Transformation Part 5 – Revealing the Heart of the Father

Thank you for walking with me these past few weeks as I process my thoughts on transformation.  I know this series is in no way an exhaustive look at transformation, I have merely been sharing some of the things I have seen and experienced in my own journey.  I needed to chronicle my thoughts because I was feeling a bit of self pity due to the length and heaviness of the process.  God began opening my eyes to things I had never paid attention to before; things that had always been there, but I hadn’t acknowledged or thought about.

I would say the majority of believers would agree our ultimate transformation will be when we get to Heaven.  In December I saw the story of Jesus as transformation in reverse.  Why on earth would God robe Himself in flesh and leave Heaven, the place we’re all longing to get to?  Why would Jesus subject Himself to depending on the care of broken, human parents as an infant, the painful awkward pre-teen/teen years, the tedious hard work of a carpenter, and the humiliation of crucifixion all to end up back in Heaven where He began anyway?  I contend He did it to show us how to live a transforming life, all the while revealing the heart of the Father.

The heart of God has always been mercy and love.  Go back through the Old Testament where many say God has an iron fist and is all about judgment, and read it through the lens of love and mercy.  I did that this last year and, wow, I was amazed at how many times God had been extending love and mercy over and over where all I had previously seen was punishment.  Yes, there were and still are consequences to our behavior and to sin, but God’s first response is to extend grace and call us to repentance and a closer relationship with Him.  Judgement is His very last resort and, as you can see in the OT, even then He is still asking us to turn back to Him.

When we live out transformation here on earth people are able to watch as God forms us into His image, they are able to see Him at work, even if they don’t understand it is Him.  As I mentioned in previous posts, people might not know how to respond to your transformation.  They might get angry, or take a step back from your life; they might embrace it full on and desire the same level of transformation in their life.  Your job isn’t to manage how people respond, your job is to allow God to be seen through the process.  So often we say our goal is to be like Jesus.  Here are a few verses to give insight into who Jesus was, what He did and what He tells us to do:

  • “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command…”  Hebrews 1:3
  • “If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”  John 14:7
  • “I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”  John 17:23
  • Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”  John 8:12
  • “But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”  John 9:5
  • “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden…In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14,16  

Again, I realize this is not an exhaustive list, I don’t think any human could make an exhaustive list of the character of God, how Jesus reflected it, and how we’re supposed to reflect it, but it does give us a good start.

Don’t be afraid of transformation.  He is with us through every phase: hurt, confusion, struggle, growth and triumph, we are able to shine the love of our Father.  Jesus already lived it out for us so we know it is possible.  No matter what phase you are in, keep your eyes on God, your source of hope (Romans 15:13).  I don’t know how it’s possible, but somehow even in the bleakest of circumstances, God is reflected in our lives and the people that encounter us are able to feel that hope and through it His love.


Transformation Part 4 – Collateral Damage

Over twelve years ago Aaron had a health wake up call.  He went in for a check up and the doctor told him his blood pressure was out of control.  So out of control in fact that if he didn’t do something about it immediately he would have a stroke by the time he was 35.  The doctor wanted to get him on blood pressure meds right away.  Aaron had zero desire to be on medication and asked if he could have a trial period of watching his food and working out.  The doctor said “yes” and gave him six months.  During that time Aaron was very diligent with eating clean and going to the gym at least three times a week.  When he went back in for his follow up appointment the doctor saw significant change.  Aaron was told that if he could keep up this new lifestyle he would not need meds and there would be no fear of a stroke at 35.

Everyone around Aaron saw the change in him and were affected by it in some way.  He wasn’t so careless with his food choices anymore.  When offered foods he would previously have eaten he would decline and choose a healthier option.  If we were going to be out somewhere he would either make sure he went to the gym before we left or make sure we left on time to get to the gym before it closed.  Then people started changing around him.  They started making excuses for their poor food choices or lack of exercise.  He would never say anything, they would pipe up to justify why they were eating whatever it is they were eating or share how they were trying to eat better.  People began to come to him for workout advice and tell him about how much time they had spent at the gym and what programs they were currently following.  These confessions weren’t anything he started or encouraged.  He simply lived healthy because he needed the change in his own life.

