Am I Still A Good Parent If I Messed Up?

 

“Am I still a good mother if I have messed up?”

Growing up, I dreamed of being a mother and raising many babies.  It truly was what I wanted.

I almost wrote, “It truly was all I wanted.”  It’s interesting how a simple defining word can change the meaning of a sentence.  Sometimes, I hear the timid apology in the middle of the sentence — the attempt to justify the fact that I can be content with simply being a mother.  Even, the word “simply” though is diminishing the impact and importance of the calling to be a mother.

As many mothers can testify, there is nothing simple about being a mom and raising children.  In fact, parenting will involve every part of you — physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

There is no job that has brought me to my knees as much as raising children — five people that I am responsible to help shape into whole, healthy individuals.

There is no job that requires me to be so selfless, so giving, so patient, so wise, so gracious, so humble, so forgiving, so creative, and so loving, above all else.

Then, you factor in that we are all still a process of God’s grace.  We still mess up at times.

When we mess up as moms, which we all do at times, the question some of us ask is, “Are we still a good mom?”

Most moms want to be the best mom to their kids.

It’s interesting how we complicate parenting  — how I complicate parenting…  There are definitely life skills my kids need to learn, but sometimes in the pressure of all the other details, I forget the most important two things my kids need above everything else: to be generously loved and to know how much God generously loves them.

I have a dear friend who is such a beautiful reminder of this truth just by how she lives.  Actually, I have two friends like that.  One mommy friend has seven children, but she wildly loves her children and lets them know that every. single. day.  My other friend has two kids, and I just love to hear how she speaks life and love into them every. single. day.  These two moms get it.  They don’t feel the pressure to run their kids to this activity and that activity.  Instead, they do things like let their kids play in the dirt, splash in rain puddles, cuddle with a pile of books, pet animals, and ride bikes.

Somehow, in our desire to be the best mom, we have so often turned parenting into a list of places to take our kids, activities to plan, and paid lessons for enhancement.  We spend our time chauffeuring our kids instead of actually engaging with our kids.

As a mother of older children, there is an adjustment that happens.  They do have more activities, and they don’t want to cuddle on our laps or play in dirt any more.  Yet, teens still need time just to sit and chat.

What our kids want more than anything else is our love.  

My one friend (I mentioned earlier) also wrote in her Instagram account, #kissingontheporchswing, that our kids also want to know they are liked and loved. 

I wonder if our constant driving from activity to activity is conveying the wrong message?  Does our busyness allow us to relationally connect with our kids?  Does our busyness somehow inadvertently convey to our kids the wrong message that somehow we don’t want to simply be with them?

It’s actually okay to simply like to be with our kids — not that there’s anything simple about it.  It’s that we are content with motherhood.  We are fulfilled in being a mother.

I am entering the autumn season of raising some of my kids, and I am feeling it.  I miss those days of playing in the rain with my now oldest kids, sledding down hills with my once-little boys, and watching them play for hours in the dirt and with bugs.  Those were wildly, crazy days — insanely exhausting and emotionally-depleting days.  Those were also days when my kids were happy with the simplest things.  Those were the days of sweet, innocent childhood and when all that my kids wanted was my love.

What happens though if we have not been always loving?  Are we still a good mom? There are some reading this who have truly messed up in big ways.  Your kids are now adults and expressing all their emotional baggage from the ways that maybe you messed up in your parenting.  Your heart aches for healing and the ability to forgive yourself.

I was struggling with this very question the other day because I am not the perfect mom.  I tried to be the perfect mom for so long, but that whole description is a false one.  There are no perfect parents.

Some of you don’t feel you are bad parents, but you wonder if you are a good parent.  “Am I a good mom?”  What defines good though in the sense of parenting?  There are some obvious good and bad parents, but what about the parents that are doing a lot right, trying their very best, mess up, fess up to their kids and to God, but still sometimes mess up?

I was asking God this question, and He spoke to my heart this truth: “Your children will be given the opportunity to experience my grace just like you have.”  In other words, God was telling me that just like God has given me His grace for the areas in which my parents were not perfect, He will also give my kids the grace to heal in the areas that I have failed them.  

The reality is that we all need grace.  We need to repent of our idols of perfection which are pride and fear-based, and we need to first recognize that we need Jesus.  We need His grace.  We need it for us and for our past wounds, and we need it for our kids.

Our kids need grace and need to see us live in the reality of grace — that it’s not perfection we idolize, but it’s grace that allows us to repent, to change, to forgive, and to release.  It’s grace that allows us to be okay with the healing process that God is doing within us.  We don’t want to stop or force the healing process before its ready because of our own impatience.  We don’t want to be in love with a “perfect work” instead of the Perfecter of our lives.

Jesus, alone, is Perfect.  True perfection is only righteous-based, and that is something Jesus alone can do within our lives.

…So, repent, release, forgive, and heal, but this is a work that only God can do in your life.  Let Him take control of your healing.

 

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Letting Go of Shame…

Freedom

(FreeImages.com/DavidSimmonds)

How is it possible that a Christian woman who strove to live her whole life to follow Jesus and who could write a research paper and preach countless sermons on the grace and salvation of Christ could not seem to let go of shame?

It does not matter whether the shame was over some major sin or whether it was over feelings of inadequacy and the failure to live up to a standard of perfection.  All that matters is when you feel overwhelmed by shame — when its weight seeks to crush your soul.

Have you ever cried out repeatedly for this burden to be removed, had people pray with you over the burden, and been able to name it and its cause but still not been able to let go of it?

