Thursday, May 26, 2011

Is Guilt the Mark of a Woman?

It seems to be the universal mark of a woman...guilt. We feel guilty for being too much. We feel guilty for not being enough. We feel guilty for being too busy to spend quality time with our family, and we feel guilty for not being more involved at work, at church, in our community, etc. Men experience this too, but it seems less prominent and less frequent.

For the first three years that Scott and I were married (we’ll celebrate four years this August), I worked and went to school full time. I was proud of myself for pushing through (it felt like I had arrived in the “strong women” club), but I was exhausted and most of the time felt guilty for not taking better care of myself and my new husband. Tack on to that that after we had been married for barely a year and three weeks we had our sweet Laurelei. I wanted to finish school to be an example to her never to quit, and I needed to work to pay for school…I felt guilty every day that I dropped her off at daycare. My heart ached for her, and when I would get home I would wait until after she went to bed to start my school work so I didn’t feel like I was stealing time from her. I was tired, and I was guilty.

Since January I have been able to be a total stay-at-home mom. This is the blessing that I had been praying for, and I know many women desire. It required some financial cutbacks (American life is definitely tailored to the 2+ income family), but I felt like now was my opportunity to get more involved with my church. I have an incredible church family (www.CelebrationChurchTx.com), and there is never a shortage of places to get plugged in and participate!

Then I became pregnant again (another blessing that we prayed for), and my body became so weary that I wasn’t able to do more than hopefully attend Sunday mornings and take care of my family. God has over and over again soothed my heart to remind me that if I am living only to please Him that I will not be overworked and overcommitted because I will have the grace to do all the things that He asks of me, nothing more.

In the past few months God has really been revealing to me people that I know and love that I want them to take care of themselves because of the primary role that they fill. For example, think of our firefighters…people sometimes complain that they get to play video games on shift and sleep at work, but when there is any sort of emergency situation firefighters are first on scene. Whether I have just been in a terrible wreck, my child is experiencing some type of emergency, or I am trapped inside a burning building…I am thankful that these men and women are knowledgeable, capable, and of-sound mind to calmly help me through what needs to be done, and carefully but swiftly care for mine and my family’s life. I don’t want them to be stressed out when they arrive at a car wreck and my car is upside down against a median, I want them to be well rested and well taken care of…and I am thankful for all the first responders…I want them to enjoy their life and be filled up so to speak because in an emergency situation we benefit from their wholeness.

…I should add that I am a little biased in this area – my husband, Dad, and father-in-law are all Austin Firefighters, but the principle also applies to…

My pastor. I think of how much Pastor Joe and Lori pour into our congregation. Speak with them once and you will realize how everyone around them is just blessed by their presence. God has given them a gift to love and minister to people, to speak into their lives, to motivate and inspire, and surprisingly to remember and love on a huge congregation! Our church is definitely bustling with activity day in and day out to reach people for Jesus all over the Austin-metro area, and to take care of the flock…I want both of them and the truly many more people that pastor and take care of behind the scenes logistics that make our church function…I want them to be well taken care of. I want them to be loved on and do what they need to do to keep in good health, to be spiritually full, because otherwise we will breakdown. Or worse, especially in the church, we can become so task focused and busy that we forget that it is really about people and the call of Christ and seeking Him starts to break down.

Or my counselor. I have an amazing woman that I seek counsel from, and we have shared this struggle with guilt as well. I think of how she allows me a safe place to deal with struggles, how she prays for me, how she pours into me, and how her being submitted to God in that way allows me to be a whole person for my husband, daughter, baby, and friends. I am truly thankful that she doesn’t allow the guilt to burden her so greatly that she becomes overcommitted and ceases to take care of herself.

Or my mom. Even now, at 25, I still need my mom. And her taking care of herself and pouring the Word into her life and praying allows her to speak life into me and my sister. Which brings me back to me…God is really showing me that I need to unburden myself of this guilt the enemy keeps trying to place upon me. I need to be quiet to discern His voice and be what He has called me to be, and I need to take care of myself so that I am able to fulfill the call that He has given me.

It is interesting in this age of entitlement that shame and guilt are so prominent as well. This care of oneself is very different from feeling entitled to special treatment. I am tempted to feel entitled to get my hair and nails done (which I love), but that is not it either, and when God does bless me with these things I don’t have to feel guilty about the expense because there are other needs in the world.

A wise woman told me once that we can’t focus on the need because there will always be need. Satan wants to use that to get tender-hearted people distracted and torn up inside. We must focus on the Provider because He knows where we need to be and what we have been gifted to do, and He will show us our place. We must take care of ourselves and fill ourselves with His word and allow Him to nurture our hearts and minds so that we are able to fulfill the great calling He has given us.
As a fellow follower of the Lord, I “appeal and beg you to walk (lead a life) worthy of the [divine] calling to which you have been called [with behavior that is a credit to the summons of God’s service].” –Ephesians 4:1

Sunday, May 22, 2011

An addition to my last post...

