Posted by: bellissimanh | March 17, 2018

Crushed, for me

pressI’ve been reflecting over the past couple of weeks on the events leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection. It does my soul good to spend concentrated time considering what Jesus went through – and why – on my behalf. I know that it’s easy for me to become desensitized with the scenes… Jesus in the garden, Judas’ kiss of betrayal, the disciples scattering, the scene before Pontius Pilate, the scourging… you know the ones. We tell them so often – sing of them, even – that they become as familiar to me as an old sweater and, sadly, I grow as comfortable with them too. I lose sight of the brutality, the true weight of what happened, and that leads me to take it all for granted sometimes. I don’t want that, and so this year I’ve chosen to dive deeply into the truth. One of the tools that has helped me is a selection of readings by Michael Card: “A Violent Grace: Meeting Christ at the Cross” (thank you for the recommendation, Theresa!)

 

Today I was reading about the night Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane, and I was undone. Knowing that Jesus stuck to His routine of retiring to the garden, even though He could just as easily have switched it up to avoid Judas. Picturing Him there, weeping and praying with such intensity His sweat became like drops of blood. Knowing the anguish He experienced as He thought about what it would be like to suffer and be separated from His Father, even for a brief period of time. Jesus may have drunk the cup of God’s wrath on Calvary, but it was here in the solitude of Gethsemane that He made the choice to do it. For you. For me. Seriously… i.can’t.even.

 

Gethsemane literally means “place of crushing.” The garden included an olive press. Card writes, “You can imagine how an olive press works: Beautiful, ripe olives go in; heavy stones apply irresistible pressure; and the precious oil flows out. All that remains in the press is unrecognizable pulp.”

 

I can’t imagine a better illustration for what Christ went through. Physically, mentally, emotionally – He was crushed for me. “But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.” (Isaiah 53:5)

 

In that garden, Jesus said “no” to His own desires, and “yes” to God’s plan. “Not My will, but Yours be done.” Because He made this choice, I have the power to make it too. When you think about it, every temptation we face gets its power from our desire to say yes to ourselves and no to God… but we don’t have to do it alone. “Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). I’m beyond grateful.

 

Posted by: bellissimanh | May 26, 2016

Where is your treasure?

I spend a lot of hours at work. The majority of my week takes place at the office, earning a living. I enjoy what I do (for the most part), but honestly – if I were independently wealthy? I’d be sitting on a beach somewhere, not stuck inside at a desk. I work so I can help contribute to my family, and although we’re not millionaires, compared to most of the world, we are rich.

I’m reminded today, however, that the ground is level at the foot of the cross, and that there are more important things than building wealth.

treasure“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. The rich and poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all.” (Prov. 22:1-2)

I’m gonna get real here and tell you that when I am at work, I am all about the work. I’m all fulfilling my responsibilities as best I can so that I can develop my career and, in turn, be compensated for that. Although I’d never say it out loud, my focus is often (usually?) on building wealth instead of building a good name. My job is not simple, and I am not shy in voicing my frustration when things get challenging. I can often be heard complaining – about our software system, about not having enough time to get things done, about being on hold with one of our carriers for too long, about how I often feel more like a mother than an insurance agent. What a waste! All of that grumbling does nothing to bring glory to God.

These verses remind me that I have a choice. I can CHOOSE to have a good name. The problem is that I don’t even think about what kind of a name I’m making for myself – for HIM. My focus is so wrong. I’m thankful that God is faithful to remind me of these things so that I can keep growing into the woman He desires for me to be… the woman He created me to be. Today, I choose to focus on the bigger picture, instead of the paycheck. I choose to honor Him, instead of my selfish talk. In the end, money will have no bearing on eternity. Genuine wealth is found in what we give, not what we keep. My stock portfolio is not what’s important (sorry, Ty). What matters is investing in the lives of others and pointing them to Jesus.

Posted by: bellissimanh | May 17, 2016

Carpe Diem

untitled
God has me thinking this morning about how very limited my time with my kids is. What seems like a lifetime can pass so quickly. The window of time in which I can impress on them the greatness of my God… how much I want them to know and love Him… how much He loves THEM… it is so small.

“Chasten your son while there is hope, and let not your soul spare for his crying.” (Prov. 19:18)

“In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence, and His children shall have a place of refuge.” (Prov. 14:26)

How I regret the moments that I have wasted. There have been times when I have modeled selfishness instead of Jesus… when I didn’t take the opportunity to speak God’s words instead of my own. If I think about it too much, I can get paralyzed with self-condemnation, and that’s not going to help anything. Instead, I just want to do better. To BE better (through the power of the Holy Spirit).

Father, guide me as I seek to guide my kids. Thank You for their faith – continue to draw them closer to You. Forgive me for the wasted time, and use my regret to motivate me to use every single moment to model You… to fan the flame of Your Spirit in my family… to speak of your greatness, love and justice. Teach us to fear You. Instill in us a holy reverence for Your name, and be a refuge – for all of us. Amen.

Posted by: bellissimanh | May 11, 2016

Zip it.