Sometimes, the greatest challenge of a Christian is not in knowing the truth because we often know it; it’s in the living it out — the believing it.  As I have written in countless blogs over the years, what we believe is actually what we live — not what we profess with our mouths but what we profess with our lives.

I remember that Sunday, worshiping the Lord — my heart overwhelmed by His Presence.  Within that atmosphere of the holy awe of God, He began to speak to me.  What I first saw with my spiritual eyes was Jesus holding out His hands to me.  I then “heard” (in my heart) Him speak to me: “[my name], are you not tired of carrying your pain?”

I had grieved plenty for my sin.  It was not a question of repentance.  A wise friend pointed out to me that I seemed to feel like I had to really grieve — to really prove my repentance.  She recognized that I was putting the work of forgiveness back on myself — by my ability to repent or the measure of my repentance.  Subconsciously, I was thinking that somehow I had to reach some high standard of repentance before I could be free.  Of course, I new theologically this is not true, but what I knew did not matter as much as what I actually believed and lived.

I was trapped by my shame — overwhelmed by the pain of my imperfections.  The only thing good enough was perfection to me, and I could never measure up.  In fact, I failed abysmally at this standard and thus walked with crushing shame.  The crazy thing is I knew the truths behind all this!  I knew not to idolize perfection, and in fact, I had experienced breakthrough in this area before.  The thing is, I still had more breakthrough.  I still had an area where I could not experience freedom because I was still not ready to let go.

I thought I was ready.  I cried out to God for release from this burden on several occasions, but I did not understand the root of my bondage until Holy Spirit revealed it to me.  That Sunday when He showed me His hands and asked me if I was tired of carrying the pain, He showed me that I was carrying the pain of my failures because I was trying to punish myself.  

When there is an area where we cannot seem to walk in victory, there is always going to be a lie at the root of it and often an area of pride surrounding this.  Why do I say this?

  1. Because truth overcomes: “… and the truth will set you free.”  
  2. Because pride sets us in opposition or resistance to the work of the Holy Spirit and to the work of grace (God’s power and righteousness made available to us) within our lives.  “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  

If you are struggling in an area of consistent failure, ask yourself what the lie is or where there is pride attached to that area.

Without realizing it, I was trying to “serve penance” for my failures by holding onto my shame.  I wanted punishment so I refused to let go of my guilt.  This was all happening without me even realizing this is what I was actually thinking and that this was truly at the root of my problem.

Pride was all over this.  Pride will always cause you to resist forgiveness, grace, freedom, and the kindness and goodness of God and others.  Pride is independence at its heart and the desire to be your own savior, your own protector, your own provider, your own perfection.  It will lead to this odd combination of hating yourself because you are unable to measure up to your own standards of perfection and yet operating independently from God and others.

Note: Independence from God and others is often related to the mistrust of God and others.  That mistrust often stems from hurts experienced.  Lies entered our minds on the heels of that trauma, and we accepted those lies in our pain and confusion.

Once I was finally ready to truly let go of my shame, I was able to simply surrender it to Jesus.  As simply as that, He took the shame and pain from me — never for me to see the shame and my failures again.  Instead, what He spoke to my heart was that He would bring “beauty from ashes” and that He would redeem it all.  Someday, He would show me what He had forged from the ashes.

Friend, I know that I was led to write this today because someone is reading this today who needs to be set free from an area of failure.  I don’t care how big or how small the failure is, the only way to be free is to be set free.  “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”

What Emotional Disconnect And Porn Have In Common

Chained

(FreeImages.com/CharlieBalch)

Warning: This is heavy reading, but I believe this is worth the read.  (You can judge for yourself though.)

Pornography is one of the most prevalent addictions within the Christian community.  It is so prevalent that it is almost guaranteed that you or someone close to you struggles with this addiction.

Why is porn considered so harmful when it is something that is done in private and may not lead to harming a literal person or so it seems…?

Before responding to that question, I want to first look at some root causes to the porn. addiction.

I grew up in a culture, surrounded by a community of Christians that taught a strict code of moral guidelines.  Purity was strongly stressed within that culture.  I am not trying to imply that purity is a bad thing so stay with me…  What shocked me later was to find how many people within that strict culture seemed to clandestinely participate in practices that even a morally decadent culture would often find repulsive: incest, sexual abuse of minors, and even going so far as to “sell” daughters to pimps.  (Note: I didn’t know anyone closely who did the latter.)  I was not aware of most of this until in my later years when the victims finally broke their silence.

What I am seeing is that obsession in any form can often lead to obsessions of the complete opposite form than intended.  An obsession or skewed view of “purity” can lend itself to an obsession over sexuality…  It is not my intention to delve more closely into this specific discussion at this time though.

What I do want to look at is what I have observed among many I know that struggle with the porn addiction.  I have observed that many of these men are emotionally disconnected.  Right now, some of you are arguing, “{…} is very emotional.  He displays harsh outbreaks of anger.”

Anger is not the same as emotional connection.  It is an emotional response but does not indicate healthy emotions or emotional connection/awareness.  In fact, anger is often what we resort to when we don’t understand or are unable to produce other healthier emotions.  Note: anger is appropriate in some cases.  It does indicate a problem so anger should not be ignored.

Anger though is often one of the last emotions expressed by a wounded soul.  In the end, anger can also eventually end with depression.

Anger is one of the leading emotions that porn addicts often display.

What do anger and porn have in common?

They both are indicators of emotional disconnect, and emotional disconnect indicates a far deeper root issue.

