Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Have you ever found yourself between a rock and a hard place? If you answer yes, you are in excellent company. Who hasn’t been? We find ourselves between fear and freedom, between faith and doubt, between good and great, and the list could continue. It can be paralyzing as we attempt to decide whether to return to that which is comfortable and familiar or to dare and risk for something new and fulfilling.

Bluntly put, we are stuck. We’ve embraced the chasm but now we find ourselves in between what seems appealing to return to and that which is beckoning us forward. That rift can be intimidating, even appearing insurmountable. It deceives us into believing that it is much harder to forge the path forward than to retreat. And if you are one of those lucky few who have trekked further through that terrain, the option of returning looks unfavorable also. Lucky, you say? Yes, if you have ever been hiking in mountains, you know that at times you have to scale a steep passage (okay steep is relative, steep to me is probably the bank of a river), and there is a point that you desperately desire to return to where you started but it seems farther away than reaching your goal which is up ahead. The odds are promising that you will overcome your panic and beating heart and start climbing again --- for down is more formidable than up. Believe me, I’ve been there literally and figuratively sprawled on a rock wondering if it would be easier to return … if I could just find somewhere to place my foot. But alas, I’ve arrived at the point of no return. So I reach onward toward new heights. Ironically, have you ever arrived at the summit of a mountain, okay hill, and thought, “There is no way I’m going to be able to get back down!” The point being, why would we want to? Once we reach that place of freedom, faith, and God’s best, the temptation to return evaporates in thin air. Hebrews says it this way, “If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country --- a heavenly one.”

What can we do when we find ourselves in these “between a rock and a hard place” seasons? Remember that although it is our current reality; it is not our destiny. It’s a place of reckoning if we allow ourselves the permission to ponder where we’ve come from and where we are going. It’s a place to survey our motives and purpose, gain our bearings, muster proper perspective --- and then move forward. These times are critical to our faith growth; they are essential for us to conquer our fear, doubt and choose God’s best. But we don’t ever want to dwell there; it shouldn’t become our paradise. Christine Caine says, “Don’t get stuck somewhere you should only be passing through.” Our fixation should never be on the problem, despair, fear, or doubt. It should be on Him who authored our life and knows the ultimate destination. Think of the Israelites of old who were “stuck” in the desert for 40 years because they refused to move past their doubt and fear. They chose desert living over “land flowing with milk and honey” because they feared the giants more than they had faith in their Lord and their identity.

With each step forward, you gain greater clarity and perspective. But you have to move from that place of surrender, face down despair, to hope and faith that your destiny, your true identity lays on the other side of that hard place. And what you do as you lay flat on that rock determines your future. Because what you choose to do now does matter! It shapes who you are to become.

So take that first step, look up to Him who created you and has authored your land flowing with milk and honey. Don’t look back! Believe me I know from experience, it causes more paralysis. Just keep your gaze on Him whom is able to calm your panic, cause your heartrate to steady, and permeate your soul with much awaited hope. Get moving!

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Elizabeth Caudle
Be the Church

“…church as a vibrant community of people consisting of two or more of varied backgrounds gathering around Jesus. Sometimes they are at a place that might have a steeple or auditorium seating. But it’s just as likely that church happens elsewhere, like coffee shops or on the edge of a glacier or in the bush in Uganda.” Love Does by Bob Goff

How this resonates within my soul?! I’m finding this to be true in my own life. The way I’ve in the past experienced church is different than how I currently do. It is more broad than initially labeled. It goes beyond the building, past religion and regimented services… it’s a lifestyle that speaks volumes to how we live Monday through Saturday. It should automatically point to the Author of our Faith! The way we live our lives should reflect Him Whom we belong to. As humans often do, we have attempted to give parameters to the definition of church, thereby, creating attainable measurements, including a place and time. However, we have missed the mark. We have misunderstood the purpose and mission of the Church ---- to go out and spread the gospel of love. In so doing, we are able to design little pockets of Christ’s love over the broader community allowing and laying the groundwork for multiplying!

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Personally, I love Sunday morning worship in a church building with other imperfect followers of Christ. My soul is refreshed and renewed for the week ahead. It is a celebration of sorts, a refocusing on our Lord as we worship together, recognizing we aren’t alone in our endeavor. There is great benefit that comes from uniting with others in the faith, and God’s Word is clear not to give up meeting together. Here’s the problem--- Going to church involves little commitment and many of us have convinced ourselves that this is all that is expected. But we are wrong, being the Church is what we have been called to do, and it takes great commitment because we have to be willing to be radically altered Monday – Saturday.

Honestly, the world doesn’t need more religion. It doesn’t need more church buildings. What the world desperately needs are people who are being the Church! What it does need is authentic Christ followers displaying His love to the world. They need to see people reach down into the filth and messiness of other’s lives and be willing to dirty themselves with one motive --- to show Christ and His love! Are you willing? Because the truth is, love is much more than going to church, it is being the church outside the walls of a building!

