Thursday, September 21, 2017

What Wikipedia Can't Tell You About Attracting Hummingbirds

It was as if fall made an early appearance a few days ago. The temperature was perfect as I sat on the front porch swing drinking apple crumb donut coffee. It was quiet. Then I heard the familiar murmur of hummingbird wings. There was one, then another and another. I counted six in just a few minutes. They were so close, I probably could have touched one if I was faster. I marveled at the amount of hummingbirds in such a short time. I didn’t plan to attract hummingbirds, I didn’t even think about them when I was planting my garden.

I recalled the countless, red hummingbird feeders in my past and the hummingbird food (homemade and store-bought). Hung in the perfect location according to Google. Stars aligned, wind blowing out of the east and a full moon, but no hummingbirds. I have never successfully attracted hummingbirds despite my best laid plans.

Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

Hummingbirds and I just weren't connecting until He taught me to cease striving. It isn't about the hummingbirds, it is about the Lord and what He wants to do apart from my best laid plans and attempts to do anything. I am a planner, I like lists and knowing what to expect, but more and more He is drawing me away from that and into faith and hope and trust.

Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

Hummingbirds are attracted to certain colors and certain flowers, but I didn't orchestrate what attracted them, it was their nature, it was how God created them. It was His influence on my heart to plant what I did, where I did - I had no idea what I was doing.
When my husband and I got married he had an enormous garden bed in the backyard, it was at least six feet by 20+ feet. It was begging for a garden. When I told him I wanted to start planting there he said, “No, I am going to put in a butterfly garden.” He had all the books, knew all the plants he needed, but had never done it. It was overwhelming, maybe even too overwhelming. So, I asked if while he was waiting to do this I could put some stuff in, he said, “Yes.” You know what happened? We had butterflies, lots of them.

There are many things I’ve wanted and still want to do in my life, but sometimes I give up because it seems overwhelming or impossible. It seems like way too much for me to do and it usually is. It seems too taxing on my already busy schedule. But, I am learning if I seek the Lord and do only what He is instructing, He brings the fruit, the rain and the hummingbirds (and butterflies).

Planning is not bad, neither is preparation, but doing either instead of just simply living in an intimate relationship with the Lord is futile at best.

Today, He asked me to be quiet and I mean completely quiet, not even worship music, which if you know me is a stretch, a big one. But, I did it and you know what happened, God showed up just like those hummingbirds and I did nothing, but be quiet like He asked.

By simply loving the Lord and spending time with Him I have reaped a greater harvest than I ever dreamed of. His economy is multiplication, growth and fruit. We know obedience is better than sacrifice, but sometimes God just honors effort.

If you Google “how to attract hummingbirds” you will get exhaustive results and you will be exhausted trying to accomplish the 101 ways to attract hummingbirds. A hummingbird finds what it’s looking for by instinct - the same with us, but our “instinct” is the Spirit of God.

I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11 The Message

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Love Never Feared A Mess

Katie McClain - Wife to one who has loved me into loving myself, mother to two littles who are their own inexhaustible universes, daughter of multiple parents who adore me to my core, friend to some of the most authentic humans on the planet, sister to two organically hilarious siblings, accountant sometimes, writer at other times, deep thinker at all times, exercise and food junky, and a simple girl who is daily tripping up and falling into deeper depths of love with Father, Son Spirit, self, others and all creation!
guest post by Katie McClain
So they tell me I was the “easy” and “good” child compared to my siblings. By “easy” and “good”, I think they meant compliant, rule-follower. My siblings are what some call the “strong-willed” child. I think that’s the politically correct term for non-compliant. For the most part, rules, to them, were meant to break or at least challenge all the way to their boundaries.

In a culture where behavior is mistaken for identity and compliance is mistaken for connection, I began to believe my “good” behavior is what made me good and acceptable, and my compliance is what made others (including God) want to connect their heart to my heart. Unfortunately, the inverse became my belief as well: If my sibling has bad behavior, that makes them a bad person, and if they’re non-compliant, I must not let my heart connect to theirs.

