I Surrender

It’s a tough balancing act; being active in your own life, and trusting in God, and it’s one I’ve been struggling with lately.  I have all these plans about what should happen, and how things should go, and I want to make sure I do my part, because I do believe that God expects us to work hard. But I think where I have fallen down, where I have become confused, is in the aftermath of the work.  I’ve tried to control what happens when the work God has given me is complete, and no longer solely mine.  I haven’t trusted Him to do what needs to be done, or at least what I think needs to be done.

It’s in these attempts to take control over aspects of our lives, aspects over which we really should have no expectation of control, that we begin to feel a distancing from God; or at least I have.  Each day I continue to read my bible, to pray, to reach out, but I know that there is something between us, something interfering in my relationship.  I’ve written before about how easily I slip into the “I’ve done something wrong” mindset, and this time has been no exception.  I have wracked my brain, examined my life, tried to figure out what I’m doing, or not doing, that has disappointed God, that has caused him to pull away from me.

Today I was reading Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 4, and these words stood out; “it was credited to him by faith”, “righteousness that comes by faith”  “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”  Paul writes often about being “justified by faith” and it was these words that I felt held the key to what I was missing.  Was it simply that my faith was not…enough?

I did some research and found one website that provided my epiphany (see the link below if you want to read the full article).  I’ll share here the points that I wrote down:

“God doth justify the believing man, yet not for the worthiness of his belief, but for the worthiness of Him which is believed.”   Richard Hooker (A Discourse of Justification)

It is the acceptance of the guilty by reason of a Trusted Christ”

Divine welcome of the guilty as if they were not guilty by reliance upon Jesus Christ”

“Surrender is not the price paid for peace – it is the open hand necessary to appropriate the gift of it.”

Can you see what I was doing wrong?  Those times that I feel most connected to my heavenly Father are the times that I step back and “surrender” all aspects of my life to Him.  They are the moments when I “rely” upon him.  I had closed my hand and was no longer able to offer the gift that He was continuing to hold out to me.  Peace.  It is so easy to forget this in a world where we can have the illusion of control over everything.  I can schedule when I’m going to pick up my groceries, how quickly my packages arrive, haircuts, appointments…I can even do it all from my phone!  Sure, I can acknowledge that there are things over which I have no control – other cars on the road, sickness, death.  But it’s hard to let go of control over the things that are closest to you, that are a part of you, like your kids, and for me, my work.  But I guess the point God wanted me to realize, the point I finally got today (but am sure I’ll need reminders of) is that once you’ve done the work, raised the kids, once you send them out into the world…that is the time when it is the most important to trust God, to trust in His plan for you, for your children, for your life.

So today I surrender.  I have done my best, I have done what I felt God called me to do, and now it’s time to let it go.  To sit back, and relax, and trust in his plan.  I’m opening my hand to accept the peace that comes from surrendering myself and my life to “the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.” Romans 4:17

Here’s the link for any of you who would like to read the full article.

https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/torrey_ra/fundamentals/48.cfm

And I think this song by Carrie Underwood says it all.

God bless,

Meredith

What are you giving?

Most days, as part of our school day, Isaac and I do a bible study or devotional.  Recently we read Genesis 4:1-7.  It’s the story of Cain and Abel.  In the scripture it reads “Cain brought some of his harvest and gave it as an offering to the Lord.  Abel too, brought an offering: the first-born lamb of one of his sheep.”

Prior to reading this scripture I had been struggling, reaching out to God, but feeling as if I was being held at an arms length.  But, as I read it with Isaac, one word stood out as if it was written in neon letters…”some”.  Cain brought “some” of his harvest and gave it to the Lord.  And if you know the story, then you know that his offering was found to be lacking.  It was lacking to such an extent that the Lord refused to accept it.

How many times have I come before the Lord with “some” of me.  How many times have I read my bible, gone to church, or prayed as a part of my routine, and not from my heart.  God was giving me a message – loud and clear.  He doesn’t want my half-hearted measures – he wants ALL of me!  My feelings of distance and being kept at arms length suddenly made so much sense.

Absolutely I believe that God wants a relationship with all of us.  But I also feel as if at some point in the development of that relationship he calls us to step up.  We can’t hold anything back from God.  He wants us to acknowledge that everything we have comes from him.  That’s what Abel did.  That is the reason that his offering was acceptable and Cain’s wasn’t.  Abel said “look at this beautiful, first-born lamb.  If not for God, I would not have this blessing.  I will, I must give it to him.”  In contrast, Cain said “I worked hard for all of this food, I gave the sweat off  my brow, the ache in my back.  I’ll give something of what I have earned to God because I should.

