Bethany's BlogWords of Encouragement

The Pages of Your Life

Books, I love to read books. There's always a new story, new information, words put in a new way. Books are full of endless possibilities. As I've mentioned many times, reading is an everyday event for me. I recently finished reading the book of John in the Bible. so good! I love the Passion Translation mostly because it's poetic. Brian Simmons, the translator has a way of flowing words together that resonate deeply with me.  A great example of this is John 3:16. "For this is how much God loved the world-he gave his uniquely conceived Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life."  God sent His Son, Jesus, so that we will have eternal life! Right now, today. "God did not send his Son into the world to judge and condemn the world, but to be its Savior and rescue it!" Jesus did not come to live on earth so he could go around and point out everybody's sin. His purpose was not to condemn us or judge us, but instead to love us. All of us. Jesus himself received a lot of judgement and condemnation because of the company he kept. He hung out with prostitutes, drunkards, people with major health issues, and rebels. He ate with them, walked with them, became involved in their lives. He told them stories.

I think this in itself is pretty convicting. I mean, how often do I hang with prostitutes? Is it in my weekly schedule to go to the local bar and just listen to people? When's the last time I visited the sick?  What about you? How would you answer these questions?  

It can be challenging to love others the way Jesus loves us. I've been praying about it a lot. I can see that one factor that gets in the way is fear. God says that there is no fear in perfect love, I do not have a perfect love. When I consider living a radical life like Jesus did, I know that things are going to have to change. The pages in my book cannot be laced with fear. Fear of safety, fear of what someone might think, fear of inability. The fears can be endless if we let them, right? 

What is keeping you from living love on every single page of your story? Radical, intense love?  

Or, maybe you do, and I admire that. It's a mama bear kind of love that is willing to put ourselves out there for all of God's children. Now, I've been a mama bear before when I believed my children were being threatened. I've also been chased by a real mama bear, and it's no picnic.  When I think of the intensity of those moments, I think of how much bigger, stronger the love of God is for me. HE SENT HIS SON! This is a lot of love. He drove love through all the fear and saved His children so that they could live!  His finger was not shaking up and down at us proclaiming all our shameful ways, no, no. Instead His arms were open wide to us with love. He wrote our destiny in our books with great care and love.

"The Light of God has now come into the world, but the hearts of people love their darkness more than the Light, because they want the darkness to conceal their evil. So the wicked hate the Light and try to hide from it, for their lives are fully exposed in the Light. But those who love the Truth will come out into the Light and welcome its exposure, for the Light will reveal that their fruitful works were produced by God." versus 19-21

How many times do we stay hidden because the fear of exposure overwhelmes us? The Truth of his Light bids us to come to him and be released from the darkness, to let the fear go. I have stayed hidden on more than one occasion because I did not trust that his Light would be safe and free. Once I stepped into his Light and truth, the love of his warmth enveloped me. This is how Light works. This is what he writes in our books, Light, truth, relief from the blinding darkness.

What are you afraid of? Is there something that holds you back? 

Father God, because of Your gift to us, your Son, eternal life is ours! Your love, intense and passionate, has the light and power to drive out all fear. Open the pages of our life and reveal who you are!

Deciding Faith

For the year 2020 i have a goal to read at least 50 books. I'm on my fourth book now. I like a lot of different types of books, and I enjoy talking about them. Most of the time, I like the books I read, other times, not so much. I want to tell you about a book I read last week; it is based on a true story, and even though I finished it, I can't say I really liked it.  If You Tell is the true story of a woman that abused her three daughters, killed her neqhew, and killed two friends. Her crimes lasted for years, until finally her daughter told. Not only were the methods of abuse highly disturbing, but the manipulation this mother used on her children and on others, kept them quiet for over 18 years! The girls went to school everyday, they interacted with friends, teachers, relatives, yet still they did not tell. They felt the need to protect their mother instead. When the entire story is laid out in a book; it's astonishing. The level of shame inflicted on their lives was it's own form of torture. This woman did go to prison, surprisingly her sentence was only for 17 years, which means she will be released in just a couple of years.

Now that the book is finished, I've had questions. What if the girls had told sooner?  They were afraid that no one would believe them, or they would bring more damage upon themselves. Whatever the case, they couldn't do it. But, still I wonder how their lives would've been different had they told. 

Then, yesterday as I was reading in Acts17 in the Message, this one phrase stood out to me: "He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near."  I thought of this family, the girls growing up, the mother.  I had to ask, "What was God doing?"

As I've said before, the fact that I get to ask God this question is something I love about Him. He allows me to process, think, and question. He doesn't always give the answer to me, but He does listen to me. I did come to somewhat of a conclusion. All the pain the girls endured changed them forever, but it didn't break them. They grew up, went to school, got jobs, had families. They treated their children with love and respect. They learned that truth sets us free. Free from shame, secrets, and fear.  Still, I'm battling with the "why" and I suppose I always will in some form. There is evil, and that evil makes a stain on our lives. But, still....it feels like God was hiding from them. It feels like He was remote. It feels like He just turned a blind eye.

And so there we sit with the decision, again. Faith. Throughout all of scripture God tells me that He is near. He tells me that He loves all of us, that He will not leave us. I've wrestled with those realities in my own life many times. When I wrestle with these realities for others, I again am challenged with faith. For me, I keep praying that God will bring supernatural intervention in not only the lives of these now grown girls, but a flood of love, hope, and peace. I want them to be able to pass on the reward of truth telling to those around them, and live much better lives. I want their story to strengthen my faith in Who God is. The God of intervention, break through, and new beginnings. I want their story to catapult others into bravery, courage, and strength. I choose to believe that God's hand is in it all. The preservation of hearts is His business, the release of truth in each of us stamps out the shame of evil and pain. The sustaining power of joy in all circumstances yields fruit.  This is the answer for me today. 

