My Mentor is Two

28 07 2014

Yesterday morning I was getting dressed for church when suddenly my body was thrown off balance by my granddaughter. She grabbed me around my middle in a tight hug and shouted, “Grandma!” with glee.

There’s nothing that warms my heart more than when one of my grandchildren dash across the room and wrap me in a bear hug. Because they are living with us at the moment, this is a daily occurrence.

The littlest one, whom we call “Gerbil” (because she sounds like one when she talks!), loves to come curl up on my lap, sticks to me like Velcro, and imitates me.

Then, as I am apt to do, I began to consider what it’s like for God, my Father, when I run to Him and embrace Him in this manner.

After all, where did I get that love for open and guileless affection, if not from Him?

This became a game-changer for me.

“Lord,” I said, “this morning I want to unabashedly run to You, hug You, and tell You how much I love You. I want to hold Your face in my hands, look You in the eye, and declare all that is in my heart.”

The cool thing is that we usually sing songs about how God makes us brave, or calls us to go deeper than our feet could ever wander. Instead, every song focused on our love for the Lord!

Gee – worship!

I think I may be onto something, for the enemy has redoubled his efforts and all hell is breaking loose around us again.

Excuse me, I think I’ll go tackle Abba again just ’cause I love Him, and forget about the other stuff for a while!

While she may be little and uneducated, my granddaughter sets a fine example of how to demonstrate love to another. I’m glad she’s here to mentor me!

(For those of you who are uncomfortable with using literary license to attribute human features to God, who is Spirit, I realize that He is not in a human form at all…but the Bible also talks about the eyes of the Lord, that His arm is not so short that He can’t save, says the clouds are the dust of His feet, etc. This is not me being irreverent…just enjoying the Almighty God who loves me and calls me His child!)

Have you ‘hugged’ the Father today?





It Involves a Boat

25 07 2014

The year began with a glorious promise from the Lord:

Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them. – Isaiah 42:9

My heart leaped for joy. “This will be a year like no other,” He proclaimed. In joyful anticipation, I stepped into the new season.

I expected a walk in the park

…didn’t hear the water lapping on the shore

…nor the creaking of the boat.

I shoulda’ known a boat would be involved!

The promise was there…

“Let us go to the other side.”

New territory, how exciting! A voyage with Jesus; it doesn’t get any better than this!

When we disembarked, the sky was clear, the water calm. There was smooth sailing ahead…

…or so I thought.

Chatter among the passengers was light and cheerful. Excitement was easily seen in our shining faces and the sparkle in our eyes. No one noticed the gathering clouds.

Jesus lay down and took a nap.

The first flash of lightning silenced the voyagers, and they clapped their hands over their ears as thunder boomed. Joyful faces were replaced with looks of terror.

Not even the fishermen among them had ever witnessed a squall like this one. Waves ten feet high began to toss the little vessel around like a cork, and they were taking on water.

At times like these, two things are easy to forget:

Jesus said we’re going to the other side

and

He is in the boat with us.

…and what’s this? He’s asleep?

Great. We’re on our own!

I began to wonder why Jesus would be sleeping through such a storm.

As a man with a bustling ministry, He was spent and needed to be restored, no doubt.

Ah, but as God, He knew one thing…

…they would arrive at the other side.

It is for this reason that He sits enthroned today.

Whether He’s fully awake -

or seems to be asleep -

He’s got control of the thing!

There’s no pacing, no wringing of the hands while He worries our issues like a bone.

He’s got this!

So, while this year is unlike what I expected – the waves are high threaten to overtake me – I can remember His faithfulness to me in the past, and His promise to make all things new.

Wish I’d have anticipated the boat, instead of a walk down Easy Street. I’d have taken some matters in stride a bit better, I think.

Jesus said, “Let us go to the other side,” 

not:

“to the middle of the lake and drown!”

Sometimes God’s promises involve a boat!





Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!

24 07 2014

Have you ever been comforted by the Lord? Have you been released from bondage, had your eyes open to things which you previously could not see? Been cleansed of sin?

Second Corinthians opens with this:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction…”

Why did He do this for us?

“… so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.” (vs. 3-4)

Frustration is running high at the moment. I’ve been searching for someone who’s been in my shoes and shown the way out of the mess.

Those who’ve never been through what I’m dealing with are able to provide some relief, but very little experiential help.

Those who have been there, done that, aren’t talking.

When we are in a war and fighting for our lives, we don’t need pat, textbook ideology. We need a veteran who can share what works, what doesn’t…living, breathing proof that there is hope. We can survive this thing!