There, the separation in relationships begins. I began to relate to people out of separation rather than union until their “good” behavior made me feel safe to unite with them. In my separation, the older I got, the more I began to feel superior to the ones who couldn’t make a “good” decision to save their lives. The distance created by superiority becomes greater and greater as we begin to compare our behavior with others’, judging ourselves “good” and others as “bad.” Isn’t that the whole reason we were never supposed to eat fruit from that tree? Judging never united anyone, and separation always kills.
“…but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Gen 2:17 NIV
For years, I adopted the common mentality and accepted the ignorant affirmation of others that I was the “good kid” and my sister was the “bad kid.” It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties, after much heart damage can be done and after insecurities can be amplified and exploited by ignorance, that I received sight for my unconscious blindness.

My sister and I had soooo much more in common than I thought! As a matter of obvious fact, we were more united than separated both in our goodness and in our heart wounds. Not only did we share the original declaration by Creator God over ALL humanity as His “VERY GOOD” creation (Gen 1:31), we shared the same personal insecurities and starvation for acceptance from our parents and every other relationship we’d encounter.

The only difference between her and me was that we went about our pursuit of belonging and acceptance in different ways: I thought doing everything everybody told me to do, when they told me to do it and how they told me to do it was what made me acceptable and loved. That also meant that when I didn’t do something “right,” I immediately felt rejected and unloved by both myself and others. My sister naively and correctly thought she should be accepted no matter her behavior, and because she wasn’t, her life was spent for years just proving to everyone by painful behavior that they would indeed reject her—“Just watch!”

Both of us, in the self-rejection caused by our perception of disconnect and separation in our most intimate relationships with parents, God and others, embarked on lives of self-sabotage, and we’re still overcoming!

The redemption in any relationship manifests when the blindness of separation, hierarchy, superiority and inferiority is displaced with eyes of unity and Love that have to conclude “Oh! I am one with her! I am one with him! I am one with them! Nobody is “good” while others are “bad!” We are ALL good in our innate identity, yet we exhibit “bad” behavior out of our wounds, fears and insecurities. We are both created in the image of the same God. We are both hurting! But we are both being made new!”

We were never created to be compliant creatures who follow rules in order to be invited into Love. We were actually created to be in intimate relationship where behavior creates messes but where Love (not judging between good and evil) was enough to clean them up.

Love was never afraid of a mess.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

God Never Falls off the Wagon

In an often chaotic and unpredictable world, we can trust an unchanging God. He is not susceptible to mood swings, addictions or bad behavior. In any situation He is trustworthy.

In the midst of uncertainty, we crash into His stability and we are changed.

“Falling off the wagon,” is an idiom used to describe returning to a plethora of addictions or compulsions. It can happen to any of us in a host of areas, it is not reserved for just drugs and alcohol.

I don’t know about you, but it is comforting for me to think that even when I fall off the wagon, He doesn't.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17
We are prone to bad decisions, emotional outburst and even temper tantrums, but none of those affect His person, personality or behavior. He stays the same.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
How does it affect your heart to hear that in the midst of your chaos and uncertainty He remains completely stable and unchanging? It is meant to bring peace and foster relationship and trust.
God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Numbers 23:19
He is faithful because He cannot deny Himself.

I know many looking for that type of stability, I’ve been there myself looking for security, safety in stability in all the wrong places, people or things.

He is our “safe refuge.”

Do not be discouraged by what circumstance you find yourself in. He will do what He always does comfort, save, heal and deliver - it is who He is.

