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!





Life-Giving Grace

8 01 2015

“Hello, my name is (Name Your Failure Here).”

Ever felt that way? Believed it deep down? This is how I secretly ‘defined’ myself for years.

There’s good news for us:

Grace is radical!

I don’t think we even begin to comprehend the freedom we have because of this marvelous characteristic of God.

This shackle-cutting truth escaped my understanding, for sure. Thus, most of my life, I’ve lived from a position of “because of my failures, I am unlovable” and worked hard to earn Father’s love.

However, grace is not something we earn. It is a gift, freely given by God. (Ephesians 2:8-9). In fact, the very faith by which we believe in Jesus is a gift, and not something we “worked up” in order to become His.

Where my ignorance nearly became my undoing is in the area of failure.

Sometimes these were unexpected outcomes. I never saw it coming. For these I can believe there is grace.

However, sometimes the failure came as a result of premeditated sin. I chose to do the wrong thing. The end result was failure on many levels.

God didn’t “owe” me grace for my eyes-wide-open sin. I messed up. There were consequences, and I just had to buck up and get through life as best I could.

Is this the kind of life Jesus died to give me??

Reality check: When Jesus died, all my sins were yet future. Even those I have yet to commit. (Yes, because I am still breathing, I will continue to sin…even if it is confined to my thoughts. Um, so will you!) See Romans 5:8.

NO!!

He came that we might have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

While we were yet sinners!

What I discovered this last year is that I have been tolerating much in the name of “consequences” for my premeditated sin. There was no grace for this, in my mind. I did it. I deserved what I got as a result of my choices.

What did I do, then, with one of my cornerstone verses: I know the plans I have for you…plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope?

I had it figured out that, because of my poor choices, I would just have to “gut this out” for the rest of my life. My ‘hopeful future’ would now have to wait for heaven…and I longed for death so I could get there.

With enough effort on my part, once I arrived I wouldn’t be stuck as a shoe-shine girl on the corner of Celestial Avenue and Heavenly Way.

Underneath all of my “understanding” was seething hatred of a God who could be so harsh as to leave me where I was with a “Tut-tut! You should have chosen more wisely.”

I believed that God was withholding His promises from me because of my own stupidity.

I would tell you that God is good – but didn’t believe it for myself.  My private opinion of His character was that He was cruel and unloving.

How could He tell call Himself my loving Father – and yet demand that I live my life as a victim as a ‘consequence’?

I believed that due to my failures I was no longer worthy of anyone’s love. “This is your new normal. Deal with it.”

I believed that all I could expect from Him was ‘just enough’ to make it through life.

This, my friends, is what happens when we seek man’s concepts about God, grace, love, and all the rest – instead of asking God Himself. We can, and should, seek godly counsel; but don’t stop there. Take their words to the Lord and ask Him to reveal what is true and what is not (Acts 17:11).

Well-meaning spiritual counselors and advisers spoke Scripture into my situation…but I don’t think they stuck around to see how I processed what they said; what their words looked like after it went through my “God” filters.

I’ll bet they’d have been horrified.

Satan also used Scripture to try to derail Jesus. No doubt he continues this today. Since everything I ‘thought’ I heard turned out to be a lie…and the oldest lie in the Book (God is holding out on you), I know he was an active participant in how I understood what I was told.

Here’s what I know today:

My failure(s) did not create me; therefore, they cannot define me. Only God can tell me who I am…and He calls me “Beloved,” “Delightful,” and “Princess.” I am fully forgiven. {sigh of relief!}

Yesterday, I had to do a “Hard Thing.” (I’m loving Havilah’s study!) On the way back to my car, I sidestepped a large rock. When I glanced at it, I noticed that it was a heart!

(I have a mound of them. They are God’s special communique to me of His love.)

He was letting me know that I’d done well, and that He is proud of the steps I’m taking to walk in victory at last.

His grace is radically sufficient…for even me!

My Father loves me!

My Father loves me!





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!





A Time to be Silent (Part Two)

11 09 2014

If you didn’t read Part One, you must before reading this post!

*****

When we look at our lives through the lens of Scripture, we can make sense of our situations. Romans 15:4 states:

“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

As I considered the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, I discovered many similarities between their episode and my own life:

  • I prayed diligently for God to intervene and resurrect a part of my life (Sorry, no details. Use your imagination!)
  • When this seemed improbable and utterly hopeless, I quit asking the Lord to move in my situation.
  • I resigned myself to a life of barrenness (not literally – I have seven children!).
  • God spoke to me through Isaiah 43:19 in January (and with this verse many times since) to say He would answer my prayer this year.
  • More bitterness, resentment, and anger toward the Lord erupted than I would have thought possible. “Now??? At my age??? Thanks a lot!”
  • Further, I didn’t believe what He said.

Interestingly enough, by this time, I’d found myself without a “voice.”

  • Every ministry I’d been involved in came to a close (except for Lessons by Heart).
  • I had nothing to write that was uplifting, encouraging, or even something with which to exhort others, which explains my few posts. :-/
  • We were at a new church, with few people whom we knew. I had no one to spew on!
  • Music was silenced as well – very rare for me.
  • Our circumstances were such that I couldn’t ‘process’ with the Lord in my customary way. It had to be done silently.

His timing was everything:

  • Much inner healing needed to take place in me before I would be ready for what He is currently doing.
  • I needed a preparation time; opportunities to practice the necessary skills in order to handle what was coming. This was done through our guest, and was what I suspected, as I wrote in Stupid Distractions.
  • My identity in Christ needed to be solid, or I would have self-destructed.

It would appear, then, that I am in labor…a messy process. At the end of all this is the delivery of a promised child. What it will look like is yet to be seen, but at last – and because of this story – I have hope.

