Seek and ye shall find

Where do you see God?

Over the last few years I began a habit of talking to God before falling asleep. It started with small thoughts of gratitude. Some days are exceptionally difficult and it always helps to think of things to be thankful for. Once you begin listing things you don’t often thank God for, it becomes so incredibly easy to establish a long running list of thankfulness.

I like to talk, but I’m awkward. I always end up saying something weird. Last Sunday was Mother’s Day and I lost count as to how many men wished me a happy mother’s day and I boisterously bellowed, “You too!” followed with a face palm. I dip my toe into weirdness when I speak and then jump in headfirst as I keep talking to somehow redeem the awkward interaction, only inevitably making it worse, silently hoping that people will find it endearing rather than alarming. A few months ago towards the end of my lawsuit, after a full day of arbitration, eight hours of my being questioned alone, I regrouped with my attorney and his first words were, “You talk too much.” Exactly what you want to hear in that moment, right?

As a kid I was often mistaken as shy, when in fact I’m quite the opposite. I’m generally just trying to not leap in and make a total fool of myself because my filter is broken. It was destroyed and lit on fire long ago. Anyone who has ever been in a group setting with me has likely heard me go off on a tangent spiral and heard the words, “sorry I talk too much,” from my lips.

As a result, I journal, and even that can be taken liberally. I don’t journal in a traditional “Dear diary…” sense. In one I usually reflect on what I read in scripture that day, and the other is a hodgepodge of prayers, thankfulness, blog ideas, and reflections. I try to use it to guide my blogs, but sometimes the Holy Spirit shifts my focus. The last few weeks I have been trying to focus on a gratitude of sorts. Where is God? Where do I see him? Where do I feel him?

I asked the same question to those around me and most of the answers I got were similar. Many first respond to seeing him around us in nature. There’s no doubting that. Our world is beautiful, especially in areas untouched by human hands. Spring is an exceptional representation of the way God creates beauty. The other common response was in our families, especially our children. Our very own little miracles bestowed upon us to give us both immense joy and incredible, agonizing frustration.

Some of the things I noted myself where I’ve seen, heard or felt God were: being able to run following a nasty virus, hearing “See a Victory” by Elevation Worship at the end of that very run, in the yellow finch flitting about in front of me, (also at the end of that run), in the rain cleansing the Earth, in the way I read “The Screwtape Letters”, (which I despised by the way), through the discernment he provided while reading and the same ability to approach others around me, in the devotionals Cady now prompts herself to read with me every night and the conversations that follow, in the Share the Table dinners at church and the community within it, in the privilege of leading worship and watching him move through the congregation on Sundays, in getting Gus and myself safely to his speech therapy class, (despite everything working against us that day!), in my little container garden, in this blog and the people he brings me to interact with on any given day, in the hard days, in the way he sends someone to call, text or check in when I am at my lowest, in worship rehearsal when we all feel beat up and like we’re less than enough, in the hills and valleys of my marriage, in new births, in Cady’s friend asking me if she could start attending church with us, in Cady’s friends running around our house like miniature lunatics, in my first failed attempt at making communion bread and the laughter that followed.

All of that was just one week, and listed in the order noted in my journal. Since then, I’ve had many more and every day the list grows and grows. On Wednesday I took my little girl to check out the middle school she’ll be attending next year and within 5 minutes of walking in I was fighting back tears. A year ago we were in a very different, dark place. Now I look at the giggly, confident, obnoxiously loud, hilarious kid in front of me and grateful isn’t powerful enough to describe how I feel. There was a day that I wasn’t sure if we’d be here with her celebrating this milestone, and not only are we celebrating, she is running headfirst without looking back. She has found her joy and God has everything to do with it.

As a kid and teen I used to wonder how pastors could see God in everything so easily. Now its so clear. It’s impossible to not see God in everything when he is your everything. God is everything.

The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein. For he has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the rivers. Psalm 24: 1-2

But now, O Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay, and you are our Potter, we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64: 8

God is in everything because he is everything.

Have you felt the mountains tremble beneath your feet? Have you felt the heavens open up at his falling grace? He is a mighty wind and will carry you to the open skies of the bluest dawn.

He is all around you and within you. He is everywhere at any time, in everything always because he is.

I challenge you to start a gratitude practice with God. You’ll be surprised at what you find.

So I ask again, where do you see God?

In case you haven’t heard…

He is risen!!! Jesus, Just as he said he would, rose up from the dead to proclaim our redemption.

I have been really struggling with what to say about Easter. It should be simple, really. This, (yesterday), is what we’ve been building up to all along. It’s the greatest day in our redemption story and I can’t seem to just get past the proclamation, He is risen!

I can’t get past it, because there’s not anything better I could say. The world, death, and Satan himself thought they had won, but instead were left with an empty tomb. Upon first glance, that empty tomb frightened people. They couldn’t understand what had happened… surely someone moved his body? Seeing the stone rolled away and no Jesus to be found, likely induced a range of emotions of those looking on. I imagine some were anxious, angry, distraught, confused, and select few may have remembered Jesus’s words and caught a sliver of hope.

...we are going up to Jerusalem, and the son of man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise. Mark 10: 33-34

It’s easy to look on now for those that believe and say, “How could they not have known?!” But I ask you to truly consider what would you have done if you were there? If you watched your messiah die in front of you, would you believe that he would defeat death if he chose to succumb to it in the first place?

