Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Downward Spiral of Self

When I think back over the past six years that Jesus and I have been really close, it's easy to figure out the pattern that comes with the so-called "ups and downs" in our relationship. I say "so-called" because I know without a doubt that they are actually just caused by my lack of drawing near to my Father, since James 4:8 says that He will draw near to me if I draw near to Him. Honestly, I think that the only thing getting in the way is self.

Self-anything, really. Self-doubt. Self-depreciation. Selfishness. Being self-absorbed. Self-glorification. I know I've struggled with them all at times. Once I allow myself to focus on myself, it's a quick downward spiral into getting so stuck inside my own head that I forget there's a dying, hurting, broken world out there that needs Jesus and I'm supposed to be sharing Him with everyone around me.

Even if, and especially if, we've been hurt or we're broken or we're sick or tired, it seems to me that the very best thing we can do is get out of our own heads and start to focus far more on Jesus- His power, His perfection, His goodness, His love- and far less on us. The result can't help but be magnificent!

The disciples learned the secret of literally rejoicing in suffering simply because they understood that their lives were but a grain of wheat in comparison with the glorious reality of Jesus Christ and His work on the cross.

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." John 12:24

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fabricated Femininity

We all know that the women on magazine covers are fake. We've all seen the video about how much photo editing it takes to make a person look "flawless." (If you haven't it's definitely worth seeing: But the thought I was having as I drove between jobs today was this: how many of us are still buying into the lie that those magazine models are the personification of beauty?

Think about it: so many of us are still purchasing spray tans, concealers, inch-thick push-up bras, wrinkle creams, etc., etc., etc. You can even buy undergarments like "Spanx" to pretend that you're skinnier than you are, even though the potential dangers of wearing them are strikingly similar to those of the 19th century corset. And all of it goes toward putting on a show that disguises who we really are and turns us into these characters who we hope will be considered as beautiful as those digitally-altered models in the check-out aisle. And what's all of it for? Don't we just feel like objects when we're ogled at the grocery store or approached by creepy strangers at the gas station?

Some of the most beautiful women I know aren't young. They're not pretty. They don't have flawless skin or perfectly toned bodies. They don't have anything going for them when it comes to our culture's definition of beauty, but they love. They nurture. They smile and laugh with the joy of heaven. They've proven to me that Jesus' definition of beauty is very different from ours.

There's nothing wrong with being pretty, but I don't think being pretty has anything to do with God's description of a woman who is valuable in His eyes.

We've heard it before, but may we begin to live in light of His truth:"Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30

Monday, June 24, 2013

Backstabbers Anonymous Come Clean

I would say that I'm sorry for not writing on this blog for five months, but that would be a lie. These five months have taken me through a refining fire that I've never experienced before. Sometimes, I'm finding out, we go through seasons where we're not really fit to share our feelings with just anybody because all that's going to come out is a bunch of confusing, vague symbolism, mostly because sharing the truth might offend somebody or other or make things worse than they already are.

Now, vagueness aside, Jesus has taught me more in the last five months than I'm pretty sure I've ever learned in five consecutive months of my life. And I'm starting to come into a new season, just as Michigan is- the season where all of the cold and wind and rain has not only finally brought forth flowers and leaves on the trees, but where the fruit is beginning burst forth, too.

Onto business.

Jesus has been teaching me a hard lesson, so I thought I'd share it with anyone who might happen upon this blog in case He's been teaching you that lesson, too.

We're going to start with our very own character. I'm going to name her Prudence. Now, tell me you can't relate to this scenario:

Your best friend/cousin/mother/sister/whoever calls. You catch up for awhile, and then get to the phase in the conversation where there's nothing left to talk about but other people. Your friend/cousin/mother/sister/whoever plows right into this conversation phase with ease and agility.

"Have you heard about Prudence's new boyfriend? She met him on eHarmony," she chuckles a pity chuckle and continues. "Sounds like she's heading down to Chicago to meet him. With the kinds of guys she's dated, I wouldn't be surprised if he's a taxi driver or something."


Here is where I, if I were you, would normally have jumped right into the conversation with just as much ease and agility as your friend/cousin/mother/sister/whoever. But Jesus has been working on me. A lot.

Why is it that we think we know what decisions everyone else should make? It's so easy to pick apart other people's choices and think we know what would be better for their lives. Even though it's absolutely none of my business what Prudence decides to do with her life, I still feel that eHarmony was a poor choice and that she's throwing her love life down the drain because she's doing something that I wouldn't do.

Who cares what I think?!

Prudence didn't ask me. In fact, Prudence has no idea that I'm talking about her behind her back and would probably be very hurt if she found out that I laugh at her when she's not around and turn the delicate matters of her heart into a joke that I throw around when there's "nothing left to talk about."

What if people did that to me? "Have you heard that Lauren decided not to go to college? I'm pretty sure she's never been on a date, either. She's so weird sometimes. She probably has no social life with anybody besides the people in those nursing homes where she plays the piano!"

I'm a pretty tough cookie, but I still wouldn't appreciate people having those sorts of conversations about me. So why do I think it's okay to do that to everyone else? I'm almost positive that Jesus never did that.

I can see it now. After a long day of walking across some desert somewhere, the disciples hit the hay around their campfire and conk out fast. Only John and Jesus are still awake. Jesus, leaning back on some sycamore trunk, says, "You know, John, I've been thinking about Thomas lately. I'm pretty sure he's one of those doubters. Don't tell him I told you this, but sometimes I wonder if he was a good pick when I asked you guys to come follow me."

Yeah, right.