His promise to me?

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

Isaiah 43:19

Sadly, I had a lot to work through with the Lord when He made this proclamation. It took several months to get to the place where I believed again:

God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Numbers 23:19

 Don’t know the ‘due date,’ but I am, at last, rejoicing in the upcoming delivery!

*****

Some observations:

While Zechariah may have been unaware of what lurked in his heart, God wasn’t. It would seem that when He briefed Gabriel, their conversation might have been:

“Gabe, I need you to go tell Zechariah that he and Elizabeth are going to have a baby.”

“A baby? That’s…well…great. Hey, didn’t they quit asking for one years ago?”

“Yeah, but the time has come. He’s not going to be as excited as you might expect.”

“At his age, shocked might be more along the lines of expected responses.”

“Well, Zechariah and I have some things to sort out. His first reaction will be to question Me. You need to shut that down. We don’t want his issues with me to take the shine off Elizabeth’s joy.”

“How shall I do that?”

“Well, let him know that he won’t be talking to anyone until after their child is born. That will give us enough time to work things out.”

You see, although Zechariah had been offended by God, yet God called him and Elizabeth righteous and blameless. God understood the why of Zechariah’s reaction. It was time to address the matter. In other words, God does not hold our offenses toward Him against us, but continues to pursue and woo us.

He’s been doing this with me again. (And I thought I was through believing lies about Him. 😦 )

He loves us with an everlasting love. That amazes me.

Despite Zechariah’s lack of faith, God was faithful and answered their prayers at the right time. His delay went way beyond giving a couple a sweet little baby. He had something very special in mind for them all.

With God, timing is everything. He knows far more about what’s needed and precisely when. For this couple, having John so late in life was actually an act of mercy toward them. They would be spared the horror and pain of John’s untimely death. Instead, they would be there to greet their son when he slipped through the veil between this life and the next one.

This has been a lesson learned – even after I knew it all!!

His patience and lovingkindness overwhelm me. Concerning the issue at hand, I have been faithless. I gave up asking Him to act a few years ago…figured I’d have to wait until heaven for relief.

I doubted His goodness and His love for me. I didn’t realize how confused my understanding of Him had become. While I can state with conviction that you are loved by Him with an unending, deep, and passionate love, I’ve believed this didn’t apply to me.

In His perfect timing, He brought these things to light so we can get them settled. I am soothed by His gentleness as He tends to these wounds in my heart. Truth is the balm He uses to heal what was so diseased.

I wonder, what have you learned about your own life as you look through the eyes of Scripture? I’d love to hear about your lessons!





A Time to be Silent (Part One)

10 09 2014

Due to unexpected circumstances, the friendships forged here have been neglected. I miss you all more than you can imagine and pray for you often.

*****

I began reading through the book of Luke, looking for new, amazing things about Jesus. Because He was the focus, I nearly skipped the first chapter. It’s about John the Baptist’s parents. Nothing relevant for me there, right?

Guess again! Here is what I would have missed:

Zechariah was a priest; his wife of the line of Aaron. Both were righteous  before God, walking blamelessly in all the Lord’s commandments and statutes (verse 6).

Yet, Elizabeth was barren.

I imagine her wincing whenever Psalm 127:3 was recited:

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.

No doubt she wondered at this, carefully scrutinized her heart for hidden sin…and like Job, probably had friends who eagerly ‘helped’ her to do so. Cruel things were said that cut her sad heart deeply. There had to be something wrong. What was she hiding?

Scripture tells us there was nothing wrong with her. “Blameless,” it states.

How many years did she agonize over this?

“What’s wrong with me? Why hasn’t God given me a child?”

As a couple they, surely, prayed together in earnest.

I wonder how old she was when she finally resigned herself to her childless state. Did she hope against hope until menopause set in?

In their culture, a woman who could not bear children had to learn to bear the reproach, the stigma, of barrenness – the whispers, the rude and thoughtless comments, the bold accusations.

She had borne this for a lifetime, for now she was old.

What Elizabeth could not have known was that she had been set apart for a single – and immensely important – purpose. She was chosen to give birth to the forerunner of the Messiah. Her child would prepare the way for Jesus.

Her time was coming, but was not yet.

I suspect that Elizabeth went through a major identity crises. She and Zechariah probably visited many doctors and tried every ‘surefire’ remedy and method of the day.

They ‘fished’ all night…for many nights!…and ‘caught’ nothing. 😉

It wasn’t until Gabriel showed up on the right side of the altar of incense that everything changed.

And it was here that this story became a life-changer for me as well.

As I read the next bit, I was a little perplexed. Gabriel’s response to Zechariah’s question, “How do I know this is true?” seemed to be overkill on the part of the angel – kind of like, “What, Dude? Do you want a piece of me??”

Mary asked the same question – and got a very patient explanation.

Was it Zechariah’s words…or his attitude that caused the angel to render him speechless?

All his hoping, praying, and effort had come to naught.

Until now.

Now that he was old, no longer spry and energetic – now God would answer his long-forgotten prayers? Really?

Thanks a lot!

What should have been joyous news, perhaps instead opened an unsuspected wound in Zechariah’s heart. Down deep was a cauldron of bitterness, anger, and resentment.

Zechariah would have to work through these issues with God in silence. None of it would be voiced; would rob Elizabeth of the joy of her long-awaited answer to prayer.

His poisonous emotions would be resolved between the Lord and him alone.

*****

There is a lot of conjecture here, to be sure. None of this can be substantiated from Scripture. Of this I am aware. However, I’ve discovered that there may be a great deal of truth to what I sense went unspoken by the Lord. It bears great relevance to my own story.

You’ll have to come back tomorrow to hear the rest of the story! It’s pre-scheduled, so look for it!





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.” 🙂





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.)