A Divided World, A Divided Nation, A Divided Church, A Divided Home, A Divided Marriage, A Divided Soul…

Crack

(FreeImages.com/AndrewHildebrand)

There is so much that can unify us, but when I look around, I see so much division!

I see a divided world: first-world countries versus third-world countries.  I see a divided nation: very clearly defined differences in ideologies/beliefs and political systems.  I see a divided church: legalism versus grace versus faux-grace and one denomination against another denomination.  I see divided homes: parents warring against children and vise versa.  I see divided marriages: marriages that elevate one gender against the other and one belief system against another.  I see divided souls: people that walk in confusion, doubts, unrest, and inconsistency.  I see divided identities…

I see a world that reflects nations that reflects churches that reflects families that reflects marriages that reflects souls.

I see so many divided souls because the pains/wounds and mistakes of the past still imprison the present and the futures, unless truth/life is allowed to bring healing.

This can seem to over-simply things, but it is not a simple process.  It takes layers of healing to occur before we begin to stop living from the past and begin to live from the future.

We experience pain in our past, and we decide to live differently.  In fact, we will often pick something very different from our past and think that choice and system of belief will guarantee that we have moved on.

We understand that the systems of our past were broken and faulty, but what we don’t understand is what wholeness looks like. 

Without understanding wholeness ourselves, we will hop from one broken system to another.  They may have a different name, appearance, and message, but the crazy thing is they can often be just the other side of the coin that we had in the past.

Just picking a different system does not guarantee that we are headed into true life, freedom, and healing.

The problem is that when we are wounded, we will choose something different, but the different is not necessarily all whole and good itself. 

At first, the different feels good, safe, and liberating.  It’s a break from those things and people that wounded us in the past.  After awhile though, we begin to realize that throwing off one yoke doesn’t mean we haven’t picked up another yoke with which to replace it.

In fact, the nature of woundedness means we will often pick up another yoke just as heavy or heavier than the one before.  It just looks different and feels different so we don’t realize that it is still a yoke.

And… Freedom is not living a life free of any constraints, responsibilities, expectations, structures, or truth to guide us. 

Something in life is always compelling us.  It’s either others, a system, a belief, or ourselves.

We hear that we are to live freely for ourselves — that we dream our biggest dreams and allow no one to hold us back.

We think that by breaking free from others we break free ourselves.  There is some merit to this.  We don’t want to live to please everyone else, but on the other hand, we don’t want to live to please ourselves or that is the ultimate form of narcissism.

How do we therefore break free from people and at the same time break free from ourselves?

When you have felt the bondage of control and manipulation by others, you often think that freedom means the absence of accountability, structure, or response on our parts.  You think it means that you are free to live and believe however you choose.  To a huge extent, you are.  We are free to choose what we believe and how we live, but we are never free from the outcomes of those choices — just like, thank God, neither are those who have hurt us!

Do we really want a world that is devoid of consequences or accountability? 

Do we really want a world that chooses to live for self in order to liberate self?  Does that really make sense?

Can we be liberated if we live in bondage to the whims and desires of self?

Ultimately, we will also hold others captive to our own selfish desires.

…And… Can we really live free when we merely live in a reactionary state from the past?  Is that not still living under the influence of the past?

The point is we may choose something different because it is different, and maybe we will find something true and good in the process, but maybe we won’t.

If we are simply living from reactionary mode, our decisions are not based on clear and truthful thinking.  Reactionary mode means that we are unable to accurately position ourselves and our beliefs on a foundation of clear and stable thinking.

What then is the answer?

Find healing.  Be aware of your sources.  Find God for Himself rather than the twisted examples perhaps you were shown.  Find Him where He reveals Himself: creation, His Word (take off others glasses when reading it), simply communicate with Him.  Talk with Him, ask Him your questions, and listen.

Know that freedom is more than throwing off bondage.  It’s replacing it with truth. 

Truth is actually the surest form of freedom there is.

I hear though a lot of people who react to the word truth.  There are several reasons for this response: reaction to their past (haven’t healed fully yet), they are still in the state of living ultimately for themselves, they are reacting to twisted thinking that was portrayed as “truth,” and they don’t actually understand what truth is.

If you want to know truth, find God.  Seek Him.  Ask Him to reveal Himself to you and then listen, observe, and ponder.