Problems and conflicts will demand your attention and your solution, sometimes even demanding you “fall off the wagon” to cope with the problem of the moment, but I say, “Don’t!” Look to Him who does not “fall off the wagon” even when you do, He will catch you or pick you up off the floor and dust you off, clean you up and set you back up where you belong - in His faithful and loving arms.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mistaken Identity

Weak, selfish and never enough were the words often used to describe me growing up. Imagine my surprise when I found out it wasn't true, in reality it couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Recently, while reading The Monster at the End of this Book to my son it dawned on me how similar my story is. In the book, Grover, from Sesame Street questions the title of the book with terror, “Did that say there will be a monster at the end of this book?” Throughout the rest of the story he is trying to keep the reader from turning pages using various methods, begging, building a wall and tying pages together, to no avail. He lets the reader know he is terrified of monsters. On the next to last pages he politely begs the reader to not turn the final page, so they don’t have to get to the monster at the end of the book.

For much of my life I tried to avoid being those things that were spoken over me often and my identity became a burden. Those things didn’t resonate with me, but they affected me every time I heard them, so it became my mission to prove people wrong.

The greatest lie of the pit is that you have to prove yourself. - Ann Voskamp, in foreward to Rebekah Lyons You Are Free

I wasn’t weak, I was strong. I could handle anything and anyone. No one could cramp my style or spirit.

I wasn’t selfish, I would give until I had nothing left. I could give all I had and give more if that wasn’t enough.

I wasn't enough. I would be perfect. If I work hard enough, do enough and give enough, it will be enough.

Turns out, I was wrong.

Turns out, they were wrong.

I am weak, which is why I need a Savior.

I am selfish, which is why I need a Savior.

I am enough because I have a Savior.

Because my identity was not rooted in Him and what He says about me, I built it on what those closest to me had to say. Unfortunately, they were all ways they kept me stuck in our dysfunctional family system. I was like a trained puppy.
Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call! Romans 6:6 The MSG
"You’re weak" - so I’d act strong.

"You’re selfish" - so I’d do more.

"You're not enough" - so I’d give up.

It became the worst of self-fulfilling prophecies.
I hated those things so much I started to hate myself. There were many times, I too was afraid of who I was--a monster.
Layer by layer I am becoming more of who He created me to be. Doing less and becoming more.

Believing I was weak made me self-sufficient in the worst of ways. Always trying to prove I could do it myself. It made me tired and left me isolated. As I grow and learn more about who I am and who He is, I realize there really is very little He requires.

Adopting the belief that I was selfish made me feel “bad” all the time, so in order to feel good I had to give my all, especially when others gave nothing because I dreaded the accusations. When I listen to His voice and do what He says I can trust I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing.

In and of myself I am nothing, but in Him I am enough because He is all I need.

I adopted things that were said to me by people who were supposed to love and protect me because I didn't know Him. I didn't know He had a plan for me. It has taken a lifetime to realize they do not determine my identity or even get to decide who or what I am. The best part of my story is He has used it all for my good and His glory. 
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. Colossions 2:9-10 NIV
Like Grover, I didn’t want to get to the end of the book because I was afraid of “monsters” and in my mind the "monster" was me, because I had been trained to believe that what others said about me was true. It took years of healthy experiences to counteract all the lies. It took hearing the Father’s heart to believe what He says about me. It took Him healing my heart, so I could be what He created me to be.

When Grover finally appears at the end of the book he says, “Well, look at that! This is the end of the book and the only one here is ME. I lovable, furry, old Grover am the monster at the end of this book.” And that is kind of how I felt the other day reading it, “Well, look at that, the only one here is me, lovable, ‘ol me.”

You may not like yourself, you may even hate yourself like I did, but don’t let that be the end of the story. Keep turning pages until you get to the last page and when you get there you might realize you are lovable too.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

He Rescues Us

Previous day's devotional, He Liberates Us

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I could stand and sing

The culmination of the previous verses leads us to the climax of the song, the story in Exodus 14. The Egyptians are pursuing the Israelites, they are hot on their heels and the Israelites are whining and asking Moses why he didn't just leave them in Egypt to serve the Egyptians. What? Serve the Egyptians?

