Counting OnGrace

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bless Your Heart

©2011, Chantelle Henderson
Originally written and copy written in ©2009 as The Old Vs. The New

Ezekiel 36:26 (Amplified Bible)
A new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

When I read this scripture, I’m always inclined to evaluate the true condition of my heart.  The word says in Matthew 12:34For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  One good indication of what has taken up residence in our heart is what comes out of our mouth.  One day I sat down to take inventory and to my relief and amazement I discovered that while I am a work in progress, God has definitely performed some “heart surgery”.  How about you?  If you were to take account of the condition of your heart what would some of your old vs. new be?  Here are a few of mine.

My old heart says, "I'm too tired."

My new heart says, "You make me lay down in green pastures.  You lead me beside the still and restful waters.  You renew my strength.”

My old heart says, "I'm about to let them have it!”

My new heart says, "Pray for your enemies."

My old heart says, "I'm too deep in despair.  I can't go on.  I just want to die.”

My new heart says, "You shall live and not die.  Though weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning.  The joy of the Lord is my strength."

My old heart says, "I can make my own decisions.  I don't need anyone else's help or advice.”

My new heart says, "There's wisdom in counsel and that I should not and cannot forsake fellowship with my brothers and sisters in the Lord."

My old heart says, "I can get away with it.  God understands.”

My new heart says, "Show me how to be Holy even as You are Holy, Lord."

My old heart says, “Nothing is going to ever change.  This is how it's always going to be.”

My new heart says, "You know your plans for me, Daddy, to give me a future and a hope.  You are doing a new thing."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Where Are You Going?

©2011, Chantelle Henderson

If it isn’t obvious by now that Angela Thomas’ Brave Bible Study I’ve been doing for the past five weeks is turning my life upside down it will be now.  My tweets and Facebook status updates have cited one Angela Thomas quote after another.  I even wrote a blog about week two’s thorn in the flesh.  Today is week 5, day 2 and the title, Running Away.  Well what do you know?  She’s addressing one of my favorite past times!  The foundation she lays to discuss the issue is found in the Old Testament in Genesis 16.  The story of Hagar.  Long story short, God promised Abram kids.  Sarai, his wife grew impatient because it appeared she wasn’t gonna be a baby mama, so she gives her servant Hagar to Abram thinking she was helping God out.  Lo and behold, Hagar, which name means flight, by the way, ended up getting pregnant.  Sarai started tripping out, got all jealous and mean girl on Hagar so Hagar left.  She ran away.  No direction.  No plan.  She just didn’t want to deal with it anymore.  It all became too much.  The scripture goes on to tell us that God sent an angel of the Lord to Hagar.  Just think….This all began when Sarai doubted God’s faithfulness to do what He said He would do.  There are so many directions I can go with this passage of scripture but for today but if I did it would be a book!  Let’s take a look at Genesis 16:7:

Genesis 16:7-8
The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur.  And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”  “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

Now what I’m about to touch on was not in the Brave Bible Study but it certainly grabbed my attention.  Notice that the angel of the Lord asked her where she was going.  When she replied, she didn’t tell him where she was going.  She told the angel what she was doing.  Boy that’s a familiar scenario.  Circumstances come crashing down on our lives and what do most of us want to do?  We want to run.  Oh, I’m sorry.  I’m speaking for other people again.  I want to run.  I’ve ran so many times that if there was an Olympics for the spiritual disobedient (those who ran/are running away from the call of God on their life) I think I’d have a pretty darn good shot at the Gold!  Just as in Hagar’s case, nine times out of ten, when those to whom I am accountable, God included, ask me where I am going, I usually don’t tell them because I don’t know.  I just know what I’m running from, most of it lying vanities.  I can sit down and give you that list all day long.  Angela Thomas writes,

“Maybe you have endured a judgment that made you want to evaporate.  Just ask any Christian woman who has suffered through a divorce.  She’ll tell you what judgment feels like.  Or ask the Christian woman who admits to having had an abortion, an affair, or an addiction.  She knows that the heat of the desert seems mild compared to the heat of scandal, disgrace, and gossip.  Maybe you’ve never packed a bag but you’ve run away in your heart.  You have disconnected from your husband, your children, and your church.  Maybe you have decided to endure those who have hurt you, but for all intents and purposes, you have run away, you and your hardened heart, and put up a tent in the desert that is called your life.  Just like Hagar, it takes a lot of hurt to make a desert become the better option.  So much hurt upon hurt can begin to convince you that no one cares, not even God.  The hurt and disappointment lie to you and call you the invisible.  Today God tells you the truth.  God saw Hagar hiding in the desert that day.  God sees you and me.  We are not invisible to Him.”