Yesterday, our pastor spoke of the unfortunate title Jesus’s disciple Thomas coined when he heard about Jesus’s supposed resurrection. Even those outside of the church have likely heard the term, ‘doubting Thomas’. Now I’ve always agreed he had a bad rap because I’ve stood by what I’ve said above, which was, “well wouldn’t you doubt after experiencing all of that?” The response is often, “But Jesus foretold his resurrection.” To that I would ask, “How many things has God told you, that you so often forget? In your anxiety, do you remember who’s in control? In your fear, do you remember God has told you all things are used for his good and glory? In your weakness, do you forget who gives you your strength?”

My response is not incorrect, but my pastor made an interesting observation. What if Thomas wasn’t doubting per se because of his lack of faith, rather he just couldn’t carry the grief after what he had been through. He couldn’t allow himself to just believe because he couldn’t walk through the hurt again if it weren’t true. He wanted more than anything to believe what he was hearing was indeed true, but he needed to see Jesus himself, not take the word of man.

What I tend to struggle with the most is how others see God, especially how they see God through me. I do know that I have an impact on others, we all do in our own ways, but there is an extra layer of responsibility for those who choose to intentionally go out and spread the gospel. When events transpire in ways we don’t expect, I fear others will discredit God. What makes this extra difficult is that, just like the people in the bible and especially those who lived alongside Jesus, the focus tends to fall on the person rather than God’s glory. We focus on a snippet of a person and make a snap judgement either about the person or God. This can cause a person to hold onto God tighter or walk away from him. That is an overwhelming responsibility for a single person to carry and what I have to repeat to myself is that I am not carrying it… God is.

This past week, our two year lawsuit came to an end. I won’t go into real details, because frankly they don’t matter. For just a bit of backstory, however, I was the enforcer at my workplace. It was an incredibly toxic environment and I was essentially attacked daily by anyone outside my team all day, every day.

My job was to be the bad guy and I was pretty good at it. My general mood was agitated or angry. I was constantly primed for a fight, and that’s how I was trained to be. My boss and I played the roles of good cop/bad cop and she lovingly referred to me as “the hammer”, a nickname actually given to me at the company prior to that one.

About a year or so before the lawsuit happened, I was slowly coming back to God. There was a lot of stumbling, and a few times God tapped others on the shoulder to pull me out of the ravine I was trapped in and set me back on course. Something shifted and I became restless at work. I started to not be ok with not only how I was received by others, but by the way I was expected to interact with them.

Have you ever spend years in a place where 98% of the people openly hate you? I have, and I used to use it as a badge of honor until something changed. I started to soften around the edges. It was a rough road, because I viewed softness as weakness and had to allow myself to begin shedding that exterior.

On March 20, 2020, at the onset of a worldwide pandemic, I stood up for what was right. As a result I found myself unemployed alongside 184,000 other unemployed individuals in the state of Michigan alone. What followed was an extremely difficult, very long, two year battle about my character. This battle didn’t only exist in a legal sense.

I have spent a lot of time with God, atoning for who I was during my rebellion. God has taught me so much and been so incredibly faithful through these last two years, I can’t help but see God’s hand in everything. God has given us exactly what we need and he very frequently didn’t answer prayer the way we requested, but he answered. My biggest fear was that we would lose the case at the end. That the lies on the other side would overshadow the truth. That everything I have been proclaiming about God’s greatness and glory would be overshadowed by a seemingly unanswered prayer.

Through this whole thing I’ve told my daughter many times, the bad guys sometimes win but fear should never stop you from fighting the good fight. Despite what happens right now, God wins. God always wins, every time.

Last week we found out we won… technically. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone else who says we won outside of myself though. When everything is said and done we’ll have suffered a loss regardless of the award on our end. Without a large reward is it worth it? I guess that depends on your definition of reward.

God doesn’t ask us to do something because of what we’ll get out of it. He asks us to have faith and follow him. In fact he tells us that it’ll often be really hard. That we’ll be persecuted, just as he has been.

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were off the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. John 15: 18-20

I am not afraid of the difficulties because I know who’s in control. God opens the doors he needs you to walk through and he does not always tell us what is on the other side. I stand firm in the win. The truth was revealed not only through the case, but in me as a witness to God’s glory. His truth is so clear to me after these last few years and the timing of each ‘setback’ has been perfect. God has provided and I’m confident he’ll not only continue to do so, but his hand will be so visible not one will mistake who’s moving around them.

I have endured a lifetime of abuse. The last two years, I was chewed up and spit out, told I was worth nothing. The years prior to that, I was hated by most I was around, and they made sure I knew it. My relationship with my parents has been rocky at best and I have been easily discarded when I stand up for myself rather than toe the line at what is socially acceptable and comfortable for others. And I was literally and physically abused growing up for many, many years by a family member as a child.

I have been groomed to follow others leads, and rebuked when I stand up and shout, “No! This isn’t right! It’s not ok.” Gradually, my softness molded over into a hard, impenetrable shell. I became a weapon in my career by using my stony exterior to my advantage.

