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Dear Friend,


I’ve learned a little bit about friendship over the years. Many lessons were learned on that grade school playground, but the one I want to share today I learned a number of years ago as an adult. It all began with a coyote.


My family and I were traveling to visit relatives when we saw a coyote on the plains in the distance. My husband mentioned how people hunt them down by using a wounded prey call. I don’t know how God gets your attention, but at that moment He got mine. The best way I can describe it is if my chest were a guitar, a string just got plucked. When that happens I pay attention. There was something about that “wounded prey call” statement, I just didn’t know what yet. I needed to give God time to explain. It didn’t take Him long to do just that.


A day or two later I found myself at church early and alone with my mentor. She and another woman taught a Sunday school class for young moms. (Don’t fit into that category anymore.) I asked her what came to mind when I mentioned “wounded prey call.” Without hesitation she explained, and God laid things bare through her.



She said we will encounter people in our lives that are wounded. Some will use their wounds as a call to draw us in. People may do this for a multitude of reasons, but in the case of a wounded prey call, the call is sounded while hunting, drawing an animal in to destroy it. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. She went on to say, we can’t help everyone and fix everything. Be wise. Don’t get distracted from what God has called you to do.


I took a moment to absorb her words. (I also pondered how she could figure things out so quickly, when it had evaded me for so long… 24 hours at least.) Wow. The wounded prey call revelation was one of three things that confirmed I wasn’t to pursue a friendship with a certain woman. She was a sweetheart, and I genuinely liked her. In fact, not growing a friendship with her wasn’t even on my radar until all this happened.


The second confirmation I received was my husband telling me he wasn’t comfortable with this friendship. He had never said that about anyone before and hasn’t since, so he had my attention. My husband is a believer, but even if yours isn’t, he is still your protector and teammate. If he sees danger ahead, respect his voice and heed his warning.


During that same time frame, a friend called shortly after I got off the phone with this person. I made an extremely vague comment in passing, not mentioning names or anything. It was something like - “I just got off the phone before you called.” I know it was the Holy Spirit, because she named names and firmly but lovingly told me to be careful. Now I’m not the brightest lightbulb out there, but I was beginning to catch a clue.


God knows our motives and wounds. He knows our capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. He knows who is seriously seeking help and who is simply seeking attention, wanting to draw us into their pit with them. He knows which friendships will be beneficial to them AND to us.



“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord, “who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin;... everyone comes to shame through a people that cannot profit them, that brings neither help nor profit, but shame and disgrace.” Isaiah 30:1,5 ESV

First, I’m not calling you a stubborn child. (I’ve been called stubborn, and rightfully so, but like I said, I’ve learned some lessons through the years. Don’t call people names, for one.) Seriously, though,... There are obvious relationships I know not to pursue. But I didn’t realize there are “nice” people we aren’t to unite our lives with also. Not all friendships are supported by God.


My takeaway: We need to follow the Spirit’s leading when we unite ourselves with others through friendship. Not every alliance brings help and protection. Not every friendship is blessed by our Father and profitable for His purposes. Some relationships breed sin, confusion, pain, and destruction. Be careful. But even moreso, be prayerful.


As I’ve grown in my relationship with the Lord, I’ve discovered there is a purposefulness to relationships. God isn’t haphazard with His relationships, so I need to follow His lead and stop treating relationships so carelessly and mindlessly. I don’t have relationships mastered, not by a long shot, but the more I realize the power of relationship, the more I try to submit to God’s leading in them.


I hope this isn’t the case, but I have to wonder if some of you had someone come to mind while reading this. God showed me how to navigate this situation - He will help you, too. Just ask Him. Additionally, I realized if I disobeyed (after He had made it so clear), I could be hindering His work in this person’s life and quite possibly my own.


I mentioned being prayerful - I got a little time right now...


Heavenly Father,

I love that You are relational, and You want healthy relationships for us. Give us Your heart AND Your discernment. Help us navigate friendships, making it obvious to us when one shouldn’t be pursued. Please give us courage to make any necessary changes and help us let go of the alliances that are not of You. May we trust You, knowing You want to help, love on, and take care of people, and You know the best way to do so. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Taking a hint,

Candace


P.S. I don’t want to leave the impression we withhold or are a scrooge with God’s love that flows through us. We need to love freely and abundantly as God loves us WITH His perfect wisdom and guidance.


My Friend,


The older I get the more I find myself in conversations about wrinkles. During one such conversation, my friend mentioned that wearing sunscreen helps prevent wrinkles. I thought to myself, “Boy, I wish I knew that 25 years ago!” Do you know what else I wish I knew 25 years ago - the difference between conviction and condemnation. Do you know the difference?


Think of conviction as the necessary part of sunshine, the good part. It gives light to guide our steps, provides vitamin D, and aids in the growth of life. Conviction is from the Holy Spirit. It is what shows us our need for a Savior. After we place our faith in Jesus, God continues to do His work in our lives by showing us when we have made a mistake, are off track, or are about to hurt ourselves or others. It’s the notification we’ve sinned.


