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!

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Polka-Dot Love

15 08 2015

As a parent, I came to appreciate the uniqueness of each of my seven children. Their little personalities were varied, their needs different from child to child.

I could not offer a one-size-fits-all kind of love or attention to them. Each one responded to different styles or interactions..the Five Love Languages, and all that. Part of my role as their mother was to figure out what each one needed, then supply that need.

As adults each of us have ways by which we best feel love. We have a heavenly Father who knows how to best meet that need, and He does so. His ways of communicating with us are as varied as the number of people in existence.

He’s a good Father.

When children are adopted, they come with ‘baggage’ from their family of origin. The challenge for the adoptive parents is to overcome what the child ‘knows’ about a father and/or a mother, for his or her concept is often skewed. When the new parents are patient, gentle, and persistent, the child comes to accept that they are loved, and slowly replace what they thought they knew about what a mom or dad is, with the new reality.

This can be a lengthy process, one that tears at the hearts of their new parents until breakthroughs begin to occur.

Right after my second birthday, I was adopted by my new step-dad. Unfortunately, he wasn’t interested in winning my heart – only in winning the imagined competition against my father. Sadly, he didn’t want the ‘trophy’ (me), that came with ‘victory’.

Kids aren’t equipped with the mental ability to understand that a parent is broken, and unable to love…so they call what they receive “love” and believe their experience to be the true definition. The rest of their life most will continue to define love by what they learned from their father.

As most are wont to do, I superimposed the treatment I received from my ‘dads’ over what I expected from God. I wrote about my experiences her: Unlock Your Shackles

When God adopted me, He ‘had His work cut out for Him’, as they say. It’s been a lengthy, slow process, but His love never fails and His patience is enduring.

At first I trusted Him not at all. He persisted, though, and has used methods that are unique to me in order to win my heart. This blog is filled with such stories: pink shoes, heart-shaped rocks, a gold lambskin jacket, provision when we had no food (for six months!), heart-shaped potatoes, and so forth.

While this looks like He panders to my materialism, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

My love language is not shopping!

Being Spirit in nature, He cannot wrap me in His arms, stroke my hair, or hold my hand. (However He did dance with me one day! See: Shall We Dance?) Consequently, He’s been creative in the ways He communicates His love to me. Each of the things listed came with a special lesson for me to learn about what a good Father is like.

Severely put off by what I believed about fathers, this unlearn/re-learn process has taken decades. Because He loves me and wants me to be secure in Him, He’s gone out of His way to demonstrate His goodness.

When others’ experiences with Father differ from ours, we must guard against undoing His work. What offends our senses may be merely because the experience was not meant for us. Unless their ‘take-away’ twists God into a heinous creature, we do well to rejoice with them in their breakthrough.

God knows how to best reach every one of us. He relentlessly pursues us and teaches us just how good He is.

As a kid, I was fond of polka-dots.

As an adult, I am fond of His polka-dot love for me…specially and deliberately designed to melt my heart.

He’s a good Father!

*Oh, the three verses I promised to share will be in my next post. 😉





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!





By Faith, Gerbil…

11 06 2015

When our three-year-old granddaughter showed up on Friday with her swimsuit and goggles in her arms, I knew one thing for sure:

There was a pool in her future!

She had been asking Grandpa for one, suggesting that he take his truck so she could get the box home. This went on for a couple of weeks.

On Friday, she changed her tactics. Instead of asking to go to the store, our little Gerbil (affectionately so nicknamed for how she sounds when she speaks – too cute!), told Grandpa that she would take him to the sale. Now, who can resist a sale!

She returned home with her parents later that night, undaunted by the fact that her ‘prayer’ was still unanswered.

We marveled at her faith, her persistence – and her calm assurance that she would receive that for which she asked. No temper tantrums, no whining; just patient waiting.

Impressive for a three-year-old!

You know what happened next:

We went shopping on Saturday for a wading pool!

At the same time, I’d been asking Abba for a writing table; a dedicated place for my laptop where I could be with my hubby while I work. Like Gerbil, I was patiently waiting.

That same Saturday, Wendel said, “Hey. Why don’t we go find a writing table for you.”

Out of the blue, just like that.

“You know,” he said, “we could learn a lot from Gerbil. Instead of taking the car, let’s take my truck. That way, when we find your table we can bring it home with us.”

Following Gerbil’s lead, he took a step of faith.

(Or would it be called a “drive” of faith?)

We went to a consignment shop and looked at every table. They didn’t have what I was looking for.

I finally decided that I could ‘make do’ with one of them if we took the shelf off the top. We were looking it over to see how difficult it would be when the owner of the store came to see what we were doing.

After we explained, she said, “Did you see the drop-leaf table over there?”

