Thursday, March 30, 2017
Not that long ago I had a personal conversation with the Holy Spirit. Just in case you are wondering who that is: I like to think of Him as my very best friend; He is the still small voice inside who corrects, instructs, leads and laughs at the inside jokes no one else seems to get. Sometimes we even argue but He always wins by showing me that love is always the best way.
That day we were talking about my intimacy issues. I had pretty much coined the phrase, "I'm not a touchy person". Its not even that I am not much of a hugger, it's just that touch is very intimate to me. If you were one of the few un-lucky guys in grade school, Jr.. High, High School or College that got too close to me or my bubble, you may have even seen me as hostile towards affectionate advances.
It was all touch, male or female that made me uncomfortable. I always related to the hilarious temperamental cat that would be purring and rubbing up against you and then out of no where would bite you. A unseen boundary had been crossed: me to a tee!
Anyway, I had said something to HS ( Holy Spirit) about wanting to be more affectionate to my children, and feeling like a total failure mom for not knowing when my kids need more physical love from me, and in fact feeling so completely suffocated at times that I wanted to cry. Then out of no where He (Holy Spirit really shoots it straight to the heart!! In a good way) He says... "Your believing a lie. You think you are not enough for them just the way you are. You think you are inadequate. But really I think you are a very intimate and loving mother."
As tears streamed down my face, as they are again right now, I silently wept as He continued. "It isn't that you are not affectionate, it is simply that you do not waste nor do you under appreciate the power of simple touch. You see something as simple as hand holding to be the most beautiful gesture of physical love. And your Father God agrees. When you are afraid- He holds your hand, when you are lost- He takes your hand, when He is pleased- He takes your hand, when walking alone in the joy of His presence- you hold His hand. And what are the most special moments of intimacy with your husband? It is the first time you held hands in a dark movie theatre, your first walk together where you talked and laughed and all those hand holding moments in between that you remember. You are perhaps the best hand holder I have ever seen and especially with your children; you are constantly taking a hand to either comfort, direct, correct or to play. You say you are not a touchy person but Sweetie you are one of the most affectionate people I know, you just see simple touch as special as it ought to be."
So there I was with a choice: I could receive this beautiful truth from HS: that I am most secure when I embrace the very insecurities that once held me back and turn them upside down into something for His glory! Or: I could keep dwelling on the free loving girl I thought I wanted to become, the comparison to others could build to the point of something I could not bare to fake anymore, I could keep shaming myself, I could keep trying to be something I'm not or trying to hide the me that I am.
Don't get me wrong I'm not saying we should embrace harmful patterns that lead to being unhealthy but if we can not see us as the unique- one of a kind- beautiful people that we are, we may not ever realize that someone else (someone more important, someone like HS) sees what we think of as our flaws as the very beauty marks that set us apart.
In His word He says "For we are Gods masterpiece, thoughtfully and creatively designed, to be a one-of-a-kind creation.
In case I haven't convinced you, did you know that not a single zebra is the same? A zebra's stripe pattern is as unique as fingerprints are to humans. In fact a baby zebra can find its mom in a heard because of it. You are the only you. Your stripes make you different, not deformed. And just for the record our baby zebras need our stripes to be just the way they are, that's how they find us, how they know us, how they follow us.
I thank God for the way that he made me, inside and out. And every day I want to spend a little more time with my Creator so I can find out what stripes He put there, and why! And also what stripes are just from the filth of this world trying to make me something I'm not, because those ones need washed off.
I hope all my gushing and vulnerability helps, it's one of my stripes I guess. With His help I'm learning how to appreciate those little nudges and whispers that say, the world needs to know how much I love them, how much I love those unique stripes. How much time I spend desiring that instead of hating your stripes you would learn how to wear them, how I designed them just for you and those who would see them, really see them, the way I do.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Three Days to a Better Way
Day One. Equipped
Two farm hands were out in the fields planting not far from one another. One of them looked over at his neighbor and saw that the tools he was using were quite different from the ones in his hands. At first he tried to ignore it but pretty soon he found himself questioning the quality of the work. “If the tools were not the same perhaps the work would not get done? Not just that but what if it is easier to use those tools, what if they are better than my tools?”
Soon the owner of the field came out and noticed that one of his workers was not being productive. He came over to the man and asked, “Why have you stopped working when you know that there is such a small amount of time for planting and sowing?”
The worker replied, “But what of my neighbor? Look at the tools you have given him, look at the way he is using them?”
