What Does it Mean to Walk by Faith? ~Guest Post by Dena Johnson

[This article first appeared on crosswalk.com here: http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/what-does-it-mean-to-walk-by-faith.html August 14, 2014. Guest Post by Dena Johnson.]
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For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

Those words seem simple enough.

However, I am learning that fleshing out those words, that simple concept, can be a much tougher assignment. It requires tremendous courage and strength. You must be willing to be misunderstood and even abandoned. You must be willing to give up any semblance of control of your life that you thought you might have. You must be willing to look like a complete fool.

But, it is a journey of tremendous blessing and reward. It is a journey that is exciting, life-altering, and mind-boggling. It is a journey that will allow you to see and experience God as he was meant to be: in all his fullness and grace.

Walking by faith and not by sight requires you to go to a place you do not know, one that God will reveal as you walk in obedience. Just look to Abraham as an example (Genesis 12:1).

Walking by faith means that you continue to cling to the dreams God has planted in your heart, even when you’ve been thrown away, taken to prison for crimes you didn’t commit. Just look at all Joseph endured (Genesis 37-50).

Walking by faith requires a strong determination to follow God’s plan regardless what life throws your way. Look to Daniel to discover how to have the resolve not to sin (Daniel 1:8).

Walking by faith means you have the courage to stand up for the hurting, broken, and down-trodden, to face death yourself for the good of others. Look at Esther and how she risked the death penalty to save the Jews (Esther).

You just may have to play the part of a fool. Think about Noah building an ark for a flood when it had never even rained on earth. Think about Abraham clinging to the promise that he would be the father of many nations even though he was childless at the age of 100. Think about Moses standing before the Israelites in the wilderness telling them they would eat meat until it disgusted them but having no idea where that meat would come from. Think about Joshua marching around the walls of Jericho as God had told him to and wondering what good it was going to do.

If you choose this path, you must be willing to get out of your comfort zone, to run from the Americanized brand of Christianity that so many of us have known our entire lives. You must be willing to let God take your world and turn it upside down, shake it up, and start all over again. You must be willing to let God out of the neat little box that you have put him in, to let him show up as he sees fit.

Maybe it will be a calling to do something you never dreamed before: foster or adopt children, leave your job and become a missionary, trade in the worldly comforts for heavenly treasures.

Maybe it won’t be that clean and neat and socially acceptable. Maybe, like me, your world will be turned upside down by the pain of adultery and divorce. Or, maybe you will be faced with infertility or addiction. Maybe you will have a prodigal child that completely changes the direction of your life. Or, maybe you’ve experienced the loss of a child—a hurt like no other.

I don’t know what your shake up might look like, but I know that if you will give it to God—throw up your arms in surrender and ask him to use it to change your life—he will honor your request. He will take you on a journey, teach you to walk by faith, entrust you with some of life’s most treasured moments.

He will build a faith in you—faith that moves mountains and moves God’s hands. He will teach you to live this life with abandonment, giving you a freedom to walk in all his fullness and grace. He will prepare you to be used mightily in this life for his glory.

Perhaps you’ve already experienced your life being turned upside down, toppled without any control. Perhaps, like me, you’ve found yourself wandering in the wilderness, watching his fire direct your every step by night, a cloud lead you by day. Perhaps you sense you are on the edge of the Promised Land, just waiting for him to give the command to take possession.

And yet, you are tired and weary. You’ve lost friends who don’t understand how you can continue to cling to a promise that is so obviously dead and gone. You are so close and yet feel so far away. You are struggling with temptations to just settle, even though you know it is less than God’s best. You simply don’t know how much longer you can stand.

You are not alone. I see God raising up a remnant of believers, those he knows will be obedient. He is looking for those with clean hands and a pure heart, those who will choose obedience even if it costs them everything this world has to offer. He is looking for those who will throw caution to the wind, believe that he has an abundant life (John 10:10) waiting if we will follow his ways. He is looking for those whose hearts have been purified, whose faith has been strengthened by the trials of this life (James 1:2). He is looking for those who will cling to his promises even when it seems there is no hope.

Be strong and courageous, my friends!

God has specifically chosen you to be a part of this remnant, those who will allow him to take their lives and mold them into what he wants. He has chosen you to have your faith tested and tried, and he promises that the fire will only purify you—not burn you. He has promised that he will be with you every single step, walking with you, carrying you, supporting you. He promises that he is still in control even when life seems to be spiraling wildly out of control.

He is teaching you to trust him so he can do something bigger and better than you ever dreamed possible (Ephesians 3:20-22). He is teaching you to let go and trust him with your heart, your soul, your life (Proverbs 3:5-6). He is teaching you to walk every single day in the spirit so that he can do even greater works in you and through you (John 14:12). He is preparing you to be a beacon of light and hope to a world which desperately needs to see Jesus.

