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 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.'"

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

All Quacked Up

 Adding to our little "farm" this year has been an exercise in failure. Gone are the bees and now gone are the ducks. We bounced from 3 to a pair to one lonely male duck. Then we went to the country flea market and purchased two females.

 Right at the one month mark of buying the females, one of them disappeared. No feathers, no sign of foul play (or is it fowl play?). Two days after that we have no ducks. This time my husband found feathers in the back of the pond and some remains of the male duck. We are guessing a turtle is the suspect, a very big, very hungry alligator snapping turtle.

 Living in the country is not always what it is cracked up to be. It takes work and perseverance and for me, it takes not bargaining with God. Country living was a dream of mine for a long time. I had grandiose ideas of raising all our own fruits and vegetables in a quaint garden and spending days canning our bountiful harvests while chickens pecked around outside my window. 

 Then the dream became real with more than I had asked and it also came with a "but." 

 But, life as I knew it was being turned upside-down and as it was crumbling, I bargained with God. "Take back the house and the land and restore what I had before." A lot of praying, studying, and seeking Godly advice revealed the truth and stopped my foolish thinking. We cannot pave our futures on what we see but only on the solid rock of Christ.

 Our move was not some rogue bargain where I traded the real "good life" for a fake. God is not a game show host on the sideline wringing his hands, hoping that I pick the right curtain and not the whammy. He is holy, infinitely wise, always just, and always sovereign. He moved us here in His time for His purpose which I do not know. I know one thing.

 He is using it ALL for His glory.

 And so, this lesson I learned, times will come that will shake you to the core and you can either be cracked to pieces or be freed of all that you latched onto that was unnecessary in a life following Christ. And unlike country living, rest assured, in Christ, there is no failing.
- Psalm 73:25-26  "Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

Friday, September 5, 2014

Touchy Moments

  Sometimes it is good to drag your teenager out with you even if they pretend that they are not interested. This past week my teenager and I went to the art museum's free day to an exhibit  I really wanted to see before it ended. Surprisingly, she enjoyed the exhibit more than I.

 About mid-way through an exhibit of mixed media sculptures, my daughter loudly states, "Museums are not good places for me." She has a thing about touching stuff. This, of course, set museum security on high alert and we pretty much had personal escorts the rest of our visit. I could have chastised her and told her to get a grip or gotten frustrated but I could only chuckle. You see, I am a very tactile person (not so much with people but take me to a fabric store...). My daughter has very much inherited this trait from me. It was a moment of connection.

 We are at a place in our relationship where she feels that she has to prove she is her own person, a young woman not a child. She needs to believe that she does not need mommy hovering so she can have the courage to fly from the nest soon. Some young people do this by shutting out their parents, creating a persona that is contrary to their parents, or are just plain touchy about anything their parents try to do.

 Actually,  I do this myself with God on occasion. "Hey God, I got this, I can do it myself." Let's not mention all the times I hide in social settings or just let the old flesh flare up and act utterly depraved. I have been daring enough to doubt Him, forget His goodness, and stray from what I know is truth. Yet, God is gentle with me. His grace is poured out over and over. Even in moments where He corrects me, He is patient because He is growing me in sanctification. Psalm 103:10-14 is a great reminder of God's steadfast love, grace, and patience. 

 I have to ask myself, "Do I practice this? Am I offering up grace in the face of personal rejection? Am I patient in correcting others? Am I steadfast in walking alongside those who are in my life? Am I pointing over and over to Jesus and how He has shown me grace?" 

 You probably already know the answer. The lesson is that I need to remember this when my final little bird is testing the water, when she is seeking to find the edges of who she is, and how the world fits in to what she has been taught. When she flies from the nest, I want to know that she has heard the Gospel and it has touched her life, if not completely transformed it.

 So, the museum was a sweet lesson in self-control for both of us. We talked about how it is good to sometimes put yourself in situations where you must practice controlling your impulses. Over those moments, we connected, we shared. She knew I was her mother, she was my child, and nothing would change that and, I think for just a moment, she was at peace with me.

 And just to linger in that moment a little longer, we went to the gift shop and together touched every knick knack, souvenir, and trinket then went to eat colorful, icy snow cones. It was nice but more than that, it was time spent letting grace be touched, examined, experienced, and applied.

 Thank you God. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Making Prescriptions for God

 Sundays are awesome. I love waking up and going to meet with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to worship together as a Body. Worship is always good but meeting as the Church in worship is even better.  We had an amazing sermon from Leviticus 9.

 The message focused on God being the one who prescribes how He should be worshiped. After all He is the one who would best understand that and we would be the last ones to ask. Our talents lie more in the area of how to best rebel against God and know nothing of holiness until the Holy Spirit teaches us but that is a slow process. 

 Of course, this steps on a lot of people's toes but once you dig into the Old Testament and you see how God laid the foundation of worship, you cannot deny the truth. Jesus also made it extremely clear in the New Testament that it was not open to interpretation. The road is narrow and He is the way. That doesn't leave much room for "you do it your way and I'll do it my way."

  Are we really so arrogant to think we can dictate terms to God? "I will worship you in this way." "I will not read the Word You gave but come up with my own ideas of who You are." "I will serve when I have time and feel like it." Does the God of the universe need our prescription for knowing Him, serving Him, worshiping Him or hasn't He already made Himself clear? Would He leave it open to people who started out doubting Him and trusting their own pride? Or have we just lost the fear of the Lord?