Monday, December 15, 2014

The Face in the Mirror

Do you like who you see in the mirror? Sadly, I can honestly say that I used to hate the person who stared back at me from that reflection. I am fifty-five years old, and up until a few days ago, I didn't have much positive to say about the person I saw in my mirror every morning. I can trace the origin of my insecurity as far back as elementary school ... that feeling of not being sure of myself and how I fit into the world. 

I became a master of deception. There aren't many who knew how I truly felt about myself. I allowed a few precious people to slip past the cracks in my facade, but all except the most perceptive probably had no idea how I really felt about me. For years, I was even able to convince myself that I was just fine. I mean, it's just natural to struggle with self-esteem, right?  

I can still recall in vivid detail the first time serious rejection rocked my world. I was stunned, blind-sided, never saw it coming. That person was a safe place ... or at least that person had been a safe place, my protector, my champion. The hateful words that shattered my naivete' rattled around in my mind for years; they still attempt to rise from the ashes of my past at times.  

I felt impenetrable walls instantly rise around my heart. NO ONE will ever hurt me that way again. No way! The only person I can safely trust in this world is me. Self-protection. That too is only natural. And for years that's how I lived my life. 

The downside is that even I (the one who would have the most vested interest in doing a good job) did a lousy job of protecting myself. Countless poor choices, one after the other, chipping away at my sense of security, my sense of identity, my sense of self. Each time I deemed it safe to let down the walls a bit, safe to let this one or that one have access to my heart, I would again be disappointed by the reality of human nature. Another hole in my heart. And a bigger one in my head!

Eventually this truth prevailed: the only way to avoid rejection is to reject them before they can reject me. Oh, I might not actually reject them outright, but I lived armed and dangerous. Always on the defensive. At the first hint of negativity, my weapons were at the ready. I had a quiver full of various arrows: criticism, judgment, self-righteousness, resentment, sarcasm, the cold shoulder, the silent treatment, bitterness, unforgiveness ... just to name a few. 

You can't hurt me if I hurt you first, right? 

Wow! How in the world did I have any friends at all? you might be wondering. 

That's the saddest part. 

Every single one of these methods of self-protection can be employed by Christians and non-Christians alike. They are equal-opportunity solutions. They can be delivered in mean and hateful ways, OR they can be hammered home in sweetness. 

If you are feeling self-righteous (aka: self-deceptive, and sanctimonious) it might sound like this: "Oh, I just hate to feel this way. We really need to pray for so-and-so. Do you know what they did to me?" 

If you are just sincerely struggling, it can go like so: "Please pray for me. I am having a terrible struggle. I need to come to a place of forgiveness for..."

Sometimes the intent is to harm. Sometimes the motive is pure: Please, God, I just want to stop the pain and keep from being harmed anymore. 

No matter why or how, we should be clear on this fact: Harboring these kinds of thoughts and feelings is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die. (I have no idea who should get credit for this quote, but it fits too perfectly not to use it here. I Googled to find out who originally said it, and this is what I found: click here.) 

The honest truth of the matter is this: If we insist on protecting ourselves, if we wall off our hearts to avoid being hurt, if we reject others before they can reject us, eventually we will reject ourselves. We will grow to hate the person we see in the mirror every morning. And that's no way to live. 

How do I know? I lived it. 

You see, I gave my heart and my life to Jesus Christ when I was twenty-five years old. He has been my Savior since the day I prayed and asked Him; my eternity in heaven has been secure. I am saved, but I haven't been truly free. 

I haven't trusted God to protect my heart. I've remained staunchly in control of my life and who could or couldn't get close enough to cause me hurt. That's not to say there has never been pain. As I said above, I haven't always done such a good job of protecting myself.

Jesus has been my Savior, but He was Lord only in select areas. For the thirty years I've walked with Him, I really saw little problem with that. But I had a lot of questions. Why does this or that keep happening to me, Lord? Why can't I find the victory?

And as the years have passed, the Holy Spirit has faithfully helped me, little by little, to pry my fingers off the steering wheel of my life, and He plucked the last one away a couple days ago. 

