Monday, December 29, 2008

Does God Change His Mind?

Well, no, right? His will is His will. He is in control and sovereign. We are His servants and He is our Master. He tells; we do. He directs; we follow. He plans; we fulfill. He talks; we listen. He instructs; we obey.

Those are the roles of Master and servant. The servant has no control or role in the ultimate plans of the Master, right?

If we had control in what God does then our marriages would be restored when we asked. Our loved ones would be healed from cancer when we asked. Our children would be free from addictions when we asked. Our ministries would be fruitful when we asked. We ask for many "good" and righteous things that would bring God glory. He would be glorified in a productive ministry leading others to Christ. He would be glorified in marriages being restored. He would be glorified in healed bodies. All these good things we ask would show His power in our lives and would be a testimony for all to see. So, why don't they always happen? That is the HUGE mystery of life and one of the greatest questions of so many of His children. So, we sit back and resolve...His Will will be done regardless of what we do. We might as well just do nothing and wait for the Master to do, provide, instruct, lead, heal. Because He is sovereign and we cannot over turn or over power Him or His will that will ultimately be fulfilled, right?

Maybe not...stay with me. God's love for us is so great. We cannot say He acts based on our faith or our petitions because then those unanswered prayers would make us/others feel unloved. Yet, we can see so many times that God does answer the pleas of His children. God does change His mind and His least His initial plans. God has full power and full reign to change His mind midcourse.

God was so moved to change by the pleas of faithful men such as Abraham, Moses, and Jonah. So what makes us think He wouldn't change His mind for another of His faithful people? He may. He can. Would we want to risk being the one for which He would've changed His mind but didn't because we failed to cry out in faith persistently?

Without prayer we have no hope.
No hope of change.
No hope of healing.
No hope of restoration.
No hope of anything.

God told Abraham He would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah unless Abraham could find 50 righteous people. Abraham bantered back and forth with God and God finally said He wouldn't destroy the city if Abraham found 10 righteous people.

Then the LORD said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know." Genesis 18:20-21

Abraham's harsh reply: Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Genesis 18:25 Wow to be so bold with the Almighty Lord. I admire Abraham's boldness but don't know if I could do such. But then, my relationship with God is far from what Abraham and His was.

After bantering back and forth, the result is this: Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?" He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it." Genesis 18:32

God changed His mind.

God was angry at the Israelites as they were impatient waiting for Moses. They melted all their gold into idols. God wanted to destroy the Israelites to burn in His wrath. Moses begged Him not to do such. Moses reminded God of His promise to bring multitudes through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: 'I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.' " Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened. Exodus 32:13-14 God thought twice. Moses was not asking for something of his own but merely reminding God of His promise and plan.

God changed His mind.

When Jonah was in the fish, he urged the people to turn from their ways so that God would change His mind and not destory them. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish." When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened. Jonah 3:8-10

God changed His mind.

God in His loving character listened (and listens) to His children's cries for mercy. These scriptures show me to be persistent with God. He shows us He does answer. He does change His mind. He does hear the persistency in us. If we are not persistent on our pleas, then how will we ever know if we stopped our petitions just short of Him answering and changing His mind? How will we know if we stopped believing this side of the miracle?

We may never know why some requests are not answered in the manner we expect. We may never know why He changes His mind in some pleas. We may not understand why He seems to move mountains to change one situation and not another. We do know He will not force His will on us. Many situations involve two or more people. We have to understand that while one person is asking for "this", the other party may not be listening to God and may be drifting in another direction away from God's desires. God will do everything He can to lead that wandering person back onto His course but He will not lean down, pick him up, and place him back on course. He can't. God is love and just as He doesn't force us to love Him, God does not force us to follow Him and His plan. All we can do as the person seeking to obey is to continue to present our requests and believe God will hear our plea and answer. If it can't be in the manner we desire (and He desires) then I believe He will give us something greater. He sees those faithfully trusting and knows many times it takes three to believe. (God, me/you, and the other person.) Yet, God is so merciful that I believe He rewards our faith and knows that we did all that was in "our" control outside of the other person(s) possibly involved.

It is because of this belief and faith that I personally feel I cannot give up on my God and what He can do...and prayerfully will do. We never know how hard He is working to move in a situation. But like I said, He will not lean down and swoop the person or persons to work in one accord...that is for each person to decide. He calls us to believe and our mountains will be thrown into the sea.

Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." Matthew 21:21-22

Believe and not doubt.

I cannot tell you how much that scripture convicts me. Especially since I know what I'm asking and believing lines up with God's divine Word. I feel I cannot escape what His Word says in black and white...and so clearly. I can't escape the conviction of this scripture and many others. How can I justify walking away from my stand, my beliefs, my petitions?

I never want to find myself on a different path than what I'm believing now and then hear this from the Lord. Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" Matthew 14:21.

When this scripture was the second hit on my search on, I was immediately succom to tears. I don't want to turn from the beliefs of restoration, head down another path (possibly even a happy one), and hear these words from my Lord. Yet, I'm also torn because I'm so tired of standing. I feel I've lost the strength to believe with such faith. I want complete healing but can't receive it while in limbo waiting...wondering...not if God will perform a mighty miracle but if others will heed to His calling and His instructions.

One of my devotionals put it this way. "By the way, unless you know everything that God knows, please do not write and tell us, 'Nothing is happening in our marriage.' The One who makes toys* is at work, year around, on the opposite side of your mountain of circumstances." *The Letters stand for "Thinking of You" and the toys are what our Lord God is giving to us for Christmas. (RM, 12/23/08)

"From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth - He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do." Psalm 33:13-15

Believing with Hope,

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Step By Step

Remember the show Step By Step with Carol (Suzanne Somers from Three's Company) and Frank (Patrick Duffy from Dallas)? A blended family making their way through life step by step as they learn to become one family in unity. Just as in real life, it is not an easy go for Frank and Carol to nurture and promote a cohesive atmosphere. Both Frank and Carol's three kids each have to learn how to share a house with three more siblings and to learn the disciplinary ways of the new mother and father figures. Going from a house of four to eight will require many new rules. Rules of compromise. Rules of sharing. Rules of giving. Rules of responsibility. It is a major learning process with many new relationships in the household. They do it step by step. Learning their way through it.

Our life in Christ is much the same. I admit that I struggle very often with being content. Okay, let’s be real…the majority of time. I just plum don't feel happy or content. Rather, I feel as though I'm waiting for the good that God is/will work in my life as He promises in Romans 8:28. But then, I struggle with the guilt I have for not being content. I wonder what God expects of me. Is He displeased with me not being content in my circumstances and not being content in Him alone? I want to please God and I want to rectify this issue of discontentment in my circumstances.

I do not know from where these thoughts stem. Let's rewind. The perfectly worded post came to me last night as I laid my exhausted body in bed. I felt the nudging of this post. I pondered on my disobedience to not turn on the light and explicitly wake my tired soul to pen the words on my heart. I conscientiously thought forgive me if I'm disobeying but I must sleep. I repeated the words of this post so I could make myself remember as a trade for my disobedience.

So, as I strain to recapture the words He gave me, I reflect on what is "being content" and how to attain it. Something I must've read in recent days enlightened me to the idea that contentment is not a matter of flipping a switch. Yes, we are to be content in all circumstances. We should be. But is that truly attained that easily or rather is it something we are to learn. I believe it is a matter of learning to be content. The more we determine to see God in all aspects of our lives, large and small, the more we recognize His works. The more we see His Hand the more we can find calmness, peace, and assurance in the midst. I believe it is in the peace and assurance that we find our contentment.

How do we profess to have true contentment when:
Our child has died.
Our body has been stricken with illness.
Our job has been removed.
Our spouse has left.
Our food is at a minimum for survival.

I do not believe we wake up to the diagnosis of cancer and automatically have contentment in the turbulent ride ahead. No, with God's grace and love we learn to be content in all things. The good Lord knows we are human creatures of the flesh. We learn to be content by reading His Word. We learn to be content by experiencing His grace. We learn to be content by continually drinking from His fountain. We learn to be content by focusing on His purposes in the midst of horrific pain.

Contentment is a process of one step at a time learning His ways. To be content is to rest in the assurance that God knows what He is doing. That God will provide regardless of our situation. That God will guide the way in the darkness. That God will supply our needs.