God has this way of speaking to me exactly what I need to hear. It’s cool (and sometimes irritating… lol). Just yesterday I snapped at someone. The circumstances were frustrating and while technically I might have been right, my attitude was all wrong. I regretted those harsh words for the rest of the day.

Fast forward to today, and my reading from Proverbs:

“The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” (Prov. 17:14)

Like a tiny breach in a dam, what begins as something small – an unkind word, a tiny act of resentment – can grow into a destructive disaster, releasing a torrent of contention that will be out of control. Are the things that cause me to get worked up worth the cost in my relationships and emotional energy? Rarely.

Instead of lashing out thoughtlessly, I need to take my grievances to the Lord, seeking His wisdom in dealing with conflict, and being controlled by His Spirit, rather than my emotions (tall order!)

zipit
Father, grant me a humble spirit that is quick to mend fences and plug up leads that could cause damage. I want to seek peace and pursue it. . Give me patience with others and a heart that desires to stop arguments before they start so that I can honor You and protect my relationships. Amen.

Posted by: bellissimanh | February 3, 2016

Let Go and Love

tearDo you remember the story? Two whores in a brothel each bear a son, within days of each other. During the night, one of the boys dies. The mother then takes her dead child and swaps it with the living child of the other harlot, claiming the living child is her own. Upon waking, the other woman first takes in the dead baby in her arms (can you imagine?) and then realizes that he is not actually her son, but the other woman’s child. The two go before King Solomon, who orders that the child be split in two with a sword. The true mother of the child cries out and says the other woman can have the baby – only let him live. The king wisely discerns that she is the true mother of the child, because she was willing to give him up so that he could live. I’m telling you… the Bible is full of drama and intrigue! (1 Kings 3:16-28)

This has me thinking this morning (and praying) about the way I love others, my family in particular. This is a tale of extreme sacrifice. The harlot was willing to give up all rights to her son, if it meant he would be saved. She let go of her own desires to put the needs of her loved one first. That’s what love does… it sacrifices.

“For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

Father, what might you be asking me to give up for my family? In what areas do I need to loosen my grip? Show me any selfishness that is getting in the way of what’s best for my husband, for my children, and help me to let go of that. Show me how to love them well.

Posted by: bellissimanh | January 27, 2016

For Good

We all know the story, right? Joseph was deeply loved by his father. He was the favorite. Dad made him a beautiful coat of many colors, which he showed off to his brothers. After rubbing their noses in it, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. Although he endured many hardships, he eventually rose to a position of great power, which enabled him to save not only his family, but an entire nation.

There’s the Condensed Clement version. The scene I’m focused on today is a dramatic one. It’s the moment that I play over and over in my head – kind of the climax of the story. This is the point where I can hear feel emotions rising as the background music swells… the moment when Joseph reveals his true identity to his brothers. They’re all gathered around, in fear for their lives, and Joseph just can’t take it anymore. He breaks down and cries so loud the entire house of Pharaoh hears him – and he tells his brothers that he is Joseph – he is alive. What they meant for evil, God meant for good.

As I read through this familiar story again this morning, the verse that jumped off the page for me is this:

“So it was not you who sent me here, but God…” (Genesis 45:8a)

If it were me? I’m afraid I’d hang onto that blame game for all I was worth. I’d be tempted to Lord my position over them… to return to the habit of rubbing their noses in it, at least for a little while. It’s easy to look for someone else to pin our suffering on, isn’t it? When we find ourselves in difficult – even painful – circumstances that may very well be brought about by the actions of someone else, the easiest thing in the world is to focus on what they did to us… and to cling to a spirit of unforgiveness, even desiring revenge. So easy.

Redhead girl with umbrella and suitcase at outdoor

Isaiah 26:3 is one of my favorite verses in Scripture. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” That is what governs Joseph’s response. He is able to forgive his brothers for the evil they have done to him because his mind is fixed on God. He knows that his entire life was orchestrated by the Father, and that there was a purpose in every second of his suffering.

I want that confidence. I want to give my circumstances nothing more than a glance, because my gaze is fixed on the One who loves me and knows what’s best for me. Then I can let go of this need to find blame… to hold grudges… to harbor resentment and a hard heart toward those who have hurt me. When I can see that it is GOD who has “sent me here”, I will be able to let go… and that’s when I’ll find peace.

Have a great day, my friends… let’s try and see the world through Jesus colored glasses today, shall we?

Posted by: bellissimanh | January 22, 2016

Space for Grace

hypocriteEver get fed up with hypocrisy? Yeah. I totally get it. I usually have a tougher time accepting Christians who don’t act like Christ than I do dealing with the actions of people who don’t profess to know God. It’s the contradiction that makes me crazy… don’t say one thing and do another. Don’t claim to follow Christ when following your own agenda is really what’s most important to you. Ugh.

But then I remember this…

“When Jesus heard this, He told them, ‘Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”
-Mark 2:17

We are all human, whether we know the Lord or not. Jesus came for the sick… and that leaves no room for exception. We’re ALL sick. Sin-sick. With Christ, we do have a choice. We don’t HAVE to sin… but we do. So maybe (definitely) I need to ease up and give a little grace. Maybe it’s time to take off my judge’s robe and don a towel instead so I can wash some feet.

