The Cries of a Child©

The transition that has occurred in my life has left me wondering many things. I have been through such a purging of all things religious that many days I sit dumbfounded and wonder who I am.  On those days I find myself uncertain of God’s activity in my life.  It’s been a long time since I have sat with pen and paper, words pouring out from Him to me. There have been subtle nudges, but nothing like I was accustomed to when I was doing all the things a good Christian should do.

It leaves me often to wonder where He is in all of this.  I’ve been talking to Him about it recently, asking Him to show me where He has been in the midst of my hard days.

Today, out of nowhere, I sat down to look over this blog.  I was made aware of 14 drafts that I had started and stopped, never publishing.  One in particular caught my eye today. It was from 4 years ago.  I was waiting the birth of my 1st grand.  I was reminiscing  back to the days when I first became a mom.

There was so much uncertainty.  I had heard it expressed that a mother knows the different cries of her child.  I couldn’t fathom how that could happen.  As I sat anticipating my daughter’s horizon I realized how deeply it had happened.  I had, after all, learned the cries of my children.

I learned the cry that revealed they were in pain.  I knew the tears of their anger.   Whimpers in the night awakened me instantly to their needs. I knew when to stand outside the room and listen.  I learned when to rush in to hold them tight.  Though my responses  were different at times, when my child cried out I heard them each and every time.

Each individual situation determined my action towards their tears. The cries of pain sent me running, while their tears of weariness often left me standing just outside the door listening.  As I waited, the cries would lead them to a place of exhaustion where their bodies surrendered to a place of sweet rest, a rest they desperately needed.

Remembering this picture today hits a spot for me.   I think He’s answering my question.

As I’ve moved away from all my religious practices He has seemed so absent.  I have felt so wrong.  I lived the bulk of my life responsible for the relationship with Him.  When I stopped the things I had always done, everything around me began to change.

It’s easier when I was doing all the “supposed to” things to feel the presence of God near me.   But I’m seeing now that it left me in a feeling based life.  I felt good when I was doing all the right things.  As I did what I was told to do I felt like the obedient, godly child in right standing.   When I was not,  I felt bad, dirty, wrong.

I’ve come to realize that I have nothing to do with my right standing.  It’s caused me to lay down the “supposed to’s” of this life.   More days I spend silently believing than loudly declaring or beseeching.  It is a great contrast to the years of living out of rules and regulations.

I walk naked before Him.  I come with nothing to offer.  I come simply because I believe.  I am not fulfilling obligations.  I am a pile on the floor, emptied of the driving force of my good behavior.  The hardest part is the absence of feelings that once led me forward.   As I’ve cried I’ve not seen Him come running.  It’s left me confused to say the least.  It can easily exacerbate the wrong feelings I have.

Today I was reminded of the days I stood outside the door of my child.  I longed to go in and get them yet knew if I did it would prolong what they needed;  rest.  So I waited outside.  I was never far from them.  I was right there, listening, attentively to the sounds emanating from their tiny bodies.  Nothing could stop that.

As I ponder this old blog post something settles inside me.  Could it be that on my  long nights of pain as I cried out He stood just outside the door waiting, as I did with my own? Could it be it’s what I needed the most?  As I remember the days with my own I am left to wonder.  Has He been standing outside the door allowing the weariness to take over my soul leading to lead me to a new place of rest?

This is a game changer for me.  May it be for you too.

@copyrighted 2016 Julie H. Todd

 

Being present in the pain©

Some days the hours are long and hard on this earth.  It’s difficult enough to walk them yourself, it’s much harder to watch your offspring.  My son is walking through things he never thought he’d face in his life. The details aren’t important to state here.  It’s how his life teaches me that brings me to write.

A few nights back the texts started rolling in.  His heart was spilling out through the words that flowed. The pain of this broken world he faced was coming out like pus from an infected wound.  It wasn’t pretty, it was raw and real.  He needed a safe place to let it flow. He chose me.

It wasn’t long into the conversation that I began to start with “helpful” responses.  Truth is I didn’t know what to do with the poison sin had left.  It was way above me.  I felt the need to have some answers to give to him to move him towards life.  I offered one word after another.