There are so many who are in worse situations than ourselves. There are so many people worse off than myself. I know this. I have a good job. I have wonderful family and friends. I have my health. I have food and a nice roof over my head. I have a vehicle. I have Christ and eternal salvation. So, why in the world do I not feel I have contentment? Yet, someone like Job who was stricken of everything still found himself content. Or Paul who continually had a thorn in his side and was in prison but he was content. However, if we look at his words, they clearly tell us he had learned to be content.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:11, 12b

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. Hebrews 5:11 This is a little out of context but I feel the author of Hebrews is speaking right to me. Contentment is a hard subject to explain, understand, and live.

If they obey and serve Him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment. Job 36:11 I honor God’s Word and respect Job penning it. However, for me, it is very hard to comprehend how simply obeying and serving God will bring about contentment. Yes, there is great contentment in those two actions indwelling deep in us. Yet, our flesh and emotions are overwhelmed by our circumstances, our feelings, our hearts.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6 Oh how beautiful that is indeed…godliness and contentment…what a great combination.

Let God weigh me in honest scales and He will know that I am blameless—if my steps have turned from the path, if my heart has been led by my eyes, or if my hands have been defiled. Job 31:6-7

Yes, Lord, if my steps have turned from your path, lead me back onto your path of righteousness. Lord, if my heart has been led by my eyes, transform my heart and refocus my eyes. Show me your ways. Lead me Lord, step by step into Your path for my life and into Your path of learning true contentment.

Trying to Learn Contentment...step by step,

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What About the Rest of the Year?

Givers give
Bakers bake
Bell ringers ring
Celebratories celebrate
Carolers carol
Worshipers worship
Gatherers gather

Why all the fuss this one time a year? What about the other 364 days? What about the other 11 months? What is it that brings us to give so much, celebrate with lots of food and parties, and be more thoughtful much more during this month than any other?

Where is our spirit of giving, gathering, celebrating, thanking the rest of the year? How can we see the joy of this 365 days a year? Though, I am thankful that we do celebrate, give, gather, rejoice during this month. Does it not bring a sense of sadness at the end and with the new year? Do we not desire to continue with the spirit of giving, celebrating, and rejoicing? Or does the month wear us down? Does it silence our bells, cool our ovens, empty our pockets, and soften our songs to the point of not having anything remaining for the other 11 months?

It's easy to speak of Christ during Christmas, right? Because for many, He is our reason for the season but for some, simply toys and trees are the reason. Is it easier to share Christ during Christmas because it's widely known as His birth?

Yes, the lights are glowing. Yes, the carols are gorgeous. Yes, the spirit is gracious. Yes, the celebration is glorious.

Do we not feel a sigh in our hearts when the carols are no more, the celebration is no more, the nativity of reminders of a virgin birth are no more?

It's a beautiful season. It's a difficult season. Looking at the flesh, the heart, the life; it can be very painful. Looking at the true reason, the true purpose, the true glory; it can be magnificient. With true focus on the Christ, it can relieve the burdens, it can lighten the load, and it can lift the heart. We can rejoice. We can also rejoice after the celebration and with the turn of a new year.

Time is drawing near. Time to be determined in our lives. Time to be intent in our lives.

As I sat in a very cold theater with a non-working heating system today, I pondered on the season. Attending a free showing of "Polar Express" with my nieces, we were graced with beautiful carolers dressed in costume and singing a beautiful tune on stage for us prior to the movie. I listened at the soothing songs with words reminding us of the glory of the season...the celebration of Christ's birth. However, I wondered, though His birth is very worthy of such elaborate celebrations, isn't His death worthy of an even more elaborate celebration? Of course, His death could not have happened without His birth. But without His death and resurrection, we would have nothing! We do celebrate His death and resurrection through Easter. But have you ever pondered how Easter is not celebrated anywhere near the extent of Christmas, even in the "religious" or spiritual realm? Considering the church's celebration between the two events, Easter falls short in my eyes of the attention. Wouldn't it be awesome if there were such a display of celebration during Easter as we have during Christmas?

Rejoice in the Lord always. Philippians 4:4

God gave us His Son and we celebrate Christmas.

But Jesus gave us His Life and we celebrate Easter.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for giving Your life for me. Thank You for fulfilling my desire to commune with You in writing and to hearing You speak the words for me to write. You knew my heart had been longing to pen something in Your Name and You have supplied. Thank You, that as I sat in a very old and cold theater with my gloves, scarf, and winter coat, You spoke to my heart this desire to celebrate all year round...not just in our hearts but in our lives, churches, and communities. Your Christmas music is so worshipful and Your carolers spoke straight to my heart.

Christmas day will be here and gone before we know it.
Our lives on this Earth will be here and gone before we know it.
Christ will be here and gone before we know it.

Desiring Christmas Spirit All Year Long,

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Never Cease to Amaze

Where does the time go? It's been over a week since I posted. I very faithfully and regularly posted on our Bible study. I think because the study got my thinking and writing juices flowing. I've been having withdrawals from writing. As I've said before, writing is truly a time of deep communion with my Lord and Savior. I've had many thoughts and subjects come into my mind...thoughts of thankfulness, thoughts of testimony, thoughts of "let my people go". Yet, never the time to sit down and allow God to expand those snippets into a posting.

So, I sit here on Thanksgiving evening feeling the close of a very full day, feeling unexpectantly peaceful, joyful, and deeply thankful. For a month, I've been dreading the upcoming holidays. I feared this season would be worse than last year. Yesterday was so full of emotions. Work closing early brought memories of times shared with my beloved on such days. Making a new kind of turtle pumpkin pie brought desires of wanting to share this new recipe with beloved. Deviling my eggs brought reflection of times past and desiring more. My heart is heavy in the midst of joy spurts.

Even with a very restless night of insomnia and anxiety, I awoke with a joy for this day. I was surprised by a very lovely phone message from Lelia and two others contacted me via blogland and phone. I was ready for the day. I wanted to arrive at my mom's early and tempted to skip my daily reading of God's Word but I didn't. Thank you, Lord!

I'll spare you of all the details, but as I reflect on the day, I can clearly see how talkative I was to everyone. I cracked some pretty good jokes and made others laugh. My one cousin said he didn't think he'd been to my mom's house before today. Everyone was saying they thought he had. He said maybe he had. I chimed in and said "Maybe you should ask your kids since they still have their memory." He laughed and said "that's a good one." (He's my age, young.) Then there are the comments or inquiries that we can very perfectly and easily skip by just not contributing but I didn't. I was my extrovert side today. When talking with my dad and brother at times, I thought to myself, "shut up Paula" as I was just rattling about nothing essential.

I share all this to say...God never ceases to amaze me. I'm positive He doesn't you either. I'm pooped now and ready to chill with some CSI but I'm much at peace reflecting on today.

I do find it very odd that beloved as been on my heart, mind, and prayers, persistently the last week. Even in my dreams and you know how hard and emotional that can be with the person's presence feels and seems so real. :-( Even with that, I'm amazed at the peace of this day.

I knew that my mom would most likely ask me to say the prayer over lunch. Maybe's it not right, but I pondered on what I could say of meaning more than just a generic "we are thankful" and knowing that there are unbelievers and believers there. I'd like to share that prayer with you. It's nothing grand but I want to record the thoughts of my heart on this day, one expected to be difficult. Of course it's paraphrased as I do not have a photogenic memory. :-)

Father God, we come to you so thankful for all you provide for us. Lord, you offer salvation, love, and forgiveness for all of us to take. Thank you, Lord, for each and every person here. It is a true blessing to be with a house of 15 people. I have a very special friend who is with her mother only. So, to be in a house of this many is just an amazing gift. Father, we ask that you watch over those who could not be with us today. You, Lord, provide us with everything we have. We have so very much more than so many people. Jobs, cars, houses, food, health. Those simple things we take for granted. Lord, we thank you for this over abundance of food. Father, it is more than we could ever imagine. It is so much more than we deserve. I thank you for the hands who've prepared it and especially for my beautiful mother who worked so hard. We ask that you use this food for the nourishment of our bodies. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Again, nothing special about it. But, if I recall correctly, I was not able to pray last year as it was too, too close to my heart being freshly broken, crushed, and ripped out of my body. I believe my mom knew I couldn't pray without breaking down since it was only a week after the legal system declared me single...I don't even like the word or to be classified as it (d word).