Over the past ten weeks, I've been part of a Bible study called Freedom, and it culminated in a retreat this past weekend. At that retreat, so many things happened. One of the most significant for me was a newfound freedom; and that freedom came through surrender. I will no longer insist on protecting myself; I will trust God to protect me. I will no longer insist on staying in control; I will yield myself to the Holy Spirit and let Him lead me.

If you have seen yourself in anything I shared above, you might want to pray a prayer similar to the one I was led to pray:

Dear Father, 

I confess that I have not allowed You to be Lord of my life. I have tried to control people and things. Please forgive me. I have allowed a spirit of rejection to permeate my relationships with others, and I have even rejected myself. Forgive me. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am created in Your image. If I reject me, I reject You. I will no longer give that spirit of rejection access to my mind or my heart. I tell you, rejection, that you must go; you no longer have any legal right in my life. Fill me, Holy Spirit, with Your love, with Your life, with Your truth. Use me to carry that love and truth to others. 


Saturday, December 6, 2014

I was Running Low on Ammo when I got to Church ...


Confession is good for the soul, right?

So I confess that I knew that title would grab your attention!

And, yes. Yes! Confession is good for the soul. It forces us to live honestly. It forces us to live on purpose. It forces us to live our lives like we really mean it. 

Please don't ever let anyone tell you that God doesn't have a sense of humor. I wrote my last post (Should We Stockpile Ammo?) a couple weeks before it actually made its debut; how was I to know that when I re-read it, God would use my very own words to bring conviction to my heart? 

Not funny, God! 

Actually, it did make me laugh. Caught red-handed. 

Let's see ... now where was I? 

Oh, that's right. 

I was running low on ammo when I got to church [click here to read the post :) ], and instead of paying attention to Pastor's message, I was forming a plan of attack on the clutter that is currently holding my home hostage. 

  • We are going to clean out that room, deal with the boxes of "stuff" that reside there, reclaim our living space. 
  • We are going to clean out our closets.
  • We are going to clean the kitchen cupboards out. 

The din of my racing thoughts was deafening. 

But eventually the Spirit of God began to penetrate the clamor, and my spirit responded to His ministrations. Maybe it was the worship music. Maybe it was the Spirit calming the savage beast of perfection that raged within. Maybe it was just my Father in His great mercy, reaching out His hand to steady me.  

Let's see. What had I written in that earlier post? 

The more of His word that we have hidden in our arsenal ... in our hearts ... the more weapons we have available to us to address whatever assault the enemy has cooked up to turn our life upside down. 

Just whose words had I been listening to that morning? 

You are a failure. 
You are inadequate. 
You mess up everything. 

Oh, yes ... those would be the words of the enemy. The words of a liar bent on stealing my peace, bent on destroying my true identity as a daughter of the King, and determined to kill my joy. 

Whenever I am unsettled, I have noticed an unhealthy pattern. Instead of sitting with God and asking Him what He wants me to learn in the midst of my unrest, I want to DO SOMETHING! By getting busy "doing," it seems I feel convinced that I have worth, promise, and potential. So my natural tendency is to get Bound Under Satan's Yoke, performing to prove something, rather than recalling the truth of God's word that tells me who I am in Him. If I would simply speak that truth to myself, it would expose the lie and bring instant peace. 

In the spirit of confession, Thanksgiving Day was a two-week celebration in our family this year. Nothing at all wrong with that; we ought to be giving thanks every day, right? No, the confession is in the reality that when we are caught up in having company and pulled from our usual routine, I often don't make the time I need to for God in my life. 

Right about here is where there needs to be a warning label. (The genius of this photo will be lost on those too young to remember the television show Lost in Space, but I couldn't resist.)

In busy times like these, I acknowledge Him, but I'm not sitting in His presence the way I need to be in order to stockpile ammo, to keep myself steeped in His words of life. I find that I'm often trying to live on yesterday's manna

Living on yesterday's manna is never a good thing. People are like tires with a nail in them; or like helium balloons several days past their prime. The truth of the matter is that we leak. We can take great care to keep ourselves filled with the Holy Spirit, but this is a daily endeavor; if we don't refresh our supply, we will run low on ammo. 

