Already Included #59 – No Condemnation

By Sarah Nyhan

What an adventure. Trinity never ceases to amaze me.

I pictured Peter tonight. It sounds to me like he left his day job to follow Jesus. Jesus who looked like a human man, but Peter undeniably saw something different about this man. Peter probably heard all the gossip, all the naysayers, all the arguments against Jesus. And he tried his best. He dove in head first. He knew there was something Divine about this Jesus. Who leaves their day job to follow someone around without a plan? Surely Peter experienced God.

But then they are sitting in the garden and here is his Hero giving Himself over to the bad guys. To all the people who were fighting against them. Jesus just gives Himself up. I imagine Peter must have been so confused.

Here he left his job, defended Jesus to probably so many, maybe even his loved ones doubted his decision to join this rough group of followers without a plan. Just going here and there without any concrete outcome.

I mean these people come from and are surrounded by and were born into a very concrete religious community. Their entire society revolved around this monumental structure of a religion. Every facet of their lives were defined by the religion.

And Peter has the audacity to break away from the system. Peter has the audacity to throw away everything he’s ever known. Peter has the audacity to stand up to the pillars in his society.

And then his Jesus, this man he was so sure about, just gives Himself over and seems to throw in the towel.

I imagine Peter watching from a distance thinking, “Any time now my Jesus is going to throw these dogs off His back and show them who is boss. Show them who the real God is.” But then he watches them beat Jesus mercilessly.

Maybe as they place the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head, Peter says, “Surely my Jesus will save Himself now. He saved everyone else.”

Maybe even when they placed the cross on Jesus’ back.

Maybe even when they stabbed the nails into Jesus’ body on the cross. Maybe even then Peter still held to His Jesus saving the day.

But then the cry. Then the water from Jesus’ body as the spear was thrust inside.

I imagine the sick feeling in Peter’s stomach as the people took Jesus’ body down from the cross. Maybe the doubts screamed so loudly inside of him. Maybe all the memories of the gossip and the naysayers and the religious arguments came flooding back to him. Maybe the most insidious of all flooded his mind: logic.

Maybe the other followers stood looking at Peter for an explanation. Maybe he had to go home to his family who were already past their last bit of patience with him. And then this.

The darkness of the night settled in. The stone was rolled over the tomb. And Peter’s Jesus looked very much like a human man who was dead. And Peter may have thought he looked to many like a fool following a crazy man.

But the miracles? But all the experiences with Jesus? Peter had been so sure. But now his Jesus lay very much dead. And with Him all that Peter had invested. Everything. His entire life. His reputation. His friendships. He had been so sure. Why did Jesus let him down and leave him? Alone.

The silence the next morning must have been unbearable. The deafening roar of a million questions. Of all his doubts coming true: “What if I was wrong? I probably took it too far like they told me. I probably should have just watched from the sidelines. Now look at me. I have nothing. How can I ever recover from this? And more – my heart. How will my heart and mind ever recover from this? Who on earth will have me now?!”

The looks in the street. Maybe haughty. Maybe filled with disgust.

Maybe it felt like a giant kick to the gut back to square one. Starting all over again except this time even farther down. “Look at me. I’m not a young man. I should have known better. Maybe I just saw what I wanted to see. Maybe I made it all up. Maybe I should have listened to them and just settled down and into place.”

Where was his Jesus to protect him now from all the people with power? Where was his Jesus to provide for him?

Where did you go, Jesus?! Why did you let them do what they did? How will anyone believe in You now?

Peter didn’t know his Father. We don’t know our Father.

No condemnation. But maybe you can relate. I can relate.

No sin was committed. This has happened so that people may believe. And be free.

Trinity has the last Word! Not death. Not “logic”. Not earthly powers. Not even our doubts and especially our failures.

The grave could not hold Him!! All was not in vain! For Peter or for us.

But I imagine those three days of silence must have felt like the end of almost everything. And maybe it was the end of one of the most important things: all of Peter’s well-meaning strength. All of our well-meaning strength.

I want to believe enough, but I can’t. I want to trust enough, but I can’t. Even the strength of our faith is not needed.

I cried out in anger and frustration, “God, if You are really God then….” God showed up. God saw me. God heard me. Alive for another day. Not just in body. But I mean really alive. Another monument. Another deposit into my trust account.

I cannot manipulate God with my belief. It is not needed. Again, the Father’s heart, Trinity’s heart. Or otherwise it will never work out. If anything is dependent on me.

“Peter, lead my sheep.”

“But I failed You, Lord.”

“I never needed your strength, Peter. Go tell them how much I loved and love you. Even when you thought you had failed and screwed everything up. Tell them how much I love them. Tell them that their strength is not needed.”

Help us see, Father. Help us hear. Thank You that You already and always are!

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Already Included #58 – First Frogs

By Sarah Nyhan

I was thirteen years young when I started high school. My best friend had an older boyfriend. She told me to go talk to his friend. I walked over to this older guy that I had never seen before. He told me, “You’re going to break up with your boyfriend and I’m going to be your boyfriend now.” And I didn’t fight back. I hate that.