It wasn’t until God began breaking me apart that I could stand tall. I had to fall to my knees first in order to stand strong against all the abuse. This time I didn’t fight so much as I endured. God did the fighting for me. I allowed all of it to wash over me. I had to sit through hours and years of lies, preparing and praying for God to illuminate the truth, and He did.

I know most won’t understand why I rejoice in the piece of paper which states “…claimant Monette prevails on this claim.” when we are still at a technical loss after all is paid and wrapped up. And I understand that I may just be viewed as another John the Baptist, crazy man in the wild, screaming about this guy Jesus! But to those who know God and hear his voice, to those who are tuned in, they will know God doesn’t fail. He doesn’t make mistakes. He is a promise keeper.

They may just need time to verify its God, because they are too hurt to believe right now. Like Thomas, they just need to feel Him.

It is not my job to convince anyone; God does that. I am just witness to his magnificent glory. The fact that I can stand tall, after all I’ve been through in my life alone, and proclaim the goodness of God is proof God is who he says he is.

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will sent to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you will also bear witness about me, because you have been with me from the beginning. John 15: 26-27

I get the privilege of bearing witness because Jesus not only went to the cross, he defeated death just as he said would. Without the resurrection, the rest is just a story. He proved his name so we could not only walk alongside him, but to bring others with us on the journey.

I know God revealed my truth so his could be glorified. I have been abused, ridiculed, and torn to pieces, only to rise up when no one thought I could. I now stand in the truth that despite the lies of the enemy, I am who I say I am. In my times of grief and doubt, like Thomas, I grasped Jesus’s pierced hands, and clung to his wounded side.

Through this incredibly difficult Easter season, He has reminded me what He has done for me so that I can run to his arms when I am finally called home. The sweetest words I could ever hope to hear, “My good and faithful servant, daughter to the king, Aimee. Welcome home. You did good kid.”

So friends, don’t let the world’s narrative overshadow his truth.

He is risen indeed!

Strength in weakness

Today we remember the day the world went dark.

Jesus, beaten and ridiculed, voluntarily went up on the cross to take our place.

Before heading to our church service this afternoon, I was struck with the realization that my hands are blood red. I’ve always known that our sin is the reason God sent his son to die on our behalf, but today I was bowled over with the understanding that it’s not simply just my sin. Not only is my sin etched into the cross, I took part in the beating, in the torment and slaughter of my messiah.

I went into church already heavy in spirit.

I stood silently through the first worship song, which is unlike me, but it felt wrong to sing. Instead I fought to keep in my emotions. A singular tear silently escaped during the verses, but I held myself together. My pastor began speaking about the people involved in Jesus’s death, the executioners, leaders, and witnesses to the event. He talked about the responsibility of those there and the responsibility of us now. When he said we all nailed him to the cross that day, it took everything in me to not stand up and shout, “It was me! It’s my fault!”

Overdramatic much? Normally I would say yes, but today was like no other Good Friday for me. This year it feels different. It’s as if I’m in the crowd trying to hold in my emotions, letting one single tear escape as I watch my King suffer because of my own failing.

So I sat there in the back of the church and completely broke open. As I prayed and wept, I saw Jesus kneeling at my feet and in my heart I cried out, “Why?! What did I do to deserve you serving me? After all I’ve done. I am not deserving. I am not worthy. I’m sorry.” Over and over…. “I’m so sorry.”

As I tried to pull myself together, (which only made me sob harder), God placed his people around me to hold me as I fell apart and another to pass an invaluable tissue to this mess God created. I’ve never been so thankful for a Kleenex as I was then. I was a straight up mess.

I managed to pull myself together and as I closed the door to my car, I erupted all over again. These last two days have been hard for me, the last few years have been incredibly difficult, and if I’m honest, my life as a whole has been one hard thing after the next. My life has been grueling from every angle, and I’ve built up an impenetrable crust on my exterior as a result. The difference now is Jesus.

These last two years walking with him have turned me into butter and today I melted. I used to see softness as weakness. The truth is, I am weak. I am weak and broken and never enough. The glory is that in my weakness He gives me strength. In my brokenness, He makes me whole. He is enough and I need nothing else. There is immense power in knowing God loves me despite my awfulness. I can never be deserving of his love, mercy and grace, yet He sent his son to take my place.

I’ve known devastating darkness, and today is filled with an immanent gloom. Tomorrow I’m going to step back from the blog to just ruminate on the tomb where Jesus lay. On Sunday morning, we’ll rejoice in the redemption given to us when we least deserved it. I invite you to pause and do the same.

2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The God Who Saves

Today Jesus lowered himself and washed the feet of his followers. A task held for servants; most definitely not the King of Kings. This intimate act was his greatest lesson that night. He illustrated how to love others, even those hard to love. The night before his crucifixion, Jesus treated his enemy with the same care and compassion that he treated the other eleven. He knew Judas was going to set out and betray him, for he called him out on his treason then sent him to complete the act that would place Jesus above the fateful hill of Calvary. (John 13:26-27)

Just as Jesus washed the men clean, he went on to wash us all clean on the cross.

My heart is heavy today. I received some news that gave me incredible joy, only to have the rug swept from my feet. I imagine the twelve experienced a similar range of emotions that day. As the disciples settled into their places at the table with Jesus, feet washed clean by the messiah himself, emotions were high. Overwhelming gratitude, contentment and joy filled the room. Some may have rested in a stunned silence. One man likely sat with a smug ease, unmoved by Jesus’s selfless act.