Transformation doesn’t only shake the transformee – spell check is telling me that isn’t a word; well, it is now – it shakes those that were around pre-transformation and those that hear the story mid/post-transformation.  Transformation shines a light and opens people’s eyes to see where transformation is available or needed in their own lives.

Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Acts 2:37 

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.  Acts 5:33 

In both of these verses people were being told the story of the Gospel.  Same story, two completely different reactions.

When we moved to Tennessee our intent was not to create a stir or have a fabulous story to tell.  We moved because we felt like God was calling us to deeper faith in Him.  Leaving behind everything that was safe and predictable was the method He chose for us.  Since moving our life has taken turns we never anticipated and God has changed our hearts and minds in places we didn’t know were in need of changing.

All this change has caused varying reactions from people and not all of them were pleasant.  At first the negative reactions really hurt us.  We were very self focused and often reflected on the “betrayal” and questioned how people could know us for so long and then turn on us so quickly.  We met with one of our pastors to talk over our journey, desperate for wisdom and wanting to make sure we weren’t totally insane.  During that conversation he said something we won’t ever forget; “Your story causes tremors.  There is a shaking that happens when people see your life or hear your story.  They are left with this conundrum on how to respond to it.”  Basically, if they accept it, they have to acknowledge that God could cause an upheaval in their lives to grow their faith.  If they’re not ready for that they need to reject it and in so doing reject us as well.

That ended the self pity.  We are now able to understand and sympathize with people’s reactions to our transformation.  This crazy story isn’t only messing with our spiritual boxes we’ve built, it’s messing with the boxes of the people we’ve known for years and the people that are just now hearing our story.  They have to grapple with the underlying question of “What does God require of me?” and that can be scary.

If you are in the middle of a transformation process and the people you thought would always be there are gone or aloof, ask God to show them to you through His eyes.  Take your hurt and turn it into earnest prayer for them.  They have been shaken.  What was predictable is now a wild card and they’re not sure what to do.  Ask God to speak to them and show them the way He has for them, and pray for them to have strength to follow.



Transformation Part 3 – The Cost of Personal Relationships

“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life.  Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.  And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.  But don’t begin until you count the cost.”  Luke 14:26-28

Truthfully, this passage used to bother me.  My personal aim in life is to love every person like Jesus loves them.  I want people to feel a love from me that cannot be explained, because it comes from the Father.  So for me to read “hate everyone” was really hard.  I knew it didn’t mean to literally hate them, but I couldn’t get my heart and mind to agree on what “hate everyone” meant.  These last few years have shown me the “cost” this verse is talking about.  It isn’t about literally hating or loving them; it’s about me and my heart and what I’m willing to sacrifice.

Laying down my life doesn’t bother me because it’s something I can do.  I can look at the time, comforts and possessions I’ve sacrificed and have an account of what I’ve done for God and for His kingdom.  What I’ve struggled with is the things that have been sacrificed unwittingly; specifically relationships.  This is where the “hate everyone” has become real.  This is a cost I didn’t even know to count.

We will be the first to admit our faith journey, since leaving Wisconsin, has been crazy.  Most of it has made no sense and we look like we’ve lost our ever lovin’ minds.  We have. We didn’t leave behind all the “great” we had (job, house, friends, family, church) because we were angry, setting out to prove something or seeking a new thrill.  We left it all behind because we were desperate for greater faith, for a deeper walk with God.  We want to see the God of the Bible alive and well and active in our modern age; to experience and witness miracles, signs and wonders.  In our naiveté we thought leaving everything behind was the greatest sacrifice, (sell all you have and give to the poor) but we found that was just the beginning.  We had to lose ourselves.  And in losing ourselves, we lost others.

Our “cost” focus tends to be on the things we can change and let go of ourselves: changing our environments, the things we listen to and watch, the way we speak and act.  These are all needed and are all great visual, tangible examples of sacrifice and transformation.  But what about the sacrifice after the transformation?  There is collateral damage to transformation.  Suddenly people don’t know what to do with you anymore, they don’t know how to act or speak around you.  All your previous anticipated responses have changed and they don’t know how to navigate the relationship anymore.

