Thursday, January 16, 2014

I'm a Little More Country Than That...

              A few weeks ago I heard our pastor tell us about how he had to surrender football to God for a season.  He grew up the son of a pro football coach, and he and his brothers played football as well.  Sundays were made for football.  He himself played football in college.  When God called him to the ministry, obviously, he surrendered the dream of going pro and settled for probably watching some games taped or just catching the end or even missing them all together.  But at some point he felt God ask him to “give Me football.”  He felt that he already had given him football, but the more he prayed about it, the more he realized that football was still an idol in his life, and for five years y’all he did not watch football at all…that’s a pretty big sacrifice for a man who grew up that way, but he laid it down on the altar to God to say it will not be my god…and obviously, now he can still enjoy football, he just knows it’s not his God.
              Our church is in a season of fasting and praying for this upcoming year, and we have a devotional that we do corporately.  A couple days ago, our devo was entitled “What’s in a Name?”  and it discussed the names people call us and the identities that we take on, but that our most important name, our most important identity is in Christ.  God has called us by His name; He has made us in His image.  We are called Christians…but is that really the identity that we cling to most???
              I told the story of my pastor, because I think in a large way it illustrates well how we don’t know if we really just hold our identity in Christ or if maybe we have made a tiny bit of an idol/safety net out of other identities until we are asked to lay them down or they are stripped from us.  Pastor Joe was pretty much Joe Football at that point – his family didn’t go to church growing up, they weren’t religious – they were football – and he gave up football, even watching it….
              When Scott and I got married and our daughter was born exactly one year and three weeks later, I had a lot of identity change fast.  I mean I hadn’t even graduated from college before I married Scott – I went straight from high school to college student to married to mom in just a few short years and my world was rocked.  My body changed.  The activities I was involved in changed.  I wasn’t able to go the hair salon and get my hair highlighted (and all my sista’s out there that need a good stylist said a good amen), and at the time I was in school and married and mom and living on nickels and dimes trying to make ends meet. 
              I remember really wrestling with God over my physical appearance, especially.  People treat you differently, I felt, and I just felt so…worthless.  I remember just begging God to get my hair done.  Feel free to laugh, it’s ok.  I remember just wrestling over the thought of someone seeing me disheveled with spitup on my shoulder and baby boogers across the knees of my jeans, my roots grown out in some sort of backwards hombre, and clothing that could not hide all the baby weight that I had gained along the way.  I mean, I know all moms go through this to some degree, but we were in some pretty serious situations and I was also working full time by this point and taking 18 hours of courses trying to finish my degree, so I was a little worse than your average just had a baby look.  I felt ashamed.
              And God and I wrestled.  I cried.  I cried a lot!  I told him how I hated that I felt so humbled and ugly and how people treated me like I was so worthless.  I hated feeling like I never had it together.  I hated feeling so sleep deprived and like everything was out of control.  I had so carefully built an identity where I was mostly well put together and well-manicured and well liked, and now I just felt like a mess, and I was hiding. 
              It was in that place that God asked me where my worth comes from.  He asked me, “What is your name?”  “Who are you?”  Are you a blonde haired cheerleader?  Are you some girl who used to be a cute little blonde haired cheerleader in high school and now is some typical has been overweight mom?  (He didn’t say that last part – that was me)  Your family doesn’t like you – so do they get to decide your worth?  Who are they?  Are you Scott’s wife?  Are you Laurelei’s mom?  What if something happens to them?  Who are you then? 
              And then I cried more.  And God had me go to the place where what if the worst happened and something happened to my sweet hubbie and my precious babies – even then, God would still be on his throne.  Even then.  And who would I be then? 
              And then it came to me…
I am the daughter of the Most High King.  A princess of the highest royal line, not that I am better than any other, but that I have chosen to accept my inheritance.  My freedom cannot be taken from me unless I give it away.  I have power, I have beauty, I have strength because I am made in the image of the Most High God.  The One and Only – The God!  I am loved.  And I am not hard to love, either.  I am loved well.  I am adored, admired, and wanted.  I am paid for at a high price.  I am His.

