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Fullest Potential

Who is Jesus? (Part 2)

Word Art (1)

Just for clarification as you read this, I will be referring to fear and works based living as religion, or more specifically the spirit of religion. I know that the word religion may have more than one definition to you, but for context I am referring to the definition of “man-made effort to try to please God through a set system of living”.

One thing that has become very obvious to me is that we can spend our entire lives learning all about Jesus without truly KNOWING Him. In this blog post I will be jumping back to a time when I was considering another religion because knowing about Jesus was just not healing the incredible ache inside of me. In an attempt to keep this short and straight to the point I will need to crop out large portions of what all transpired in my life to bring me to the point where I was considering another religion and what changed my life. I have not included many details about my early childhood, but I experienced trauma very early in life and suffered abuse under professing Christians. This obviously also shaped a lot of my young perspectives. Even with cropping out large parts, this will be rather lengthy and far more a personal account of what my life was like living under religion.

Have you ever read Bible stories of how people met Jesus and were totally changed? Well, I believe that those stories are still happening today. I am about to share part of the story of my life, but my story would not be worth sharing unless Jesus entered it. This is part of my Jesus story.

I did have a real and personal encounter with God, and was born again in my teens, but soon after that the doubts crept in. I became suicidal and questioned whether there even was a God. One night I decided to do it. So I cried out into the darkness and told God that IF He existed, prove it. I saw a glimpse of God that night, and that is what kept me from attempting suicide.

I would read my Bible and then close it completely confused because I had so many questions and was afraid to ask anyone. If I did ask or even if I didn’t I would often hear “That’s not relevant for today. Don’t even question it. The way it is now was good enough for other people.” I was so afraid that I would be mislead by reading the wrong things that I relied on the examples and beliefs of other people who seemed to know what was relevant for today and what wasn’t. But after a time that just wasn’t working for me. I just wasn’t able to understand what was for today and what wasn’t on my own and so this whole Christianity “thing” had me all mixed up. If Jesus truly was enough than why did we have all this chaos? I wondered what kind of a God would leave us stuck with a book that we, in the twentieth century, now had to determine what was for our time and what wasn’t. It made no sense to me. I bitterly concluded that asking questions was a sign that I was stubborn and rebellious. I wanted to be a “good girl” and well approved of so I tried really hard to just fit in.

I was laid up for quite a time with an incurable genetic disease. During that time I would lay on my bed and plead with God to just let me die. I had no desire to live the rest of my life like this. At some point in time my focus shifted from the incredible pain and my physical limitations to finding God. Although I was still angry at Him for making me with deformities and allowing all these bad things happen to me, I also wanted to know more about Who He is. I read a book that really put things into perspective for me, and I began to find a level of healing, but when I spoke about it, I found that it was not appreciated or accepted by some people so I went into somewhat of a relapse.

I turned to a host of things to try to soothe the pain, but it didn’t last and only brought me more pain. Some of them became an addiction, and others I soon dropped because I was so performance oriented that I wanted to keep my job and look good on the outside. Those days of misery are not a time I enjoy thinking about. On the outside, I appeared like a good person, but I knew I was a hypocrite. I just figured everyone else was too.

I wondered if life really just consisted of a bunch of wretched people walking around in their little good looking bubbles talking small talk and trying to sound righteous.

With time, I began quietly studying different religions and concluded that who you worship is not so important- it’s about what helps you be a good person, and that you do worship something. I thought “Must be the religion I have is not working, and so I’ll just need to find what does work for me.” So I began experimenting with different things to find the thing that works for me… I believed that there were multiple ways to God and I just had to find the right one for me. I perused the self-help books and tried to become a better person through my own efforts in the hope that I could please God.

Nothing was working. I would crank up the Zen music when I was angry or depressed. I’d listen to motivational speakers. But while it distracted my mind from the pain, I’d just pick it all back up again afterward. I was desperate for answers. I decided to take 3 weeks of Bible school, and see what happens. I remember one night I was so completely fed up with everything. In frustration, I left my dorm and went to sleep in another room by myself so I could think without anyone around. That night, in total desperation, I cried out to God once more and said “God, I don’t know WHAT to do, send me your Spirit, or someone to show me the way!” I fell asleep only to half wake to a room filled with a bright white light and the most beautiful singing I have ever heard. I then lapsed into a refreshing sleep and woke the next morning feeling like I had slept 8 hours instead of 4. From that moment on something in my life had changed. I was still frustrated, tired and depressed. I still didn’t know which way was up, but somehow I had this thing within me that was guiding me… It showed me things about loving people for who they were. I knew without question there was a God. I just wasn’t sure yet how that was going to affect my life and how to gain His approval. I wrote about that night in my journal. Looking at it now, I can see that even in my journal entry there was incredible disbelief about what all this meant. I did not really believe God would answer that prayer, but He did. It was as though my eyes were so darkened with unbelief that I could not see God for who He was even when He personally revealed Himself to me multiple times.