 

 

 

Elizabeth Caudle
Unraveled

As someone who is prone to fear… fear of failure, rejection, criticism… you can imagine why the song, “No Longer Slaves (to Fear)”, speaks life and courage into me. For weeks, I haven’t been able to shake the phrase --- “You unravel me”. Something about that word, unravel, strikes a chord in my soul. So I do what I always do when this transpires --- I let it marinate. I allow it to plant a seed deep within my heart and take root. And for fun, I consult the dictionary and once again am in awe of its transformational meaning.

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  • To separate or disentangle the threads of
  • To free from complication or difficulty
  • To take apart, undo

A thick cord consists of many threads; the strength of a cord is usually determined by the number of entwined strands. Think sheets. Generally, the greater the thread count the better the supposed quality. However, what if our lives are entangled with threads that aren’t useful but are downright detrimental to our well-being? They have deceived us by artfully and habitually wrapping themselves around us until we are enslaved, beholden to them. In fact, we are not stronger by their presence but weaker. We realize too late that our life is no longer our own but now belongs to the destructive desires and vices that have woven themselves around our being. And so the fear sets in because we know how relentless and insatiable are these masters. They will threaten, bully and control us, and still we will cling to them, dreading separation.

And life how complicated and difficult it becomes when we attempt to retrieve the loosening strands. Seizing them not because they add life and breath but we fear life without them. Exhaustion, discouragement, and  inadequacy are our constant companions as we recognize that we cannot possibly hold all of these threads together and yet are paralyzed by the alternative --- freedom from these constraints.

There is a whisper amidst it all that tenderly nudges, “Let me take apart the strands that hold you in captivity.” But enslavement has become the norm, the expected, life itself. Being stripped of the threads would leave us exposed and naked, seemingly without the illusion of self- preservation. So we scramble to keep the threads in place, grasping frantically at those strands… for they appear to be unraveling…

Ahhhh… there it is … that word… unravel… “You unravel me with a melody of deliverance…”. It was there all along speaking life into us. Right beyond the chaos and fear of coming unraveled… right on the other side is peace and freedom from the fear that’s held us in its clutches!

His perfect love takes the destructive threads of our lives {personally name these threads for yourself}, and He unravels them. He separates us from that which is destroying us from the inside out. He hits the undo button of our habits and our conformity, all along speaking a new melody of deliverance. And as He does this, we come face to face with the things that sought to prevent us from the ideal plan of our Creator, and we finally give into the deep desire of our Heavenly Father.

What a sigh of relief floods my soul. I’m free from the threads of entanglement that set out with the full intent of destroying me. The breath of freedom fills my lungs with the oxygen to live differently, unencumbered by my fears and insecurities. It’s as if the threads had hid from sight the truth, clothing me in a shroud of darkness. Once the threads were removed the scale of darkness fell revealing the light and the simple truth --- “I’m no longer a slave to fear --- For I am a child of God”.

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father”.” Romans 8:15

 

 

Elizabeth Caudle
Princess Transformation

Recently, I was watching the Disney movie, The Princess Diaries, for at least the tenth time. It’s one of those timeless movies where the girl is amazingly transformed, wins the boy, and discovers she’s a princess. Makes a great movie, but not true to real life. Or is it?

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The whole premise of the movie is the decision Mia will have to make --- will she claim her true heritage. She has been living an ordinary teenage life, but unbeknownst to her, she was born for royalty. She can either seize this calling/duty, or she can abdicate. It doesn’t change who she really is; however, it does change how she will live her life. In fact, she is told, “No one can quit being who they are… you can refuse the job, but you are a princess by birth.”

Can you see the spiritual parallels in our own lives? Most of us are cruising along in life attempting to be satisfied with mediocrity. However, resting deep within us is the knowledge that our lives are meant for so much more! We are all born with the potential to claim our God-given identity as a child of the Almighty King. We do have a choice; we can choose to abdicate, but the ramifications are disastrous. Imagine living a life that you were never created to live. We’ve done everything to “fit in” when God had every intention of us “standing out” when He created us. Think about it. No great artist would create a masterpiece with the intentions of it blending in with all other paintings or drawings. They create it to stand out, to make a statement, to point to its creator! God has made each of us a masterpiece with specific talents and resources. He wants us to accept our birthright in Him so that our lives stand out as an example of Whose we are.

What is difficult to see currently is the transformation awaiting us when we choose wholeheartedly to be identified as a prince or princess of the Almighty King! The outcome is radical and life-changing as we seize our true identities as children of the King. So go ahead, come like Mia (you have to watch the movie to understand this)J, soaking wet, dressed in who knows what, imperfect, and broken --- and watch what The King of Kings will do in your life when you choose Him. You might want to buckle up because you are in for the ride of a lifetime!