And my friends…so are you.  What other names have you allowed people to call you – for me it was unlovable, irritating, ditzy, too deep, sensitive, too quiet, too loud
Or what identities have you clung to –

Hobbies or relationships or even I heard a song today that made me think “I’m a a little more country than that”…there was a time in my life where I told God I would go wherever He called me – even if it was to the city (which to me is a like a mega sacrifice), not that these are bad things….just they must all be surrendered to our identity in Christ!  Because under Him our desires, our hearts true desires will always be fulfilled.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Rejection

              For the majority of my life I have struggled to feel loved.  There have been these mountaintop moments where either I wrapped my head around it or the grand expressions of others got the point across and I have received love, but otherwise, I have felt that I have had to work to earn others’ affections.  It’s taken me a long time to really understand this, but it’s a pretty painful realization. 
              The thing is, I learned a long time ago, how to get affection (I’m not talking about physical intimacy here – I’m talking admiration, attention, and the like) if I really wanted it…and I wasn’t mean or immoral.  I sincerely care about the feelings of other people, so talking with them and delving into issues and listening really isn’t that hard for me.  And bonus (for me) I got the love I so desired.  If I wanted someone’s love or affection, I knew how to “dance and sing” so to speak to earn it…sometimes it took a conversation, sometimes it took time to see what they liked, but I knew what would make people like me.  And I wasn’t immoral, I still talked about God, I still told others about God and was kind and loving to them, and a lot of people said that I was helping them.
              So what’s the problem…
The problem is it wasn’t true.  I was projecting parts of myself making them seem larger than they were to seem more agreeable and masking parts of myself I didn’t think people would like, and not just in a way that is gracious or appropriate per the situation, but disproportionate.  The problem is that I was so concerned with other people loving me, and even though I wasn’t being mean to anyone, and even being nice by many standards, I wasn’t loving other people enough (or respecting myself enough) to be honest about who I am and give others the freedom to accept or reject the real me.  It was a facade.  And when life became tumultuous (as it will in seasons) and I no longer had the strength to impress others, I found there was no one who could handle or knew the real me. 
              Desiring to please others is a wonderful quality, but when coupled with a lack of feeling loved it can be toxic, and it nearly choked the life out of me.  But God shook me awake. 
              It took time for me to relearn who I really am again, in balance, but He has shown me, and then the process of learning to love and accept me.  I had to grieve who I am not, be thankful for I am, and be honest about my strengths and limitations.  
              But the greatest pain thus far has been after all that, pressing through and being honest about me (I’m not talking about airing your dirty laundry in town square, just not distorting things to make it look like I’m someone I’m not, and in the right moments with those who seem desirous to grow deeper, sharing more intimate thoughts and feelings) – after all that, allowing someone else to really know you and giving them to freedom to make up their own ideas about you, they might decide they don’t like you.
              And gosh, this pain just makes me want to pack it all up and call it a day  - it was a nice ride, thank you for that Jesus, but I think I’ll go back to my painted on smiles and loud chatter…but then He reminds me, that because He loved us and He wanted to be loved, He gave us freedom to make our own choices.  He did not force us to love or obey Him.  He has revealed Himself to us, sent His son to die for us, and made us great and precious promises, but we are still free to reject Him.  Our Father, my sweet Father, my sweet Jesus knows the pain that I feel.  But He loves us anyway.  And He reminds me that if I ever want to know the sweetness of real love, I’ll have to keep pressing through, because real love can only be real if I am really known.
              I still struggle with feeling awkward, hard to love.  I still feel different.  I still often feel like there is nowhere that I fit other than just right here in my family of four (but I am so thankful that there is at least one place I belong, even if its small).  But while I must grieve again from time to time, I keep pressing in to the God who understands my heart.  I keep asking Him for strength to be authentic even when it seems difficult or painful.  And I keep asking for Him to bring people of good character and healthy relating my way to try again, and that someday soon I’ll find some love to stay. 


