Friday, November 27, 2015

Making Changes: Processing the How Tos

As God has revealed areas in my heart that need to be changed, patterns of behaviors that stem from wounds He’s healing, I’m struggling a bit with how exactly that takes place.

I’ve recently asked, Is it really as simple as learning to recognize when I’m falling into that behavior and self-talking the truth and scripture to myself to get out of it; stop the behavior once I recognize it? Hard, mind you, but that simple? I know that choice is involved. I know I can stay in a behavior by resisting any change.

But as I pondered this idea, it seems so “up to me.” It seems like something anyone can do, whether they are a Christian and no longer a slave to sin or not. Is that solely relying on one’s self?  I know I’ve often been guilty of doing “a God work” in my own power and not relying on Him throughout my life. This feels and sounds like that to me.

Because it doesn’t really deal with the root. There isn’t true transformation. Being a very disciplined person, I’ve made “life changes” only to see them fall by the wayside when I stop “choosing”. The desire hasn’t changed.  I want more than that this time. When the root still exists, the weed still grows! I want the root and seeds and every hint of behavior and thoughts and cause completely OUT of my life.

And that I can’t do!

That’s what God promises though- I think. Do we ever truly get free of desires or is it always a battle on this side of heaven? If we can be truly transformed, how does it become a reality? How does God “create a clean heart in me”?

I’m thinking transformation comes as I connect more deeply with God. When I press into His love and come to better know His love, I think my desires change. I want to rely on a certain “idol” in my life because it’s been my go to and comfort. But as I come to know God’s comfort more, I start to recognize the lack of sufficiency from my idol. As I grow closer to God, I also want to please Him more. Knowing that turning to my idol hurts Him, that too lessens my desire. Then I must choose, I start wanting to choose a better behavior, a new life pattern, one of reliance on Him.

So is this the partnership that allows transformation? Is my role continuing to press into my Father’s love, growing in my understanding of Who He is so I can trust Him more? Then as He heals my heart, I choose to walk in obedience and eventually the desire is transformed? Once we have developed a weakness in our lives, can we truly be freed of the pull this side of heaven?

Thank you for enduring my pondering and musings. If you have any insights to share, I’d love to hear from you. I really want these roots out of my life once and for all. I know I can’t do it alone, but I know the tendency is in me to try. Thanks for your continued prayers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Childlike Faith?

I enjoyed an interesting conversation last night. I was with a group of very intelligent, science/math oriented people. We were discussing some of the blessings in our lives and the conversation drifted into recognizing when a gift is from God.

My friend commented that being raised with a mindset that relies on proof, a way of thinking critical for his job and strength in his life, it made him pause at times. When certain things happened to align in a favorable way, he was thankful but he struggled with actually saying, “God did this.” As he put it, “Because I can’t know for sure, I won’t say God did this.”

I countered his comments because that’s not me. I certainly do not have a math/logic based brain. I’m wired to orient toward relationships and thus words and communication are my forte. And maybe it’s that lack of logical reasoning as a base part of my core that causes this, but I do feel and say that God is responsible for those little coincidences and unexpected serendipities in my life.

As I shared with my friend, scripture says that “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father who loves us.” So if there is something good in my life, I give God the credit.

No I don’t understand how He could align things to personally bless me while at the same time orchestrating all of the other large and small and massive and minute events in the entire world. But I’m learning that God is way bigger and more complex and much beyond my own understanding. Scripture says he uses the foolish to confound the wise. Jesus chided Thomas for requiring proof, commending those who would believe without seeing.

I’m not saying anyone should blindly believe anything. I think logic and reasoning and discernment are critical to staying in right doctrine and not getting pulled away. Truth exists and must be pursued. 

But I guess I’ve decided I’m not going to require my understanding to be a limitation for God. I would rather over-credit all of the good things in my life to my loving Father, than risk denying His goodness and hand in my life.

If that makes me look a little foolish and na├»ve, I guess I can live with that. J It’s freeing me into a deeper place of trust in my Father’s heart, and that’s a good thing.  

So until God shows me otherwise, that’s who I’ll be: maybe naively - but always joyfully - saying thanks.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Redemptive Time

Have you ever heard of the concept of Redemptive Time?

In Genesis, the passage in chapter three always stood out to me.