What are you wrestling with today? 

 

 

Finding Beauty

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday I went to a luncheon where a couple women spoke about their lives and our identity. One woman shared how her willingness to speak about the molestation she experienced as a child brought healing between her and her family, The other woman shared the deep trauma they went through when their son was incarcerated for several years, and how God has sustained them. I saw both of these women as brave, for it can be very difficult to share one's story in such a way that shows the beauty. I'm learning more with each passing year that this is who God is, He is the beauty in every story. When we are open to hearing the beauty, or even believing that it does exist, we are then able to move forward.  Maybe that is the essence of real faith? So many times there can be helplessness, despair, destruction, pain. When we are in the depths of all that stuff, what does faith look like?  Is it a tiny little glimpse of beauty somewhere on our timeline? Or, if I cannot see the glimpse, is faith hoping that there will be one?

Noah had faith that God would float the boat, He would get them through to a washed world, life would go on.

Abraham had faith that he would be a father to nations, he believed it so strongly he was willing to sacrifice the only son he had. 

Joshua had faith to do exactly what he heard God say and then watched the walls that kept them out fall down.

Every single one of them found beauty!

I wrestle with this still. 

Where's the beauty in great loss? How do we walk through it and still believe that the Hand of God is upon us? You know, stuff like the loss of a child, the loss of a dream, the loss of relationship....It goes on and everybody has to walk through.  Noah had to walk through years of mocking, hard work, discouragement to find the beauty in being saved. Abraham walked through the pages of surrender and obedience before he even saw a son.

Joshua marched and marched before he saw victory.

Where is the beauty in your story? The women I referred to earlier that told of her son being incarcerated. It would be difficult to find the beauty in that experience. She's still waiting. To me, that is the beauty, she is waiting with the hope that God will show her beauty.

I've asked God many times to show me the beauty on my timeline. Sometimes, I just can't see it, others times my eyes look in great wonder at how God stepped into my despair and poured hope over me. God prepared a path of beauty for me to follow while I questioned, cried, and despaired over the pain. He gave and still gives hope.

Whatever you may experiencing today ask God "Where is the beauty? "

The Bars

 

 

 

 

 

A few years ago a young woman was sexually assaulted on the Stanford campus. She was unconscious at the time of her assault. Two men on their bikes were riding by and noticed that something unusual was happening, they dropped their bikes and ran to her, stopping the assailant. She was rushed to the hospital and did not wake up until the next morning. Her life, of course, was never the same. She couldn't remember what happened that night, but her body had the physical evidence that someone had used her body without her consent.  This young woman has written a memoir about her experience. She was catapulted into a completly different life, one of lawyers, investigators, recovery, and courtrooms. She was taken to the brink of her identity, and she had to choose to overcome! She was given an anonymous name for her own protection, and now that she has released her memoir, she has also released her true name. Chanel Miller.

Chanel has become an advocate for women. Through her experience she quickly came to understand that women are not treated with the respect that God intended for them. When women experience abuse they are often blamed for the crime that happened to them. Careless words are thrown at them, lies that become internalized and challenge the core of who they were created to be. Questions of blame swirl around them such as "Why didn't you run?" "Were you drinking?" "What were you wearing?" This was her experience.

Now, years later, the man that assaulted her served 90 days in jail, and is now free. Yet, she has served years within the prison of her mind.

Her process, the long journey back to herself, reminded me of all of us. His crime also reminded me of the incredible forgiveness each of us have been offered and given. Many people were outraged that this man only served 90 days for a crime that was violent, invasive, and wrong. How could this be fair?

As I've considered this God continues to remind me of His Gift. In my own life I've struggled with the actions of others towards me, and also my own actions towards them. Why didn't I walk away? What was I thinking? How could my trust have been so betrayed? Who am I? 

Walking through the pages of our lives isn't always easy. It requires some difficult turns and choices. Sometimes it demands a fight, other times complete surrender. Acceptance of where we are pokes at our existance, and others times acceptance is not an option. Truth can hang out just around the corner as lies wedge themselves deep within us. Nothing is easy! Yet, we still get to choose the direction of our hearts and minds. This has been my fountain of refreshment.

As children of God there is a blanket of forgiveness that covers us. The blood of Jesus, bright and crimson, wrote "Forgiven" on His elect. "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." Romans 8:33-34. Wow! this is hope.  

Not everyone chooses to be God's elect, but when they do, this also applies to them. Not everyone knows of the gift offered to them. I haven't always known. I haven't always believed that He created me as strong, worthy, loved, chosen. His royal child, forgiven.   Many are walking around without this information, living lies that fold into crime, pain, death. We choose to serve a sentence, rather then reach out for freedom.

The prison we live in inside our minds is far more confining than any real place. The punishing words we tell ourselves, the lack of belief in the blood of freedom, the diminshed hope of eternal life. We sometimes treat ourselves like a crimanal, locking ourselves away for years. Then, when we are released we feel the punishment was not long enough, failing to see that what Jesus did opened the prison door from the beginning, we just chose not to walk out. Believe me, I've sat inside the door, refusing to live in freedom.

It feels like this post is rambly, and maybe not even getting my point fully across. But, I leave you with the question, are you living within the bars of your own mind? Does guilt, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, lies, etc hold you in there? What choice can you make today to begin your walk towards freedom?

 

 

 

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