God Loves Broken Pots

21 08 2015

My life, like many of yours, has been filled with great pain, abuses, unfulfilled dreams, and deep sorrow. It was made doubly hard by my faulty beliefs of what God is like.

Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “I know the plans I have for you, plans for good (shalom – Hebrew) and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

As I surveyed my life, and considered the sovereignty of God, I came to the conclusion that He was a monster. Psalm 135:6 reads, “The Lord does whatever He pleases.” It seemed that He had been ‘pleased’ to curse me with immense misery.

I was once asked, “If you believe that God is so horrible, then why do you love Him?” That was a good question.

I responded with: “He’s all there is, and I have to love Him if I’m going to avoid hell.” I’d had plenty of experience with ‘loving’ hateful, hurtful people.

I assumed that God was like them – I could handle one more.

It was then that God began to reveal His true nature to me through a verse in John. Jesus said, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.”

Wow! I began to pour over the gospels, and to study Jesus. I realized how wrong I was in my beliefs about God the Father. He was tender with the people ‘in the ditch,’ but harsh with the self-righteous, religious people.

I hadn’t expected that.

He showed me His broken heart when I spent days on end in a drunken stupor to anesthetize my pain.

He loved me when I dragged the label “Christian” through the mud in every way imaginable.

He loved me when I slandered Him, and blamed Him for every vile sin committed against me – all while I claimed to be His child.

He loved me when I was bitter, hateful, and vindictive.
For almost five decades, He pursued me, wooed me, and sought to win my heart. His patient persistence finally won out.

Time and again He has shown Himself trustworthy. If I took the entire week it wouldn’t be enough time to enumerate the many ways He’s demonstrated Himself to be His every name as given in the Bible:

Redeemer, Provider, Healer, Defender, the Great I AM, and so much more.

He is everything I need.

He set me free from the bondage of people-pleasing, and has shown me time and again that if I seek to please Him, then others’ opinions are of little consequence.

He loves me – and that is enough.

He has become my best and dearest Friend, Confidante, and Lord. He promised a future that will surpass all my hopes and dreams.

With great expectation, I wonder what I will be doing a million years from today…
…it will be phenomenal!

To know God is to experience Him. To experience Him is to discover a love so vast that it is beyond comprehension. It is a privilege to know with confidence that I can trust His love.

Life may have broken this little pot, but my Father loves me with an indescribable, glorious love! Have you experienced this for yourself? I hope so!





Squeamish Truth

20 08 2015

(By the way, ‘Five’ referred to the fifth step as given in Be Selfish – Forgive.)

Start a discussion on the need to forgive God and people get nervous. Some become outraged on God’s behalf that I would suggest such a thing. Some consider me a heretic.

I’m okay with that.

Please take a moment to hear me out.

When we are hurt by another’s actions or words, the Bible instructs us to forgive. There are no qualifiers such as:

Only if they meant to hurt us.

If they said they were sorry.

Only if you’re willing to trust them again.

It doesn’t give qualifiers as to whom we are to forgive either. If we are hurt, then we are commanded to forgive.

As we saw in Be Selfish – Forgive, forgiveness is primarily something we do for ourselves. The offender usually doesn’t care one way or the other. It’s ‘no skin off their nose’ if we don’t forgive them. They’ve moved on and don’t give us a second thought.

Sometimes the One we need to forgive is God.

God is perfect. He never does anything wrong. Not even a tiny bit. He doesn’t have bad days, or whipping boys. He’s no bully, nor does He take out His frustration on anyone.

To suggest that we forgive Him seems foolish and arrogant. I get that. I’ve held that stance myself.

Until I met people who were genuinely angry at God. Seemingly with good reason:

The mother who prayed for a baby, got pregnant, but gave birth to a still-born.

The boy whose sister suffered for years before she died. He earnestly prayed for her healing, she died anyway.

