Saturday, April 29, 2017

Just Love~

Sometimes God places you
in the exact moment,
at the exact time.

(Actually, I think this is probably true
every moment of our life.
It's just we don't always pay attention,
or stop to see the exactness of God
in the day in and day out of everyday living.)

With intermittent rain showers
on again more than off,
a small window of sunlight
lured me out my front door
to breathe in deep the refreshing air.

(Remember, I live in the desert.
Rain soaked air - a real treat.)

I had barely taken a few steps down my sidewalk
when I heard what I assumed to be
the jingling of tags on a collar
that I assumed to be worn by a dog.

Sure enough, coming out from behind
our huge juniper bush was a huge dog.
(Did I mention this dog was huge?!)

As it sniffed around our bush,
I simply stayed right where I was.
(No movement - no dog noticing me, right?)

A moment later,
I heard a male voice from down our street.
"Oh, great!!!!  This is perfect!!!!
Look - there's Buddy over there in their yard."

And then -
"B-U-D-D-Y!!!! YOU. GET. OVER. HERE. NOW!!!"

Obviously, Buddy knew his name.
For a brief moment,
he actually turned and glanced toward his owner.
But when the tone of the man's voice escalated,
instead of Buddy heading toward home,
he high-tailed it in the opposite direction.

Call it dog intuition,
but something kept telling me
Buddy wasn't really feeling as though this man considered him
a true buddy
at this moment in time.

The owner kept yelling -
his voice loud,
his tone saturated in anger -
and Buddy kept making his way
further and further from home
until . . .
this happened.

"Hey, Buddy."

Buddy and I both looked over at the man.

There he was on bent knees in the middle of the street.

With his hand outstretched and a look of love in his eyes,
he called out to his furry friend again.

"C'mon, Buddy.  There you go.  Good boy.  C'mon, Buddy."

Buddy turned in the man's direction.

His owner's voice
now soft and tender,
and his mannerisms,
now loving and inviting,
Buddy started toward the man.

"Thatta boy!  Good job!  C'mon, Buddy!"

Hearing these words of love, affirmation, and joy,
Buddy began to run
and he didn't stop until
he ran straight into his owner's arms.

And, there on my sidewalk,
I was reminded again
of the difference love makes.

Love is patient, love is kind.
 It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 
It does not dishonor othersit is not self-seeking,
 it is not easily angered, it keep no record of wrongs. 
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth. 
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 
Love never fails.
~1 Corinthians 13:4-8

There have been times in my life,
and in yours, too, I'm quite sure
when we have found ourself
in the same exact place as Buddy.
After all, the Bible says we like sheep
have all gone astray.

And I think we would all agree -
words of anger,
looks of disappointment and disgust,
overtones of "I've had it with you"
do nothing to woo us back home.
In fact,
like Buddy,
upon sensing we are no longer a "true buddy"
in the eyes of the one upset with us,
we no longer feel welcome.

We have no desire
(and don't feel the least bit comfortable)
to head into a place
where we don't feel wanted
where we don't feel loved,
where we don't feel we truly belong.

But, when love speaks -
when love gets down on its knees and calls your name,
when love humbles itself and reaches out to you -
you can't help but be drawn back into fellowship.

It's why when we've tasted,
truly tasted the love of our Jesus,
we can't run too far,
we can't turn our back,
we can't leave His fold,
because love,
His love,
woos us back.

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins."
~1 Peter 4:8

Love always reaches out and pulls closer.

If it harms,
if it pushes,
if it drives away,
it isn't love.

Just ask Buddy,
Just ask me.
Just ask yourself.

Just ask Jesus.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

But For the Grace of God~

Yesterday, I read a couple of statements
that have troubled my heart ever since.
So much so that today,
in an attempt to settle this in my heart,
I have taken to processing this the only way I know how -
with my heart open to hear His Spirit
and my hands ready to write my way through to His conclusion.

Satan never attacks those he already has.

That's true. Satan only attacks his enemies.

A fellow Christian, undoubtedly going through a season of trial and hardship, had shared she should be glad in this struggle because . . . Satan never attacks those he already has.

Another Christian agreed with her statement and added . . . That's true. Satan only attacks his enemies.

Upon reading this, my heart stopped in its tracks.
And before I even realized it was happening, tears formed in my eyes.

Like watching a huge flat screen TV in my mind,
I began to see face after face after face after face.

Men, women, children.
Young, old, somewhere in between.
Rich, poor, middle class.
Skin of all color.
The human race.

