Kinda Like Spinach, Kinda Like Chocolate

spinachYou know those days.  The hard, the difficult, the excruciating seasons that leave you feeling like you’ve not done what you should, or worse, that you don’t know enough.  I call those are the spinach days for they are doing a work of strength in you.  In me.  

I watched the original Popeye cartoons as a kid and became inspired to have greater strength.  I was with my parents at a restaurant, at the wise age of 8, and saw spinach on the menu.  Well.  I just had to have it.  My Mom said, “I don’t think you are going to like it.”  There was no talking me out of the dark green vegetable that gave Popeye such strength and I had to test it.

It arrived in one of those beautiful, thick-walled diner bowls with the red stripe around the top.  I was already imagining my biceps increasing in size.  I took my fork and dug in and pushed a healthy serving into my little mouth.  Well.  It wasn’t what I popeye with spinachexpected, and my first thought was, “How in the world does Popeye eat this stuff straight from a can?”

Today, my choice is raw, fresh spinach which is much more flavorful than the canned variety of the 1960’s, but I did learn some valuable lessons.  First, cartoons are cartoons are don’t accurately represent reality, but.  I have learned that sometimes it’s the bitter things, the hard things, that give me greater strength.  

There’s a verse often quoted by many found in Romans 8.  Verse 28 explains it this way:

“All things work together for the good of them who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.”  

In seeking the Lord, like a daily vitamin, He has promised to work even the hard things into good for my life.  And I grow stronger in Him.  We are all called into His purpose for us and we find the difficult things usually are part of the process that readies us for that calling.

Second, it’s the spinach days and seasons that uncover the chocolate in life.  

I’m a lover of dark chocolate and enjoy those large, organic bars that are scored into little squares.  You know them.  A treat dark chocolatefor my mouth is a piece of dark chocolate on my tongue and a cup of coffee in my hand.  The spinach days that give me strength, help me appreciate the chocolate days where I can feel my growth in the Lord, and enjoy a richer closeness of His presence.  It’s the spinach days that lead me closer to Him, exactly where He wants me to be, because that growing intimacy with Him is such a sweetness, a richness to my soul.  

And I lean a little easier when times are hard, and I trust a little more when everything around me is shouting “Be afraid!”  And I remember sooner that He has me, and even though there will be spinach days, there is chocolate to come simply because He has promised it.

Lean into the intimacy of the Lord.  He wants to hear your heart when times are tough, and He wants you to know His heart for you – always gentle, patient, loving, and accepting of right where you are, always encouraging you forward.  You have such great value, and especially on your spinach days, His eyes are always upon you.  So appreciate the spinach, and look forward to the chocolate.

Grace & Peace from Him,

Robin

(c) Sozo Life & Leadership, LLC, August 29, 2014

Blueprints for Full Dependence (sounds risky to me)

 

God is not displeased with my weakness.  I am the one who can be self-criticizing, while He is speaking peace and total acceptance into my heart.  I cover my spiritual ears with stubborn hands.  He knows I am weak.  He knows I need to learn to depend fully on Him.  For a do-er, for an over-thinker this can be a challenge.

And yet, my Sweet Father is not disappointed in my weakness.  My failings, fears, or questions.  In fact, they stir His heart.

I once was a striver, the strong Christian girl on display that I thought others needed.  (I wonder how many people I’ve turned away from God by my attitude of perfectionism.)  I was not an example of what Jesus modeled in dependent relationship.  I handcuffswas worn out, weary, and aggravated at how hard life was for me.  I was chaining myself to my burdens.  And so many times the Lord would speak into my heart, gently leading me out of where I was, gently taking the burdens from my shoulders and placing them on His own.

At one of the hardest times of my life, while trying to go through an excruciating experience with my Christian head held high, I heard Him say, “You know, you don’t have to be strong for Me.  Let Me be strong for you.”  I’ve heard Him say, “You’ve always tried so hard.  Rest in Me.  Be still and remember that I am God – the One who made you because I wanted to love you and show Myself to you.  I am the One who promises to always be there, the One you need for life, love, and peace – for wholeness.  Learn to lean fully on Me, to let go.  Therein you will find your freedom.  I designed you to need Me.”