Life has been difficult, and a lot of damage was done when I was a child. Through the years, the Lord has been faithful to heal many of those wounds.

While being free of the pain was fantastic – able to respond to a current situation instead of react to ‘triggers’ – I discovered that the ugliness is redeemed every time I reach out to others and comfort them with the same comfort I received from the Lord.

As a veteran, I have more to offer than, “I read in a book…”.

“I’ve been in that trench: These are some of the things you need to pay attention to. Here are some areas to avoid.” 

There are many people who are hurting and in desperate need of hope – the kind of hope only someone who’s been through it can provide. (Think Job and his “helpful’ friends! He called them ‘miserable comforters.‘)

All that to say this: Whatever you’ve done, wherever you’ve been, if you see someone in a similar situation, lay down fears of what people might think if they knew and the pride of wanting to appear perfect, and

for the Kingdom’s sake, tell your story

…and offer to help.

This is the body at its finest,  The healing we receive from the Lord is a gift to us. As I read Scripture, though, I notice that gifts from the Lord are never solely for our consumption (with the exception of tongues). They are meant to be spent on others.

Our past does not define us – “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone; the new is come.”

Jesus bore all our shame on the cross. When the enemy uses my history to beat on me, I point to the cross where Jesus declared, “It is finished,” and thank him for the reminder of how much I need Jesus…what a mess I am without Him.

If you’ve been hiding behind a “perfect” facade, unwilling to let others know the secrets of your past, step out and let His glorious work shine through you to reach others. The word, “hypocrite” comes from the theater, and means “actor.” It is only in the dark where the thing has any power to hurt you anymore. In our mind, it grows and grows like dust bunnies under the bed.

Bring your light out from under the bushel basket and watch the hurting be drawn like bugs to a zapper! As an added bonus, you get to walk in the freedom that Jesus paid so high a price to secure.

The world needs the real you, so

Come out, come out wherever you are!





The Real Me

23 07 2014

One of the fellows from our home group prayed an excellent prayer this week:

I want it to be the real me talking to the real You, Lord.

It’s easy to be deceived about ourselves and what is going on in our hearts.

Further, we’re quick to believe the worst about God, without ever questioning whether what we believe is true.

Combine the two, and we have a life that is based on lies.

No wonder we build walls between God and us.

The “god” whom we serve is largely one that we’ve pieced together through the filter of our lives: personified by our father-figures (which can include spiritual leaders, teachers, and other authority figures), and what we’ve deduced from both pleasant and painful experiences.

Without a relationship with Him, and a working knowledge of the Bible, these things can leave us with a skewed understanding of the character and nature of God.

From this vantage point, the words of James 1 ring hollow:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights – Who doesn’t have a dark side. (paraphrase mine)

Really? Then why? Why don’t You fix this mess. Why have You allowed it to go on for so long? Why do You insist that I continue on this path?

This brings about what Henry Blackaby referred to as a “crisis of faith.”

Will I leave the Lord? Will I stay?

(You, of course, realize that God is being blamed for everything. That lets me off the hook. I bear responsibility for neither the problems, nor their solutions.)

One major area for which I am responsible is this:

Speak the truth in love.

When fear dominates a life, this command sounds like “jump to the moon and back.”

The first time we do, though, and we don’t die it feels like we just walked on water!

The Lord is using current issues to reveal more of the lies I’ve believed about Him. He is exposing areas where I absolutely do not trust Him…sad, but true.

I have tons of faith in His ability to make “crooked places straight and rough places smooth” for others; for me? Not so much.

It’s time for this ‘adopted’ child to learn something new about my Father. He is unlike my earthly father-types. Altogether different.

He can always be trusted.

I love His patience as He walks me through my unbelief, strewing my path with evidence of His great love for me, and of His good heart.

I know I shall come forth refined a bit more, able to reflect His light to the world a bit better.

Until that time, I add a hearty “AMEN!” to my friend’s prayer:

I want it to be the real me talking to the real You.

*****

Hey, if you struggle with unbelief as I do, check out the song in “Music for Your Soul” (see the menu at the top of the page). The song is entitled, “Help My Unbelief.” :)





Freedom

22 07 2014

As stated in my last post, my theology sadly lacked throughout most of my life.

I gave my heart to Jesus as a little kid. I was so relieved to find someone who loved me!

During my teen years, I learned that He had a wonderful plan for my life…

…so long as I followed the rules.

I married a fellow I met at Bible college. If anything was going to get God’s favor, I thought, that would surely fit the bill.