The texts suddenly stopped.  “talk to me” I said. “Mom, I just need you to be here with me, to let me express what’s pinned up inside me.”  “I just need you to listen.”   He wanted to be safe to let it all out. I heard him loud and clear.

I know the avenue only too well.  It has been my road.  Hard things have hit my life in these last few years.  So much has been stuck inside me that I didn’t even know.  It often comes out through the rantings.  It is the pus that has gathered infecting my life from the years of neglected pain.

When I was a child I had boils.  On rare occasions I was taken to the doctor to have them surgically lanced.  If you’ve never had a boil you won’t know the pain that occurs.  The last thing you want is anything touching it, much less a sharp, pointed needle.  In those moments when the pain is imminent the presence of another truly makes the difference.  A hand held, a back rubbed, a listening ear, a caring, soothing word, all acts of love that make a difference.

In the moments of my storms it’s what I have needed most.  Because it is love that opens the door for the buried pain to spill out.

It is what my son needs too.  Truth is it’s what we all need.

What is it that makes me feel the burden to have the answers for the person who finds themselves in duress. What do I say?  How do I answer?  What do I do with where they are?  How do I help them out of this mess?  Bearing that burden can cause even the most loving not to be present.

I am reminded of a scene in the movie, “Forrest Gump”.  Bubba Blue, has been wounded.  Forrest grabs him up and carries him out of the open fire.  He holds him in his arms while Bubba asks, “why did this happen”.  Forrest stays present while the pain has its way with Bubba’s body.  He listens, he cares, he loves.  He can’t stop the pain.  He can’t heal the wound.  He can’t change what has happened to Bubba. He simply and only can be love to a person in that moment..   Isn’t that what we all need?

There is only one who can heal the broken heart.  He alone calms the raging storm in me.  It is His hand that holds the scalpel that lances the wounds.   It is the only one who can do anything about the pain that blankets the soul.  I can offer what I have, His love in me.

When my son’s pain becomes a mystery to me I want to offer what I have, the ever-present God of love.

We all need Forrest’s in our lives.  We need people to sit through the mess of the pus that is left in the portals of our being from sin’s infection.  Real hurt occurs through the choices of others.  We need safe places to discover what that hurt is.  That’s what happens in the conversations where life becomes honest and real.  The pent-up pain oozes its way out. It’s part of the mess that brings the healing.

In that moment there is only One who can make the difference.  He lives in me.  He loves through me.

Bear one another’s burdens, Paul said.  In my humanity it will not happen.  I will run.  I will hide.  I will not offer the comfort of God but feel the need to offer the wisdom of man.  The more I see this, the more I am made aware of how deeply I need Christ’s life to be lived through me.

May the cry of my heart as I bear another up be, “God, how do you want to love through me, right now, in this moment.”

It is, I’m convinced, all there is.

©copyrighted 2015 Julie L Todd

 

 

The Religious Fog©

I live up on a mountain.  When the rains come, the fog follows along, sometimes dense, sometimes light. Visibility becomes difficult as I inch my way along the street towards home.  Sometimes the drive is scary, at best, as the thickness of the fog is great.   Finding the street that leads to my drive becomes a challenge.

Once the rain subsides the fog dissipates to clear, crisp fresh air, a washing to the earth around me.  I can’t get over the clearness of the blue skies after a rain.  Everything appears to be washed anew.

Life in this spiritual world has been that for me.  For many years a veil of religion blanketed my life making visibility difficult, at best.  All I knew was what I had been told.  I’m coming to find out that what I was told often wasn’t what was real about the God I have known.

Moments in life come that lift the fog of poor theology, revealing the depth of the riches of God’s amazing grace.  Such was the case a few days ago.

I had been told for as long as I could remember that God couldn’t hear me if I had sin in my heart.  I remember the days that I agonized with fear of the possibly I had missed something.  It was especially critical when I had a big decision to make.  I wanted to talk to God and I wanted to make certain He heard me.  I couldn’t run the risk of not hearing His voice and making the wrong choice.  I was fixated on every move I had made, hoping that I would remember everything.

As I sat to consider, my mind played through the days that had passed.  I went as far back as my mind would take me, considering my every step, my every word. I confessed until I couldn’t think of anything else.  I even re-confessed things I’d already asked forgiveness for, just in case.  It felt like a noose around my neck, dragging me into the pits of despair.  What if I missed one?