Friday, January 10, 2014

Coming of Age

              It seems that our culture loves these new sort of “coming of age” stories.  And they are not just for teenagers and young adults; there are coming of age stories about adults well advanced in years.  Each a great awakening, a rebirth in a new season, and a chance to start anew.  Whether they are just starting out, becoming empty nesters, divorce’s, etc.  Our culture seems to hunger for this awakening, for freedom.
              That makes me think…what made them feel bound?  My personal opinion is the “religiosity” of previous generations that smacked of laws and rules rather than boundaries based on trust in our graceful and loving God. 
              A rebirth?  Yes!  We need a rebirth – into the life and spirit of God, killing the flesh with it’s desires that consumed and enslaved us, and birth into a life with a spirit that brings us health and fulfillment, righteousness and Truth.
              A Great Awakening?  PLEASE!  Christians, churchgoers, do gooders – WAKE UP!!!  Our God is not dead He is surely alive, and He is so so so much more than a list of rules and weekly church attendance.  In fact, if those things do not flow out of love and trust in Him, out of relationship with Him, I dare say they are pointless, fruitless efforts.  God is relevant!  He cares about what hurts, and He wants to make us whole, make us meaningful, and make our lives worth living.  He created us for adventure and life abundant.
              God, please help me, help us to see You.  Please let us reflect well the greatness of Your love and kindness, and let us live lives of faith filled adventure with You – let us live ALIVE!  God, please help us to live lives that are pleasing to You, and attractive to others.  Let us radiate!  No one wants to eat a steak off a dirty plate, and Lord, you are the most savory steak – let our plates be clean, and let us enjoy the steak!  Thank You that You are so wonderful!
               


Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Reason...

I know some people feel strongly in saying things like "Jesus is the reason for the season" or "Keep Christ in Christmas".  But to a world that's perishing, those just seem like semantics.

In this day when people are leaving the church by the droves and renouncing the faith of their parents and grandparents because it seems binding and irrelevant in the world that we live, sentiments like this just smack of religiosity to me.  

And when I think about how we "do" Christmas as we set holiday precedents and traditions with our young children...these really are not the points that I want to focus on with them. 

Instead of characterizing Christmas as a "religious" or "Holy-day", I characterize it more as a day that is generally accepted by most as a season of celebration, gathering together, feasting, and gift giving.  But for us, because we know Christ, He is always the reason we celebrate.  Every celebration, every good gift, every blessing, comes from Him.  Anything that is worth getting excited about points back to Him.

Christmas is a time when we often spend more time reflecting specifically on the miracle of Christ's birth and we celebrate His birthday with a special party just like we do for all those we love.  But it is not because of some religious obligation or duty.  We celebrate because we are thankful, because we are free, because we are blessed.

"Christmas" may mean a great many things to a great many people.  To some gifts and parties, to some pain and loss, and still others a consumer-driven holiday, but to those who have known the sweet taste of freedom in life with Christ, every time we celebrate we will always remember Christ, because He is the reason for every celebration.  He is the reason we are alive and we are free.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Wake Up Call!

Gosh, sometimes this walk of faith is humbling.  I find myself awkwardly making my way down the path, bumbling, stumbling over my own feet from time to time.  My walk of grace is not always so graceful.

I feel like I am a pendulum swinging back and forth from Grace and Truth, trying to find the right balance, often overcorrecting to reach middle ground and swinging too far the other way.  But God is faithful.  The thing I am reminded is that most come to Christ because of His grace.  He is forgiving, gentle, kind, and patient.  He is good.  And as we freely accept and bathe ourselves in His grace there comes a time of accountability, a time where we must accept also His Truth.  In those times we must look into the mirror of the Word of God and say, "Do I match up?"  And at each of these intersections we have a choice to press into Him to help us align with His Truth and Righteousness because we are thankful for His grace and we trust Him, or we can choose to reject or ignore the Truth.