I don’t know where you are on this journey of walking by faith, but I encourage you—beg you, plead with you—to wave the white flag of surrender. Let God take your life, your pain, your loss and use it for his glory. Ask him to do an amazing work in you so he can do an amazing work through you.

Get out of that boat and step onto the water…and never take your eyes off him. It is a decision you will never regret!

Thank you, Dena Johnson, for these incredible and powerful words.  Thank you for your permission to share this encouragement.  You know I needed it.  May this bless thousands of lives!
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“One thing I like about you is…”

Relationships are important.

A marriage relationship is important and tough (probably tougher than any other relationship ever in the whole world, in my opinion) and totally worth the work.

I’m always looking for simple ways to help relationships be as close and as healthy as they can be.  My husband and I have just started doing a few new things for our marriage and we’re noticing this one could be helpful in possibly any relationship.

Here is one experiment we’ve just started a couple weeks ago (and we’re both loving it!)

Every morning we have decided to say (out loud to each other) something good we have noticed or something good that we like about each other.

“One thing I like about you is _____________.”

We get too busy in life sometimes, ya know?  With work, school, church, kids, housework, bills, finances, volunteering, rough times, health problems, and a billion more things we can forget to nurture important foundations and critical relationships.  It’s not that we mean to; but it’s just that life happens and sometimes we let moments go by that need attention.

(Sweet note: The look on my husband’s face as he speaks is so beautiful and something that’s been hiding for a little while.  It’s really nice to see the thought behind his words as he says something kind about me and to me.  Sometimes he’s just remembering good things from the past and those are good to hear also.  I can’t help but think he may be feeling the same way as he hears me speak good things about him, too.  It’s heart-healing.)

This is proving to be a great idea.

One thing it does is it helps us THINK about the positive things during each day (and night) because we know we need to tell each other something we like about each other every day.

(And the negative stuff seems to constantly already be lurking around and threatens to remind us of things we DON’T like about each other… Not sure about you but we’ve had ENOUGH of that!)

Another important result of this experiment is that we’re BOTH getting to HEAR some positive words in the morning.  (Yes, it must be genuine and yes it can be something from the past or present.  Actually, it could even be something positive we see in the future.  Getting to hear blessings spoken over you is powerful.)

Our kids just told us they’d like to be included in this in the evenings.  Good stuff can be contagious!

We ALL probably hear WAY too much negative stuff about ourselves (even from our own thoughts) and this is damaging to our brains, hearts, self esteem, and probably in a hundred other ways I’m not thinking to mention.

If you have a great marriage, that’s wonderful!  Maybe this can just be icing.  (And maybe you’re already doing this.)  But many of us have a tougher time in marriage and my husband and I know this can help lots of people so we wanted to share this idea.

I believe absolutely EVERY person could benefit from hearing something good every day that someone notices about him or her.

Here’s one from me to you today:  One thing I like about you (yes, you) is that you’re beginning to realize your value; you’re a very worthwhile person and you matter.

An Open Letter to Divorced Parents at Christmas,

Hi. I’m Chloe and I’m 16. Divorce happened in my life when I was one year old.

This is the first Christmas I’m looking forward to. Any other year I couldn’t care less if tomorrow was Christmas and to be honest, I learned to dread all holidays.

Today I will be a voice for the four year old who doesn’t understand why this Christmas Mommy is not at Daddy’s house to open presents.

Little kids may not be able to speak out yet so I will for them.

I dreaded picking whose house I wanted to be at and dreaded the stress of hurting someone’s feelings that comes with it.

I also dreaded being forced to go to either house when I didn’t want to go.

My feelings matter.

Half a day here and half a day there is not fun. (And thankfully my parents did not make me do this.)

I dreaded presents I wouldn’t like but was told gift cards are tacky to ask for. They are not. Gift cards are okay to ask for.

I dreaded time with people who made me feel unwanted.

Divorce changes a family but not many people think of how the kid was affected.

You don’t “have” me or “get” me for Christmas.

I “get” chicken pox.

I “have” a rash.

I “have” to “go.”

I “got” a broken arm.

“I have my son for the holidays.”

What? You don’t “have” him like you have a rash. You’re blessed to spend time with him this Christmas. And if you’re truly blessed to spend Christmas with him, then treat him like it.

And don’t let him feel the divorce was his fault. Don’t be fake, either. You’re the grown up and if you want your kid to be part of your family, too, then act like it and take the first step.

While I understand some kids with divorced parents act like they don’t care because they’re getting extra presents, some place underneath it all they actually do care and they’re hurting.

Most of the time I couldn’t care less about the presents because hurt and sad memories were attached to them. Because every time I see the game that was at the top of my wish list, I remember the tears of missing my mom, and of brokenness that went along with this present.

A lot of us feel hurt that Christmas isn’t “normal” (whatever normal is.) Or kids are sad that their family is broken. Or they feel like a bother because Christmas family vacations aren’t whole. Or they feel left out of family events. Being a kid is hard enough. Please don’t add stress of your divorce to my life.