One night one of the teacher’s wives spoke to the girls. I don’t know exactly what she said, but something in her gentle manner hit a chord in me and I started to cry. I was approached later by a concerned staff member who saw my tough exterior and then saw it crack and asked me if I was okay. I totally broke down again. She told me where this lady was staying and suggested I go visit her. I almost lost my nerve, but I did it. I walked over that doorstep and formed a friendship that pointed me straight to God.  That too, was an answer to my prayer that night. At the time all I knew was that someone cared so much about me that they would actually let me come live with them while I sort out this messy life. At the same time I was terrified, what if she knew everything about me? Would she still love me?

When I returned I was fighting confusion and distractions of all sorts, and was sure that this encounter with God was wrong! I didn’t believe that God spoke to people like that today. I figured people would think I was crazy if I told them. I began reading my Bible again with a deeper desire to understand. One day I was reaching toward God and the next day I was screaming at Him for the incredible pain and void I was feeling, and wondering WHY if He was a God of love would He allow so many bad things to happen to me as a child.

Those were dark days where I literally had worked so hard and was living the life I thought I wanted, and yet I would often sit and cry when no one was looking and wonder why I’m still here. I would get into my car after a long day at work and just drive. Sometimes I would speed. A few times I nearly lost control of the car and that shook me up. I didn’t want to hurt someone else. Besides I was now thoroughly convinced that there was a God, but I wasn’t sure if I was on good terms with Him. I didn’t welcome the thought of meeting Him without having that settled in my mind. I don’t even know where all I went. I just drove. Sometimes I wished that the earth was flat so I could drive off the edge of it. Sometimes I contemplated running away. Some days I was sure I was losing my mind. Other days I functioned like an average person.

Finally as a compromise with my parents who were very concerned about my well being, I went for counseling. I figured I could go and just not talk. My parents would be happy because at least I tried. I went through the first session and every time anything was said that triggered that painful feeling I would stop talking and try to change the subject. By the grace of God working in the lives of these people, I began to soften even more. I remember after the first session, I went through the motions of eating, trying to make conversation with people that evening, and then going to my hotel room where I closed the door and slid to the floor and began crying. I remember sitting there with my back to the wall and hands over my head sobbing “I’m not okay, I’m not okay.” But I didn’t know how to tell anyone how not okay I was. It was as though a dark cloud had just fallen in over me and I was suffocating.

I tossed and turned all night. I considered the prescription medication I had along. I considered running away. I considered all kinds of things. But the one thing that kept me hanging on to hope was two friends from Bible school one of whom had offered me a fresh start by taking me into their home.

Finally, morning came and feeling completely sick of it all I decided why not? Why not tell them everything I can think of that is weighing on my mind? Why not just unload all the weight of pain and sin and just see what happens? I didn’t even think I could trust myself to talk. Depending where a conversation went I would clam up and could not even find words to talk. I was so afraid of being judged or misunderstood again. So I wrote everything I could think of that I was scared to talk about in the time I had left before the next session. I did not even bother re-reading it for fear I would lose all nerve and throw it away. If they rejected this, lectured me, tried to excuse the people who had wronged me, or judged me- that was it for me. If they saw no hope, I didn’t know what I would do. I didn’t know if I could trust them, or anyone. But I figured I was so far gone at this point that I had nothing to lose by trying. There was something incredibly intriguing in the fact that they had that same softness, and that kind gentle look in their eyes as I saw in my friend at Bible school. I was so tired of trying to be the tough person. Tired of holding up to all the pressure. Tired of performing for love that didn’t satisfy the deep ache in my heart. So incredibly tired of everything. Obviously all of them had something worth living for. But the real question that burned in my mind: “Was what they had enough for me?”