God convicts us because He loves us and is drawing out the person we were created to be. It is a way to free us from the things that are holding us back and get us to the next best thing. Conviction leads us into the arms of our Father where we find forgiveness and guidance.


Condemnation then would be the sunburn causing, drought producing, life destroying part of sunshine. It is from our enemy. Condemnation sounds similar to conviction as it states we’ve messed up. There will be some “truth” to it, but then it takes a turn and gets a little twisted. It goes beyond saying we have done something wrong, by placing disapproval on us and pushing an identity on us that doesn’t line up with the one we have in Christ.


Condemnation may talk like this: No matter how hard I try, I can’t get it right. I should just quit. I’m a failure. I keep hurting people and saying the wrong things. God must be so disappointed in me, as I’ve let Him down again. He probably doesn’t want to talk to me. God is going to get tired of me asking for forgiveness. Maybe if I punish myself, He will know how sorry I really am. I don’t deserve to be full of joy and close to Him after what I’ve done. God is just putting up with me because He’s supposed to love everybody. I’m too much of a mess for Him to want me to be part of His plan. And so goes the beating, if we don’t know:


There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 ESV

Where conviction gets us walking on the right path again, condemnation tries to run us off of it. We can’t get it right, anyway, so we should stop trying or turn around altogether, at least that’s what we think. Condemnation drives us into hiding from God’s Presence, imprisoning us in our shame, disappointment, embarrassment, and frustration. It leaves hopelessness and failure squarely in our hands.


Condemnation often sneaks in behind conviction. After the Holy Spirit has brought something to our attention, the enemy will come along and try to hit us upside the head with it. It’s like when we’ve crossed that point of being outside too long and the sunburn sets in. There is a line that has been crossed. See the difference?


We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,... II Corinthians 10:5 ESV

Conviction and condemnation both sound the same in your head - they sound like your own thoughts. So - TAKE ALL YOUR THOUGHTS CAPTIVE! Hold each thought out in front of you and examine it, determining its origin. Does it line up with the Word? Is it going to shut you down (condemnation) or help you recalibrate (conviction)? Is there despair (condemnation) or hope for change (conviction)? Remember, condemnation may have some truth to it, but what kind of fruit is it going to produce in you?


Since we now realize there is a difference, and we are looking for it, here’s the next step - we need to choose. It’s not enough for me to know about sunscreen if I never use it. We accept the Holy Spirit’s correction, but deny the enemy’s condemnation. I know it’s hard to say, “I will accept this part, but not that,” when we mess up. But we need to say “NO!” to condemnation (and to drugs - Ha!).


Sometimes saying our thoughts out loud to a friend helps to determine if it’s conviction or condemnation or even a combination of the two, which is often the case. Find a godly friend who knows the difference and will pray with you. We have a sneaky enemy, but we’re catching on.


Years ago I was washing dishes, thinking about how I washed dishes so smartly, better than so-and-so. (I know how pitiful this sounds.) Then I realized I wasn’t alone. God shined His revealing light on my inner conversation, and I saw clearly what was going on. I was struggling with pride. Ugh! Pride is so ugly, and I was well aware of God’s feelings toward it.


I dragged my pitiful self over to a kitchen chair and plopped down. I felt so dirty. The condemnation set in, and I cried under the weight of the crushing defeat. I reprimanded myself severely, punishing myself and wallowing in self-pity. I wanted to hide from God’s illuminating Presence. If I knew then what I know now…


I would’ve probably still cried. Even with conviction we will grieve over our sin. But NOW I would thank the Lord that He revealed what was going on. In His mercy and grace He didn’t want me to continue in that toxic (Embarrassing!) behavior. I would thank Him for the forgiveness I have through Christ. I would thank Him that He doesn’t reveal things unless He wants to set us free. He doesn’t just hurt us for the heck of it. I would rejoice that God was working to get my thoughts to line up more with who I truly am in Christ.


Then I would get up off the chair, put on some worship music, and finish those dishes, thankful for a Father who wants the best for me. AND I would return quickly to His loving open arms. That’s what I’m hoping to do next time. Oh, yes, there will be a next time - I’m not perfect.


We are going to make mistakes and sin. But when God calls us out, His desire is to lovingly correct and put us back on the right track. He wants us to keep moving forward, falling in step with Him.


Slathering on the sunscreen,

Candace


P.S. If you are struggling with condemnation:


Heavenly Father,

Help my Friend discern Your voice from the enemy’s, rejecting the condemnation through the power of Jesus. If she needs a friend, bring to her mind the right one and give her courage to make the phone call. Remind her that Your love for her is steadfast, and You desire her to walk in the victory and identity she has in Christ. In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.


Dear Friend,


My kids and I like to play “hide-and-seek” outside. It’s not your normal lil’ kid game anymore. It’s played over numerous acres, and our hiding abilities have been honed through the years. I no longer catch them by listening for giggles, and they no longer peek their head out and say, “I’m over here, Mommy.” They have gotten much better at hiding. (My hiding isn’t too bad - there was that one time I nearly got stuck…) It’s a good time - by the end, my heart is racing from adrenaline and running from hiding place to hiding place. (It’s at that point I realize how out of shape I am.) Some of us play this game in our real life, too.


