How in the world?©

There were times when my children were younger that I used to wonder how in the world we would pay for _______. It wasn’t that we were big spenders. We were a one income family who lived, simply and frugally for a what, at the time, was considered a large family. We managed our money well and learned how to live on little and be thankful. But there was never much extra lying around.
One of the biggies for me was weddings. Three girls! I knew weddings for girls always cost more than they do for boys and I often wondered where we would possibly get the money for a wedding.. Those “how in the world” thoughts would find their way in… My mind would try to come up with a plan. The battle would ensue until I would reach a point of mental exhaustion. For the life of me I couldn’t come up with a way to have enough money to give my girls even a small wedding celebration. I came to the conclusion that surely God had that too and I slowly but surely let go and began to trust.
The first girl’s wedding came and I watched it all go down. We needed to buy the dress…where would the money come from. “Buy it and let’s see what happens” my husband said. So we did. The next day a big storm came through town requiring all the employees of his company to work around the clock. His paycheck came in with just enough to pay for the dress. That was just the beginning of what God would do.
The second girl’s wedding came after my husband was laid off. He was back in school and working bits and pieces where he could get work. You talk about “how in the world” questions… I had gone back to work and we were making it bit by bit. Again I sat back and watched God bring it all together.  I continued to remind myself how much God loved weddings as I waited to see what He would do.
Yesterday we completed the last of our girl weddings and once again God has astounded me. When we began, we had a very small designated amount saved. If anyone knew how much they would have laughed at us, no one could plan a wedding on that, yet I knew God who had multiplied loaves and fishes could make that stretch far above my wildest imagination… and that is exactly what He did.
Not only  was yesterday a beautiful culmination of two lives becoming one.  It was the end of an era.  My “how in the worlds” were answered by my generous Father.  He truly does lavish good gifts on us all.
© Julie L. Todd May 2018

The Perfect Will of God©

It’s been years since this happened but the memory floods my mind as if it were yesterday.    At the time my husband was in the midst of a job transition.  Working part-time at Starbucks, living off of cash from a house sale we had no clue where the road would take us.  The money was running out, something had to be done.  Somehow David had to find a new path to take in regards to a career.  How would we know what step to take next?  What if we missed God and His perfect will.  I was being challenged in ways I’d not known before.  The truth is I didn’t really know the God I had declared to follow and I had no clue.  At that time in my life I didn’t really “get” that Jesus dwelt inside me, that I was the embodiment of His very life.  I knew the verses that I had been crucified with Christ and no longer lived.  I knew that He now lived in me but I didn’t really understand.  The veil of religion kept me from seeing what was real and true.  

Here now fifteen years later, as I think back on those days I am overwhelmed at how truly blind I was.  At the same time I am amazed at what God has done in me.  I can remember reading the verses in Hebrews that spoke of the veil over hearts but I didn’t even know that there was one over mine.   Days like the one I am about to share were used to rent the veil in order that I might know what was right and good.  The reality of this brings on a new meaning of that day when Jesus breathed His last and the temple veil was torn from top to bottom.  A new story had begun, the life that had once been was now dead.  A new  way of living would emerge 3 days later.  Jesus would not be on the outside any longer.  He would now indwell a human being.  It was a game changer.  Funny how things become apparent in their true meaning as your eyes are opened.

     God has always spoken to me through the normal, everyday things in life, wrapping a new picture for my mind to grasp.  This particular day, years back, was one of those moments.  It was time to untether the wrong thinking with a picture that would renew my mind.  Though I had a glimpse of it back then I see it in totality now.

     It was an ordinary day in our house.  David and I were sitting at the desk in the downstairs looking up something on the computer.  Our son, Josiah, came bounding down the stairs rushing out the door.   Immediately David called his name.  He had something he wanted to tell him, but Josiah was focused elsewhere and didn’t hear.  David called him louder, again no response.  He got up and walked to the door and called again.  Still nothing.  At that point  he ran after him, out the door, down the driveway calling out until Josiah heard him.  He turned towards his dad and then he heard.