As each face flashed before me,
I kept hearing the words of John 10:10 -
The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.

To steal.
To kill.
To destroy.

Road rage.
Drug overdoses.
Human trafficking.

Broken homes.
Broken lives.
Broken people.

To think (as a Christian)
when we have a series of hardships come our way,
all hell is breaking loose against us because we are God's,
but isn't against those who are aren't,
well - I just don't even know what to do with that.

And the only conclusion I can come to,
all that my heart can believe
is that those who don't know God
are under attack in the most vilest and viscous of ways.

To try and navigate this life without Jesus -
can you imagine the hell of that?

To not know the peace, comfort, love, strength, hope found in Jesus -
can you imagine the hell of that?

To be ignorant of the devil's devices, to be blind to this thief -
can you imagine the hell of that?

Satan's attack on the Godless is
full throttle,
full blown,
full hell!

To think that we as Christians
somehow have it "worse" than non-believers -
it's just not even possible.

When trials and hardships come our way,
they should only make us more aware of the struggles of the Godless.

When heartache and heartbreak make its way to us,
it should only make us more compassionate to the hurts of those living without Christ.

When we as Christians are battling the devil,
it should only make us keenly aware of the intense struggle of those
who are battling the devil without the knowledge and power of God.

We as Christians fight Satan every day,
but praise God,
we don't do it in our own strength,
and we don't do it without the promise that no weapon formed against us will prosper.

Those without Christ,
don't have a hope to stand on.

Those without Christ,
don't have a strength to rely on.

Those without Christ,
don't have God to run into
and as a result
are perishing under the relentless attack of Satan.

When Satan attacks us
it should propel us deeper and stronger to fight against
the attack of Satan on those he already has.

When Satan attacks us
it should make us fighter harder and longer and relentlessly
to win to God those who have yet to be set free.

There but for the grace of God, go I.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

When What's Lost is Found~

It comes drifting into my ears
on the waves of the wind
and sneaks up on my heart
in a most beautiful way -
the whistling of my elderly neighbor.

We have shared a fence for over 19 years.

And, for as long as I've known him,
each time he's been out in his yard,
my heart has been serenaded
by his carefree, whistle-while-you-work melody.

Day after day,
month after month,
year after year -
except for the
days and the months and the year
following the death of his sweet precious wife,
about six years ago now.

"Poor Mr. L.  Have you noticed, Handsome?  He's lost his whistle."

Lowering his head, and then lifting his eyes up to meet mine, he had nodded his head yes.

And really, who wouldn't have noticed.

Our little corner of the neighborhood minus his whistle
was just like the time the neighbors behind us
cut down the huge cottonwood tree that shaded our entire back yard.

It was missed.
And, the absence of it, undeniably noticeable.

And then one day it happened.
On a Sunday, matter of fact.

A basketball game on TV and my laptop in my lap,
my husband and I were enjoying leisurely time together
when . . .
through the open window,
on the waves of a gentle afternoon breeze,
it came drifting into our ears
and snuck up on our hearts
in a most beautiful way -
the whistling of our elderly neighbor.

I looked at my husband.
He looked at me.
And, without either of us saying a word,
we both stood up,
met in the middle of the room,
and exchanged a long hug and a sweet, tender kiss.

Then, we both just looked at each other and smiled.

And I can't help but wonder,
over these past 14 months,
(now that I am in his shoes)
has our elderly neighbor glanced in my direction,
and noticed something undeniably absent from me?

I have a feeling he probably has.

The look in his eyes
while we chit-chat over the fence
has said more than his words ever could.

I'm sorry you're going through this.

I know how hard it can be.

My heart hurts just knowing the hurt in yours.

Just give it some time.

It'll get better. It will.

And what this precious man doesn't realize,
what he couldn't possibly ever know,
is that in the melody of his whistle,
God has been singing to me
a beautiful song of hope.

If Mr. L. was able to find his whistle again,
maybe I will, too.

And while neighborhood living
with neighbors so close,
has never been my preferred way to live,
I'm thankful this elderly man is on
the other side of my fence,
especially during this season,
especially now.

Let us hold firmly to the hope that we have confessed, 
because we can trust God to do what he promised. 
Let us think about each other and help each other to show love and do good deeds. 
You should not stay away from the church meetings, as some are doing, 
but you should meet together and encourage each other.  
Do this even more as you see the day coming.
~Hebrews 10:23-25

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.
He comforts us in all our troubles
so that we can comfort others.
When they are troubled, 
we will be able to give them
the same comfort God has given us.
~2 Corinthians 1:3,4

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Monday, April 24, 2017

All. Over. Again.~

What started out as
"a little something for the birds"
has now morphed into
a whole lot of something for me.