I’m guessing a lot of us have places we would rather not go, people we would rather not run into, and questions we fear we will be asked. We avoid the places and people, deny things when asked, and live allowing an undercurrent of fear to exist in our Souls’ depths. I have played this game. Yes, it gets the ole heart racing, too, but it’s no good time. Just as my kids improved in their hiding skills, we too, sharpen our hiding skills, learning ways to camouflage things we don’t want discovered.


As believers, we go back into hiding when we allow our past unrighteous identity to dominate our mind’s perspective. We don’t live out of our new identity and freedom established in Christ. It’s when this past identity is in control that we walk in shame, condemnation, and humiliation, retreating into nooks and crannies.


There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2 ESV

There is no condemnation for us, no prison sentence hanging over our head, no reason to hide from the “law.” We have been set free from the law and sin through Christ. He took the punishment for everything we so desperately want to forget about. “But you don’t know what I’ve done, Candace.” God does, and this is what He has to say about it:


And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. I Corinthians 6:11 ESV

God doesn’t dance around our sin or ignore it. He takes care of it. PERIOD. We need to keep that old identity quiet under the victorious foot of Christ. But, I get it. We fear being recognized by our past mistakes. I have avoided people, places, and conversations. I have wanted to steer clear of the truth. I have hid. But I finally realized something important - God can’t receive the glory for a victory when we deny the battle ever took place. What’s to be celebrated when we can’t declare we’ve won, been changed, or been set free?


Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Psalm 107:2-3 ESV

Do we shout from the rooftop our every sin? Thankfully, no. (Some of us get nervous in high places.) Do we place ourselves in compromising or tempting areas to show we overcame? No again. What we need to do is be ready to give an answer for the hope we have. We need to be prepared to tell people about who rescued us - JESUS. When we come across someone struggling, we can encourage them towards their victory in Christ by sharing ours.


...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,... I Peter 3:15 ESV

When faced with our mistakes, let’s not run and hide. Might we boldly proclaim our redemption through Christ. If someone asks, “Yeah, wasn’t it you that….?” Instead of stepping back into the shadows and responding, “You must be thinking about someone else,” can we work towards saying, “Yes, that was me, but can I tell you about who I am now? Can I tell you about my Jesus? Can I tell you what He can do with a mess?”



Through the years, I noticed others hiding, too. It seems like there are 3 main groups hanging out in those darkened areas - those who like the darkness and want to pursue evil, those who are lost and haven’t been found yet, and believers who have been found but are scared to walk around in the open. Can I remind the believers - when we came to Christ, not only did Jesus wash us clean, but He placed His light within us (John 8:12) - we became His light carriers, no longer meant to hide or be able to.


What good is a light that is hidden? It goes against it’s very purpose, essence, and power. Light is meant to reveal, illuminate, and aid in the growth of life. Light makes hiding difficult, doesn’t it? Who wants to hide with the guy who’s like, “This is a great spot. I’m just going to keep my flashlight on while we wait.” Lights and hiding don’t mix.


You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 ESV

When we are confronted with elements of our past we would rather ignore, God can give us courage to face them. He can take our reasons for wanting to disappear and give them a new spin or a happy ending. But if we don’t allow Him to have our shameful things, they remain what they are. Jesus can redeem things - He gives them a purpose, a usefulness.


And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 ESV

Is everything we go through good? NO! Is this verse true for everyone? Sadly, no. This is for those who love God, granting Him access and permission to do His redeeming work in their lives. He rolls up His sleeves and reworks our messes into something good. I don’t know how He does such an amazing work, but He does. This is one thing we should be willing to share - God’s mighty redeeming work in our lives.


So for those who’ve already been found in Christ - don’t return to the place you were rescued from. It doesn’t make sense to continue hiding once we’ve been found. My kids would think I lost it if I remained hiding after they had discovered me!


If you’re not sure if you have ever been “found,” know that it doesn’t matter how you have failed, what you have struggled with, or how many times you have fallen. It doesn’t matter where you now find yourself. Do you want to be found by Jesus? Be brave and reach up your hand and say, “I’m over here, Jesus.” He’ll be there before you have your arm fully extended. (He’s always known exactly where you were. There is no hiding spot He’s not aware of or can’t get to. He’s just been waiting for you to WANT to be found.)


For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 ESV

For those who want to stay in the dark places - may we pray that their hearts would be softened to Jesus, their eyes might be opened, the lies they have embraced would be loosened, and that they would encounter “light bearers” who would plant seeds, love on them, and draw them one step closer to Jesus.


So we have a choice to make - are we going to deny and avoid OR are we going to proclaim our victory? We can’t do both. We can’t hide and walk around freely. In our hiding we are saying our sin is more powerful than our redemption in Christ. What do you want to say with your life?


Once we take hold of our victory, might we realize it is our turn to “seek.” We join Jesus in finding the lost, the hiding, and the ones that have made their home in the shadows. One reason we were made to be a light was to be able to see those who are residing in darkness. Let them know it is good to be found.


Step into the light.


Out of the shadows,

Candace




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