So I went and we barely had the “hello’s” out of our mouths before I shoved them that stack of papers, then sat tensed and prepared to bolt from the room. To my complete amazement there was no judgment. No long prescription list of do’s and don’ts. Only incredible kindness, love and hope. From there on I began a process of healing. I began to see who God is as I cried out to Him and allowed Him to heal my heart. I remember one night I had a vivid flashback of me as a little girl in Sunday school singing “Jesus Loves Me” and wondering if He really did because of how dirty I felt. I felt like I was somehow outside the doors exempt from His love and how desperately I wanted to know it was true. And right there in my hotel room I sang “Jesus Loves Me” as healing tears washed my face.

I also struggled to believe that physical healing was for today. It just didn’t line up with what I had been taught. But I had a dream that God wanted to heal me. I woke up thinking, “Yeah right!” I opened my Bible with eagerness to begin reading more about Jesus and wouldn’t you know it, I was just ready for John 9 where Jesus healed a man born blind. The word BORN jumped off the page at me. I was born with an incurable deformity and my right arm had limited use. I always blamed God for making me this way. A few hours later as we gathered and prayed, my arm came alive. From that moment on, I began to read my Bible as though every part of it was for today. If I didn’t understand something, I would make it a point to pray about it and study it instead of avoiding it.

In my life, doors began opening and closing. And freedom and healing were happening. I began to see that all these years I had the wrong picture of God. The wrong picture of who He is. I knew the story of the Bible. My outward life looked good and successful. I did the “right” things, wore the “right” clothes, went to church almost every Sunday of my life, I tithed, and volunteered, and tried hard to be pleasing to God and to people. I hoped that somehow all the good I did would outweigh the bad. I thought that knowing about God was what mattered, yet I didn’t really KNOW Him. And all the while under that mask my life was a broken down wreck of pain and sin that I could not find answers for.

Sadly,  what I shared is only one of countless stories. Religion miserably failed to save me or provide answers for my deep wounds and hang-ups. Because one religion didn’t work I looked to another religion, but another religion would again focus on the outward instead of the root problem. I turned to all the wrong sources for answers. I believed a whole mess of lies.

I don’t hold what I went through against anyone because I realize that every person must choose for themselves what they believe. One day each of us will answer for ourselves. No one else can answer for me or for you. I was holding people to a standard too high for them to fill.

The truth is that no matter how pretty our bubble looks, if we don’t have Jesus on the inside we are all just full of dead bones. If religion has failed you, please hold on and do what you need to do to break past it into the arms of a Father who loves you far more than you could ever imagine.

To those who have been hurt deeply by religion and believe they are beyond love. I am sorry that you were not cared for with love. I am sorry that you have been judged, abused and deceived by this spirit of religion. If you, like me, find that religion has failed you, please give Love a chance. Perfect Love is God. When Jesus enters the picture there is no story that is beyond His Grace.

There is Hope, and it is there for you!

To be continued… Part 3 will be the summary.

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Who is Jesus (Part 1)

Word ArtEarlier this year I was at an event. There were hundreds of people there. I began to feel extremely claustrophobic. Not just because the room was stuffy and full of people. I’ve been in many rooms that were stuffy and full of people. No, this was much different. I was on the verge of tears. Why? No one around me seemed bothered and yet here I was surrounded by a crowd of people wondering if I was the only one who was struck with this sense… I couldn’t put it into words. Not right then. It took a while, but here I am attempting to put into words a message that I believe needs to be shared.

I began to pray about this as the day progressed and I would be hit again with this tremendous sense of claustrophobia, heaviness and grief. As I was praying I sensed God say, “When people are ruled by a spirit of religion, they put Me in a box, and whenever someone puts me in a box, it allows no room for My Spirit to move in their lives. That is why so many people live in a box.”

I began to think over my own life. I too, have attempted put God in a box. I have lived in a box afraid to step out of my comfort zone. God does not fit in a box, and His people were not intended to live in a box either. Inside the walls of these “boxes” there is much pain! Outside of the box there is tremendous freedom and healing.

God does not fit in a box and His people were not created to live in a box!

The life inside the box is stagnant and allows all kinds of abuse to grow and be covered. People are not allowed to choose or think for themselves, instead they are taught what to think, how to feel, what to believe. My heart began to weep for these people, yet I wondered how do I even begin to reach them? They have been taught to close off and not speak. Many of them have been controlled into silence since childhood. They have been taught that surrendering to this fear is what brings them happiness. If so, then why are so many sad? Why then do so many of them depend on herbal supplements or medications for depression and anxiety? Why are “witchcraft cures” such a common occurrence? Why is sexual abuse so rampant and hidden in these cultures?