I hate that I was taught to value myself so little. Now looking back, I blame a whole community completely soaked and saturated in separation mythology. If you’re told your whole life that your Creator is angry with you, that you are nothing, that you deserve nothing good, etc etc etc then it’s no surprise that you’ll settle for the first frog that comes along asking for a kiss. Or the first church that will have you. Or the first job that will have you. Etc, etc, etc.

It makes me sick now. Sick with anger. Sick with grief. To think about how much we are lied to and how we pass that mess along to each other. Crabs in the bucket. Dare someone to break out and the whole lot will come trying to pull them back down. Because don’t you dare challenge this sickness and sadness they’ve married themselves to. Don’t you dare challenge anyone’s fears.

What if I’m wrong? What if Trinity really isn’t concerned about my feelings? What if Trinity leaves me hanging? Leaves me making big dreams and big talk? I’d rather try and fail then rot away with regrets. I didn’t fight this long or this hard just to settle out of fear. No sir, no ma’am.

What on earth are we fighting for anyway? Why are we even doing all this studying and seeking? At the top of my list: real life and real love. A real God.

There is a song by Clint Black entitled, “Love She Can’t Live Without” that pretty much sums up my thinking. The chorus has the lyrics: “She can live with what goes with leaving, she knows it’s the only way, though it kills her to give up believin’, she can’t live with herself if she stays, she could settle for what she’d be feeling, if she gave in and worked this one out, she doesn’t want the kind of love she can live with, she wants the kind of love she can’t live without.”

There’s another song by Martin Garrix and Dua Lipa. The chorus has the lyrics, “Is the only reason you’re holding me tonight is that we’re scared to be lonely?” In my experience, that is hell. Trying to fit yourself into someone else’s life, someone else’s world. Just to be accepted. Just to belong. The new toy for whoever. For the lover, the “friend”, the employer, the religious community. As long as you play the part then they’ll keep you around. Swimming in shallow waters.

I want more. I want real connection. I want real life. Real love. I want a real God. I want a Creator of this magnificent universe that cares about me. That didn’t spin me out on my own. I want the love story Trinity writes for me. I want all the life Trinity wants me to explore in this human experience.

We were Created just to tread water? I can’t buy that. It’d be easier if I could. But I feel like I’m completely cheating myself when I try. Totally letting myself down.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a beauty in simplicity. There is rest in God. I’m not talking about ambition for the sake of. I’m talking about not betraying my heart. I’m talking about being authentic. Being honest with each other. Valuing ourselves and each other.

One thing I did right in my life. There was a male and his family. After many decades, even recently, he told me I hurt him by not marrying him. Years and years go by. What you were so sure of gets less clear. You wonder if maybe you ask for too much. But I know I would have been miserable as his wife. No matter how much I love him. We just operate out of completely different values. It would have been oil and water. The lies creep up all around saying I should have just been happy someone wanted me around. But that’s not the point. I at least loved him and myself not to ruin our friendship. Not to force something out of fear. And that’s a love I hope he’ll understand someday. A love I wish a lot of people understood.

Maybe love made that decision easier. I loved him more than I love myself. However, these past few years have been an intensive course in learning to say no. Learning to walk away. Learning to fight back. And unfortunately learning to stand alone. Learning to trust myself. Learning to honor myself. Learning to value myself. Because Jesus didn’t come to die for nothing. Trinity didn’t Create this amazing planet for nothing. For trash. No way. That’s not my God. That’s not my Jesus.

I want this inheritance of fear to stop here. With me. With us. Not because of our strengths. But because we are safe in Trinity’s heart. Jesus proved it. I need God to help us see, help us hear. Help us be free!

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Already Included #55 – Living!

By Sarah Nyhan

2020 has once again reinforced for me that there is a big difference between living and being alive. I always joke that I will roll out of this life and into the next one looking like one of the last cars in a demolition derby versus a vintage garage-kept low-mile showpiece.

I just don’t want to leave with regrets. I don’t want to leave wondering what if. I don’t want to leave money on the table or gas in the tank, so to speak. Even with all the bumps and bruises, overall this is a beautiful human experience that I want to make the most of. I have peace that any pressure is off. But I still want all that is mine for the taking.

I don’t want to spend the rest of my time on this side sitting and staring at screens. I feel so protective of my energy and time now in that regard. I want real life and real conversation. I want real connection.

We’ve let so many fears paralyze us. I wonder how life would look for us if we went back to living life with each other. So much has changed already in the past few months. I wonder how much more could change.

In reality these devices can have very helpful uses. So I am trying to find that happy and healthy medium.

I hope we can collectively see things for what and how they really are. Not in terms of being dogmatic. Just in terms of primarily reacquainting ourselves with who and Whose we really are. Versus letting our fears have the last word.

As knowledge of our identity increases, I hope fear will decrease in at least the same measure. I find I have to exercise that muscle at least once a day; bring all the various pressures and let Trinity speak truth into and for my life.

More and more I understand the directive to guard our minds. Not in the sense of fearing punishment. But in the sense of guarding the precious life growing inside us that the world is unrelenting in attempting to strip away, even if only in ignorance. I dream of us all getting to a place in my lifetime where statements like that are the exception rather than the rule. With God all things are possible.