In my mind I assumed all relationships that change or end are ones that were toxic.  That isn’t the case.  Sometimes the relationships that change are the ones you thought were there for a lifetime.  They were the people that were there for you at any moment and they walked through life with you: through marriage, babies, houses, questions, loss, gain, etc.  Then you begin this transformation and you’re in a place they’re not familiar with, nor are they ready to explore.

Now we’re faced with the decision: Do we continue on this walk with God that seems crazy and unpredictable?  This walk that is making us question our sanity?  Or do we stay with what is comfortable and predictable?  Here is where it is important to know the sound of God’s voice in your life.  Sometimes the words He speaks completely contradict human logic and common sense.  Actually, quite often they do.  Are we willing to walk away from relationships where you have found comfort and experienced joy to follow an unknown path that God is calling you to?  This is where we need to examine: is He truly the source of our joy and strength, or are we relying on our relationships with people?

Here is the great cost, not only for you but for them.  God has called you to a path you can’t really see and you don’t know if you have the strength to walk, but you’re willing to give it a go.  Sometimes in order to grow you have to leave things and relationships behind.  You have to “hate” them.  Remember, these were the closest of relationships so you’re not the only one feeling the pain, but you are the one being called and you are the one that will stand before God someday and answer for your own life.  Are you willing to leave all behind to follow Him?  He won’t lead you down a path of what appears to be loss and destruction without a purpose, but you need to trust His purposes.  He loves your friends and family even more than you do so, of course, He is going to take care of them in this journey as well.




Transformation Part 2 – The Process

If you ever need proof that humans are creatures of habit and comfort, I challenge you to slow down and think of people’s responses, including your own, to the following scenarios:

Facebook changes its algorithms. The word “algorithm” was eluding me so I Googled “Facebook changes” knowing the word I wanted would pop up.  (thanks, Googes)  What I didn’t know is that Facebook is getting ready to change its algorithm again!  Haha!  You’re going to be able to get a fresh view of responses to this very soon.  The last few times they have done this I remember hearing complaints from almost every person I knew that had a Facebook page.  “Why did they have to change anything?”  “What was wrong with the way it was?”  “I liked it the way it was.”  Eventually the chatter all dies down and we all get used to the new pattern and all is well in cyber land.  Get ready, folks!  It’s about to happen again.  Maybe the Lord sent me before you to prepare your hearts.  Lol!!

Scenario numero dos:  Your favorite store is getting remodeled.  This is happening right now with our local  grocery store.  It is total chaos.  Entire aisles are empty, new aisles are popping up where aisles had never been, things are being moved to the opposite side of the store, but “only temporarily” so don’t count on it being there the next time you shop.  It’s crazy town!  I have not witnessed anyone having a full blown melt down in the store (thankfully), but I have seen the looks of terror and confusion.  I have also heard conversations in other places around town of people talking about how crazy Kroger is.  I don’t have the heart to tell them after the crazy is over we are all going to have to deal with figuring out the new layout.  I’ll let them deal with that later.  But, again, all the chatter and ruffled feathers will calm down, we will have a new normal and all will be right in our little town.

We may think we like to have our habits and predictable schedules, but it all subconsciously leads us to boredom.  We hold onto our habits and schedules as a safety, to feel like we have control over what happens in our lives, all the while we are dying on the inside because we crave adventure as well.  We’re in a “catch 22”.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this predicament is a factor in us resisting transformation.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but continuously be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God’s will is—what is proper, pleasing, and perfect.”  Romans 12:2 (ISV)  

This is so amazing to me.  God knows exactly how our hearts and minds work and He has given us tools and encouragement to live abundant lives.  Radical transformations are needed, and they make amazing testimonies, but we adapt to them and become comfortable.  We look back on them with fondness, only slightly remembering the turmoil and pain, able to focus mainly on the good that came out of it.  God is wanting us to go through a continuous, daily shaking, to become comfortable with the uncomfortable.  We need a constant awareness of our thoughts, our instinctual responses to life.  By doing this we can be recreated; we will not respond to life the same way the world around us does. We will be trained to hear our Father and know His heart.  His heart for us is not sorrow or hopelessness, it is power and confidence.

