Pure White Linen

I am on trial. I stand in front of the Judge. I wear a prisoner’s uniform. My hands are in chains. I am ashamed and humiliated. I am without defense. I am guilty. I am condemned to die.

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I proclaimed faith in Christ when I was a young child, but since that day there have been many times I have strayed from that proclamation. If I didn’t know the truth, if I had not pledged allegiance to Christ as my Savior and Lord, I could say I didn’t know any better. But, I know the truth. I know right from wrong. I can cry out with Paul and say, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”(Romans 7:15)

Every day, every hour, every minute, I must choose to die to myself and my desires and allow Christ to live through me. I want His desires to be my desires. This is such a challenge for me. I am the prodigal child. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” I am like the Israelites in the desert, following and praising God when all is well, and then quickly forgetting God and returning to sin. “Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing. My brother’s and sister’s this should not be.” (James 3:10)

I hate sin and the way I can feel its strong pull, tempting me to give into it’s desires. I hate sin and the way I’ve allowed it to slowly creep into my life. I hate that there have been times I have declared faith in Jesus with a sinful heart and dirty hands. I have been unfaithful to Christ so many times that I wonder how He could still love me. Why would He give me; a stained, filthy, ugly, guilt-ridden sinner, the privilege to share His story? I deserve to be punished. I deserve death.

And it’s here, standing in front of the Judge, in my deepest, darkest, sinful place, that Jesus approaches me. I feel His presence. I am so unworthy that I don’t want to look at His face. But, He lifts “up my head,” (Psalm 3:3) and in His eyes I see love and kindness, mercy and grace. It’s a love so strong that it brings me to my knees. A kindness so sweet it brings me to repentance. A mercy so rich in compassion it brings me to humility. And Grace, amazing grace, full of forgiveness, it brings me back into my Savior’s arms.

He releases my chains and puts on my prison clothes. He stands guilty in my place. Condemned. Ready to die, on my behalf, a sinner’s death to set me free. As He stands in my place, I realize He IS my defense. My ONLY defense. JESUS. My only way to freedom and eternal salvation. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But, if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1) “Look, I’ve stripped you of your sin and dressed you up in clean clothes.”(Zechariah 3:3-4) At that moment, I look down and see that I am no longer dressed as a prisoner, but I am, “arrayed in the finest of pure white linen, bright and clean.” (Rev 19:8) “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) I am dressed in His righteousness.

 

 

(This blog was written in response to a question that was posed to me: “After sinning, what hoops does a Christian have to jump through to reconcile with God?” In short, there are no hoops because “Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.”)

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Creatures of Habit

When I was a little girl I have very vivid memories of my mom gathering us around before bedtime and reading us a book.  All of these books usually had important life-lessons. I loved listening to my mom read and when I became a mother I started this tradition with my own kids. It’s still one of our favorite things to do as a family.

One of the books my mom read to us was, “Where the Red Fern Grows.”  To this day it is still one of my favorite books. A book about a boy named Billy who dreamed of owning his own hound dogs. Unlike today, Billy didn’t have the option of entitlement or immediate gratification so he had to work hard and long days to buy the dogs he desired.  After a couple of years, he finally had enough money to buy his dogs and he named them, Old Dan and Little Ann. He was ready to teach them how to become coon trapping hound dogs.

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One thing from this book that has stuck with me my entire life is the way Billy’s grandpa told him how he could catch a raccoon. First, find a log and drill a hole just big enough for the raccoon’s paw to fit inside. After drilling the hole, pound two nails diagonally into the log and drop a shiny object into the hole. This can also be done using a simple tin can and placing a shiny object into the can. Raccoons are curious animals and they are drawn to bright, radiant objects. That dazzling item is all that is needed to tempt the raccoon to reach his paw into the log or the tin can and wrap his fist around the object.

And just like that, the raccoon is trapped! Can He escape? Of course he can! But he chooses to remain trapped, because he is not willing to let go of the captivating object that lured him there. All he needs to do is open his hand, drop the object, and he’s free. However, the raccoon is often to stubborn to drop the object. He is obsessed with it and becomes a slave to an object that he doesn’t need. An object that steals his freedom and will eventually cost him is life.

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Just like the raccoon, we can gaze upon a bright, shiny  object and all of a sudden find ourselves ensnared into a trap of slavery, a trap that steals our freedom and sometimes our lives. In Romans 1, Paul calls himself, “a slave to Christ,” not out of duty and fear but out of love and gratitude.