If we could just lay down our fears and feel safe that our breath, resources, and anything else we need is provided through God versus having to muscle and guard it from one another.

If we could just get to a place where we felt safe enough not to hold people hostage.; emotionally, spiritually, and mentally to start. If we could just trust ourselves and each other to God.

If we could just get to a place where we embrace and were open to people with different perspectives so we could love, honor, and learn from each other. If we could base our value on Whose we are and let all other compulsions to please others for approval fall to the side.

How free would we be? What could we do with all of that energy and time? Surely we were made for more than this stalemate we seem to sometimes get stuck in.

And yet all will be ok. Either way. If not here than on the other side.

But I wonder how much heaven we could bring back to earth if we felt safe in our Creator’s heart? Really safe. Perfect love drives out fear. What would we do and who would we be here and now if we stopped worshipping fear and instead spent that time in contemplation of God’s heart and our place in it? In seeking direction and wisdom?

I don’t mean to blame any victim for anything they have endured. I’m just saying what if the prison doors are already open and it’s just a matter of us feeling safe enough to walk out? Not depending on ourselves. But running to The Father’s embrace. Taking our seat at the table.

There is no condemnation. There is no pressure. This is about you. Who you want to be and why. Who you are free to be. What makes you uniquely you. And to that I pray and say, “Amen and oh sleeper, wake up.”

Am I living the life I want to live or am I simply alive?

I celebrate even the person who sits in front of the screen as a survival tactic. So don’t let condemnation or any external pressure determine your path. I now truly believe that receiving God’s love is the main objective during this time.

But I’m just wishing, hoping, and praying that we will discard fear and have fun exploring whether our hearts yearn for more.

What if we saw ourselves as sons and daughters of the most generous King and Queen? What if They made us feel completely safe? What if They provided us full access to everything They had? What if They were excited and encouraged us to follow our hearts and explore all that we could be without any fear of rejection or punishment?

Who would we be? And do we dare explore that freely today?

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Already Included #54 – In the Waiting

By Sarah Nyhan

There is a difference in how I approached patience before versus now.

Before I hoped for a specific outcome. I thought that if I believed enough and didn’t give up then that outcome would manifest.

Now I am learning to approach patience a lot differently. I still desire certain outcomes – after all, I am 100% human. However, now I am learning to detach myself more and more from specific outcomes. I am learning to trust God’s heart more.

My mind has been opened to realize that God works within our logic to bring us to whatever healing is next. I always think back to the story of the rich young ruler in that regard. The rich young ruler couldn’t see the open door. The rich young ruler was hung up on his own perspective. Jesus never expected the rich young ruler to be perfect. That directive was funny enough a form of playing devil’s advocate per se. It was climbing inside the logic of the rich young ruler. Working with what was. Basically getting to the point the hard way, at the insistance of the rich young ruler versus the insistance of God. After all They long to embrace us as a mother embraces her young, but we are often not willing.

The tax collector, the blind men, the woman with the issue of blood, and many others – they were ready for the easy way. Some of us take a bit longer. That may be why it is more difficult for the rich, talented, intelligent , etc people to see themselves running to the safety of the Trinity. If I’ve mostly been able to hopscotch around and over vulnerability my whole life then it may be a long stretch to see weakness as welcome versus a burden, shameful, dangerous, etc. I pray to God that I will not need some even more horrible tragedy to put me in a place where I am completely dependent and then can finally see beyond my own strength.

The old me kinda resents the process sometimes, honestly. But I try to remember the Israelites. Their minds had been so warped that they could only see the crumbs of what they resorted to seeing as comfort in their Egyptian slavery versus understanding that our eyes and ears haven’t ever even imagined what good things God is more than ready to give us in exchange for our dysfunctions.

Sometimes people hold on so tightly to what is hurting them. The idea of really trusting has been proven to be that dangerous to them in the past. But God is always and ever patient. Trinity doesn’t operate out of ego. They can use anything and everything we give Them and turn it for good. Our crucifixion of Jesus being the prime example.

And so I am learning to let go. To open my eyes. To be honest at least with God. To trust in Their heart versus my strength. To ask where we are going next versus demanding my way. When I ask, wisdom and comfort beyond myself floods my heart and real peace dissipates my fears. In this moment. And then again the next time I need God to be bigger than any boxes I can imagine. I am continually amazed. And that builds real trust. Versus saying I believe in hopes it will guarantee or rush along some desired outcome.

I may have told the story before, but it bears repeating again as I think about it almost daily. Such a seemingly benign moment that really changed my life. I was sitting in the lobby of the Business building on campus. There was an incredibly long hallway in front of me. I watched as this father walked behind his toddler. The toddler was just learning to walk and his little engines were on go. The toddler was not steady on his feet but you could see he was loving his newfound power. I felt Holy Spirit nudge me with, “Pay attention.”

As the toddler fumbled down the hallway, probably having no real understanding of where he was or where he was going, the father stood behind him smiling a big smile. Super proud of his child. Enjoying watching his son exercise his given strengths. He stood just behind, letting the toddler find his legs but also ready in an instant to catch the child if he stumbled.

