Monthly Archives: October 2014

Becoming Ms Right

After attending the SMASH women’s retreat at SpringHill Camp in May 2012, I was inspired to write about what I experienced.  I was particularly struck by one common theme throughout the weekend: we focus on what we lack instead of what we possess.

We live in endless pursuit of what we’re missing, instead of living in gratefulness for what we have.  Have you ever wished you could “lose that last 10 pounds”, only to find yourself a year later 10 pounds heavier instead of 10 pounds lighter?  Did you look back and wish you could have been grateful right where you were the year before?  I know I’ve been there, done that.

It’s a sad fact, but men tend to grow more and more handsome every year (grey hair and all!).  We women, on the other hand, tend to grow more wrinkled, saggy, less able to bear children, overall less “attractive”.  Fun, isn’t it?  But Proverbs 31 says of “the woman of noble character”:

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Did that mention anything about what she looks like?  Nope.  Nothing.  But how much time do we waste on thinking about what we look like?

Check out the whole passage: Proverbs 31:10-31.  She isn’t praised for her charm and beauty, but for how she treats those around her, how she spends her time, and probably more importantly, how she doesn’t spend her time.  It is our character that makes us more and more beautiful – the way we make others feel.

You may have heard, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.  I’ve also heard, “People don’t remember what you said or what you did.  They remember the way you made them feel.”  I think that’s true and that it works both ways.  You can make them feel horrible or you can make them feel treasured.  The more we treasure our husbands and build them up, the more beautiful we become in their eyes.  If you want to be loved and cherished in your old age, love and respect your husband now.  🙂

At the SMASH retreat, Michaell Dupin taught us that a wife, or a “helpmate”, is not just a “helper”.  A helpmate can be compared to “military reinforcements without whom the battle would be lost.”  Wow.  We have a critically important job.  This isn’t about me getting my needs met – this is about winning a battle.  And that battle started with a curse way back in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:16 (NLT):

Then he said to the woman,
“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,
and in pain you will give birth.
And you will desire to control your husband,
but he will rule over you.”

Contrast that with the Apostle Paul’s instructions to husbands and wives in his letter to the Ephesians (5:33 NIV):

“However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

The curse was that she would want to control him, but God wants her to respect him.
The curse was that he would rule over her, but God wants him to lay down his life for her (as Christ loved the church).

We expect unconditional love from our husbands, but for some reason, we refuse to give them unconditional respect.  We expect them to have to earn our respect, but we don’t expect to have to earn their love, do we?  What would happen if we chose differently?  How would things change if we changed our response?

I was given some very important marital advice several years ago.  I was told, “You are not John’s enemy.  He is not your enemy.  You are on the same team.  But you have an enemy and he hates you and hates your marriage.  He wants to eternally separate you from God, but he can’t.  So he’ll do everything he can to separate you from the very people who love you and support you.  And, if you don’t recognize his schemes, you’ll help him do this by adding fuel to the fire.”

Let’s go back to that first paragraph.  We focus on what we lack instead of what we possess.  What do we possess?  We possess the ability to choose what we focus on.  What if we chose to respect our husbands unconditionally?  I’m not talking about flattery.  Really, it has a lot more to do with what we don’t say than what we do say:

1) Choosing NOT to correct him, especially not in public
2) Choosing NOT to tell him what he forgot to do
3) Choosing NOT to give him 18 reasons why his idea won’t work
4) Choosing NOT to overload him with requests when he walks in the door after work
5) Choosing NOT to punish him for “hurting your feelings”
6) Choosing NOT to ask him if you look fat in that outfit (there is no good response here)
7) Choosing NOT to interrupt him when he’s actually talking to you (you want him to talk to you, right?)
8) Choosing NOT to tell him every detail of your day (get to the point – God gave you girlfriends for a reason – they want to hear details – he doesn’t, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you – his brain just doesn’t work that way)
9) Fill in the blank – you know what irritates him – choose NOT to do it

What if we chose to fuel the fire of respect?  I think we’d get a lot more of that unconditional love we’ve been looking for.  Maybe we didn’t marry the wrong man.  Maybe he married the wrong woman?  We can do something about it.  We can choose to become Ms Right.