If we aren’t enslaved to Christ, we will find another luring, captivating object. It can be an eating disorder, pornography, bitterness, unforgiveness, greed. It can even be a  good object, that eventually replaces Christ and becomes an idol in our lives, such as our kids, our marriage, a job, etc. Again, in Romans, Paul says that people, “Exchanged the glory of God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” Our hands desire to be clenched around something, and if it’s not Christ, we will find ourselves in chains that trap us, control us, and steal our ultimate purpose of life; to love and serve our Creator.

If our hands are entwined around Christ and all that He encompasses we will live in absolute, perfect freedom. Beth Moore has said, “Christ is the only one who I can bind myself to and find freedom. He is the only one that frees while binding.”  

Unlike the raccoon, who is bound to a life-threatening object, I want to be bound to Christ. I want my fist wrapped so tightly around Him that I don’t ever want to let go. I want to say I am a slave to Christ. I need nothing more. He is enough. And it is here, bound to Christ that we can live in the freedom He intended for us.

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The Million Dollar Running Foot

“The Million Dollar Foot” versus “The Million Dollar Arm.” In the movie, “The Million Dollar Arm,” 38,000 Indian hopefuls showed up for a shot at the American big leagues and a $100,000 prize. Rinku Singh won the contest and the runner-up was Dinesh Patel. Both were brought over to America to be developed and trained into MLB stars. This is in contrast to the million dollar foot. I feel as if I have actually given away a million dollars in time and money in order to heal my foot. In the last couple of years I have not developed into a better runner. I have not trained since 2014 and my last race was in April of 2014. The million dollar arm racked up money while the million dollar foot lost both time and money.

However, the good news is, that eleven months after surgery my achilles is ONE-HUNDRED percent healed. The scar from surgery is almost invisible. And although there is still a little swelling around the achilles, the recent MRI shows that there isn’t any build-up of scar tissue and all looks good. Boy, do I want to run!!

Unfortunately, I still can’t go out and pound the pavement. The reason I had to have another MRI is because I am still having pain along my foot. The MRI revealed that I have some other issues going on, the biggest one includes acute FHL tenosynovitis. The FHL tendon lies deep behind the achilles tendon and tendonitis in this tendon is usually seen quite frequently in ballet dancers. Thus, it has become known as dancer’s tendonitis.

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For anyone who knows me, they would agree that I am quite clumsy. While I am pretty good at running in a straight line I also tend to trip and fall A LOT, and it’s usually on smooth pavement!? So obviously, I am not a person who emulates elegance, grace, or rhythm. So unless I’ve been BALLET DANCING in my sleep, both the doctor and I are a bit confused why there is such a collection of inflammation and fluid around this tendon.

I just received a cortisone injection and will start physical therapy tomorrow in hopes that this new issue of pain will resolve. I am also scheduled to see another foot and ankle specialist the first week of March. I want to have a second opinion to make sure everything on the MRI was interpreted correctly and that this is the best course of action.

Lastly, I was told once again to REST. It’s hard for me to rest. I like being active. I like feeling fit and strong. I don’t want to rest. However, it’s been in the resting that I have found a new and closer love and passion for my Savior. I love how Jesus meets us right where we need Him too. I just opened up a small devotional book only to read these words;

Thank ME for the conditions that are requiring you to be STILL. Do not spoil these quiet hours by wishing them away, waiting impatiently to be active again. Some of the greatest works in MY Kingdom have been done from sick beds and prison cells. Instead of resenting the limitations of a weakened body, search for MY way in the midst of these very circumstances. Limitations can be liberating when your strongest desire is living close to ME. Although, you feel cut off from the activity of the world, your quiet trust makes a powerful statement in the spiritual realm. My Strength and Power show themselves most effective in weakness.” (Jesus Calling)

I know there are many people struggling with far worse ordeals than an injured foot, but God keeps reminding me that no matter what the struggle is, He is with us ALWAYS and if we are willing to submit to His ways, He will bring us through stronger and closer to Him.

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Words To Ponder

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This is one of my favorite poems and when I read it today it was the last line that really struck me. “The Treasure that Thou art in life, what will Thou be in death?” In my life I have been a recipient of God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness and love over and over again. Try as we might, there are not any words that can fully describe the love that encompasses our Savior. A Love that took our place. A Love so pure and holy. A Love unblemished and spotless. A Love willing to become dirty and stained with the sins of the world. A Love willing to carry God’s wrath upon His shoulders. A Love willing to give His life to save our lives. A Love that we know on earth but how much sweeter will we know it in death!?