The divorce was not my fault. And I should get to hear that. Often.

Contrary to what many kids from divorced parents think, I know it wasn’t my fault. But I still feel stuck in the middle – because I AM.

I’m stuck between Mom and Dad and words like “biological” and “step.”  (I’m SO done with the word “step.”)

I’m stuck between two homes.

I’m stuck between feelings of brokenness and extra love.

I already feel torn and broken that you guys aren’t married anymore so please don’t add to that by forcing me or guilting me into coming over. I didn’t ask for the divorce and I’m not the grown up.

I’m the little kid who is learning that happily ever after isn’t always true.

Just talk to me.

Even as little kids we understand a lot more than you think we do. Talk with me WITHOUT trashing the other parent. It is okay for me to love Mom and Dad and I can even love new parents and new siblings. God doesn’t limit or divide our love. He increases it.

I get it. You’re grieving. I need time to grieve, too. Something died and it’s okay if I’m upset. Tell me it’s okay that I’m upset. I lost something too. I lost Christmas the way I wanted it to be.

Just love me today and spend time with me today. Pray over me. Remind me it’s okay to love Mommy AND Daddy and all the rest of this messy family – because it IS okay and I should get to hear that.

I will be okay and you will be okay.

I will love you BOTH and anyone else I choose to love – and you need to be okay with that.

I am blessed to get to spend time at Christmas with two parents, even if at separate houses, who love me and are nice to (and about) each other.

A Note from Chloe’s Mom.

Sometimes there are things that we never would have thought of before divorce that are now real life for us.

Celebrating on “the actual date” doesn’t matter anymore. You celebrate when you can and with the people who can be there.  And that’s okay.

You learn to accept that life looks different now – and that is okay. Even if other people don’t understand everything, that’s still okay.  We know that every situation is different.

You pray over your children and encourage them to enjoy time at the other parent’s house. Sure. Let them know you miss them but more people to love and care about any child in a healthy way is a good thing. It is okay for kids to enjoy Christmas at either house. I KNOW it’s rough. I spent many hours crying because holidays didn’t feel whole anymore. In fact, I spent many hours crying over just missing regular, everyday life moments.

If you’re a single mom or dad, we know it’s tough. We’ve been there. A lot of presents aren’t necessary. Your time just hanging out and listening to your kids matters more. If the other parent can afford more presents, that’s okay. If not, that’s okay, too.

We will be okay and you will be okay.

We wish you a peaceful and stress free Christmas – however that looks at your house.

Love, Kerri and Chloe

 

[Note:  Unfortunately, there are many times a child should not be in the care of someone.  Please do pay attention if something seems unsettling.  Everyone involved in a divorce can probably benefit from counseling if needed.]

 

Hey teenagers and pre-teens, we are proud of you.

Teens, and pre-teens, since I know there are a few of you guys here online, I just wanted to tell you I am SO proud of how you stand up and share your faith!  This is a REALLY tough time to be a kid. I am proud of your modesty and how you stand up and speak out when friends are talking you into and making not great choices. It’s really tough. You have GREAT courage!! I just wanted to be a voice thanking you for standing out instead of trying to fit in. You guys are making a difference.

That being said, PLEASE Please talk to us (parents and grown ups) when you do mess up. We will love you through mistakes. Yes, we may be sad and a little disappointed just as you may be when we mess up as grown ups, but we ARE here for you and we DO get that life is really tough as a teenager in 2014. We do not expect you to be perfect and I apologize to anyone who feels like you are held to a “perfect” standard. We mess up as parents and we know you guys mess up as kids, too. I love you. And I just wanted to tell you that you DO have people to talk to when life gets you down.

Marriage is probably the toughest job ever.

There are a lot of tough jobs in the world but marriage… just wow!  I know we’re not alone when we say this.

Many people share great ideas and it’s always fun to learn new things that work for other couples.

I’m always trying to figure out how to make our marriage better and help others at the same time.  My husband is a praying man and asks God how to be a better husband to me and better daddy to our kids.  And I ask God to show me how to be a better wife and mommy.

Here is something we started about a year ago. It’s helped us sometimes when we argue.  God put this idea on my heart and I shared it with my husband.  We didn’t waste time getting to the store.

We bought a ball (A 12 to 15 inch ball is best. And NO. Not a baseball or bowling ball even though it’s something that some people may think they’d like to do sometimes – Just don’t.) and when we’d argue, we’d pass the ball back and forth.

It is harder to stay angry when we are playing catch.

We both take turns talking (Toss it.  Don’t hold it.  That’s the point.  It’s easier to talk this way sometimes.) and maybe a few times we threw it rougher than we should have but it really helps during fights.

You could try it and see if it helps for your marriage. If someone can learn anything from our mess we’re glad to share.

We really do like each other.  It’s just that sometimes we forget.

 

Note: If you play ball in the store, they may -or may not- appreciate it so very much. You probably don’t need to ask us how we know this.