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Unhitching From The Crazy Train

Shame loves nothing more than to be my shadow.  I am so prone to beating myself up over choices, (right and wrong), that have resulted in uneasy circumstances.  Sometimes when I forget the gospel, it manifests like this, if I had done, (blank) instead of (blank) life would be more comfortable.
 Whether as a mom, wife, daughter, friend or child of God, I can look back on so many examples of situations I wish I handled differently.  When I allow myself to go down the road of regret, condemnation is waiting on me with open arms.  Accusation always breeds self-pity, and both are fruits of unbelief.
Despair over my choices sheds light on the subtle sediment of unbelief that wrecks my peace and contentment.  When I believe I alone am responsible for how my story goes, I am maximizing myself and minimizing God.  Yes, there are consequences, both good and bad, for my choices, but if I profess to believe in a sovereign God, I cannot leave Him out of the equation.  For all the decisions I have made, right and wrong, God was in the midst and on the throne at the very moment of decision.
Emancipation day from the supremacy of my choices was a lot of years in the making.  I have a very vivid memory of sitting in Julie Sparkman’s office one morning and giving her a tearful litany of all the things I had done right, yet there I sat shattered because life was not reflective of the pictures I developed in the euphoric realm of my expectations. The reality that my “goodness” was no guarantee from pain had come crashing down around me.  Oh boy, did I have a lot to learn!
Chapter four of Julie’s book, Unhitching From The Crazy Train, is one of my favorites.  It is titled, The Deadly Theology of Good Choices.  Does this sound familiar?  If I do A+B, it will =C.  If I eat all the right foods, I will not get cancer.  If I raise my kids right and make sure they have good friends, they will make right choices…   Notice the keyword?  I.  If you believe something along these lines of thinking, you need to read this book.  If you know this kind of logic to be untrue, you, too need to read this book!
Below is from chapter 4:
“Good choices can lead to good outcomes, and alternatively when we make choices we know to be disobedient, there will probably be natural consequences of those choices, and we are called to repent. However, the redemption story God writes cannot be rewritten by our choices. We are held accountable for our choices, yes, but God is bigger than our choices, so they cannot trump God’s overarching plan.” ~Julie Sparkman/Jennifer Phillips
Friends, I have no incentive for highly recommending this book other than I believe with all my heart it will enhance your life in so many ways.  I love you all and earnestly long to see more and more people brought into the freedom that the yoke of Christ offers.  Please do not misunderstand me.  This book is not a self-help, quick fix guide to all of life’s hardships.  It is a better way through them.
We work so hard and bear so much responsibility, no wonder we never feel like enough.  John 1:51 reminds us that Christ already did the work and paved the way.  He is the way.   “I tell you the truth; you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.” ~Jesus.  Notice He does not say I am at the top of the ladder so try your hardest and climb fast.  He is the ladder.  Jesus has bridged the gap between Heaven and Earth for us.
I sincerely hope you will read Unhitching From The Crazy Train.  You will laugh, I promise.  You may cry.  I know for sure, though you will be able to identify and you will find freedom and rest regardless of your current circumstances.
Unhitching From The Crazy Train will be available for order February 5th.  Amazon.  Lifeway.  You may pre-order now from www.newhopepublishers.com.
Julie counsels clients at Restore Ministries in Birmingham, Alabama.   www.restore-ministries.org.
Jennifer writes a blog at www.jenniferphillipsblog.com
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Purpose Amidst Imperfection 

Nestled amidst the sunrise of a fresh week and all the promise it holds is an ever faithful reminder of my inadequacy. I am presently, but peacefully aware that I got more wrong than right last week, and that will surely be my truth this week as well.

My keen sense of insufficiency poses a different purpose for me now, though. Growing in grace teaches me that it is no longer about striving for perfection only to be frustrated, but seeking purpose amidst my imperfection only to be furthered.

 It is an incongruent truth that on the other side of our failures is an intention designed for our prosperity. 

Understanding that falling down is not a shameful thing, but a sacred tool is the genesis of praise. Praise opens the door and welcomes gratitude right into our hearts.

When gratitude is our guest, we see through all the heavy right into the heart of the holy, and joy becomes a source of our strength. 

This week, friend, I pray you have eyes to see and ears to hear all the beauty that your brokenness beholds, and your heart will sing, it is good and it is well with my soul.
You are loved.❤️

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Resurrection Living

Every year around Easter time I reflect on the amazing truth that after Jesus’ crucifixion came His resurrection. When I think about what that sealed for me, I cannot help but rejoice. It was the genesis of the greatest hope the world had ever known. A displaced stone and an empty tomb ushered into eternity new life for followers of King Jesus; securing victory over death, guilt, shame, fear, and condemnation. How wonderful that news is for you and me!