I can honestly say that I'm ashamed of the way I've treated so many of the people who I am called to simply love. I'm sorry for talking behind their backs, for thinking ill of their choices, for laughing at their life paths. I'm sorry for saying bad things about them just so I would feel better about myself, and I'm sorry for not seeing them as the precious children of God that they are. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for all backstabbing and criticizing to be over and done with. By the enabling grace of God, I know it's possible. If there's one thing I've learned about changing the way I think, it's that He's always willing if I'm willing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

He's Not Shocked

"You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar." Psalm 139:2

Do you, like me, ever have the thought, "I hope Jesus doesn't find out about this!" Or maybe, "Oh, no! God's not going to be happy about me doing this!"

A few years ago I heard a Misty Edwards song called "I Knew What I Was Getting Into." (You can listen to it here if you're interested.) I remember tears pouring down my face as I felt Jesus speaking through Misty directly to my heart.

You see, somewhere along the way I think that we forget about the omniscience of God. You know, the fact that He already knows? That when we slipped last week and did something that we regretted later, He wasn't shocked. In fact, He knew about it before it even happened, and it didn't change His desire for us.

Unlike us flippant humans, He actually doesn't change. Ever. He doesn't change His mind about us, even when we find ourselves caught in the most sinful, perverse situations. He's just waiting for us to respond to His open, waiting arms. His mercies are new every single morning, and they're never going to run out.

What a glorious God we serve!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Divine Grace

Lately, the Beloved of my soul has been far too great, too magnificent, too sweet, too beautiful, too awesome for an unworthy girl like me to contain into words in this little space. So I must humbly and simply say--


Will we ever fully realize how in desperate need we are of Him?

I am ashamed to admit, how often I credit His majesty for my work. But the truth of it is, I am absolutely nothing but His empty vessel, and He is everything.

"The greater the perfection you aspire to have, the more dependant you must become on divine grace." -Brother Lawrence

Divine Grace. My precious Savior has woven these sacred words upon my heart lately. May it all be for Thee, precious One!

Not in my power, but His. Divine Grace.
Not according to my schedule, but His faithful daily sunrise. His plan. Divine Grace.
Not to aimlessly wander after the earth, but to follow the Shepherd. Divine Grace.
Not my worthless pleasure, but to worship in matchless wonder, to wash His feet. Divine Grace.
Not myself, but His Holy Spirit. Divine Grace.
Not within me, but in Christ. Divine Grace.
Not my sin, but His blood. Divine Grace.

"I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me: and the life I now live in the body I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me." Galatians 2:20-21

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Where's the Hope?

This morning I came across a very convicting statement in 1 Peter 3:15-

"...always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you."

As I read over the words, I started wondering if that statement even has a place in my life right now. Do others ever see the hope that is in me? Is it even there?

It's a difficult time of year. We're losing daylight, losing our beloved warm weather, getting ready to vote for the next president, stashing away money for Christmas, starting to get bored with the day-to-day routine that began when school started last month, etc., etc., etc. But, no matter what is going on, as Christians it's a part of our job description to always have hope. And it's not just a "when we go to glory someday" kind of hope, it's a now kind of hope. It's a noticeable, out-of-the-ordinary, annoying, incorrigible hope that doesn't fade and goes beyond all reason.

Last night I caught a bit of a radio program where an author was talking about Jesus saving the prostitute by saying, "Whoever is without sin, let him cast the first stone," in John 8. The author was  explaining that, though we may haughtily think otherwise, most Christians today would fit right in with the pharisees, shouting, "Stone her!" heartily as we stick to our religious rituals and think we're better than those caught in sinful lifestyles. Are we really loving people as Jesus did, or are we just expressing our opinions by self-righteously judging those around us and ignoring the planks in our eyes? It sort of tied a knot in the pit of my stomach as I heard what he said and thought about just how wrong I am so much of the time.

More than anything, I desire to stand out in a crowd. Not because of me, but because of Him. And it's not so they see me, but because I want them to see Jesus in all of His splendor. May His hope, His love, and the fullness of who He is resound through the lifestyles that we live. He didn't make us to handle situations the way the rest of the world does by complaining and worrying and meditating on "What if?"s all day long. And yet, how often is that exactly what we're doing?

We may have a long way to go, but that's no reason to wait another minute to grow up and have some hope.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In Awe of His Glory

Sometimes I think that one of the most beautiful things God can do for us is give us something that we can't take any credit for.

Nearly two and a half years ago, I sat at our kitchen counter and painted a picture of a bird.

This really doesn't sound very magnificent, except for the fact that I'm not a painter. I'm really not. I know absolutely nothing about painting. Before that day, everything that I had ever tried to paint somehow ended up becoming a large, multicolored blob that immediately ended up folded up in the trash so that no one would ever see it.

Well, that day I couldn't help myself. I had this strange desire to paint, and, for some reason, it actually worked. I remember sitting there and hearing Jesus speak the word "feathering" to my heart, not realizing until later that this was actually a legitimate painting technique that I was using at that very moment.

Then, one summer day, I sat outside and tried to paint a tree. It looked awful, and I had just given up when I heard Jesus whisper the word "refraction." For all I knew, refraction had to do with bending light and nothing to do with painting....until I looked up "refraction in landscape painting" and discovered that this, too, was a legitimate technique, and not using it was actually what was causing all of the problems with my pitiful tree.

Needless to say, Jesus had my attention.

So, what might Jesus be wanting to do in your life today? Answer an impossible prayer? Provide an impossible amount? Or simply reveal Himself in a way that He never has before? May He be glorified in all that we do, and when we come to the end of our days may we be able to truly echo the words of Jesus in John 17:4-

"I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave me to do."