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

What’s Your Focus?©

I’ve always found great pleasure in watching crawling babes mature into the discovery of their walking legs.  The surprise on their face when they pull themselves up for the first time says it all.  Each discovery leads to the next. They move from holding on for dear life to courageously meandering around the coffee table, to running alone in freedom. Each step is an exciting pilgrimage of life.

I am finding my legs of freedom as I am opened up more deeply to the new covenant reality. Some days I feel as if I am meandering my way around the table ,of this new life in Christ, and other times my feet are running in liberation.  The more my eyes are opened the more I gain understanding into what it means to no longer live on my own.

It all started with a sweet conversation with Jesus.  The worries and cares of this world were hammering in hard. I was reminded of Jesus’ prayer in John 17, “they are not of the world even as I am not of the world.”   It sure feels like I’m of this world most days.  This world system works on the almighty dollar.  How does one not feel sucked in by its requirements and demands?   I could feel the sadness sweep over me leaving me in a state of depletion.  I sat down to talk with Him.

As we chatted Jesus began to reveal to me the reality of the truth in this verse.  “Jewel, you can’t look at things through the lens of this world and it’s system.”  “It never works out that way.” “This world operates on the almighty dollar.”  “We don’t.”  “Our ways fill you up.”  “The world’s ways deplete you.”  “Depletion leads to escapes which just deplete you even more.”

“To live in this world you cannot be of this world.”  “It’s a fine line that gets so easily crossed.”  “The world system demands.”  “Our system gives.” “It’s all about focus, Jewel.” “Your focus will determine your state of being.”  “I came that you might have life and have it to the full.”  “If life ain’t full, then something’s out of focus.”  “I’m not talking about circumstantial.”  “There will always be troubles in this world.”  “I’m talking about well-being.”  “Your focus will determine how well it is with your soul.”

He reminds me of a camera that my youngest had a few years back.  The camera lens kept malfunctioning.  The lens would stay in a constant state of motion, moving in and out of focus.  It hindered the use of the camera leaving it useless in the hands of its owner. Off to the repair shop it went.  Upon its return we learned that the camera lens had become jammed up with sand that had tampered with its stability.

I see the point He’s trying to make as the image of this camera correlates with the struggles of my every day life.

All it takes is one word and I can so easily be swept up into a place that causes me to be jammed up. Maybe it’s something to do with the restrictions in our finances, or maybe it’s the way an employer is treating my husband unfairly.  Maybe someone close to me makes a statement that sends me into the labels the world has tried to place on my life.  The situations are varied but the response is the same.  What is my focus?

“Set your mind on things above not on the things that are on earth.”  “Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.” “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”  “You are a new creation in Christ, the old has gone the new has come.”  The words of scripture guide me further.

When the money is tight and the restrictions seem large what becomes my focus?  Do I see the restrictions with money or do I see God?  One will give me hope the other will plummet me into despair.  The world is limited in resources but God owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  Do I look at the things that are wrong in this world or the things that are right in God?  What becomes my focus?

Things have happened in this world that have tainted the programming of my mind.  It’s easy to live at a high level in those hurt places.  When someone says something inadvertently and the negative labels and programming get ignited in me, what happens next depends on my focus.  Do I see my identity through the eyes of God or through the words and actions of a man or a woman?

I have been given the mind of Christ.  Jesus saw the good in everything because He saw God.

It’s time for my lens to be restored to its rightful setting, as He is, so am I.  I am not of this world.  It’s ways are not my ways.  As my focus is turned to things above my mind settles in where it belongs.

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” Romans 12: 2 (The Message)

©copyrighted:  Julie L. Todd 2017

 

 

 

 

To Become Like A Child©

Things have gotten pretty messed up in this world.  I see the effects of what this broken place does to us as I watch the ways of the children around me. I currently have two 5 year olds in my life.  One is my grand the other is a child I give MeMe care to.  I am touched as I watch them. They have a firm belief in who they are.  They are comfortable in their own skin which allows a life free of insecurities.  They don’t question whether they are loved and accepted.  They are confident they are.

It makes me stop to consider.  How do things go so wrong?

I have long believed that there are two stories written on our lives.  One is the story the broken world tries to tell us.  The other is the story God wrote a long time ago.  I started out in one and ended up in another.  It all started when I was the child with the different personality.  I didn’t learn the way the school system taught nor was I the typical easy going temperament.

The world around me became the supporting actors and actresses on my script.  It seemed that everyone and everything pointed the way to my new beliefs.  With each act, I became a bit more lost to who I had been made to be.

By the time I reached my late teens I was convinced that there was something wrong with me.  I was too much and not enough all at the same time.  The label found a place inside my being.  REJECTED.  One event after another confirmed it all.  There was no real acceptance here on this earth.  The child was gone, the broken adult became the voice in my head.

What happens in life that takes us from to such drastic changes?

We enter this world of sin, born into sin.  We really don’t even understand what all that means.  Years are added and along with them the shame and consequences of choices; ours and those around us. It doesn’t take long for the once, free caring, confident child to diminish.  We become products of the world we are born into.  We forget who we are.

This isn’t the world I was created for.  Back in the beginning of time, before the world existed God had a plan for me.  It was a life without shame where I could walk in the cool of the day with Him and others because love was whole and real.  It was a world where all was right in every sense of the word.  And then it all changed.

It’s not God’s perspective that gets tainted by sin. It’s mine.  The thoughts God has towards me have always been the same.  The problem comes when I believe a different story, a story that emanates from a world wrecked by sin.

I’ve come to realize something simple, yet so very profound.  No man, woman, or child, can give me the acceptance I so desperately have longed for.  No one can give me the seal of approval.  Every single person on this earth will let me down.  Many have.  People live out of their own broken stories.  How could they possibly give me truth for mine?

It makes me understand a little better what Jesus meant when He said “unless you are converted and become like a little child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

As I finish my last year of my 50’s these beautiful words of Jesus take on new meaning. I do not believe that God is only telling me that in order to go to heaven I have to become like a child and believe.  I think He is trying to tell me that in order to live in the fullness of my life I must go back to the story I was comfortable in before the world came after me. It’s what I see in those 5 year olds in my care.  They are not weighed down by the programming of this broken world.  They are free to be who they simply are as ones who are loved.

In I Corinthians I learn that I am a new creation, that old things have passed away.  I have a new starting point.  God’s perspective of me is my new point of reference.  My identity was established by God before all times.  He looked at me, in those first moments on earth and said, “You are loved!”  Before I could love Him, He loved me.

My grown up world has been one plagued with rejection from man.  It doesn’t take much for me to feel it.  When those moments come, where the actions of another speak, I make my choice.  God is for me.  I am accepted, therefore no man can reject me.

Children don’t question their acceptance.  They just live in it.  To enter into all that He is and all that He has done I must go back to the belief of a child who lives in the simplicity of who they are and where they belong.

People can never tell me the story of who or what I am.  They didn’t write it.  God did.

@copyrighted:  Julie L. Todd 2016