A Transformation of the Heart

heart-in-hands

“They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

(Matthew 23:4 NIV)

I am just a mediocre and ordinary person but with an extraordinary but all too common human condition…an untimely by- product of what was once a godly upbringing but quickly fell into a deep and dark abyss which therefore shattered into an ungodly situation and only grew worse with time.   Striving with all my might and persistence to seek God, and to find Him there… waiting patiently for me…then quickly running and hiding from Him in a never-ending, perpetual cycle of isolation and shame…truly a hide–and-seek game which quite frankly sometimes continues even today….and this unfortunate game continually rehearsed by a fallen humanity only leaves me spiritually drained and feeling like a monumental failure….

I find myself wondering many times where this “transformation” promised in the Gospels… this “transformation” when placing trust in Christ as your Savior…..the type of wondrous “transformation” witnessed and recorded in first century Palestine and promised for all future generations to come who truly believe… exactly where it has gone…or if I even experienced it…when I find myself running….and hiding…..in this fallen human play of shame and isolation….and seemingly turning my back on Christ…by playing this hide-and-seek from the only One who truly loved me enough to give His very own life for me…so that I may one day live with Him eternally….

But this glorious “transformation”…. which is promised in the Gospels is not an easy transformation… nor is it expeditious… but requires a rather slow and methodical “transformation of the heart.” ALL Christians…whether they admit it or not…. (And many will not admit their own spiritual failures)….. at some point in their spiritual walk… will experience disappointment and wonder if this “true transformation” has really taken place…but this expected disappointment is universal and only indicates a deeper longing of the human heart… the actual grieving of the human heart missing out on the life in which it was originally designed for…the originally designed perfect life and never-ending communion with God as it was before the Fall…..

The body of Christ is filled with followers who do not exhibit this “true transformation of the heart” and thereby not living the image of Christ on Earth….There is a danger lurking within the Christian community….a danger known as “pseudo-transformation” where the Christian community places boundaries within…to persuade outsiders from joining their Christian clubs…but true Christianity is only found within the pages of Scriptures and there we see Christ rebuking the religious sub-cultures of His day and speaking of a “new creation transformation”… one where there is a “transformation of the heart”….and having a life of “true transformation” requires less trying to achieve it and more in the slow and tedious training of the heart to reach its full potential…

“Woe to you. Teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.  You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

(Matthew 23: 13 NIV)

We are ALL imperfect and fallen people and it is perhaps this “pseudo-transformation” mindset….the internal boundaries and the unrealistic expectations we place on others and including each other as Christians…. which is most damaging to those seeking Christ.  The true discipline of suffering is difficult for a society to grasp which is now deeply infiltrated with prosperity preachers proclaiming a life of good health and generous wealth for those who truly believe…But in Christian Scripture, we find a story of hardship and struggle among the people of God, and within that very hardship and struggle of life…..the all too common human condition … and the fallen hide-and-seek game in which we all find ourselves playing…. from time to time…..it is only there… where we find a game which produces a certain and lasting type of perseverance and strength…

Perhaps the real reason why Christianity stands apart from all other world religions and falsehoods is in Christianity… there is found a Living God who understands what it is like to walk in darkness….

We are all hopeless and helpless in our current fallen state, yet we should ALL rejoice with pure joy knowing Christ looks at the heart, the transformation of the heart…. which is the very center of our core. He does not look outwardly or at the internal boundary markers of the current culture or even the internal boundary markers of the Christian community … for if our God looked outwardly….we would all be doomed for destruction….

hope pic 2

Are you allowing your heart to be slowly and tediously transformed into the image of Christ…

Or do you become quickly discouraged and turn away?

Is your unexpected suffering producing perseverance and strength?

Do not give up HOPE in your time of suffering!

“In Jesus’ day, lepers and prostitutes and tax collectors were especially careful to steer clear of the rabbis’, who were considered especially close to God.  The rabbis’ had the mistaken notion that their spirituality required them to distance themselves from people.  The irony is that the only rabbi the outcasts could touch turned out to be God himself.”

–John Ortberg

Advertisements

A Husband’s Perspective: A Matter of Faith

A Husband’s Perspective: A Matter of Faith

brian and me

Dear Friends,

I would like to introduce my husband Brian, who will be appearing as an occasional guest writer to add more depth, volume, and further perspective to my story…to our story!  I hope it adds new life and helps us all realize the Word of God can be applied in many various and wonderful ways!  I want to thank you ALL for taking the time to read my story…each visitor and each view is such a blessing to me!  I pray I represent my Savior in a way that is pleasing to Him…and Glorifies Him!

