Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Me, Myself, and I

I have been struggling since I got back from Oklahoma. "I am tired. I hurt my back. My stomach hurts. I don't want to get out of bed. I am depressed. I am sick of this stormy weather". You get the picture. I am focusing too much on myself.

As long as I can remember I have been self-absorbed. I think it happens when you go through abuse or some trauma. I know, in my case, I have struggled with depression and negative thinking. It takes so much time and mental energy every day to battle these demons so that I can function that it keeps my mind on myself.

I hate being that way. I don't want to be self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-conscious. Self, Self, Self. I know it's not about me. It's all about Jesus. But I need God's help to overcome my self.

My "I" thoughts need to be about Jesus and not about me: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me", John 14:6. "I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved", John 10:9. "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep", John 10:11. "I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing", John 15:5. You get the picture. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

To Come Home

I've been in Oklahoma for a week visiting and having fun with my daughter and two little granddaughters; and dodging tornados that, thankfully, missed where they lived. We spent some time one night in the hallway under pillows and mattresses, determined to cover the girls and save them, no matter the cost to us personally. Kind of like what Jesus did for us on the cross.

I've come home exhausted, my back hurting, and totally brain dead. It's like "a blog??? What's that???" Can anyone identify? All I can think to post is this prayer by Richard Foster from his book "Prayer", that so aptly decribes what I need now (and all the time).

"God aches over our distance and preoccupation. He mourns that we do not draw near to Him. He weeps over our obsession with muchness and manyness. He longs for our presence. And He is inviting you-and me-to come home to that for which we were created. His arms are stretched wide to receive us. For too long we have been in a far country-of noise and hurry, of push and shove, of frustration and fear. And He welcomes us home-to peace and joy, friendship and openness, intimacy and acceptance. We do not need to be shy. He invites us into the living room of His heart, where we can put on old slippers and share freely. He invites us into the kitchen of His friendship, the dining room of His strength, the study of His wisdom, and the workshop of His creativity. He invites us into the bedroom of His rest, new peace is found, a place of deepest intimacy, where we know and are known."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Baby Birds

Every spring a mother bird builds a nest in one of the hanging plants on my balcony. I wish she wouldn't do that. For one thing, it makes it hard to water the plant without soaking the baby birds. For another thing, I wrongly assume that their life and well being are my responsibilty. I check on them every day, worried that something will happen to them before they fly off.

It has been that way my whole adult life, assuming responsibilty for other people's well being and happiness. That flawed thinking comes from a long standing desire of mine to control everything; and desire to control comes from a lack of trust.

After being sexually abused as a small child, I grew up not trusting anybody or anything. That carried over into my relationship with God. I didn't even trust God to take care of me or people I love. Instead, I developed an obsessive desire to control everything myself so that nothing could go wrong. It's exhausting to live like that.

Celebrate Recovery calls it codependency. "Codependency can be defined as an addiction to people, behaviors or things. Codependency is the fallacy of trying to control interior feelings by controlling people, things, and events on the outside."

One of the best statements I've ever heard was an AA slogan years ago: "Let go and let God". There's a world of wisdom in that statement. It's Biblical, too. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take", Proverbs 3:5-6. NLT

I'm going tomorrow to see my little granddaughters. The oldest one is graduating from kindergarten and has a dance recital. What God is teaching me is that He can be trusted. He can even be trusted with taking care of the most precious things in my life-these two little granddaughters. "Those who know Your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You", Psalm 9:10. NIV

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Being, Not Doing

This being and not doing concept has been so difficult for me to grasp. I know my thinking is flawed. The Bible clearly spells it out; from the Old Testament "Be still and know that I am God", Psalm 46:10, NLT,
to the New Testament "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast", Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV.

This subject is timely to me right now for two reasons. First, I have tendinitis in my right hand and I have to rest it as much as possible. This means I can't paint, do writing and exercise like I want to, and various other things. I'm not good at just being. I've spent a lifetime trying to do enough to be accepted by God.

The second reason, I see an illustration of this concept every time I look out my front window this spring. We have the most beautiful climbing rosebush on our fence. We planted it years ago and have done nothing to it since. Every May it bursts forth for a few weeks in an array of glory and splendor unlike anything else in our neighborhood. "Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are", Matthew 6:28-29, NLT.

Joseph Prince, in his book "Destined to Reign", says that we are driven to "do, do, do", forgetting that Christianity is actually "done, done, done" because of Jesus' finished work on the cross.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Just Say "No"

When I was sexually abused as a small child, I lost my ability to say "no". I was already damaged goods so what difference did it make? I went through a lot of years doing things I wish I hadn't because I didn't know how to say "no". I didn't value myself enough to say "no" to things that were harmful for me.

As God is healing me, He is teaching me to say "no". "No, that's not true" when Satan whispers his lies in my ear. "No, that's not good for my body" when I'm tempted to indulge in things that make me sick. "No, I've got too much going on right now" when asked to do something-even good things-that would overextend me (which makes me crazy).