Every man I know (emphasis on know) who struggles or has struggled with porn has also struggled with emotional disconnect because… And this is where it gets deep…

...Because of emotional neglect or abuse that they suffered within the home.  It could be that the parents were harsh in their discipline and didn’t know how to offer the emotional nurture that their child needed.  It could be there was even physical abuse within the home.  It could be that there was divorce.  It could be that the parents were enduring their own pain to such an extent that they were unable to emotionally meet the needs of their child(ren).  Whatever the case, these men/women often came from homes that did not meet their emotional needs fully and did not give them a healthy sense of value and worth, unconditional love, and perhaps displayed a more abusive type of “spirituality” (not true “spirituality” or God-relationship).

Note: I am not trying to blame parents for the causes of their children’s sins because we are all accountable, and we all have the opportunity to choose how we respond to life’s situations.  What I am trying to say is there is a very strong correlation between the two, and lasting freedom can be found when we are able to deal with root causes.

As a result of this emotional abuse or neglect this individual experienced, they often close themselves off to the empathetic side of their emotions and to the side that desires emotional intimacy.  Why?  Because to open themselves to that type of intimacy is to make themselves vulnerable and to provide opportunity for more emotional wounds — more rejection and the ability to feel pain again.

As a result, the individual will only reveal the part of themselves that they can control and from which they can disconnect.

For the marriage relationship, this becomes even trickier.  A man can enjoy the pleasures of physical intimacy without the emotional or even relational connection.  For a woman, this is not the norm as much; though our culture is trying to brain-wash us to believe that physical intimacy is no more connecting than holding someone’s hand.  I might add that physical intimacy was actually designed to help both partners to connect on an even deeper plane emotionally as a result of the physical connection.

This is where porn comes in.  Porn requires no emotional connection or even physical connection though it often does lead down the slippery path to actual affairs.

Wives often get confused over this and personally take porn as a rejection of themselves.  The truth is a husband does not look at porn or even have an affair because of you — your lack of some measure of appeal.  He looks at porn because of a lack within himself, and you are not the cause of his lack.

Note: I am not saying that there are selfish, bitter wives who don’t create greater hurts in their husbands. BUT, God never intended a wife to meet every need of her husband — in other words to be god to him.

Even greater confusion is when a spouse commits an affair.  I want to say this as clearly as possible so as to not be misunderstood: an affair is a frequent substitute for the real marriage when there is emotional disconnect.  Why?  Because an affair requires no lasting commitment or emotional investment.  It’s a fling normally.  It can lead to a divorce and remarriage, but when there is emotional disconnect or emotional immaturity, you often see two responses: a quick fling or affair — one of many or a new marriage where there is obsession (this is often seen on the wife’s end) with one spouse or both trying to get their sense of worth from that other person.

In fact, as a result of the hurts and wounds, the spouse of the one having the affair often puts up with emotional and perhaps even physical abuse because they too are struggling with an unhealthy sense of worth.  The wounded spouse is often trying to find their sense of security and value within the abusive spouse. This makes this situation particularly harmful.

I also want to clarify that pornography and affairs definitely are sins against the spouse.  They are allowing someone else or the false image of someone else to enter into the sanctity of the intimacy of the marriage relationship.  As such, just as any other sin, this needs to be repented of and confessed.

The sad thing about this is the shallowness of porn and affairs creates even greater emotional disconnect.  There is no lasting fulfillment or well-being within, and the individual is left, ever seeking and never finding permanency and lasting satisfaction.

What is the answer?  How do we help a person who is so wounded to finally begin to thaw?

First of all, realize that by “protecting” yourself, you are actually keeping yourself from finding help, healing, and true intimacy/connection.

Disconnecting yourself from your emotions is not “protecting” you.  It is simply putting up more barbed wire and more locks on the gates of your heart so that the only emotions you are left with are depression, anger, bitterness, and lust (the very false form of love).

Secondly, you need to be willing to revisit the pain from your past and the wounds.  This is where you need to be brave in order to find why and when you disconnected emotionally.  It is not easy to revisit those painful moments from the past.  It might be a parent, sibling, respected elder, relative, friend, etc… that really wounded you.  It might be a series of them.

Thirdly, and this is the most important, our view of God is often affected by our relationships with our parents or authorities.  If your relationship with your parents was off, it’s a good chance your view of God is and therefore your relationship with God is.

I would encourage you to check out my past blogs on forgiveness.  There is a powerful quote on bitterness/unforgiveness that says, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill someone else.” 

Forgiveness does not mean we allow abuse to continue nor does it mean we ignore the pain or minimize the offense.  It means you acknowledge all of the pain.  Get it out in the open before God.  Scream it out.  Cry it out.  Whatever you have to do, but bring it before God.

Then, the hardest part of all comes, you have to choose to forgive.  If you can’t choose, ask God to help you.

I remember a situation that happened in my past.  I was struggling with unforgiveness so I asked God to help me to forgive the person.  I then saw a picture of Jesus and I sitting on park benches in a garden.  He held out His hand and showed me the nail print in His hand and said, “I did this for you.”  He then held out His other hand and showed me the palm with the nail print and said, “I did this for [….].”  That was my answer.  Jesus wasn’t saying all offenses are the same.  What He was saying is that the result of sin is the same: the Innocent One had to die.  He died for my sins!  He died for your sins!  He died for those who crucified Him and said and did vile things against Him and to Him.  If the Perfect One can die for the sins of the world, how can I refuse to forgive the sins done against me?