No matter where we are, whether walking in the darkness or Light…we are all the children of God!!

Much love,

Kathy

People these days struggle with their faith on a daily basis.  Some do so more than others, some verbalize those times of faith shortcomings, others wouldn’t dream of letting you know they struggle with their faith.  

The truth being told, everyone, whether they admit it or not, do struggle.

Though to some it can be disheartening, and can mentally stunt their spiritual growth, you have to keep things in perspective, from a biblical standpoint.

 Take into account the feeding of the 4000 and the disciples “wondering where they were going to get enough food”, to feed 4000 men, and their wives and children who were there with them!  The men who had witnessed Jesus healing the sick, lame, and blind. The men that saw their fellow brethren possessed by the demons of Satan, instantly become healed, and devoid of those demons.  Those same disciples of Jesus, the very ones who spent nearly every moment of the day with him, eating, sleeping, traveling, praying, and ministering. Those men struggled with their faith at that event. 

Even the fact that they saw Jesus feed 5000 not long before that event, and saw him take 5 pieces of bread, and two small fish from a boy, and feed a crowd of what was surely 10,000 or more people, those same men found it hard to believe a short time later that it could be done again.  That the man they followed could do the same for 4,000 men with 7 pieces of bread and a few small fish.

Seems impossible right?  

How could people who walked and talked with Almighty God after seeing all those miracles ever doubt that He would be there for them in their future times of need?  You or I, surely would have no doubt after seeing all they had!!  If we were in their place, WE surely would have the faith and remembrance of what our Lord and Savior did, days, weeks, or even hours before, right?  Don’t count on it.

 We are human beings, created in the image of God.  As long as we are in these perishable bodies, living in the world that we were stewards of, and gave away for the knowledge of good and evil, we will struggle with those bouts of lack of faith.  When those times arrive, and they will, you must remember, the most admired, powerful, God fearing men and women in the Bible.  The same ones we will someday sit down to supper with.   

As you remember those men and women, apply it to your own life and the struggles which you are facing.  Do not let those doubts and fears pull you from the one who knitted you in your mother’s womb.  Use those moments of questioning, to delve deeper into the word of God, and use those times to draw you closer to the Lord, and do not let the god of this world use it to push you further from the One we were designed to fellowship with. 

Even as we, the fallen creatures that are not worthy for the Creator of the Universe to even think twice about us, experience life, and hopefully learn, do not be discouraged if you forget what God has done for us.  What matters the most, is that we reflect, and remember, and give the glory to Him.

loaves and fishes 3

 

A Beacon of Hope

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

  (2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV)

We must first prepare mentally and emotionally for our yearly journey….a pilgrimage of sorts to our past childhood land…. A rather short journey but seemingly so very far away… down a stretch of highway to a place where I once loved and belonged…and quite honestly……still do……..

I grow in increasing fear and trepidation while traveling west-bound down this small stretch of highway to once again see my childhood place for I remember my last visit where I found increasing ruin and even greater and growing poverty.  A type of poverty which deeply injures my heart, and causes me to grieve for those who appear to have lost all hope. 

We exit the highway to this well-known place with child-like familiarity…..  Of familiar roads I once traveled regularly… and of familiar sidewalks I once walked regularly.  I soon notice a frail and sickly elderly woman sitting on a bench near a bus stop…her face sullen and distraught…her seemingly twisted pain so very apparent….as she sits and stares motionless at this temporary world passing her by……and I wonder momentarily of her huge life’s story and of the once lively treasures and memories which must be deeply hidden within, the type of treasures and memories which I currently seek to re-visit today.

We travel north-bound… up the familiar streets which leads directly to my childhood home…I wince in pain briefly at the thought of this future sight… and I brace myself for what I may… in just mere minutes…… eventually find…..this safe place which once sheltered me from harm and contained all my hopes and dreams…this fun refuge where young friends were once abundant…this protected shelter where my beloved youngest brother and I once shared laughter and tears trying desperately to mask the unspoken pain… this safe and loving haven where l last saw my beautiful mother alive and heard her voice so tenderly…. so very long ago……Oh the vivid memories this yearly journey brings…….

childhood home 1

Childhood home 3

It still stands…for yet another year…….My profound sadness is overflowing as I look among the ruin…and the poverty….and the hopelessness of community…and I quickly think of the One who resides deep within me…the same One I share with this hopeless and impoverished community… with all communities rich or poor……..the One who remains the same and never changes….…..and my heart screams out in pain with the name of my Savior…. Jesus…….and I immediately think of my sacred childhood sanctuary……where HE and I were first formally introduced….

