Thursday, June 29, 2017

Thirty years

For thirty years I believed 
saying a prayer when I was five 
only meant I was going to Heaven someday. 

For thirty years I believed
God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden
because He was angry with them.

For thirty years I believed 
if I didn't act right, 
God would punish me too.

For thirty years I believed
if I didn't forgive others
God wouldn't forgive me.

For thirty years I believed 
if I followed the Bible as a rule book for Christians,
God would believe I loved Him. 

For thirty years I believed 
if I did what He said, 
God might answer some of my prayers. 

Thirty years is a long time 
to be bound by something 
that was meant to set me free.

Thirty years is a long time to believe lies.

I don't believe anyone intentionally lied to me. There are lots of reasons I didn't understand the truth. But to find out I spent thirty years bound by something that was supposed to bring me freedom is crazy!

In the last two years I've learned more about what I stepped into when I prayed that prayer at five than in all my previous thirty years combined. 

The funny thing about discovering the freedom I have in Christ is the realization that I've always had it. Jesus unlocked the prison doors a long time ago... but I had to walk out... and until recently, I didn't know how... or what was waiting for me outside of the prison.  

We hear these verses all the time, but if we don't really understand what Jesus did at the cross, we can't really understand what they mean for us.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. 
Romans 8:11

I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will 
do the same works I have done, and even greater works, 
John 14:12

If I had really understood those verses, if hadn't just said them all the time without thinking about what they really mean, if I had really known what I had by the Grace of God... how would my life have been different?

I could think about that for days, but the truth is this: what really matters is what is happening right now. What am I doing TODAY with the freedom and power I've been given? That's what is important.

Today I'm finally living the life God planned for me. I don't necessarily mean He planned out each step and decision along my way... I mean I am living without fear. I have all of my needs met through Him and I'm excited about letting others know they can have it too. 

God is not mad at you, not even a little bit. You are perfect. You are redeemed. You are holy. You are the light of the world. You are a work of divine craftsmanship. You are healed. You are prosperous. You are the righteousness of God. You are loved more than you could ever imagine. You are free.

I know because I am too.

So if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.
John 8:36

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17

Sunday, June 25, 2017

What Grace doesn't do

When you've been taught your whole life that you walk the line or end up hell, it's easy to be skeptical of a crazy thing called Grace. Many people are. And do some who don't really understand it, try to abuse it? Of course! But that's not the purpose of Grace. In the end, God looks on the heart... and I know Who mine belongs to.

"But, Kindall, if Grace really covers everything, past, present, and future... then you have the freedom to sin and get away with it! That's wrong!"

I know it can be confusing. Heck, I argued it too when I found out what a gift I really had in Grace! Here's the truth about my newfound freedom...

Grace doesn't give me the freedom to sin.

Grace gives me the freedom to break out of my old patterns, habits, and beliefs about myself and live in a way that pleases God, not because I'm scared He is going to punish me, but because I am so overwhelmed by the fact that He didn't... because of His love for me. <3

Grace doesn't give me the freedom to intentionally fall.

Grace gives me the freedom, when I fall, to stand up, dust myself off, and move forward without the self-loathing that I used to feel every time I messed up... which was all the time.

Grace doesn't give me the freedom to be nonchalant about God's Word.

Grace gives new meaning to the words "repent and confess" and makes them a part of my everyday life as I turn towards Jesus in every situation and say the same things He says about me. (He says some pretty awesome things about all of us!)

Grace doesn't give me the freedom to look down on others.

Grace shows me how others are hurting and what I can do to help. It breaks my heart for the things that break His heart. It is hard to understand grace and watch someone suffer without it.

Some would say that, as a believer in Grace, I have the freedom to do anything I want... but because of Grace, all I want to do is change people's lives the way mine has been changed, by the love of Jesus.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 
By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 

Romans 6:1-4

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mondays are not the problem

I don't hate Mondays. I just can't.

I love my job and the fact that God lets me make people's lives better in the variety of ways He does. I love that I can provide for my family. I love that I have a decent place to live and enough food that I can say things like, "I should exercise more or eat less."

Am I super excited about getting up at 5:30am tomorrow? No. Am I energized when considering every aspect of my upcoming work week? No.

But I am so blessed... blessed more than I could ever write here. I know who I am... and who I am doesn't hate any day that I wake up alive and have the ability to praise the Lord for everything I get to do.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me - practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9

Saturday, May 20, 2017

He was just walking

His gait was a little off-kilter, that's what caught my eye first.

While the three buttons on his shirt that he did use were lined up correctly, the way it hung on him, almost sideways, gave the impression that he had randomly buttoned just enough to keep it on. His wavy silver hair probably would have come close to reaching his chin if it wasn't wildly bouncing upwards. And his eyes, though open, didn't really look as if they were registering anything they were seeing.

He was walking towards me on the sidewalk, but it was a busy day, a busy sidewalk downtown. He wasn't actually walking towards me. He was just walking. 