Very important side note:  If you are being abused, this does not apply to you.  Please get yourself and your children to a safe place.  No one deserves to be abused and you are not being “submissive” by allowing the abuse to continue.  Please find help now.

 

 

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Moment by Moment (Part 7)

It’s been 5 weeks since my miracle occurred. None of the circumstances in my life have changed, but EVERYTHING has changed. Why? What changed?

If a full emotional “love tank” is a 10, I used to wake up at a -5 every morning, just trying to get back to 0 again. If I couldn’t accomplish something pretty quickly, or if something happened to derail my day, I’d feel like I was sliding backwards on a slippery hill, grasping to hold on, but ending up with hands full of mud that I now had to go wash up before I could even continue up that hill again. -10? Oh, how can I ever get ahead?

I would explain to John that I had this “ick” inside me and I couldn’t get rid of it. I was all tied up in knots inside and it would fester until it came out in some sort of hissy fit. Inwardly, I would manufacture situations that would lead to a fit, just so I could to get it out. But there was no relief in it, only anger at myself and guilt over throwing the fit, heaping on top of the ever-growing pile of “ick”.  When will this cycle end?

Maggie Youngs put this cycle into words in her song “Far From Perfect” from the K-Rock original album, The Beginning: Songs from Young Hearts. At 15 years old, Maggie nailed what I’ve been struggling with for 43 years:

Sometimes I wonder
How I got stuck in my flaws again
And I often ponder all my sin
Feels like I’ll never win
So I’ll try again and in the same old trend
It feels like the end
I keep falling short but somehow you see
Past the imperfections and just want me

I’m far from perfect
But you think I’m worth it and see beauty in me
I’m miles from flawless, and to be honest
Sometimes I’m cruelly and brutally mean
So now I’m on my knees
Saying forgive me

But I had stopped saying “forgive me.”  For most of my life, I had a voice in my head that said, “Don’t say you’re sorry, just don’t do it.”  In other words, “Don’t do anything that you’ll need to apologize for. Just be perfect!”  I wasn’t perfect, but I kept trying.

Early in my relationship with Jesus, I figured that I was new at this and he’d cut me some slack for a while. But the longer our relationship went on, the more I felt like a failure, making the same mistakes over and over again. I could see God slowly shaking his head at me, so disappointed in me, saying, “Don’t say you’re sorry, just don’t do it.”   The harder I tried, the worse it got.  As Maggie wrote, I got “stuck in my flaws again” and again and again.  

I could quote scripture, trying to convince myself that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1), but I didn’t believe it because I FELT condemned.  Even though I have this “cake” life and I “should” be more grateful, all I felt was hopeless to ever get it right and guilty for not being more grateful.

On September 9, 2014, I answered a survey on Beth Moore’s blog.  These were 2 of the questions I answered:

1) My biggest struggle as a woman is: my emotions. Just the smallest thing can set me off and “ruin my day”. But wonderful things can transform my day. I wish I were more stable.

2) One word that describes me right now: Irritable. I make my family walk on eggshells way too much. I think I’m too controlling over my kids and my husband, but I don’t know how to keep the peace without losing mine.

How do I keep the peace?  Well, Jesus didn’t ask us to be peace keepers, but peace makers.    Switchfoot has a song called “BA55” that repeats over and over again:

I believe you’re the fire that could burn me clean
And let my soul fly

That’s what I wanted. “Burn me clean and let my soul fly.” One time. Get it over with. Give me an “ah-ha” moment that will change everything. Everywhere I looked, I was searching for that “ah-ha” answer that would somehow “fix” everything. Make peace in my mind.

I heard the phrase “Let Go and Let God” and it intrigued me. I kept asking, “What does that mean?” and one day few years back, I believe I got my answer. Walking down the hallway with a basket of dirty clothes, I asked, “Lord, what does it mean to Let Go and Let God?”.  I dropped the dirty clothes basket in the middle of the hallway as I heard the answer clear as a bell: “Moment by moment”.

I’ve thought about those three words over and over again, but somehow I kept tying them back to “Don’t say you’re sorry, just don’t do it.” Moment by moment, just be perfect. Yeah, how’s that working for you, Beth?