Over where? We’d looked at every piece of furniture.

Or so we thought.

Sure enough, hidden in plain sight, was exactly what I was looking for.

It’s amazing what we can learn from a three-year-old!

It was fun to watch my Father reward the kind of ‘faith that asks with expectancy’ for both my granddaughter and my husband.

While this lesson “in the natural” was great – we all got what we wanted – it will no doubt encourage faith in weightier, “spiritual” matters as well.

Assurance of the thing for which we’ve asked is important

– especially when we know that what we’ve asked is in God’s will.

There was a matter for which I prayed with expectancy for years. As time wore on, however, my prayers became rote – I prayed less often, and more because I “ought” to, than because I anticipated the fulfillment of my request.

This is a dangerous state of mind. Doing so can cause us to miss out on the gift when it comes.

Like Zechariah, it can seem like too little, too late. We’ve lived with the stigma of barrenness for so long that it’s become familiar; comfortable.

Instead of gratitude, bitterness erupts.

That was my situation this year. Even though God spoke (Behold I am doing a new thing…Isaiah 43:19), and there was no denying the ever-enlarging abdomen of the forthcoming birth of the answer to my long-forgotten prayers, my response was less than gracious.

I’d resigned myself to the status quo. It became a ‘badge of honor,’ and for some absurd reason, didn’t want to give it up!

Much of the year was spent unraveling the multitude of lies I came to believe when God tarried (by my standards 😉 ) in moving on my request. Even though my request was being fulfilled, in my bitterness I nearly ‘aborted’ His gift, then considered putting it up for adoption. I came to believe that I didn’t want it anymore.

I was angry! At my age?? Really? Why couldn’t You have done this when I was young enough to fully enjoy it??

(No, I am not pregnant!)

You understand what I am saying? Sometimes the thing for which we ask seems like it would have been better ‘delivered’ when we were younger, more agile, and had more time to enjoy the benefits of the fulfillment…careers, relationships, etc.

I love that even when we’ve given up, God is faithful to do that which He has promised.

All that to say this:

For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry. ~Habakkuk 2:3

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. ~Romans 8:25

When we patiently wait with anticipation – especially when everything tells us that it’s hopeless – our names are added to Hebrews 11:

By faith, (your name here!)…





Prodigal Surprise

9 01 2015

“Familiarity breeds contempt,” as it is said. While I didn’t have contempt for the prodigal’s story, I was so familiar with it that there seemed to be nothing new to glean from this parable.

How wrong I was!

Luke 15 finds Jesus drawing tax collectors and sinners, while Pharisees and scribes looked on and complained.

He begins to tell them stories – three, in fact:

The lost sheep

The lost coin

The prodigal son

All three have one thing in common: something was lost.

In the first two, however, a search ensues. They leave what is safe in the fold and in the house, and go in search of what is lost.

(This is where our story gets interesting!)

Is this true?

Sure enough, the ‘prodigal’ is out there somewhere, living it up, spending all he has.

Who goes in search of him?

No one.

Broken and broke, he returns home, prepared to spend the rest of his life as a ‘hired hand’ to his father and brother.

The father runs out to meet him when he sees his son from a long way off…

…but he hadn’t gone in search of the prodigal.

There is great rejoicing – as in the other two stories. He’s given the best robe (probably his father’s), a ring, and sandals. A party is thrown and everyone invited. They kill the fatted calf for this shindig.

It’s a big deal!

Hey, wait! Wasn’t the father’s inheritance split between his two sons (Luke 15:12)?

So, whose robe, ring, and sandals was the younger son wearing?

The older son’s. They were eating his cow, too! (See verse 31) When he found out, he was turned inside out with anger.

Now the search ensues.

“But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore the father came out and pleaded with him.” (verse 28)

Father went in search…not of the “bad” son, but of the “good” one.

If this family is to survive, the older son has some work to do.

It has to begin with his own heart.

He will need to take stock of his attitude of self-righteousness, realize that his motives in doing all he had were not pure – at least the younger son was honest about his feelings – and to see his own sin in all this.

He would rather point to his brother’s sin and carry on about what this ‘bum’ deserves. He actually owes a debt of gratitude…

…little brother made him look pretty good!

But out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks…and there isn’t a shred of grace, mercy, or love in his words.

If his heart isn’t too hard, once he faces its ugliness, the tough work of forgiving must begin if they are to live ‘happily ever after.’

Further, the older brother must come to terms with the fact that his sibling’s acting out will cost him.

It’s already cost him a robe, ring, shoes, and a big party. These all came out of his pocket.

Beyond that, little bro came home flat broke. He spent everything he had on “riotous” living. He’s already had his fun; now he’s come home completely spent.

All he offers is his broken, penitent heart. It’s all he has left.