It is when you finally choose forgiveness that a dam will break.  That will be the start of your journey of healing.  As God brings up more memories from your past, you may have a lot of garbage to work through.  You may have layers and layers of hurts and lies to work through, but God wants to walk this journey with you.  He wants to gently bring nourishment to your soul.  He wants to heal your wounds and bring you into freedom!

God wants you to be able experience the beauty of intimacy in relational commitment and the beauty within imperfection.  Marriage isn’t perfect.  Friendships aren’t perfect.  Spouses aren’t perfect.  You aren’t perfect.  BUT, as you begin to understand forgiveness and grace, you will begin to understand that your worth and strength doesn’t come in pretending perfection or trying to live your own version of “perfection.”  Your value comes from God Himself!  You are beautiful, loved, and chosen by God Himself!  You will find that once you get ahold of that truth, living the “perfect” life will be easier than you think!  A holy life isn’t found in you or I; it’s found in God Himself and intimately knowing Him!

May I end with this, in order to fully become the man or woman of God you were designed to be, you first need to “run” to Abba Daddy as His son or daughter.  Your heart first needs to come home.  So, come home, dear hearts!  You will be amazed to find that He isn’t that Big Daddy in the sky waiting to punish you when you do wrong.  He is the Abba Daddy, watching and waiting to gather you up in His arms and to welcome you home.  So, come home, dear hearts.  Come home.

(Note: This is not all-conclusive on the topic of pornography addiction, healing, and recovery for all individuals impacted by the affects of pornography.  See a qualified counselor for further assistance.)

How Trusting In God Plays Into Forgiveness

trust me

(FreeImages.com/LorenaMolinari)

This happened not too long ago…

God was bringing to my mind a person that I needed to forgive.  As I was dialoguing with God about this situation, acknowledging that I needed to forgive and asking Him to help me choose to forgive, He asked me the question, “Do you trust me?”

“Do you trust me?”

It struck me then!

Forgiveness is trusting God with the offender/offense.

Forgiveness is giving the offender/offense to God and no longer trying to be judge and jury over them.

What The Cross Really Represents…

Dirty Fingerprints

(FreeImages.com/StephenDavies)

This struck me so powerfully this morning:

Unfathomable evil intersected with unfathomable grace at the cross.

And I am undone… because this. challenges me. to forgive. to love, even the unlovable. to “fellowship” with those who don’t yet understand their value to God. to be patient. because what looks like too far or too low looks like something completely different to God.

Sometimes, it means I need to get a little dirty because grace takes the ugly and wraps it up in the garments of love.

What Do You Do When You Are Offended…

prisoned leaf

Offenses… we are going to experience the pain of being offended at some point or another in our lives.  Some hurts are intentionally done to us, but other offenses are created unknowingly by the other party.

Once the offense occurs though, what do we do with them?  How do we handle offenses — especially when they are so painful that they “blindside” us and threaten to immobilize our emotions for a time?

Our natural inclination is often to allow the offenses/hurts to fester until they become an even heavier load to carry, turning into the crushing weight of bitterness.

Hurt that is allowed to fester turns into the crushing burden of bitterness.

Here are some thoughts I journaled recently on this subject:

“When I hold onto anger, hurts, and unforgiveness, I allow the offender to hold power over me and am giving the offender permission to continue to hurt me.”

Why would I say that holding onto forgiveness gives the offender power to continue to hurt me?

This is what my journal entry continued to say,

“Holding onto offenses keeps them ever present  in my thoughts and emotions.  It doesn’t allow me to be ‘released’ from the hold of the offenses.  It doesn’t allow me to walk in the peace, joy and grace that God willingly offers to each of us when we yield ourselves to Him.”

My journal then connects unforgiveness with a lack of trust in God.  Why would I connect these two seemingly unrelated issues?

This is what my journal said…

Holding onto offenses is really saying, “I’m not sure God will take care of this.  I trust only myself to take care of this situation (which often means we think we can punish the offender by withholding forgiveness, love, and grace).  The reality is we hurt ourselves the most when we hold onto unforgiveness.”

I have also heard it said that holding onto unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping it kills someone else.

To forgive someone is to set yourself free so that the offense and the offender no longer has the power to keep you chained to past hurts.

Today, be set free!  Forgive, even as Christ has forgiven you.  Let Him be your Defender.

Does God Ask Too Much Of Us?

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=354752&searchId=4641999a7679fcaef2df0e26d11e3c72&npos=10)

The passage of years told their story in the lines across his brow, “age spots” dappled generously across his body, and skin as fragile as parchment.

He had known the sorrows and joys of a living a full life.

The enthusiasm of his youth had mellowed into the resolute faithfulness of the experienced.

He knew what it meant to watch all his dreams crumble and then at the last to watch them miraculously be fulfilled.

He had experienced the humbling lessons of trying to “intercede” for God and then to see those alternate plans “smack him back in the face.”

The passage of time had taught him that the truthfulness of God’s character is dependable.

The old man had learned that “God doesn’t just speak to be heard but to be obeyed.” (quote taken from Discerning The Voice Of God)

Through both failures and victories, the old man had learned that obedience to God’s voice requires a resolute and total commitment.

Through “trail and error”, the old man had learned that God’s resources and blessings always follow His will. 

In the seasoned years of his life, the old man finally felt ready to relax and to enjoy the benefits of years of toil and sacrifice.

He was ready to enjoy the blessings of spending time with a son that hadn’t come until all hope seemed hopeless.

This son had been promised by God a long time ago, and when the old man was still young, he and his wife had anticipated God’s promised blessing.