In the Apostle Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians, he talks about “taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Here’s that verse in context:

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)

Did I have a stronghold that needed to be demolished? You bet I did. So, how do you let go and let God?  By taking every thought captive, moment by moment.

When God chased me down 5 weeks ago with the words “Jesus redeemed that”, He gave me a way to take every thought captive, moment by moment.  Every time a negative thought, guilty thought, anxious thought, condemning thought, hopeless thought, overwhelmed thought came into my mind, I would declare “Jesus redeemed that!”  Jesus bought and paid for every single one of those thoughts.  They don’t belong to me.  And, moment by moment, God redeemed my mind.  Every time I spoke “Jesus redeemed that,” it was like God took out a “Paid in Full” rubber stamp and slammed it down on that thought that didn’t belong to me and filed it away in the “circular file”. Gone!

I noticed right away that it became very, very quiet in my head.  When I described to John what it used to feel like to live in this body, with these voices in my head screaming at me constantly, he said, “Honey, that’s called Schizophrenia”.  Yeah, no kidding.  I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.  I know what that is.

And now I feel like the man from Mark 5 who lived among the tombs. After Jesus redeemed this man’s mind, the people saw him “sitting there, dressed and in his right mind.”  That’s me.  The voices are gone and I am sitting here, dressed and in my right mind.  Jesus told that man, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”  That’s what I’m doing.  The Lord has had mercy on me.  I know He can do the same for you.

Maggie Youngs ends her song with these words before the last chorus:

I’m so thankful I’ve been redeemed
I’m so thankful my slate is clean
I’m so thankful I’ve been set free

Me too, Maggie!  Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

If you’d like to support our 15 year old friend and rest of the K-Rock kids, here’s a link to their album on iTunes: The Beginning: Songs from Young Hearts.

And if you’d like to read more about how God chased me down 5 weeks ago, click here for “The Whole Story“.

2015 update: Here’s what I learned about the difference between saying “forgive me” over and over again and saying Thank You.

100_5703
My favorite Henry Ford quote. What changed in my life? My mind was changed.

The Whole Story

In 1994, Jesus saved my soul, but in September 2014, he saved my mind.  I posted the story as a 6-part “series”, but I want to respect your time.  I know you probably can’t sit down and read the whole thing, so I included a line about each part below.  Please feel free to read whatever jumps out at you.

Here are all of the parts, including the “prologue” and the “afterword”, in order:

Prologue: Urgent Questions/Deepest Needs (this is VERY long – please feel free to skip it)

#1: Redeemed – Part 1 (where it all began – Beth Moore & Third Day on 9-13-14)

#2: Redeemed – Part 2 – He’s Greater (God speaks thru coupon codes & MercyMe songs)

#3: Two “churchy” words (what Dave W & Chris Z taught me about “sin” and “repent”)

#4: The Tyranny of the “Should” (trying to “pay back” Jesus for all he’s done for me)

#5: The Face of Grace (Do you think God is angry with you?  Check this out)

#6: Reconciling Wrath (“Good God” or “Wrathful God” – will the real God please stand up?)

Afterword: Moment by Moment (what does it mean to “Let Go and Let God”?)

If you remember my very first blog post from July 16th, “If they asked me, I could write a book“, I think this “series” could be the beginning of that book.  If any of this speaks to you, I would be so honored if you would share it with others.

Just a side-note.  If you’re reading this on a desktop or laptop computer, you can probably see links to all of my other blog posts along the righthand side of the screen.  However, if you’re on a phone or a tablet, the links probably don’t show up.  But if you scroll to the bottom of the post, you can most likely get to newer posts to the right and older posts to the left (it should give you the title and an arrow to click on).  I’ve also included a link at the bottom of each post to bring you to the next one.

Thank you so very much and happy reading!

Reconciling Wrath (Part 6)

This is the last part of my “redeemed” mini-series.  How about a recap?  Here’s what I’ve known for the last year:

1) Sin is simply us “turning away” from God
2) Jesus took on our “turning away” on the cross
3) God loves us and isn’t angry with us for being imperfect

So, what’s the problem?  Why has my fuse gotten shorter and shorter all year?  Why have I become increasingly irritated and frustrated, hopeless and annoyed?