The woman who prayerfully entered into marriage, confident that he was God’s choice for her…only to discover 15 years later that he was having an affair when they got married, and continued having them throughout their marriage.

I’m sure you could add to this list.

Are these people offended with God?

You bet your sweet bippy.

Did God, in fact, do anything wrong?

Not on your life. He is love, and everything He does is for the greatest benefit to the most people.

Tell any of these three, though, that they have no right to question our perfect God, no right to be angry with Him for He does all things well, and see how that goes.

What are they to do with their hurt, anger, and confusion? What else can they do, if they’re not allowed to express their emotions?

They will stuff them.

As any good counselor will tell you, stuffed emotions take on a life of their own. Shoved into the dark recesses of their hearts, they are fodder for the enemy. He will tell them lie upon lie:

God is not good

God doesn’t care

He doesn’t love {me} or He would never have done this to {me}
(the enemy always speaks to us in our pain in the first person, have you noticed?)

{I} can’t trust God

If God is in charge, and this is how He does things, {I} don’t want anything to do with Him

What began as a question about God’s character or nature becomes our belief system about God. Every new hurt that is perceived as coming from God gets added to the mess. Resentment and bitterness begin to grow.

There comes a day when it all comes boiling out. They become staunch rivals of God, doing everything they can to wipe His name out of existence.

Take time to listen to the story of an atheist, and you will almost always discover a point at which God ‘failed’ them…followed by their treatment by Christians who were offended by their outrage toward God.

How differently might things have turned out for them if they were allowed to voice their anger, their frustration, their confusion about what happened; had they received permission to be honest with God?

If, instead of Rebuke denouncing them for their arrogance against Almighty God, Empathy, or at least Compassion, stepped in and gave a safe place to vent, to hear their heart, none of those lies would have remained in the dark to grow like little dust bunnies under the bed.

Brought to the light, those emotions would have lost their power.

Given the tool of forgiveness, they may have chosen to begin the process. As they forgave a little here, a little there, their confusion would have cleared up. The lies would have been seen for what they were, and replaced with truth.

Force a person to be reverent to a God they don’t understand, especially in light of tragedy, if you must; but don’t be surprised when they later spew hateful invectives and go to great lengths to get God banned from everything.

God owes no one an apology.

His love never fails, and He is just in all He does.

I get that.

But we’re humans, with human emotions that sometimes go wrong. An offense is an offense, it doesn’t matter who that may be. Left unforgiven, pain will become resentment and bitterness. We’ve been commanded to forgive…everyone.

We cannot maintain a close relationship with a person by whom we’ve been hurt – intentional or otherwise. This doesn’t work in marriage, and it won’t work with God, either.

So long as hard feelings exist on our part, we will maintain our distance.

We can’t afford to be ‘peacekeepers’ with God. He wants our all – the good, the bad, and the ugly, as they say.

God is not impressed when we lie to Him about how we feel.

He already knows.

He’s ‘big enough’ to take care of Himself, and then respond with love, truth, grace, and mercy.

Once we’ve emptied our heads of the junk inside, there’s room for truth; space for fresh insight and revelation of the character of God.

We don’t demand answers. We may not get one, and that’s okay. What we will receive is peace ~ the type of peace that comes from clearing the air. Our memories of times with the Lord bring comfort once again.

In no time we will be able to say, “I don’t understand; but I know for sure that You have been good, and You will be good to me.”

And that’s the squeamish truth.





Don’t Forget Five

19 08 2015

For years I’ve been ‘stuck’ in a wound that would not go away. No amount of forgiveness brought the release I sought.

I talked through the situation with Abba – literally hundreds of times; yet could not get free of the matter.

I finally wrote it off as my ‘hard heart’ and lamented my lack of spiritual maturity.

This was a serious problem for me because I kept bumping into the same scenario everywhere I turned. That was painful, yet I see the gentle, patient hand of Father whose desire is for my wholeness.