Then the toddler turned to go down a hallway for faculty. The father jumped in front of the son. He didn’t touch the son. He wasn’t angry at all. He just stood in the way so the toddler couldn’t go down the faculty hallway.

The toddler had no frame of reference to understand why the father didn’t want him to go down the faculty hallway. And the toddler wouldn’t have understood at that time even if the reason was given to him. He might have been young enough to just barely be understanding and acquiring language.

But nonetheless, the child was unhappy that the father was blocking him and tried a few times to scoot around the father in order to continue down the faculty hallway. The father never was upset. The father never touched the child and never said anything. He only moved his body in order to block the toddler if he tried to go around him.

The child finally surrendered and turned around and went another direction. The father followed him and stood behind him, ready to catch him as he continued on his new way. The father continued to smile and his pride in his boy was still apparent.

God used that to show me how Trinity sees us. That sometimes the rejections and obstacles we experience are forms of protection. Sometimes we don’t have the ability yet to understand why our seemingly harmless desires have not been fulfilled or our ways are being frustrated.

I’m not saying there is never a time to fight for what we want. What I am saying is the attitude I have found most helpful is to slow down, look to my Creator, and ask for understanding and direction beyond my strength. And in doing so, I find God honors my desires so much. I find Trinity wants more for me than I am willing to settle for. And as I experience God, my patience organically grows.

But what to do in the meantime, in the waiting? I feel repeatedly encouraged to do the work I want to do. That God works within my desires, that following my heart in trust versus orchestrating my own salvation out of fear will be what often may lead me to experience the most healing and joy.

In other words, what is the right now? What work do I want to do right now? If I really trusted God’s heart for me, what would I do right now? If I really believed that the Creater of the entire universe loves me so much that even if I was the only child, Jesus would still have gone to the greatest lengths to prove that my strength is not needed, what would I spend my right now doing?

And there is where color comes back to my life. There is where I find my emotional, spiritual, mental, and sometimes even physical “legs” again.

I share in hopes that if your ways are frustrated, or as you are waiting, I encourage you to seek understanding and direction from Trinity versus repeatedly requesting and persuing a specific outcome. Picture The Father smiling, proud of you, excited to see where you want to go and what you want to do. Would that Father not want the best for us? Ask to see. Ask to hear. Ask for comfort. This is about relationship. You are a child that is so welcome. Let’s not only know that, but live it also.

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Already Included #52 – Superheros

By Sarah Nyhan

I can remember being elementary-school-aged and experiencing a specific event where I thought to myself something like, “It’s going to be up to me to take care of myself.”

Fast-forward a few years later when I was in high school and I created a female superhero cartoon character. She was who I aspired to be. I even created and wore a t-shirt with her logo.

Fast-forward to probably shortly after my 18th birthday and I had the logo I created for my female superhero cartoon character tattooed on me. The only tattoo I’ve ever had.

I would save myself.

I believed Jesus for eternal salvation, but probably not much more. Afterall, I incorrectly thought God’s primary emotion was anger. I had pasted the face of other adults onto God. I had projected my thoughts onto God.

I look back in hindsight and see how so many of my decisions were motivated by this drive to save myself. To do my “part”. To figure it all out.

And I hear the words ring back to me, “How’s that been working for ya?”

I look back and see how the best things in my life came as surprises. God-sent surprises. Nothing I orchestrated. Nothing I planned.

And yet it’s been such a long time coming to that realization. Decades. I’m happy for the process even when it has been painful. Maybe I would have taken the truth for granted otherwise. Maybe I wouldn’t really have understood the sweetness of being loved by God had things always been smooth sailing.

Now I am learning to let go. I am putting down my torn and tattered superhero cape. I am living loved. I am relishing the reality that I am a very loved child. That I don’t have to come to my own rescue. That’s it’s ok and to be expected that I do not and will not be able to know or figure everything out.

My motivations for my actions are thankfully changing from fear to following my heart. I can barely type those words after being oppressed in religious errors for so many decades. It feels almost wrong to say. But I experience God for myself these days. So I know it to be true.

Regardless of where you stand on the issues, 2020 has exposed the fact that many of us may have been unconsciously in the habit of defaulting to fear-based decisions. Which situations have we stayed in due to fear? Which actions have we taken out of fear?

You’d think my own track record would be enough motivation, but lately I have become aware that I have my first name to thank for the continuous reminder of how well the fear-based decisions worked for the Biblical Abraham and Sarah. Among many other recorded testimonies.

To be sure, there is never any condemnation. And Trinity never does abandonment. Holy Spirit is only ever and always in the healing business. They always go to rescue the little lambs no matter how far they wander.

But I am really tired of circling this desert of self-sufficiency and fear. How about you? I want to get on with Life. I want to experience all there is to experience. I want to stop giving any power to lies.

My prayer for 2021 and beyond is that we will all more deeply experience and know the perfect love of Trinity. So that we will be free. So that we and our world and our relationships will be healed. I think it is ours for the taking once we realize who and Whose we are and always have been.

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Already Included #50 – Divided

By Sarah Nyhan

I’m tired of giving power to fear. I’m tired of not including Trinity.