"I think I'll pick up a little something for the birds,"
 my husband had said one day.
"With the winter months here,
let's be God's way of feeding them."
With a wink and a smile,
he was out the door.

His little something turned out to be bird seed.

And while his choice of seed must have been delicious,
we all know,
besides being a tasty menu item for birds,
seeds are also amazing encapsulations of potential new life.

Spring has proven this to be true,
as now,
smack dab in the center of our yard,
a not-my-kind-of-grass
has started to make its presence known.

Here, there, and even over there,
this unwanted, unwelcome grass is sprouting up.

Not wanting this grass to take over the entire yard,
I found myself wrestling back and forth with myself about what to do.

"Just look at it.  It's everywhere! What good is pulling it out going to do?"

"Yes, that's true. But, are you content to live with this grass,
day in and day out? Is this what you want in your backyard?"

"But, Self - take a good hard look! Do you know how hard it's going to be to pull out each clump of this new grass?  C'mon! It's going to be nearly impossible. And besides, for each one you pull, who knows how many new shoots are just waiting for the opportunity to pop up?"

"I know. I know. It's not going to be easy.  But, honestly, I don't think living with it is an option. I don't want this grass in my yard."

Finally, (and thankfully)
the strong-willed side of me outweighed the lazy side of me,
and the decision was made to remove this grass immediately.

My plan of action -
soak this area of the yard,
and then the following morning,
one clump at a time,
pull these babies up by their roots.

Today was the following morning.

As I sat on the patio,
drinking my morning coffee,
e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y comfortable and content,
I gazed out at the unsightly grass awaiting me.

And, I realized again
what we often fail to remember
and what we often tend to forget:
Sometimes, a decision will need to be made
over and over and over again
if we are to reap the desired results.

In order to get myself up out of my chair
and out into the yard,
I had to decide to tackle this project
all. over. again.

And, because I only made a small dent
in this ever-increasing grass population,
I will need to make this same decision again
tomorrow morning,
and the morning after that,
and many, many mornings after that,
all summer long.

It is this need to re-decide and re-commit each day
that has me pondering anew these words of Jesus:

But don't begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say,  "There's the person who started that building and couldn't afford to finish it!"

Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him?"
~Luke 14:28-31

Before we start,
we have to count the cost.
Before we start
we have to decide if we are willing
to start again tomorrow,
and the day after that,
and the day after that.

Do we have what it takes to finish?

Starting is only profitable if we follow through to finishing.
And, starting isn't just a one time deal.
The kind of starting that leads to the finish line
is a kind of starting that starts again each day.

It's the kind of starting needed not only for
ridding my yard of unwanted grass,
but also for
completing a degree,
paying off a loan,
losing the extra weight,
breaking free from the addiction,
reaching retirement,
raising a child,
making it to "til death do us part".

It's also the kind of starting needed
to be a disciple of Christ.

And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. 
But don't begin until you count the cost.
~Luke 14:26-28

Every moment,
of every day,
we have to decide
all. over. again.
to follow our Savior.

It's the kind of starting needed
(with the precious, ever-present help of His Spirit)
to walk away from temptation,
to overcome evil with good,
to do unto others as we would have them do unto us,
to be salt and light,
to face persecution,
to take up our cross and follow Him,
to run the race before us, finish, and finish well.

Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.
~C. S. Lewis

It's not enough to decide to start.
We have to keep deciding
all. over. again.
until we finish.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

When You Think You've Lost Your Faith~

So many times we think we have faith until
we find ourselves in a place that has us questioning God,
that in turn,
takes us to a place that has us questioning our faith in God.

We hear a diagnosis.
We get "let go" from our job.
We receive divorce papers.
We stand in a cemetery.

Blindsided and knocked off our feet,
we start to wrestle with God about the "why"?

Only sometimes,
most times, in fact,
when it comes to knowing the "why",
God chooses to remain silent.

And this is where the questioning of our faith begins.

It's easy to have faith
when all is as we think it should be.
It's easy to have faith
when life is good,
and it seems God is good, too.

But - what about when the ground crumbles beneath us?

If we are standing on faith in God,
and not faith in our situations and our circumstances,
we will still be able to stand.