Granted, when I pray with others I pray with respect to those in my presence. That is I try not to be too Christian in my words. I don't want to close someone's mind with talking too much about thankfulness of spiritual things. Those things I'm most thankful for are of a spiritual matter. Yes, I'm very grateful for work, job, money, house, family, friends, etc. But it goes so much deeper: His Word, freedom to worship, His sacrifice, His healing, His leading, His sovereignty, His concern for my specific life, needs, and desires. Yet, those are personal to me and not necessarily to those in my presence. Maybe I'm over cautious but I really struggle praying with unbelievers and even more with unbelieving family.

This is the very first post I've written free hand without preparation. I just wanted to give praise to the Lord for the beautifully unexpected day He gave me. There are many more things He did today but I don't want this to be a report of the day or my life. Rather, I want to use my life to point to Him and His light to shine, hoping the rays will hit another soul in anyway.

I've really been thinking about my blog mission and it's my deepest heart desire that I fulfill it. I pray that in some way for every reader each and every post will:

enrich your life
strengthen your walk
encourage your heart
enlighten your mind

The scripture that comes to mind that I want to share with you is this.

Rejoice in the Lord. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:4-7

You all mean so much to me. You really do. I pray for many of you regularly for your specific needs that you've shared with me. I sincerely consider all my bloggy friends REAL and true friends. The Lord has blessed me beyond my wildest imaginations with the bonds and friendships formed in just seven short months.

We [I-Paula] always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our [my] prayers. 1 Thess. 1:2

I pray the Lord's peace, healing, and strength on you all. Please know anytime you need me, contact me. Many of you have my email already stored in yours. If not, you can find it through my sidebar.

Much love to you by God's grace.

Standing in Awe and Amazement,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Truth: The Real Deal

Peeps, is it winter or what? I don’t know about your parts but winter officially started yesterday at 4pm. That is when I left work to discover it was colder than when I arrived at work and I was regretful of not wearing a coat and especially gloves. Yes, I missed my gloves even for my three minute drive home. Cold hands, warm heart?

Now weather that truth hurts is up to each of us. (Get it, weather, instead of whether--winter.)

Seriously, as we examine the final chapter of Behind These Eyes, we see that the Truth heals. Do you remember the name of chapter one? It was “The Truth Hurts”. How poignant, Lisa, that we end with the chapter titled “The Truth Heals”. It’s kind of like wrapping some cold cuts and cheese with two slices of bread.

Lisa speaks of three truths: recognition (God created us exactly the way we are), admission (God created us with free will), and resolution (God created us to discern and discover who we are).

The truth can hurt initially; we know that. But, we must recognize the truth to get to the healing point. As painful and hurtful as the truth may be, admitting it begins the process to heal and set us free. Yes, holding the truth does create not only baggage but bondage. With that freedom comes healing.

Lisa discusses the difference between a soothing balm and a healing balm. There is a huge difference; a difference in the end results. Soothing balm is what it sounds like. It sooths the pain but soothing is only temporary. It sooths the symptoms. Healing balm heals to the core. It heals the soul. Lisa says “The balm of our heavenly Father is the gift of peace and joy and spiritual growth and unconditional love that is for our taking.” When I was reading the pages on the two balms, my mind instantly wanted to find an analogy to body lotion. Soothing balm made me think of lotion. We put lotion on our skin to smooth, moisturize, or aid our drying winter skin (ugg). However, doesn’t lotion just heal the symptoms and it’s just temporary since we have to reapply it hour after hour? Maybe a healing balm for our skin would be drinking more water, wearing gloves outside, ingesting vitamin E. The latter are more internal issues getting at the core of our bodies. Isn't that what the Jesus does with His healing balm?

Lisa says "The truth only heals because God is Truth." Isn’t that the truth? I am the way, the truth, and the life. John 14:6

If we also resolve to be “me”, to be ourselves and no one else, then our role-playing will be no longer. There will be no need to play the roles of Ms. Perfection, Ms. Confidence, Ms. Happiness, Ms. Spirituality, or anyone else. Now isn’t that a relief? Aren’t these roles just really to cover up our brokenness? Think about that. We are broken and that is where we find the desire to be perfect, confident, happy, spiritual, and so on. Lisa is reminded daily “that God often uses broken people—the people with the most baggage—for His honor and glory.” That is so true. I believe it is once we fully reach our brokenness that God uses us. Now, that brokenness may occur more than once in our lives on different occasions with several issues. We have to get to that point of brokenness, falling on our face, and allowing Him to put the pieces back together. Until then, what value are we to Him? The following was soothing to my soul. “Jesus wants to fix everything in us that has ever been broken, not temporarily soothing it on the exterior but healing it in places not able to be seen by the human eye.” Now, that is unimaginable to me.

Lisa believes “that it’s time for us to stop wasting our time trying to be the girl to our right instead of being the best me all of us can be for the glory of God. He deserves it, and we owe it to Him.” Now that is convicting, in a good way though. Do it for Him. Okay. That’s a good motivator. Therefore, I urge, you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1

I love the example Lisa gave of the dieter who falls off the diet wagon by blowing it one day. Upset with herself and instead of acknowledging the mistakes, the dieter just continues with the excessive eating and gains weight. Mess-ups can be the same. One mistake can lead to another, resulting in a snow ball effect. I love that God gave us so many examples to reference in His Word. Such people who messed up but God still used are: Paul, Martha, Thomas, David, and Peter. Lisa points out the same commonality in these people and us is “that of a divine and holy God bringing colossal failures back to His fold and restoring them once again.”

Anyone who ventures this life thinking he/she is immune to mess-ups is living naively. We all mess up. We all will continue to mess up. That does not mean we should beat ourselves up; satan would love that. Lisa says so beautifully. “But rather, we should use our mistakes as reminders of what life is like without God’s guidance and determine to reject going down those paths again.” Can you imagine life without God’s guidance? I love the acronym someone made for the word Bible. Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Amen!!

Lisa says “We need to praise God for the downsides to our personalities and gloriously embrace them.” I guess I have a lot of praisin’ to do, huh? He gave me multiple downsides so I have multiple praises. (Smirking here.) Seriously though, she continues “were He to have made us without downsides and weak areas of our personalities, we would have no need for Him in our lives! We would be adequate without His help—not the way He intended it to be.” We are all made with weaknesses. One with a sharp tongue, one with lustful eyes, one with untruth words, one with addictions. We are all tempted in our different areas of weakness.

He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He. Deuteronomy 32:4. When I read this, I know it to be true but I still want to counteract that by saying we make mistakes, which can alter our temperaments and personalities from what God intended. I don’t believe I was a mistake but sometimes I feel the mistakes I’ve made have changed me and the person God intended me to be. Since God doesn’t make mistakes, I cannot say my creation was an “oops” moment of His. However, I do struggle with what He created verses what life, atmosphere, and circumstances have created or altered in His creation of me. He didn’t make a mistake with me but He has to continually correct the mistakes I make. I don’t know that the life I have and am living is wholly what He originally intended. That’s not His mistake though.

I most definitely have owned my mistakes and I can separate owning them from punishing myself for them. I will always feel a sense of responsibility in my mistakes and feel my life is what it is in part by them. I’m remorseful and regretful of the biggies, especially. I try to acknowledge that those biggies involved others and I am not responsible for their mistakes and their part of the responsibility.

The verses Lisa summarized on pages 190-191 are a perfect reflection from beginning to end. The distinctive link between all these verses is a very deep love God has for us…for me! From His creation of me (Gen. 1:27)…to His desire of a relationship with me (1 Cor. 1:9)…to His detailed knowledge of me (Luke 12:7)…to His forgiveness of me (Ps. 65:3)…to His sacrificial death for me (John 3:16)…and ultimately, His return for me (John 14:1-3). See the perfect circle? It begins with His creation of us and ends with His return for us. Beautiful!

Lisa asks a tough challenge question. Is the truth behind my eyes the same as what others see? Probably not. I struggle with seeing all the positives and values in me. My self-esteem has always been on the lower side. Through my experience in blogland and my small group, I’ve begun to see my positive sides through the eyes of others. That is, to see my good characteristics. Others definitely don’t see the struggles I have…that’s the point isn’t it? To hide the struggles to lessen their burden.

I’ve been lavished with such wonderful comments in the last six months. Trust me when I say it’s not about swelling my head or boosting my ego. But, I believe it is God’s way to show me my value, my gifts, my contributions, and for me to see myself through others' eyes. I think it hit me hard when Nichole commented to this post (last week) and said “Has anyone ever told are beautifully gifted at writing?!?!” I do not say this to devalue the beautiful comments of others but this one hit me between the eyes most recently. I had to step back and say “Really? Wow!”