As the years had turned into decades, the “blossom” of their dreams and hopes had crumpled along with the vitality and fertility of their youth.

The man and his wife had even tried to devise a contingency plan for God, but had discovered the hard way that God’s blessings follow God’s will — not their own.

In God’s mercy and according to the faithfulness and truthfulness of God’s character, the man and his wife did at last see the full fruition of all their hopes and dreams!

A son was born to the two of them at last!  Miracle of miracles, their son was born in the autumn of their lives!

Where there had been “decay” and “deadness”, God had brought vitality and life.

Now, the old man could enjoy his son turning into a young man, anticipating the “handing over of the reins” of leadership to his son.

Feeling the creak of arthritic knees and the pain of swollen joints, the old man sat for a few minutes, marveling over the extent of the “spread” of his camp.  The tents of his servants spread out across the plain, along with the herds of sheep, cattle, and camels.  Wells, his servants had dug, pumped refreshing water to sustain the life of his household.

The colorful array of exquisite tapestries decorated the outside of their dwellings, while the beautiful designs of intricately-crafted pottery, mosaics, vases, and jewel-like creations decorated the interiors.

The old man felt a deep satisfaction welling up inside him.  It was time to rest and enjoy this “autumn” season of his life.

Into the quiet of his soul came the Voice that he had come to recognize with clarity over the years.  It was the voice of God, compelling Him to once again obey with resolute commitment.

The old man had known what it meant to follow God with unyielding obedience.  He knew what total commitment to God’s will looked like.  He had left the stability of his home lands, the “security” of loved ones and resources, the “protection” of armies, the “provision” of fertile valleys, and the companionship of friends in order to follow God.

His commitment to God was radical in its resoluteness and thoroughness.

In spite of all the “sacrifices” the old man had previously made to follow God, this new command would test everything he believed concerning God.  This latest command would be the ultimate test of the fortitude of his commitment to God.

“Was he all in for God and willing to go all out for God — even when it meant allowing the ‘blessings’ and ‘promises’ of God to ‘die’?”

In all honesty, the old man did have the fleeting thought that ran through his mind initially, questioning God’s “right” to ask so much of him.  The thought was no sooner there than the old man discarded it.  If nothing else, the old man had learned that God is a God of the impossible.

“If God required the ultimate sacrifice, then God would provide the ultimate provision.”

The old man pushed himself up. On legs, shaking not just from the weakness of age but also from the emotions of the moment, he limped his way to the animal corral.  It was time to prepare his donkey and pack provisions for the grueling journey that he would undertake in the morning.

Relaying few details, the old man kissed his wife good bye and set off on the journey, taking several days’ worth of provisions, his donkey, a stack of wood for an offering, two servants to assist, and his most prized possession of all — his promised son.

The arduous journey would take three days of bone-wearying, mind-numbing, and emotionally-draining fatigue.

During those three days, the old man continued to trudge along in his task to fulfill God’s command.

This time, he had no contingency plans.  There was no sacrificial animal that he had brought “just in case”…

Upon reaching the foothills of the mountain that was to be their destination, the old man instructed the two servants to wait for their return.

Then with one hand leading the donkey, loaded with firewood on his back, and the other hand clasping his son’s hand in his own, the old man set out.

With the carefree nature of youth, the son soon was scampering along the path, excitedly pointing out the insects, oddly-shaped rocks, and colorful flowers long their path.

The steep path ascended up the hard face of the mountain, ending at the top.  At the top of the mount, the man and his boy stood.  It was just them and God.

With unwavering dedication to following God’s commands, the old man began to untie the firewood and began to carefully stack the wood upon an outcropping of rocks.  He placed each log carefully so that it would quickly and efficiently burn the sacrifice.

Each action he performed was resolute.  He was committed to seeing God’s commands through to the end.

Then with unwavering devotion and trust, the old man hardly flinched as he turned to his son and began to tie his sons’ arms and legs together, preparing his son to be the sacrifice.

The son had heard the story of his miraculous birth over and over throughout his young years.  He had heard repeatedly how God had promised that He would raise up a powerful nation through the boys’ descendants.  The boy did not fully understand what was going to happen, but he too believed that God could and should be trusted.

With bated breath, the boy watched as his father raised a long knife over his body.

Into the silence of time suspended in an agony of hopes, the compelling voice of God spoke.

With trembling hand, the old man lowered the sharp blade.  While salty tears trailed down weathered cheeks and gnarled hands grabbed the hand of his beloved son, the old man listened as God commended him for his obedience and then revealed His provision.

A ray of sunlight caught the glint of the metal and threw a dazzling beam of light out across the mount where they stood.  As their gazes were drawn to the blinding reflection of sun, the boy and the man saw where the beam of light seemed to point.

There, standing in a tangled mass of weeds and thistles was a ram.  The strong and beautiful animal would become the sacrifice instead.

God had provided!

The old man swept his son up into his arms and quickly cut the restraining ropes, binding the boys’ arms.

Later as the old man and his son watched the last embers of flame burn out, they heard God’s compelling voice once again speak. This time, God’s voice spoke words of praise and blessing, reaffirming the promises that had been made decades ago that God would bless the progeny of this faithful old man and his son.

As the old man and his son descended the mountain, their eyes were drawn not just to the beautiful vista below but also back to the altar.

Something powerful had happened that day in their lives!  It wasn’t just mere excitement over seeing a ram and the huge relief of knowing that God wasn’t going to require the sacrifice of the boy.  It was something greater… It seemed a truth, a message greater than the moment, greater than themselves had been relayed. 