How many times in my own life can I see Abel?  How many more times do I see Cain? God wants to fill our lives with blessings.  It is part of the reason Jesus taught us to pray “give us this day our daily bread.”  But we also need to surrender our pride, our insistence on self-reliance and acknowledge that truly “all things come of thee, and of thine own, have we given thee.”

The world of 2020 wants you to believe that you are responsible for you.  But I want you to pause for a moment and consider the idea that a worldly view, puts you in Cain’s position.  You’ve heard the quote, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift––that is why it is called the present.”  Each day is indeed a gift – from our Lord and when we come to him…when I come to him, I want to come to him like Abel…appreciating his blessings and giving him my very best.

This week Isaac and I have tried to keep the idea of giving God our best as our focus, and I think that it has brought each of us into a closer communion with him.  Are you giving God the best you have to offer?

God bless!

Meredith

 

 

 

ONE REASON, AND ONE REASON ONLY.

I don’t know if it’s because my kids are getting older, or because I tend to do most of my shopping online now instead of at the mall, or if it’s simply that my heart is changing…but this year I have found myself focused more on the birth of a child then on Santa, and stuff.

Earlier this year a new show about Jesus came into being.  Called THE CHOSEN, it is a re-examining of the life of Christ, all of it paid for through the biggest crowdfunding ever raised.  The show is truly special and worth seeing, if you haven’t (especially the Christmas special that started it all).  But the reason I mention it, is that I recently watched a little video from them about the significance of the swaddling clothes.

All of my life I have believed that the swaddling clothes were partly an indication of the financial status of Mary and Joseph – to show that the king of the world was born like the least of us.  And hey, I swaddled all of my children, it’s been a common practice among mothers for centuries.  But what I didn’t know, was that the shepherds to whom the angels appeared were the shepherds who were raising the Passover lambs.  These lambs had to be flawless…perfect, without blemish.  And in order to ensure that they were…they were swaddled.

This Christmas as you sit down to celebrate with family and friends I pray that you spend a moment thinking about the child who was born to be the perfect sacrifice.  The child who would one day die for our sins, for one reason, and one reason only…to bring us to God.  For me, that is the gift I will be celebrating receiving this Christmas.  Glory to God in the highest.

God bless you!

Meredith

Here is a link to the Facebook page of THE CHOSEN for any of you that are interested.  https://www.facebook.com/InsideTheChosen/

THE BITTER ROOT.

November was a month that was filled with blessings (although I admit to being a wee bit exhausted at the end of it).  Thanks to the prayers and generosity of many who allowed God to work through them, my Kickstarter for THE BOOK OF RUTH was more than 100% funded when it ended.  Through that entire process I could feel God’s hand, working, reaching out and putting it in front of the people who needed to see it, speaking to their hearts.  And for me it was definitely an exercise in trust, and the power of faith.  There were many times I just had to “step back and let God”.  And there were so many people who lifted me up with words of encouragement and prayers.  God is good.  And I want to say thank you again, to everyone who shared and supported RUTH.

You might be asking yourself if I’m feeling so blessed, why the title of today’s blog post is about bitterness.  Let me explain.  As often as we revel in God’s blessings in our lives, we are just as often tempted by sin.  This past week, within my community of faith, I have been wrestling with a situation.  I found myself being pushed out of a role that I had taken pride in.  A role that I enjoyed and looked forward to doing.  And I wasn’t happy about it.  In fact, I was very hurt.  I don’t know if the people involved even considered my feelings, I would even say that it didn’t cross their minds that I might be upset.  They just did what it was that they wanted to do.

This was a situation in which, while I didn’t feel it was necessary to take a stand and try to get my way, my first instinct was to step back.  To no longer participate in that particular group. As Dave puts it “to take my ball and go home.”  But I also spent time and prayed about it.  I asked God for help, because I wasn’t 100% convinced that my first response was the correct one.  There were other people outside of the situation that needed to be considered.  Maybe stepping away was the right thing, but maybe this wasn’t the right way to do it, or the right emotional mindset to be making that decision in.  And thankfully I had a week in which to make that decision.