Designed for weakness?  Blueprints for full dependence?  What about “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me?”  (Philippians 4:13)  When I learned that verse I focused on the first five words.  I was fully religious in my ability with a determination to get it right.  As long as I focused on my performance, my eyes were not on that Jesus – whose shoulders carry the whole government of Heaven.

His is a Kingdom of those who learn to abide in Him – not strive to be enough.  I was refusing the grace and trying to perform and earn what had been freely given.  Me be vulnerable?  Did I have to be? 

birds nestI didn’t realize for many years that this heavenly vulnerability was beautiful to God for it let Him fill me with love.  And isn’t it the most fragile what we find the most beautiful?

I birthed two children in my life and they were helpless and needed everything – totally vulnerable, and I loved it!  My mother’s heart was full for loving and caring for them.  In the same way, God loves us – if we allow His embrace.

And He gives us others to love here – while we are having this human experience – so we can be givers and receivers of a love that is available because of Him!  Every relationship can be giving, receiving, serving….if we let Him teach our hearts the beauty of humble vulnerability.

But we are so concerned that we won’t be loved enough, that we could be betrayed, and we build up a shield of our own self-protection that grows thicker with each passing year, much like the trunk of a tree, circle after circle that hardens and prevents us from not only fully giving and receiving human love, but from fully taking in the love of the Father.

sewerEarlier this year, I kept feeling pain as if it were a liquid seeping out around a covering, like blood from a bandaged wound.  I could think of no reason for the pain and asked the Lord about it.  He told me it was old pain unhealed, and it was leaking out around the manhole cover I had placed over my heart.  I could “see” it suddenly – the self-protection of years built up.  He said that if I would ask Him to remove it, there would be a release of pain, but He would heal it.

I want all the healing I need, so I said, “Please forgive me for this self-protection, for not trusting You, and for being closed in part of my heart.  Please remove this manhole cover so I can receive all of your love and all You have for me.”

It was like He said, but the freedom and fullness of breath that followed was something new and fresh.  Made brand new – maybe even better that before – being restored.  The Lord said that I would be more able to give and receive human love in the way He had intended, and He was right.  I have had several battles with fear – some I’ve fought in prayer, some with a prayer partner, and some He said I didn’t need to fight at all – just hide in Him.  I am finding Him faithful.  After all, He cares more for my heart than even I do.