And the old man returned home to his wife, while the youthful son, exuberantly ran off to explore a new adventure.

Though presently distracted by youthful interests, the boy would later recall that powerful moment and would ponder the deeper message of God’s faithfulness and truthfulness to His promises.

Over a thousand years later, a Father would once again be required to make the ultimate sacrifice.

This Son was the Father’s only and beloved Son.  This Son would willingly lay down His life as a sacrifice, but this time, there would be no substitution. 

The full crushing weight of becoming the sacrifice for all sins, for all of mankind, for all of time would be laid upon this Son.

God Himself was the Father, and it was His precious Son who died, carrying the weight of a sin-burdened, sin-guilty, sin-weary world upon Himself.  With the bowing of His head in surrender to death, He “crucified” the record of sin against us. 

His death became the means for the death of our own sin: its guilt, penalty, and crushing hold.

Three days later when this same Son arose from the dead in miraculous risen life, He offered the means by which we too can experience a new life of complete and radical transformation! 

The life He offers to us through His own life is that of abundant grace — the grace that brought the Gospel of salvation to us and the grace that keeps us sheltered within the embrace of lavish love.

The Adulterer

Saint I

(FreeImages.com/GeorgeCrux)

(This post was so impressed on my heart this morning that I had to write it.  I feel that there must be someone who needs to read this.)

It had been too many years to count…  Too long since she had dared to believe, to hope…

Somewhere in the distant past, she remembered that there was a time when she had dreamed…  Dreamed that someone would truly love her — love her for herself…

She was still young in years, but she had already lived a lifetime of pain, regrets, and broken dreams.

She had given up hope, closed her heart so tightly that no one could penetrate it.  It was better to feel “nothing” then to keep feeling the crush of broken dreams.

To protect herself, she had erected a barrier of anger, calloused disregard, and daring defiance to all who questioned her.

“Better to pretend indifference than to reopen wounds too crushing to bare.”

She had decided that the best way to get back at those who had hurt her was to expose their own weaknesses — to see how weak they really were.

She had learned to blatantly tempt, to flaunt her ability to expose their own weaknesses and hypocrisy…

When she passed them on the streets, she could feel their utter hatred seething beneath the surface of their self-righteous disgust.  She could expose their weaknesses, their hypocrisy…

Their hatred covered their fear — fear of exposure.

That night had been like all the other endless nights… a night of pretending passion…  Trying to make enough money to feed a tummy while a starving soul felt the gnawing ache of  emptiness…

Then in the midst of this mockery of life, familiar faces stormed into her room, disrupting the throes of passion, roughly pulling her from tossed bedding and yanking her out into the harsh light of morning.

There she stood, rippling masses of hair falling down around her shoulders, wild in all of its glory.

She stood there, anger causing her to hold her head up, nostrils flared.

As the words of her accusers poured forth, a different emotion began to work its way into her belly.  Her old nemesis, called fear.  It mocked her, mocked her weakness as a woman.  Her partner in crime…?  He’d fled the scene.  There she stood, alone, exposed, mocked.

No one knew what had brought her to this place — this place of utter desecration.  No one cared. The voices of her accusers rang out, loud and discordant, harsh and ugly.

“Perhaps, it’s better this way any way.”  She was tired of the fight.  Tired of pretending to live when her soul had given up long ago.  She was tired of fighting for survival.  She was tired of pretending to be strong and desirable, when all she felt inside was incredible hatred — hatred most of all for herself.

Her dreams had died so long ago.  Why not her life as well?  It was a farce anyway.

Then as she looked at the pair of dirty sandals that drew nearer, she realized that this person to whom her accusers were appealing was to decide her fate.

It wasn’t even curiosity that drew her gaze upward — that too had died so long ago.  It was His voice…  In the middle of raging voices, His was the calm.  He spoke, and the rage seemed to still.

All of life seemed to hold its breath.  She could see the waves of heat rippling across the tiled roofs in the court-yard.  She could see little clouds of dust swirling around the sandals of those who had minutes ago been yelling.

There He stood.  Calm.  Resolute.  She looked at his eyes with a slight taunt, daring Him to condemn her … to get it all over with.

As she gazed into His eyes, she stopped.  He held her gaze.  There was no leering, no loathing, no rebuke, no embarrassment.  His eyes just held her gaze and measured her…

His gaze held recognition and “could it be sorrow and something else?”  It was an emotion she wasn’t even sure she wanted to define — something so foreign that it made her uncomfortable, made her vulnerable.

He turned, bent over, picked up a stone, and with the stone began to write in the dirt…  A message so simple but so profound that her accusers silently walked away.

All else seemed to blur, except Him.  She could see every detail about Him with crystal clarity: feet dirty and roughened from walking miles, rivulets of sweat trailing from His hair-line to His beard, calloused hands holding the rock He had used to write, a particle of dust clinging to his eye-lashes, lips curved in the slightest of smiles, and those eyes…   Eyes that beckoned her to look again into their depths…  Eyes that seemed to tells stories and to know a depth of wisdom and years that she couldn’t begin to fathom…  Eyes that seemed to know her and to understand her… Eyes that knew the pain, the fears, the hurts, the anger, the self-loathing, the hopelessness…

Looking into those eyes, each wound, pain, despair, and sin when recalled was healed.  It was as if He was opening each door she had closed; and with a look, was cleaning and healing each room in her soul until there was nothing left but this feeling of complete and utter peace, contentment, and rest.

She stood there, no longer aware of her own indecency.  She forgot that she was the condemned.  She forgot that she had once known nothing but hopelessness.