I needed for God to hear me.  I wanted to be in His will on the decision before me.  If He couldn’t hear me then I would be left to myself.  Of course it would be my own fault.   After all had I not sinned in the first place, I wouldn’t be in this predicament of wracking my brain.

Those ways of religion beat me up and kept me down for too many years.  But now, the veil is lifting and I can see.

I often have epiphanies in the midst of loving my own.  I sat with the question.  Would I be that way with my child?  Never, no not ever.  No matter what my child had done, I would never turn my back. Love will not allow me to do that and I am made in the image of the God who is love.  Some would argue that the holiness of God will not allow Him to look on sin.  That just doesn’t match up to His character displayed throughout the pages of scripture.

It leaves me to wonder how,  in this economy of Christ following, did we become so sin focused?  Where did the teachers and scribes lose sight of the picture of God?  He sent His son to redeem us from sin, to pay the cost, to bridge the gap.  Why would He stand back and wait for us to get it all right in order to be present?  After all it’s why Jesus died, to bridge the gap, to open the door, to be the way for man to be restored.

While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me.  That verse in itself disputes the false teaching that God cannot hear my voice when sin is present in my life.

When Jesus said “it is finished” it was.  All that sin had done was atoned for, past, present and future. All sin was forgiven.  The veil in the temple was torn in two, opening the way for all to enter in and be in the presence of God, forever.

Suddenly everything was different.  It was no longer about my sin.  It is about a God who loved so fiercely that He sent His son to bring me back home where I belong.

©copyrighted 2015

 

 

Jet Cadet for Jesus

The song is implanted in my mind.  I can see Mrs. Albright standing in front of us directing us with all the vigor she had in her aged body.

“Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom” “We are jet cadets for Jesus.” “We are pilots for our Lord.” “We have     heard the call for action.” “And we’ll serve with accord.” “Come and join our happy crew” “As we sail into the sky” “We’re on our way to heaven.” “And we’ll fly, fly, fly”

I was in the Jet Cadet program training to be a “pilot for our Lord.”  As I learned and recited the assigned memory work I gained access to higher ranks.  The focus was on being a good soldier, a good cadet.  I carried this mentality with me throughout the bulk of my Christian life.  It was the only understanding I had about this thing called Christianity.  I had joined the Lord’s army.

A statement was made and another place of deception was exposed.  “Believers know their identity, unbelievers don’t.”  It should be how it is, but that had not been my experience in the church communities I had traveled in.  It was not my reality.

I spent more than 40 years as a believer in community and had no real clue of what identity meant.  No one spoke much of it.  I heard of the love and the wrath of God.  I heard what was expected of me, what a good soldier would do for his commander.  I was to show up, be on my best behavior, follow all the rules.  The commander would show up and give me my marching orders.

My understanding of it all was much like what I knew of the military.  There was a commanding officer and there were different branches.  Each had a role they played.  I was in the Presbyterian branch of this great army.  There was a pastor in place over me and elders and deacons set in place to protect the flock, which included me.  I was merely a soldier in basic training.  As I learned I would grow more skilled.

I memorized the scriptures I excelled at Bible drills.  I learned my catechism.  In later years I learned to have a quiet time in the early morning hours because that would prove my allegiance to my God.

I did all I was told to do and still I was so very lost.

What I needed in those years of following God I did not get.  I needed to hear about what had actually happened to my life.  Instead, I got a basic training regiment to make me a jet cadet for Jesus.  As a result I was led into some of the darkest hours of my existence.

I entered the gerbil wheel of religious striving where my performance mattered.   A ruler was virtually placed in my hands in which to measure my spirituality.  Everything was about bringing God glory. I always came up short.

I’ve been in a process of coming out from behind the veil.  Now that the religious shroud has been removed I can clearly see the deceit of it all.  Years of taking in the old covenant with a little seasoning of the new covenant distorted what really happened on that day at Calvary.

A new way of living came to this earth.  The old covenant with its demands and expectations was fulfilled, never to be lived again.  It was sealed and put away as history. A new way began, one which involved a new covenant where all expectations for godliness was completed.  Jesus said “it is finished” because it was.  The works and demands of the Old Covenant are no more.