     In a moment’s time God began to speak to me. The conversation went something like this,. “Julie, did you see that?” “Did you see the pursuit of David towards Josiah?”  “It wasn’t up to him, Jewel, it was up to David.” “That’s how it is with me.”  “Everything is on me.”  

     As these years have passed a simple picture has become more profound for me.  The life I once lived is falling away as I embrace the life I have truly been given.  In those days I was infused in the ways of religion that required performance and striving to obtain something I never could.  In these present days I’m embracing the new life that was implanted into my being.  It’s all on Him, it always has been.  All things are changing as a result.

     What I’ve come to understand is that the perfect will of God is not something I must search to find.  It is Jesus, simply Jesus.  What astounds me even more is the consideration that Jesus lives in me.  He indwells me in totality.  The will of God is already in me.  Nothing will change that.

     One season of life led me to strive to be something I could never be and know something I could never know.  I was looking in the wrong place.  The search for God’s perfect will to be revealed in a circumstance led me down a path of great fear and high requirements for myself.  There is no perfect will to discover.  It has already been revealed.  There is a perfection that lives in me.  He has perfected all of life in this broken world.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He makes life make sense when it doesn’t.  He leads me on the path as I simply give way to what He has done.  

     This reality that the will of God is a person who lives in me, well that changes everything.  His words continue on as my understanding deepens.  “It’s not about following some perfect plan, Jewel.”  “It’s about living in the reality of what you have.”  “I am in you.”  “My very life inhabits you completely.”  “Live like that is true, Jewel, because it is.”  “Live in the new life, the new way.”  

     “You can shut me out.” “You can choose not to listen.”  “You can go your own way doing your own thing in your own focus, just like Josiah did with David that day.”  “But I will never leave.”  “I will consistently pursue you.” “I will use everything to bring you into the knowledge of  who I am.”  “I will tell you what you need to know.” “That’s on me, Jewel.”   “I will never be shut out.”  “I will still be right there in you.” “If you are in Christ you are in my perfect will.”  “You can never be out of it.”  “You can live as though you don’t understand or trust Me.”   “You can even live as though you are not listening, but if Jesus is in you, you are in my will.”  “It’s that simple.”  

     I saw God that day in a way that changed me forever.   I still do.

     I hope you see Him too.

“He leads me in paths of righteousness for His own name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3

@copyrighted: Julie L. Todd 2017

The Joy of One Day©

When my children were young, every summer my mom and dad rented a large house at the beach.  It became a family tradition for 11 years straight.  With my 3 siblings and their families, along with mom and dad, we could fill the place up.

In the beginning years, because of my own elation,  I found myself telling my children months in advance that we were going.   It didn’t take long for me to realize my mistake.   Suddenly they were distracted from their day.  Young children have no real concept of time.  You can’t pack your suitcase in March for a beach trip in July.    I learned to wait until weeks before, where they could count down the days and feel their excitement grow.

I watch my grands as they live their lives present, in the moment.  They have no thoughts for what will happen tomorrow and they don’t remember what happened yesterday. They have an uncanny ability to live in the moments.  They experience such a beautiful place of rest.

Children know the joy of their one day.   They give no thought to yesterday or care for tomorrow.

I heard the author say these words, “I have found joy again by being in my one day”.  It struck me as I considered what life would look like if I lived that way.

My husband and I have a story.  We started out 34 years ago, eyes glazed over, clueless about the vows we had just made.  It didn’t take long for us to find ourselves saying and doing things we never thought we’d do.  Through the years we have hurt each other. At times it’s hard not to allow old history to follow us into the day.   All it takes is a conversation to go awry and suddenly we can be thrown into the reminders of the past. Without warning, history can repeat itself and we can find ourselves stuck in a place we really don’t want to be, saying things we really don’t want to say.