With breath suspended in time, she waited… for once anticipating what He might say.

He asked her a question, perplexing and yet almost too good to be true…  His answer robbed her of breath.  She didn’t even realize that tears were trickling down her face… an emotion so foreign to her that at first she didn’t even realize what it was…  sorrow… but not a hopeless kind…

This time, her sorrow was the kind that healed all the broken places that she didn’t even know were there.  And in their place the tears left behind another raw emotion that again was something she wasn’t even sure she had known what it meant previously… it was this feeling of serene joy!  It was a feeling of buoyancy, as years of anguish faded into a distant memory…

Then, He said ten final words before turning and walking away:

“Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

Ten simple but profound words.  “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”  Words that would echo themselves in a constant refrain in the years to come.  Words that would reassure her when people reminded her of her past…  Words that would encourage her when times were tough, and she wondered how she would make it without returning to the old ways…

They were five words: “…go, and sin no more…” that spoke a new message to her heart — a message of hope, redemption, reconciliation, and healing…  It was a message that told her she was no longer her past.  It was a message that told her she had a “fresh tablet”, a clean “scroll” on which to write her new life’s story.

She was an overcomer because she had been forgiven.  She had been condemned but was now cleansed.  She had been abandoned but was loved.  She had been accused but was accepted.

Later, when that same man was left hanging on a tree, beaten, exposed, and mocked, she was there in the crowd at His feet.  This time, she was crying for Him. This time, it was the innocent that was condemned.  He who loved was abandoned.  He who had accepted was accused.  He who had forgiven was rejected.  He who had healed was broken.

As she gazed at the blood pooling at the foot of the cross, her eyes alone seemed to read a message — a message written in His blood — the message of eternal love…

John 8:10-11

10 “When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

Feet Of Clay

A potter is kneading the clay to be used to making Lord Ganesha Idols in Pottery Town, Bangalore.

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=12073361&searchId=88b5c637595cd7c0c9675d03efa58f0b&npos=93)

With another scandalous headline concerning the Duggar family splashed across the news, my heart began to ache once again…

The story “hit close to home” because I grew up in an environment similar to the Duggars. I was surrounded by friends and affiliates who espoused the ATIA teachings, of which the Duggar family is also a part.

This is what I have learned coming out of that environment of ultra-conservatism — how it started “wrong” and how it continued to go wrong:

Note: This was not necessarily the way I was raised or the teachings of my family.  These concepts were what I was exposed to by ultra-conservative groups of which we were affiliated, people with whom we associated, church groups, etc…

1.  There was an over-emphasis on the outward (works, appearance, actions, expressions).

A lot of attention was given to how a person dressed, acted, talked.  Spirituality was based upon those outward indicators that were “supposed” to be inward indicators.

When the outward becomes our focus, it is easy to avoid looking at the inward and to cover up our inner struggles with pretty exteriors.

2.  There was an emphasis on pleasing God, but the reason was motivated from fear — fear of God’s wrath.

Growing up in that environment, God was seen more as a holy, wrathful God — that a person must appease or constantly live in fear of His judgment.

A fearful environment produces shame, guilt, condemnation, anxiety, anger, wrath, judgment, harshness, and extremes.

3.  There was an emphasis on living a “godly” life, but perfection was what was really intended.

We were expected to be practically perfect.

Our worth was judged on our performance — how “godly” we appeared.

There was no room to give grace.  There were harsh consequences for anyone who “slipped up” — even over the smallest or most ridiculous infractions.

4.  It was taught that if you lived the “godly” or really perfect life, you would be honored by the world and would receive material blessings.

This became another form of the “wealth, health, and happiness” type of “gospel”.  There was an over-emphasis on good works, called “godly behavior”, and the results were supposed to be physical and material blessings.

5.  It was taught that you could avoid sin in your life by avoiding sin out there.

Sin was blamed on the the “world”.  So to avoid the “world” meant we could avoid sin. 

This can result in condemnation of the “world” rather than a humble love that reaches out to the world.  This can also result in the avoidance of taking responsibility for our own actions.

My above list is not conclusive or exhaustive, but it reveals some of the heart issues behind the “ultra-conservative” movement.

It’s been 15 years since I was immersed in such an environment.  Since that time, God has revealed many truths to me concerning my past and revealed the wonderful freedom of His grace.

I still try to live a “godly” life, but it is no longer based on the fear of appeasing a wrathful God.  God has been so gently teaching me that He is a loving God and full of grace.  He convicts me ever so gently in a way that doesn’t leave me condemned but leaves me with a desire and hope for growth and the future to which He has called me.

God has been teaching me that I have “feet of clay”.  This means that I am not a “paradigm of godliness or perfection”.  My claim is the righteousness of Christ alone.  My standing is in His righteousness!

When I understand my security is found in God’s grace, I am able to acknowledge my own sins and take responsibility for them.

I understand that I don’t have to pretend perfection or constantly live in fear of being found less-than-perfect.  Instead, I have a desire to run into the “arms” of a loving God who is always ready to receive the repentant child back and longs to restore us into full fellowship with all the privileges of being His child.

I understand that God’s love is not performance-based or conditional.  God chose to love me and to die for me, fully aware of my sinful and unlovely condition.

I am also learning to give more grace to my children and to stop holding them to an impossible standard of perfection.  I am still learning this though…

I am learning to accept myself and others in our all of our imperfect, messy states.  God knows we have “feet of clay” and still chooses to use us, as we yield ourselves to Him.