As we've traveled this journey together, whether you did the actual study or not, I hope you are coming out a different person with a new Godly perspective. I believe God sees us in such a vastly different way than we see ourselves. We are missing so much by not seeing ourselves through His eyes. Won't you put on God's glasses and then view yourself, your life, and the world around you?

To see what others said about this final chapter go to Lelia's blog.

Soaking in His Truth,

The picture is of my burning bush. I'm blessed with two.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fleshly, Flawed, Forgiven

I have to admit that I never made such a clear connection between being flawed and forgiven before reading chapter nine of Lisa's book, Behind These Eyes. This chapter is called "We Are Completely Flawed Yet Forgiven Completely". What a fresh look at being flawed this has been. We have to have one to have the other. We need to be flawed to be forgiven. We need to be forgiven because we are flawed. We are always, completely, totally, and fully forgiven. There's no half or partial forgiveness when we repent and seek His face. Lisa says: "We are flawed and forgiven all at the same time. And not just partially forgiven. We are sinful, down to our very core, and we are sanctified, down to our very soul."

Being flawed is a good thing for our relationship with God. One, it shows our need for Him. Two, it allows us to be forgiven. Yes, you heard me...being flawed allows us to be forgiven. Can you imagine never experiencing forgiveness? I guess if we really were Ms. Perfection then we wouldn't want or need it. However, that is not reality. Reality is that we can't have one without the other. We can't be completely forgiven without being completely flawed.

Ah the sin nature. Nature is one's natural state. Webster's defines it as the inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing. That's right, our inherent character is that of sin. S.I.N.! Our humanly natural state is indeed sinful. It seems to come natural to our sinful flesh to do the less desirable things if we don't allow the Holy Spirit within us to control us, our thoughts, and our actions. In my mind I really want to obey God's law, but because of my sinful nature I am slave to sin. Romans 7:25 NLT. Slave to sin!

Paul was such a great example of recognizing his sin nature and the evil grip of sin. He expressed his frustrations in Romans 7. If the great Apostle Paul struggled so much, can we not expect to struggle equally or even more than he? He calls himself rotten through and through. I love this true but seemingly tongue twister in verses 15-16 and 19.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Romans 7:15-19

Lisa so poignantly says: "Even when we are the best self we can ever be in our own strength, we are still influenced by our fleshly and sinful tendencies...Even at our best, we are not quite good enough."

Lisa termed us with the words "perfectly imperfect". I've never been perfect at anything so I take pride in being able to say I'm perfectly imperfect. To say I'm imperfect means I'm in need of a Savior who will make me perfect. But when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 1 Cor. 13:10 (This references Christ's second coming (perfection), then our imperfection will disappear as we are made perfect.) To be seen as perfectly imperfect is to admit our flaws and failures. It allows us to seek the help of others and most importantly the help of God. My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor. 12:9 His power is made perfect in my imperfection. I'll be His vessel for His power to reign any day!!!

Being flawed does not mean we are bad. It is by our nature to be flawed starting with the first sin in the Garden. We cannot escape our flaws. Just as we overcome one, we may inherit another one as our seasons change. When I was a kid, I had a very smart mouth - no not intelligent but as in smart alec. I am not that way anymore. For whatever reason, as flawed humans, we strive for perfection. So to be anything less, seems to be perceived as bad. However, we can see how there truly is so much beauty in being flawed. Listen to Lisa: "The most beautiful part of this equation is how that flaw gives us the ability to be better. For if there were no flaw, there would be no reason for forgiveness." No flaw, no forgiveness. Period.

I love, love, love the description of God's forgiveness being as wide as east to west. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12. This verse is the basis of popular song, "East to West", by Casting Crowns. It shows the vastness of His forgiveness. It is never ending. It is not limited. It is not conditioned. It is not capped. He never runs out of forgiveness. Rather, His forgiveness is unending just like the description east to west is unending. Lisa says: "God used those words because He wanted to illustrate for you and me that His forgiveness for us cannot be matched or measured!" We cannot measure east to west. We cannot measure God's forgiveness.

The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him. Daniel 9:9 Yes, even with our failures. Yes, even with our flaws. Yes, even with our imperfections. He eagerly awaits for us to seek His forgiveness and He eagerly forgives us despite ourselves...despite our sinful nature.

I had to smile and nod in agreement with Lisa. She said: "There have been times in my life when looking in the mirror was hard for me because I knew who I was and what I had done. I sometimes felt as if I had a Kick Me sign on my back, and I was the first in line to do it." Amen, sister! Oh that is so me. She continued though with what I call the cherry on top of that sinful sundae. "Being so deeply flawed left me with the ability to be forgiven by God equally, the flaws suddenly felt really important to the process."

Reading this last page reminded me of a beautiful scripture. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Can't you see the importance and beauty in being flawed and imperfect?

Do you feel forgiven? Will you begin to really believe you are forgiven and to live in that forgiveness?

I love this line of Lisa's prayer. "Help us to be spiritually strong so that we can allow ourselves the permission to be flawed." Do you allow yourself to be flawed?

Now quit beating up yourself for your flaws and rejoice in them as they bring forgiveness and an opportunity to be better.

Click here to see what others have to say about this.

Definitely Flawed But Forgiven,

The picture is from my yard. Flawed is beautiful. Dead is beautiful.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hope Restored

I had been nervously looking forward to it. The appointment was set. It was scheduled for sooner than later. Courage had brought me to this moment. Butterflies in my stomach. Hope in my heart. I waited, thankfully, not too long. I explained my history to the physician. He spoke. I listened. We conversed some more. I was direct with my question and he with his answer. Then, it felt like the hope I had was merely a poof of air with his answer. I had asked if this is what it is and always will be. I felt like my heart fell because I had such high hopes in what I desired and the resolution I had hoped.

I left the maze of the medical building just wanting to get to my vehicle. Focused on the long drive home, my mind was pondering on the negative, the doom, the gloom. Yet, my heart wanted to refuse the negative focus, the lost hope, and the less than favorable solution. I wanted to restore my hope by believing in God to provide a course of action and end result different than I was just told. As the information and papers lay on the seat next to me in my car, I declared to give the power back to God. I literally "laid hands" on the papers given to me. I prayed for God to use this course of action and the prescriptions provided. I felt empowered by the simple act of placing my hand on these papers while I prayed.

My mind then began to wander after that prayer. What about a new purse? You know, I could use one slightly bigger to hold my prayer log. What about a Bible cover? You know, one that would hold my Bible, notebook, and study guide. What about some shoes? You know, I've never found a good pair of brown ones yet. What about a new hair do? You know, that usually excites a woman. What about a new house? You know, I wish my house would sell and I could move.

I'm sure you can see what my mind was trying to do. I realized I was trying to fill a hole with something else. I wanted to sooth the disappointing words with something that would temporarily excite my heart. Of course, as expected that didn't work as I didn't even feel like making any of those purchases. Even those would not ease my heart's sorrow. I felt a cloud of disappointment and I didn't want to be under that cloud. Rather, I wanted to feel the ray of the Son shine. I felt in my heart, I needed to change the state of my mind and heart. I turned to His Word. No, I didn't crack open my big ol' bible while driving. I wanted to be proactive though and "do" something instead of wallowing in my disappointment and seemingly loss of hope. So, what does a person do? Turn to your dashboard. That is, if you have scripture placed on it. I hadn't memorized any new scripture strips* lately. So, I knew there was no better time. As I recited the verses over and over, I felt rejuvenated. In a time of disappointment and looking at the negative, I was restored with hope in this issue by God's Word. The residing theme of these got it...the rewarding but painfully difficult task of waiting.

Here are those scriptures. I hope one or more of them will speak a special word to your heart and life.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14a

Be still before the Lord; wait patiently for Him. Psalm 37:7

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10a

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped. Psalm 28:7a

You will seek Me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3

The Lord is good to those who wait on Him, to the soul who seeks Him. Lamentations 3:25

Now don't think I'm superwoman with a photogenic memory. I didn't memorize all eight verses in a half hour. Only the first two were new memory verses. The others were review. However, the combination of them all gave me such a combination for a great message from God.

We see how waiting for God is not only good for us, but He asks it of us and rewards it. We also see that in our times of not only waiting but also times of trouble, He is there to help us. He either gives us strength to endure the waiting or help in our trouble. Waiting has so much to do with being still and seeking God.