Could it be that this spirit of religion has given many people such a false sense of security that they have only learned to follow this spirit of fear instead of the true God of Heaven who fathers us and loves us with an everlasting love? Many of them preach and warn about the antichrist as if it were some person or figure that will rise up and challenge what they have taught. Could it be that the antichrist spirit they have warned so many people about is even now running rampant in their life and within many churches today, but is hidden. The definition of anti is strongly opposed to or against. And if religion is the ruling factor then it is anti to the working of God.

Many churches of today are in a deep sleep and fighting against their very Savior? Just as the Jews once fought their own Messiah and did not recognize Him even when He was right there under their very noses even though they read and memorized prophecies of their coming Messiah. What will it take to awaken the church of today?

Just after Pentecost, some of these Jews suddenly understood as Peter preached. They were pricked to their core as they realized that they had just ordered to have their Messiah crucified. They were terrified! Imagine! The One who came to save them, and they wanted Him dead!? (How the cries of “Crucify Him!” must have rung in their ears.) They must have thought that was the end for them, yet when they asked what to do Peter’s answer was short and to the point. Repent and be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit. That was the answer. Repent, be forgiven, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit. No long list of rules to restore favor with God. The work was already finished. Although they thought they had messed up the plan, God simply used their mess-ups to restore humanity to relationship with Himself. God Himself would be born into their hearts and His Spirit would direct them how to live. (See Acts 2)

To be continued… In Part 2, I will share part of my personal testimony and my tangle with religion…

I’d love to hear from you! Give me your feedback or share your story if you like. Comment below or email me at jenni.yoder224@gmail.com.

Not Knowing, But Knowing

412930_323852540983030_1007922383_oAlright, so faith has definitely been on my mind this summer…. and finally, I got my noisy chunky keyboard set up for a late night writing rendezvous, and I decided to jot down the thoughts that have been dancing about in my brain. Maybe it’s because the camp I volunteered at this summer had Hebrews 11 “Walking by Faith” as their theme this year. Or maybe it was because I was reflecting on my past leaps of faith in light of some new leaps of faith. At any rate, it seemed God has been showing me a lot of things about faith in the past two years. Recently I sat down to read Hebrews 11 again. I just felt like there was something I was missing in that chapter. Okay, well actually I woke up one morning and simply could not sleep and as I rolled over, grunting about how early in the morning it was, I sensed God saying that there was something specific He wanted to show me. So after laying there thinking about it for a few moments and trying to get my eyes open. I got up, and sat on the front porch where I would (hopefully) stay awake, because the coffee wasn’t ready yet. And I opened my Bible and started to read, but I kept hearing Hebrews 11, which was not where my marker was set to, but I went there anyway. I started reading it quickly and spouting out the words like I usually do when I’ve heard something so many times it’s in my memory (bad habit), but I sensed the need to slow down. (Can you tell I need more patience?) So I slowed down and re-read that portion, but I was still sort of skimming through to find what it is that I’m missing, and that’s when it hit me. By “hit me” I mean a sentence bounced right off the page of my Bible and hit me in the forehead, well not literally, but that’s what it felt like. I didn’t have a mirror or anything, but I suspect my mouth probably dropped open as I re-read the verse and understanding began to dawn on my sleep deprived brain. “Oh! Wow! God what are you trying to tell me?” I gasped. My eyes began to scan the pages. I raced to the Old Testament, then back to Hebrews 11. I was amazed! How many times I had read the faith chapter, how many times I had paraphrased it, how many times I had mentioned or read over it, and how many times I had fussed inwardly (I’m just being real honest here!) about the people who stop in front of the conjunction in verse six (which is another subject in itself) and yet I had never stopped to consider this one little sentence that now stared at me and danced about in my brain and shook me to the very core of my rather faint heart. This phrase whispered hope, boldness, daring, and bravery right into the very depths of my soul.  The latter part of verse eight in the NLT reads “He went without knowing where he was going.” And I began to think… All these people did or went without knowing. And why? Why would someone go somewhere without knowing? Old fears began crowding into my brain. Fears of the unknown, fears of failure, fears of… but they stopped as God whispered. “They went not knowing, but knowing.” Wait what? My tired brain was finding this a little contradictory, but then I saw. They knew God. They went knowing God, His faithfulness, His love and His provision and with that knowledge they went, not knowing where, but knowing that God would take care of the not knowing part. Alright, so there were some who did doubt. Like Sarah who laughed, and I’m sure that all of them felt doubts along the way, but still they did and they went as God said and look where it got them! Okay, so I have always had some trust issues in my life. Trusting God was a journey for me, but thankfully God is a very patient Father who is very worthy of trust and fully understands every trust issue. So right there, in my non-coffee, bed headed, sleep deprived state of mind, I just bowed my head and thanked my Father that in all the current unknowns of my life, I could go forward knowing He is there and I just surrendered my life to going and doing. Going where? I don’t know! Doing what? I don’t know. Does anyone really know what tomorrow brings? Faith is an adventure, faith is not knowing, but knowing our Guide. For me that morning it was the realization that I need to just surrender to God to be used by Him in ways I don’t yet see and know. It was crushing the fear of the unknown and saying that in the name of Jesus I trust my future into the hands of a God who knows, who sees the whole picture and as such I will go where He leads me, do what He calls me to do in surrender to His will even when it doesn’t make sense to me, and with that was the absolute peace in knowing that God is with me and will go with me wherever He leads me. And so it is by faith that Jenni…