I don’t claim to be perfect at any of this.  In fact, as my family can attest, I mess up on a regular basis, but I have the confidence to get back up again because I have a God who loves me way more than I can even dare to hope and who won’t give up on me.  I have a God who chooses to use me, with feet of clay, to reveal the power of His grace at work in my life. 

So, when we are tempted to elevate a mere human, let’s remember that we all have just “feet of clay”.  All goodness and true righteousness and true godliness is in God alone!

Soul, take a deep breath and bask in the freedom you have to walk in His power and grace and to be completely accepted in Him.  Get back up on those feet of clay.  He’s not finished with you yet.

Freedom From Shame — When The Hardest Person To Forgive Is Yourself

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=987163&searchId=d5aa1729c8c253e5d917a5264855eab8&npos=317)

Shame.

It debilitates.  It chains us to the past, chokes our ability to live fully in the present, and suppresses our hope for the future.  It causes us to hide, to avoid.  It tells us that we are the past — that we are and will always be what we did wrongfully in the past or what was done wrongfully to us.  It tells us that we will never be more than the lie.

If you have ever felt those waves of guilt and remorse sweep over you — those feelings of regret and wishing you could take back those words, attitudes, or actions — then this is for you.

If you have felt like you will always be unloved, a failure, wounded, the person of your past, then this is for you.

“When we experience shame over our sin, our natural tendency is to hide from others.  We shut people out of our lives, we avoid praying or Bible reading, and we cover up the evidence of our sin … We hide because we feel shame … Shame tells us to hide, but joy spills out in praise to God for His salvation.” (Glimpses of Grace)

How can we be free from shame?

What methods are we using to try to free ourselves from our feelings of guilt, shame, condemnation?  Are we using self-justification, shifting blame to others, or wallowing in self-pity?

Here’s a powerful and insightful comment in regards to shame:

We will be free from the controlling effect of shame only when we are repenting of our efforts to cleanse ourselves and rejoicing in the saving blood of Christ instead. (Glimpses of Grace)

We often are not experiencing freedom from the past because we are looking to ourselves to cleanse and free ourselves.  It’s like trying to use a dirty rag to clean another dirty cloth, or it’s like asking a blind person to describe to another blind person what they are seeing.  These may not be the best analogies, but perhaps the point is made…

Jesus alone has the power to free us from our shame because He has the power to forgive sins, and He did that when He died on the cross.  Sin was defeated at the cross.

Here’s the truth in regards to our sins and shameful past and guilt-ridden present:

  • “By God’s grace, He is triumphant even over your hopelessness, cynicism, and doubt.”  (Glimpses of Grace)
  • “God in His grace invites us to be continually repenting of our sins and rejoicing in Christ’s provision of righteousness for us.” (Glimpses of Grace)
  • “God’s commitment to save those who believe in Him is to His glory.” (Glimpses of GraceOur sanctification is based on God’s commitment to His own infallible attributes — not our own inabilities to save ourselves.  Our sanctification has always been God’s work of salvation and grace — not our own.  He will be faithful to complete that which He started.
  • “God will not hold sins against you that He has held onto His Son’s dying body on the cross.” (Glimpses of Grace

John 8:36

36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to forgive you from your sins and to free you from the penalty of your sins.  His death on the cross was the final payment for our sins.

When we carry the burden of shame, we live as though we are not completely forgiven. 

When we live as though we are not completely forgiven, we live as though we do not believe that Jesus’ death on the cross didn’t just pay for the penalty of our sins but also frees us from the strongholds of sin in our lives today. 

Jesus didn’t just come to save us for eternal life.  He came to give us His new life today.  He came to change our present and our future.

In order to be changed, you must believe the truth — that you are set free, that He did overcome, that the cross was enough, that His Holy Spirit living in you is enough (more than enough).

‘Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.  Behold, I will do something new.’ (Isa. 43:18-19).  The Lord reminded me that He seeks to deliver me from the guilt of the past and move me toward the promise of the future.  His goal is never to bring guilt and condemnation by continually reminding me of the my past sins but rather to bring healing and obedience by turning my attention to my future with Him. (Discerning The Voice Of God)

God doesn’t point out our sin to condemn us.  God’s purpose in lovingly revealing our sin is to encourage us to acknowledge it and confess it so He can change us.  The Enemy’s voice brings condemnation…  The Holy Spirit brings conviction that always provides a road map out and away from a specific sin.  His aim is to lovingly steer us in the direction of His grace.

He reveals our sins to lead us to repentance, but his revelation is buffered with the hope of His grace, love, and another chance.  He has already undergone the punishment for our sin once and for all on the cross.” (Discerning The Voice Of God)

I love that quote:

His aim is to lovingly steer us in the direction of His grace.

Jesus’ forgiveness has never been based on your abilities or inabilities, your worthiness or unworthiness.  His love and forgiveness is based on the perfection of His love, grace, and complete work of salvation.

The purpose of the voice of condemnation is to push you away from His presence — that which is the very source of your victory.  The purpose of the voice of conviction is to press you into the face of Christ.  (Bob Sorge — quote taken from Discerning The Voice Of God)

Wow!  Let me repeat that last line…

“The purpose of the voice of conviction is to press you into the face of Christ.”  (Bob Sorge — quote taken from Discerning The Voice Of God)

Psalm 103:12

12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

If you have asked Him for forgiveness, you are forgiven!

When God forgives you, He sets you free from that sin.  Believe it!

What God says, is.  

Here’s His final authority on the matter:

Romans 8:31-39

31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.