I don't know what you may enduring but I can also guess that there is a need for waiting, a need for being still, a need for seeking Him. It seems much of our Christian walk involves waiting for something, many somethings at different seasons in our lives. If you are tempted with not waiting or not seeking Him, may you gleam strength from one or all of the verses above. He is our strength. Lean on Him as He so desires us to do. I know for myself in several areas of my life I cling to Lamentations 3:25. I have to believe as I'm faithful to wait on Him for answers and resolutions to several issues, that He will be faithful and good to me as I wait and He'll provide a result out of this world. Remember, Ephesians 3:20 tells us that He is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever imagine or ask...but it also goes on to say...according to His power that is at work within us.

Allow His power within you to work in whatever your life presents to you. Let Him be your strength and He will fulfill you.

Hoping in Him,

*Scripture strips are my creation of strips of paper about one inch tall and five inches wide with about three or four verses typed in small font. The strip is small enough to not inhibit my view of the odometer, speedometer, etc. on my dashboard.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Comprehending His Love

If I were to take a poll, I would guess that love and acceptance would be on the top of the list of things people seek in their life. Isn't that the ultimate feeling of be loved and accepted? We can search the earth all over and we will never find the kind of love that our soul earnestly seeks. The love for which we long can only be found in God. However, God did create us with emotions and feelings. He created us to desire relationships and therefore to desire human love. That is good and well but that love will not satisfy us fully until we accept and embrace the love of Jesus.

If that is hard to comprehend at this season in your life, you're not alone. I know that my heart wants to be fully satisfied in Christ's love alone. Truth be told there are still certain human and relational loves that I still seek, even knowing Christ should be enough for me.

In chapter eight of Lisa's book, we examine how we are completely loved and accepted by God. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1. Lavished. That's not a sprinkle, a dash, a spritz, nor a smidgen. That's a big ol' lavish! That's more than we could ever feel, know, or understand.

Lisa so poignantly wrote at the beginning of this chapter something my heart has felt as of late but didn't realize until I read her words. Listen to this: "the depths of God's love for us is hard to comprehend. So are the height, the width, and the breadth of His love. Our human minds will not allow us to process the greatness of the love of our Father because we are programmed by the world's view of love, which has great limitations." When I read her words this past weekend, I captured my instant thoughts in the margin: This is so true. If I could comprehend His love, I think things would be easier for me...easier for me to understand the things in my life. The world teaches us to define love in fallible ways based on conditions and expectations, sometimes unknowingly. The only true love that never fails is from God. It is hard to comprehend God's love because we do not experience it from any other source. Relationships have conditions and expectations that we try so hard to meet. God does not condition His love nor does He have requirements He expects us to fulfill for us to receive His love and acceptance. When we have never experienced free unconditional love, it makes it difficult to understand how anyone, including this huge and great God, could love us so.

I shared with Lisa how I struggle with finding my identity solely in my relationship with God and His love. Instead, I look to the roles and relationships I lack. I try to measure my life on the typical life of an American: husband, children, dog, white picket fence, grandkids (okay, not grandkids...I am only 34 ya know). My identity and love should not be wrapped up in what I lack compared to what is sociably the norm. Lisa shared with me something very encouraging to my heart when I needed it. I want to pass that along to you: "It's my belief that in times like those He looks at us, not in judgment of what we SHOULD believe, but with eyes of love and grace for us to see how our life can be rich and full without anyone or anything but Him."

Lisa spoke of a story about a man and wife visiting an orphanage to adopt a child. They had much to offer the child. However, the boy declined if that was all they had he'd rather just stay put. They were puzzled and asked him what in the world else could he want. Listen: The boy replied, "I just want someone to love me." Oh, how those words pricked my heart. At this season in my life, I feel that is what my heart is screaming. I find myself envying more and more those marriages of longevity. To have a lifelong spouse of 10-15-20-30 years. Wow...what that would feel like. Lisa says: "...we long to feel the warm embrace of love wrapped around us." Oh yes. She goes on to say: "Even the best of our earthly relationships with the strongest bonds of earthly love cannot quench the insatiable thirst of our souls for a deeper much so that we're not even sure anymore that it really exists." I know this to be true. My head knows but my heart is a little behind...slow at catching up. I do have the love of the One so why am I still wanting earthly love, a love that can never quench that thirst? The love of a particular one but really the love of anyone. I feel I'm missing out not only being loved but to give love...someone with which to share this journey of life...someone with which to share all the marvelous revelations of Christ that I learn.

That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height--to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians. 3:17-19

Unlike human love, God's love is without conditions and limits. We limit our love with hidden expectations, conditions and unforgiveness. I believe many times we don't even realize when conditions and limits are placed on love until a relationship is put to test and the conditions are revealed. We can say we love unconditionally but that's hard to believe and rare to see. Human love within itself is limited but when we invite Jesus into the relationship and it's a circle of three, there is no limit, no power we can't utilize. A circle of three could be any relationship...spouse, friends, relatives, parents, children. Any time we invite Christ to truly be present and ask Him and His power to reign, the possibilities are limitless.

I love how Lisa pointed out that basically we can place the feelings we have about our worldly relationships onto God. Listen to what she says: "The truth is we never totally feel accepted every day by anyone on this earth, even the people who love and care for us the very most. We often feel judged and compromised by the people around us, and we just can't seem to shake the feeling that God also somehow reserves His opinion of us, depending upon how we behave or what we say and do." Have you felt that? I sure have. We cannot place God in the same category of how others may or may not treat us. God does not judge His love and acceptance based on our actions. Otherwise, we could earn His love and that is not possible. We can earn His favor and blessings. Maybe we mix up His favor and blessings with His love and acceptance.

Lisa shared seven verses revealing God's deep concern toward us and His acceptance of us. Two of them are ones written on my heart.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. Jeremiah 1:5

At times my flesh can rationalize that God wrote verses in general and to everyone yet somehow not personally and specifically for me. He formed everyone so my flesh says what makes, me Paula, different? Yet my heart knows it is. He did it all just for me, even if there were no one else. Yes, He formed Sally and Bob and Missy before they were born and He also formed Paula and set me apart. I know God has adopted me as His child for I am a believer and follower of His Son. I also know that He has accepted me completely. Yet, I struggle with whether my life, thoughts, and actions please Him. He accepts me as I am and who I am but am I a pleasing aroma to Him? I can say I'm accepted by Him because of His character but I can still stink at times.

God shows His love for us all the time but we have to look for it. I shared a couple weeks ago in this post about how I was angry with God yet He reacted by reassuring me of His presence in my life. In short, I was mowing the yard and vocalized my anger at God for not seeing His Hand working in my life. Rather, I had felt His abandonment and punishment. That is not what He was/is doing. I still am not quite sure what it is but He's not punishing or abandoning me. He showed me that same evening that He's working but it's in His time and His way. The entire incident has remained with me. It has grown into even more of a mark in time calling me to remember. Remember He has not forgotten me but rather He is doing His own thing, in His own way, in His own time. My flesh tries to equate my lack of understanding things to God not caring about me, my desires, wants, or needs. Instead, my heart knows He does care; I just just cannot understand His almighty ways in my finite mind constrained to an earthly view.

Lisa challenged us to consider whether we most need to know if we are completely loved by God or accepted completely by God. I would say I need to know I'm completely loved by God. To be completely loved by someone means to be completely accepted in my mind. To be completely loved means I would be taken care of, my needs fulfilled, my best at heart. I don't know how God sees it but I feel when we truly love someone we also accept them for who they are.

The way I see it...
To love is to be forgiven.
To love is to be accepted.
To love is to be cared for.
To love is to be put first.
To love is to be given the best.

What do you need most from God? His love or His acceptance?

I had to smile when Lisa said "God already knows that He accepts us just as we are...with all of our failures and faults and insecurities, but He wants us to know that--to really know that." Do you really know that?

Seeking to Comprehend His Love,

To see other thoughts on this subject click here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

To Conceal or To Be Real

Let's continue with Lisa as we look at the cosmetics for the soul in chapter six and then the feelings we conceal in chapter seven.

Lisa says "we have become experts at concealing things that we feel need to keep hidden; otherwise, we fear we may not be accepted or loved...concealment of our souls robs us of meaningful interactions with people."

You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. Psalm 145:16

It's not whether we can conceal or what we can conceal. It boils down to that God doesn't want us to conceal but rather to be real. It starts with being real with ourselves and God, then with others.