We are to be a reflection of our Father, to be like Jesus in this world.  Jesus had moments of sorrow, despair and anger, but He did not stay in those moments.  He lived the continuous renewing to show us it can be done.  It is not easy.  It means not cussing out that clueless driver, not throwing a shoe at your sassy teenager’s head, it means not losing it at your waitress for getting your order wrong, not coming back with the perfect snarky remark when your spouse says something a little too real to you… and the list goes on and on.  Continuous renewing is like a workout; you get stronger and stronger, your old responses die away and your mind becomes transformed to think and speak with God’s heart for those situations.  Then, a new weight, a new situation gets added and you’re reminded again of your need for the renewing.

Rarely does anything of worth come easy.  So, let’s “fight the good fight”, “take every thought captive” and challenge ourselves to walk through the adventure of transformation.  Let’s show the world around us that hope can come out of darkness and confidence can come out of despair.  Let the heart and mind of our Father be continuously moving in us and reflecting off of us.

P.S.  I did not mail my sister’s birthday card on time.  Some day my friends, some day.

Transformation Part 1 – Phases

The stupid part of transformation is that it takes time.  Wouldn’t it be great if Disney took over our transformation?  A bit of pixie dust, the pointing of a wand, a little twirl and “poof!”, new person!  But, alas, we have to walk through long, exhausting, frustrating, pull-your-hair-out phases of transformation because we have lessons we need to learn that will build our character.  Bummer, man.

I think every one of us can agree we’d like to skip the “changing” and get to the “changed”.  Remember the Christmas cards I told you about that were still sitting on my desk last week?  They were put in the mailbox today.  Why can’t I mail things on time?!?!  It’s such a little thing – just get to the mailbox.  Nope, can’t do it.  My sister-in-law’s birthday is today and  I don’t even have a card purchased yet.  One of my goals for the year is to be better with correspondence…well, I missed the first opportunity.  Hold on though!  My sister, Rachel, has a birthday next week, maybe I’ll get her card out in time!  See what I mean?  Let’s skip the changing here and get to the changed so everyone gets their birthday cards on time!!!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 

This is where we can get tripped up in our transformation thinking:  It is true that once we give our lives to Christ we are made new.  The catch is, we still have to choose to walk away from our old habits and thinking, they don’t always just fall away.  We tend forget there is a process for the new to grow.  Oh, we’ll acknowledge it when we hear a sermon or a conversation about it, but it gets hard for us to remember with our hearts and minds as we’re living it.

I remember being 10 and not being able to wait until I was 12.  I don’t remember why I thought 12 was so great, but I was excited to turn 12.  Once I turned 12 I spent the whole year excited about turning 13, a TEENAGER!!!  At 13 I couldn’t wait until I was 16, then I could drive and go out and do things whenever I wanted to (a great example of immature thinking right there).  At 16 I couldn’t wait until I was 18, because at 18 I would be an adult and could go live my own life.

I have now reached a point in my life where I have chosen to enjoy each year as it comes.  I don’t long to go back, and I don’t long to go forward.  This is where we need to get in our transformation process.  You might be in the infant stage of your transformation where everything is new and exciting, but also a little frightening.  Or maybe you’re in the middle schooler phase of your transformation where you’re a little too loud with your opinions and you speak when you should be listening.  Maybe you’re in your teen years of transformation and you feel everything really intensely and everything is black or white with no room for grey.  Whatever phase we may be in, let’s purpose to soak it all in, good and bad.  By doing this we will remain teachable and it will help us in our growth as we go through the next transformation phases.

Beautiful Destruction

Hello, friends!  I have been pretty quiet for the past year in Bloggy World.  However, I did manage to finish the first chapter in the Sanders Family Story book!  (that’s not what the title of the book will be, but we’ll leave it at that for now because I’m not telling the real title yet).  Yes, it took a whole year to finish one chapter.  Don’t judge.  There are a lot of shiny objects in this world to be distracted by.