The marriage was doomed to failure from the beginning. The poor guy couldn’t “be Jesus” for me. That’s what I wanted, a savior.

After a couple of failed suicide attempts, I “knew” for sure that no one loved me…even God didn’t want me.

And that was my perception of God for the next two and a half decades.

Sorry that He’d ever created me.

During my mom’s short illness and then death, though, God was so close I could almost hear Him breathe.

He wrapped me in Comfort, and supported me like never before.

He DID love me!

In all my ‘figuring’ about life and God and stuff, I’d failed to understand the importance of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which God placed in the Garden of Eden.

To me it was the most unloving thing He ever did. Why put a tree there that could cause separation between man and Himself?

The answer is surprising.

Freedom to choose.

We weren’t locked into a relationship with God, with no choice to do anything else.

He gave man a chance to decide for himself whom he would love and serve.

We know the rest of the story.

It lives out all around us today.

Every day people choose to do their own thing…

…steal

…kill

…destroy.

These things involve relationships…people.

You

Me

A look at the Ten Commandments will reveal that every one of them has to do with relationship…

…love God

…love others

When we choose to live independent of God’s laws, people get hurt.

You

Me

The things that have caused me the most pain in my life have been people.

People who lived outside God’s stated guidelines for how life works best for everyone concerned.

Yes, He could step in and “take ‘em out.” The weird thing is that He loves them, too.

He is not willing that any should perish.

He wants us all.

And so He gives every man, woman, and child the freedom to choose.

Then, cleans up the messes they make when they reject Him and His ways.

He’s cleaned up many of the wounds left in me by other humans (and continues to do so, I might add).

He’s also cleaned up many of the wounds I caused in others (Thank You, Lord!).

Further, by giving the freedom to choose, there is the added benefit when we end up in the mire of our choice and desperate for help. It isn’t until the pain is intense enough that many of us ever considered the need for our Creator.

Guess what? Some of the ugliest stuff in my story is now the platform from which I can testify of the goodness of God…

…a platform I would not otherwise have.

(Ever had someone who’s never “been there, done that, and bought all the souvenirs” try to counsel you through a tough time? They may speak truth, but it’s hard to ‘connect’ with them; they have no experience in the matter, only theory.)

God never wastes anything!

I don’t have this ‘all figured out’ by a long shot. I’m mostly thinking out loud. If this post sounds like a ramble, that’s because it is!

The bottom line, I guess, is that I like the freedom to choose how I’m going to live life. If I can have this, then others must be allowed to do the same…even if their choice is to commit evil against others.

I suppose at the end of the day, God can still be blamed. After all, He did plant that tree in the garden. He wasn’t content to have a relationship with us simply because we had no other option.

It’s only when love can choose that it is love at all.

Sadly, that means the freedom to choose Satan’s will and way, if that’s what they really want.

God, being no respecter of persons, is very “black-and-white” in this regard:

Freedom for none,

or freedom for all.





Kick God When it Hurts

21 07 2014

If you are not anchored in the goodness of God, you will lower your theology to match your pain. 

- Christa Black Gifford

If you don’t know her story, look her up on the Internet. Not long ago, her baby was born premature. She and her husband had a brief forty minutes with their child before the veil between this world and the next was opened, and their little one was ushered through.

I have been alive long enough, and gone through enough painful circumstances to know the truth of her statement, and to have learned that when I am hurting it is important to remember that God is good. He took care of me in the past, and He will do so again.

In the early years, I blamed God for causing the pain. I was angry that He did not intervene. Someone was at fault, and in my book the “buck stopped with Him.” For a couple of decades, I got my gray matter all bunched up trying to figure out free will versus God’s sovereignty.

Although I was well acquainted with my Bible, having read it through several times, I missed the verse in James 1 that states:

“Every good and perfect gift comes from God, with Whom there is no shadow of change.”

As a child, church attendance was a rare occurrence. I’m not sure if my parents knew that they were open between Easter and Christmas!

When I looked for a church to attend after a drinking bout (I was 12, and it seemed like the logical thing to do), the one I chose was big on putting “the fear of God” into us. It was a manipulative tactic to get us to behave and not make God look bad.

Since my step-dad was an alcoholic, his mood swings were unpredictable. Mom, my brother, and I did our best to avoid Dad’s wrath.

As is common, I equated God’s character with that of my dad and male spiritual leaders.

What none of them ever taught me was the goodness of God.

Thus, when pain came along, I believed it to be punishment, or because God didn’t care about me. In fact, they taught me that God was ever watching, waiting for me to blow it so He could slap me down.

I was unlovable. The fault was mine.