Just a few blocks west of my childhood home once stood my very sacred childhood sanctuary……but it has been decades since I last passed by this sacred place…and I wonder and I ponder in hopeful desperation……..What will I now find there among the ruin and poverty of a hopeless community? 

childhood church

It still stands…A Beacon of Hope……Still very much alive and well……..and welcoming all those who are hopeless and impoverished to come…..  To hear…. And to accept His glorious gift….

“The poor man and the oppressor meet together; the Lord gives light to the eyes of both.” (Proverbs 29: 13 ESV)

Are you living within a type of poverty, where all hopelessness is lost?  Spiritual poverty is what you must greatly fear…..for if He is residing within you…….. Your riches reside inside….

Your riches are not of this world….

Your riches are yet to come….

Do not lose hope…….

Do not lose faith……..

 

“There are many forms of poverty: economic poverty, physical poverty, emotional poverty, mental poverty, and spiritual poverty.  As long as we relate primarily to each other’s wealth, health, stability, intelligence, and soul strength, we cannot develop true community.  Community is not a talent show in which we dazzle the world with our combined gifts.  Community is the place where our poverty is acknowledged and accepted, not as something we have to learn to cope with as best as we can but as a true source of new life.”

—Henri Nouwen

Heart of a Servant I

IMG_1007

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  (Philippians 2: 3 ESV)

My husband Brian and I were married in September of 1984, and I cannot believe almost 31 years has passed since our greatly anticipated wedding day, each of us at the tender young age of 20.   We had a simple, inexpensive, and small home wedding and this followed a two and a half year courtship.   We were married in my sister’s home who happened to be a life-long and obedient Disciple of Christ and I was just beginning to live out my prodigal years at the time as I had intentionally left my childhood church behind me many years before and I did not hesitate to look back in time.  Although wayward and wandering, this does not mean however I was not in communication with Christ during my childhood and adult prodigal years, for I had requested through prayer (and considering I was the child of a painful and bitter divorce caused by my own father’s selfish infidelity) a faithful and loving husband for approximately 10 years prior to meeting my husband at work.  When I first met my husband at the age of 18… I instantly knew he was different, for I quickly realized he possessed a Christ-like heart … unlike all the others… and I knew he was the answered prayer from Jesus… a blessed gift…the one I was searching and praying for.  

(We were also at that time, seniors attending the same high school) 

IMG_1009

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4 ESV)

I wanted so desperately to be married by a godly pastor but of course I was not a current member of any particular church so this caused a rather embarrassing predicament.  My sister knew of my desperate situation, but to me…. more like a hopeless and helpless situation…. I so wanted a godly pastor to officiate our small home wedding… but I knew of no one to ask.  Initially unknown to me, my sister kindly asked her pastor to marry us and to my overwhelming surprise and disbelief… her pastor graciously agreed.

I do not recall any premarital counseling but my husband firmly disagrees.  He specifically remembers us driving to a North suburb of Chicago to meet my sister’s pastor about a week before our wedding ceremony.   He was a handsomely aged man with a round face, receding hairline, and deep tender eyes which were seemingly obscured by a large pair of dark rimmed glasses.  Quickly, I realized he possessed a genuine loving heart, and apparently he also possessed the heart of a servant, for he not only loved God but he unequivocally loved and served others, even if those “others” were outside the walls of his church….outside the walls of his own sacred sanctuary.  My husband recalls a one-time meeting where we sat down in his small church office and discussed with him the responsibilities of marriage.  I can only assume due to my lack of recall that I was extremely uncomfortable and nervous at this meeting, which if I must admit no doubt had more to do with my proud prodigal status and less to do with my upcoming marriage… for I was unprepared…. perhaps even unwilling… to defend my newly prodigal status.   Nonetheless, my prodigal (ism) was not discussed…this according to my husband.    Perhaps my nervousness caused this very prolonged lapse of memory but regarding my sister’s pastor I must say… I do specifically remember his huge Christ-like servant’s heart…his beautiful ability to ease our fears on a typically stressful day, and I will always be eternally grateful for his Christ-like  love for others, his Christ-like servant hood, and his graciousness which deeply penetrated through my broken prodigal world.

IMG_1001

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2: 5-7 ESV)

“We never look into the eyes of someone whom Jesus did not give His life.”