Upon reflection even before reading today’s “assignment” the Lord brought to my remembrance that in running away, we are only delaying our destiny.  One of my mothers in the faith can tell you story upon story about my ability to run.  For the past ten years she has witnessed firsthand how my running has set me back.  More often than not it has been when the Lord wants to do something through me to reach others for the Kingdom of God.  It will be confirmed.  Clear.  Plain.  The doors are wide open making it obvious that it’s time to go and be about my Father’s business and then IT happens.  It being an offense, or fear of man.  Comparing myself to someone else and feeling inadequate, or sometimes, outright rebellion.  I can’t get any more real with you than that.  Whatever the” it” is overtakes me.  I lace up the running shoes manufactured by a company called “I’m Outta Here” and I take off as fast as I can. 

While I’m writing this, I’m thinking to myself, “Maybe I should have been named Hagar.”  Because I too will always have an encounter with an angel, a.k.a. friends, family, and spiritual parents who dare to ask, “Chantelle, Where are you going?”  Today, I am asking you the same my fellow runners.  Where are you going?  Don’t tell me why you are running.  If you are running in the right direction, then you should be able to tell me WHERE you are running to.  I submit to you that if you can’t tell me where, then maybe you should stop dead in your tracks.  Stop long enough to cry out to your Heavenly Daddy who is waiting with open arms.  He can handle your tears.  There’s even a scripture proving that He holds every tear you cry in a bottle (Psalm 56:8).  Do you know He can even handle your fear, doubts, worries?  The betrayal you’ve suffered at the hands of friends or a loved one?   He even knows of the judgment and ridicule you’ve had to sustain.  He knows it all.  The best part of it all is that He never ever gives up on us.  Life doesn’t stop because we run.  On the contrary it continues on, changing seasons, time passing, and the Kingdom of God expanding.  Like the mother who patiently waits for a child to return home who has run away, He waits for us.  Just like that child’s room, our calling is still in place, where we left it, untouched, waiting to captivate us to the point that we are so enthralled and taken in that we will never want to leave ever again.

Nearly a year and a half ago I stopped any involvement in ministry, was hanging on by a thread in my discipline of writing, and refused to do anything that would require commitment.  I was at the point that Ms. Thomas was talking about in the excerpt above where “hurt upon hurt convinced me that no one cared, not even God.”  I was done.  I ran as fast as I could away from anything remotely resembling responsibility.  After I got tired of running I pitched a tent in the desert and planted my butt in the sand.  This is where my angels come in.  I am so thankful for them.  One of them approached me with an opportunity that I knew would be a long term commitment.  In the process it would also slowly open my heart’s door to the possibility of Kingdom work.  My first instinct was to run, but oddly enough, I didn’t.  I didn’t run and I said, “Okay.  I’ll do it.”  What was I thinking?  Was I crazy?  Didn’t I realize that this would probably be my last chance with this person?  After speaking with this angel, I prayed to God and I said something like this, “Lord.  I don’t want to let her down.  She’s given me chance after chance and opportunity after opportunity.  Yet, she believes in me.  I need to know that I can do what you’ve called me to do.  I know that you, Lord, have opened this door for me and I am walking through it.  If I don’t commit to you now I fear that I never will.”  Then I did something I’d never done before without it being required.  Just between me and God I promised Him at least one year.  Fast forward to now.  My heart is overwhelmed with joy as I tell you today that choosing not to run away from this opportunity is one of the greatest things He’s used in a long time to help bring back into focus my eternal perspective which magnifies the urgency of the call of God upon my life. 