What if we lived in our one day where there is no future and no past?  Paul testified that the old is gone and the new had come. We are told that God remembers our sins no more.  How would things change if we all lived as if the hard drive of our minds had been wiped clean and the past hurts no longer lingered?  What if when those conversations start to rev up we faced them not with the voices of the past but with the voices of today?  Who we are today is not who we were yesterday.

To live in the “one day” is to shut down the old voices and leave them all behind.  The damage of the past is redeemed for good when it no longer plays an active role in the present.

The “one” day means there is no past and there is no future.  There is just the present.

“Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself.”

I’ve never been much of one to be affected by the decades rolling by but this year has been different.  I will be 60.  It hit me a few days back.  “I am 10 years away from 70”. The numbers sound ancient to me until I consider Methuselah who lived to be 969.  Yet in the world’s mindset somewhere in these next 10 years I will be considered elderly.  I will never have as many years on this earth as I have already had.   Uncertainties abound if I look towards tomorrow and how we will make it financially.  Joy disappears as fear of what could happen tries to force its way in.

But it’s all just imagination because no one but God has my tomorrows.  He is the God of wonder and mystery who loves showing up in the most unusual places.  Paul reminds me, “We fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen.”  Peter reminds me, “With the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.”

Yesterday leaves me discouraged and tomorrow leaves me afraid.  Today gives me joy because I am able to see that I have all that I need.

I am surrounded by young children on a weekly basis, both in my home and in my vocation.  I learn so much from just watching them.   They truly live in the moment with unadulterated trust.  They don’t give a care about what will happen in the days to come and they don’t keep history books on what has happened in the days before.  They simply live in the joy of their one day.  I want to live like that.

God does not say, “I was” or “I will be”.  He says “I AM.”  That’s present tense.  He invites me to live as He is, in the one day.  It is the life Christ lived on this earth.  It is the life He now lives in me.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ” Romans 15:13

©copyrighted, 2017 Julie L. Todd

It Is Finished!©

I have heard the Easter story for my entire life.   Every year throughout my childhood the song was sung, “Up from the grave He arose with a mighty triumph o’er His foes.” “He arose a victor of the dark domain and He lives forever with His saints to reign.”  “He arose, He arose, Hallelujah Christ arose.”

It’s a beautiful song but I’ve come to understand that it doesn’t fully tell the reality of what happened for me.  As I mature I am finding more of what God did during those three days.

Three days prior those whom He had come to earth to love had placed His body on a cross where He would hang to die.  He spoke the words as he neared his last breath,  “It is finished.”  I’ve heard those words quoted throughout my life.  For the longest time I believed Jesus was declaring that His suffering was drawing to a close.  It made sense to me because right after that He said, “into your hands I commend my spirit.

I do not believe that any longer.

It is in those very words, I believe, that Jesus was declaring what had happened for mankind.  In His last breaths He proclaimed, once for all, that He had fulfilled the demands of the self-righteous lifestyle.  The law exposed that I could not get it right. He was the answer to the law on my behalf.  He told me I didn’t have to, that He would do it for me.  He finished all the requirements in my place.  The separation ended.   I was liberated.

In that moment, mankind was fully restored unto God.  No longer would God be on the outside He would now dwell within. He would weave Himself into my being and be the strength and the love.  He would be the vine, inviting me to be the branch.  He would be the answer to my weary striving and performing.  He would be the way, the truth and the life.  He would be my rest.

No longer would life have to be sin and behavior focused.  He forgave them all,  past, present, future.  Forgiveness had been granted, once for all.  Each and every sin I had committed and would commit now would be forgotten never to be remembered again by Him.  The grading scale was removed.  I could be free.

An invitation was extended to allow the very life of Christ to now indwell me.  It would be my starting point, my ending point.  On my worst day, and every day I would be the righteousness of Christ.  I would be in Him and He would be in me.