Maybe we were Created to receive Love. Maybe it’s that simple.

Maybe there is much more available to us than we realize, than we experience, because we are pathologically obsessed with our weaknesses versus resting in the absolute strength of who and Whose we really are.

What if we felt so secure in our origin and true identity that we stepped out of the boat and onto the water? What if we actually didn’t sink? What if we focused on what Jesus thinks of us versus making gods of the opinions of others and even ourselves?

What if we are the only ones that are ever coming to save us and all of Creation is groaning for us to WAKE UP!? All of Creation waits expectantly like a parent of a toddler; saying, “You can do it! You can do it! Almost there, c’mon, don’t be scared. You got this! Trinity is right here.”

What if all of heaven and Creation combined are pregnant with the expectation of being able to celebrate as we step fully into our divinity? As sons and daughters of The Divine. Kids who know their King, their Abba, and the truth of Who they belong to?

What if healing is ours for the taking? Jesus asked, “Do you want to be healed?”

What if there is no battle outside? What if the war is already won and we just need to realize it in our hearts and minds?

What if this is nothing more than a mirror (exposure therapy)? Reflecting the result of focusing on our fears versus who we always could have been and still can be?

What if we were totally secure, loved, and cared for? Would we make different decisions? Would we choose to give our power away?

We are divided in our minds, in our hearts. The outside echoes the inside. We are too long scared little children intimidated by other scared little children.

Who is your Father? Who is your Mother? Who showed us that there is nothing to be afraid of?

Is this really all there is? Is this really all we can ever be? I wager we aren’t even close. I wager we have only just begun, only just started.

The fight is only on the inside. Who will stand up? Who will run to Papa? Who will risk taking Trinity at Their Word?

Did God die or will we come aLIVE?

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Already Included #48 – Pivot

By Sarah Nyhan

Is my relationship with God? Or is my trust in the incorporated church? Is it me who has God? Or is it God who has me?

If anything depends on me then I have no hope. I need God to make up the difference. Trinity reached out to me as I raised my fist and turned my back in angry sadness and frustration. Will They not meet me now? Will They not meet me whenever and wherever I am?

Is God so impotent that He cannot open any door? Will we not trust Him in this time?

Is Jesus only present in a typical physical church building? Or could we be where He already resides? Christ in us. Revealing what already is; what we have been blind to despite countless hours of staring at the invitation. Jesus said it is finished.

Why might He have us in this space at this time? What good, what healing could be at work right now? I have spent an inordinate amount of time pleading for things to go back to what feels most familiar to me. What if God wants to take me somewhere new?

He is not a God of 2,000 years ago. He is a God for today. For this moment.

How many times did God reach out to individuals through means other than reading a book? How many times did God speak to people outside of the traditional temple? Is God not able to speak to you right now? Is this a relationship as we say it is? Or just a religious performance? What spells do I have to cast today in order to speak to my Father? Does He really require such blasphemous incantations? What hurdles do you require your children to jump through before they can speak with you? Even in our brokenness we do not do the things to our children that we accuse God of doing to His children.

Could God be all that our hearts dream love to be? And more? He does not only have patience; He defines patience. He does not only have love; He is love defined. Will He not give us all that we need?

Maybe we are not asking the right questions. Maybe our ideas of God are too small. Maybe we need to pivot. Maybe we need to start by asking God what questions we should be asking. Will He refuse us? Is He and His wisdom not given freely to all who ask?

I need to leave room for new beginnings. I need to make more space for uncertainty and God to show off in ways that I am not capable of imagining. I need to be held. I need to receive and rest.

We are welcome.

Maybe the whole world is being given a big collective breath.

The Message Bible translates Isaiah 30:15-17 as:
“God, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: ‘Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me— The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.”

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Already Included #46 – Will I Limit God?

By Sarah Nyhan

How do I navigate this new world? By my knowledge? By my intelligence? By my experience? By my resources? By what other strength?

How well have those things works for me in the past?

How many years will I keep trying to march back across this desert towards what seemed like self-sufficiency? How long will I return to the vomit of the deceiving security I knew in the hard work of Egypt?

Sure, it was rough and there were bad times, but I seemed to have friends and family there. I seemed to have community.

Do we sit in church on Sunday and sing songs to a God whose last thought for us was only when people say He bailed us out of an eternal BBQ pit 2,000 years ago?

Is this Father so impotent that His chief concern is advancing some global agenda at the expense of our hearts? In spite of our concerns?

Will I worship fear? Will I give fear more power than God?

It’s hard to imagine what I have never experienced.

Do dreams come true only for the youth?

Are all our fine words, all our praise simply empty hope?

Does our God still move? Does He still care? Is Holy Spirit not always in the process of healing our hearts? Not for God’s ego, but so that we will not miss out on all that we have been Created to enjoy and experience during this human experience.

Will I limit God? Will I define the boundaries of His power? Will I insist on taking control?

And even if I scramble to keep myself afloat in my own ways, will He ever give up on me? Is this a Father who leaves me to myself? Who waits for me to find my way back to Him?

Is this a Father who only provides the bare minimum out of a sense of duty?