Christ, the living, breathing, complete God now lives inside me.  All that I am not, He is.  For many years I missed both parts of this gospel message.  Part one was that I was forgiven at the cross, but part two is that I was made new at the resurrection.  This is the mystery that Paul speaks of that has eluded so many of us for so long.  New life, new identity, new dna where all the strategies and demands required of me are no more.

I no longer have to try to “bring glory to God” as a work of my effort.  The glory of God lives in the very sinews of my being.  I have been crucified with Christ.  All the dead works of my flesh, the efforts and should’s and have to’s are no more.  I no longer live, but Christ now lives in me.  I am invited to live by His efforts alone.  I am righteous no matter what I do because He made me right.

In that moment, when the resurrected Christ walked out of that tomb, a work began in me.  It is His work alone.  It is His to complete.

I am not a jet cadet for Jesus.  I am the embodiment of the living God.  This changes everything.

@copyrighted:  Julie L Todd; 2015

 

 

 

The Times, they are a changing…©

I found my way back here today.  I was stunned to see the time that had passed. Much has transpired on this long and winding road.  Much of what I have written here in years past I would not write today. The road I started on ended at an impasse. A new path appeared.  It’s why I’ve been away for so long. I’ve not really known how to start afresh here.

I am reminded of the scripture that says that you cannot pour new wine into old wineskins. The Old Covenant was fulfilled once for all, giving way to the New Covenant to begin. It was not meant for them to be mixed together.  One was before Christ the other was after. I’m convinced He was trying to tell us this in Mark 2:.  I never really understood that scripture, but now it all makes sense to me.  “No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” Mark 2:22.

You just can’t mix the old with the new, the new will be lost. My life tells that story. Years of old theology of should’s and ought’s were the wineskin I tried to pour the life of Christ in me, into. All it did was mix everything up, losing the truth.  It is not how I will live any longer.

I have left the ways of religion behind.  I never left God, in all these years, simply and only I left the religious indoctrination, the ways of the should’s and ought to’s . My head has been filled with wrong theology.  I basically was taught, inadvertently, how to become my own god.   My godly life was up to me and how I lived it out.  There is so much wrong that has been implanted in my mind that it’s been hard to know what is right. My self effort defined who I was after all.  The harder I worked, the more I was acceptable to be a child of God.

My performance and striving became like a well-loved security blanket.  Without it I have felt laid bare in the bowels of the dark night.

It’s amazing how dependent you can be upon yourself to do the right thing.  When that is taken away, suddenly you are made aware of just how lost you really are.  What you thought being a Christian was all about is not, in actuality, what it is.

Every time I hear the song it brings a haunting to my soul.  “You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown where feet may fail.”  “And there I find you in the mystery; in oceans deep; my faith will stand.”

What happens in the bowels of the deep blue sea anyways?  Google gave me some answers.

There is no light in the depths, therefore deep-sea creatures have cells in their bodies that produce light.  Most of their bodies are transparent and soft. The light inside guides them on.

I used to ask God to take me into the depths.  I had no idea it would be like this.  I pictured a woman with fervor and passion going after the things of God.  It’s what I was trained should happen.   What happened instead was that the bowels of my theology had to be disemboweled.  He called me out upon the waters, “where feet may fail and fear surrounds me.” My feet failed me.  I had to be carried out by His hand alone.

As a result I am finding the mystery of the newness of the life of Christ living in me.  He is the cell of light that leads me forward.  It is his life in me that attained everything I tried to obtain, setting me free to live in the beauty of two woven together as one.  No longer do I have to try to figure out how to decrease so that Christ might increase.

I watched a video the other day of a caterpillar spinning its cocoon.  Soon after another video was posted of the monarch emerging out of the same cocoon. I have always loved butterflies, especially monarchs.  The process of transformation is fascinating. The old writings of my past are of my caterpillar life.  May you witness the exquisite life of a butterfly emerging from this day forward.

Beautiful things have happened in the dark of my night.

The life I once knew and lived has been removed.  I am more aware than ever of the living organism of His light that leads me on.   It is His life alone. There is nothing else.