Luke 20:21

21 Then they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth:

John 1:14

The Word Becomes Flesh

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 8:32

32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

A Birthday Letter To My Son In Heaven…

Love

(FreeImages.com/JukkaLamminluoto)

To my precious Josiah, who would have been 13 today:

Son, I never held you in my arms, I never heard your voice, or was able to decide who you favored the most in looks and personality.

Your life here on earth ended before you ever left the haven of my womb and before we could ever behold your face.  A lot of people would tell me that your short life on earth was pointless, but it wasn’t,

Son. I just want to say that your short life here was noticed and to say that I am so happy for you — that you have spent the past 13 years in the presence of God!!! I am a little jealous that you were able to behold the face of Jesus before me. 🙂

Son, your two earthly parents and five siblings can’t wait to meet you someday! I am so happy for you that you are experiencing only pure joy, love, and peace! Shalom, my Son… until we meet again!

Love,

Mommy

Feel Like You Are The Checklist?

Check list

(FreeImages.com/Fanginhoon)

I awoke this morning and told my husband that I felt like I had become a checklist to people.  I felt like I consisted of a checklist of boxes of things I had accomplished or had not, and that was the summation of me in the minds of others.  (Note: feelings are not necessarily reality but indicate something that needs attention.)

This morning, I cried out to God, knowing this was an attack from the enemy of my soul to turn my focus on myself — to make me feel rejected, inferior, empty…

I told God straight up (no need to sugar-coat with Him): “God, I am feeling this attack again to believe the lies that I am not enough. S.O.S.!”

God’s response was a bit unexpected but brilliantly profound as always:

He asked me the question, “Am I enough?”

“What does that have to do with me not feeling like enough?”

The wisdom in His response was like a blinding flash!

The real issue behind me not feeling enough was that I am in essence not believing or living like He is enough.

When God is enough, there is no room for discontentment.

You can be in a prison, like Paul and Silas, and still be praising God, or…

You can be like my 91-year-old, adopted grandmother whom I drove several hours to visit yesterday.  This woman has been a widow for close to 21 years.  Her husband was a man who cherished his wife and treated her like a princess.  (You know she misses him.)  This woman is almost blind and almost deaf.  She can’t drive anywhere.  She can’t attend church.  Hardly anyone visits her or remembers her.  She doesn’t have any grandchildren.  Most of her family has already died.  Most of her friends have died.  Yet, this woman knows the meaning of contentment.  I was in awe over this woman who so kindly talked to my kids, who wore a continual smile on her face, who never spoke a single word of complaint over her circumstances.  She was a woman fully content and at peace.  …and I cry as I write these words.

This woman probably doesn’t match up to a lot of people’s checklists.  She can’t do much of anything.  She isn’t publishing books, speaking to large groups of women, playing with grandchildren, and being visited by hoards of people.  She lives in a simple house, with simple decorations, wearing simple clothes, with a simple life, but this woman has learned the richest truths/treasures that so many of us haven’t or will never learn.

This woman has lived fully loved and loved fully.  This woman has learned the secret of contentment.  She doesn’t walk in fear, rejection, or complaining.

What is the secret of contentment?

It’s that He is enough.

So, back to God’s question again:

“Am I enough?”

The question isn’t whether I am enough; the question is whether He is enough.

God gave me these verses this morning that I am “soaking in”:

Psalm 34:10

10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.

Psalm 34:22

22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.

 

Too Much Focus On Identity?

shame

(FreeImages.com/JV)

There are some amazing books that have been recently published on identity, and this seems to be a common thought in women’s ministries today.

But, is there too much of a focus on identity?

Has it become more self-focused rather than God-focused?

I recently read this article: http://faithit.com/dear-womens-ministry-stop-calling-me-beautiful-phylicia-delta/.

I liked this one line, in particular, that she said:

“They leave our churches knowing all about themselves, and knowing little about Christ.”

I commented the following in regards to her statement:

I liked this line in the article: “They leave our churches knowing all about themselves, and knowing little about Christ.” That is the key!!! There is a huge focus on identity because it absolutely makes a huge difference in our lives, BUT we can’t know who we are until we know Whose we are and that means knowing Who He is. That’s the issue.  So many Christians know a lot about God and still remain insecure. I believe the issue is because they haven’t gotten past just knowing about God to understanding how those pivotal truths relate to them in their every day moment by moment living. It’s knowing that in this very moment, God isn’t just merciful, but He is my mercy today. Identity is at a crisis today because as a whole, the world and even the church hardly knows God on a personal, intimate level (reality), and therefore, we behave as orphans, searching for belonging. I agree that so often our focus becomes then centered on just a more spiritualized version of New Age thinking: self-enlightenment and self-glorification rather than on understanding the greatness of God and the greatness of His love and grace for us!!! When you truly understand this, it doesn’t make you proud; it makes you humble. The more I realize the greatness of His love and grace towards me, the more secure I am and the more humble I am!!!