Imagine the shift in the room when Jesus announced this would be his last supper with them, and furthermore, one of the men at that table would betray him. These men followed and worshiped Jesus. They left all they knew and gave up everything to pursue him. How outrageous that he would make such a statement! Immediately each man then started questioning themselves. One by one they inquired, “Is it I?” (Mark 14:19)

Could you imagine the person you loved more than anything, turning to you and accusing you of betrayal prompting death? Only one of the twelve knew who he was speaking to, so the other eleven were sent into a frenzy of vexation, followed by an odd paranoia. The thing was, Jesus never lied. The disciples knew this, so deep down they all knew that one of them was deceiving the rest.

Today I have experienced a similar range of emotions with God himself. First joy, then shock, overwhelming grief, self reflection and paranoia, followed by a river of salty tears.

I’m still not entirely sure what is to follow, but I know one thing is true. I belong to a God who rescued me time and time again. He’s walked me through more difficult things than I’d like to have experienced and I know that more will likely come my way. I can rest in knowing he already paid the price for my egregious acts; the cross is proof of that. I am washed clean and there is nothing in this world that can remove the power of God in me, because He is there every step of the way. Because of Him, I am not of this world. The world can break my body, but it cannot break my spirit because of who I am, the Holy Spirit within me. I am daughter to the King.

Tomorrow we remember the momentary darkness of a world without Jesus. In three days he’ll rise again, and we’ll rise up to worship the God who saves.

Judas in us

We are now four days into holy week. At this point during Jesus’s time, religious leaders and officials have been trying to build a case against Jesus. His authority frightened them and so they began trying to entrap him. They had already decided to put him to death but they had to have legitimate cause, so off they went to manipulate him into saying or doing something that went against their laws.

Jesus, of course, gently avoided each pit fall.

That leads us to today. I have seen this particular day referred to as a number of titles by the church as a whole: holy Wednesday, good Wednesday, and spy Wednesday. It’s referred to as spy Wednesday due to the undercover nature of one of Jesus’s closest friends, Judas Iscariot.

Judas puts a bad taste in the church bodies mouth, especially as we remember the upcoming events. It’s so incredibly easy to turn our noses up and think ourselves superior to him, but are we actually?

Judas had an intimate relationship with Jesus. He was one of the twelve! He walked alongside him, eagerly soaked up his teachings, and saw miracles performed frequently. What changed to cause Judas’s betrayal, and more than that, go on to make a conscious decision to seek officials out himself and betray the one who gave him everything?

This wasn’t an overnight shift, it was gradual. You can see through text in the bible that Judas began speaking as a mouthpiece for Jesus. When Mary sacrifices her incredibly expensive oil to anoint Jesus before entering Jerusalem Judas is angry. He places judgement on Mary and questions, “Why was this ointment not sold for 300 denari and given to the poor?” (John 12:5) The bible goes on to underscore the reason for his judgement in that he wanted some of the proceeds, and I’d go as far as to say he likely believed he deserved it. He would have justified it somehow, likely because he’s spent all this time with Jesus, he’d been faithful, he’d done what he asked, and what exactly did he have to show for it?

We aren’t all that different from Judas. It is easy to become comfortable with Jesus. If we aren’t careful the glory of God can become ordinary, because we minimize the greatness of God with our selfishness. We want bigger and better and God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way we desire him to.

Take your cell phone or car for example. At one point, it was the best out there. It has everything you want and everything you need. Soon though, someone is telling you there’s a better version. One that has more bells and whistles. It’ll give you everything you desired… until the next model comes out, and the next, and the next, and so on. You’ll never be satisfied if you’re always looking for the next best thing when you have exactly what you need in front of you.

At some point, Judas began looking towards himself rather than Jesus. He turned from worshiping God to worshiping himself.

If you’re being honest with yourself. You’ve been there. You might be there now.

There are A TON of false gospels out there. Any gospel message that is focused on you and your happiness is wrong. That’s not to say that God wants you to be void of happiness, rather its that happiness is found in the savior. Everything else will be gone in the end, but God will remain. If you place your happiness in your feelings or things, you’ll be left standing alone.

When something in the bible makes you uncomfortable or uneasy, rather than discount it and place your own narrative in its place, ask yourself why? It’s likely because of your own sin, and your sin should make you uncomfortable! That uneasy feeling your wearing is God calling you to repent, not justify yourself.

The gospel is not about you or me. It’s about God the father, the son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. When the gospel becomes about you, somethings off. We are all made differently, and we all struggle with sin on every level. It’s all bad and we all are in it.

There’s a trending false gospel right now which essentially advocates for people to be whoever they want to be in every capacity. Essentially its, “You do you! Do what feels good, what feels right.” There is truth in there somewhere as all false gospels are somewhat rooted in truth. That is what makes them so easily deceptive. God wants you to be who He created you to be. He does not want you to be who you choose to be. The gospel actually outlines a different truth, in that we are to strip ourselves of our selfishness and become more like God and less of ourselves. In fact the bible often refers to it as death, that we are to kill off our old selves and live in Christ alone.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him with the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9: 23-26

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. John 15: 4-8

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Galatians 5: 24-25

Set your minds on things that are above not things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3: 2-3

We have to constantly fight through our own sin to be close to God. It’s easy to minimize God’s desires for us because he chooses a path for us that we wouldn’t ever choose to take on our own.