“I can only imagine when that day comes, and I find myself standing in the Son…Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you Jesus, Or in awe of you be still? Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine…I can only imagine.”     (Mercy Me)

The Waiting Is Over

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A few months ago I wrote a blog about finding a beautiful caterpillar. My kids and I put the caterpillar into a jar and had the privilege of watching him spin itself into a Chrysalis. We set the jar on top of the refrigerator and started to wait, wondering when the caterpillar would emerge as a butterfly. We would check the jar every day only to find the same chrysalis staring back at us. We waited and waited and waited. We were beginning to get tired of waiting and started to question what was taken so long. Perhaps, the caterpillar had died and would never emerge as a new creature. But because we couldn’t see inside the chrysalis we weren’t willing to give up hope. We wanted to believe that something miraculous was taking place.

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And unbeknownst to us, with our limited knowledge and insight, there was a change taking place. Earlier this week when we looked into the jar we found an empty chrysalis and a beautiful, intrinsic, delicate, butterfly. The words of Psalm 37:7 rang loud and clear as we stared at the new creature, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him to act.”

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The waiting may be a long and hard process. It may be an uncomfortable and ugly mess but, “God makes all things beautiful in HIS time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) In God’s strength we can get through the waiting and our ugly mess can result in an unexplainable and beautiful joy. It is through the waiting and the trusting that we become transformed into the likeness of Christ.

“And we all…are progressively being transformed into His image from glory to glory, which comes from the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

 

Words To Ponder

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“Thus, if we think we require some good thing that God has withheld from us, in reality we don’t absolutely need it. It also means that if we feel our life has been ruined by some bad thing, in reality it is playing some very important role in our lives. It is teaching us, molding us, enriching us, humbling us, and so on.” (Timothy Keller Romans 8-16)

My Child You are…

When I was a freshmen in college I had the opportunity to meet Neil Anderson. He is the author of many books, some of which include, “The Bondage Breaker,” and “Victory Over The Darkness.” During one of his seminars at Wheaton College, Neil, picked me out of the audience and asked me to come up on the stage and share part of my testimony. You see, God had used Neil and his books to save my life from an eating disorder that almost killed me. One of the most important questions Neil asks those who believe in Jesus, goes something like this…“Who are You?”

In the past I would have simply said, “I’m Suzanne Ryan.” And Neil would have replied, but that’s not who you are, that’s just your name. I could say, “I’m a mom.” But, that’s not really who I am either, that’s what I do. I could say, “I am a runner.” But again, that’s not who I am, it’s something I enjoy. So who am I?

I have learned to know and believe that I am God’s child.  Although, there are many aspects of my character, the core of who I really am, comes from my relationship with Christ. And if I believe that, I also believe that I have a responsibility to live like His child.

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God’s Word is filled with verses who remind me of who I am as His child. If I want to live a life worthy of this calling, I have to constantly remind myself that because of Christ’s sacrificial love on the cross and my belief in Him He now sees me as…

His Child
Chosen By God
Bought with a great sacrificial price
Adopted
Accepted through Grace
Rescued
A recipient of Mercy

I am…
Holy and dearly loved
His very own workmanship and handiwork
Created wonderfully and perfectly
I belong to God

I am…
Alive in Christ
A new creation
Set free
Free forever from condemnation
Free from guilt and shame
Completely forgiven

I am…
Justified
Redeemed
Sanctified
Righteous
Healed
Complete
Victorious over sin

I am..
Set-Apart and reconciled to God
A member of His Royal Priesthood
His Chosen Race and Holy Nation
A foreigner in this world and a citizen of heaven

I am…
His temple
A dwelling place of God
United to the Lord
A joint heir of Christ
Enslaved to God
To live as the salt of the earth
And the light of the World
Part of the True Vine
Made to bear His fruit

I am…
A friend of God’s
A sister of Christ
A daughter of the King
Able to approach His throne with confidence and boldness
He is my Father.

I am…
His…
He is mine…
And I know it will take all of my life to renew my mind and conform to God’s image, but it is my deepest desire to live “as an expression of the life of Christ because He is my life.”