The owner of the field replied, “You ask me the wrong questions. I have not given you his field to tend to. Do you see how the rocks in that field are large and stubborn? Your tools would not work in that soil. And you see how productive he has been all this time while you unproductively observe? Your work has suffered because you chose to compare something that can- not be compared. Can you justly compare a flower to a rock? Yet you compare yourself, your tools and your field with something that is anything but similar. And even if I put others in your field with similar tools and the same objective, how much time would you spend tending to your work and how much time would you compare the way you work with the individuality of how they work?”
The worker sat silent and ashamed. He knew that the master all this while had been watching him. Instead of doing his best with what he had been given he had judged others and himself and even his master for having made everyone so different.
The master resumed, “I have equipped you with everything you need for this season, everything you need for this field, and everything you need for deep and satisfying contentment. Do not look to the right or to the left, but look ahead to what it is I have placed in your hands.”
Just then the worker became excited, “My great and wise Lord, will you help me discover this field and the tools you have given me, will you teach me how to master them so that I may be productive and bring in this season with joy?”
The master smiled, “That is the right question. And yes I will walk with you every day in order to bring in a great harvest.”
How are we like the worker who compares? Have we asked too many questions about what other people are doing and too little about what it is God is wanting for us?
We all are equipped differently and beautifully for a glorious plan and purpose. It is a waste of time to be jealous over others giftedness and a monumental mistake to judge the way others are bringing in the harvest. We must always fight the urge to look to the right or to the left but to look to God alone for all our needs and understanding of what his individual plan for our lives is.
Day Two. Together
The Owner of the field came into a new season where the harvest was so great that He had to bring in extra help.
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire
workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
This parable is a meant not only to teach but to provide us with a perspective shift. If you read it from the perspective of the early morning workers, you may see it one way but then read it as though you were the workers that started later in the day; it shifts your perspective. Jesus wants us to take it even further and see it from a higher perspective, from the perspective of the foreman, from the Father heart.
Have you ever seen a child get a gift at a sibling’s birthday party? Or better yet, it is a child’s birthday but party favors or gifts are given to the guests. How about this train of thought: a birthday is a celebration of the child and yet it was the parents that gave life to the child (painfully and at a great cost), so the ones who should be honored are the parents. And yet it is a recognized celebration to honor not the one who labored but the one who came out of that labor. It is interesting that God honors us at all, when it is Him who gives so generously all things.
We often throw out words like fare or un-fare into situations where we have become entitled. Something as simple as honoring people can become complicated if pride is allowed to shift the reality of who is really worthy of all praise and honor. Jesus had to teach about position a great deal because he was trying to create a perspective shift. One so significant that when He died a un-fare death to pay for our sins we could finally understand those words, “The last will be first and the first will be last.”
We can look at it a lot of different ways and coming to the conclusion of what is fare can be dangerous. What is fare is almost always that we deserve judgement and not praise.
It is very interesting that in this parable the workers are calling into question the foreman’s goodness. Which is the very thing that paid them a good wage.
How do we find ourselves in the situation of envy, offense and entitlement? It is when we forget our place, and our Father’s goodness that we can slip into yet another dangerous trap of comparison and entitlement or more specific the trap of pride.
So back to the farm that we talked about yesterday and the warning of comparison that we must heed. The owner sees a great harvest and needs to bring it in. He gathers together his workers through his foreman (Jesus Christ). The foreman shows how generous the owner is by inviting in EVERYONE to be a part of the work. A point to remember in the parable is that he went to a public place and invited… ANYONE who wanted to work, not specialists, in fact I don’t remember him saying that there were any qualification to work for him.
In order to serve with humility we need to understand that God accepted us through grace and not our own merit. He will accept others that same way he accepted us, because of HIS goodness. It is His goodness that compels us to serve him with diligence. The worker who forgets this will become prideful but the one that remembers, “I don’t even deserve to be in this family, it is all because of Christ and the Goodness of our God” will find the humility to welcome others into the family.
At this point welcoming in others to become a part of the team becomes a lot easier. We must not fall into the trap that it is all about “us” (singular) but that the “us” (plural) can only come together if we focus on the good and perfect plans of our foreman. The plans for us to work together as one team. Pride is always a perspective problem.
When we work with others do we struggle to see them as God does? Do our thoughts often drift to the correction or criticism of others and the fare or un-fare things we see, or do we focus on our great and generous God?
Day Three. Digging Deeper
So the workers gathered again and in the middle of the field was a large sycamine tree. The owner said to his workers, “This tree must be removed, I cannot allow the work to continue while this tree remains. It is in the way not only on the surface but its roots are destructive.”