Is this a Father who is only reactive? Who is off solving other people’s problems until I am good enough? Until I have stolen a moment of His attention?

Will this God pick us up off the floor or are we abandoned, neglected children expected to bear and navigate the unknown all on our own?

Can Holy Spirit not give us insight and wisdom beyond our awareness?

What if it is simply a matter of turning off the noise and having a conversation?

What if we are not a bother to God?

What if we always have God’s attention?

What if we are a joy even in our mess?

What if we are already safe and already included?

What if we are mostly ignorant to all that is already ours to enjoy?

I am a child who is wanted.

I am a child who is very loved.

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Already Included #26 – Signs

(This content is also available at https://youtu.be/_2Wl-lBFEYM)

By: Sarah Nyhan

As much as I’m ashamed to talk about this subject, I write for the little Sarah that I used to be – in case there is another like me out there that Holy Spirit somehow steers towards this page. So they’ll feel validated and less ashamed. So they’ll feel hope.

Today I had a breakthrough. A major victory. But there is quite a back story. Let me see if I can condense it enough to get you caught up fairly quickly.

I could unfortauntely write a book about the subject of “signs”. Maybe I will. But today I’ll just say that when I think back, I’m unsure of how long it’s been since I made decisions based on “signs”. I wonder when and how it started.

I know for sure it originated from being among religious people. I don’t think there was ever a sermon or study on “signs”, but more is caught than taught. I am now becoming aware that the language that people around you are using can subconsciously seep into your thinking and change you without your realizing it is happening.

For example, in the church that I started walking away from a few years ago, you could be telling someone that you were going to make a decision to pursue a certain thing and you might hear responses like: “Oh, is that what God told you to do?” Or, “Oh, so you received confirmation that that is God’s will for you?”

Another example would be when someone would be talking about a decision they made and they’d say something like, “I feel God is ‘calling’ me this way.” Or, “I’ve been led to do [such and such].”

The language is so subtle. And in that sense, insidious. No one actually ever tells you directly to start looking for “signs”. But their words imply that somehow they are hearing from God. So naturally just being around that language invites your mind to entertain those concepts.

My theory now is that unfortunately I think when you are looking for something, you will tend to only focus on seeing what you are looking for and ignore other evidence. I don’t think this is conscious. I think it’s just a fact of science and how our brains tend to operate.

The classic example is when you are looking to buy a new car. You have a car in mind and then every car you see on the road tends to be that car. Suddenly it’s like everyone owns that car.

Another example can be on the more negative side. Say you just broke up from a long-term relationship and your heart is broken. Suddenly it seems like every song on the radio is a love song sent to torture you, every person you see is flaunting the fact that they are in a happy thriving relationship, every movie is a love story, every advertisement you see is about love, etc. You get the point.

Again, this is only my opinion – but when you are in a group of religious people that tend to read the Bible in a literal way as God’s main Word to us, versus reading it more literarily and viewing Jesus as God’s Word to us, then I think we can basically end up using the Bible like a Ouija board or tarot cards.

Let me be clear: I have been one of the worst offenders I know in this area. Unfortunately bordering on… well, let’s just say my passion for God mixed with this horrible “signs” mentality led me to have a huge list of things I regret doing and are difficult to admit to even those that know and love me. Much less, publicly. I have dug myself into so many holes and have the battle scars to prove it. But I can assure you the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

This is why it is so important to guard our minds. This is why I think since I heard this “already included” message that I believe God has allowed me to be somewhat socially isolated not as punishment but rather for protection. Spiritually I have been reborn in my mind and just like you protect human infants, my newfound freedom is being protected until it has a chance to grow and get rooted in deep enough. I didn’t realize or appreciate this until recently.

This is what I think is also meant when Jesus talks about putting new wine into old wineskins. I am not able to take this “already included” message back into my old ways of being. I absolutely cannot. The box I used to live in has been blown to smithereens. I can only move forward. Sheltered by our actual God versus trying to setup a religious house of cards.

And as much as I am not used to actually totally trusting the God I always talked about, I am so thankful He is allowing the fig leaves I’ve been hiding behind to wither away. In the dying of all I thought I knew, I am finding real life. I am coming alive.

And so it goes for signs. The genius of God is that I see Him working in my logic. Blowing it up from the inside. Letting me hold onto it as long as I insist. Until I let go of my understanding and lean on His heart, His matchless unending love. Until I stop trusting in my knowing, believing, doing, etc and instead trust solely in the Father I’ve always wanted. That we’ve all always wanted. Even in the best of circumstances.

When I think back, I see there has always been an easy way and a hard way. The easy way was to take love at face value. The hard way was to do it all on my own.

The easy way was to trust God’s heart and let go of “signs”. The hard way was to not know God’s heart, to drown myself in Bible knowledge and miss the big picture. The hard way was to depend on myself and always need to know because I needed to control.

This is primarily what “signs” are about: a lack of trust and a need to know in order to control. Maybe for those who have been in a better place of knowing God versus just knowing a lot of facts about Him – maybe they have never fallen in or as far into this “signs” mentality as some of us.