What you do does NOT determine who you are; who you are determines what you do. The most important belief we possess is a true knowledge of who God is. The second most important belief is who we are as children of God, because we cannot consistently behave in a way that is inconsistent with how we perceive ourselves.” (Neil Anderson)

(Inspired by Neil Anderson and Who I am in Christ. All of the words concerning “Who I am in Christ” can be found in the Scriptures as God’s true promises about His children)

The Storms of Life

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“Up on the mountain, where Your love captured me, where finally I am free. Up on the mountain, where You taught my soul to sing, Amazing Grace, the sweetest thing…
And then the storm rushing in and here I am again…”

Far from the top of the mountain and in the midst of yet another storm. Why is it that when one storm passes and blue skies are on the horizon, often another storm starts to billow. Some storms are so powerful and strong that they leave behind a path of destruction and loss. Other storms come out of the blue, out of the stillness of the day, and we find ourselves in a downpour that leaves us stunned. There are storms out in the distance, building up, carrying lots of damage, and getting closer and closer with every passing moment.

The storms of life that hold unemployment, broken promises, broken relationships, a prodigal child, a cancer diagnosis, addiction, pain, fear, guilt, shame, and so much more. Unfortunately, these storms don’t always pass us over but, “Christ can be our refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.” (Isaiah 4:6). In these turbulent times we need to believe God and all of His promises. He is our shelter from the storm. (Isaiah 25:4)

It’s during these times that God can reveal to us “how wide, how long, how high, how deep, His love is for us.” (Ephesians 3:18). Eternal love. God’s love. And in His love we find hope. Though the storms may cause damage we know He goes before us, and “we can face the loss of things we enjoy and grieve when those we love are taken away, yet not lose hope or feel life isn’t worth living. The person who believes God can face anything, (any storm) and say I still have God’s promises and that is enough.” (Tim Keller)

Don’t we want to go through the storms of life with this expectant hope and trust in God? Believing that “the world can take nothing from us, and the world has nothing we need, because we have Christ! (Tim Keller) He, and He alone, is sufficient to see us through. Too often, when a storm hits, we know we have Christ but we don’t feel He is enough. We think; we have Christ, but we still need to hold on to our fears and anxiety. We have Christ, but we still need to think about the “what ifs.” We have Christ, but we still need to have a couple drinks to take the edge off or pop a couple pills to calm down. We have Christ, but we still need to control the situation and seek to calm the storm on our own.

This is not what Christ wants. He wants us to find that He IS really ALL we need. Christ plus nothing else equals peace, strength, hope, perseverance and so much more through life’s storms. Let us “fix our eyes on Jesus,” on His goodness and His sovereignty, and rise above the furious storm. He takes pleasure in quieting our hearts and calming the storm. We need to choose to stand in Christ alone, believing He is the “Blessed Controller of all things.” (1 Timothy 6:15) If we allow Him, He will bring us through the eye of the storm and lead us up onto the mountain. How I long to be standing tall, on the mountain with my precious Savior, at a place where He has safely brought me, and I can truly say, He is ALL I need.

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“So take me up to where I was, when I never wanted more than You…up on the mountain where You took me by the hand, taught me to dance again…where You took this heart of stone and put life back in these bones…Up on the mountain.” (David Crowder)

Do I Have The Strength?

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I find it fascinating that often times when I write about a specific topic, I will soon discover that I am thrown into the midst of a situation where I am personally tested on that particular belief. About a month ago I wrote a blog on waiting, not just waiting, but “waiting patiently on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) I was thinking this blog would be “part one” of a series of blogs on waiting. Little did I know, that while I was writing part one, God already held, in His hands, part two.

It took one phone call for God to lead me into the waiting. One call that has left me not knowing what’s around the next corner. The unknown. The waiting. One call that started a host of worry and a collage of imagery containing many “what ifs…” One call that stirred up fear and anxiety and other emotions and questions I wasn’t expecting. One call which led to the creation of all the worst-case scenarios the future might hold.

And then, one hushed whisper from God that said, STOP! Let it go. Do not speculate into the future. Stay in the present and come to Me. Seek Me. You will find me in the waiting. I am here. You can trust Me. And when you fully trust me, you can give Me your worry, your anxious thoughts, your fear, your future. I will fill you with “strength as you wait with a divine quietness and trust.” (Isaiah 30:15) This surpasses all understanding. This is patiently waiting for Me. And as you patiently wait upon Me, you will find a renewed strength, a strong strength. You are not strong enough to face the trials of life that are coming your way, but I am. Put your confidence in Me. Hope in Me. Look to Me for help and expect that I will come to your aid and deliver you. If you let me, I will exchange your weak strength and dress you, with my divine hands, in strong garments of My strength. Trust in anticipation and watch and see that “your strength will rise as you wait upon Me.  (Isaiah 40:31)

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“And I anxiously wait as I hold onto love that will never let go…won’t you remind me, that I’m not alone. Here in the waiting. All of the questions, secret confessions, Lord, you’ll make sense of it all. And I know you’ll show up, so I’m letting go of these thoughts that are taking control. This is the waiting.” (Jamie Grace)

No More Running?