After more than a decade of wrestling with my inability to forgive, yesterday my counselor and I discussed the issue for the umpteenth time. I’m thankful that God has given her great patience with me as well!

At long last, we found the key that unlocked the shackles of my unforgiveness.

It was a small thing, a simple thing, yet every bit as important as every other step in the process, as I learned yesterday. Perhaps that’s why I needed this lesson.

What did I learn?

I matter!

“C’mon! Get on with it,” you say. “What’s the key?”

I had not forgiven myself.

Seriously? That’s all?

Um, yeah.

A long time ago I was offered a supervisory position. I believed myself unqualified for the job. I didn’t pray about it, just declined the offer.  I would be in charge of many people. If I messed up, it could be costly.

However, I had a friend who demonstrated all the qualities I believed necessary to handle the position well.

Um, didn’t pray about that either.

At the next board meeting, I recommended my ‘qualified’ friend.

They agreed, and he was put into the position.

It didn’t take very long to realize that I’d judged this person by his outward appearance – and hadn’t given a second’s thought to his heart.

Big mistake.

Lurking under the mask was a power-hungry, ambitious fellow who didn’t care if people were hurt by his actions or words.

Sadly, many were hurt. Many found positions elsewhere.

Then I became his target.

Perceived as a threat by my ‘friend’, he went out of his way to undermine and discredit me.

His efforts were quite effective, thus when I went to the assistant HR person to discuss the number of ‘casualties’, I was told, “We know he’s hurting people, but he gets things done. Who could we get to replace him?”

I got the same response from the head HR guy as well.

I became frantic, burdened. These were my friends who were being hurt. The more innocent ones were being led into dubious actions and attitudes.

 

Seated on my counselor’s couch, we hacked at the roots of my unforgiveness – again!

“What is it about this that you can’t let it go?” she asked.

We did a little exploration (again), and began to go through the forgiveness process as noted in my Be Selfish – Forgive.

We went through forgiving the person, asking God to forgive them, to forgive me, then ‘forgave’ God for not doing what I thought He should about the matter (!).

All of a sudden, her eyes lit up.

“Hey! Have you been blaming yourself for the outcome?”

I thought about it a minute, and it became crystal clear.

Here, at last, was the key! 

I continued to hold myself solely responsible for what happened…

…Like I’d handed a loaded machine gun to a four-year-old in a mall, who was now mowing down everyone in sight.

That is not a good feeling.

“Yes I have. I was the one who recommended the guy in the first place.”

The minute I forgave myself, BAM! That choke chain around my neck hit the floor. It was the size one might use to restrain Godzilla!

The release and freedom I felt was instantaneous.

Yes, I recommended the guy for the position, but once he was installed the matter was out of my hands.

From that point on, he was the responsibility of our HR department. They saw what was going on – even acknowledged it, and they chose to do nothing.

The outcome was beyond my control, thus not my guilt to bear.

God longs for our wholeness. Jesus stated this when He introduced His ministry in Luke 4:18-19:

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.

He was content to revisit this issue with me until I finally realized that the one I needed to forgive was me!

You see, I matter to Him. What I think and believe about myself, yeah, that also matters.

Guess what? You matter to Him as well!

Forgive as you have been forgiven…

…and don’t forget Five!





Get Your Bold On

13 08 2015

When I think of the word “boldly” from Hebrews 4:16, the last thing that comes to mind is the scene in Luther where Martin is crawling up the stairs on bloody knees in order approach God ‘properly.’

The ESV translates the word as “with confidence.” Well, that’s better, but still not entirely accurate.

Let’s get the definition from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. It reads as follows:

Parrhesia: all outspokenness, frankness, bluntness, publicity; by implication assurance.

That’s a far cry from groveling, hat-in-hand humbleness, or scraping and bowing, isn’t it?