He will need to be supported, for everything now belongs to the eldest. They will have to learn to work together. That’s a lot to ask of the older brother.

This will only be possible through forgiveness.

Then, and only then, can the big brother walk in freedom from bitterness, anger, and resentment.

The choice is his.

The sad truth is that when we are related to a ‘prodigal’ son, their sin will cost us – things that can seldom be tallied on a spreadsheet: embarrassment, humiliation, dignity, self-respect, and lost years.

Getting to forgiveness is a process, and will take time.

The cost of refusing to forgive is far greater, though. We will become bitter, resentful old people whom everyone avoids…lonely. We cut ourselves off, not only from others, but from our Father Himself.

That never goes well.

What is being asked of us will twist our minds every which way. It’s not fair! This is not my fault!

Forgiveness feels just plain wrong!!!

Why should our younger brother get off ‘scott-free’ – while we foot the bill for their actions?

And yet, is this not what our Big Brother did for us? Can we not pass on the grace which we so freely received?

We must, especially when we consider how much more we have to lose by hanging on to unforgiveness.

Do we really want to pay the high price of bitterness because of another’s sin against us?

I certainly don’t…but I haven’t “arrived” yet!

I want to, though. Lord, teach me to walk in the freedom of forgiveness.

As you can see, the prodigal’s story contained some surprises for me. Hopefully it did for you as well.

Whooee! This year is certainly starting off with a bang!!





Of Promises and Poo (or “Messy in the Middle”)

29 12 2014

Diapers: The most appreciated gift any new parent will receive.

Oh, all the pretty little dresses, smart suits, and adorable shoes are loved as well; but without diapers, they will soon be ruined!

Why? Because “poo happens!” It’s unavoidable.

When yes wears a diaper in response to our prayers, we will handle things better if we know this “minor” detail:

We will be messy in the middle!

The sooner we learn to roll with this, the sooner we can trust God and His process. He has a purpose and will finish what He has begun (Philippians 1:6).

The year began with a promise from the Lord. It is Isaiah 43:19. I’ll bet He’s repeated this to me at least a couple dozen times this year. It reads:

Behold, I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth; do you not perceive it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Now THAT’S a promise! I was very excited, believing the “new” thing would “spring forth” from all the music studies of the previous year. Surely beautiful music would soon be forthcoming.

Next thing I knew, we had a houseful of people. There was no possible way I could work on music…or even blog. We had five adults and seven small children here for several months. Days consisted of housework, meal preparation, and child care.

To say that I was confused would be an understatement!

My confusion turned to hurt, as I began to believe that God had pulled a “bait and switch” on me. It felt like He promised me something wonderful then, when my hopes were high, switched it for something ordinary…like when my dad drove us to the gates of Disneyland, then said,”The guys said this is just a glorified fair. We’re going to Knotts Berry Farm.” (In the 1970s, Knotts was more like visiting a film set.)

In the midst of the chaos, God chose to bring transformation to a family member.

Now? Really?

You need to know that when a close family member begins to deal with their “stuff,” it’s like their anchor is being raised with all their junk on it. Because of your relationship with them, all your stuff gets hauled up as well.

That’s when things start to get messy in your middle. You’ll be dealing with your own “poo” – in addition to that of your family member!

You can put a pretty little dress on it, complete with ribbons and bows. Keep up appearances at all cost.

But the “mess” will leak out and be unsightly…no one will understand why you stink!

How thankful I am to be part of a congregation where it’s okay to be a mess; where people are willing to wade in and help clean things up!

It’s been costly, and I’ve had to say “good bye” to pride. I’ve had to reach out for help – including a counselor to help me sort things out.

To my surprise, we’ve talked very little about the current situation. Instead, we’ve mostly dealt with what their stuff was triggering in me…old, unhealed wounds and strongholds.

Having other people living with us was an effective way to keep me from saying things that would only delay, hinder, or halt altogether the work the Lord was doing.

His ways were very wise!

Interestingly enough, a “baby” promise kind of made me become the baby. Helpless, inactive, and in need of a lot of love – these became a reality for me. I cried so much that tears no longer came forth…only goo. We hit the bottom of the well of tears and sludge was all that left. Gross!

Through it all, the Lord kept asking me to sit quietly in His presence. As I stated in my last post, I was certain that a butt-chewing would be involved, so I avoided His presence…only to discover that He was making me into a new person in this process and wanted to get re-acquainted!

Every week from September through just before Christmas, God addressed another stronghold in me and together we tore them down. There have been more than a dozen…ones I’d previously been unaware of. There were countless lies, and an insane amount of forgiving that I had to take care of: others, myself, and even the Lord (who’d done nothing wrong! There were many lies I believed about Him as well.).