It’s very easy to assign reasons and emotions to the actions of others, but it can be much harder to look at our own motivations.  I will say, however that I instantly recognized that pride was a part of the equation from my side.  I took pride in doing this particular job.  But maybe someone else needed to feel that pride more than I did.  I have found so many places in my life to share my faith, am I so greedy as to not be able to share the spotlight?  And stepping out completely also meant stepping away from those who needed someone to advocate for them.

I have continued to bring this situation and specifically my feelings about it before God this week and today this was the passage I read.

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see God.  See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”  Hebrews 12:14.

If we, as children of God, seek to live holy lives, lives that emulate the life of Christ, then I have to consider His response to every situation – to this situation.  I know Christ would step aside graciously, and throw His support completely behind this peer.  And I know that is what God wants for me.  I can’t allow bitterness to take root in my heart and cause trouble.  I think this is why pride is such a subtle and dangerous sin.  But if Jesus could scorn the shame of the cross, then I can certainly give up my pride and help someone  have their own chance at ministering to others and being proud.

If there is a place in your life where you have a similar situation, or are finding pride is damaging a relationship, I encourage you to bring it before God and allow his healing power to change your heart just as he changed mine.

God Bless,

Meredith

It’s Supposed To Be Personalized!

I don’t think it would be fair to say that I have had a crisis of faith lately.  I think it would be better phrased if I said that I had started questioning some of the things that I had held onto as core beliefs.  “How did that happen?” you might ask.  It seems almost counter-intuitive, but I have come to understand that it is much easier for your faith to be undermined from within.

A few months back I signed up to get daily emails from a Christian website.  Some of the emails I really enjoyed and got something out of.  Sure I still read my bible every day, but, as much as I wanted them to deepen my understanding, maybe on some level, I looked for them to be a “fast-food” means of increasing my knowledge of God.  A post about Christian mystics got me really questioning the reality of the experiences I felt that I had with God.  But the one that really sent me over the edge was the one that tried to explain why not all believers will be recognized by Jesus.  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Now I’m not saying that these posts didn’t have value.  What I am saying is that they didn’t have value for me.  Perhaps I wasn’t ready spiritually for their message.

But there I was, questioning God and my relationship with him, feeling uncomfortable in my heart with the things I had been reading.  So I thought back to some of the books I have read that truly made me feel as if I had gained a real understanding of God; C.S. Lewis and J.I.Packer.  Ultimately I ended up on Packer and and started reading his book KNOWING GOD. I wasn’t a chapter into it before I felt the rightness of the message within the book.  It fed me.  I hadn’t realized until that moment that I had been starving.

So what’s my point here?  I am absolutely not condemning the daily devotional that I had been getting, but I had to recognize that instead of feeding ME, it was putting distance between me and God.  And I am always brought back to the word Jesus uses to describe God, the word that we use to identify him withing the Trinity…God THE FATHER.  I am a child of God and I think he parents us much like we parent our own children – there is a different set of rules and instructions for each of us.  Ultimately it is for each of us to find our own way – and it is for no one to tell us our path is wrong if we are following it with an honest and earnest heart, bent upon knowing and loving our Lord.  If God has called us to be his children, will He not also show us the way?

I know that going forward, if it isn’t bringing me to a new understanding, and is instead pushing me farther from, instead of closer to God, then that isn’t the resource for me.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t for someone else, though.  Perhaps Jesus tells us the the road we walk will be a difficult one because it is one that we must each forge ourselves.

God bless,

Meredith

Going “All In”

It’s been a bit since I’ve blogged.  Mostly this is because I have been focusing a lot of my time, and energy on promoting my newest project, THE BOOK OF RUTH, which launched on Kickstarter November 1st and wraps up November 30.

It’s definitely been an up and down month for me.  It was so easy two years ago when I felt God “calling” me to do this book.  I remember listening to the Matthew West song “All In”.  Strange that it would be so easy to take a risk and been all in at the beginning.  But then I guess at that point I haven’t really risked anything from a financial, or time point of view.  Now that we are so close to the finish line.  Now that I have put so much of myself into this project, I suddenly find myself doubting God’s commitment.

I’ve been reading the book of Matthew this week, specifically chapters 17 & 18.  In Chapter 17: 20 Jesus heals a demon possessed boy that his disciples had failed to heal.  When they ask him why they couldn’t drive out the demon he replies Because you have so little faith.  I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”  I feel as if he’s talking to me. Because there have been times over this past week specifically that I have felt as if my faith was too small.  I keep asking for help and praying to God, but I don’t even know what to pray for. I’m so conflicted.