Why am I picking on this word today, you ask? Because sometimes life blows up and we’re in no condition to scrape and bow as we sort things out. There are times when we can’t calm down enough to remember we’re wearing a hat – much less that we ‘must’ remove it.

King David had lots of episodes like this. No doubt he had confusion and frustration…not to mention fear for his life. And all this came about after he’d been anointed as king. There are many such Psalms recorded. Let’s look at just one:

Psalm 13

How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?

How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death. Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”; lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

David’s been through it. His idyllic life as a shepherd is a dim memory. Saul’s relentless pursuit in order to kill this young man wore him down to his last nerve, and Saul was using it like a trampoline.

It is for this reason that I can’t envision David standing humbly, hat in hand, speaking this in soft, reverent tones. That might be the way we sing it, but I doubt that’s how David expressed it!

Look at his wording: how long? Will You forget me forever?? Consider and hear me! Enlighten my eyes!

I’m gonna die here!! Don’t look now, but the enemy is winning!

Tap…tap..tap…is this thing on??

We cannot insist that people grovel before ‘Awwmighty Gawd’ – when their life gets trashed through no fault of their own. If they can’t be honest with God, then to whom shall they turn?

It has been my {gulp} abundant experience that I can come boldly, speak frankly and even bluntly to my God without being shunned for doing so. In fact, the exact opposite has been the case.

Once I shed the ‘nice Christian lady’ stuff and got real with Him, He revealed areas in my heart that needed attention…not always fun, but necessary; and then He began to work in my circumstances.

This short ‘journal entry’ by David is most likely because he carried on and got it all out of his system. This is as much of it as he remembered later! Can’t prove it, but I’ve done the same thing. Once all the emotion is released, most of it dissipates. I can only remember bits of what I said.

Because I can speak bluntly – “Hey! I don’t get this!! I need some help! I need some insight!” – all the stuff swirling in my head is dumped out. My thinking clears up, and I begin to see things from His perspective.

It is only then that I can say with David:

“But I trust in Your unfailing love. You have been good, You will be good to me.”

Read David’s closure to his rant:

But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.

It’s not until we feel safe enough with God to be real with Him

that we feel safe enough to trust in Him.

Please note, this is not our usual interaction with God. In fact, after I unload and get to a better place emotionally, I end up apologizing for what I said and how I said it. He is, after all, God!

More than that, He is my Father who loves me dearly. I didn’t mean to be rude or disrespectful. However, He understands the why behind the way I spoke. Every time, He’s responded in gentle tones.

Every time.

Not one, “How dare you? Don’t you know with Whom you are speaking? Get out of My face and come back when you can show some respect.”

Never happened.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16





When My Body Said, “Enough!”

12 08 2015

Stuffing emotions is how I’ve coped with life. As a child, any emotion that was a little too happy or too sad was cause for a reprimand:

“Sit down and act your age. Settle down.”

Or

“Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”

Sanguine by nature, I learned to behave like a Melancholy. In fact, I picked up many of the characteristics of that personality type: organized, analytical, studious, and focused.

I also suffered from severe Eczema, hives, bronchitis, and wet the bed well into my teens (TMI, I know).

It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that this ‘crazy fun’ personality made her appearance. I would get happy and act all crazy…then wonder if I was crazy, then stuff that nutso back in the box.

In 1980, I heard Florence Littauer speak on the four personality types. In a matter of a couple of hours, I saw what was going on and began to operate as the personality God gave me:

“Do it my way and we’ll have fun!” I love it!!

While I was set free to be me, I continued to stuff negative emotions. Expressing those had never gone very well, and this didn’t improve once I became an adult.

After several years of emotional healing, the skin ailments and bronchitis disappeared. I’ve been very healthy – without so much as the yearly bouts of flu and colds.

Until last year, that is.

It was like my body said, “That’s it! There isn’t room in here for one more thing.”

I began to have physical ailments, sometimes separately, at other times, several at once: migraines, joint pain, kidney stones, and gall stones.