Some of the workers were sad for they had grown to know this tree as a place where they would rest and dwell on things.
Luke 17:1-6 (KJV)
Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!
2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
This verse is about offense and how we are to deal with it. It is interesting that toward the end of the verse we see the famous mustard seed verse but how often it is taken out of context with the above verses. The mustard seed is always the highlight of the sermons and studies but what of this sycamine tree?
The sycamine tree in bible times was a tree that could grow thirty feet or more in the air even in drought conditions because it root system was so deep. Even when you tried to cut it down the roots continued to draw strength from the deep wells and the tree could resurrect itself. This tree’s wood was used for coffins and it was known for its terribly bitter and un-edible fruit.
So back to the parable, Jesus is talking about offense and how to forgive, the disciples are finding it hard to have the faith to be able to forgive a repeated offense and here we see our Lord then use the mustard seed faith passage but in relationship to a tree known for its resilience and cruelty. He says that if our faith is as small as the grain of a mustard seed, (which this tree is known for its small seed but massive size in power) that we can overcome the power of offense.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Knowing this verse it becomes imperative that we take the growing roots of bitterness and offense very seriously. If you think you are free from offense and unforgiveness take a quick check for anything that causes you annoyance. Annoyance is the fruit of a seed called unforgiveness. If you find yourself being annoyed then unforgiveness is hiding in your heart.
The sycamine tree is what Christ uses as his analogy for bitterness, offense and unforgiveness, how fitting for a tree that even once it is chopped down it can grow back, how fitting that the tree has bitter fruit, how fitting for a tree that even unattended will live and grow, how fitting for a tree that is used to house death as a coffin in the ground.
God is warning us in this parable that we must take affirmative action and continue to forgive as many times as needed and that we have a seed inside of us that although small like a mustard seed is more powerful and can uproot and throw our offense into the sea.
Yesterday we talked about perspective and how Jesus was using the parables to shift our perspective from a world view to a God view. This parable is in line with what we learned yesterday about pride. To forgive means to be able to take a humble posture.
Luke 7:36-50New King James Version (NKJV)
A Sinful Woman Forgiven
36 Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”
40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
So he said, “Teacher, say it.”
41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”
And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
Two things of note that I see right away are the words of Jesus not only humbling the Pharisee but then accepting and forgiving the woman. Note the words at the very end of the story, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
The faith that Jesus is talking about in the parable of the mustard seed is this same faith that he is speaking of that has saved this woman. And then the words “Go in peace.”
When we think of faith are we seeing it in this perspective? Are we thinking of it in the perspective of God’s great mercy and forgiveness that He has poured out over us. When he says to the man who knows all the laws and keeps all the commands that this sinful woman has done more for Jesus than the Pharisee are we remembering that because we have been forgiven much we can LOVE much?
Oh what a great burden was lifted off of us as Christ forgave us of our sins and so it is not hard to understand that if we cannot see forgiveness the way that God above treasures it then we cannot receive it either.
Are we willing to use our faith for the purpose it was designed and to forgive others as many times as we are offended? Or when our master comes into the field and says that we must remove this tree of unforgiveness will we be sad that we cannot rely on its shade for our own comfort?
We can only have one tree in our lives, the tree of life or the tree of knowledge. Eve made a choice in the garden to eat from a bitter fruit, to question God’s goodness to be led astray by pride. Now we must choose to kill this tree if we want the tree of life once again, if we want forgiveness, if we want Jesus. One tree, which will it be? Our rights and wrongs, our fare and un-fare is fruit from the tree of knowledge. But to forgive is to choose the mustard seed faith, the tree of life, the tree planted by streams of living water.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
When bound by something very strong, something that has held you for a long time, freeing yourself is only part of the problem, it is what comes next that is difficult.
I have identified that I am often held captive by three very persistent strongholds.
I am learning that according to the great and glorious gifting that God has blessed each of us with, there is always a counter force of that blessing, a curse if you will. And the Devil lays traps accordingly. He doesn’t just lay a random trap hoping to catch something in it, he is a hunter and he knows us, our weakness and our strength. He knows what bait to put out, but when he fell he took a legion of demons with him. The devil is like a lion according to the bible where it says to watch out for him… A lion Villon that I was always very curious about is Scar from the lion king. Notice that he plays the part of a friend, he has plans to dethrone the prince but then when it comes to taking the prince out he knows that he can’t really kill him himself so he uses manipulation, lies and then uses his henchmen the hyenas.