 

 

 

Elizabeth Caudle
Trust Like That

Years ago, I awoke with a start. As I attempted to bring my senses to the present, I heard the panic in my son’s voice as he yelled, “Mommy, mommy!” Quickly, I exited the warm embrace of my bed covers and made my way to my son’s room. He was suffering from night terrors, thankfully never remembering the terror the next morning. Gently, my hand rested on his shoulder as his body sat up, fixated on whatever horror his mind had concocted. Like a healing balm his body melted and relaxed as he felt my touch and heard my voice comfort, “It’s okay son. I’m here.” The sound of his mom’s voice and her presence miraculously replaced the fear that had overtaken his mind and body. What a sight it was to behold?! To see the fear and sheer horror replaced by complete trust followed by peaceful sleep --- all because he knew his mom was now present, and she would take care of him and fight the enemies that plagued his mind.

Childlike faith is magnificent; it trusts completely without reservation. As we age, we realize not everyone can be trusted. We can become cynical and jaded in trusting others, believing that we must seize control of our lives and be master of our ship. All this runs contrary to the gospel story that our Heavenly Father is writing in our lives. The gospel states the necessity of a Savior; life is not meant to journey alone. It brilliantly displays the act of a Messiah who dies for us and is resurrected, proving that He is a Messiah who can be trusted to take our mess and make a message! The striving, worrying and attempting to control outcomes demonstrates that our childlike faith is lacking. May we, as my son did, learn that our Abba’s got this! His presence and voice ought to be enough for us to release the insecurities, doubts and fears we grip in our hands.

If I was brutally honest, I would tell you that sometimes I don’t allow God’s presence and voice to be enough. Instead of truly letting go and listening to my Abba, I forge ahead believing I alone control my destiny or allow paralysis from fear to take hold, sidelining me from living life abundantly. My insecurities, doubts and fears have been known to overtake me, consuming my every thought and action. There appears to be no hope in sight, until by three words, “Abba, Father, Help!”, I’m ushered into His presence. His presence and words present a soothing element and rest for my weary soul, providing peace in the midst of the storm, and reinforcement for the battle ahead. Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t eliminate the circumstance --- the pain may still be present --- challenges remain real --- but now we have hope! We know that our God is present, He has promised to be our refuge. He even says “It’s okay my child; I’m here! I’m not going to leave you!” And that, my friend, changes everything!

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” --- Hebrews 13:5b
Shagae Jones
Word for 2018

If you’ve followed my blog over the last couple years, you know two years ago my 2016 word was PRAYER. I’m a worrier by nature and experience. I could think of no better antidote to this encroaching disease of the mind than prayer. Proper perspective, shift in mindset, and peace of mind began to replace that meddlesome companion of worry. I wish I could say that worry is in the grave, never to rear its ugly head again but that would be dishonest. However, I notice growth --- I have a lot of ground to cover, but I’m further along than I once was.

In 2017, HOPE became my constant reminder to the disappointments, discouragements, and doubts. For it truly became the anchor of my soul, firm and secure, when my protective armor nicely put into place by me began to crumble. Life has a way of humbling us and setting us straight on how little control we actually have on outcomes. But Christ reminds us of HOPE that can, if allowed, permeate our mindset, bringing joy and peace despite what life throws at us.

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And now as 2018 ushers in a new year, I find myself clinging to a new word --- RESTORE. What a beautiful word! It brings a visual to my mind of years ago. I traveled to the flea market with my sister-in-law and was amazed at the ugly, dilapidated items she chose to purchase. I was astonished when I rediscoverd that piece in her home with a facelift, truly complimenting and adding beauty to her home. She was a master at refurbishing, repurposing, and restoring old pieces of furniture and décor. As talented as she is, she cannot match the complete restoration process our Savior is able to do in our lives when we hand ourselves over to Him. He repurposes, giving meaning and clarity. He restores what was once a mess and splintered and creates a masterpiece noticeable to the world around us. Our very lives bear witness to the Master Designer who is available to completely restore, eliminating deficient parts in our lives, and allowing us the beautiful privilege of being an imperfect conduit of His love.

What areas of your life do you need restored in 2018? Maybe your relationship with Your Creator and Savior needs to be restored. Or could it be life has sucked you dry, leaving you fatigued and apathetic and you desire restoration in a passion and joy for life. There’s that habit or that reoccurring thought life that continues to assail you and restoration is desperately required. Let your Creator, Lord and Master Restorer take your broken, purposeless, and ugly pieces of your life and breathe vitality, meaning, and joy into them. Forever is He praised as He restores us to who He initially created us to be!

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.” --- I Peter 5:10
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12
Shagae Jones