This put me on the treadmill of works. Do more, try harder, be better.

Pain was stacked upon pain. Nothing I did made a difference in how “God” treated me.

I had lowered my theology to match my pain.

What a gracious and patient Father we have, though. He stuck with me while I was misrepresenting Him to the world. “Be a Christian – you, too, can enjoy a God who whops you when He’s in a bad mood.” (I didn’t have any ‘takers,’ making me a failure at evangelism, too!)

He continued to pour His love on me, and to slowly correct my understanding of His character, His nature.

This last year, although I finally ‘get’ it, He flooded me with His love through various acts of kindness, and words of affirmation. By Christmas there was no doubt in my mind that I am genuinely loved, and without conditions. It’s a wonderful place to be!

As you know, if you’ve read my sparse posts this year, we’ve been in a season of training. “Wax on, wax off,” “sand the floor,” and all that. It felt like my Father was teaching me “muscle memory” – but I didn’t know why.

Today, I see that my hunch was correct. I did need to be able to move quickly and without thinking through each move beforehand in order to fend off the blows of the enemy.

I had a “tsunami” crash down upon me without warning. Most of the “structures” lay in ruins. One thing is certain…the Foundation remains solid and intact!

The enemy is attacking with a vengeance, throwing lie after lie at me. My earlier training is paying off, though, and few of them are causing additional damage.

Because God was determined to teach me that He is good – that He has no dark side – I am free to trust Him now.

“Why?” is a futile question when standing in the midst of wreckage. Once blame has been affixed, what changed?

“What?” is a better one. What do I do now? What is the take-away from this?

…Or “How?” How will You bring good from this? (For He will!)

To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

- Isaiah 61:3

and

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust

- Joel 2:25

and my favorite:

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

For most of my life, I’ve “kicked God” when I was hurt…which, in fact, cut me off from my only true source of comfort and hope. In the next post I’d like to explore this topic a bit more.

Thanks for taking time to read!





Make Mine a Movie

19 07 2014

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post, Whimsy – Living Life Out Loud.

I got so fired up about living a better life that I searched for more videos by Donald Miller and Bob Goff. It didn’t take long to realize that I’m missing out on a lot of living!

Then I began to wonder:  How on earth could I do things differently? Don came to the rescue with this suggestion (for those of you who don’t want to watch the 22-minute YouTube video below). I’ve added comments of my own as well to clarify some of the points:

1. Write down the things we want.

2. Imagine watching a movie about the kind of life that would get these things, working through each one at a time.

The example he gives is of a man who wants a BMW. His movie is about him working hard all his life as a grocery clerk. At the end of the movie, he buys the car of his dreams and drives off into the sunset. His big conflict? Earning enough money to buy the car. {yawn}

Would we be likely to recommend this epic movie to our friends and family? Hardly. Would it make us cry when he got what he really wanted? No. This would be a boring movie.

Is there anything wrong with wanting a BMW? No. But if it is what drives us to get up each morning (no pun intended), then it’s a very small story.

3. If the ‘movie’ stinks, cross the desire off the list. Demote it to a subplot if you want, but it’s not a worthy purpose for which we will trade our lives to attain.

4. If the ‘movie’ looks like it could be an epic, anticipate what some of the conflicts might be.

5. A good ‘movie’ must require effort, will include failure, and times when we don’t think we will make it through, and cry out in desperation. It requires something of us.

6. Circle the ones that would make a good movie.

7. Imagine the climactic scenes. For instance, one ‘movie’ may be to get married and have a family.

This story will require relationship, marital conflicts, self-sacrifice, and love…all great components of an epic movie (a little different outlook for those of us who are parents, eh? I hadn’t thought about parenthood quite from this angle.)

The climax of this story is when the child is newly born and being held my Mom or Dad. So…

8. Between now and then, put no scenes into your movie that will interrupt the climactic ending.

You can ‘edit’ your life as you go through each day. “Will this action/activity move me closer to the climax – or will it hinder/prevent reaching the desired end?” Our choices will be determined by the story we want to tell with our lives.

Outside influences will become conflicts to be overcome, as well. We can’t control other people or circumstances, but we can choose whether they will be permitted to derail our movie or get us to quit trying altogether.

The Bible says, “Where there is no vision (revelation), My people perish…” Prov. 29:18. We must have an idea of what we want to accomplish, and what we’ve been created for if we are to attain our goals.

Here’s to living a better story!

 

If you’d rather hear what Don had to say (so much more than I’ve shared here…;)), here’s his talk (same one I posted as a PS yesterday.)








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 820 other followers