David and I have been so blessed.  Maybe the point of the blessings is to pay it forward.  To put out this book without counting about the cost. But I’m human, and working in comics you don’t have a pension plan.  And I want this book to be successful. I want people to see it and love it and get behind it.  I want that validation.   (You see why I’m struggling)

And then today I read this verse in Matthew 18:19  “Again, I tell you  that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”  I was inclined to dismiss this and focus on other parts of that reading focusing on the children, but then it appeared again.  Isaac and I were doing his daily devotions.  We read Acts 10:44-48 and Acts 12:1-10.  This is the conclusion of the story of Peter and Cornelius and the story of the angel of God freeing Peter from prison.  And there is was, at the end of this devotion, the verse of the day – Matthew 18:19.

So today I’m putting it out to you.  The people who read my blog.  I’m not asking for you to pray for a successful Kickstarter.  But I am asking that you pray for this book that God has called me to write.  That he uses it for his plan (whatever that may be)and that he helps me to have faith (even if it’s as small as a mustard seed).  I’m asking that you pray for me to have my “all-in” faith in God’s plan renewed.

Thank you to everyone who reads this and God bless.

Meredith

THE POWER OF FAITH

Have you ever felt God put a calling in your heart?  Did you follow through on it?

Sometimes it takes a long time for those callings to manifest themselves.  For me, it has taken years.  I have said before that, when I first started writing comics, I felt God put a calling in my heart to adapt The Book of Ruth into comic book form.  It was one of those, “some day you are going to do this” type of things.  I carried that calling in my heart for many years, before I really felt that the time was “now”.

It’s funny how when you starting answering a calling, you have this mind set, or at least I certainly did, that you are doing something for God.  You know when Paul calls us to “resist the temptation to act as if we are righteous, especially by leaning on our good works”… yep!

It’s easy to start making plans and forget who, and what you are doing something for.  But, if you can keep your focus on God, trusting in His plan for you and your calling, the strangest thing begins to happen; or at least for me.  I came to the realization that this thing God had called me to do.  This thing that I was “doing” for God…it was actually something God was doing for me.

Maybe to some of you this is nothing new, but for me this is news!!!  The more I have worked on “The Book of Ruth”, the more I have poured myself into God’s plan; trusting Him, and turning it over to Him…the more I have found myself being blessed by the very thing I was supposed to be doing for God.  We have it all wrong, or I certainly did.  When God puts a calling in our hearts it’s because He has a blessing that He wants to share with us not because there’s something we can do for him.   But the only way that He can do that is if, and when we listen to Him.

I feel grateful and blessed that our God is forgiving, and willing to overlook my arrogance. (What could I possibly do for the God who created the heavens and earth?)  God stuck with me, He showed me the truth, and He brought me to the place where I am now; joyous gratitude.  What calling has God put into your heart today?  What blessing is he trying to share with you?

This song has really been my mantra since launching The Book of Ruth on Kickstarter and so I wanted to share it with you today.

God bless,

Meredith

Careless Words

For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”  Matthew 12:34

Several times this month I have found a passage in my readings that speaks to me and then brings me to a new understanding of some of the readings we repeat each Sunday as a part of our service and where they come from.  This one today hit home particularly for me because this month I found myself lashing out at my family.  Fall is always a difficult time for me as the days grow shorter.  But for some reason, this year I have found myself feeling increasingly overwhelmed.  Even the daily tasks of cooking and cleaning have, at times, felt like mountains to climb.   And those feelings I have nurtured in my heart, feelings of anxiety, sadness, and frustration, have of course flowed out of my heart via my mouth to hurt the ones I love.

This morning as I prayed on this verse and asked for God’s help, I found myself repeating familiar words…“cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy spirit that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name, through Christ our Lord”.

This verse comes from the Collect for Purity and is a part of our Anglican service every Sunday.    The entire collect goes like this; Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

I can only think that this collect was directly inspired by Jesus’ words in Matthew in recognition of the struggles we all face; to cleanse the thoughts of our hearts, so that it is the good stored inside us that comes out of our mouths, and not the evil.

I will continue to pray that my heart be cleansed so that when I am called to give an account for the words I have spoken, the good far outweighs the evil, in Jesus’ name.  Amen

God bless,

Meredith