This is what faith is -
standing when we don't know what,
standing when we don't know when,
standing when we don't know where,
standing when we don't know how -
because we know WHO.

Everything is our life can change in a heartbeat,
but God never changes.

Faith is faith when we don't have all the answers
and still believe.
Faith is faith when we don't understand the why
and still believe.
Faith is faith when we don't know what, when, where or how
and still believe.

And, this.
Especially this:
Faith is faith even when
we still feel pain,
we still feel anger,
we still feel hurt,
we still feel left wondering why.

Because I think what we sometimes forget is this:
It is possible to have faith
and feel as though you are drowning in a sea of emotions

Faith can still be there
even in the tears,
even in the heartache,
even in the pain,
even in the struggle.

Don't allow your emotions to convince you
you've lost your faith.

Don't allow your emotions to "mix up"
the losses in your life.

You may have lost your health, but faith still remains.
You may have lost your job, but faith still remains.
You may have lost your spouse, but faith still remains.
You may have lost your loved one, but faith still remains.

This is the very essence of faith in God.

It stays
even when,
in the midst of,
and in spite of.

When our faith is in God,
faith remains
because He remains.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Have You Ever Misplaced God?~

When God speaks to you,
His voice is louder than words.

It booms in the deepest place of you
and the reverberation is felt
in every part of your being.

It is unmistakable -
not to be missed.

I'll never forget the day God spoke to me -
while sitting on my patio,
heart deep in a women's Bible study.

As I took a drink of coffee and flipped the page,
the question waiting for me at the top of the next page,
came barging into my thoughts like a freight train.

"What is, or are, the things in your life that you associate with safety, peace, and pleasure?"*

Having just lost my husband to a heart attack several weeks prior to this page turning moment,
naturally his name was the automatic, didn't-have-to-think-about-it-for-a-second answer.

He was where I found my safety, peace, and pleasure. Yes. He was ALL of this to me.

Just thinking about my love made me smile,
stop for a moment,
and thank God for having given me this precious man to love and hold and call my own.

Then, moving on down the page,
only a paragraph or so more,
the eyes of my heart read this question:

How would you feel if God "repossessed" these things?

And, having just lost my husband several weeks prior to this question answering moment,
naturally the automatic, didn't-have-to-think-about-it-for-a-second answer that came shooting out of my mouth, out loud, and was immediately written in the margin of my book was this:

"I do feel this way!"

"Yes, Lord!
This is exactly what You did!
You repossessed my man!
Why, Lord?  Why?"

Immediately, thanksgiving turned to anger.
Joy turned to sorrow.
Praise turned into "How could You, Lord?"

My smile was swallowed up with my tears.

And for a moment,
I put the book down and just sat there,
consumed by all the emotions
welling up inside me.

I yelled . . . and God understood.
I vented  . . .  and God understood.
I questioned . . . and God understood.
I demanded an answer . . . and God understood.
I picked up the book again . . . and God spoke.

Through the words of the very next statement, I heard His voice that is louder than words.

Your response to that question reveals the degree to which your identity and sense of security is found in things from God rather than in God Himself.

Yes, when God speaks to you,
it booms in the deepest place of you
and the reverberation is felt
in every part of your being.

It is unmistakable -
not to be missed.

For the first time in my married life -
only now I was actually living "widowed" life -
I realized just how much of my safety, peace, and pleasure was wrapped up in my husband.

His presence now gone from my life
left me feeling vulnerable, distressed, and in the pit of depression.
His absence now unmistakably felt in my life
left me feeling unguarded, unstable, and undone.
His missing from me and my life
left me feeling like everything else in my life was missing, too.

He was gone -
my God was still here.

"Oh, Lord. Did I place my husband above you?  Did I find in him and through him what I should have found in and through You? Did I place my safety, peace, and pleasure in the precious gift given to me by You, more than I did in You, the Giver of the gift?"

God didn't have to speak.
The answer was reverberating through my entire being.

And while, naturally,
a wife is supposed to find safety, peace, and pleasure in the presence of her husband,
if these things had first and ultimately been placed in God,
then the loss of my husband would still be felt, no doubt,
but the all-encompassing presence of my God would still be felt supernaturally, as well.

I trusted God.
I put my safety in God.
I found pleasure in God.
I did.

But, until my husband was no longer with me,
I didn't realize HOW MUCH I relied on his physical presence in my life.