How will my faith story read one day? How will yours read one day? Serious thoughts for sure, and a learning adventure all the way! I just love it how God doesn’t get done showing us new things!

Credits: The photo was done by me when I was a teenager. Model: One of my younger brothers (they are so good at that!) I just thought those binoculars hiding his face were so cute. But please, let’s lay down the binoculars and go in faith! 🙂

Of Bubbles and Poetry

Poetry has never been my cup of tea! Just always thought poems and I weren’t meant to be! Don’t get me wrong I love reading them, it’s the writing part… Anyhow, so I always cringed just a tiny bit when I had to teach poetry…. And then with some curriculum changes at school I suddenly had to face the world of onomatopoeia, limericks, haiku, rhythm and ‎rhyme when both my fourth graders AND my third graders had a whole unit dedicated mostly to (yep) Poetry! By a unit, I mean 3 weeks of poetry! The primary goal was to instill an interest and enjoyment in poetry. Since I already enjoy reading poetry it wasn’t too hard to get excited about that part! I read poems every day in class, long poems, short poems, sad poems, happy poems, funny poems and more… Now I have a personal policy not to ask someone to do something I myself wouldn’t be willing to do. So as an added incentive I told my fourth graders that I would attempt to write a poem and read it to them once they hand in theirs. It was harder than I thought, but I finally figured something out by recording myself talking and trying to rhyme while driving to and from school. Finally, one afternoon, I had the vision for what I was trying to say and after some tapping, syllable counting and a bit of head banging, I wrote this poem on Bubbles to try to capture the mystery I felt when I blew bubbles as a little girl, and the amazement that I see in the eyes of children trying bubbles for the first time. I also wanted it to be a bit humorous to produce a few giggles. Lastly, we actually did talk about evaporation and our theories about bubbles so it kind of brought a scientific twist to it all.  Anyway, so it’s nothing great or fancy, but just a piece that says I finally managed to write a poem. I added some more to the poem for my third grade class when they handed in their poems. Oh, and all my students did a wonderful job! I may have shed a few tears in private when I read their poems!
  So without further ado here it is…
  Bubbles
Out in the sunshine,
  Here I go,
All ready now
  Some bubbles to blow.
Just one little puff
  There go two
Dancing, Skipping,
  Red, yellow and blue.
Then I wonder, and deeply ponder,
  Just where do bubbles go when I blow, blow, blow?
No wings, yet they fly
  Colors bright
Swirling, twirling,
  Frolicking in light.
But where do they go?
  So curious!
Then a pip-pop!
  How mysterious!
Then I wonder, and deeply ponder,
  Just where do bubbles go when I blow, blow, blow?
Oh! that I could ride
  A bubble
Far, far away
  Such bubble trouble!
Maybe they go out
  Into space,
Or perhaps they
  Sit on the moon’s face.
Then I wonder, and deeply ponder,
  Just where do bubbles go when I blow, blow, blow?
Into my bubble
  Now I climb,
Up, Up, away-
  Rainbows all sublime!
Floating high, higher-
  There’s a tree!
Oh no! Blip, Blop!
  Bubble rides are not for me!
Yet I wonder, and deeply ponder,
  Just where do bubbles go when I blow, blow, blow?
                                                                                  -Jenni Yoder
P.S. Who says blowing bubbles are just for children? Go out there and blow some bubbles!

