Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Real Identity of the Invisible Girl

 Reflecting back on my past is usually never an enjoyable time and as  I did it this past week, it had all qualities of a castor oil snow cone - nose-squinching, mouth-puckering distaste lingering in an icy coldness.

 My faculties have not failed me and I have not forgotten that Christ has made me new and that I should not focus on my past. Normally, it is not a headliner for my day but occasionally, I get to a bump in my walk with Jesus and it is necessary to understand why I am hedging or pulling against the bit. The arena for this latest bucking is officially committing to a new church. 

 Why am I so concerned and bothered by the prospect? I realize that it requires as much seriousness as marriage, but this is more than that and it took me going back to get a grip on the real issue and relinquish it to Christ. 

  So, way back in the past is this girl: 

Fake smile, shoulders tensed up, dreaded picture day;
the photographer did unsuccessfully try to get those shoulders relaxed
 This girl did not like who she was and decided that no one else liked her either. She did not know God and she did not know who she was. Oh, she had heard others say things about her but she was not sure who to trust. Was she really stupid, ugly, too skinny, too quiet, too poor, unloveable? Hiding was the best option and so she became almost invisible. 

  BUT GOD does not allow us to hide away, especially not in our church. He calls us out from hiding, look at Gideon, or Adam and Eve, or get the point. But if I am not that girl, who I am? 

 1 John 3:1

 That verse is pretty clear but its practical definition needs encouragement and expounding that comes from studying the Word, serving, and also from the church Body...or at least it should. Why is it so hard time to fully apply this identity in life and in church? Maybe we are afraid of the full meaning of it. It is after all the power of God indwelling and sanctifying us, the us who were enemies of God, dead in sin.

 So we resort to shallow niceties and pleasantries. We, as women, say things to each other like, "Your haircut is so cute," "Oh, I love your kitchen," and "What precious grandchildren you have," and while those things are nice to say, they are not profitable to us spiritually. What we need is more spiritual meat shared between each other. Maybe what is required is addressing the Jesus in a brother or sister, pointing out the Gospel in each other. 

 Follow along here because this is not saying to uplift each other to pedestals where we do not belong or build up prideful egos in each other. Not at all. 

 What I am saying is that we need to encourage spiritual growth by affirming what grace has implanted into a Christian. No, I do not mean making awkward comments like, "My Jane, your righteousness is looking very attractive" or "Hey Susie, your flesh mortification is top-notch today." 

 Well, maybe that would not be too terrible to do but what I am speaking of is more like what Paul did in his letters even when he referred to himself. "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God...," "To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints...," " give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge."

 Sometimes it may look more like this: "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you," "Fight the good fight of the faith," "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead," "So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace." 

 The world calls for us to nurture self-esteem but as Christians, let us be about the business of nurturing the Gospel in our fellow brothers and sisters so that they can be strengthened and remember who they are in Christ. 

 So says the Girl-formerly-known-as-invisible but you can call me "sister in Christ who seeks to glorify God."

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Desperation: It's Not Just for Housewives

 This a, scratch that. This a plea!

 Where are you women who have been built on the sure and steady foundation of Jesus? Where are you women who have cast aside the false exterior of perfection and show how grace and truth are applied to the real? Where are you ladies who are handling Truth with a steadfast love and using it to show others the next step on the narrow path? 

 Where are YOU?

 The young mother with three small children needs you. The older woman who just lost her husband needs you. The single woman inching toward 30 needs you. I need you.
   What impact are you making on those around you?
 Do I sound desperate? It's because I am. The desire to find women friends who teach, exhort, rebuke, reprove biblically because they are being taught, exhorted, rebuked, reproved is frustrating. If you express this desire to other women, usually you get a chorus of agreement complete with enthusiastic head bobbing but when you separate, everyone gets back in their personal bubble.

 Do not even mention confessing sin to each other. My goodness, do we really need to beat ourselves up??? Let's read a few verses, agree, and smile.

 Then everyone goes home and struggles with sin. Or, we err in the other direction, turning dirty laundry into a party to amuse ourselves, exchanging complaints, and telling each other that we are not so bad because God loves us no matter what. Then on the drive home, each woman turns into a pharisee, thanking God that she is not like those other women.