As long as I'm confessing here, I might as well give you the full monty. In all long-term relationships, you know that there will be those days when things just don't seem "right" between you and your loved one. That particular Sunday, my sweet husband and I were dealing with a repetitive struggle, a certain concern that arises every so often between us, especially at times when I allow my spiritual tank to leak. Each time this particular issue surfaces, we share our hearts and our thoughts, but we still seem to come away without full resolution. Things improve each time we tread the pathways of this challenge, but the fact remains that we still have a ways to go. 

Instead of focusing on the positives, the fact that we get closer and closer to full resolution each time we reach this place in our relationship, that Sunday I was full of frustration and self-condemnation. I was irritated at him and at myself. I ended up in church, but I wasn't worshiping my Lord. No, I was steeped in bondage, at least until the Holy Spirit was able to shine some light into the darkness and remind me to use my ammo; to remind me to speak truth to the lie and be freed; to stop the enemy in his lying, cheating tracks.

Hubby and I sorted everything out as the day progressed, and as I prayed and reflected the next day, I told God how very blessed I am to be His daughter and Wayne's wife. In fact, I can say without doubt that my husband is the one of the best things that has ever happened to me. God gently whispered in my ear: 

Tell him, then. And live like you mean it. 

Stop living as if you have a choice; spiritual warfare is not an option in the Christian life. Put your fatigues on and get back in the war. 

By the way, take all your ammo. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Should We Stockpile Ammo?

The 2nd Amendment to the United States' Constitution grants American citizens the right to bear arms. There is much uproar in today's world about that inalienable right ... both in favor of it and in opposition to it. There have been many attempts by legislators to hinder the purchase of both arms and ammunition. 

So my question today is: Should we stockpile ammo?

Now that I have your attention, I have to tell you that I am indeed talking about offensive weapons in today's post, but the ones I want to discuss are weapons of a different kind. 

Ephesians 6:11-17 speaks about the armor we should wear as Christians in the war between good and evil. There's a belt, a breastplate, shoes, a shield, and a helmet -- all defensive weapons. There is only one offensive weapon provided Christians: the sword of the Spirit. 

That sword is defined as being the word of God. 

What does the Bible say about the Word? One of my favorite scriptures is this: 

In the beginning was the Word, 
and the Word was with God, 
and the Word was God.

The Word of God ... our Bibles ... these are living Words. It's like having God Himself speaking through us. These words are powerful. These words will defeat the enemy of our souls every time. Without fail. 

When we are facing tough times and we pray God's Word over situations and people, when we stand on His promises, it is like interjecting God Himself into the midst of our dilemma. We place Him like a covering over the things that concern us. 

The more of His word that we have hidden in our arsenal ... in our hearts ... the more weapons we have available to us to address whatever assault the enemy has cooked up to turn our life upside down. 

We are often quick to credit (blame) God for whatever hardship we are facing, when many of our trials are self-induced, if we are honest. And it is true that He will also sometimes allow us to be tested (just read the book of Job, if you doubt that), but never ... not one single time ... has he allowed us to be tested and defenseless. He sent His Son to pay the ultimate price for our salvation, and then He gave us a Bible full of the Word, that we have at our disposal, to address whatever comes our way in this life. He also sent us His Spirit to remind of those Words ... but if we don't read His Word, if we don't hide it in our hearts and minds, how is the Spirit going to recall it to our memory when it's desperately needed?

Then we want to rail at God. Why are You letting this happen to me? Why have You forgotten me?  

It would be then that He would smile (because He's much more patient and forgiving than we are) and whisper to the Holy Spirit:

Now would be the perfect time. Go and remind my child of Hebrews 13:5, when I said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Oh, wait ........ she hasn't read that in her Bible yet, so you have no way to bring it to her remembrance. 

So should we stockpile ammo? Absolutely. Read your Bibles. Soak in those words. Every single verse has the potential to stop the enemy in his tracks. He is the father of lies and the truth is not in him (John 8:44). He comes only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Take those darts/bullets (your ammo of choice) of truth and remind him of that whenever he starts messing with your thoughts, with your life, with your loves ones. 

One last bonus thought: Those who are of the mind to stockpile ammo for their guns, afraid that they won't be able to get it in the future, are always on the lookout for sales and places to get ammo cheap. Well, God's word is free! Can't get any less expensive than that. 

The Word, the good news, might be free; but it isn't cheap ~ it cost Jesus His life! We bless Him when we live like we know it.