One thing still didn’t compute.  If “God is good, all the time” and “All the time, God is good”, what’s the deal with “the wrath of God”?  The Bible has a LOT to say about the wrath of God and I couldn’t see how a Good God could be so full of wrath, yet so loving at the same time.

However, what I was beginning to understand, on Saturday, September 13, 2014, was that I had been redeemed.  God made that very clear all day.  When I sat down at church the next morning, after the pity-party that never materialized, I felt like God had me on “download” mode and I had better get my pen ready.  The first thing I wrote was “Jesus redeemed that”, referring to my desire to have a pity-party.  Then I wrote this:

“What is the wrath of God?  His wrath is the natural consequence of turning away from Him.  It’s MY CHOICE.  Jesus redeemed that.  God wants to love me and He does, but I keep choosing to turn away to hopelessness, self-pity, indifference, whining.  That stuff is His wrath.  Jesus died for that.  He took on my “turning away”.  He turned away from God ONCE FOR ALL.  He redeemed that.  He bought it.  It’s no longer mine.  When I turn away and feel that WRATH, the devil tells me I deserve it.  I turned away and it’s my fault, I’m bad, I SHOULDN’T do that and I SHOULD turn back.  NO!  Jesus redeemed that.  I GET TO turn back because Jesus redeemed it.  I OWE NOTHING.  I don’t owe it to Him.  It’s DONE.”

Sunday afternoon, I watched the “redeemed” part of the Beth Moore simulcast where it had frozen on Saturday.  It was cool, but God kept nudging me to go do my Beth Moore “Children of the Day” study.  My friend and I have been working through that study since July, very sporadically.  When we watched the video for week 4 (out of 9 weeks), we realized that our timing was perfect.  Every session has spoken to us exactly when we needed it.  I’m only on week 5 of the study in the workbook, because there’s really no need to be any further ahead.

Sunday afternoon, I followed the nudging and opened my workbook to the next homework assignment, which was Day 3 of Week 5.  Get this.  It was titled “Wrestling with Wrath“.  Beth had already done the research and gave me lots of scripture about God’s wrath.  His “wrath” in the original Greek is actually, “desire with grief and sorrow”.  Man’s type of wrath is translated from the Greek as “the outburst of a vengeful mind”.  God’s wrath is not like ours.  It is a profound sadness that the people He created can choose to turn away from Him, knowing that our turning away is not what is best for us.  We were made to be in communion with Him, but He is a gentleman and won’t make us.  And robotic love is not real love.  It has to be our choice.  But I was convinced that I owed God something “for all He’s done for me”, and I was so sick of trying that I had turned away.

Since Sunday, September 14, I’ve been telling myself “Jesus redeemed that” with every thought that I think that has anything to do with “should” or guilt over what I did or didn’t do or thought.  AND I BELIEVE IT because my theology is finally reconciled.  It’s not a conflict.  Bard Millard, MercyMe’s head man, said that he got to the point where he couldn’t sell the gospel.  It wasn’t good news.  That’s where I had gotten to.  I couldn’t sell Jesus.  He wasn’t good news.  He was more work.  How could I sell that with good conscience?

I’ve walked around with more LIGHTNESS and joy for the last three weeks, I can’t explain it other than the perfect gift of God.  I can laugh and joke and I don’t have this heaviness that I have to keep dragging around, trying to do better and be better, but always feeling guiltier and guiltier about how I REALLY feel.  How I really feel now is REALLY good news.

Check out the lyrics to MercyMe’s “Wishful Thinking”, which they sang at the concert that Saturday night.  I especially love the first verse and the “better late than not at all” verse.  This song spoke to me so loudly after my 20 year journey with Jesus.  Thanks for reading!