If we choose the truth, and we seek to discipline our flesh to obey Him, sometimes we swing too far...thinking that somehow this obedience saves us or makes us righteous.  We become to stringent, we try to bind others, and we fall.  Because pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit comes before a fall.  (Proverbs 16:18)  Then we must fall back again on His grace...another swing back on the pendulum.

It's sometimes hard for me to find this balance, but I saw this interview tonight with Carl Lentz, and he just articulated this balance sooo well.  Katie Couric asked him how he felt about tolerance and specifically on the issue of homosexuality.  He said that their principle is "Love everyone.  Have conversations about everything else."  Katie asked him if he felt a moral obligation to take a stance.  His answer shocked me.  He said (paraphrase): No, because we try to be like Jesus, and Jesus did not talk much about morality.  He looked at issues of the heart.  We are concerned about heart condition and souls, and there are conversations based on individual situations for everything else.

This comment pierced a dagger through my heart.  In the Old Testament, even in the law, you can find God looking at issues of the heart.  God is concerned about our hearts and about relationship with him.  This is how we love others, and how we let Him love us!  God is so good.  His burden is light.  We were never meant to be perfect so we could come to Him - we cannot be - we come to Him because we are broken and hurting, and let Him heal us...in walking with Him, every second of every day we become perfect in that moment.  Ah...Jesus is so good.

http://katiecouric.com/videos/who-is-carl-lentz/


Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Father's Daughter

Growing up everyone always told me I looked just like my dad.  Well, I'm a girl, so I didn't really like that, but my mom told me that growing up everyone always told my dad that he would have been a pretty girl, then she would say, "and they were right"...that one always makes me smile.

And even now, I'll meet people who know my dad and as soon as they find out who I am they are shocked at our resemblance.

I love it when you can start to see traits of their family in kids.  Like my little Mason man - well he really is the spitting image of my dad at his age.  It's nuts!  But his personality, oh my gosh, just like Scott (my hubbie)!  That boy will talk your ear off, and he is quite the little ham.

It has me thinking...do I look like my Father?  Not just my dad, but my Heavenly Father.  Do I sound like Him?  If you had seen Him or knew Him, would you be able to tell that I am His daughter?  See the thing is, like babies, we don't often look much like anyone at first (except a fat old man), but the older we get, the clearer our resemblance becomes.  And the more we spend time with our family, the more we catch their mannerisms and phrases, the more we sound like them and think like them.

I mean I was born with a head full of jet black hair and dark eyes - a year later my hair was white blonde and I had blue eyes, and by the time I was five you could pick me out of a crowd as Doug's daughter.  These days I find myself often wearing my hair like my mom without thinking about it, and picking styles that she likes.  My mom my sister and I sound sooo similar on the phone, and even though Kati and I are eight years apart some people would swear we are twins.

So my question is - Am I looking more like Jesus?  Am I talking with the Holy Spirit so much that I sound like Him?  Can you tell I am my Father's daughter?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

They will know we are Christians by...our rules???

In trying to draw nearer to God, I am often seeking - "What does He want from me?"  I find myself reading certain verses of the Bible, reading books, and searching the internet for answers to questions.  It's often here that I begin to find a lot of arguing over details of scripture and specific Jewish laws.

Can we get a tatoo?
Should we only eat certain types of foods?
Is it ok to celebrate Halloween?
Is it ok to wear makeup?
What kind of music and media can we consume?

Etc...and most people have their opinions...many strong convictions and scriptures to back them up.  I have strong convictions about a few of these things too...but they are areas that between God, myself, and my hubbie we have determined the best way for us to please God is...or what we feel He is calling us to in that season.

I see this on facebook, oh my goodness, every single day!