Life Is Not Fair

When I was quite young, I often wondered about God. Was He really a God of justice? If He was then why was life seemingly so unfair? The fact that some said He was good, kind and just was one little shred of hope, in a rather dark time of my young life. I didn’t particularly enjoy church, other than Sunday School, but I went because my parents took me, and it was just the thing my friends and I did every Sunday. Even when we traveled, we would go to church somewhere. I passed any time that wasn’t Sunday School daydreaming, drawing, and pulling earwax out of my ear, or my siblings ear and showing it to my Mom to see her horrified, but silent reaction. Sometimes, I took apart pens just to see how they worked and if I could put them back together again. Poor Mom! She got rather tired of trying to remove all the ink explosions from my clothes! Sometimes someone would tell us children a story right in the middle of the message, or a relative would ask what the message was about so I would keep my ears perked just in case. One day as I was doing my normal “survive the service” things, the preacher suddenly loudly exclaimed “LIFE IS NOT FAIR!!” I listened closely hoping that somehow he would explain this. That somehow I would get an answer to my questions about the unfairness of life and the justice of God. But the next words cut my heart to the core, so much that I never heard anything more. The next words were”And we just have to get over it!” Something inside my little mind snapped in that moment. What kind of a God would do this? An almost overwhelming rage filled my heart from that day on. I remember in the days and weeks after as I cried, hiding myself away from everyone so no one would see…looking at my red eyes in the mirror, trying to splash cold water on my face to hide the swollen eyes…telling myself that Life isn’t fair and I just had to get over it. The rage was almost impossible to contain. If there really was a God, how could His justice system be so twisted? Was there even any justice in this world? It never entered my mind to even ask an adult about this. I’m certain that if I had, I would have been assured otherwise, but I just assumed that any preacher would know, and any adult would confirm it. How could I believe in a God like this? If this was who God was, I was certain he hated me, and that I was worthless, but somehow, I was supposed to smile, be a good girl, do the right thing and just get over it. But how? That was what no one told me. For a long time I held on simply because I knew there had to be a better way somehow, and if there was no justice in this world, I vowed to myself that somehow, I would enforce justice for those smaller or weaker than I. This lead me to feel deeply about the smallest puppy, the weakest kittens and the most helpless creature, and in general anyone who was bullied or hurt by circumstances beyond their control. But often, I would also lash out in anger at anyone whom I felt somehow portrayed even the slightest cruelty, greed or discrimination, and I wept often. I would lay awake at night sometimes too afraid to move, worrying… wondering… You see, despite my anger at God, I thought I somehow had to please Him or He would send me for everlasting torment when I died. I tried figuring out what I did to displease Him. I was tormented by nightmares, my faith was increased a lot when I prayed that God would make them stop and my prayer was answered. I began to feel His love a little through those around me, but I was still very confused about it all. When I was in my teens, I once more heard the statement made across the pulpit… “Life is not fair!” Every fiber of my body tensed, ready to be crushed again, if this was who God was, I was done! But the next phrase completely took my breath away, and tears stung my eyes, as he continued with. “If life was fair, we would all be hanging from a cross.” I couldn’t fathom it right then and there. But in that moment, my perspective changed, a lot! After all, the bad things in life are a result of sin entering this world, and the punishment for sin is death. But God in His love paid that price for us. It doesn’t mean we will never experience any hardships. We will. Our enemy is constantly looking for a way to trip us up, to drag us back, to tell us we will never be worth anything. The enemy knows what Jesus did for us, and it makes him tremble. Sinful humanity has been redeemed by the death of a sinless Man. Truly, life is not fair, and I won’t be getting over it anytime soon!

-Jenni

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“The Slop Pile Kitty”