 —Bill Hybels

Simple and Pure Childhood

But Jesus said, Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14 ESV)

IMG_0959

 

When I was a child, the simple and pure innocence of my life was ever sustaining.  My working-poor divorced mother who tried her very best to provide, yet this child never sought after material things….for I was simply content with her huge maternal love …her undying commitment to family and of the pure non-abandoning of her heart.   I was content with the simple…. the painless uncomplicated…..yet there were the Christmas mornings where toys covered the cold and dark floor…the yearly birthday cakes from Jean’s Professional Bakery….the once a year shopping for school clothes… the very seldom fast food …and the simple and pure… yet only very occasional …black and white photo from within the small photo booth at our neighborhood Dixie Square mall…

IMG_0994

When I was a young child, I played simply with my friends…no worries or concerns ever consumed me while they were by my side at our large childhood playground. Just loud laughter and never-ending joy found in the simple and pure things of life….like jumping and splashing in mud puddles leftover by a quick moving spring storm…building a fortress out of old discarded cardboard boxes…. making angels in a fresh and untouched layer of snow…..playing hopscotch and jumping rope… and running through the very cold but refreshing water of a neighbor’s sprinkler on a sweltering summer afternoon while trying to catch the watered- colored rainbows left behind with our hands…

When I was a young child, I simply and unequivocally loved Jesus.  I was a timid, easily-frightened, and insecure child deep inside and He was this child’s Protector…keeping me always safe…ever secure… and very far from harm. I would lay awake in bed many lonely and abandoned nights telling Him all my fears….all my dreams…and all my hopes…. no fancy words involved….no rhyme or reason contained within this child’s prayers ….just simple and purely honest words to share with the One…the only One… the only One who really matters… from deep within this child’s heart.   I didn’t know any fancy biblical terms to use…. no complex theological issues to question or ponder……nor could I even begin to conceptualize or accurately define the meaning of “sin” or think of its devastating consequences and destruction yet waiting to come ….only to mislead….only to blind…only to devour… and to destroy…

IMG_0160

When I was a young child, I so greatly loved His church.  I simply knew I was visiting my Heavenly Father’s home…tucked safe and secure… ….in my protected sanctuary.  Within my Father’s home there was safety …where simple love and pure unity resides… and our voices of worship reached to the highest heavens and the Heavenly Hosts were even able to hear and rejoice… and join in on our praises and songs of worship… A local community of sacred fellowship where strength and love abounds and leaps into the fallen and inherently sinful of humanity’s hearts….  but also a glimmer of hope to those who were struggling and searching in silence…a place of simple comfort ….. of pure forgiveness……and of a great hope and joy yet to come…..

“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.”  (Eccl 12:1 ESV)

Do you remember the never-ending days of your simple and pure childhood?

Do you remember your child-like faith?

 

The simple and pure childhood days that seemed to last forever… before worries and concerns set in, and slowly buried deeply within your ever- hardening heart… and complicating the simple and pure comforts in your life….and in your dreams…and in your hopes… Is that where you found yourself slowly beginning to take your eyes off of Jesus?

                  …taking your eyes off of the One who really matters…

 

Light in the Darkness

Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” (Psalm 139:12 ESV)

IMG_0951

Have you ever felt utter despair?  A kind of crippling hopelessness which strangles your dreams and desires for life.  Despair can come wrapped in many varied life packages…the unexpected death of a child….or the sudden loss of a family member or friend…A terminal diagnosis ….or an unrelenting chronic pain residing deep inside….the destruction of property and of sacred life brought about by the massive demolition of corrupt leaders or rebels with a cause….or the destruction of property and sacred life brought about by daily social unrest, hatred, or extreme injustice.

      When I think back on the events of my life, there are times when I struggled with despair, a deep and uncontrollable hopelessness which paralyzed and possessed my days and my nights.  My last utter despair came quite unexpectedly.  The aftermath was quite apparent and long-lasting.   Years later my focus now is helping others find a complete recovery from despair … the complete healing of a struggling hopelessness…and to help them see the undeniable power of Christ to heal and restore.

 

        I recall with full clarity and precision the day I found my complete healing and my utter despair was no more.   I was sitting alone…isolated and frightened… so weary and tired of my struggling predicament.  As I mumbled my way through my distorted thoughts, I gently closed my eyes just hoping for a brief reprieve of the moment and  what I found there was much more… for in my struggling despair…He was there…….

IMG_0958

…I thought I noticed a powerful spirit…yet I was holding on too tightly to my despair…

        I became very frightened by His apparent sovereign presence…yet I was completely relieved…

        He seemed to appear at first as an obscure figure…yet He was blinding illuminating light…

        He seemed to be so distant…yet He was so close …close enough to feel His radiating strength and unconditional love and mercy…

        I wanted to flee…yet I thought I heard Him call me by my name…

        I was trembling and shaking…yet He calmed my spirit and soothed my soul…

        I was completely defeated…yet He had already won the war…

        I quickly dissolved into nothing…yet He embraced me with such familiarity and warmth…

        I finally surrendered with nothing to give Him ….yet He gave me all in return…..