He also chose to walk that path before us so we wouldn’t have to.

We have to deal with uncomfortable things… even awful, excruciating things in our life at times, but it all ends at the base of the cross. We get to kneel at the cross because our sins hang before us. Take your eyes off yourself and look to the cross. We are nothing without him.

I challenge you to look at your life and find your inner Judas. What are you choosing over God right now? Please feel free to reach out if you’re struggling to understand what is good and what is just of this world. The good news is that He welcomes us back with open arms. We just have to place our sin upon the cross and kneel at his feet.

Holy Monday

For those that aren’t of the Christian faith, we are on day two of Holy week. Yesterday was palm Sunday, the day Jesus entered into Jerusalem on a humble workman’s donkey, fully aware of what the following days would hold for him and those following him.

On this Holy Monday, so many years ago… the humble, kind, compassionate son of God cursed a fig tree and flipped tables. He was angry at what a mockery we’ve made of our faith. The temple, which should have been used to commune with God was being used for individual profit. (I get his reaction there.)

The fig tree, on the other hand, made me pause. My first reaction? Jesus gets hangry like the best of us.

But of course it goes much deeper than that. Just as the temple gave the outward appearance of being a place of worship, it was full of selfish rot on the interior. The fig tree wasn’t quite in season yet, so understandably the figs weren’t ready to be harvested, scripture even notes this. (Mark 11:13) However, it is important to note why Jesus sought out the fig tree to begin with, fully aware it was too early for fruit. The fig trees lush foliage gave the appearance fruit would be present.

God met the tree, only to find an imposter. The same goes for the temple. The same went for every person who called themselves a follower of God and Jesus Christ, because they (and we) couldn’t hold up our end of the bargain.

Now the thought that keeps bouncing around in my head is that Jesus knew what was coming, and really so should have the people. Jesus’s anger that day is known to me. I grew up in the church and know the Easter story pretty well.

What I can’t seem to get over today is that it was all prophesied a number of times long, long before Jesus was born and he then continued to remind the people up unto his death. In fact he continued reminding us of God’s plans and promises after he rose again. Today we even have all of those promises written down for us in compact form so we have no excuse to forget, and yet we still do. Of course he was angry!

We can so easily boast about our faith around Easter, but your faith should not be tied only to the Easter story. Easter had to happen not only redeem us and save us from ourselves, but because we continued, (and still continue), to fall into the pit the world creates trying to bring forth satisfaction and happiness from anything but God. The key to all of that is right in front of us.

The Easter story is an important reminder, and I’d be willing to argue the most important reminder of the gift God has given us, but our faith must go beyond Easter. Easter is an example of the life we must live. God was working on us long before the cross and he’s still working today. Just as Jesus did before us, we must lose ourselves and carry our cross to follow the one who went before us. (Matthew 16:24-25) The only way to do that is to be willing to risk everything in pursuit of God himself.

Joy, hope, love, redemption, and peace were given to us despite our consistent failures when Jesus put himself upon that cross. We were given that knowledge from the beginning, then again and again and again. Yet somehow we still manage to forget it. You may appear to be a beautiful, faithful tree, but without fruit you are just another tree. When you enter the kingdom of heaven, will God recognize you and set you apart?

God planted us to bear fruit, and if we do not nurture our faith to become fruitful, we will wither away just as the cursed fig tree did before us.

The Easter story is not THE story. It doesn’t begin and end with Easter. It’s crucial yes, but part of a much grander narrative that we get to actually take part in. God knows your name. Jesus knew you on that cross. He knew who exactly who he was dying for. Take that gift and be fruitful so God can recognize the child he created to do incredible things in a world that is lost.

I challenge you to listen to the song below and remember who you are and who God called you to be. Then go turn your face to the sun and spend some time with God, even if its just a few minutes. You can thank him, worship him, talk to him, or just be quiet and sit with him. If you’re brave enough to share your experience, I invite you to do so.

Tethered

Over the last week or so I have felt strange. A bit heavy in heart I think, but not out of anything I could really point my finger to.

Sunday morning, our pastor got up to speak and said something quite similar. I was initially half listening as I was settling in from coming off the stage myself post worship, but as soon as he mentioned this heaviness he was experiencing on his end, my little ears perked right up.

He mentioned that he sometimes can allow the world to affect him and went on to wonder how often he brings the world’s strife with him into the pulpit. It made sense to me then, and it makes complete sense to me now, yet here I am still with a first class ticket on the struggle bus express!

Most days I pride myself on being gung ho team God, but lately I feel as if this dark cloud is hovering over me. It is so odd because I just can’t seem to adequately describe to anyone what I am feeling. I’m not sad or depressed, not even really anxious at all. It just seems a bit like someone has fashioned a little overcast cloud around my temple and its following me wherever I go. I am still 1000% team God. I’ve just temporarily traded in my cheerleading outfit for the clean up crew. I feel as if I’m kind of passing through and checking boxes.