Jesus didn’t just walk out of the grave only to conquer sin and death.  He walked out of the grave to allow life to begin again for me and for you.  It is the most beautiful “do over” that has ever happened.  I was allowed to become a new creation where old things were passed away and new things had come.

When Jesus said “it is finished” I was given a way to live in oneness with the God who made me to love me.  He would become my very life.

For the joy set before Him He endured the cross.  I am that joy.  He saw me.

“For God, the Father, was IN Christ reconciling the world unto Him.”

©copyrighted; 2017; Julie H. Todd

Conformity Counterfeits Transformation©

Back in the days of my youth I played on a softball team.  My dad loved sports and I wanted to capture his attention so I joined my sister’s team.  She was a natural at the game.   I was not.  The truth is I hated playing.  As the right fielder I was scared that a fly ball would come and hit me right between the eyes.  I determined if one came my way I would let it fall to the ground, run up to grab it, and throw it to the closest player. The problem is I couldn’t throw worth a flip.   My softball career didn’t last very long.

I had conformed to what I thought would get me what I wanted most; the praises my sister was receiving and my father’s attention.

“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2:

If you are a woman and have been in a church setting for any period of time you will know the reference well;  the Proverbs 31 woman.  She was the model for women.   A quick search on the internet will show you that she is the who many aspire to be like.  Because of her selfless life she was held in high esteem in the church community.   I don’t think there could have been a more perfect woman.

I tried to be like her.  It became yet another area in life to conform.  On occasion someone would say those magic words of affirmation, “Julie is a Proverbs 31 woman.”   In that moment it was declared that in my messy life I was somehow doing something right.  It all was so very wrong.

This past week as I prepared notes for the women’s coffee group, these words unearthed something in me.  “Conformity is a counterfeit version of true transformation.”  Years before I would not have considered those words as truth.  Today I know they are.

I tried to conform to the attributes of this woman in Proverbs.   I tried to conform to the characteristics of what I was told was godly and holy.  Something very important was left out, the life of Christ fused into my very being as the source.

He was acknowledged as giving me new life and being the source of life all while telling me what I needed to do to be better at _______.  It’s just not right.  Anytime it’s about me becoming better or living out a pattern then it no longer is about Him.  Paul understood that.  He tried to tell me.

As I read the verse above, with the lens of the position I was resurrected into, I find clarity into what Paul was trying to say.   It’s been there all the time had I looked at the context of the letter he wrote to the Romans.  Instead a verse was grabbed out and a challenge was given.

My husband and I were long distance daters.  We relied heavily on the communication in letters as back in that day that was all we had.  If I had taken one of his letters and skipped through and pulled out certain paragraphs much of what he was trying to say would be missed.  The context of what is being said changes everything.

To understand what Paul is telling us in Romans 12:2 I have to look at what he was saying at the end of Romans 11: “For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things.”

It all makes sense to me as I see what has transpired in my life.  Paul told the Romans, and me, not to aspire to the models in front of us but instead to be changed by the new mindset of what has happened.  Christ came into my life to be interwoven into me as the embodiment of life to be offered out.  I simply live in what has happened.  I don’t offer out of a list or regime or pattern.  I offer out of the mind of Christ that loves the world completely.

I am positionally Jesus in Julie.  All things pertaining to my life are from Him and through Him and to Him.

He is the source of all that is to be done.  There is no mentoring to live out or a life of characteristics to be realized.  It is simply and only believing, accepting and living from the position He has placed me in.  He is the blood in my veins, the wind in my sails, the way the truth and the life in me.

That is transformation.

The will of God is in me, it is proven, acceptable and perfect.  It is Jesus and we are fused together as one.

When I hung up my softball glove and stopped conforming to my sister’s life I discovered what I love.  I love to cook.  I started cooking. I simply lived in what was already inside me.

So it is with this fusion of Christ in me.  I live in the reality of what He has done in me.  For from Him and to Him and through Him are all things.