What kind of generation are we raising? I sat down for a moment to watch TV today and on one channel a guy is diming out one of the greatest cyclists in the world for dishonestly taking illegal performance enhancing drugs saying that to maintain a competitive position that is what had to be done; on the other channel a young man who might be considered a successful entrepreneur is selling “bath salts” that kids snort which causes hallucination and suicidal thoughts. We watched over the past week or so of the breakdown of a famous family of a governor and movie star.


Ideal – an adjective meaning perfect or excellent or a noun that is a thing considered a model for perfection

I would describe myself as a “realistic idealist”. By that I seek to understand and attain the ideal while asking God to help me accept the present reality of the situation and to do what I can to affect positively the situation without being discouraged at where it falls short of my ideal.

I have always been an idealist, but I realized that this is a luxury rarely afforded those who seek to promote change unless I balance it with a healthy dose of reality.

In school I struggled with the fact that people cheated on tests, never read the books assigned, and essentially did whatever was needed to get by…in college I learned that those people were usually at the top of the class. There was literally too much work assigned to actually do it all; doing all the work would burn a person out. Professors even told me to do what I needed to do to get by, and that broke my heart of the beautiful dream I had about an education.

In business I watched others do what needed to be done to create the numbers that others were looking for and turn on the charm when they were being watched, but they cut corners and they mistreated the people affected. People complained, of course, but no one would stand to make a change, and when I did I was blacklisted. This broke my heart of the dream that I had about using business to improve peoples’ lives and change the world.

Even in churches I have seen people busy to work at “mission projects” and “salvation/attendance numbers”, but disrespect and gossip about others and often neglect their own families. I am thankful to say that our home church has leadership that is seeking to create a culture that is very different from this and is bold enough to address these issues when they arise, but I know we can all relate to the discouragement of finding that the church is not a safe place either.

But understand this, that in the last days will come perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear].


For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self-centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate [greedy] desire for wealth, proud and arrogant and contemptuous boasters. They will be abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, and profane.


[They will be] without natural [human] affection (callous and inhuman), relentless (admitting of no truce or appeasement); they will be slanderers (false accusers, trouble-makers), intemperate and loose in morals and conduct, uncontrolled and fierce, haters of good.


[They will be] treacherous [betrayers], rash and inflated with self conceit. They will be lovers of sensual pleasures and vain amusements more than and rather than God.


For although they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it [their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession of faith]. Avoid all such people [turn away from them].


For among them are those who worm their way into homes and captivate silly and weak-natured and spiritually dwarfed women. -2 Timothy 3:1-6


These are some pretty bold statements.

As an addition to my previous post regarding “the fall” and temptation, be mindful of those who claim Christ but God tells you to avoid. You can trust that He knows who is with Him and not, and we can tell the truth by their fruit, but sometimes it is better not to wait to get to the fruit…trust God’s guidance.
I so desire to raise my children up with character and integrity. I know that this is not inborn; it is the will - trained and transformed through leadership and most importantly the power of the Holy Spirit.
I have shared before that I am going through a really challenging season right now that is like nothing I have ever experienced. Some things this past week just really threatened to steal my victory and send me packing. When things get tough I often have two extremes that I revert back to…I either throw myself into a lot of work and become really busy or withdraw from the world…either way, I try to shove down my hurt and ignore the pain, hoping that it will go away on its own. These old habits die hard.
Unfortunately, the enemy doesn’t work that way…I guess I should say, the enemy does work that way – he tries to convince us if we ignore it that it will disappear and everything will be fine, but all the while we have a wound festering, becoming infected, and (please excuse this very vulgar but also very realistic metaphor) like real constipation, emotional constipation gives you the “squirts” as well…it will come out at some inopportune time.

Several nights this week I could hear God calling me, asking me to get out of bed and come to Him (nighttime is often the best time because my family is asleep and I am uninterrupted). I literally told Him, “God, please not right now. I just want to sleep. I don’t want to think about this right now.” The enemy threatened to make me feel guilty for not talking to God, but God reminded me that even though I did not get up and allow Him to help me, I didn’t stop talking to Him. I told Him that I was hurting and that I was afraid of opening the dam of emotions, and that is a great place to start, but then we have to allow the Healer to do His work.