I personally believe that you will never walk fully as a daughter of God until you understand that you are a daughter of God and what that means, which is why knowing our true identities is crucial.

I also though strongly believe that, as the article I quoted from is pointing out, we cannot understand who we are without understanding Who He is.

I want to clarify too that we do need to understand our roots: we are sinners completely in need of a Savior, but if all we do is stay there, we actually have “forfeited” the purpose of the cross in our lives. 

Jesus came to save lost sons/sinners and to restore them as sons and heirs with Him! 

The purpose of the cross wasn’t to emphasize our pasts, our sinfulness, what was lost to us in the Garden of Eden, and what Satan on a daily basis tries to constantly rub in our faces.

The purpose of the cross is what was accomplished at the cross — which is our salvation, our eternity, our redemption, our forgiveness, and the fact that we are no longer sinners separated from God, but we are sons and daughters and priests and priestesses of the most High God!

Let me repeat that statement:

The purpose of the cross is what was accomplished by Jesus at the cross.

I want to end this by restating the last line from my comment because I believe this is the focus with which I want to end:

The more I realize the greatness of His love and grace towards me, the more secure I am and the more humble I am!!!

and…

“…we can’t know who we are until we know Whose we are and that means knowing Who He is.”

1 John 4:19

19 We love him, because he first loved us.

 

Fear Versus Love

Handwriting - Love

(FreeImages.com/BobSmith)

Struggling with fear?

How do you live fearlessly in a world that has hidden dangers, agendas, and impending hurts?

What’s wrong with protecting oneself? 

How do you love fearlessly in a dangerous and abusive world?

How do you trust when it may mean being hurt again?

Trust is essential to any good relationship, but doesn’t it make sense to hold back and keep your “best cards” hidden?

Sound familiar?

Want to know what the answer to fear is?

It’s living loved.

That simple.

How do we live loved though if we don’t believe we are loved fully?

How do we offer what we don’t have or haven’t received (accepted/believed)?

There are some very clear differences between love and fear:

Fear walls against, locks out, controls, tries to predict, measures, withholds, imprisons, incapacitates…

Love empowers, gives freedom, enables, expands, gives generously, is limitless, hopes, receives, believes…

Fear is the scarcity mentality.  It is a prisoner to the past and a prisoner to the unknown and what-ifs.  It fears and expects the worst, instead of believing the best.

Fear holds any new relationship prisoner and answerable to the wounds of the past. The present and future are never released from the wounds of the past.

Fear says that my future is only preserved by hoarding my present.

Fear refuses to be vulnerable and transparent.

Love though is the abundance mentality.  It overflows.  It releases the present and future from the wounds of the past.

Each new relationship is received with the openness that comes from freedom from the past and a hope for the future. 

Love focuses on others rather than protecting self.

Love is able to be vulnerable because to be loved is to be secure.  When there is true security, there is no fear of vulnerability.

Love is an expanding force.  It expands our borders, expands our abilities, expands our hopes, expands our giving and our receiving…

The relevance to understanding the difference between love and fear as it applies to my life and to your life is this:

I.  Fear is rooted completely in self.  It is completely self-centered and as a result imprisoning.  It holds you, your circumstances, your dreams, your life purpose, and your loved ones prisoner to what hurt or scared you in the past and what might hurt or scare you again in the future.

You will never grow, expand, or be “all in” for God so long as you are a prisoner of your past.

II. Love is bigger than self and expands me beyond myself, my fears, my borders, my experiences, my past.

In order to live fearlessly, you must learn to live fully loved.

As I was contemplating this, I immediately thought of the verse:

1 John 4:18

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

A Religious Spirit

shame

(FreeImages.com/KatherineEvans)

The Religious Spirit…

But first my story…

I grew up in a loving, Christian home.  I read my Bible, attended Sunday School and church services whenever the doors were open, prayed, studied the Bible…  I attended a Bible college, got involved in mission work, did everything I could to honor and pursue the Lord.  My heart was to please the Lord.  All good, right?