The Egyptians "ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves." Exodus 1:13-14 They were so broken in spirit, they didn't even listen to Moses when he reported what the Lord had said, which included freeing them, redeeming them, adopting them, removing the yoke of the Egyptians, bringing them to the land He promised and giving it to them as a possession. Exodus 6:9 Can you imagine giving up your inheritance to go back to bondage? I can, I've done it.

Can you imagine giving up your inheritance to go back to bondage? I can, I've done it. I have been so afraid of what was ahead that I desperately wanted to go back to what the Lord had delivered me from. As crazy as it sounds, it happens! We whine, we complain and we ask God to change His mind. "Undo Your perfect plan and please let me go back to my painful past where I was comfortable," we mutter. What is wrong with us? FEAR, that's what!

Then Moses does something historical and prophetic, he says, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14) Then the Lord instructs Moses to tell the people of Israel to go forward. He hardened the Egyptians hearts, so they would pursue them and in a moment the Lord split the sea for the Israelites and swallowed up the Egyptians. He did this so that they would know He was Lord and He would get glory over Pharaoh. Their fear of an unknown future, being captured and being brought back into slavery was swallowed up in His perfect LOVE.
There came a mighty wind like a wedge and split that sea wide open, clear to its center. - B.H. Carroll
That was a long time ago, but it is not so different for us. Our Red Sea is ahead of us and if we give up prematurely we will miss it. The Lord knows who or what is pursuing us and He may choose to harden their hearts, for His glory not our misery.
God will deliver His children from every evil work, from every peril and problem, from tribulation, even from death itself. But there are no cookie cutters in heaven. Go doesn't have standardized, same-size-fits-all solutions to our various problems. He treats every situation as singular and special, and He designs a unique, tailor-made deliverance to every trail and trouble. Robert J. Morgan, The Red Sea Rules
Can we trust, wait and hope for His deliverance of perfect LOVE? What is pursuing you? Might you consider you are right where you are supposed to be? Can you, for a moment, think that the Lord is leading you through this wilderness to take you to your Red Sea of deliverance?

Father, Thank you for taking us through these wilderness times where you protect us, teach us, lead us and deliver us. Help us lean into the process and surrender to Your perfect will. May we have the endurance to make it to the shore where You will lead us on dry ground. Help us trust that the enemies who are pursuing us will ultimately come up against You. You are a faithful and rescuing God, give us patience in this process. Amen.

Thank you for reading the "No Longer Slaves" devotional series, you can find them all here.

Composition/Song Title: No Longer Slaves
Written by Jonathan David Hesler, Brian Johnson, Joel Case
© 2014 Bethel Music Publishing (ASCAP), All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. License #9303

Thursday, September 7, 2017

He Liberates Us

To read how He Surrounds Us, click here

We've been liberated
From our bondage 
We're the sons and the daughters 

Let us sing our freedom

Liberty (freedom) is not evident by viewing our circumstances or the situations we find ourselves in. It is definitely not by judging our emotions. It is a gift from God, that was paid for with the highest price, the Life of His Son Jesus. The only way to stay free is to stay in truth, the Word. "No Longer Slaves" is jam packed with truth!
For all who are allowing themselves to be led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading again to fear [of God’s judgment], but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons [the Spirit producing sonship] by which we [joyfully] cry, “Abba! Father!Romans 8:14-15
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Galations 5:1
While out walking several years ago, in the middle of a difficult and seemingly hopeless situation, I had a glorious revelation of freedom. This is what I recorded in my journal about that revelation:

April 17, 2012

My thinking up until recently had been that I would have the victory or freedom when "all was said and done" or when I could say, "this is what God did, Praise the Lord!", but today as I walked around the neighborhood feeling much like a daughter feeling full and confident, it dawned on me - THIS is the victory, the FREEDOM - NOT caring what the outcome is but, basking, growing and celebrating the journey. The victory is I AM a daughter with a Daddy that loves her and no verdict or outcome can change that. I have the freedom to face ALL that lies before me without fear. So, even with no idea what the outcome is in any given situation, but SURE that the journey is making me more of the woman He created me to be.