I got in my car and drove away in the opposite direction. Six blocks down the road, I turned into the parking garage where the ATM line forms and waited my turn. A few minutes later I was making my deposit.

My ATM usually takes just about anything I try to deposit, but occasionally it will refuse to take a check with a corner bent or a bill with too many wrinkles. This time, it spit a perfectly crisp $20 bill out at me. I just stuck it in my purse rather than fight with the machine.

As I put the car in drive, I saw someone out of the corner of my eye walking across the parking garage in my direction. I knew before I looked because of his gait, but I still was shocked to see the same man walking towards me again. Well, not walking towards me. It was an area of town where the homeless are prone to wander. He was just walking.

Still, seeing him in two different places so closely together stirred up a little bit of fear and I put my foot on the gas and moved away from him as quickly as possible. I wasn't a block away when I felt guilty. It was the first hot day this year and he was likely thirsty. What was I scared of?

Unfortunately, I was stuck in busy traffic that took me onto the bridge over the Illinois River and couldn't turn around.

At the bottom of the bridge I ran into the gas station. I bought a bottle of cold water and set it next to the snacks I had packed for myself in my front seat before I went back over the bridge in the hopes of finding him.

As I reached the top of the bridge, I saw him. He was walking towards me on the bridge. Well, not walking towards me. He was just on the bridge, on the sidewalk, walking. But I couldn't stop without causing a major accident... so I kept going.

A glance at the clock in my car told me the interview with a prospective employee was in 35 minutes. I hoped I had enough time to get around the block, back over the bridge, and wait for him to make it over and still get to my appointment.

Starting up the bridge for the third time in several minutes I saw him still walking. Then, he turned towards the railing and stopped, looking out over the river. My heart leaped in my chest as he leaned over the low bridge railing ever so slightly, and my mind started to race.

I went back and forth between trying to talk to him telepathically to praying to God...“Don't jump. Please don't jump. I have water and food. I'm sorry I took off earlier. God, please don't let him jump. I'm helping now. Sir, please just keep walking over the bridge.” I kept going, even when he was again out of my sight and while finding a place to park near the bottom of the bridge.

Straining my eyes the direction he was coming from, I eventually saw his head pop up over the edge of the bridge and I let out a huge sign of relief. I could tell it was him by the distinctive bob his gait gave him. Then more and more of him became clear as he drew closer.

I got out of the car, “Sir, would you like some water?”

He nodded and walked towards me. “That's a long walk over that bridge!” He said.

“Yeah, it's pretty hot today! What's your name?”

“Reese. Like the candy.”

I handed him the water along with some snacks, a card that told him Jesus loves him, and the bill that the ATM had rejected.

“These are for you. I'll be praying for you Reese.”

He looked at the bill, surprised, before expressing his gratitude and started to walk away. A few steps later he paused and said, “My last name is Stillwell, so God knows you mean me.”

“He knows!” I assured him.

Then, he did something that completely shocked me. He walked back over the bridge into the town he had just left. He hadn't just been walking, down a busy sidewalk, through a parking garage, across the bridge. He really had been walking towards me all along.I wish I had told him, “Do you need proof that God knows your name, Reese? He set you on a path to me three different times and made sure I had cash in hand to help you out. God knows you.”

If I see Reese again, I'll tell him.

In the meantime, I can tell you. God knows you too. He loves you. And when it seems like nothing is going right and all you are doing is wandering around, keep your eyes open. Because either He is putting people in your path, or turning your path towards His people. 

Either way, He is trying to help. He knows what you need. He knows your name.

I have engraved your name on the palms of my hands. 
Isaiah 49:16 

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:29-31

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The light at the end of the tunnel

I've watched him struggle both for and against independence.
Sometimes my heart broke for him.
Sometimes I was angry at him.
Each step was so. slow. and. deliberate.
"Just do it!" I'd think. "It's not that hard."
A couple of times I even said it out loud.
And while I never doubted he could do it,
   I often knew he wasn't ready.

Then one day this spring, after a breakthrough of mythic proportions,
he looked at me, with tears in his eyes and said,
Ben changed my life long before we dated.
It's exciting to walk with him as he
changes his own. I love this guy. <3
"I'm going to be okay."
"I have a future."
"I've never believed that before."
     and my heart stopped in my chest.
I still can hardly type those words without tearing up.

All those times I was frustrated to tears,
all those times I pushed him and he shut down,
all those times I tried to talk about the future
and he said he didn't know what he wanted from life...

It wasn't indecisiveness or him being wishy washy.
It certainly wasn't about us.
     He literally did not believe he had a future.
     He couldn't see it.

When you are in a tunnel with no light at the end,
     how far do you keep walking before you just stop?
Ten years? Twenty? More?

I'm so proud of how hard he fought,
even those times I didn't know if I could much longer.
I'm so proud of how he is continuing to fight,
     to be the man he knows God created him to be,
to turn that 'head knowledge' he's been acquiring for years
about exactly what Jesus thinks of him
     into the 'heart knowledge' he needs to move forward 
with hope into the abundant future we've all been promised.