This morning Pastor Joe (www.celebrationchurchtx.com) shared a message that God sent straight to my heart, and I’d like to share some of that with you. We are in a series entitled “GENESIS: It’s not over. It’s only the beginning.” This morning Pastor Joe began talking about “the fall”, meaning the fall of mankind, and he asked us to look at these signs and consider them in reflection of “the fall” in our own life. If we can see them, we can be aware and stop them.

SIGNS OF THE FALL:

1. The Beginning of the Fall… has a Beginner

• Eve is the beginner, right, she bit the apple first…wrong. Satan is the beginner, he initiated the entire scenario…satan is the enemy, not man or woman.

• When Jesus was tempted after fasting for 40 days, he didn’t even glance at the “thing” satan offered…that would be allowing the enemy to redirect his focus. Jesus looked through what satan presented and saw the enemy behind it. Jesus did not focus on the bait…he saw the hook.

• Satan, “the beginner”, wants to distract us from what God is doing

“Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour.” -1 Peter 5:8 (AMP)

“Put on God’s whole armor…that you may be able to successfully stand against the strategies and deceits of the devil” –Ephesians 6:11 (AMP)…BE PREPARED! Did you know that Marines literally sleep with their weapons? They are never caught off guard or unprepared…believe me, I know, my husband is a Marine (in a family of them).

2 Corinthians 2:11 says that we are taken advantage of when we are ignorant.

2. The Beginning of a Fall…Starts with Weakness

• Satan came to tempt Jesus after he had fasted for 40 days.

• We must recognize that when we are weak we are susceptible to temptation.

• When we are spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally tired (because we are constantly go-go-go, adrenaline junkies in a fast paced world)…then we become susceptible to a fall. (And being physically and emotionally drained with no fuel station in sight left me very susceptible this week).

“ And when the devil had ended every temptation he [temporarily] left Him [that is, he stood off from Him] until another more opportune and favorable time.” –Luke 4:13…the devil loves to lull us into a false sense of security, but he lies in wait for our moments of weakness to pounce.

We must keep standing…be vigilant.

3. The Beginning of a Fall…Takes Place in the Mind.

(side note: Joyce Meyer’s “Battlefield of the Mind” is an EXCELLENT resource to help understand and fend of attack in this area; also, Beth Moore’s book, “Praying God’s Word” is a helpful resource.)

• Before you fall with your eyes, you fall in your mind

• 2 Corinthians 4: 4 says that satan works by blinding hearts.

4. The Beginning of the Fall…Ignores the Warnings

WARNING SIGNS TO LOOK OUT FOR:

• ISOLATION – satan is like a pirate who attacks lonely ships

• CONVERSATION – women especially, we are often moved by conversation…but it is not just women, men too…(consider in the area of infidelity, men don’t always choose the most physically attractive woman, there is an emotional connection forged through conversation that was not stopped when it should have been)

• RATIONALIZATION – be aware when you start to rationalize your decision in your mind or even finding yourself trying to convince others of the motives and choices

• PARTICIPATION

• DEVASTATION

DO NOT TOUCH WHAT GOD SAYS DO NOT TOUCH! For me personally, a strong area of struggle is relationships with hurting people or especially their hurts or issues. My heart longs to nurture other hearts and help them through, but I need to recognize that God has not called me to get in everyone’s business that way and instead of helping to heal them I will only damage myself. I know well that my sin not only affects me but my husband and our children, and I know that I must heed God’s warnings and do not touch what God says “no” to…satan knows the Word, friends, and he has no qualms about distorting the Word of God to guilt you into doing something that is what God said not to do…satan distorted God’s words in the garden to convince Eve that God did not have the best intentions toward her….which brings us to our final point…



5. The Beginning of a Fall…Believes a Lie

• When Adam and Eve believed the lie they lost their innocence, their life, their freedom, their love and affections; they lost their tender hearts and were filled with shame and fear.

• Jesus came to give us back our freedom, to show us wholeness.

• Gen. 3:21 – God didn’t just pronounce judgment on Adam and Eve either. He still had grace on them and made them tunics of skin to protect their bodies that they were now painfully aware of, but this required sacrifice, it required blood. God loved them so much He did not leave them naked, and He does not leave us naked either.



Some final thoughts:

My fall back reaction when I am hurting is to act like I have it all together…healthy, I know. But as Pastor Joe was talking about the scripture that tells husbands to love their wives as the “weaker” sex, something really struck a chord with me. Women often act as if we have no issues and put on a brave face, but our issues usually come out in the form of painful emotional vomit on those we love best who never knew where we hurt in the first place.

A little over a year ago, I was sharing some hurts with my husband and he told me that he had no idea I felt that way because I always talked so “tough” about these situations. I thought, of course, “How could he not know? How could he not see through my talk to the pain in my heart?”, and the result of our conversation was him asking me to be painfully honest about how things made me feel instead of just acting as if I had it all together. This gave my husband the opportunity to stand strong for me, to love on me, and to be the protector in my life that God intended.