One by one, though, as I addressed old wounds with my counselor, these began to go away.

It became apparent that certain types of stressors affected certain organs in my body. This is what I learned about the above maladies:

Migraines: Lies I believed about God, myself, and others.
Joint pain: Unforgiveness
Kidney stones: Rejection
Gallstones: Fear

As we worked through the lies I believed, I would get a raging migraine. By the time we’d worked through the current one, it would disappear.

These have become a warning sign for me that the enemy is attempting to sell me a lie. As soon as my head starts hurting, I consider what I’ve been thinking about. Every time, this has been the case for me.

In the spring of 2013, my entire bone structure came loose. When I moved around, my back sounded like a zipper. The rest of my joints continually popped as I walked around or used my limbs. It was a creepy feeling.

After nine months of forgiving people who hurt me, my skeleton is back to normal. I am so thankful for that! There were times when I thought a hip would dislocate just by moving it out of line with my body. That was scary.

Major emotional upsets that involved rejection resulted every time in a urinary tract disorder of one sort or another. The severity determined whether it would be stones or an infection of the kidneys or bladder.

No fooling. Absolutely every time, within 24 hours of the rejection this was the case.

And gallstones? I now understand that ‘blinding pain’ isn’t just a cute little phrase. Pain can be so intense that everything before your eyes goes completely black.

(Yes, I could go have my guts yanked out, but I like my guts and God wouldn’t have given them to me if they were unnecessary!)

It took a while to figure out what was causing stones, but after a few months it became apparent. Fear had to go.

Whenever a situation arose where I should have spoken up, but chose to be a coward – bam! Gallbladder attack. As soon as I addressed the situation, I would pass a stone (or several) and all would be well…

…until the next time.

This is the year I am learning to stand up for myself. Fear has no place in my life. My gallbladder says so.

I’ve learned that my body is the dashboard of my heart. When I deal with my heart…dis-ease goes away.

No, I am not prepared to claim this for everyone. Each of us is unique, the choices of medical care and medications between us and the Lord.

However, my body has been the way the Lord got my attention so He could heal my heart. Maybe this will help someone else, too. I’ve read reports from many medical professionals which state that up to 85% of all illness is due to emotions. I may not be that far off. It’s proven to be the case in my own life.

For me, this is the year of no more stuffing.

My body said, “Enough!”





Faith-Full

11 08 2015

Although the dictionary defines faith as confident trust, the world defines it as a nebulous belief in “something out there” – whether it’s God, or Buddha, or aliens…whatever.

But the Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Why is this? As I read through James, I realized that many of the things that are commanded in the book cannot be done if I do not implicitly trust God.

When trials come, I will not shout, “Hurrah! God’s going to do mighty things, and I’m going to get to see Him at work.”

I will credit chance or luck for the good things that come my way.

Anger will come easily when others infringe on my rights. As a result, I will do some really ugly things – rampant wickedness, the Bible calls it – in an effort to maintain my position.

Every effort will be made to hoard all that I have. After all, It’s mine…get a job!

Without real trust in God, I will fall into the world’s belief that only those who have status, riches, or renown have value; and that I will only be a “somebody” by rubbing shoulders with them, or by becoming one of them. Heaven forbid I should be identified with the “wrong crowd.”

Consequently, I will scratch and claw my way to the top, stepping on others along the way. I will be unable to encourage or support others in my field, lest they gain an advantage and surpass me on the ladder of success.

Trust enables me to rest in the knowledge that God will avenge my adversaries on my behalf. Without trust, my belief is that I must seek revenge.

Unless I trust God, forgiveness is impossible.

These are just a few of the topics covered in the book of James. As you can see, without faith, we will fail in our attempts to do more and try harder.

Thus, our focus when we travel through James must be on learning to trust God. We must be able to rely on Him completely, or fail utterly.

This begs the question:

How do I learn to trust God?