I will uncover his hiding places, so that he cannot conceal himself. Jeremiah 49:10

I have experienced real identity theft through my credit report but I've also experienced emotional identity theft. Lisa says "we are losing our identities in the form of our souls." In my marriage, I was held captive by my emotions, satan, and pain. I didn't even know it was happening. Just like Lisa says, it snuck up on me. "We are a day late and a dollar short...full of regret and excuses." (But God has the right change and He's never late so He can more than make up in what we are short.) My heart was hardened and my true emotional state was stolen. Satan deceived. Satan stole. It wouldn't be fair to put all the blame and responsibility on the evil one. I chose to listen to his lies and fall trapped to his deceit but it snuck up on me. I never woke up one day and said, okay satan I see it your way. I didn't even know it was satan playing with me and deceiving me. He's now doing that exact same thing to someone else and this person doesn't know it either. That's satan's power...he's sneaky. A person being deceived by satan does not know he's being deceived!!! That's when God's power comes in, takes over, and removes the blindness caused by the enemy's deceit.

The greatest deceiver himself, satan, has an influence on our big cover up. He is the first to tell us we need to conceal our heart and soul. He speaks to us every reason why we must hide ourselves. Satan is waiting for us to fall into his trap of deceit. As if our self-esteem and self worth is not low enough on our own, satan likes to reinforce that. I hear his lies to me but it takes God's love and His Truth to overpower those lies. "You are not good enough, Paula. You could never be what you dream, Paula. You are not loveable, Paula. You are not worthy, Paula. You have messed up too much, Paula. How will you ever make it right, Paula?"

Society also encourages us to stay hidden. It provides products and services that only aid in the cover up but not to attack the source of the problems nor be real with God and others. Why is society so ready and willing to jump at the chance to aid in our concealment? Because, society is also the one who tells us we must be perfect....emotionally, financially, relationally, spiritually. Oh no, not spiritually because society is not the least concerned with spiritual concerns. So, because we must be perfect, and we are not, then we enter this vicious cycle of concealing.

There's a self help book for every issue. Self-help indicates we can help ourselves with no need of God. Instead, God should be our primary focus and source for help. There is always someone ready and available to diagnose and provide the great and mighty solution. The truth is only God can do that.

Our personal choices also influence what we conceal. My personal choices have reinforced my failures. My biggest and most regrettable mistakes reign in my heart. Those choices make me want to crawl into a hole. Those choices make me wonder how my wrongs will ever be made right. I want to hide my choices because of my shame. Yet, I know I'm forgiven by Christ so others should not judge me nor even those offended by me should withhold forgiveness. But we are human, so I fear I will never be able to live beyond those terrible choices.

Lisa says "our disappointment has caused us to be increasingly displeased with our current situation, and therefore we feel as if we've gotten the short end of the stick in life. Everyone else's journey seems smoother, more exciting, and enviably fulfilling." (Emphasis added.) Beside her words, I wrote this: ding, ding, ding. It seems when we find ourselves in this state, we can literally see something better, smoother, and joyful in every other person's life no matter what their circumstances. As pathetic as it is and horrific as it sounds, I'm going to be real and honest. Real honest. I've even been able to rationalize in my mind how someone with cancer or a debilitating illness has it better than me. At the beginning of my painful journey, I said I'd rather be so-and-so who has cancer but she has the love of her life with her, her beloved husband, her true love (from a human, that is). That is so wrong and sounds sick that I'd trade my situation with a woman who has an illness but has her husband.

O soul thirsts for a dry and weary land where there is no water." Psalm 63:1
Lisa is so right when she says "God is always merciful and just, even when He gets really ticked off sometimes with the way we act." Now, ain't that the cotton-pickin' truth. I'm sure the Lord has wanted to ring my neck. I'm sure He's wanted to say "I told you so. I warned you. You didn't listen." But, He has not done that. He has been nothing but loving, forgiving, and merciful. How would I be? How am I? Am I merciful and just when I'm mad and ticked off. Nope, I don't measure up as well. God is showing me how to react more like Him.

So what are we concealing? Lisa addresses the four feelings we conceal: insecurity, jealousy, loneliness, and fear.

Lisa says "We usually do our best to conceal the truth from others. Why? Because of our feelings, we try to conceal these things from others in order to hide what is painful to admit even to ourselves." Oh, how I know exactly what she is saying. I've been there. I couldn't admit to myself the pain I now see had been driving me for two years. I guess it's fair to say, to a degree, I still hide some of these four feelings at times. Although, through this trial in the last year and a half, I've openly admitted these feelings. I've told several blog friends that I envy their marriages and the devotion of their husbands. I openly admit I'm lonely and long for love only found in a marital relationship. I've spoken briefly about my insecurities and struggles with low self-esteem at times. Fears, they are there also and have been admitted to others at times.

Insecurity. I believe insecurity comes from satan. We are secure in Christ if we are believers so He will not make us feel insecure. Low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and uncertainty are all the tools satan uses to convince us further of lies about ourselves. Those lies in turn, we must fight to conceal. Satan tells us we are insecure but we don't want to be insecure so we conceal that we are insecure so we don't have to admit we are insecure because we don't want others to know we might have insecurities. On and on and on we go. Boy, I can sure relate to Lisa's statement of causing "us to feel as though we are not as good as the next girl." Oh sister, have I been there. Insecurity can lead to something even more dangerous. What?

Jealousy. With jealousy we talk about friendships. I so hate to say it but I do agree when Lisa says "the reality is that adult females can be more dramatic than any teenage grudge or petty argument." Teens do get over "the issue" a lot quicker than adult women. I've experienced so much hurt from female friends, more than I ever thought possible. I never knew the reality of Lisa's statement until the last couple years. She goes on to say "true friendships are often very difficult to find and much more difficult to actually keep." Wow. Lisa, that hurts. That's scary. That's sad. Tell me it's not so. I've always said I wish I had a sister because then I would have a friend for life because even in fights we'd have to eventually make up. A sister would never abandon me, right? I'm sure many women have experienced estrangement from sisters but in my head, that's why I always wished for a sister, an instant BFF (best friend forever). Jonathan and David give us a wonderful example of friendship in 1 Samuel 18:1-4. What did they have that we may not? They were committed to God, they "let" nothing come between them, trials drew them together not apart and they were the very end. aha. I desire to follow their extraordinary example. Let's commit to doing it their way.

Loneliness. Is it possible to be in a crowd full of people, even family and loved ones, and still be lonely? Oh yes. I don't mean in a concert crowd. I mean in a crowd of those we love the most, those who are dear and special to us, we can still feel such deep loneliness. I'm guessing many people will feel intense loneliness with the upcoming holidays. I dread them this year. For some reason, this year will be worse than last year or least it feels that way right now. I'm always open for God knocking my socks off and surprising me with supernatural peace during these months. I love how Lisa says "loneliness may make the loudest noise, but it can't hinder the mighty arms of God from reaching down and picking up a broken soul who's all alone in the middle of a lonely night." I have discovered that for His arms to do this, at times we have to be committed to looking for Him and His arms before we can receive that comfort. In the depths of my pain, I have missed His presence at time because of the overwhelming pain.

Fear. I think this feeling is the feeling that brought up the least amount of emotions for me. Yes, I have fears. Physical fears of one said creature who has no legs and slivers. Eek. I have emotional fears of desires possibly not brought to life. I have fears of loved ones not receiving Jesus. I equate fears to worry. If we fear something we are really just worrying about it. Lisa put it beautifully: "God recognizes that as finite humans, we fear things we shouldn't. But He has compassion on us because He knows we do anyway." How beautiful is that? He has compassion on us anyway. Anyway!

Let me close this novel (ha) with Lisa's last words. "Whether we are feeling insecure, jealous, lonely, or afraid, our precious Father desires to hold us and tell us we are worthy, important, gifted, never alone, and never to fear. He longs to uncover these feelings we hide so that we can find out who we are, once and for all...without all the concealer." (Emphasis added.)

If you'd like to see what others have to say, visit

Being Uncovered,

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Spirituality: Performance or Condition

Is spirituality about a condition or about the performance? It's easy to "feel"--or rather appear--spiritual when we check off all those items (attributes) from our list. Attending church and Sunday School. Volunteering. Listening to Christian music. Wearing the Christian button. Praying for missionaries. Going overseas for missions. Giving money. The list goes. From chapter five of her book, Behind Those Eyes, Lisa says: "The point is not that Ms. Spirituality does these things, rather, why she does these things."