I wrote a blog post in February about our move and trying to find my footing.  I mentioned that I was going to start running toward the next season.  That didn’t happen.  I shouldn’t be surprised, I’m not a runner.  I seriously loathe running.  Why would I say I would run??  If you ever see me running you should run or pray or both; I’ve been overtaken by an evil running spirit or there’s a genuine emergency somewhere.  Either way, it’s bad.  It turns out I wasn’t supposed to be running (God knows me so well!) I was supposed to be resting.

When we were little, my sister and I used to play this weird game where she’d try to bite me and I’d put the heal of my hand on her forehead to keep her away and unable to bite.  Yes, we are very strange, that’s not the point of the story.  The point of sharing our strangeness is to give a visual of what I think God was doing to me.  I was trying to (sort of) run to something, trying to find “normal” and He plopped His hand on my forehead and said, “Chill out there, chickie.”  I think this last year was simply meant as a year of rest.  I kept looking for a new routine, a new normal, and never found it because I wasn’t supposed to.

We weren’t meant to get comfortable and we weren’t meant to go tearing off after an unfulfilled calling.  There has been a stirring in our hearts these past few months.  Something is coming.  We’re not sure what it is, but it feels like we are about to walk into a time of promises being fulfilled.  These promises won’t fit into the new normal I was hoping to create, they won’t fit into comfortable or predictable.  This time we are not supposed to chase after our promises, we are supposed to wait for God to bring them to us.

All of this hit me today.  Yep, it took a whole year to come to this revelation.  I have been so irritated with the Lord recently.  Why on earth does it feel like we are still in the same place we were at this time last year?!  Where are these so called promises and provision?  I no longer feel like they are impossible.  I now feel like they are so simple and easy for the Lord to accomplish that I’m really mad at Him for taking so long!!  And that’s when revelation struck: I still have Him stuck in my “Dad Box”.

I don’t think I have ever talked about my relationship with my dad.  I’m still trying to figure out how to share it.  I don’t want to dishonor him or give people the wrong perception of him because he really is a great guy, but “tense” is probably the best word to describe our relationship.  I think what I have experienced is not uncommon and I believe sharing how God has healed my heart will be helpful to others, but I need wisdom in how to go about it.  All of that to say, I thought all my Dad Boxes had already been torn apart.  I have found a peace and surety as a daughter of Almighty God that I never imagined.  I assumed after I had those things that everything else was dealt with.  Nope.  I am still a Dad approval seeker.

Without realizing it, I kept living like the amount of faith I have and my good deeds were going to please Him and therefore all His promises to me would be fulfilled faster.  Even as I type this out I can see and understand this is faulty thinking, but that’s the very fine line of following Christ.  It’s the straight and narrow, it’s the working out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  Not fear as in being afraid, God’s perfect love casts out that fear, but an awareness of each decision.  Listening for His voice in every single situation, even the seemingly mindless ones such as which station to stop at to put gas in your vehicle.  You need to have faith, but your faith doesn’t give Him the ability to move.  It gives permission, it opens a door to Him, but He has the ability to do whatever He wants whether you have faith or not.  Somehow our Christian living dial gets turned just a hair off and all of a sudden we’re living like it’s our faith that gives Him the ability to do something.  See the fine line there?  We have to have faith, but He can still move without it.  I had been living like He couldn’t fulfill His promises to me without my faith; like my good deeds were going to please Him so much He couldn’t help but heap every one of His promises on me all at one time.

So, I was raging at God via conversation with Aaron when it felt like revelation literally slapped me in the face.  I’m expecting God to let me down.  I’m expecting Him to change His mind and not fulfill any promises because I haven’t been good enough.  I have been hoping and waiting, but in the back of my mind, I’m bracing for being let down.