As the years passed, I began to realize that my life consisted a lot in doing.  The Christian life had become a struggle — a struggle to do and trying to be by doing.

“…trying to be by doing.”

I felt more like an onlooker rather than a participant in the realities of the love and power in the “Kingdom” of God.

“…felt more like an onlooker rather than a participant…”

I remember crying out to God for Him to increase my love — to return me to my “first love.”

I knew all of the right things (for the most part), did all of the right things (for the most part), but inwardly, I knew that something was lacking.

God began to reveal to me that I was trying to relate to Him intellectually and through self-righteousness.

Relating to God on an intellectual basis is very easy to do!  It’s especially easy if we are more analytical in our approach, more fear-based, only allow what we can understand into our lives, prefer security, prefer predictability, avoid vulnerability, etc…

I am going to step out on a limb here and say that a religious spirit summarizes this pursuit of God by doing.

The religious spirit is a struggle to be enough by doing enough.

It is looking to self and relying on my own actions to measure my worthiness and His approval of me.  It is all self-focused.

Intellectualism ties into the religious spirit because it is trying to convince myself, God, and others that I am worthy, spiritual, and have a relationship with God, based on what I know about Him.

I am very thankful for all that I did and still do in my life to seek God and to learn more about Him, but what I was lacking before was knowing Him intimately instead of as an onlooker. 

Note: I was a Christian at this point.  I was pursuing God and loved Him to the best of what I knew as love.  The point is, my love wasn’t very great because I didn’t understand and hadn’t received the fullness of His love for me.

I wasn’t experiencing the full reality of God because I didn’t fully understand His love for me. 

I still don’t.  It will take me a life-time and an eternity to comprehend the vastness of His love for me because it is infinite — without limits.

What happens though when we have a religious spirit is we truly don’t comprehend that His love is not based on us/me.  It’s not given in measures, based on how I perform or don’t perform.

His love for me has nothing to do with how I perform, how I pray, how I worship, how much I know about Him, how much I serve Him.

His love has everything to do with Him!

We define love by our own experiences or the lack thereof.  We think that God’s love is like what we have experienced and how we operate: given to those who like us or treat us well or that we like for some reason.  This is why we so easily “fall in and out of love.”  It’s really not love out all.  It’s self-gratification.

Within us all is this longing to be loved like what God offers: unconditional, infinite, lavish.

We want someone to love us — I mean really love us.  We want someone to know everything about us: all the good, bad, and ugly — and to love us anyway.

We are tired of trying to be enough by doing enough.  We are tired of trying to earn love.  What an agonizing struggle!  What a sure way to suffer defeat, discouragement, shame, and guilt!

Does that mean there are no actions to our love?

Absolutely not!  Authentic love will flow out into actions.  It always is seeking to serve, to minister, to heal, to help, to release, to free…

The difference though is the root/heart motivation.

Is what we do motivated by trying to “please God” by doing?  What we really mean by this is: “We don’t believe God is pleased with the way we are — that we are enough or loved the way we are — so we are trying to earn His love.”

This doesn’t mean change won’t occur. In fact, real change — real life transformation — occurs when we begin to live from the flow of His love for us and allow it to change the entire reason for the way we live. 

Living for God no longer becomes about earning or doing enough to be enough.  It becomes about surrendering to Him with full trust because we know He is good because of the reality of His love for us.

People can preach, teach, and tell you a lot about God’s love.   You can preach, teach, and define God’s love, but until you have experienced the depths of His love personally, you will always be an onlooker to the realities of the wonder of God and His love for you!!!

As I blogged awhile ago now, Job learned the reality of God in the middle of His sufferings.  He was a righteous and faithful man before his sufferings and honored by God, but as he states later in the chapter, it was through his sufferings he experienced the reality of God.  His understanding of God was no longer intellectual and from an onlooker’s perspective.  He now had a “front-line,” reality of it!

Job 42:5

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.

What is your reality today?

What is your motivation for living and for what you are pursuing?

Do you really comprehend that God loves you completely just. the. way. you. are?

Do you understand that He wants you for your sake?

Do you understand that His love isn’t constraining or confining?  It sets your soul and spirit free to truly soar!

Do you understand that God isn’t interested in what you know about Him?  He is interested in you knowing Him.

God doesn’t want you to be a spectator to the realities of His love for you.  He wants you to be “reveling” in its bounty, wonder, and overflowing abundance!