And on the flip side, maybe a blessing of leaning more towards the agnostic or the atheist side is having a more grounded common-sense approach towards decision-making versus the magical thinking train of thought that I fell into as I pursued “signs”. Maybe it is easier to have that foundation and then at some point be able to see the true God and filter out all the circus of witchcraft that many Christian churches tolerate – knowingly or otherwise.

I am taking a hard line. I can because I know from first-hand experience how absolutely evil and destructive these things can be. And this is not ok. Not in any way. To turn any away from the unconditional everlasting depths or God’s very personal love for each one is the epitome of heresy and blasphemy. Is wickedness. Is the Pharisees all over again. In different clothes and different houses of worship. Jesus died for that!!! Anything else is more the work of the “anti-Christ” than what I’ve been accused of.

And that is the real interesting kicker to all of this. Never, in my entire life, have I taken more responsibility for my decisions and actions than after this “already included” message seeped into my heart, mind, and spirit. And yet the first objection I usually hear from those that oppose that everyone is eternally safe in Christ is that they think people will run totally wild if they feel like they are eternally safe with God.

I agree that there might be some testing of the waters so to speak. Some pushing of limits. Looking into the sky, waiting for lighting to strike. Waiting to fall out dead on the ground. Things you thought were off-limits before. Maybe you’ll take a taste. We see this with kids in real life quite frequently when they get their first freedom from their parents.

But from personal experience, I’d wager you might not encounter the same “grace” and “protection” you experienced in the times of your delusion. You are a big kid now. You are growing up. God prunes us. His passionate wrath FOR us knows when we are strong enough for the next step. He doesn’t quench the smoking flax or break the wounded reed. But when we are strong enough, He takes off the training wheels.

Quite a shock to me! Kinda like I was a little girl taken in by a great King and at first He provided lavishly. I didn’t to do anything. He knew I needed healing and recovering. Anything I needed, He provided. But a long time went by and He prepared me to be a full person. To be able to go our and do whatever I wanted. I was excited at first. But then the responsibilities of this freedom hit me and I was used to not having to think for myself. I was used to always having Dad bail me out. He still loved and loves me as much as ever, but he knows it’s sometimes good to tell me ‘no’ now. To help me understand the power I have by letting me experience the natural results of my choices. Never to harm me. I see this now, but not at first. Always a beloved child, but not a baby, not an infant anymore. I am designed for so much more. I need to learn and develop in order to continue to explore and enjoy the full richness of this human experience.

And here we return to the talk of “signs” and my major victory.

In 2014 I told “signs” ‘no’ for the first time in a long time. Out of desperation. Not trust. GOD showed off for me in a huge powerful way. I’ve written about it before in a piece I entitled “Iniquity“.

A short time after that, God helped me when again I said ‘no’ to “signs” out of desperation and chose a career in real estate versus teaching. That struggle had me feeling suicidal. When I say this is serious business, I know what I’ talking about.

But I still didn’t get it. Hindsight is 20/20. I look back now and see over and over and over the past five years how God has always been telling me, “I love you completely and you are totally free, but if you don’t see it then we will spend as much time as you need to in order to get through this.” My forty years, literally, wandering in the desert I insisted on. “No, I’m not ready for the Promise Land.” That was never the point. God is always big enough for us. Not that we always get what we want, but that our strength isn’t what we lean on.

I learned to trust these past two years. I felt like I failed and fell on my face more than any time in my life. And no condemnation. None. Only my choice for how long I wanted to keep banging my head against the same walls.

This is where a book would do better. I could give you chapters of examples. But let’s fast forward to two from the past month.

When I say God works within our logic, this is what I mean. I think He frustrates my thinking on purpose sometimes. So I’ll let go of bad thinking, specifically this “signs” mess. About a month ago I was wondering if I should move to Corpus Christi. As I had this thought, I crossed a street named “Corpus Christi”. Why, God?! That is way too random to be a coincidence. BUT that does NOT mean it is a “sign”. And this is where I failed before. The old Sarah would have said, “Ok, God is saying I should move to Corpus.” NO! The new Sarah sees the literal street SIGN as a challenge from God: “You get to decide, Sarah. What do YOU WANT? Would a move to Corpus get you where you are trying to go in life? Is it even feasible realistically?” Etc etc etc. I didn’t have enough “faith” to believe the literal sign was a “sign”. I actually had enough TRUST in God to turn down the “sign” and decide that a move to Corpus is not what I WANTED right now for many reasons. And it was like almost immediately after that a great job opportunity in my current city came up and I ended up being offered the position.

And yet again, that decision in regards to Corpus was more desperation even with more assurance and calm than ever before. But today!

I bought my current vehicle based on “signs” even though God allowed me to hear the salesman tell me to my face, “Sometimes I feel like the devil when I am selling cars.” I kid you not. How more obvious can you get?! Yeah there were signs all right, but my brain only saw what it was looking to see. Even as probably Holy Spirit was bringing to attention how badly my gut was feeling about the deal. But this was before I knew I was “already included”. And that vehicle ended up being a pile of junk! A continuous blaring reminder to not make decisions based on “signs”. But it takes longer for some of us.

And even though I’ve been on my Dave Ramsey hustle after finally starting to dig myself out of the giant holes my “signs” dug for me (with my help and participation), I was considering buying a new car just so I wouldn’t have to worry as much about my car’s problems.