Here is the truth: God is not equivalent to an earthly father, even the very best ones.  He is so much better.  There is not one account in Scripture where He expects His people to act a certain way, but doesn’t give them specifics.  Nowhere does He enact a punishment without giving plenty of warning and mercy time after time.  He isn’t sitting back waiting for us to fail so He can take the thing we’ve looked forward to the most to “teach us a lesson”.  He is cheering us on!  In every moment He is declaring over us the truth of who we are, the person He truly created us to be.  He is the perfect Father, our personal trainer, the One who believes in us the most.

Let God crush the boxes you’ve been keeping Him in.  Welcome the beautiful destruction into your life.  It hurts, really really bad.  Sometimes you’re given a “breather”, you think all the boxes have been broken and you have rest, then another one appears.  Let Him break it again.  Because beholding the beauty of Who He is, having an unhindered relationship with the Mighty God, a God not smashed into a box of human making, far outweighs any temporary pain we experience on this earth.

Social Vs. Familial Groups


In a recent post entitled “Finding Your Tribe”, I mentioned that as you discover your purpose and passion you may discover that the people around you do not share your passion or your vision. I recommended that you continue to pursue your purpose and trust that God will surround you with people who love and support you. The piece that I did not fully address is the difficulty associated with disconnecting from the group that you have grown accustomed to.

The Americanized version of church is a social group at its core. Their convictions are held in place by social pressure. There are so many churches to choose from that attendees often choose one where people think and believe the same way they do. As a result, the bonds that connect them tend to be more social than spiritual or supernatural. That is in stark contrast to the Bible’s view of Christ followers. According to the Bible we are to be brothers and sisters in Christ. This familial relationship was intended to be based on our common father, not on the ideals that we share inside a brick and mortar building. This distinction is important because as you begin to wake up to your calling and passion, you may find that you are part of a social group. If that happens you need to be aware that social groups behave differently than groups that share a familial relationship through Christ (Christ followers). I have spoken to several “Sleeping Giants” recently who, like our family, have awoken to discover that they were in a social club, not a group of brothers and sisters. That is why I am taking the time to address this topic.

In the post “What to do When You Don’t Fit In”, I shared the account of a church that was faced with members that felt like God was calling their family away from the group. In the post I detailed how beautifully this was handled. The members were sad to see them go, but their departure was not a threat to the group, because the group’s cohesion was based on a familial relationship, not a social ideology.

Social groups tend to be cliquish. You are loved and welcomed as long as you share the ideologies and expressions that form the core of the group. If you voice disagreement or act in a way that disagrees with the group’s core ideology, you are no longer welcomed in the group. For example, if you join a dog lovers club and then decide that cats are more important than dogs, vocalizing that will cause a distance between you and the other members of the club. This will most likely result in you no longer being welcomed to speak on behalf of the group. That is how a person gets removed from a social group.

In contrast, a group that is based on a familial relationship through Christ has another way of handling things. The Bible clearly lays out the process for confronting someone who is straying from core ideologies. The first step is a one-on-one conversation about the issue. I have found that these type of conversations solves a lot of problems. It allows a person to state their case and for two people to come to an understanding. Often what we perceive as a huge problem is simply a misunderstanding. If two are not able to come to an understanding the next step is to invite some others to witness the conversation. Finally, if the person still persists in their error, we are to treat them the same way we would treat someone who is ignorant of our core ideologies; with love, respect and kindness.

As I stated earlier, the Americanized version of church is social at its core. So, do not be surprised or offended if you are treated poorly when you begin to voice something other than the group’s core ideology. It does not mean that they are evil or out to hurt you. They are simply in a social group and are restricted to function within those parameters.

On the other hand, if you find yourself being confronted about your actions, as is detailed in Matthew 18:15-17, then you can rest assured that you are in a familial group of brothers and sisters, through Christ. You should take the opportunity to explain your actions, ensure your actions are Biblical and welcome the other person to speak into your life. Never assume that you, alone, hear from God. The familial structure is there to offer much needed balance. My sincere hope is that you are surrounded by brothers and sisters that are willing to weigh God’s direction out with you and that together you can be part of an experience that I detailed in “What to do When You Don’t Fit In”.