Come with me to a rural farm area… In a time and place where there was a large population of feral cats… And before there were many, if any, programs for feral cat rescue in this area. I had many cats. We had plenty of place for them to roam about and I took in any stray that came along. We bought cat feed in bulk and had a sheltered feeding area for the cats. One day a kitten was found eating from the compost pile. Every day someone would come out and throw out bits of food scraps and other compostable items. (This was before we had a garbage disposal in our house.) This kitten was waiting every day and despite my coaxing would stay out of reach and the minute I left he would light into anything he could find as though his very life depended on it. His daily appearance at the slop pile brought on his nickname as “The Slop Pile Kitty”.  I felt sorry for the little ragamuffin and kept coaxing. In time he would come into a feeding cage and eat, but the minute I tried so much as to touch him he would either sink his super sharp claws into my arm or bolt.  Finally one day, I remember being able to stroke him for just a moment before he bolted, but I knew it was a start, and gradually I earned the trust of “The Slop Pile Kitty” From day one this cat was obviously wilder than any cat I had ever seen. He could fight, scratch, scream and snarl like no domestic cat I had ever seen which soon earned him the nickname of “The WildCat” amongst the family. Had he not been jet black with a bit of white I would have thought he was part bobcat.I am positive that, as was my habit with each cat, I probably gave this cat some name that was difficult to pronounce, and thereby his nicknames stuck. The interesting thing was that no matter how hard this cat fought and hated most people, who would allow me to pet him, but occasionally he would suddenly develop a wild streak and his razor like claws would gash into my arms. And I would sigh, as he ran off, then go in to clean my wounds. He would often disappear for a week or more into the woods and he would not be penned up, but after some time of scrounging for food, he would always come home. Unfortunately he began taking to his old habits more and more and even though there was always plenty of fresh water and food available for him at home, he still took to scrounging nearby dumpsters. You see “Slop Pile Kitty” didn’t understand that he didn’t need to stay “Slop Pile Kitty”. One Sunday morning I stepped on the porch as I often did to find him with a plastic meat container wrapped around his neck. He had gotten into trouble with his dumpster diving and where did he go to for help? Me, of course. So I removed it, petted him, loved him, made sure he knew that he had plenty of feed right here, but it didn’t take long until “Slop Pile Kitty” went back to the slop.

Today I thought of “my WildCat” and I suddenly saw the lesson…How many times do I like “The Slop Pile Kitty” forget that I have all the resources for life available from my Heavenly Father? I have been rescued from the “slop pile” and brought into the Kingdom. I’m a child of the King! How easy it is to listen to that lying voice of condemnation telling me I will never be more than  just a “slop pile cat”… But if I listen I can always hear the true voice of my Father calling to me to come feed at His table and to be loved by Him. As His child, nothing that happens to me changes my identity or can put me back into the slop pile unless I let it and choose to go back because the blood of Jesus has paid the price to bring me into the family. Isn’t that amazing!

Not a one of us was even ever created for a slop pile life. We were made in the image of God; sin brought about separation from God and the punishment for sin is death. All of that changed when Jesus came onto the scene and paid the ultimate price to buy us back and restore us to what God intended us for. And anyone in Christ becomes a new creation…God can’t stop loving us, even when we turn our backs or lash out at Him. He doesn’t cage us up and force us into submission, He lets us choose… The question is: “Will we be His Children?”

Remember Who you are and Whose you are because of Jesus!

Just a few of many Bible references… Genesis chapters 1-3, Galatians 3:23-29, Psalm 139, Acts 17:26-28, Matthew 10:29-31, 1 John 3, 1 John 4: 9-21, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Romans 8:15

Blessings!

-Jenni

“Hold My Hand”

 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Isaiah 41:10

For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. Isaiah 41:13

I experienced my first full day field trip… It was rainy and we had three stops and a little over 2 hours of driving. I had volunteers to help with child care. (thankfully!) We had 2-3 per volunteer which made my day much easier. I had three very excited, but somewhat nervous first graders with me. As we approached a large visitor center at a living museum they crowded in against me and grabbed for my hand. One little girl looked right up at me and said. “Ms. Jenni, I want to hold your hand because I feel safer when I hold your hand.” Several times when she got nervous she would again look at me and say “I just feel safer when you are holding my hand.” In that moment I felt very small…For all the big scary things in life that still would not be enough. No human can fully protect and comfort us in our fears and griefs.

Yet someday as she grows older, I hope she will put her hand into the hand of her Heavenly Father… The Hand that was broken for us… the hand that was nailed to the cross so we might live.. the hand that reaches down and lifts us from the depths of brokenness….the hand that never tires, and is always there.

What a beautiful reminder from a child. Will you reach out and let that hand hold you today? No matter your brokenness, no matter your fear, no matter what you have done. He is there and if you seek you will find all you ever needed or wanted there!

Blessings!

-Jenni

A Lesson From Sugar Cookies

I like for things to go smoothly… I like when things turn out symmetrical… I like order… I like knowing what will happen before it happens… I like knowing what is expected of me…I can handle clutter and chaos, but it frustrates me until I can get it back into its intended shape… I like things that are prepared and planned… Despite this, I hardly ever quite reach my own standard or expectations. That’s right! I let myself down. All the time. Sometimes I try my hand at a piece of artwork, but no matter who praises it or how good it actually looks, I can’t stand it because I see that tiny flaw in it, that little spot where my pen slipped, or my paint dripped, or that crooked line…and if it must be displayed I might avoid looking at the painful reminder of my imperfection…I also like challenges… assignments of total chaos with the sole purpose of bringing back order. I like the challenge of turning something around, bringing in a system an order. I like improvising, inventing and creating plans that lead to order…

