Remote Control Words

31 07 2014

Most of my adult life has been spent ferreting out the lies I believed about God as a result of treatment by the men in my life. It’s sad, but true.

Children do not have the emotional maturity to distinguish between their parents behavior – especially their fathers – and God’s character and nature.

Because these are our parents, it is assumed by every child that they love us. Consequently, we define love by their words and actions. We lack the experience necessary to discern our parents’ shortcomings, and assume that we are the ones to blame…that we are bad and don’t deserve any better.

They are all we have in the way of security. They are all that stand between life and death for the child, by his or her limited understanding.

As we get older, and interact with more people, we may begin to feel a sense of injustice about our relationship with our parents, but due to utter dependence upon them, are powerless to change our lives.

Many end up with a shut-down heart, and an intense hatred for and distrust of God.

As a child, I went to a vacation Bible school, and fell in love with Jesus. He didn’t seem to share other’s opinions about me, and that made Him as attractive as a magnet to a fridge in my mind!

We didn’t go to church much, though. After while, He faded into the background…

…until I made a mess of things at the age of 12.

My cousin and her friend decided to have some guys over while her parents were gone. We set up a table in the garage with booze and snacks. (Where it came from, I’m not sure).

However, I’d never me the fellow they’d invited to keep me company. I was a nervous wreck, so helped myself to some of the alcohol…then more…and more.

I don’t remember anything about that evening. I was already blacked out by the time they arrived. Still on my feet, but completely unconscious.

By the time my aunt and uncle returned home, my body was rejecting the alcohol. I ‘baptized’ their house from one end to the other.

The next day, instead of yelling at me and carrying on, my aunt sat me down and gently spoke to me about her concern for my future, and how sad Jesus was about what I’d done.

Grace.

Her act of lovingkindness caused me to determine to become a “good girl” and go to church. I picked out the nearest one and began attending Sunday school, morning and evening services, a prayer breakfast for teens, the mid-week service, and youth group.

Jesus loved me, I knew this for sure.

Too bad His Dad hated my guts!

Just like my dad and step-dad…and nearly every other man I’d ever met.

Religion became a chain tightly wound around my neck, choking the life out of me. God had so many rules, and seemed so hard to please. I never knew what was going to set Him off.

Just like my dad.

Meanwhile, Jesus loved me, coaxed me to walk with Him, to trust Him.

It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I realized all the lies I’d believed about God because of experiences with men.

I thought God was altogether like them.

Today I have a loving relationship with my heavenly Father.

He is nothing like my dad.

For many years, I was angry with God for choosing the parents He gave me. After all, He could have given me healthy, whole, God-fearing parents. Was this all He thought I deserved?

Then I realized that in order for me to be created, it took a specific sperm, and a specific ovum to combine. Any other combination, and I would not exist! This had to come from my mother and my father…no one else on the planet could have done it.

He didn’t hand-pick them; He chose me!

All this to say,

“Men, you have been given the responsibility to bear the Father’s likeness to the world. It’s a high calling.

“These are big shoes to fill, and you will fail in some respects. You will need Abba’s heart if you are going to do this well.

“The men and women in your life need you to reflect the Father’s love, to speak His heart to them, to empower them to become the person He intended the day He chose them.”

A woman’s voice does not carry the same weight as a man’s.

Not when it comes to identity. 

Here are a couple of quotes by William M. Struthers (from Wired for Intimacy, p. 150):

“The masculine voice of affirmation spoken to a woman lets her know that she is loved because of who she is and that she is worthy of pursuit.”

“The masculine voice is received as a voice that speaks unchanging truth. Just as we think of the Word of God being truth that is unchanging, so a man’s words speak what he knows to be true.”

Because men are not nurturing, as a rule, their words are received as concrete truth – whereas a woman speaks from her heart to make things better. Man ‘sees’ the truth and speaks it out.

That’s how humans perceive your words. Did you know that?

It is for this reason that we are told that there is power of life and death in the tongue.

When a man we perceive to be an authority figure makes a judgment call about us, good or bad, we believe it.

Please be certain that your words reflect God’s heart. They will remotely control people for years to come.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. – Ephesians 4:29





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.)





Pit Crew

17 07 2014

I’m a “mastery” sort of person. Once I’ve done something well, I rarely repeat it, but want to move on to learn something new.

For this reason, I’d be a lousy race car driver! After about 3 or 4 laps, I’d dust off my hands and say, “Okay, got that figured out. What can we do next?” Then drive off the track and on to the next adventure!

Speaking of racers, I think they’d have handled the Wilderness Adventure with Moses better than the Israelites. They don’t mind looking at the same terrain for hours and hours while they drive in circles – and do this year after year! Just sayin’!

Life is a journey for each of us. Trials are kind of like finding oneself making laps around the track while we master how to weave in and out without causing or incurring damage, and how to take the curves without getting slung into the wall.

As with racing, one key component is a good pit crew. Without one, or even with a poor one, we don’t stand a chance in the Indy 500.

We were never intended to do life alone.

We need good people around us, ones who know their stuff – especially when we’re in the fast lane of a trial.

One of the things a pit crew handles is fresh tires. There are little balls of rubber on the track, known as ‘marbles’ which come off the tires due to the high speeds and sharp maneuvers. The tread wears off in no time. Slick tires can be deadly, making the vehicle harder to handle.

In the same way, our ‘crew’ needs to have fresh Scripture to give us, something with teeth in it that will help us get a better grip!

Our crew must be willing to wash the windows of our spirit as well, which allows a clearer view of the stuff we’re dealing with.

They need to be especially good with the gas can, able to re-fuel us with encouragement, which gives us the strength to continue.

The better our ‘pit crew,’ the better our chances of finishing well.

Above all we need the Crew Boss (Jesus) to direct the crew – and us as well. He calls us in for pit stops at just the right time, and directs the right people to the right task in order to keep us in the race. He’s awesome that way! 😉

Without a support team, we may finish the race like Lightning McQueen from Cars. We’ll  jump and bounce on our bare rims toward the finish line, with our tongue stuck out, in hopes that the checkered flag will wave for us!

Kachow!

If you haven’t seen the movie, Cars by Pixar, you should. It’s a great object lesson for those of us who think we don’t need anyone! Never get ‘too old’ to watch a good animated movie!