I am learning to say "No, I am forgiven according to God's grace"; "No, I am declared innocent because of Jesus' shed blood on the cross"; "No, my sins past, present and future are wiped clean"; "No, I am a beloved child of God because of my faith in Jesus", when I start to listen to those old voices that tell me that I'm not good enough to be loved by God, and that I have to do more.

Eugene Peterson, in his devotional book, "God's Message for Each Day", says "Our capacity to say "no" is one of the most impressive features of our language. Only humans can say "no", animals can't. The judicious, well-placed "no" frees us from many a blind alley, many a rough detour, frees us from debilitating distractions and seductive sacrilege. The art of saying "no" sets us free to follow Jesus."

Just say "No". "Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good", Romans 12:9, The Message  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Unbidden Darkness

comes unbidden
stays too long
collapses on me
like a black cloud
on a stormy day
like a net
that catches me
and won't let go.
Where are you, Lord,
when the darkness comes?
I'm waiting
in your Word.
Your light creeps under
gets brighter and brighter
washes my life.
In time
the blackness vanishes
and I'm left
with Your light
shining Your grace
shimmering Your love
sparkling Your joy.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Opening My Eyes to Grace

I've been studying Isaiah in Bible Study Felllowship this year. Yesterday was our last class. It was Sharing Day.It is a time to give women the opportunity to share what God has been doing for them through this study.  I shared about how God has been opening my eyes to His grace.
When I read Isaiah 53 again this year, the enormity of what Jesus did for me on the cross washed over me in a whole new way. "But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquity, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed".

I've known that. I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was 9 years old. But I haven't lived as if I was forgiven. I haven't lived as if I was innocent. I haven't felt innocent since I was 5 years old, before the boys next door sexually abused me.

God is showing me more about His grace this year. Because of Jesus' blood shed on the cross for my sins, I am not just forgiven, but I am declared innocent. Isaiah 54:4 says "You will no longer remember the shame of your youth". God doesn't remember it and I don't have to remember it.

I've lived my life trying to be good enough for God to love, but always failing. I've let the thorns of shame, guilt, condemnation and fear define my life. Isaiah 55:13 says "Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow".

It's all about Jesus and God's free gift of grace. He's helping me to understand that regardless of my past "I can be a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor", Isaiah 61:3.

God is showing me, from Isaiah 62:4, that I no longer have to be called Forsaken and Desolate, but I can be called God's Delight and the Bride of God-the innocent Bride of God.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What's in a Name?

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet..." William Shakespeare

I've been called a lot of names in my lifetime, mostly calling myself names, none of them good. Names like "Bad", "Stupid", "Worthless", "Idiot", "Damaged". You get the picture.

The other day I ran across Isaiah 62:2-4 and God spoke to me through these verses. They say "And you will be given a new name by the Lord's own mouth. The Lord will hold you in His hand for all to see-a splendid crown in the hand of God. Never again will you be called "The Forsaken City" or "The Desolate Land." Your new name will be "The City of God's Delight" and "The Bride of God".

Imagine! Jesus (Son of God, Word, Lamb of God, Savior, Author of Life, Alpha and Omega, King of Kings, Bright Morning Star, Immanuel, Prince of Peace, Mighty God-you get the picture) loved me enough to die on the cross for my sins and God has
given me a new name. The new name He has given me shows that
He delights in me and that He sees me as His innnocent bride. Imagine!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Thorns, Trees and Plantings

We've had a tremendous amount of rain, flooding even, where I live, during the months of March and April. Just the last 5 days it has finally gotten dry and the sun has come out. My husband and I have spent the last few days planting flowers in our yard and around our patio, mostly red geraniums. The way I see it, you can never have too many red geraniums. They are summer to me.
I think of myself sometimes as a flower. Mostly I think of myself as a wilted, droopy flower, barely hanging on, which is, in fact, how I've lived most of my life. I've been desperate for the "Son-shine" and Living Water of Jesus.

John Eldridge has said "The glory of God is a man fully alive". But I haven't lived my life fully alive. I have let the thorns of shame and self-condemnation strangle my roots until I'm all but dead. I'm determined not to live that way any longer. "Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow", Isaiah 55:13. NLT. This
spring, God has opened up the eyes of my heart to see that Jesus is the answer. He has been there all along, My Master Gardener.

When Jesus died on the cross for my sins and forever made me clean, I became a planting in His garden. Because of Him, I am as fresh, dewey, and pure as the most exquisite rose and that is how He sees me. He lovingly tends me with the best of care. He waters me when I need it, He prunes me when I need it, and He pulls out the weeds when I need it. He has made me "a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor", Isaiah 61:3. NIV

Saturday, May 7, 2011

To Honor My Mother

My beautiful, loving, giving, and gifted mother, Rosemary Irene Smith, passed away August 18, 2010, after suffering a massive stroke. My dad passed away a month later, September 21, 2010. After being married for 66 years in their earthly life, I know they are walking hand in hand in heaven, together forever. I miss my mother terribly. I loved her so much.
The legacy my parents left to our family was a beautiful love story lasting over a century. They loved each other just as much in their elderly years as when they were young. They were never far apart. Here's a poem mother wrote:

Gratitude by Rosemary Irene Smith

Throughout the years so many things
Have helped make life worthwhile
The handclasp of a precious friend
A mother's tender smile.