For the past five weeks I have been working through a lent devotional. Every day I find time to sit down and reflect on what the book is saying, what God is trying to tell me or teach me, spend time in his word and I journal alongside it. For the last few days I have been DREADING it. I sat down just before writing this, opened the book, stared at it for five minutes and realized that I needed to just sit and talk to God.

So I pushed the book aside, asked God what the heck is going on with me right now, and apologized for making my devotional a chore. God desires our companionship, he doesn’t force it. As I began speaking, I was brought to silence and the same four words cycled through my head.

Be still and know.

Over and over… be still and know…. be still and know.

Be still and know what?!

And you’re all thinking… DUH Aimee, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

I know this, I know God is who he says he is. I know he’s in control. In no way am I disputing that. So I sat there explaining the same to Him. I read through Psalm 46 in its entirety and man, what a bleak passage. What a bleak, dark, difficult, amazing, incredible, joyous passage.

In that silence I heard God’s voice, not the world’s noise. The world is trying so hard to block him out by filling the silence with nonsense. I have been so focused on anger around me in both those near to me and strangers from afar. The war in Ukraine, politics, responses about nearly anything on social media, and the Will Smith/Chris Rock debacle have been overshadowing the glory of one true God that cannot be overcome by anything, especially man himself.

Now my focus has been well intentioned. I’ve been hurt by the responses to the above issues and I’ve been angry myself towards injustice. These are not bad things. Where I have failed is allowing the hurt and anger to slowly consume me to the point that I have a cloud wrapped around my head, acting as invisible ear muffs.

It’s not until I stopped and said, “God I know you’re here. What’s wrong with me?” that he blew away the mist and breathed into my ear, “Be still and know.”

God is here. God is in control. The world is a disaster and we are at fault. He will continue to pick up the pieces and shine his glory upon our faces, especially when we aren’t deserving. (Spoiler alert, we never are.)

This week I’ve had a number of chats with my little girl. My little girl who is so bright, funny and creative. She is often stuck in a cloud of her own despite her frequent energetic demeanor. Ironically, I have been telling her to push away the expectations and lies the world throws at her. She so badly wants to be accepted and loved by everyone that she’ll bend herself to any mold set in front of her. Our conversations this week have centered around blocking out the world and loving who she is right now, because that kid is amazing!

The world may not love everything about you, but God does! The world will tell you what to wear, how to style your hair, what music to listen to, who to be angry at, etc. The world will constantly shift gears because its fragile and inconsistent. God never changes. He never leaves. He is always there, guiding, listening, and comforting us. My daughter is fortunate to have so many who love her, but even when everyone has gone away, God remains. He has been here since the beginning and He will remain until the end, because HE is the one who is over everything.

My daughter’s struggles are vastly different from my own, but there is one similarity. We’ve each allowed the world to fill our head’s with noise, and as a result allowed it to overpower God’s voice. The Holy Spirit is our tether to God himself. We feel secure knowing he’s there, but as soon as the mist covers the rope holding us steady we feel lost and restless. Thankfully we just need to reach out and grab on. He never lets go.

Psalm 46 1-11 

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Burning Anger

This morning started with a flurry of motion. I jumped into my workout gear, dragged the kids out of bed and started corralling my little flock with determination. I have a long list of to dos to accomplish today, and nothing is going to stop me!

My daughter, moving at a snails pace, started getting ready for school still half dead from her slumber. My son on the other hand is most definitely, 100% NOT a morning person. He absolutely detests being woken up and God help the person who awakens the monster from his momentary comatose state. (I’ll be praying for his future wife.) This morning I was the recipient of many growls, grunts and angry stomps as my pint sized beast rampaged through the house. He could care less that mom had a full day of tasks that needed tackling.

After much lamenting, half hugs and well wishes for my daughter’s school day, I managed to restrain the tiny dictator in his car seat and set off for daycare. Each stoplight was punctuated with a grunt or growl and he harrumphed all the way to his classroom. I kissed his sweet little grumpy head, the classroom door opened and my little monster vanished! Instead there stood a charming little boy, grinning from ear to ear, excitedly launching himself into a classroom full of open arms.

“Good mornings” and “how are yous?” were exchanged and I was off to the races! Singing along with the radio, I pulled out into the street and headed back home. I still had 30 minutes to spare before I needed to be on a pretty important virtual call.

As I am meandering down to road, singing praise and determined to enjoy my day, I notice the car in front of me is slowing down. I begin to slow down until I realize the car in front is slowing significantly and we are now moving at a pace slower than the speed limit. I look to my right and find an absence of cars in the right lane and move over, once again intent on moving about my day.

Still bopping to my praise music, I notice that as I accelerate, so does the black escalade next to me. I keep my eyes on the prize and keep moving forward. With a red light up ahead, I prepare to come to a stop but notice the very large escalade is heading into my lane, and I now fully understand that this stranger is so enraged that she wants to force my car off the road.

I immediately started speaking to God. I began praying for wisdom, patience and compassion.

He told me to shut up. Be quiet and be alert. Pay attention.

As we neared the red light, roughly two car lengths from the car in front of us, the wrathful woman punched her gas and zoomed in front of my car to cut me off. The peace of God calmly moved my car into the left lane, gently slowing to a stop behind the car now sitting in front of me. Next to me sat an open window with and angry, red faced, screaming woman telling me exactly what she thought of me at that moment, a complete stranger who happened to be driving behind her at apparently the wrong time.