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When I first started running competitively, I realized that running could never consume me. It could never become my identity. Who I am in Christ is where I find my identity. Who I am rests in the fact that I am His child, holy and dearly loved. And though He has brought many passions into my life, including running, not one of them is essential. “I can receive His blessings with open hands. Enjoy His good gifts, but I do not cling to them. I must turn my attention to the Giver of all good things, and rest in the knowledge that I am complete in Him. The one thing I absolutely need is the One thing that I can never lose: God’s presence with me.” (Jesus Calling) Over the last three years, and more specifically the last seven months, my Sweet Lord has put me to the test in regards to who I am and finding peace in His presence alone.

On December 1st, 2012th, I was at the Memphis Marathon as an invited athlete. It wasn’t a deep field and I was seeded first. I was ready not only to win the race, but run my best marathon time yet. Little did I know that by mile 13, I would walk off the course frustrated and defeated, with a small annoying ache in my achilles. An ache that would eventually side-line me from any serious training and racing. An ache that would not, and has not gone away, for almost three years. An injury, that for the time being, has taken one of my greatest pleasures in life away from me…running.

During 2013 and 2014, it seemed I was going from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what was wrong with my foot and how to correct it. After more than two years of trying physical therapy and every conservative treatment available for achilles pain, I came to the realization that the only hope of curing the pain was to under-go surgery. This was something I wanted to avoid, but considering I couldn’t run or even walk without excruciating pain, I knew it was something that needed to be done.

1-IMG_4608On March 17th, 2015 I went in for achilles debridement surgery, as well as the removal of a bone spur, and a strayer procedure on my calf. I knew this was not going to be an easy surgery or an easy recovery. I had accepted in my mind, to the best of my ability, that after surgery I would not be able to run for at least six to twelve months.

Post-surgery I was relieved that I had taken the final step in curing my foot and I was determined to focus on recovery. I was in a hard cast and on crutches for the first twelve weeks. Of course, I thought about running, but I seemed to be content with not being able to do so. However, there did come a time when I would see someone out running and it would sting a bit. I had to constantly remind myself that healing was in God’s hands, God’s timing, not mine.

When I was finally off the crutches and out of the cast I went directly into the boot for four weeks. I was still doing okay mentally but I kept thinking to myself, “I took me so many hours, so many hard workouts, so much sweat, so much time, to get to the level I was at in the years past.” Would I ever be able to get it back? I found that I was looking back and wishing I could be there. I  longed for the time when running was fun, easy, and fast. I wanted to be in the past, training hard and winning races. Christ, gently nudged me out of the past and reminded me, that while I can look back and miss it, I must not look back and be sad. I must look back and be thankful that I was there, knowing that the past and my experiences have shaped me into who I am today. I must look back and thank Him for the accomplishments I was able to achieve and then bring my focus to today, the present, where I am now, and trust that “He is doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:19)

Through this process, I have asked the question why a thousand times. Why would You take running from me when You know it is a passion of mine? Why would you take this from me when I’ve been able to achieve so much with it? Why would you take this when I have so many friends who are still running and setting new PR’s each year? Why do I have to sit on the side-lines and watch as they go after their goals? Why would you take this from me, especially when I have tried my best to use my running for You, to lift You up and make You known. Why? And I have learned it’s okay to ask the question why. But, I have also learned I can’t get stuck there. It’s not my job to figure out God’s ways. He is in control. It is His plan for my life, not mine. And if, I can glorify God by not running, better than I can glorify Him with running, I will gladly open my hands and release my dreams, my goals, my running to Him.

In so doing, I’ve been able to rest, to stop striving, and to wait for God’s “glorious unfolding.” I do not know what that unfolding means in regards to my running and what the future may hold. There’s a big chance I may never be able to train and race again. I might not even be able to run recreationally. But, whatever the outcome, it’s okay, because I know He can restore my broken and unfinished dreams and He can use them in new and creative ways for His glory. My passion for running is still there, but God is replacing it with an overwhelming passion for Him, to know Him better. I’m finding that the better I know Him, the more I want to know Him, and the more I want others to know Him. He is my biggest passion and I know He is greater than any award I can win through running. And now, “forgetting what lies behind and straining froward to what lies ahead, I press on to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

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