So I went to a mechanic. He tells me he doesn’t think fixing my car is worth it. He recommends buying a Hyundai instead. Is that a “sign”?

The very next day or so I get a letter in the mail saying I am approved to buy a Hyundai at a local dealership. Is that a “sign”?!

Then a man from a Hyundai dealership calls me this morning. AND I notice this morning that a guy who spent the night at the same place I am staying is driving the same Hyundai model that I was thinking of buying. This must be a “sign”, right?!

Well, the old Sarah certainly would have thought so. The new Sarah was certainly tempted to think so. But, with the sting of following so many failed “signs” still fresh in memory, coupled with God’s unrelenting pursuit of my total freedom in His unending love for me, my mind finally had space and room to slow down this morning.

I did not ignore the signs out of desperation. This might sound like ABC 123 common sense, but for me and those who have been where I have been, this is revolutionary! Courageous, audacious, and full of bravery. To be fully present and think, “Yeah, it would be nice on many levels to have a new car. But do I really need one? No, this car I have will last a little longer and it is not my identity. I have as much value driving a beat up car as I do driving a new car. This car is a tool and it does the main job I need it to do. My priority of paying off my debts is more important to ME than buying a new car and more than doubling the debt I am trying to get out of. This isn’t about what God wants or what is “bad”. Either choice is ok to make, but I will most likely incur the natural results of whatever choice I choose. I know better now. Buying a new car does not meet my financial goals right now. So I will wait. And I have enough trust in God that if He wants me to have a new car then He will make it clear to me by providing the money. I know He can. I know it doesn’t depend on me proving anything through taking ‘crazy’ leaps of ‘faith'”.

And all of heaven rejoiced! Finally, Sarah is starting to get it. Actually They saw progress in this area in me YEARS before I ever had a clue. Many of my most “rebellious” acts have been gut responses to lies about God that I was being pressured by others to accept.

Love give you wings. Love gives you some fight in your heart. Love LIFTS YOU UP!! Real love doesn’t kick you down or when you are down. Real love isn’t scary.

First we see people teach us this. Then we experience God for ourselves. Don’t let them talk you out of what Holy Spirit has done and is doing. Tricky to balance this without falling back into the other extreme. Just trust God’s heart for you; Jesus is Their real SIGN that this is absolutely true! With an exclamation point! You can truly embrace the process. This is not a test. This is learning who and Whose you ALREADY are. More like learning to hear see what already is versus jumping back on the performance hamster/torture wheel. Relax.

This is my new manifesto: I am ready for easy love! I have done enough time. I have tried to restring myself up on the tree; I sang “Hard Love” loud and proud with the rest of them. “You can depend on me, Lord. All the others might turn away, but I’ll never give up.” No more. I am done. And it is finished. I am ready for easy love.

Lord, I believe. Thank you for continuing to help my unbelief. You are not satisfied for even one wounded lamb to think they are lost and outside of your safe embrace. I love You and You love me. You love every one of us. You love us like we never knew love before. Thank You for continuing to show us; to help us see and hear and enjoy! You do not give us the spirit of fear; but rather of power and love and a SOUND MIND!

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Already Included #25 – Thunder

(This content is also available at https://youtu.be/0iObCOOsClc

By: Sarah Nyhan

I used to be terrified. Of everything. Including thunder.

You grow up hearing stories about The Flood and Jonah. And as a kid there is a tendency to make a literal connection to weather and God’s “wrath”. I.e. if there is bad weather then God must be mad at me. So if there were huge thunderstorms that were shaking the windows on the house, then sometimes I would literally jump out of bed and lay prostrate face on the floor and start praying for mercy.

Perfect love casts out fear. This morning we had a storm that was so loud that it woke me up out of a dead sleep. And I just laid there and enjoyed it! I thought, “God, you like to pour out your blessings just like this rain is being poured out so much that it feels like the house might be swept away.”

And in the Spirit of Paul Young, “Yes, Lord; please wash away this shack on the inside that others have helped me build.” He is. I am loved. I am beloved.

And I give up. I let go of holding onto even this life, onto all my dreams: of a career, a house, a loving marriage, a big warm close family of friends and otherwise, better health, etc. I let it all go. Even the dreams that are so dear that I dare not speak them here.

Because I am safe. It’s God’s great love to deliver me. Maybe mostly from my messed up thinking before anything else. So I won’t go hitting the floor every time He wants to soothe my broken heart with a beautiful thunderstorm that reminds me His love is bigger than anything this life can bring.

Just like the ocean. I prayed those lyrics also: [lead] me out upon the waters. My soul will rest in Your embrace. Letting go of all anxiety. I will continue to do my best, but without the pressure of the gun of the unnecessary self-imposed stress of proving myself to God or anyone else.

I have not arrived; I will continue to grow and get better. Love does that because love is safe. Love lets you land. I have my forever home and family in Your heart, Lord. And You need me to know this first and above all. Not in my mind, but throughout every bit of my being.

Bless me with Your best because I am Your child and it is Your good pleasure. You love the hell out of me.

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