I think when God tells men to love their wives as the “weaker” sex (in some translations), He is giving them a create a hedge of protection around us so that in turn we are able to protect our ability to be vulnerable, transparent, and nurturing ( a great part of how God designed women). However, while we must seek God and choose wisely the people we share with, we must share our hurts with one another, and allow one another to help and support us. Otherwise, we become weak, we become isolated, and as you see above, we put ourselves in an awfully vulnerable position to fall…this is not the kind of vulnerability that God intended for us.





Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rebellion

In 1 Samuel 15 God tells Saul to go into battle against the Amalekites and not to spare a single one of them. Saul goes into battle against them, but his men spare the king (to imprison him) and the best of the livestock. Samuel, a prophet through whom God speaks to the Israelites and Saul, asks Saul why and what he was thinking. Saul’s response is that he obeyed God because he destroyed everything else, but brought only the best to sacrifice to God. Samuel’s response is quite chilling:


“Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim (household good luck images). Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you as king.”

-1 Samuel 15:22-23 AMP

In reference to this passage Joyce Meyer talks about that a great deal of rebellion is the result of abuse. “When a person has been repeatedly hurt by others, there usually comes a time when he makes up his mind, ‘Nobody is ever going to push me around again. As long as I live, nobody is going to tell me what to do. Why should I submit to somebody I can’t trust to do what’s best for me? From now on, I’m going to look out for myself and make my own decisions.”

Joyce says that the result of abuse is often “willfulness, stubbornness, and rebellion.”

We often wear a rebellious and stubborn spirit as a badge of honor and strength on our chest, but the Bible is clear about what these things are to God and the results of such a spirit. For me rebellion and stubbornness often plays out of distrust, and in times of struggle I can go to God and share with Him that I fear even trusting Him. It’s ok to tell God that we are afraid of what He will ask of us if we obey, we are afraid of what will come out of the situation, we are afraid of what others will think, etc…He can handle our fears, and by coming to Him with our fears, we begin laying ourselves on the altar. He can work with that; He can and will change our hearts if we will let Him.

“You might feel that you have inherited some bad habits and character flaws through your bloodline, but the blood of Jesus, when applied to your life by faith, is able to erase the adverse effects of natural inheritance.” (Joyce Meyer)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

You Can Trust the Potter

Jeremiah 18:1-6 (Amplified Bible)



“ 1THE WORD which came to Jeremiah from the Lord:


2Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.


3Then I went down to the potter's house, and behold, he was working at the wheel.


4And the vessel that he was making from clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he made it over, reworking it into another vessel as it seemed good to the potter to make it.


5Then the word of the Lord came to me:


6O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does? says the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.”



If you were/are spoiled (or some versions say “marred”), you can entrust yourself to the potter’s hands to remake you. This might feel painful; it might feel like you are starting all over again; you might not understand. You can always trust the potter to be gentle with your heart and to make you into what you are meant to be. He knows what shape you are meant to take, and He knows what is best for you. Hold fast.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Warning: Possible Spoiler Alert for the movie "Country Strong".

I love country music; it speaks to something deep within me; it resonates with me.  I have held off watching "Country Strong" for fear that it might raise a spirit of discontentment at where I am in life right now, a longing for the stage, but instead proved quite the opposite.

The movie outlines how fame can poison passion, and being in the spotlight creates pressures to personify an image instead of live out your life.  In the end, the lead character ends up saying that love and fame cannot coexist and to choose love.  Another character talks about living a simple life and not really caring to whom or to how many he sings, but rather just loving to sing. 

This reminded me that I am living out the fairytale...not that everyday life always feels like it, but I am married to the man of my dreams, the man I am in love with, and he is in love with me too.  We have a sweet little girl that we adore and another little one on the way.  Life is challenging, some times clearly more than others, but we have faced so much together, holding hands, trusting God - it is our adventure.  I love to sing for my family, and I do sometimes miss rocking a stage, but it has never really mattered where or to whom or how many...its just a love that God has put in my heart. 

And while it is not a bad thing to desire others to hear and enjoy my voice, there is a good deal of responsibility and pressure that comes with that, and perhaps I'd just rather own my own identity and keep it submitted to the Father.  I'd like to protect my ability to be uniquely me and the freedom in that, and what it might offer to those I love.

God really reminded me that this life that I possess, while may sometimes seem tough or monotonous and certainly less than glamorous, is such a rich adventure, the best kind, with the people I love.  It is real, not a personification, but true and deep and abiding.  And it is mine.