Seeing Through A Different Set Of Eyes…

Child

(FreeImages.com/ArturoGarro)

It’s VBS (Vacation Bible School) at our church this week.  Whether serving food, helping with crafts or games, or helping to keep an eye on kids, I am constantly surrounded by children.

One child stood out because she has constantly been a discipline issue.  She is nasty to the other children, disruptive, and carries a boatload of attitude

Yesterday, I had to separate her from another girl because they were involved in an argument that was quickly turning ugly.  I began to talk to each girl individually while other staff mingled nearby.

With the first girl, it became obvious that she was fearful for her sister.  By the end of our talk, she was calm and comforted.

As I walked over to talk with the other girl, I silently “flare-prayed” to God, asking Him for wisdom.

The girl was intimidating. She was defiant, nasty, and angry!

As I began to talk with her, I knew immediately she had a lot of anger bottled up inside. I began to ask her why she was angry and hurting.  At first, she denied it, but with gentleness, I told her that it was obvious that she had been hurt because she is a little girl full of a lot of anger.

The Lord then directed me to ask her if she knew that God loved her and if anyone had told her that.  Her answer was “No.”

I took her to the Bible and began to have her read a few verses that spoke of God’s love for her, such as John 3:16-17.  We talked about what the verses meant, and as she read, her anger began to dissipate more and more.

John 3:16-17

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

It wasn’t long before we were talking about Heaven and why God wants her to be there and how special she is to Him!

I asked her if I could pray for her, and she said “Yes.”  I then asked her how she wanted me to pray for her.  She said, “For God to watch over me.”  Right then, I prayed for this precious girl, and my heart broke for her.

At the end of VBS, my hands were full of crafts to distribute to the children, when this girl ran over and gave me a huge hug.

It amazed me how simply telling a child that they are loved, turned an angry, defiant child into a child who was affectionately giving hugs!

My heart broke when I realized how many hurting children there are who are never told they are loved, who have no idea the worth/value they have, and who have never seen or experienced kindness in their life!

I was so convicted that it is easy to judge a book by its cover when in reality maybe we need to see with a different set of eyes… maybe we need to look inside the pages and listen to the stories that are needing to be told…

Why Summer Is A Quiet Blogging Season For Me…

Summer landscape

(FreeImages.com/mimiliz)

I know.  It’s been awhile.  This is why:

I have a love-hate relationship with summer.

Hate is probably too strong of a word, but I am using it more as an expression…

I love the flexibility of the summer and weekends that are no longer spent grading and preparing for the following week’s homeschooling schedule!

I love getting together with lots of friends and catching up on each other’s craziness and blessedness!!!

I love playing games with my kids, ice cream, sprinklers, piles of books from the library, kids splashing in pools, and gorgeous flowers!

On the other hand, I dislike the constant busyness and the challenge it is to say no to so many good things.

I dislike all of the noise and constant activity that gives me sensory-overload.

Life isn’t perfect! There is so much to love and so much to “hate” about it, but the joy we experience is often more about our focus than our circumstances.

Summer may be exhausting for me, and some days, I really want an excuse to be “lazy” — to simply sit and savor.

Even so, I am filing away these wonderful, wild days with my kids in my memory bank. I wouldn’t trade this season of craziness for anything. I am in a season of abundance. It’s a very, full season — overflowing season, but I am thankful.

Legalism Versus False Grace Versus Authentic Grace

grate

(FreeImages.com/Krishken)

Legalism/Religion sees a person stuck in a pit and points out all the wrong choices that got them there, what they are doing wrong that is keeping them from getting out of the pit, and then instructs them on techniques and the best effort to get themselves out of the pit. It watches to see the repeatedly failed attempts and then tells the person in the pit why they (the person watching) never fell in the pit, reminding the person in the pit of their shame and failure and emphasizing their own (the person watching) “success.” Legalism/religion focuses on personal effort.

False grace sees the person stuck in the pit and says, “I don’t think you are in a pit. I think you look really good where you are. It’s no one’s right to tell you you are in a pit. That sounds like judgment! Let’s host a party and celebrate and show all of those religious people how wrong they are!” False grace never produces true freedom.

Authentic grace sees the person in the pit and says, “Hey, you want a hand up? It’s no fun being stuck in a pit; I should know — done that plenty of times. No more pits!!! You and me, we don’t belong there any more. Pits are too smelly, too confining, too soul-estrangling, too lacking in air. We were meant to be free!!!” Authentic grace is the hand reaching down to pull the imprisoned soul from the snare of bondage.