged her
    with the judgment she imposed on you.”

The Finality of Babylon’s Doom

21 Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said:

“With such violence
    the great city of Babylon will be thrown down,
    never to be found again.
22 The music of harpists and musicians, pipers and trumpeters,
    will never be heard in you again.
No worker of any trade
    will ever be found in you again.
The sound of a millstone
    will never be heard in you again.
23 The light of a lamp
    will never shine in you again.
The voice of bridegroom and bride
    will never be heard in you again.
Your merchants were the world’s important people.
    By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.
24 In her was found the blood of prophets and of God’s holy people,
    of all who have been slaughtered on the earth.”

Revelation 19 (NIV)

Threefold Hallelujah Over Babylon’s Fall

19 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:

“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
    for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great prostitute
    who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

And again they shouted:

“Hallelujah!
The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried:

“Amen, Hallelujah!”

Then a voice came from the throne, saying:

“Praise our God,
    all you his servants,
you who fear him,
    both great and small!”

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

“Hallelujah!
    For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
    and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
    and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
    was given her to wear.”

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”

The Heavenly Warrior Defeats the Beast

11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

king of kings and lord of lords.

17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.”

19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.

(text courtesy of biblegateway.com)

Download the reading plan schedule as a pdf here.