 ©copyrighted 2017 Julie L. Todd

The Simple Gospel©

In my previous job there were days that I would start my trek down the mountain just as the sun was rising.  There is one spot where a particular precipice gives way to the most amazing panoramic views.  Two thousand feet above the city, the open skies give the naked eye the ability to see for miles as the expanse of heaven lights up with the vibrant colors of dawn.   As light permeates the darkness, the world below awakens to the reality of a fresh new day.  There’s something inspiring about watching dawn arrive. 

It’s how I would describe the path my life has taken these last few years.  New days are dawning and life with God is becoming simpler than I’ve ever known it to be.

I remember the day I accepted the invitation to give my life to Christ. I was desperate and alone, searching to be loved.  I didn’t have a clue that in essence I was dying to life on my own and accepting His life as mine. I was put into a discipleship program where I would be taught how to be a Christian. Little did I know it would be my demise as it would lead me down a path of old covenant living in a new covenant relationship.  The emphasis would be on me and what I must do.

There were always steps listed at the end of the message telling me what I could do to make things better for myself and for God.  As soon as I finished one regime there was another waiting in the wings.

One speaker would take you to dealing with your wounds while another would tell you how to make sure you had no idols. I was exhorted to make sure all sins were confessed, not missing one.  I was encouraged to have my quiet time daily, praying my prayer list faithfully.  I had to search my heart constantly to make sure all offenders were forgiven.  I was told to hunt for vows and roots.  Mandates were given constantly encouraging me to rise up and do something.  Being a child of God became overwhelming and quite frankly, exhausting.

Christianity became complex.  I realized that if someone asked me how I had gotten to where I was in my relationship what I would tell them would shut them down. The sheer process with its lists would overwhelm them.

Something was desperately wrong .  If Christ had finished everything why was there still so much to do?  The messages were mixed and perplexing.  There was nothing simple about this gospel I had accepted as my own.

I began asking questions in an open dialogue with God.  How could this be so confusing and draining?  Jesus said His burden was easy and His yoke was light.  Over these last few years He has awakened me to the ease of His yoke,  Jesus + nothing = everything.

As I drove the car home from my daughter’s house this week God and I chatted a little more about the simplicity of it all.   He reminded me of the story of John the Baptist.  John’s words were straightforward.  “Repent, for the kingdom of God is near”.  It struck me afresh as He awakened me to see something I’d never seen in the story.   The word repent means to change the way you think.    John told the people to change the way they were thinking while pointing to Jesus, the way, the truth and the life.  Let me explain the significance of this to me.

In John’s time there was a covenant in place in which it was up to the individual.  When you read through the books of Leviticus you become aware of what the expectation was.  Life was about the individual and what they would attempt to do to meet the requirements of the law.   But change was on the horizon.  The resurrection opened a new covenant where I would die to the life that was about me and be made alive to the reality of Christ efforts in and through me.  

In 2 Corinthians 3 it speaks of the veil that lies over the hearts of man, removed only by Christ.  It also speaks of us not being adequate in ourselves to consider anything coming from ourselves.  Our adequacy comes from God.

I have read the words in Hebrews 4; on multiple occasions yet now they make sense to me. “For the one who enters God’s rest also rested from his works”. “I no longer live but Christ lives in me.” 

This is the simple gospel.  It’s not a life where I look within to myself it’s a life where I look within to Christ.   He is fused into my being and now we live together.  What is He putting on my heart?  What is He putting on my mind through this fusion and oneness with Him.  What is He inspiring in this moment.  I don’t make Him my life, He is my life. It’s not a discipline or a sacrifice.  It’s a being, an abiding.  I don’t imitate Him I allow Him to be lived through me.    It’s a mindset not a to do list.

As I dwell in the reality of Christ’s life lived through me the mandates are fulfilled. Obedience isn’t an issue, nor is forgiveness, they are a result.  The focus of what I must do drops away as I embrace what He now does, each and every day, through me.