I’m grateful today for the reminder that I can be as hypocritical as the next guy. My actions don’t always match my words. There are times when I am begging for grace… desperately in need of forgiveness and a second chance… and humility is holy. If I expect others to love me, shortcomings and all, then I should be quick to lavish that love on others – whether they seem particularly lovable or not. This is the gospel. Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.

Praying to make space for grace today. For everyone.

Posted by: bellissimanh | January 19, 2016

What’s Your Name?

whatJacob. It means “He deceives”. That’s the name he was given at birth, and he certainly lived up to it… from stealing his brother’s birthright to tricking his father into giving him the blessing meant for another, Jacob was a deceiver. Can you imagine being named after your sin? If every time someone called you, it was a reminder of your wretchedness? “Hey, liar… what’s for dinner?” “Oh, promiscuous one… do you need anything at the store?” No, thank you. But there was no escaping that for Jacob. At least for quite some time.

But God… don’t you love those two little words?

Jacob’s life was steeped in sin. He WAS a deceiver… a cheater. But God gave him a whole new identity. After a fateful night of wrestling with God, there’s this…

“Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Genesis 32:28

There is nothing that we can’t overcome with the Lord. There is no failure so great, no sin so deep, no past so riddled with shame that He cannot bring us through it and give us a new identity. We don’t have to stay mired in the muck of who we’ve been and what we’ve done – because with Jesus, all things are made new. He is calling us to a brand new life… a future filled with hope. All we have to do is receive it – receive HIM.

Don’t let your past keep you from becoming the person He has called you to be. You don’t have to be called by your sin anymore – you can be called “chosen.” Forgiven. Loved. Free.

Posted by: bellissimanh | January 9, 2016

Voices in My Head

God’s been speaking to me a lot this week about listening to His voice. There are so many other noises clamoring for my attention. It’s easy to let them drown out His direction.

Abram knew this feeling. God had promised him an heir… but he felt voiceslike time was running out. When Sarai came to him with her ideas about how to make God’s promise come to pass, “Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.” (Gen. 16:2)

It’s so easy to do. We get impatient. We become stressed and fearful that God might not really come through for us… and we start to listen to other voices, when really, we just need to be patient and wait. God knows what He’s doing. We may not get it… but we don’t have to. We just have to listen for His voice and follow His lead. Maybe you need to hear this today: He’s got this. He’s got YOU. And He won’t let go. 

Posted by: bellissimanh | January 8, 2016

What’s Your Lot?

obeyWe can save ourselves so much trouble when we just obey God.

I’ve been reading about Abraham this week, and man… talk about drama! At 75 years old, he was called to leave his homeland and set out for parts unknown… then came a famine. To improve his lot (see what I did there?), he headed to Egypt and asked his wife to pose as his sister, thinking this would protect him. She did as he asked and, thanks to their lie, was taken into Pharaoh’s palace – basically as his wife, concubine, whatever… until God exposed their deceit to Pharaoh in a dream and he let her go.

Then there was Lot, who found himself captured and in need of rescue. Lot, who settled himself near the city and ended up fleeing for his life (and losing his wife in the process). Lot, who pimped out his daughters, and later was seduced by them. Ugh. Let’s just entitle this one “As the Stomach Turns”, shall we?

I keep going back to this one little (but vital) direction God gave to Abram when he first called him out of the land of Ur:

“The Lord said to Abram:

Go out from your land,
your relatives,
and your father’s house
to the land that I will show you.
I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse those who treat you with contempt,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12:1-3)

Do you see it? “Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house…”

God wanted a fresh start for Abram. He told him to go – to leave his family behind, but Abram couldn’t do it. He took Lot with him. How much trouble could have been avoided if Abram had just listened to God and done what He asked.

The Lord keeps bringing me back to this again and again this week. He calls me to complete obedience… not some half-way commitment to what’s right, but a 100%, all in, radical, do whatever it takes kind of obedience… after all, partial obedience is really disobedience made to look acceptable – and it’s not.

I’m not talking about trying to earn God’s love here – we could never do that. What I’m saying is that our Father knows what’s best for us. He has given us guidelines to keep us safe… and when we wander outside the boundaries that He has prescribed, we can find ourselves in a world of hurt.

I love the way Elisabeth Elliot put it:

“Much sickness – physical, mental, and emotional – surely must come from disobedience. When the soul is confronted with an alternative of right or wrong and chooses to blur the distinction, making excuses for its bewilderment and frustration, it is exposed to infection. Evil is given the opportunity to invade the mind, the spirit, and the body and the sick person goes off to an expert who will diagnose his trouble. Sometimes the patient knows well what his trouble is and for this very reason has not consulted the Lord, fearing what He will say: Confess. Turn around. Quit that indulgence. Do not pity yourself. Forgive that person. Pay back what you owe. Apologize. Tell the truth. Deny yourself. Consider the other’s well-being. Lay down your life.”

What’s God asking you to do today? What would happen if you committed – really committed? Let’s do this thing. ❤

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