Maybe we underestimate our freedom in Christ. Maybe it’s not just freedom from sin. Maybe it is freedom to do the extramdimensional. - Mark Batterson, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day
Sometimes freedom is simply not reacting or waiting when you would have normally run ahead. Choosing forgivenss when there was no repentance. Freedom is simple. Look for it, because freedom could sneak up on you without you realizing you have it. There probably won't be fireworks. Sometimes it isn't until after the fact that I see my freedom in a particular area.

We are hard on ourselves, but we forget we serve a loving and liberating God. One little mistake and we quickly head down a path to self-condemnation. I'm just saying, let's be as quick to celebrate our freedom and acknowledge it. He is not going to set us free all at once, we couldn't handle it. It's a journey, He wants us to succeed, so He does it little by little. The more we celebrate the little victories, the quicker we will see the bigger picture and realize the freedom we have gained.

A couple of months ago I made two flans. I don't know if you have ever made flan, but it is worth the effort of combining ingredients, preparing the water bath and cooking at a moderate temperature for a long time to achieve the best consistency. One was a gift and one was for my family. I set up the water bath in the oven and put the first flan in, when I put the second flan on the tray both poured out onto the floor, the oven drawer and in the cracks and crevices of the oven door. I cleaned it up, went to the store and made two more. While they were cooking I realized I didn't beat myself up, I didn't get angry at myself and I didn't feel bad. Whoa, what happened? God set me free, He liberated me from beating myself up. I didn't study, He didn't tell it was going to happen, but I can look back and see the process of Him bringing me to that point.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36
Do you feel free? If you said no, don’t that be your judge! If you are a follower of Christ you are free. Do not let your feelings determine your freedom, His sacrifice did that for you.

Father, We ask you for a revelation of freedom and our inheritance as Your son or daughter. As you give us new insight into our freedom and identity we ask you put a new song in our mouth. Cause us to be quick to praise you for truth and freedom in every area where we experience it. Help us not to take our freedom for granted or be puffed up, but remaining humble and teachable for more of You. Amen

Join us on Tuesday, September 12 for our final devotional, He Rescues Us

Composition/Song Title: No Longer Slaves
Written by Jonathan David Hesler, Brian Johnson, Joel Case
© 2014 Bethel Music Publishing (ASCAP), All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. License #9303

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

He Surrounds Us

Previous verse devotional, He Chooses Us here.

I am surrounded
By the arms of the Father
I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance

When I first read these lines I thought I had already used the scriptures that go with this verse, but as I started looking up being “surrounded by the Father’s love” - WOW! He is ALL encompassing with His love!

In Isaiah 54:10 we read that His unfailing love for us will not be shaken and His covenant of peace will not be removed.

In Ephesians 3 we learn that all God’s people should understand:
  • How wide
  • How long
  • How high
  • How deep His love is!
He takes great delight in us, He quiets us with His love and rejoices over us with singing. Zepanaiah 3:17 
If we trust in the Lord, His lovingkindness will surround us - Psalm 32:10
He crowns us with lovingkindess and compassion - Psalm 103:4
He surrounds us with favor (delight, pleasure) as with a shield - Psalm 5:12
I am in awe of a faithful and loving God. I am overwhelmed by His great love for me, for us, for you!

Is it hard to believe he loves you? Is it hard to believe He loves you that much? Today ask that the dawning day would bring you revelation of His tender, unfailing love (Psalm 143:8 Passion Translation).

Lord, thank you for your never-ending and all encompassing love. Your love changes everything. When it is hard to believe, give me a revelation of your love for me. Fill me with your love in my innermost being, so that I may pour Your love out on everyone I come in contact with. I ask that I hear your songs of deliverance over me. Show me the safety in the arms of a good, good Father. Amen

He Liberates Us will post on Thursday, September 7th, please join us.

Composition/Song Title: No Longer Slaves
Written by Jonathan David Hesler, Brian Johnson, Joel Case
© 2014 Bethel Music Publishing (ASCAP), All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. License #9303