Instead of reacting, I took God’s advice. I shut up. I didn’t glare. I just let her scream.

During her fit of rage another car had pulled up behind me, and since the woman’s lane was about to end, she realized she could no longer single me out. Instead she put another person’s safety at risk zooming ahead of the car in front on me, only to slow down and interrupt the entire flow of traffic, which I could see in my rearview mirror had gone from one car trailing me to at least ten.

For what? All to upset a stranger. All to ruin my day likely because her day had already gone sideways. Maybe it’s deeper than that, maybe she’s had a bad few days, week, years…. I don’t know her story. What I do know is that hurt people hurt other people.

I know because I’ve been there. We all have if we’re honest with ourselves. It’s so much easier to lash out than to feel sadness and hurt. So we punish the people we come in contact with because its so much harder to experience and walk through our own pain.

So I prayed for her. I thanked God for giving me the wisdom to be quiet and I prayed that He speak to her, that she finds compassion in her heart for others and that she is a recipient of that same compassion. I prayed that her wrath end with me, so she can go on to love others and overcome whatever hurt she’s feeling today. I don’t know who she is, her story, or if she knows God herself, but I am confident that she was wounded before spitting fire in my direction.

Hurt is awful. I am no stranger to difficult, ruthless, agonizing pain. It seems like it’s easier to strap the pain on your back rather than experience it. We choose to carry it and when it becomes too heavy, and it always does, we launch it at others to get rid of it. All that does is cause others to add a few more bricks to your pain filled knapsack.

What would happen if you decided to set it down? If you decided to sort through the pain and stop carrying it around? What would happen if whenever you threw your hurt at someone else, instead of adding a brick, they took the stone you threw and placed it on the ground?

Yesterday, my daughter and I talked about the popular accessory of young Christians in my day, the coveted WWJD bracelet? We talked about not emulating others, rather look to God and act as Jesus would have.

I don’t know what Jesus would have done in my situation. He probably would have said something incredibly wise and the woman would have driven off forever changed. I do know he would not have increased her pain, rather he would have helped her unpack it. If a dying man on a cross can forgive us for killing him, we can show compassion to those who inflict pain upon us. We can do that because He died for us and we must do that for the same reason.

Jesus died for us because we couldn’t, and still can’t, get out of our own way. We’re so consumed with what’s going on right now, we forget to look toward what we’ve been promised. He rose again as proof of who He is and that his promises are true. We received a gift of redemption, knowing we can never be good enough to deserve it, and with that is a gift of forgiveness. That forgiveness is not only for ourselves, but to show the mercy and grace of God to others.

Jesus himself said, If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld. John 20:23

I went on to miss my important meeting, all because I sat like dummy in front of the test camera and forgot to hit join. At this point, my day hasn’t exactly gone as planned, but I am so thankful I have to Holy Spirit walking with me and directing my steps. This world and my troubles are temporary. What can be greater than the promise God has given to us that this world will pass away and we will rejoice alongside the King of Kings.

Go in love and kindness friends. Be the one God uses to reflect his love on another living in a cold, wrathful darkness. All it takes is a small flame to light up a room and burn anger to the ground.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12: 9-10

Whispers in the Dark

Imagine stepping into a windowless room where the walls are painted black. As the door shuts behind you the darkness closes in on you. Reaching out you can’t feel anything. The room may be as large as football field for all you know. The darkness is heavy and even though you are seemingly suspended in space, the lack of any light induces a claustrophobic feeling.

Standing in the vast darkness you may as well be drowning. Your heart pumps faster and faster, and the breath in your lungs is labored. It’s as if there’s oil moving through your veins. The more you try to break free, the further you seem to fall into the void. It feels as if you’ll disappear in this place. No one will remember to look for you, and how could they possibly find you when you can’t seem to find yourself.

If only you could just remember to open the door.

The image created above is a very real reality for some. I painfully understand as I’ve been there myself. My childhood was spent in a twisted, dark reality. Engulfed in despair and grief I felt like I was nothing. To me, God was just a benevolent fairy tale character. The stories were nice, but I definitely wasn’t being rescued. Instead I lived with the devil himself. Every creak of a stair and soft click of the bedroom door was the Satan himself cackling with glee upon my torment.

Lost in the darkness I continued to wander. It festered and turned me into a snarling, wrathful creature intent to hurt easy prey. Even though I was a tiny little thing, I was a vicious bully. Hurt had been building within me, and Satan was whispering that there was no escape.

God found me submerged in grief, and in my brokenness He called me his daughter. I am proof that the light defeats darkness… ALWAYS. My story is just a drop in the bucket.

God wins every time.

The enemy will do his best to convince you that your grief will swallow you whole, your anxiety will defeat you, God has forgotten you, God has turned from you, you deserve the pain, your abuser is just lying in wait.

These are all malicious lies. If you need proof turn to God, and if you’re having trouble hearing his voice read his word. Go to the quiet place and speak to the one living within you. If God is within you, Satan cannot have you. YOU HAVE ALREADY BEEN CLAIMED. The darkness is a liar.