The only way I know is by experience others’ and my own, and from my memories. This is what the Bible is all about: stories of people’s experiences with Him.

Paul said, “Forgetting the past, I press on toward the mark of the upward call in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians) Time and again I’ve heard people use this verse to say, “You need to forget everything that happened to you, and everything you used to do. That’s not important anymore. It’s only today that matters.”

To a certain extent, they are right. If we live in the past with unresolved anger, resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness, we will be short-circuited and unable to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What Paul was stating is that he did not allow his past to define him. Yes, he used to be a Pharisee, harshly judging people. He had been transformed by the Lord’s hand.

Yes, he used to arrange to have people killed for following Jesus. He doesn’t continue to murder.

These are things he used to do, but now he was a new creation in Christ. The old was gone, the new had come.

On the other hand, God told the Israelites countless times to “Remember when I brought you out of Egypt. Remember when I parted the Red Sea. Remember when I took out your enemies…

“Remember.”

It would seem that our memory concerning God’s work in our lives is a big deal to God. Why is that? Well, this is where “theory meets reality” and experiences happen.

The same is true in our history. When I look back and remember times when I needed a home and God provided, I experienced Him as my Provider.

When I had to go to court because of an abusive husband, I experienced God as my Defender.

When I was in the hospital, dying from a bone marrow disease and God healed me, I experienced Him as my Healer.

When I was committing adultery and God continued to pursue me, I experienced Him as compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy and faithfulness.

It is in remembering that I discover that I’ve had many chances to experience the truth of Who God really is.

Today when my faith is weak, I have only to look back and remember all that God has done for me. Recounting the ways that He has been faithful, helps me to be Faith-Full!





Dirt Said What??

7 08 2015

On the table before me are several piles of dirt.

This first one represents my mom, this one is my dad. Here’s my brother. For the sake of space and time, this heap represents extended family; this one religious leaders; and this one people whom I hold in high regard. Let’s not forget Hubby!

Oh, and this one is me!

They all have one thing in common:

Each pile consists of dirt.

This is not far from the truth. Psalm 103:14 states “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”

Hmm. Do we?

How often do we allow the other handfuls of dirt to label us, to evaluate us, and determine our worth? Sure, they may have judgments about us, but shall we give them power to define us?

God fashioned each one of us, knit us together in our mothers’ wombs, and has plans for us that are for shalom (welfare, peace), and not evil.

The other little piles of dust did not create us; therefore, do not have the power to define us…unless we choose to accept their evaluations over what God says is true about us.

We must begin to pay attention to their assessments of us – take them captive. “Oh look, dirt wants to label me. Too bad. That’s not what my Father says about me.” Then replace the lie with truth: “He calls me His beloved.”

Here are things He says about you:

You are His blood-bought child.

You have been chosen,

accepted,

adopted,

redeemed,

justified,

sanctified,

and glorified.

Right now you are seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus,

and have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.

Wow!

A pile of dust – no matter if it is common dirt, gold, or even diamond dust – does not belong on the throne of our heart.

When we accept another person’s opinion over that which God says about us, we’ve make them our god. Eew!

Enough of this nonsense.

I don’t care what dirt says.

God created me,

Only He can define me.

Dear Father,

It is with tongue in cheek that I say this article gives a new meaning to the phrase, ‘as dumb as dirt.’ When someone is spouting off at me, giving their opinion, pronouncing judgment, or their assessment of me, please let me see them as just another pile of dirt…no better and no worse than I. Help me remember what You say about me, and that only Your evaluation truly matters. Don’t let me be ‘dumb as dirt’ in this matter ever again!

Thanks for demonstrating Your love for us by patiently teaching us – in as many ways as it takes – that we are Your beloved creation. Help us get this!

In Jesus’ name,

Amen. ❤

*****

Don’t miss the articles on Vows and on Agreements. These are usually made as a result of something ‘dirt’ said or did!