And the thing is - no good comes from it!  Jesus said that all the law and all the prophets hinge on these two commandments, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  And love your neighbor as yourself."
Paul says that those who attempt to be justified by the law live under a curse, because unless you can keep all of it, you are condemned by all of it.

And a very wise man once told me that he would rather be known by what he loves than what he hates.  Think about that - as Christians...how do we want to be known?  How should we represent Christ?

You know what God wants?  Relationship with us!  Relationship with each person on this planet.  And it is through THAT RELATIONSHIP that God will transform us into who we need to become...not arguing over issues and trying to convict one another.

Titus 3:9-11 sums it up nicely

"But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned."

In John 13:35 Jesus says:

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

This is how people are to know we are disciples of Christ - by our love.  They will know we are Christians by our love!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Declaration


I have renounced the hidden things of shame by manifestation of the truth.

For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness to the glory of God.

(See 2 Corinthians 4:1-6)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Oil

I've been thinking a lot about friendship lately.  What it means, what it looks like.  There are a lot of definitions, and historically it can be a pretty broad term.

You hear a lot of people say that a good friendship (or any relationship) requires that both give 100%, or some say 50/50, or it goes both ways.  And in many cases that is true...but I think this is mostly talking more about peer-type friendships or partnerships (like husband and wife).

In Psalm 133 David sings about how wonderful it is when the brethren (the church - the people of God) dwell (settle down and continually remain together) in unity.  Then David gives this metaphor - it is like anointing oil poured over Aaron's head, running down his face, down his beard, onto his shoulders and garment.  Ok, that might sound super weird to you, but a wise friend/mentor of mine said that "Love flows like anointing oil, from the top down" - and in context of this verse - it makes total sense.

I guess, for a while there, I was feeling like maybe I/we (my hubs and I) missed the mark somehow because we don't have a lot of friendships that might look like the peer friendship that the world tells us about - both give 100%, or 50/50, or it's going both ways.  Some people might say that in most of the relationships that we have there could be an imbalance of "power" or "influence"...and all this time I've been feeling like maybe I was doing something wrong...

...like maybe I somehow needed to step it up to be a better friend to the woman who are 10+ years my senior...but the thing is...I don't have the same life experiences and wisdom yet, and I can't offer them what they are able to offer me, because time has not given it to me yet.  But I can pour what they have given me down on those walking the steps behind me.  Those that I felt like maybe I needed to try not to be so advice-givey (yeah, I know that's not a word), so they feel more "equal" to me somehow.  But that's not it either.

Unity in God's people is like anointing oil - love is like anointing oil...it flows down from those in leadership (by way of appointment or age or personality or experience or whatever) to those a step or two behind them, and from them further down.  The more you can receive from those who have gone before you, the more you have to pour on those who are coming up behind you.

So while there is great beauty in peer-type friendship and partnership - these aren't necessarily the only types of relationships to pursue or that have value.  Actually, if you look at the body of a person there are only two arms or two legs, there are 10 fingers, so maybe you are lucky to have 9 peer-type friendships (just kidding, it's not an exact science, just a metaphor), but the relationships that really show the beauty of unity and life with Christ are often those where one may have little to offer the other, other than gratitude.  Or like a child with their parent, they really can never know the sacrifices and love their parent poured into them, and the only way they can return that love is by pouring it back out into their own children.

So just remember this - peers are great and important friendships, but mentors and mentees, those who have gone before you and those who'll need your wisdom as they are coming up the rear, are the relationships that this life is made of...love flows like anointing oil, from the top down...so fill your cup and pour it out.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Good friends won’t demand that you accept them the way they are…healthy, confident people either.  It doesn't mean that they will change at your every passing whim, but that they can accept constructive criticism, own their own failures, and allow you the freedom to accept or reject them.  

It’s a pretty vulnerable thing, actually, to be honest about who you are and not demand acceptance.  But - it is totally possible when you realize your worth and value in Christ.  And once you get that, you are solid, yet flexible enough to bend and weave to make room for the needs of others without losing your own nature.