And I think sometimes,
without us even realizing it,
without us even meaning to,
without us even vaguely aware that we are -
we take the precious gifts God gives us -
our mother and father,
our husband or wife,
our children and grandchildren,
our homes,
our jobs,
our bank accounts,
our talents and abilities,
and we love them
so fiercely and so naturally
that sometimes,
when they are no longer here,
then and only then,
we realize the place they were given in our life.

They are gifts -
precious, never to be replaced, love and appreciate with our whole heart gifts -
but if it wasn't for the Giver of all good gifts,
we would never have had them.

We must never allow the gift to become more precious to us than the Giver.
We must never allow our
or reason for living
to be totally wrapped up in the "gift".

When God decides to repossess one of His treasures,
it hurts,
It shatters our world.
It changes everything.
But, God.

We are heartbroken.
We yell.
We vent.
We question.
We demand an answer.
And, God understands.

But, God also speaks.

In words we cannot miss
and in ways that are unmistakable, He speaks.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
~Mark 12:30

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.
~Matthew 6:33

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
~ Matthew 6:21

Looking down at the Bible study open across my lap,
my heart was overcome by my love for my God.

To give me such a gift as my husband.
To understand my deepest emotions as no one else can.
To speak His words straight to my heart.
To remind me in the midst of it all that
He sees,
He cares,
He knows.

"What is, or are, the things in your life that you associate with safety, peace, and pleasure?"

May it be You, Lord.
May it always and completely be You, Lord.

* Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything, by Jennifer Rothschild, pg. 54

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Hidden in the Cherries~

I've never thought about cherries and death 
in the same thought before. 
Really, do you suppose anyone has? 

And yet, one day, 
as I was picking cherries from our cherry tree, 
these two things - cherries and death - 
were tumbling over and over in my mind and blending together.

Trying to intermingle them both in the same thought
might seem like quite a stretch.
But honestly,
in this place of grieving,
trying to make sense in my mind
of what often times seems senseless to my heart,
is truly the greatest stretch of all.
I hadn't planned to pick the cherries.

What started out as me simply grabbing the hose
so I could give the turtles some water,
led me to the side of the house and the cherry tree.

Reaching down to grab the nozzle of the hose,
 I found myself looking up from under a canopy of green leaves,
dotted with cherries.
Not ripe cherries.
Not quite ready to pick cherries.
And yet, cherries red enough to be attracting birds
who were willing to take a test bite
to see if these cherries were "done".
"Crazy birds.
Only a peck on this one
and a little bite on that one.
Just enough to ruin the entire cherry!
These aren't ready to be picked yet.
They could stay on the tree a little bit longer,
but in order to save them from the birds,
I think we should go ahead and pick them now."
My husband had spoken these words
to me last year.
And, the year before that.
And the year before that.

Standing here now,
in my heart,
I could hear him speaking them again as plain as yesterday.
So, I pulled the hose around to the back of the house,
filled up the water dish for the turtles,
and then headed back to the tree.
And, that's when it hit me:
This out of the blue notion of cherries and death
somehow fitting together,
somehow helping me take the broken pieces of my heart
and fit them back together in a way that made sense.
As I stood on tiptoes,
grabbing hold of one the highest branches
and pulling it down to me,
I felt my spirit reaching up
as far as it could stretch
trying to grasp a precious spiritual truth.

As I  began to pluck each untouched, unmarred cherry
still clinging to the branch,
my memory was pricked by a scripture
I had pondered over 22 years ago
when my husband's sister passed away of cancer
at the young age of 46.
Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. ~Isaiah 57:1
As this long-forgotten scripture resurfaced in my heart,
I heard the words my sweetheart had spoken year after year.
"Crazy birds.
Only a peck on this one and a little bite on that one.
Just enough to ruin the entire cherry!
These aren't ready to be picked yet.
They could stay on the tree a little bit longer,
but in order to save them from the birds,
I think we should go ahead and pick them now."
And, I thought about my man.
Not young, but certainly not old.
In my humble human opinion,
not quite yet ready to be picked.
If it had been up to me,
I would have loved for my handsome honey
to stay on this earth quite a bit longer.
Could it be -
the words of Isaiah -
words that might possibly have applied to his sister,
quite possibly applied to him, as well?
Could it be,
in His mercy and tender kindness
was protecting my love from the evil yet to come?
As I bent branches low,
and plucked one unripe cherry after another,
I couldn't stop wiping one tear after another.