waterI still don’t care very much for that vulnerable feeling – whether with God or with people, but I am finding a whole new enjoyment to life, and at 52 years old.  Don’t wait, friend, but fully yield all your pain when He reveals it.  He finds you quite beautiful when you know you need Him.  He loves to be the strong One.

~~~
My gracious favor is all you need.  My power works best in your weakness.  ~2 Corinthians 12:9

She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs with no fear of the future.  ~Proverbs 31:25

(c) Robin Lawrimore, August 2012

 

Forgiveness – What it is & What it is not

Most people struggle with forgiveness.  I know I have.  Depending on the level of relationship, the depth of the injury, or the amount of loss, I have struggled deeply for years on some fronts.

This one thing I have learned: forgiveness is key to healing in every way.  OK, so how do we get there?

Usually the reasons people struggle are due to wrong beliefs about forgiveness.  We don’t always understand it.  After all, how could I forgive deep betrayal?  Does that mean that now it somehow doesn’t matter?  It matters!  So help me out here, God!

What Forgiveness is Not:

  • Forgiveness is not condoning or minimizing what happened or saying it doesn’t matter
  • Forgiveness is not a blanket statement of approval of what someone did
  • It is not excusing or justifying or covering up what someone did – usually a trip wire because the other person was treated badly as a child, for instance
  • It is not forgetting what happened – it doesn’t erase memory!
  • Forgiveness and reconciliation are not always the same thing
  • It is not saying you trust the person again – new boundaries may be needed
  • It is not denying what they did or denying the feelings of hurt, pain, or anger you may have – it’s not pretending we are now suddenly OK
  • Forgiveness is not saying the sin is unpunishable, but rather that Jesus has taken the punishment on Himself for ALL our sins and hurts against each other

What Forgiveness is:

  • Forgiveness is a choice, a decision – not a feeling, at least at first, but an act of the will – we recognize the need to forgive and make a decision to do it
  • Forgiveness is being aware of what someone has done and still forgiving them
  • It means granting a person mercy they don’t deserve
  • It means freedom from the bondage of holding something against a person
  • It means giving up our desire for revenge and punishment, releasing the person from judgment
  • It is refusing to tell others about what happened and what they did – it’s being gracious when even what you could say is true – a rare act of grace!
  • It means choosing to keep no records of wrong doing – not mulling it over
  • It is letting go of bitterness and resentment so we can receive God’s healing for what has happened  – it truly is a key to receiving healing!
  • It is taking a person off your hook, and putting them onto God’s hook for Him to deal with them in the best way
  • Forgiveness is knowing that what has happened is not the bottom line
  • Forgiveness is an inner condition – an act of the heart – Jesus said to forgive from our hearts those who have hurt us – If Jesus had waited until His enemies felt guilt for their words or actions before He forgave them, He would never have been able to forgive most of them
  • It is extending to someone the same mercy I have received from the Lord for my wrong doing
  • Confidence toward God is ultimately what total forgiveness is all about; He is the one I want to please at the end of the day – Forgiveness is about my relationship with God and keeping that in right standing

Jesus makes it pretty plain that if we are not willing to forgive, He is unable to forgive us.  In Matthew 6:12 (AMP) He says, “Forgive us our sins as we also have forgiven (left, let go, have given up resentment against) those who have sinned against us.”

So these lists and scriptures have helped me, but with some people and some circumstances, it has taken me years to work through a process of forgiveness.  Just recently, the Lord asked me to give him a certain time period of my life as an offering.

There was a 3 year period from 2003-2006 when I lived in a travel trailer because of being manipulated out of my home.  With now 5 years between that time and the present, I’ve had lots of opportunity to work through what happened and how I felt about it.  Forgiveness was terribly hard for I lost much – everything I called home, my relationships with my children, my closest family and friends and more.

One thing I didn’t realize was that there was some left over pain and bitterness deep inside.  With a need for home being so dear to me, when I would think about it, the Lord would warn me not to complain.  About 2 weeks ago, the Lord asked me to offer this time to Him as an offering.  At first I could not see how this would in any way resemble an offering, right?  Because we give our best to God, right?  So what is this, Lord?  How is this something good to give You?  He asked again.  So I said to Him, “If you want these years I spent in that travel trailer as an offering, You can have it.  I offer it to You.”

Immediately I felt a piercing in my spirit and inside a moment, bitterness and pain started to be released, like it was leaking out of me.  That offering, that response of giving to Him what He asked for, made it possible to be healed of such rancid stuff still held inside – that I didn’t know I was carrying around – that I have felt amazing healing come into me to replace what was still there.  This healing took place over several days and now my only emotion is of thanks and amazement!  What I was unaware of, God was certain of and could see the need and provide the solution.  I will not think of those days in the same way ever again – they have now become an offering, something beautiful because He asked for it and in His hands, all things become as new.  The enemy now has no hold on that time of my life because of God’s leading me to give it to Him.

What are you holding onto?  Where do you feel pain as you read this simple blog?  If you are not aware of any unforgiveness, would you be willing to ask the Lord to reveal it to you so that you might be healed as well? Take another look at the lists above and ask the Lord to help you make a forgiveness list.

And I’d love to hear your story.  In the telling of the story is much healing, so feel free to offer yours here.  Jesus and a friend will listen and He promises to help you through to healing.

Prayer of Forgiveness:

When you are ready, you may use a prayer like this one to forgive those who have hurt you.  Don’t feel pressured if you are not ready.  Ask God and He will help you get there.

Thank you, Jesus, for dying that I might be forgiven.  By an act of my will I now choose to forgive those who have hurt me.  (Quietly speak out the names of those to be forgiven.)

I release each and every one of these people into the freedom of my forgiveness.  Father, I am trusting You for the healing I need.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

(c) Sept. 2011, Robin Lawrimore