In closing let me share one last thing that I hope will encourage you to forsake the temptation to run.  More recently He gave me a revelation I’d never considered.  Weeks ago I was praying about this very thing, running.  Old habits die hard.  I feel like I have to beat this one with a ten ton brick, set it on fire, and then spread the ashes across Siesta Key Beach just to make sure it’s really gone.  He is slowly revealing some things I’m to start doing in preparation for me to take yet another step on the path of my divine destiny.  Immediately I started going into all the why nots-the excuses.  I started looking for my trusty running shoes.  As plain as the font on this blog His precious Holy Spirit said, “Chantelle.  The call I’ve placed on your life is as unique to you as your DNA.  No one else can do what I’ve called Chantelle Henderson to do.  Sure there are other writers, speakers, (and He went on to list other things that are just between Him and me right now) but none of them are you!  They don’t talk like you.  They haven’t been through EXACTLY what you’ve been through.  They don’t have the same thoughts as you.  You are always saying Psalm 139 is one of your favorite passages of scriptures.  Daughter, if that is true, then start living like you believe it.”    I can say with full assurance and faith in my Heavenly Father that I will never look at the call of God on my life ever the same again after He spoke this to my heart.  I’ve taken my [spiritual] running shoes and thrown them away.  I could have thrown them in the closet “just in case”, but that would imply that I anticipate needing them again, and I don’t-not that particular pair.  They were worn specifically for running away.  I’ve got new running shoes now.  They are precisely and without a doubt for running towards all that He has for me.  These running shoes are for running the race Paul spoke of in Philippians. 

Philippians 3:14
I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.

We’re all in the same race.  Let’s both stop running away, start running the race set before us and meet at the finish line!  What do you say?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Beautiful Thorn

Beautiful Thorn     

©2011 Chantelle Henderson

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (The Message)

Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, 

   My grace is enough; it's all you need. 
   My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

I am currently participating in an online Bible Study by Angela Thomas.  The name of it is Brave and although I’m about to complete week four, I must admit that week two seems to be the one that has remained under my heart’s microscope.  Sure.  I completed the pages in the workbook, but for me, what was supposed to only last a week, has now become the object of meditation.  What was it about?  I’m glad you asked.  It was about the proverbial thorn in the flesh.  I have marker hi-lighting in orange and yellow, underlining in red and bold notes written in all caps in blue ink.  But what I’m writing about right now goes beyond the pages in a workbook, my human understanding, and a few minutes of Bible Study time each day.  This new found preoccupation with the thorn in the flesh has taken me completely by surprise.

You see, I thought for certain I knew that I knew that I knew what my “thorn” was.  It never occurred to me that we could have more than one thorn, or that when one was removed another one would take its place.  That is the case with me.  Over the past year one literal miracle after the other has occurred where my health is concerned.  My health issues (some which I battled publicly and others privately) are actually what I thought my thorns were and in actuality they are.  However, I now find myself the recipient of a different thorn.  I should call it shiny and new because it seems to be shouting, “I’M HERE!” as if I've never seen it before, but the odd thing about it is that it’s not new.  I suppose now that the other “major” thorn has been dealt with and gently removed, this one is announcing its re-arrival loud and clear.  There’s no mistaking this thing as a season, or something that is going to go away any time soon.  It is in the long term parking garage.

At first I was highly irritated.  I would stop and say, “Daddy.  Now what is this?"  Why did I even bother to ask Him?  He knew it wasn't unfamiliar just like I did.  Like, was I trying to play dumb with God?  I knew exactly what it was. But why now?  I'll tell you why!  I'm doing this Bible study about being BRAVE and asking Him to reveal things that are hidden and pleading with Him to peel back the layers so that I can receive healing and strength.  Well, sure enough, He started answering my prayers and this thorn was one of the answers and I didn't like it!  I begged and pleaded with Him, "Can we please just say I passed this class so I can move on to the next one?  I’m really not up for this.”  In true fashion, four words rang in my spirit from the gentle Father we serve, “MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT.”  “OH SNAP!” is the first thought that comes to mind.  Now I gotta give it to Paul being all grateful and having the whole “Glass is half full.  Let’s go get’em!” attitude, but I’m not so obliged to welcome this thorn into my life on a consistent basis.  Every once in a while was fine, but almost daily?  Are you kidding me? 