The resurrection of Jesus handed us a priceless gift including all the assets we need to live a joyful life. But I would be remiss if I also did not take the time to ask myself honestly, Today, am I living in the darkness of Jesus’ crucifixion or the light of His resurrection?

Often fear is a frequent “friend.” Sin is my sneaky shadow and circumstances can hollow my heart of hope. This life can easily conform me into a pattern of crucifixion living when I neglect the conditions of my head and my heart. May we never forget the crucifixion, friends; but we must remember Jesus did not die for us to get stuck there. He did not die for us to live small defeated lives. Yes, all stories have seasons of suffering, and many do not end well. It is only the stories of believers living under the resources of a selfless Savior that have the certainty of happy ever after.

I will be honest. I long for this life to look like a Hallmark movie. When I am persisting horizontally, I am defeated by my desire. It is only when my eyes are fixed vertically on Jesus, and I am persevering out of the provisions secured by His resurrection that I can live a victorious life because I know how my story ends and there is a big red bow on top!

Lord Jesus, thank you for procuring paradise for me. I pray that I along with all your children would remember the royalties afforded by your resurrection. May we cast off the weights of crucifixion living, and rest under the shelter of your resurrection. We love you, Lord. Thank you for loving us enough to ensure what we could never do for ourselves. I ask that you would grant us the grace to live from the promises of the resurrection, not just during the Easter season, but through all seasons. Amen.

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In Rememberance We Find Rest

img_06891.pngJesus’ last three words before giving up His Spirit on the cross were, it is finished.  As believers, those are three of the most significant words that are so easy to forget. I often find myself losing sight of that truth, and I end up in a position of Jesus plus me or Jesus plus something else equals fulfillment.  My failure to remember that Jesus completed everything for me on the cross only leads me down a path of trying harder, idolatry, guilt, self-condemnation and ultimately shame and exhaustion.

It can be hard to believe and thus accept that it is just that easy; someone who owes me nothing died to make me right before God and to provided eternal life.   It feels much more natural to want to work off my debt.

There is something oddly comforting about pulling the products my sins, (guilt, shame, self-condemnation, self-pity), back down off the cross and wearing them like a warm, comforting coat on a blustery day. 

Continuing to feel guilty, shamed or condemned is an illusive form of self-righteousness.  Ouch!  It suggests Jesus isn’t enough and I need to help Him secure my salvation.

Isaiah 30:15 says in repentance and rest is my salvation.  That is good news for you and me.  When I go to The Father in repentance, I must not only repent for what I did but also what I failed to believe that led me astray.  Like the prodigal father, Jesus is always scanning the horizon to run to us with open arms and a forgiving heart.

It is finished, friends! 

I pray you remember to live from that, and when you forget like I sometimes do, turn back to your Father and rest in His grace!

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Be a Self-Hugger Not Hater

Good morning,friend! How you think today will dictate how you feel! Don’t feed on the lies of shame, feats on the love of your Savior. Reject the deceit of guilt and rest in the donation of grace. Train your thoughts to be huggers not haters. You are loved!

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Good news

There are many things that I do, feel or say that shock me when I honestly look at my heart.  Self-examination would be defeating, were it not for the good news of the Gospel.  The Bible discusses every one of my flaws as a struggle for someone within its chapters.  I am so thankful those things are there!  Without God’s word I would either have to live a shallow life of pretend and denial; or under so much condemnation that anxiety, fear, shame and depression would likely be my best friends.  The gospel is good news!

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You Were God’s Idea

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Are you feeling condemned?  Maybe your awareness of you inadequacies has you keeping company with shame, anxiety, and depression.  Some days you are on the mountaintop and the next in the valley.  That is what our expectations do to us, friends.

Expectations are the executioners of embattled hearts.

They will always spotlight our shortcomings.  I have been a prisoner of that camp far too many times.  My heart is prone to forget what my head knows.  Romans 8:1 ~, therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  

I am at a place that I know it is my brokenness, not my goodness that is my badge of honor and that has made all the difference.

However, do I forget this at times?  Yes!  Do I have to remember this and reapply it when The Lord is excavating yet another lump of coal out of my heart?  Absolutely!  C.S. Lewis captured a brilliant truth when he said, “people need reminding a lot more than they need instructing.”  I am forgetful, especially when it comes to myself.  

Grace isn’t just for the shiny people who occasionally make mistakes because the truth is, inside there are no shiny people.  Grace is for me, and it is for you; the sinful and struggling but always seeking.  

God recently reminded me that my self-condemnation is an insult to Him.  It is equal to me saying to Him; You got it wrong.  You made a mistake.  Let us not be deceived; The Lord makes no mistakes, and He works with imperfect, not impeccable people.  May your heart find a glimpse of freedom here this Friday, friend.  You were God’s idea; He makes no errors, and He says you are enough!