 In reality, we are all alike - sinners and besides, their burdens are our burdens...if we are in the Body of Christ. Let's face it most of our sins do not fall far from pride, coveting, or not loving. Who hasn't thought the grass was greener? Or that life was not fair? Or wanted their way? Yet, we pretend and the women around us wonder how come their life isn't perfect, how come they are the only ones struggling. The only thing they end up learning is how to cover up their struggles and sin, too. Fig leaf, anyone? 

 How about we drop the fig leaf cover-up and stand in the blood of Christ together?

  Am I talking about just vomiting out everything? No, we do not want to glorify sin but at the same time we do not want to miss glorifying what God has done or will do when we kill the flesh. God laid out a plan for how we are to interact, just check out the "one another" verses in the New Testament. Here are just 5 reasons to start living the "one anothers":
  1. Women will grow because they will not continue to be held down by the same sin
  2. Women will learn and share in the right way with other women
  3. Women will pray more for themselves and especially others
  4. Women will desire more of God and His Word
  5. God said so
(John 13:34-35, John 15:12, Roman 12:10, 12:16, 14:13, 15:5, 15:7, 15:14, 16:16, 1 Corinthians 11:33, 12:25, 2 Corinthians 13:11-12, Galatians 5:13, Ephesians 4:2, 4:32, 5:19, 5:21, Colossians 3:13, 3:16, 1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11, 5:15, Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25, James 5:16, 1 Peter 4:8-10, 5:5, 1 John 1:7) *this list of "one another" verses is not exhaustive

 My old pastor used to say that we are not to sit, soak, and sour. We need to teach and practice what we learn. Do we not think we will be held accountable for what we do with what we know? Get desperate. Make it your desperate desire to spread the Gospel and how to live in light of it, to see women working through their struggles with the Spirit and the Word, to encourage women to grow closer to God and to start teaching other women. What a glorious desperation that would be. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Inside Out and Better

 Friday morning was dark and as the day eased in, it was veiled in a sheet of  clouds so that it was as bleary-eyed as I. Hesitantly, I started the morning cycle. Dogs outside, release the chickens, prepare daughter's medicine, mop laundry room, usher out the pig, toss her food around while letting dogs in, feed dogs, feed fish.

 The fogginess of my eyes did not stop the words. Lots of words swirling around in my brain with nothing to latch on to or give them meaning but they wanted to be free as much as the animals. Some days my brain wants to write. Maybe it is the days of incapacitation  these past 2 weeks. I am grateful those days are coming to an end. It has been many years since I have been in this place. It is not something I have a name for but I know it and when I was younger it happened often.

 First, it starts with encroaching fatigue and something under my skin feels wrong. By day 2 or 3, it exposes itself with small patches of itchy eczema and in a few days it feels like it is consuming me. Strict diet, sleep, lotion, antihistamines, loads of supplements.

 Any glimpse in the mirror exposes a person unrecognizable externally. Groping around in my head I recognize my soul is the same and, when awake, so is my mind. It is me.  My thoughts are mine, the memory is mine, and I recognize the familiar sins. The shell is different but the inside is still what it was before.

 The problem is that I struggle during these times. It is tough to sleep, fatigue never lets up, and the pain and itchiness are enough to drive you insane but that is only part of my battle. The other part is pride. I hide not wanting anyone to see me, not wanting to be stared at, not wanting to be repulsive.

 How foolish am I.

 The outside is a small, temporary part of who God created us to be. Oh, but how we like to dress that part up, decorate it, and show it off as if it makes up for what we lack inside. If the outside looks like what is brewing on the inside, we are exposed. Trapped in our skin and our sin. That is what these times feel like. What is amazing is that Jesus is still here. He is not put off by the outside and He already knows the worse inside. He knows that this is just a short season of who I really am with or without a swollen, rashy face. There is more to come for me in eternity. 

 But...for today...
I will be grateful that I feel better. The outside is looking better and the inside is being improved, too. It is a great God who does not leave His people in the state He finds them.
- Zechariah 13:9 "And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.'"