God said, “The man has now become, like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’ So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. Gen. 3:23-24

When sin began, God’s first response was to protect us. He made sure we would not have to live in this isolated state of separation from Him eternally. He never wanted us to experience this pain we brought upon ourselves. So he drove Adam and Eve out of eternity and into a new place called Redemptive Time.

This is where we live now. This is a place, designed to be temporary, where God can fix it! He can undo the effects of the fall. Once His creation is redeemed, He can bring humankind back into eternity.

This is the purpose of our life here. To be redeemed through Jesus and brought back into relationship with Him.

I love this picture of God’s heart. Not only did He keep us from eating the tree that would keep us in eternal pain, He moved us into a place where He could fix the very wrong that sent us there.

We certainly see the wrongs and many effects of sin in this broken world. Praise God for One who loves us so much to not leave us here; to so desire relationship with us that He would send His own Son to pay our debt, so that we could be reconciled to Him.

Praying this encourages you, my friend, both in seeing God’s heart and in finding the strength to handle the times in which we live.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Excitement of Hope

I’ve mentioned off and on the past months of my counselor. My husband and I have been working with one in attempts to fine tune our marriage… an attempt to move from good to great, or so I thought. What we are finding is, as strong as our marriage is, it’s very broken. So now our goal is to move from broken to whole. J

I won’t say it’s been easy, although it’s been good. The hardest part, for me, hasn’t been facing the true state of our relationship, but in facing the depth of brokenness within me. I’ve walked with Jesus for almost 45 years as my savior. I’d say I’ve been walking rightly, as to correct doctrine and better understanding of who God is, for the past 15 years. But there are some very deep wounds, very deep behaviors and thought patterns that I’ve never allowed Jesus to heal.

That is starting to change.

The past month I’ve been very discouraged as I’ve seen certain roots intertwined so extensively throughout my life. It reminds me of a plant you pull out of a pot that has been there for too long with too little space. The roots just wind around and around through the soil, back upon itself, into this massive clump shaped by the parameters of the pot. Witnessing the pervasiveness of my brokenness has had me walking in defeat.

But I’m starting to read a new book, recommended by our counselor. And today I’m excited with hope!

Based on the context and what I’ve read thus far, it is a must read for every Christian - because it deals with how as a whole we use Jesus to cover over our brokenness instead of inviting Him into it to heal it.  Its main premise is how to find emotional health through Jesus which frees us into a vital spiritual health we hear about but never quite know how to reach.

I would ask your prayers as I journey through this text.  I’m sure many blog posts will come out of this journey so you’ll hear more about it as I continue to learn about ways to truly heal my past and not just resist it. I know it won’t be an easy journey. The mountain top looms high before me.

But I know through the tough paths I’ve already traveled, with God as my sojourner, it’s going to be an amazing climb.

Friday, November 13, 2015

When We Limit God

A friend commented during our discussion, “You can only love others to the degree you’ve received God’s love.”

That has stuck with me a couple weeks now. I keep hearing it in my head because I keep seeing it in my life.

I realized that for years I limited God because I refused to accept His truth and His love. I knew Jesus was my Savior, but refused to accept His offer of grace. I wanted to, I felt I needed to, earn it. Because I couldn’t trust some important relationships around me, I didn’t trust my relationship with God. It would be too easy for me to lose that salvation.

Thus, because I didn’t understand and know and experience grace, I really struggled with being able to extend it to others. I projected the fears that shaped my behaviors into relationship with others so my love and acceptance became conditional just like I received.

But once I came to grips with the reality of not just my need for a Savior, but also my inability to earn that salvation, I came to understand grace. I choose to believe God’s truth and took off those limits I’d imposed on our relationship. When I acknowledged the lack of necessity for me to earn God’s favor and fully understood God’s loving me while I was yet a sinner, I could finally accept the gift, the grace along with the salvation.

And finally, I could start extending grace to others, to stop holding them to the high standard of perfection that I too could not reach. It was a decades long process, and I still fight tendencies today, but there’s growth.

How are you limiting God in your life? God loves us fully and completely just as we are from even before we open our hearts to Him. We are the ones who impose limitations and restrict the full blessings and gifts He intends. So I’d challenge you today to spend some prayerful time with the Father. Ask Him to show you where you are pushing back and rejecting His full truth and grace.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Being a Servant

My Women’s Bible Study presented a convicting clarification in this week’s lesson.