Softened beauty of the skies
Dim twilight by the sea
Winds whispering through the stately pines
Bring happiness to me.

Bright dewdrops on a fragrant rose
Soft patter of the rain
The great Physician's healing touch
When on a bed of pain.

Sweet childish voices filled with glee
While at their work or play
Courageous youth whose noble dreams
Inspire us on life's way.

Sufficient strength for daily tasks
The knowledge of His love
Great challenge of a needy world
Firm faith in God above.

Rich fellowship of human hearts
Blest sacred worship hour
The thrill of seeing lives transformed
By Christ's redeeming power.

For these and countless other gifts
In constant debt we are
Lord, somehow may we find the way
To live more thankfully.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

No Longer a Slave

In my class on "Resurrected Life" last night, Alan Platt told a story about Johnny and Sally and a goose.

It seems that Johnny is given a bb gun for his birthday. He is outside messing around with it and accidently shoots his grandma's favorite goose in the head. The goose falls over dead. Johnny is appalled at what he has done and afraid of how upset his grandma will be. He decides to bury the goose so there will be no evidence. He digs a hole, buries it, and covers it with grass and twigs. As he is walking into the house his sister Sally says, "I saw what you did".

Before dinner his grandma asks Sally to sweep out the kitchen. Sally looks at Johnny and says "Johnny will do it. Won't you, Johnny?" Johnny says he will and proceeds to sweep out the kitchen. After dinner, Grandma tells Sally it's her turn to wash the dishes. Sally says "Johnny will do it. Won't you, Johnny?" So Johnny does it, too fearful of getting caught to stand up to Sally.

All night long, Johnny is bothered  by this and doesn't sleep well. It still bothers him the next day. So Johnny decides to come clean and confess to his grandma what he has done.

Johnny goes to his grandma and tells her the truth. Grandma says, I already knew you did that". Johnny says, "Why didn't you tell me you knew?" Grandma says, "I wanted to see how long you would let Sally keep you as her slave".

I feel like this is what Jesus is saying to me. "How long will you let Satan keep you as his slave?" I have been listening to Satan's lies all my life. I have believed it when Satan has told me I am guilty and bad and undeserving of God's goodness.

By God's grace, I am no longer going to be enslaved by Satan's lies. I am going to believe that I am declared innocent because of Jesus' shed blood on the cross. I am going to believe I have been delivered of guilt and shame and condemnation because of Jesus' love.

God's Word tells me that this is the truth. "Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, "You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free", John 8:31-32. NLT; "So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free", John 8:36, NLT; "So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don't get tied up again in slavery to the law", Galations 5:1. NLT

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Good News

In my class on "Resurrected Life" Alan Platt said, "Good news is only good news if it includes you and if it's good news. For example, if a football team wins, it's not good news to me if it's not a team I follow; and if my team loses then it's not good news; but if my team wins then it's good news to me. "Yeah! We won!", I say because I feel included in the victory.

Thankfully, the good news of Jesus Christ is good news to me because it is good news and because I'm included in it. I've been thinking about good news I am a part of:

The best good news is that because Jesus died on the cross for my sins, I am forgiven of all my sins. "For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes-the Jew first and also the Gentile", Romans 1:16. NLT

The good news is that because of Jesus I am no longer under condemnation. "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus", Romans 8:1. NLT

The good news is that I am dead, buried, and risen with Christ, and now I can reign with Him in life. "For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus", Ephesians 2:6. NLT

The good news is that God overlooks my sinful past and transforms me with new life. "He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit", Titus 3:5. NLT

The good news for our United States of America is that Osama Bin Laden has finally been killed.

The good news is that it is May 3 and good weather is on the way. The thunderstorms, tornados, and flooding that have plagued my state will soon be gone.

The good news is that because of God's love and grace and miracle working power, my chiildren and grandchildren are thriving (see image of my beautiful grandchildren).

Praise God, there is lots of good news indeed!!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Technical Knock Out

I've been beating myself up for as long as I can remember. I'm sure my soul is totally bruised and black and blue by now from all the self inflicted punishment. I don't think I'm ever good enough, have done enough, made the right decisions, or done the right things. I listen to Satan's accusations instead of God's truth. And I'm so very, very tired of it.

My husband told me that in a boxing match, when one opponent gets beat to the floor or into a corner and can't fight anymore, the referee jumps in and declares a TKO or technical knockout. When the referee does this, the fight is over. One man is declared the victor and the other is saved from being pounded into a pulp.

I'm at that point.  Jesus is teaching me about grace. He's teaching me to give up the striving and self effort. He's teaching me that I don't need to be good enough or do enough. He's teaching me to lay it all down and surrender to Him. He is making me victorious over Satan's lies and calling a technical knockout on beating myself up.

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still", Exodus 14:14. NIV

"With God we will gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies", Psalm 108:13. NIV

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast", Ephesians 2:8-9. NIV