I’m going to go a little bit deeper and let you know that I’m not nearly as tolerant of this thorn as the aforementioned one.  Why?  The other thorn was easy to permit because it didn't involve people outside of my inner circle.  There’s a certain grace extended from those who are close to you when they are aware that you have issues….eh’em….excuse me, thorns you are working with.  It’s a different ball game when the thorn involves complete strangers.  Talk about staying near the cross!  I’ve had to engross myself in His word, particularly scriptures involving relationships.  In the absence of the outside world for a year, I’d convinced myself that it would be easy to “get back out there.”  The devil is a liar and I was deceived to have believed that.  Once again dealing with others have resulted in it being called to my attention that I don’t have all the answers; don’t have it all together; and that I am just as much in need of grace and mercy as the next person.   

John 17:15 Amplified Bible

I do not ask that You will take them out of the world, but that You will keep and protect them from the evil one.

In pondering this particular thorn for some reason, I keep returning to a scripture I don’t hear too many people quoting, but gives me the courage to keep going on days when I feel like I’m down for the count and cannot possibly get up.  Just as an added bonus, it’s written in red in my Bible which is a pretty good indication that the Person it’s coming from knows what He’s doing.

Realizing that I cannot escape this thorn in the flesh that I now bear, I will take comfort and strength in knowing that I am in good company with my brothers and sisters who also have their own pointy pains.  Angela Thomas notes in the Brave Workbook (pg. 45),

“I AM ABLE…… remove your thorn in My time.
I AM SUFFICIENT….while this thorn is yours to bear.
I AM GOOD….even when you are enduring this pain.
I AM OMNISCIENT… to see the work happening in your soul.
I AM HERE….and you are never alone.”

How good it is to know that while we may try to cover up our thorns with masks, attitudes, the right clothes or car, saying and doing the right thing, our Heavenly Father is well aware of it and gives us all that we need to not only endure it but use it to our benefit and to His glory.  Even among the thorns, there is beauty to be found about myself and others.

I was listening to a song today by Sara Groves that made me think of another way we are sometimes guilty of handling thorns.  That is to ignore their existence.   The name of the song is I Just Showed Up For My Own Life .  The lyrics are about the many ways of escape from the reality of your life; truth in the fact that you don’t HAVE to feel.  You don’t HAVE to be present.  You can live your life just going through the motions.  The deception of living life this way is that you end up buying into the lie that life is good.  No.  It’s not that life is good.  It’s just that you are numb and that is not living; not the way we were meant to live; the way He created us to live.  He came to give us life and life more abundantly (John 10:10).  What is abundant about lack of relationship, fellowship, finances, or being spiritually awake?   I can testify that there is none.  It seems to be a "thorn-less" life, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Part of showing up for life as a Christian is walking in His sufficient grace as we bear our thorns.  We can bear them in anger and resentment, only adding to the pain and discomfort.  We can bear them under the lie that they don’t exist and be another year down the road dealing with the same issues and crying out to God who is saying, “MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT.”  We can bear them in silence and carry a load on our own that we were never meant to.  Or……we can bear them like Paul who recognized the beauty in the thorn in his flesh-the beauty of growing in grace, increasing in strength, developing joy that would otherwise not exist, and gaining the knowledge that apart from God our thorns are mere distractions from an enemy who seeks to destroy our very soul.

My prayer: 

Lord, I love you.  I thank you.  I am who I am because You are who You are-King Of Kings, and Lord of Lords.  A safe place for me to fall.  A strong  tower for me to take shelter in.  The hope I so desperately need to live each day.  You are the strength and grace I seek for my sometimes weary, worn out soul.  Keep me in remembrance that you paid a price for the very thing I can just ask for in Your Name and know that it will be granted simply because I am His.  Forgive me for the many times I have taken it for granted.  Your word is full of life and promises that I need to live a life dedicated to You  for such a time as this.  I just want to thank you Lord, that even among the thorns there is beauty.  I choose Your Grace.  I choose Your strength.  I choose not to focus on the thorn, but by all that is to be gained by bearing it with You by my side, in my heart, resident in my spirit.  You are the same yesterday, today, and forever.  May I live like I believe it, full of faith, bringing glory, honor, and praise to Your name in all I do and say.  Amen