And, I tried to understand the timing of harvest ---
taking now to prevent what might happen then.
Taking too soon before it becomes too late.
And, while it might be a stretch -
a huge stretch indeed,
to mingle cherries and death in a spiritual way,
this new revelation brought peace to my heart.
It eased the heartache of missing my man just a bit.

It opened the eyes of my heart
to see a sliver of blessing
peeking out between the dark clouds of sorrow and grief.

It caused me to look deeper,
to understand greater,
to appreciate stronger the heart of our God.
"He died way too soon."
"His life ended way before it should have."
"He was taken too early."
Written in cards of sympathy,
spoken to me at his service,
shared with me even still,
these words always accompany news of his passing.

And until then,
until I stood beneath our cherry tree,
plucking cherries that weren't quite ripe,
these words hurt.
But now,
I saw them from a different angle.
I saw them as a reminder of the goodness of our Heavenly Father.
I saw them as proof of His tender love for His children.
I saw them as a most precious gesture of protection and watchcare.
I saw them as words that bring healing and comfort.
And maybe,
 just maybe,
this connection between cherries and death,
this brand new way of seeing
the ageless love of my Heavenly Father,
is a beautiful step in me
finding peace in the pain.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Turn the Page~

Maybe where you are is a Romans 7 kind of place.

You know, a place of struggle between knowing what is right and actually doing it and knowing what is not and walking away.  Chances are, if you do find yourself in this place, you are probably feeling very alone in your struggle.  And yet, nothing could be further from the truth.

Romans 7, particularly verses 14-24, is a very crowded chapter of the Bible.  There is not one person alive (or dead for that matter) who has not found his or her self smack dab in the middle of these verses, front and center in this spiritual battle, overwhelmed and overwrought with the fight between the flesh and the Spirit. Not once, not twice, but over and over and over again.

The struggle is real.

We know that the Law is right and good, but I am a person who does what is wrong and bad. 
I am not my own boss. Sin is my boss. 
I do not understand myself. 
I want to do what is right but I do not do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. 
When I do the thing I do not want to do, it shows me that the Law is right and good. 
So I am not doing it. Sin living in me is doing it. 
I know there is nothing good in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do good but I do not. 
I do not do the good I want to do. Instead, I am always doing the sinful things I do not want to do. 
If I am always doing the very thing I do not want to do, it means I am no longer the one who does it.
It is sin that lives in me. 
This has become my way of life: When I want to do what is right, I always do what is wrong. 
My mind and heart agree with the Law of God. 
But there is a different law at work deep inside of me that fights with my mind. 
This law of sin holds me in its power because sin is still in me. 
There is no happiness in me!
Who can set me free from my sinful old self? 
God’s Law has power over my mind, but sin still has power over my sinful old self.
~ Romans 7:14-25a

I thank the Lord for these words of Paul - words that remind me I am not alone.

And, neither are you.

Oh, Satan will do his best to make you think you are.
He will spread on a layer of guilt and shame so thick you won't be able to see through it to those of us sharing this place with you.

And worst of all, He will try to keep you
stuck in these verses,
stuck in the hopelessness you feel,
stuck in a place that seems to have defeat written blatantly on every wall holding your prisoner.

( defines blatant as tastelessly conspicuous. Sounds like the work of Satan to me!)

But, here's the thing.

The way to break free from the Roman 7 places in our life is to keep moving forward, -
to not sit down,
to not break down,
to not give up,
to not give in.

Victory is waiting for us in the next few verses.
Victory is waiting for us if we are willing to get back up and run to The Truth who can save us.
Victory is waiting for us in and through Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank God I can be free through Jesus Christ our Lord!
~ Romans 7:25b

And, our victory doesn't end there even though Chapter 7 of Romans does.
When we keep moving forward,
when we keep on keeping on,
when we keep getting back up and moving ahead in and through Jesus Christ our Lord,
when we press on past Romans 7 and turn the page into Romans 8,
we discover this:

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 
And because you belong to him, 
the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
~Romans 8:1-2
{Photo Source}

Yes, the struggle may be real.
But, thank God, so is the power of our God.

No matter how difficult the struggle,

no matter how alone you  may feel,

no matter how great
the load of guilt and shame,

no matter what,

no matter how,

don't stay stuck in the Romans 7 places of your life.

Head straight to Jesus who is waiting with open arms.
Head straight to His Spirit
who is armed and dangerous and ready to do battle with the enemy of your soul.
Head straight to the next chapter where you are reminded of this unbelievable, undeniable truth:

The flesh is no match for His Spirit
And, guilt is no match for His grace.

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