While the scale isn't always as grand, everyone struggles with this on some level. There is almost always an area of our lives where we don't have a vision for the future. Maybe it's an area of your life that you don't even know exists yet.

Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision, people perish."

The lack of vision can affect someone on a large scale, or it can affect a certain aspect of their lives. A person with no vision for personal finances, will see their finances fall apart.  A person with no vision for their business, will never see it grow. A person with no vision for their relationships with their family will see those relationships start to wither away.

The enemy works overtime to keep us from having vision, from seeing the light at the end of our tunnels. It's not that the light isn't there... he can't turn it off, he can only distract us from seeing it. And of all the the things Satan is good at, distraction is at the top of the list.

When it comes to vision for our future, there are a lot of ways to keep us distracted... pain, sickness, stress, and drama are just a few. One of his favorite ways to distract us is to try to convince us we are someone different than who God says we are.
Knowing who you are in Christ is the MOST important part of keeping Satan from distracting you, because while we may be temporarily distracted from seeing the Truth, the Truth hasn't changed.

Proverbs 23:7 says, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he."

When you start to feel hopeless, and you can't find the light, and you
don't know how to fight... don't just remind yourself who God says you are... remind Satan that you know who you are... So that the God of hope can fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Writers write

I don't know how
I got to the point
where I feel like
whatever I write
has to be so
profound, perfect, moving.

Even now I'm
counting syllables
on one hand and
looking for deeper
meaning in them
from a different view.

Really, I know
writing is what God
called me to do.
So why do I think
stories I tell
must conform in some way?

Nothing I write
seems worth asking for
your time to read it.
But I'll publish
this and hope that it
sparks my brain in
the place I need to write.

Writers write so
that is what I'll do.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

I can do it myself

The kind of pride that says, "I can do it myself." often makes life more difficult. But, when the "it" in question is something that only God can do, the results can be devastating... not only to the person trying to take over, but those around them as well.

The story of Moses has been my favorite since I was a toddler. When I was four I saved my banana peel from lunch and glued it to my coloring paper where the water and the reeds had already been drawn. I was devastated when my mom threw it away. 

I remember, nearly a decade later, hearing about people using clear shellac to make fruits and veggies last for decorative purposes and thinking to myself, “That's what Mom should have done with my banana peel baby Moses boat. Darn her!" I was still mad. (I'm mostly over it now, just in case you were wondering.)

Anyway, we know that Moses was born and adopted into the house of Pharaoh. He grew up knowing that he was Hebrew, basically raised by his own birth family. At some point while growing up, Moses became aware that he was their promised deliverer. Knowing that, he no doubt knew that God had set out a specific time frame for the delivering of His people. In Genesis 15:13, God told Abraham that his descendants would be delivered in 400 years.

Yet, when Moses came upon a Hebrew being mistreated by an Egyptian, Moses killed the Egyptian. According to Acts 7:23 he did it in the hopes of being recognized as their deliverer.

Why? Because He believed it was time to to start the process. He was their deliverer, right? They may not know it yet, but they would see it when they realized what happened. He expected to be able to do what He wanted, when He wanted, in his own strength and have his people fall at his feet, thankful.

It was the next day when Moses realized that things had not gone as he had planned... and he hightailed it out of town. Exodus 12:40 says that it was exactly 430 years before they were delivered. That is including Moses's 40 years in the desert. His own pride cost the Hebrews an additional 30 years of slavery.

I personally know that God did not want me to be homeless. It was never His plan and neither were any of the things that led up to our homelessness. But, I knew His promises. I knew that He wanted to provide for the kids and I. I knew that He didn't want me to be single the rest of my life. I knew that God promised to give me the desires of my heart... so I set out after them, in my own strength. I thought I should have been able to do what I wanted, when I wanted, and God's promises would back me up.

By the time I realized that things weren't going to go exactly as planned for me, I was stuck. It took
surrendering to Him to get me out of where I was. If I had not humbled myself and surrendered to God, He wouldn't have been able to build my business underneath me without me trying to take the reins and continue to do things myself. A quick look at the past has proven that doing this never works out well. My pride cost my kids years of putting up with men who were not good for us and six months of homelessness, among other things.

In both of these cases, the "I can do it myself" pride cost people big. Moses and I both thought we knew what God wanted for us and decided to help move His plans along.

As tired as I've become over the years of hearing the words, "It's all in God's timing." I do see that there are some things that can't be rushed. 

I've learned that the secret to living a fulfilling life when you don't yet have all you want is to enjoy the journey on your way there instead of speeding ahead towards your destination. God will fulfill His promises for you. If you watch carefully, you'll find out that watching HOW He does so is more exciting than receiving the actual thing you are waiting for.

The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.
Exodus 14:14

Only by pride comes contention, with the well advised there is wisdom.
Proverbs 13:10