“…Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” (Isaiah 50:10 ESV)

IMG_0952

When you close your eyes in times of despair, who is there? 

 

 “The Lord’s mercy often rides to the door of our hearts on the black horse of affliction.  Jesus uses the whole range of our experiences to wean us from earth and woo us to Heaven.” 

—Charles Spurgeon—

I Am Not Worthy!

“…Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.”

 (Luke 7:6 ESV)

“When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

(Luke 7:9 ESV)

 

A centurion was a professional officer in the Roman army.  The centurion in the Roman army would fall somewhere between a high-ranking non-commissioned officer and a captain in the modern army. He oversaw and had authority of 100 soldiers.  He had to be tough, fair, courageous, and authoritative to be a Roman army official.  In Scriptures, this particular centurion is also depicted as a loving, kind, compassionate, and generous man, concerned with his servants’ declining health, which in the first century, not even the average citizen would show concern for the welfare of a servant. Also practiced in the first century, Jewish citizens would not have entered the homes of Gentiles for fear of becoming impure.  Most importantly, he demonstrated an understanding of and believed in Jesus’ authority and power, yet he did not see himself as worthy enough to expect a personal visit from Christ!  Not only was his servant healed, Christ commended him for his faith!

unworthy

Being unworthy is defined as not good enough to deserve something or someone.  A feeling of being insufficient in worth; and undeserving.  We all have experienced feelings of unworthiness. It’s a human feeling or condition that cannot be resisted or avoided.  Either as a parent, spouse, employee, student, friend, athlete, son or daughter, feelings of unworthiness creep in and paralyze our lives.  It can be brief and fleeting or long in duration. It can keep us from life’s events or change our course in life.    Unworthiness makes us second guess our actions, motives, and desires, and what we fundamentally believe in. 

brian and me at wedding

I have had my personal share of feeling unworthy!  I have experienced moments of unworthiness as a wife, as a mother, and even as a nurse. I know I’m in great company to this unwanted nuisance of feeling unworthy.  The struggle of always feeling “not good enough” or “not fitting in” makes it more difficult to navigate through life.  Just admitting I have, on many countless occasions struggled with unworthiness is hard to even admit but I know honesty would force all of us to agree it infects human life every second of every day.  Unworthiness is always lurking and waiting to attack us, especially in our weakest of moments.

 

 

Last month I experienced such a weak moment.  To be painfully honest, I have struggled with feelings of unworthiness spiritually for most of my life.  I feel I am THE MOST UNWORTHY of unworthiness in front of a Holy and Righteous God.  The origin of my spiritual unworthiness is none other but ME for I have no one to accuse, no spiritual experience to substantiate my allegation of unworthiness, no justification or validation to indicate its presence, it’s just there! 

 

On the day of my father’s funeral, I experienced a weak moment where unworthiness crept in filling me with the doubt of Christ’s love for me. I felt unworthy to be called a child of God.   I did not attend my father’s funeral because I was unable to face and hear stories of how great a father he was to children not his own. Envy and anger began filling and overflowing every fracture of my broken being. The strong desire to numb my conscience and ease my pain was palpable.   Stories I wish were my own, life narratives to cherish and treasure, sweet memories of a father and his love and affection for his little girl, were not mine to remember, embrace and share.  As I lay there grieving the broken emptiness and crying in prayer, I asked myself the following question:  Which God do I follow?  As a self-described “unworthy” follower of Christ, I saw only two options:

 

The Christ standing at my bedside saying, “my child, you must not weep, for I am with you always and I am here with you right now!  I will one day take away your pain and sorrow, but you must keep the faith and be patient, for your day has not yet come.”

 

The Christ who turns away from me in disgust for He is unwilling to look at me in my time of distress, unworthiness, and grieving pain.

 

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God; and so we are…” (1 John 3:1 ESV)

“And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, do not weep.” (Luke 7:13 ESV)

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 ESV)

 

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

(2 Timothy 4:7 ESV)

“He will swallow up death forever; and wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth…” (Isaiah 25:8 ESV)

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 ESV)

 

In times of our unworthiness, Christ restores us to worthiness!

What Christ do you follow?  Do you allow your feelings of unworthiness to keep you from life events?  Does it change your course in life?

IMG_0252

 

 

“Do you believe that God loves you?  Do you believe that the God of Jesus loves you beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity, that He loves you in the morning sun and in the evening rain, that He loves you when your intellect denies it, your emotions refuse it, and your whole being rejects him?  Do you believe that God loves without condition or reservation and loves you this moment as you are and not as you should be?”

—Brennan Manning