“Wishful Thinking” by MercyMe

Lord is it possible to get this far
And just now understand who You are?
I’m feeling foolish yet relieved as well
Cuz what I bought before, I just can’t sell

But now my eyes are open wide
If this is wrong
I don’t wanna be right

Could it be that on my worst day
How You love me still will not change
What if it’s really not about
What I do but what you did, oh what if

This ain’t wishful thinking it’s just how it is
This ain’t wishful thinking it’s just how it is

Well, I guess I’m better late than not at all
Or did you plan it this way all along
Cuz without suffering grace is hard to see
So maybe I’m right where I’m supposed to be

And now, I’m seeing You so differently
And only I can say is finally

Click here for Part 7

The Face of Grace (Part 5)

The Tyranny of the “Should” left off at “How is it that the Lord loves me so that He sends people like this to me? I don’t deserve that kind of love.”

What do I deserve?  I felt stuck somewhere between Jordan’s Elmo game yelling “Keep trying!  Keep trying!” and Yoda’s, “There is no Try.  There is Do or Do Not.”  Oh, Lord, what “should” I do?

Over the last 20 years, I’ve slowly found pieces to my puzzle, and a big piece fell into place after Beth Moore’s September 14, 2013 Living Proof Live simulcast.  Beth’s 2013 theme was “Under Grace” vs “Under Law” from Romans 6:14 (NLT): “Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law.  Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.”

Freedom?  All I felt was failure after failure, guilty as charged.  But Beth taught that even though sin may increase, grace doesn’t just increase, it abounds (Rom. 5:15).  Abundant grace.  “Drown me in your infinite grace.”  I pictured a teeny tiny “Finding Nemo” clown fish of sin swimming in an ocean of grace.

That picture kept coming back to me all week, and on Thursday, September 19th, I believe  God gave me a picture of how He really sees me.  I drew the picture in my journal, with my limited artistic ability, using stick figures.  Saturday morning the 21st, Jordan Rose came in to join me as I was journaling again.  I showed her the picture and explained it to her.  She was so excited that she wanted to draw it too.  I’ve attached the picture that she drew below.  Here is what I explained to Jordan:

1) God is always looking at us, loving us, never leaving us.  “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”  (Deut. 31:6 & Hebr. 13:5).  Just as the Father watched for his Prodigal Son (Luke 15:20), waiting for him to come home, not so that he could punish him, but so that he could celebrate the fact that he was home.  He’s not angry with us.  He waits for us, filled with love and compassion.

2) I am that Prodigal Son.  I want my inheritance now and I want to go do my own thing.  That is turning away from God, and it leads to one of two things:  (1) I look at my dirty face in the mirror (my selfishness, pride, hopelessness, depression, anxiety, indifference, self-pity, whining, complaining, etc) and, unable to clean up my act, I see a reflection from behind me, like a wavy, distorted funhouse mirror, and God looks backwards and angry to me, or (2) I look at the things of the world, trying to forget about my dirty face and make myself feel better (food, shopping, people-pleasing, perfectionism, being a “good girl”, self-medicating, etc).

3) Jesus took on our sin – our “turning away” from God – on the cross.  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  (Matt. 27:46 & Ps. 22:1).  Jesus had never turned away from God before (he had never sinned), so he felt forsaken as he looked out into the abyss that we see when we turn away from God.  Jesus took on all of the “turning away” of all people for all time, nailed it to the cross, buried it, and rose again, leaving it all behind.  

4) When we turn around (repent) and look into the face of God, we are living under Grace, coming back to the Father who loves us.  When we look at our “dirty faces” in the mirror (trying to clean ourselves up) or at the things of the world (trying to fill the hole in our soul), we are living under the Law, turning away from God.

5) Our only job is to turn around.  Turn from the mirror (staring at your dirty face won’t clean it), turn from the things of this world (they won’t fill that emptiness) and turn back to God (only He can clean us and fill us).  “What is the work that God requires?  To believe in the one He has sent.”  (John 6:28-29).  Look to Jesus, thankful that he took it all on cross.  Turn to God and see the Face of Grace smiling back at us.  He’s so thrilled that we’re home.

Click here for Part 6

"Under Grace" vs "Under Law" by Jordan Rose 9-21-13“Under Grace” vs “Under Law” by Jordan Rose (7 yrs old), drawn on 9-21-13

“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” Romans 5:2 (NLT)