I’m starting to learn that it’s okay to not be perfect… It’s okay to sometimes come racing in late to something. It’s okay that everything is not in a straight line, color coded or lined up by size. When I started teaching I realized that I would need to work to let go of my instincts of perfection to allow creativity to grow. I needed to learn to let the children be children. Allow them to experiment with their art projects, allow them to make mistakes in their lessons. How else will they learn? After all even I can’t live to the expectations I try to place myself under! Finally, if I waited to move ahead till everything was perfect I would never get very far…You see if it was either perfection or nothing, it didn’t take long for me to blow it! In my teens I had to break through that in order to be productive… and yes, those who worked closely with me in some of those days would probably tell you about that!

What does all this have to do with sugar cookies?

Close to Christmas I decided to have a cookie day at school. I found a recipe that worked well, I carefully made flood icing, and prepared decorations. Visions of happy little gingerbread men, candy canes, snowmen and stars danced through my mind. These cookies would be so perfect! The time came and we set out to rolling and and cutting. The children were having fun, but I was feeling ten kinds of frustration as they called me to come help here and there. We made lots of cookies that day. Gingerbread men with crooked smiles and some with no faces. (gasp!) Cookies that bore almost no resemblance to the ones in the picture. Yet, the children were so happy. They were quite pleased with what they had made. After the children left my co-teacher and I frosted the last ones… and even I couldn’t decorate those cookies nearly as perfectly as the picture in my mind. The children had a lot of fun with their cookies and the next day at the Christmas party they divided them carefully out to take home to their parents. Sometimes, if their was a dispute over one they all liked they would even (gasp!) break it and divide it among themselves.IMG_5000

As I mused over the day and tried to find a moment of calm I noticed the stunningly beautiful sunset. In that breathtaking moment it was as though my Father was giving me a message in a sunset… There were no symmetrical lines of color. The colors were splashed together… breathtaking… perfect in every way… not following a color scheme or pattern… but gorgeous nevertheless…

Maybe it is because we weren’t designed to fit a cookie cutter mold… In ten years from now, my students will hardly remember how those cookies looked, but they will remember how I made them feel. They will remember the fun we had together that day, not picture perfect cookies. Children see the beauty in simple things… and they have helped me find beauty… in the extraordinary, in the unique….And as for me, I’m learning to drop the mold I’ve tried to make myself fit into. There is a freedom in knowing that my Heavenly Father created me to fulfill His purpose, but He also equips me to fulfill that purpose. And even when things don’t go they way I envision them, there is beauty even in the chaos. There is peace and calm and assurance near to the heart of God. Letting go of the chain of perfection that I hang on to for security and finding my security in a Heavenly Father who will never let me down is freedom! It allows me to relentlessly pursue God without worrying about the bend in the road, or what people will think, and even in the middle of the chaos there is beauty if I look for it!

Disclaimer: If you think I’m some sort of neat freak, please don’t lest I need to show you pictures of my space to prove otherwise!

Blessings!

-Jenni

 

 

 

A Self Made God?

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Some time ago, I had an interesting conversation with a young woman. As I listened to her explain her theology, I was struck with some interesting thoughts… After she left, I was still mulling over what we had just discussed… I grabbed a pen and started writing, than slipped the paper off in a forgotten corner. What exactly we talked about that day, I don’t remember. The idea though, never left, and it has since become a challenge to me…

These are the thoughts that I was challenged by…

…because we live in a world of man made rules and man made theology… because we can serve a god that we created… the god made in our image instead of the God who made us in His image. Maybe we feel too fearful? Fearful of saying “Speak to me Lord.” Maybe we are governed by a hand mightier than ours. A plan we can’t understand. So we fight. Fight to gain control as our own self made god crumbles. Our self made god lets us down too often, but this allows us to believe another lie. The lie that our problems are “her” fault, “his” fault, “their fault” And this self made god prunes its feathers and struts about trying to find another person to blame for the things it cannot control…

…maybe it’s time we look closely into the Word, find the Truth that sets us free, and the heart of the true God. The God who loves us, and fights for us! We are not fighting flesh and blood, but principalities, powers and the rulers of darkness. It’s time we claim the promises…that when we seek with all our hearts we will find. And when we find Jesus who is the Way the Truth and the Light, we will find freedom! A freedom we will not have in this self made god.

 

Blessings!

-Jenni

(image used from google images)

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