In the absence of God there is only darkness, for He is the light. Those who know God just need to block out the noise of the enemy. We can feel forgotten by God because we are focused on the noise being thrown at us, and believe me when I say I truly do understand how difficult this can be.

The reality is that we live in a broken world full of pain, discomfort and overwhelming grief. Having an intimate relationship with God doesn’t keep us from feeling these things, instead it allows us to overcome them. Jesus took on all of our pain and grief through a very public, torturous death. He then went on to defeat death.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Through Him we can overcome whatever Satan tries to craft against us. If God has overcome the world and he lives in you, it stands to reason that you can overcome anything because the power of God resides within you. He equips us to fight against the darkness.

When Satan tells you God has forgotten you or left you, call him out on his lies. God is within you! No where in the bible does God describe his love as conditional. Satan is right that we don’t deserve God’s love, but the incredible truth is that God gives us his love unconditionally anyway. He loves us not because of anything we have done, because we cannot ever do enough to earn it, rather, he loves us because we are his and He gave the ultimate sacrifice as proof.

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

He already took our pain and grief. Jesus wears it so we don’t have to. Rest in God and He will carry you through what feels like endless darkness. Let him be the beacon guiding you home. Eventually we’ll be called home and He will call us by name. That place is void of pain, grief, discomfort and darkness.

Slow down, block out the noise, and find God in the stillness. He will give you rest. He will give you peace. He will comfort you as you weep. You only have to find a crack in the darkness to defeat it. Let God lead you to the fracture in Satan’s lies and He will help you break free. In order to do so you have to focus on the unassuming fissure and ignore the oppressive, deafening darkness around you. God is quiet but mighty. Jesus took your pain. Let Him carry the weight of the world for you and find peace in His arms.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11: 28-30

God of the Mountain

These last few weeks have been different. Even as I type this, I am not sure what I’m going to say.

A huge driver for this ministry is to humbly stumble through life, so that others can see Christianity does not fit into a perfect package of good deeds, going to church, and reading your bible. There is definitely space for those things, but if we’re honest, choosing to live a life reflective of Christ and setting our eyes on something far above this world we’re living in is messy.

Christianity is amazing, eye opening, and life changingly beautiful.

It’s also often hard and gut wrenching. It completely wrecks you from the inside out.

These last few weeks have been an interesting journey. I have been through a lot of hard things through my life, and at some point I can elaborate on that. Right now though, I share that I have dealt with a lot of really difficult things because through these experiences I have learned to put on a brave face and barrel through the storms.

I have been climbing my current Mr. Everest for the last two years and was just about to arrive at the peak.

For those who hike the real Mt. Everest, it is a lengthy and costly venture. Many don’t even finish climbing to the top. They stop at a base camp, or worse yet, some succumb to the elements of nature and fall or freeze to death in their trek. While reading a story of a woman who has conquered the mountain nine times, she mentioned how common it is to see bodies along the mountainside, some even have been named as a twisted kind of landmark. There are far less who manage to climb to the peak and go on to tell their story over those who call it quits. Those who continue climbing are reminded of the risks with each frigid arm or frozen foot they see protruding from the snow as they take one more labored step.

Everything works against the traveling troupe. It’s a grueling trek up the mountainside. Hikers are at risk to be caught in an avalanche, fall, suffer from cold weather induced health complications and even become delirious from lack of oxygen at high altitudes. Frankly, nothing about it sounds appealing. For some reason people keep trying, despite the odds.

Why is it that some people choose to do hard things, when most of us would rather do anything but? Often the answer is pretty simple… to show they can.

God assigns us mountains. What do we do with them?

Most of us turn around before even taking a step. I tend to climb, and up until the last few weeks I was steadily climbing, when all of a sudden I lost my footing. I flew down the side of the mountain and landed in a broken heap. I’d been climbing bravely, only to realize that I didn’t want to get back up and take another step.

I felt so incredibly guilty and spent the next few days repenting on my selfish desire to stop moving forward. I completely broke and felt like Elijah under the broom tree, asking for God to just make his hardship stop. I hated myself for not being able to bravely face the storm in front of me.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.1 Peter 5:10

For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” Isaiah 41:13

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

My brokenness is not due to fear. I am not afraid of what’s to come because I know who’s really in control. Even with that knowledge, I gave into my fatigue. I am tired. It wasn’t until I stopped to actually acknowledge my selfishness and cry out to God that he began to fashion me into what he needed me to be.

Thy will be done.

Just before Jesus climbed his Mt. Everest, with a cross on his back, he came to his father with a confession. Matthew 26:39 states that Jesus fell on his face in sorrow and prayed, “My father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.

Jesus, knowing the outcome, knowing he would rise up from the tomb, had weakness before climbing his mountain.

The peace comes in relinquishing ourselves completely for our God. Not my will but yours.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you. 2 Corinthians 20:17

It wasn’t until I gave God complete control, that I began building a quiet strength. I have moved from the hurricane to the eye of the storm and stand here at the base of a looming mountain knowing my God speaks and storms cease, waters still, and mountains aren’t only moved but are thrown into the sea. There is nothing too big for my God.

I don’t know what the outcome will be, but I do know that God will use it for His good. I am here for His good, and when I see him face to face He will call me by name and I his. What a beautiful name it is and what a gift I have in being tasked to fight the good fight.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28