Do we mark our spirituality by our actions performed or our heart's condition? The world views spirituality from outside the heart and from what is seen in action. But, true spirituality cannot be "seen". Rather, it is revealed from what bursts forth from the heart. Lisa puts it beautifully: "The problem comes when our performance of these characteristics takes precedence over the actual condition of our hearts." This can be a very dangerous playground. We can get so consumed by doing this, that, and the other. Doing is fine but we must always focus on our being...what is at the heart of our being, what is the purpose of our being? Is it to do or to be? I want to be a Christian at heart and not do the Christian art.

I found it such a revelation that many times what was considered spiritual by the human eyes, Jesus Himself rebuked. Woah. That makes me want to really see what Jesus views as spiritual. I'm out to be pleasing to His eyes and not any human eyes.

So, what does society and the human eye say is spiritual? I've never liked that word. I don't really like to define or describe someone as spiritual. Is Sall-e Q a spiritual person? If she worships Buddha, isn't she spiritual? To be spiritual by the world's standards would mean to believe in the spirit world and a higher power...a door knob if you wish. To define true spirituality is to describe it in terms of a relationship with Christ...serving Him out of the mere act of serving and loving Him with no outward benefit from others.

So should we expect that we can become spiritual just by claiming Jesus as Savior? Well, it does take some "spiritual muscle". I love how James says it. Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22 There has to be some walk behind the talk. Some doing behind the reading. Some giving (do) behind the receiving (read). We have to read and meditate on the Word. Do the basics but interpret the specifics for our lives by deep meditation. We are not all called to be missionaries. We are not all called to be worship leaders. We are not all called to be writers or organizers. To do that which we are not called, is to do that which is on the check off list. We are to do what He has called us to do collectively (loving, forgiving, serving, tithing, etc.) and then also individually called to do (preach, write, lead worship, missionaries).

The attributes of Ms. Spirituality aren't the goal but the means by which to reach the goal...true devotion to Christ. When we do all those items on our spirituality checklist, we are not being spiritual but with the right motives we will grow into the condition of spirituality. It won't be about the most we can check off for the sake of doing but rather it will just be the outpouring of our heart to serve, honor, and love Jesus. We must examine spirituality from a different angle. Lisa says: "She is looking at the ritualistic side of her faith, rather than the tangible expression of a deeply rooted love for God."

Lisa touched something in me when she spoke of how Moses was apprehensive and scared to do what God asked with leading the Israelites to the Promises Land. She says: "Though he trusted God, his flesh continued to pull him back to unbelief." Oh my, that is me. I can feel the conviction of God to believe in His power to heal and restore, to do the unthinkable, unlikely, and impossible things in my life. Yet, my flesh, says "How is it possible? What if this? What if that?" Those ugly, ugly doubts that make God work more to convince me of His truths. Moses conquered his fears and doubts and "...his desire to please God superseded his fears..."

If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully. Exodus 33:13 NLT

Listen to this. I love what Lisa says here: "Moses trusted God, but because of his insecurity in his own abilities, he was in need of reassurance from Him. Like a wise counselor, the Lord knew exactly what Moses needed to hear." That is so me. Sometimes I wonder if I've misread Him. I feel insecure in my ability to hear Him and to know His specific words spoken to my heart for my life. I need His reassurance. I keep coming back to the same convictions and beliefs about aspects of my life and what He's asking of me. So in that, I'm trusting--hoping--that to be God's reassurance. Is it possible to need reassurance for the reassurance He gives us? How many times can we re-ceive re-assurance on top of re-assurance?

Lisa mentioned the story of the bleeding woman from Luke 8:42-48. Oh, how I love this story for several reasons. I have referenced her faith in action and Jesus' response so many times in the last 16 months. Now, Lisa draws attention to her, asking why it was important for this woman to expose her vulnerabilities to Jesus and others. True healing comes from being vulnerable. The woman presented herself before the Lord, vulnerable and desperate for this condition that was perceived very unfavorably. She was revealing her "dirty" self and the shame she felt. She let go of her reputation and showed herself to the Almighty One who held the power she so desperately wanted and needed. And indeed, she received. Her faith healed her. Then he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace." Luke 8:48 I'm so glad she allowed herself to be vulnerable as I gleam so much truth and encouragement from this story of her exchanging her reputation and her condition for healing and power from Jesus.

This woman was spiritually transparent. She laid her soul before the Lord. Spiritual transparency freed her. It will free us. It allows us to be real with others and others to then be real with us. Nothing lasting comes from anything fake or less than genuine. Impersonating spirituality without embodying it is dangerous to our heart and spirit. Over time we could come to believe the impersonation and therefore no longer see our need for Christ. To impersonate spirituality also closes the door of opportunity to truly attain it (while still impersonating). We must remove the skin of impersonation before we can savor the fruit. (Think of a banana or orange. For some it may be as easy as peeling the banana for some it it takes more work like an orange or even more difficult like a delicious mango.) If we are pretending to be spiritual then there is no opportunity to learn what real spirituality is and to learn to grow into it. In addition, everyone (including ourselves) will think we've already attained that level of spirituality and therefore overlook us for that encounter to grow.

"Though we seek it, our lack of spiritual perfection may be the best thing in the world for us since it reminds us that we are absolutely nothing without Christ." I just love this statement of Lisa's. Isn't that just like our Lord that He once again uses our imperfection, even spiritual imperfection, for our good and His glory? What is better than a deepened reliance and dependency on Jesus? We are nothing without Him. We have nothing without Him. We can do nothing without Him. Praise Jesus He doesn't require or even ask us to be spiritually perfect.

May Lisa's final words in this chapter penetrate your heart like it did mine...or maybe I should say pricked my heart as it stung a little. "True spirituality is about the awesome power of God showing up in a person's life to the point that people around her notice a difference." Yes, indeed, a truly spiritual person exudes the Spirit of God. To be so is to exemplify all that God is within us. To be spiritual is to be of God. To look into the face of a truly spiritual person is to look into the face of God. I can assuredly say that to look into my face is to truly look into the face of God. I can only hope it will continue to grow me into that.

Lord, I want to trade my spiritual button for the overflow of Your presence spewing out of me. I want to have a heart conditioned for You and not a performance portrayed for others. Peel away any layers looking to trained thoughts of performance instead of looking solely to You.

Are you trading your reputation for repentance? Repentance means true freedom. Reputation means confinement to the perceptions of others...mere humans. May God always bring us to our knees placing our repentance on top of our reputation.

Won't you throw off your Christian t-shirt, and go with me to the Throne of Jesus?
Let us shed our spiritual coat and put on the armor of God.

Loving my Lord,

Check out Lelia's blog to see insights of others.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Angry at God?

Can we be angry at God?

It happens from time to time, from season to season. If we are honest, we've all experienced it. It happens. Even if we don't think it in our minds. Even if we don't feel it in our hearts. Even if we don't utter it from our lips. So, if it's there, why don't we simply express it? God already knows way before the thought is even close to formulated.

It happened to Jonah.

Jonah was angry at the Lord's compassion. But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, "O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live." But the Lord replied, "Have you any right to be angry?" Jonah 4:1-4

Simply answered, I say no, I do not have a right to be angry. still happened to me.

Part of the trial I've been enduring the last almost 16 months is maintaining my home by myself while trying to sell it. I truly have a love-hate relationship with push mowing and weeding my yard. The yard with lots of trees, lots of flowers, two ponds, hills, dips, and bumps. I say I don't mind and I don't think I do for the most part. I listen to God's music and try to make it a time of worship, reflection, and prayer.

However, on two distinct occasions that has not been the result. Instead, mowing the yard has stirred up angry feelings about being left to maintain this yard and home by myself. Those feelings led to other intense feelings that come from the emotions of abandonment and rejection.

I've long since repented and turned from any actions that would've caused this rejection and abandonment; therefore, leaving me with the thoughts of why am I still seemingly being "punished". I'm not being punished by God but it can feel that way when I don't see Him rectifying and restoring upon my repentance.

In the past months I've wondered why God hasn't done something as simple as selling my house. I realize that my prayer to restore is much larger, involves others, and will need time and cooperation of His children. However, why can't part of my life just "go on" by selling my house?

So, in the midst of my anger toward those who've abandon me (one in a great way, others in lesser ways), I began to question the ultimate --"God why have You forsake me? Why aren't You doing anything in these two areas of my life? Why won't You simply sell my house and provide a fresh start for now?"