For a while I have known two of my hyenas very well and after a while of them persistently showing up, you just kind of get used to them, but this morning I realized that my entire mindset has become one of defeat because if every two seconds you are distracted by something you start to wear down. I also discovered there is a hyena that has been lurking in the dark unnoticed and waiting for an opportunity for my weakness to finally get me tired enough that I become too injured and weak to fight back.
A couple things that I might mention is that we have everything we need in our relationship with Christ to be strong, to be brave, bold, fierce and to keep ourselves nourished by the streams of living water. He has given us our daily bread and our living water, but if we get lazy and think we do not need it we may be setting up the perfect ambush for those hyenas.
I will share with you three of my hyenas but encourage you to pray and ask God what your enemies look like. An easy place to start is with the ones you can see. Look for areas where you feel defeated the most often.
My first two are sisters:
The first hyena is so obese. She is hungry all the time, selfish, greedy, and just completely self indulgent. She is the craving that cannot be satisfied, she is hunger. She is one half of my struggle with food addiction. She is addiction. Sometimes I try to run away but just like Edmund in “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.” I find myself craving that Turkish Delight. I sell myself out and if I’m being honest my husband and my children will pay for my indulgence as much as I do because if I keep on ignoring that she is slowly killing me, eventually she might. She lies to me by flattery and coercion, by setting up a series of half- truths that I am just fine the way I am and that I should reward myself with food. She tells me what I deserve, she tells me what I need to hear to tickle my ear with her split tongue. Before I know it I am primed and ready for her sister to come and do her work on me.
Her Sister is the second half of my struggle cycle. She is skinny and you can see every bone every rib stuck to her skin, emaciated, she is the obvious opposite to her sister in that she is deprivation and self- punishment, she is starvation and shame, she is also good with half -truths but her lies prey on my faults rather than on my pride. She waits until I am sick with disappointment and then she attacks with her plans of stripping me of health by punishing me with few calories and painful exercise. When overworking me doesn’t work because I am too weak to go on, she temps me with short cuts, pills and plans. She also makes a deal with her sister for partial custody. I can spend the morning with her but the evening belongs to indulgence.
My demons wait for me to go crazy from the battle, a battle that could be avoided entirely if I could only rest and live in the protection my king has offered me. You see sticking with the Lion King analogy, the hyena doesn’t live in the pride lands, they are scavengers that trespass but live on the outskirts waiting for weakness to come to them. They are waiting for the prince to be alone. The enemy lives in darkness and Simba went where his King had said was off limits. In real life, predatory animals look for either a weak animal or one that is isolated, keep this in mind when you hear the lies of the enemy pulling you away from the pack.
But let me tell you of a third enemy that waits for the first two to tear me apart or for me to get away long enough for it to have me all to itself.
The enemy sets up a series of traps for me and just as I think I am getting free from one trap I find myself in perfect condition for the bait of another. I am weak from the struggle, I am hungry, I am feeling many things but one of those things that primes me for my next trap is that I am tired of serving those two masters of suffering. So I seek freedom and end up making a deal with pride. It’s the voice that says I can do it, I can beat it, I am a goddess and I will rise up. Problem is… I can’t do any of those things in my state and I can’t do it on my own.
I try to be my own master but as soon as I grow tired of carrying the world on my shoulders I tell myself that I was better off with gluttony, at least drowning my sorrows tasted good. And the cycle begins again.
We will always need a master, the question is “who is it?” The word then becomes… Surrendered. Who are we surrendered to. Christ gives us several verses, to the woman at the well He tells her that she can have water that will quench her thirst forever. To the disciples he says He is the bread of life. To the followers of the law He says I am the rest you are looking for. He promises His yoke is light and He promises He is a shelter, a strong tower, a rock… What are we doing? Why can’t we see that our problems are really just a misplaced moment of surrender, we can be surrendered to Christ, Slaves of Christ (the one who died for us, or slaves to masters that kill us with every cruel moment of our surrender to them! We can have a perfect master who loves and takes care of us and that is an amazing thing, Lordship begins the moment we surrender our ways to His, so when we find ourselves in the dark we must reach out to God and ask him to bring us into the light.
By the way the hyenas will come and they remember how weak we once were but they will be devoured by our king because we serve in His pride, we are a part of His flock!!!! Isn’t that amazing news?
So today when I struggle to find my way, I realize it isn’t my way I need at all… It is His way! Lead me oh Lord onto the paths of righteousness for your glory and your names sake. So when people ask me, “how did you do it?” I will say the question is: “How does God do it? How does He love us so much that He sets our feet on solid ground?”