Much repentance had to be done, too.

It’s been a lot of work, but worth it.

It wasn’t until yesterday that I gained God’s perspective of what He’s doing. The promise given last January is a “baby promise;” one that I will have to grow up alongside. It’s been messy in the middle, and I may not be ready for my “big girl panties” just yet.

At least now I have hope that they will be forthcoming!





When “Yes” Wears A Diaper

28 12 2014

Simeon held the key to my needed paradigm shift. Who’d have guessed?

This year has been especially tense between the Lord and me. His answer to my prayers of almost a couple of decades seemed so minimal, so like He’d given me the dregs of His abundant riches.

I was deeply offended that His response was so underwhelming, considering the need at hand.

Somehow, some way, I knew that the lack was on my part. That I was missing something.

For the last month or so, while I was crying out to Him, telling Him how much I missed Him, I was unwilling to sit with Him…to hear His heart.

Somewhere in His response was a sharp rebuke for me. Of this I was certain.

And I didn’t want to hear it, so

I’ve been hiding.

I love His tender patience with me, though. His willingness to pursue me when I’m hurt and confused by what He is (or seems to not be) doing.

This was a serious matter, this breach in our relationship, and He was not content to let it go. Love found a way to get through to me. This morning, He used Amy Bailey’s sermon at The Stirring today to reach me.

The lack was on my part – but not in a “shame on me” kind of way. It was a misunderstanding of the simplest truth of all.

Sometimes “yes” wears a diaper.

I didn’t want an “infant” answer. I wanted one fully grown, sporting a beard, and ready to roll.

His “yes,” however, came as a baby. Such a tiny thing that I nearly missed it.

This is not unlike Simeon of old. We find him in Luke 2:25-35.

He was waiting for the Consolation of Israel. It would seem, from the text that he was an elderly man, for it was revealed to him that he would not die before He’d seen the Lord’s Christ.

Although Israel needed a mature answer to their problems, Simeon had eyes to see that their Answer was here before him…and in a diaper!

Undaunted and un-offended that God would say “yes” in such a way that it seemed foolish to believe, Simeon blessed the Child, and glorified God for His faithful fulfillment of promises spoken long ago.

While Simeon would not live to see the fulfillment of these promises, he believed they would happen, nonetheless.

Scriptural hope is not like wishing: “I hope this or that will happen.”

Hope, as the Bible defines it, is the confident expectation we are to carry that God will do what He said.

It is based on the One who never changes (James 1:17). His purposes never shift, never waver, and never change.

From Simeon I learned:

1. It is important to listen to God. As Simeon went about His day, the Spirit told him that the answer would arrive in the temple that day. He was alert.

2. He embraced Jesus. The answer to his prayer came in the form of an infant. Nevertheless, he wrapped his arms around the Answer.

3. He carried hope – confident expectation – in the fulfillment of God’s promise. He knew it would come in his lifetime. I doubt that a baby dedication was exactly what he expected, but he was okay with that!

4. Even though a baby wasn’t what Simeon had in mind, he recognized this Child as the promise and glorified God for His response to Simeon’s prayers.

*****

(Although this is going long, I want to finish this thought in one post. Don’t miss the next part!)

Sometimes the answer to our greatest need comes in the tiniest way – seemingly inadequate to that which has ensnared us.

In time, however, the “infant” answer will mature – and will be more than adequate…by far surpass…our small expectations.

In Time…that is the key.

This is where my relationship with the Lord got “stuck” this year.

When He answered my prayer, I expected a “full-grown” one. Instead I received a helpless “infant.”

It came with diapers, and will need to be nurtured and tended until it reaches maturity.

That will take time and participation.

The difference between my expectation of what the answer would look like and the one I actually received is the extent to which I have been offended with God – and why I stiff-armed Him for so long.

Who, after all, hangs their hope on a baby?

I didn’t understand that sometimes the answer is the “man-sized” yes, while at other times, I will have a part to play in the maturation process required for the thing to come to pass. Mary had to change diapers and feed the little Guy.

I will need to grow before I am capable of receiving the fulfillment of His promise, too.

Growth will be needed…and that will take time. 

Oh Lord, that I would cease to cast aside Your answers to my prayers simply because they are delivered in their infancy…instead of holding out only for the “grown up” responses I expect.

Give me eyes to see – and just enough foresight to comprehend the vast and glorious “yes” that it will become…in Your time.

I’m sorry for the many times I’ve rejected Your “yes” because it didn’t come full-grown, and fully operational. I see now that this is for my benefit, that I may grow up along with the promise and be able to receive the full blessing You intend for my good.

Thank You for comprehending my distance…the why behind the what of my hiding, and relentlessly pursuing me until I will draw near to You once again. 

You amaze me!