This conversation continued. Going back and forth from being directed at God to being directed at others in my life (or rather not in my life currently). It climaxed with words never uttered, words that break my heart, words that spear my soul, and words that fill my spirit with regret.

"I'm angry at You, God."

Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people. Isaiah 64:9

I've since said I'm sorry more times than I can count. I have felt His forgiveness and understanding while still filled with remorse. My Lord has shown me so much compassion. That evening after this intense emotional release and sobbing fit, my Lord sent me a reminder of His fourth fruit: patience. Who else sent it to me but my realtor whom I also consider a friend since our now 16-month business relationship.

What a timely message from my Abba Father reminding me He is here and for me to wait on Him.

The Lord is good to those who wait on Him, to the soul who seeks Him. Lamentations 3:25

As I prepared for church I asked the Lord to give me a heart of worship especially since my heart had been hard, hurt and heavy towards Him the night prior. Tired of listening to the religious program on tv, I switched the station only to have my ears welcomed to one of my favorite worship songs, of which I've forgotten the name. Oh, how that song filled my heart.

Though the sermon at church was titled "Why Now?" and spoke of the reasons for our new building campaign beginning now, I again found the message from God timely and personal. Pastor spoke about God's timing and it refreshed my mind of how pivotal God's timing is in my life. He is trustworthy and His timing is trustworthy.

Speaking of trust, I think it is only poignant to end with my life verse

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Trusting Him and His Timing,

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Illlusion of Happiness

Illusion is defined as "an erroneous mental representation".

Continue with us as we look at Ms. Happiness in the study of
Behind Those Eyes. Hold on tight as we look at what some see as the holy grail: happiness. As always, I'm writing this before ever looking at anyone else's post from our study with with Lelia. I'm probably out in left field as I tend to view things in such different ways than others. Is there a chapter on Ms. Uniqueness? ha

Ironically enough as Lisa mentioned, our standards for happiness aren't really that high. Some of the simplest and smallest things can truly make us happy. Why? For the most part, we want even the simple things to go smoothly. We enjoy the simple rewards. Getting through a green light. Having the trash taken out. No back talk from the children. Cooking dinner without any burning the food.

Lisa talked about how we want to seek the source. I had to laugh as she is right. We look for the source of a rotten smell in the garage. We look for the source of a large bang outside our door. We look for the source of a cell phone ringing in church! She says: Our natural tendency is to look for the source of things to satisfy our curiosity and to help us gain a better understanding of our current situation. Oh is that ever true of me. For one, I am a very curious person and I like to know why things are the way they are.

The same is true when we are seeking happiness. We can look to different sources at different times in our life to find happiness. I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but unfortunately, it will never happen. Lisa says: She [Ms. Happiness] is the outward personification of a jovial girl, even thought she is still searching for its inward source. Though able to act happy, since she has never truly found the root of happiness , she is forced to continue looking for it in places it will likely never appear.

There is such value in digging to find the source of joy. Joy is a priceless, precious treasure. It's a rarity and to find the source is to find the pot of gold. It is important to find the real source because until we do, we'll continue to search in the wrong places, consuming our energy, and wasting our time. We will fill our lives with all the wrong things that won't only not bring us joy but can bring us harm.

Do you agree it is our hypocrisy and self-focus that drains us?
Absolutely. Focusing on ourselves is very draining. It is better to give than to receive. That is so true. We can feel so good when we are focused on doing for others and on the needs of others. It is liberating. To focus on our needs and fulfilling our desires just drains the life out of us. Our desires will never be satisfied. It is an endless pit. I believe God made it and us that way for a reason. That is, He made the end result of focusing on ourselves as never satisfying and negative and the experience of focusing on others as positive and fulfilling. Lisa says: We will never be fulfilled when our focus is constantly on us. Often, the more we invest in ourselves, the emptier we feel. The more time you spend thinking about you, the less satisfied you are with yourself or anything else.

Is there a correlation between the lavish lifestyles in the United States versus less fortunate countries regarding happiness? As a whole I believe those in less fortunate countries are much happier. They learn to live with little so they appreciate so much more. To have more is to want more. I have not seen a country like the U.S. so spoiled with so much...too much. There is too much available in this country. To be consumed and lavished with so much has stripped us of the simple pleasures of life. We are too dependent on simple things such as electricity, cable, water, heat, lights, etc. Trust me...I like me some electricity but the recent outage from Ike just showed the deep dependency of it.

Is what you see is truly what you get in regards to Ms. Happiness?
No, it is not. Happiness is not the goal. It should not be the motivator. Happiness is not all that it's cracked up to be. It comes and goes depending on our circumstances. We can be happy at work and miserable at home. We can be happy at church and unhappy at choir. We can be happy at Susie's recital and unhappy at Bobby's game.

Is what others see in me truly what they are getting when they really get to know me? I believe so. What I say, feel, believe--my heart content--is real. Do I at times pretend to be happy and more okay with my life than I am? Yes. Because it is what's needed...what others need. People do not want to be around an unhappy person all the time. Lisa says: Could it be that like Ms. Happiness, we act happy on the outside to please others, silently leaving us to hurt on the inside? Amen, sister. However, if someone takes the time to really get to know me, then I am upfront and honest about my life and the level of happiness in my life. I have never been one to be able to fake perkiness. If I'm jolly, perky, happy, and laughing then it is real. It is real happiness if only for those 2.2 seconds. I've never felt that I falsely put on Ms. Happiness' face but rather at times I do hide Ms. Unhappiness' sad face.

Solomon's struggles are highlighted in Ecclesiastes 2. It is packed with truth. Chasing pleasures and wisdom are meaningless like folly and toil. Solomon tried so many things: wine, folly, projects, gardens, slaves, animals, silver, gold, singers. Do you think he found satisfaction or happiness upon seeking each of those? No. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure...yet, when I surveyed all my hands had done and what I toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after wind. Ecc. 2:10-11 Just as we can chase the wind and never catch it, we can seek happiness and never truly obtain it.

Let me try to explain what some might perceive as doom and gloom negative talk about happiness.

I will never forgot a sermon given earlier this year in which my pastor announced: "I am not a happily married man." Ugh. Everyone gasps inside. "To be happily married means circumstances happen to be happy in my marriage...rather I am a joyfully married man." Whew. This along with what he said following stuck with me. God is not concerned with our happiness but rather our joy. He wants us to be filled with joy and could careless if we are happy.

I have since given up on my quest for happiness. I do not believe it is truly something obtainable and definitely not for extended periods of time. Maybe this is my state of mind in this season of my life but I don't have a concern for happiness any longer. Happiness comes and goes. Rather, I desire to have a purposeful and positive life regardless if my circumstances happen to be happy. Along with that purpose and positivity, I desire peace and joy. Lisa's challenge question was a challenge to find strength to post the honest answer. After all, I am a child of God, the lover of my soul. Do I have true joy? If not, what is standing in my way?

To be honest, I would have to say no. Either I'm looking for a "feeling" of joy or I just don't know how joy should appear. I just know it doesn't "feel" as thought I am joy-filled.

Circumstances will come and go. There will be bad. There will be good. Some moments will be filled with happiness. However, instead of spinning my wheels and chasing the wind to be happy, I desire to be filled with His joy.

To have joy is to have disregard for our circumstances.
Joy comes regardless of life's situations.

All this I know to be true. So, why do I still "feel" as though I do not have joy? I can only surmise that the deep pain of my life and current trials are filling the spots that God desires reserved for His joy. I anticipate that when my pain lessens and my healing increases, then that spot reserved for joy will be filled with its rightful fruit. Some may say that I should have joy amidst my pain. That very likely is true. Don't get me wrong, I do have bits and pieces of it. I do have joy in knowing there is a purpose in my pain. However, I would not feel right holding back some honesty in this study that is intended to get behind my eyes. If I could do a quick 1-2-3 to "feel" that consistent joy, peace, and contentment I'm suppose to have, I'd already be on 4-5-6 to get it.

I believe with a continued pursuit of Christ and in time, it will come. He will fill my heart with peace and joy as He releases my pain and weeds out more and more of my hurts. I pray He does because they are two fruits of His Spirit that I desire to dwell in my spirit (Galatians 5:22)

Of the five joy scriptures Lisa gave us, this one relates best to my life as it is now. You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11

I leave you with one last quote from Lisa. The true and lasting source of our happiness comes from the joy that fills our hearts and overflows into the paths of those around us. When we go to the real Source of joy, we find the answers we need to secure our contentment in life forever.

In Pursuit of Joy (not happiness),