The study discussed the difference between choosing to serve and choosing to be a servant. I have to confess I’d thought these were the same.

Choosing to serve is what most of us do. It’s what I do most often. It’s finding ways to serve to meet the needs around us. We see a need, figure out how we can meet that need, and do so.

Choosing to be a servant is putting ourselves at the disposal of another, no matter what it costs.

See when I choose to serve, I’m staying in control. I’m arranging things around what’s convenient for me. Often, I’m even dictating the need that gets met, based on my convenience and ability rather than the recipient’s needs or desires.

But if I’m choosing to be a servant, I’m giving the other person control. My preferences become irrelevant. I’m at their disposal.

As an example, when I choose to serve my husband, I hear myself saying “I did this for you” I can easily slip into pride and feel I’m owed something in return. And if my husband asks me something I don’t want to do or really have time for at the moment, I’m usually pretty obvious with my lack of appreciation for his timing or request.

But when I am a servant to my husband, I don’t focus on myself at all. I’m open to meeting his needs without disgruntled-ness or a sense of duty.

This is only possible because I know God is my source. I can lay down my rights and needs and desires because I know God has them covered. I can focus on serving others because He’s taking care of me.

I also should add, this does not extend into situations of abuse or harm. I'm not saying we should let others take advantage of us. But we do need to look at what's really lurking within our hearts as we serve others.

I’ve got a long way to go in truly being a servant. What about you?

My comfort, though, is knowing I’m now on the right path.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

This Labyrinth Called Life

On Peter’s birthday last week, I took the day off and visited a local retreat center to spend some time journaling and reflecting while experiencing the beauty of the fall season.

On the grounds I found they had a Labyrinth. I’d heard of them but had never really witnessed one for real. The plaque gave directions of how to use the path for reflection and meditation.

As I walked the path, I found it to be a cool parallel for my own journey of faith. At first you enter in and then the whole experience is all of these back and forth switch backs, twists and turns, first one way and then another way. You draw close to the center, you can see it, but then it veers away.

That reminded me of our time with Andrew. It was such back and forth chaos as we struggled with unknowns. We drew close to our center, to God, for the strength, wisdom and guidance to get through. And then he went home.

The hole in my heart, the mountain of questions I couldn’t answer, led me away from my center for a while. Like the labyrinth, I continued to weave back and forth, sometimes drawing a little nearer and then going out to the farthest extremes – yet still every circling around my center… never quite able to fully let go.

Eventually, as God kept whispering, kept teaching, I turned back in toward Him. I continued many back and forths as I learned and grew and regained trust. Then finally, as we neared our final years with Peter, together as a family, all three of us individually and together drew close to our center and found our own personal connection to our center, strong and secure.

As I finished the labyrinth, I went to a nearby bench and journaled all of these thoughts. Then I went back and walked it again, slower this time, pausing to pray at various bends and spots that correlated in my mind with sections of that journey.

But as I did so, God continued to whisper and I realized that my journey of faith was soooo much more than just being about me as a Mom. The overall insecurity that threatened to consume me after Andrew passed came from my insecurity as God’s child, my misconstrued ideas that I had to earn or work to maintain God’s favor.

As I walked those far away sections of the path, I realized that I was no less His child then than I was when I was walking so close to the center, to Him. It was a full complete work, done by JESUS on the cross, that allowed me such grace. It truly hit me that I never had to do another single thing to be His child, to stay His child, to earn His love. It was the most guaranteed, the most secure thing, I would ever experience. It was a complete, done-deal way back on that fall September day in 1972.

My sole job now is to continue to live that belief that brought me to Him. No matter what I see, what life brings, what I experience, I simply must continue to believe that He is good and make Him my source. He is my source for salvation, my source for life, my source for transformation, my source for material provisions, for mental health, for spiritual healing, for everything!

Life gets way more simple when I understand that.
I only have one job to do.
Trust in Him because He is good. I must simply keep my faith on the Rock!

It took a crazy, twisty, windy maze for me to fully realize such a simple truth. But I think that’s a really good picture for what this life is for. Don’t you?

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the rock eternal. Isaiah 26:3-4 (Peter's life verse)