“The life of a Christian is the life of Christ within us through the Holy Spirit. It is not a life similar to his, it is his life.” J. E. Conant

@copyrighted: 2017 Julie L. Todd

New Covenant Reality©

The more I understand what happened when Jesus walked out of the grave the more simple this gospel really becomes to me.

There are catch phrases from the religious days though that can still hit me.  They were used to keep me on the beaten path of striving to be in right standing with God.  As I have come out from under the veil of religion, their meaning no longer binds me.  In fact I see the ability to live as one who is set free.

Let’s take for instance the words from John the Baptist.  The scriptures tell us that John’s disciples saw the crowds moving towards Jesus and went to John to tell him.  It’s where the famous words were coined. “He must increase but I must decrease.”  I am certain John had no idea how out of context these words would be taken through the years.

I cannot remember how many times I was told that I needed to decrease in order for Christ to increase.  I didn’t question it.  Instead I set out to be the best at decreasing.  I didn’t want to take a chance on Christ not being able to increase.  It became another mandate of life for me that left me hopelessly exhausted.

How does one indeed decrease?  How does one know if it’s enough?

As the light sears into my being, my eyes open to the truth of what John was really saying. He was not exhorting mankind to decrease so that Christ might increase.  He was stating a fact.  His ministry was coming to an end.  It had fulfilled its purpose.  He was the forerunner of Christ.  He would preach a message of repentance,  exhorting people to change the way they thought.  The word “repent” in Hebrew means to change one’s mind for better.

In the days of John’s preaching the people were still under the old covenant, the Mosaic law.  The only way that they could exercise repentance was to grab a flawless animal, take it to the temple, have it slaughtered, it’s blood spilled and sprinkled in order for their sins to be atoned for.  A new day was on the horizon.  It is what John’s message was all about. It would not be long before those sacrifices would come to a halt.  A new covenant would be in place allowing all sins to be forgiven from the first breath to the last breath with one-act.  God’s Spirit would no longer live in the temple where the sacrifices for atonement were taken.  He would make a home in us.

The resurrection changed everything for everyone.  The cross paid the atonement for our sins but the resurrection gave us new life.   The old covenant law was fulfilled forever, a new covenant was now in place.  It is in that new covenant that I now live.

In the moment Christ walked out of the grave not only were my sins forgiven but I was given the chance of a lifetime.  The very deity of God would make its home in me. There would be no more focus on behavior as the requirements of the law were fulfilled once and for all.

Jesus says “I’ve been crucified with Him and that I no longer live but that He lives in me. It’s now Jesus inside Julie.  We are joined together as one.  I embody Him.  He fills me. It’s not an increasing or a decreasing it’s a complete and total makeover.  My life is now hidden in Him.

Jesus came in all fullness, once for all, to dwell in me.  There is nothing to increase.  There is nothing to decrease.

We as creatures are geared to a mindset of knowing what we are to do to live out this life of Christianity.   We feel better with lists and 5 point outlines that instruct us.  But the truth is, it’s really very simple.  We accept what has been gifted to us.  It all comes down to what we believe and accept as our truth.  Do we really believe that we died with Christ and that He now lives in us?  That is the catch of it all.

I believe that I am married to my husband.  I don’t question it or doubt it.  I remember the day I stood before friends and joined my life with his.  From that moment on I became David’s wife.  Everything that was his became mine.  It was my reality.  It was what I began to live.

It’s the same concept yet with so much more.  That moment when I gave my life to my God I became His dwelling place.  Christ gave me His mind, and His Spirit.  All that He was and is became mine.

I simply mature into what is my greatest truth.   All of the fullness of the Deity of God is now in me.  That is my reality.  That is my identity.

What must I do to be a new creation?  Live as though it is true.  Because it is.

©copyrighted:  Julie L. Todd 2017