©copyrighted Julie L. Todd 2015

He loves me, oh how He loves me©

One of the words that is repeated throughout the Old Testament to the children of Israel is “remember”.  They were exhorted to remember their God, the care He had given, the love He had shown.  It would keep them going when the world around them tried to tell them that He had left them.

It’s an important factor in this world where we live.  For often circumstances try to tell us a different story than what we are choosing to believe.  Today, for me, it was a day to remember.  I find it ironic that at this moment as I sit here to write it all down the song playing in the background bellows “He loves us oh how He loves us”. It’s been 16 years now, but I can remember it, even now, like it happened yesterday.

It was one of the more difficult seasons in life.  It felt as if the world around us was taking over. David had his own business at the time where jobs were few and far between.  Our five children were ages 10 to 5 months.  Feeding a family of 7 and keeping a roof over our heads felt like an ominous task on the little income we had coming in.  Each penny became sacred as we trusted God to somehow stretch them like we had known Him to do with the loaves and fishes.

Out of nowhere it hit me.  It had been years since I had tasted it and even then I had only had it once.  I hadn’t thought of that honey baked turkey since.  Yet on this day out of nowhere the memory of its taste flooded my very being welling up the desire to have it once again.

I started the calculations in my mind.  If I scrimped here could I have enough to pay the $25.00 and buy a small one to satisfy my longing?  If I could just buy one of those turkeys…I could smell it, taste it.

The calculator in my brain started adding it all up. Maybe somewhere I would find some leftover change. I reasoned it all out that we could eat it for a several days.  After much deliberation it finally hit me.  The purchase to satisfy my longing was just too costly.  I set the desire aside, speaking of it to no one.

A day or two later a friend called to invite me to lunch.  She had been through tough financial times before.  She understood what a nice lunch would do to my soul.   She would bring her children over to babysit mine.  How fast could I say yes?

As we drove down the road she told me.  “I put dinner in your refrigerator while you were getting your children settled.”  Another oasis in the desert was offered.

We enjoyed a leisurely lunch where she listened, allowing me to reveal my weariness. She understood. Her husband had been in medical school for years, working odd jobs, to keep their family of 6 afloat. Having the opportunity to talk to someone who understood did wonders to me that day.  That in itself was a gift.  Little did I know it was only the tip of the iceberg.

Time passes too quickly in those getaway moments.  Before you knew it lunch was over and we were headed back home to my reality of small children and tight finances. She gathered up her teens, gave me a final hug and headed out the door. I headed to the refrigerator to see what we were having for dinner.

As I opened the door, there it sat.  My honey baked turkey breast.

The tears began to fall as I realized how deeply I was loved.  I had never spoken a word to anyone about my secret desire. There was only one who knew.  God, Himself.

Love came down and rescued me that day.  God placed a desire within me two days prior knowing He would bring it to pass.   While the walls of this world threatened to swallow me up, God came.  It wasn’t because I whispered some eloquent prayer.  Nor was it because I asked.  It was simply and only because He loves me.

He loves me, oh how He loves me.  I remember.

©Julie L. Todd; 2013

 

 

 

 

A Must Read: On My Worst Day!

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Rarely can I recommend a book more fully than this.  My friend, John has outdone himself. My only complaint is that it was over too quickly.  This book is now at the top of my “best ever read.”  John Lynch invites us to walk the journey with him through his good, bad and ugly days revealing the ever presence of God with him in every step of the path before him.  From his early childhood when God was but an acquaintance to his recent years John reveals the ongoing pursuit of God revealed as he looks back over his life.  This book breathes hope to those who find themselves walking difficult roads where life just doesn’t make sense.  It awakens the senses to a new dimension of the fierce love of a God who never leaves us or forsakes us even when the darkest hour seems to be upon us. The author reveals the very real, tender, endearing heart of God amidst life and it’s moments. Sometimes the road is treacherous.  Other times it is filled with pleasant surprises, but always it is filled with the presence of God.  What I love the most is the vulnerability and raw honesty in which John exposes his life for the world to know… and the beauty of how God shows up and reveals that even on his worst day… there is always a fierce, abounding, accepting love.  I loved this book, simply loved it.  Well done, my friend, well done!  You can order a copy here:  or  here: