I’m sharing a post that I wrote for The Family Roadmap on the power of words and the lingering effect they have on our lives. The following is an excerpt and you can read the rest at The Family Roadmap.
We can de-construct growth in someone’s heart with a careless word or misplaced assumption. The childhood sing-song of: ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ is a lie and a weak defense for those who have suffered at the hands of mis-used words.
Words carry weight which crushes, deflates, and prevents us from hearing the truth of God’s love. It is then that I know that God will need to replace the negative echoes with the positive reflections of his word and what he says about me. The trick? I have to be willing to listen. I have to be willing to lay aside my hurt and be open to Truth. Continue Reading……
I’m one of those people who have a tendency to save things. I save those extra buttons that come with new shirts, but don’t ask me where I put them because I don’t know. I save gifts I’ve been given, even when I’ve outgrown the use of the item. I save gift bags to reuse, but not tissue paper because that’s just too much work. I save cards with heartfelt handwritten words from friends so when I forget my worth, I have a reminder.
Some would call me a packrat, and I would agree. I had the messiest room as a kid and underneath my bed was the best place to lose items and never to see them again. As an adult, my house might appear different, but if you opened closet doors and peeked under my bed, you would see I haven’t changed too much. I keep thinking I should get organized and clean things up and throw things away, but it’s hard.
I can’t seem to sustain any system for long so I end up on these purging binges. This might seem awesome–the crazy packrat lady is actually throwing things away–but I take it too far. I do get rid of things I don’t need, but I get rid of things I still need. I can’t seem to find the right combination of throwing things away and keeping things. And if I put something in a “safe” place it’s as good as thrown away because I can’t remember where I put it.
I see these tendencies in my heart as well. I keep behaviors and patterns of thought that should have been thrown out of my life. I cling to my belief that maybe this love of God is really too good to be true, and I might just wake up and be thrown away so I hold myself back from him.
But this holding of myself back has consequences as well.
“The most important [commandement] is, ‘Here, O Isreal: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your god with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 NIV
When I hang onto disbelief, it’s hard to love God with everything I am. When I cling to resentment, bitterness, or unforgiveness, loving him and others is not possible because these things stand in the way of giving myself totally and completely to Him.
I’m learning to live aware of the state of my heart because I know that resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness harms me more than it harms anyone else. It also makes it difficult to fulfill the second commandment: “Love my neighbor as myself.”
When I’m judgmental of myself, I judge others.
When I’m annoyed with myself, I’m annoyed with other’s.
When I’m disgusted over my own actions, it’s easy to be disgusted over someone else’s actions.
How I feel about myself reflects on how well I love others. If I don’t love myself, I can’t love my neighbor. If we could see ourselves the way God sees us–through eyes of love, then loving our neighbors would be easy.
But it’s not. We know our weaknesses. We know our flaws. We know this journey to holiness is a lifelong journey, and we know the battle between the sin nature and the spirit nature rages within.
Loving ourselves has to start with loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and body. This is where we learn that we are lovable because as we love God we begin to see things his way. I know I’m flawed. I know perfection is a myth. I know my weaknesses, but I know I’m strong when I trust in God. I know my flaws can become facets that reflect his glory. I know that in him I am made complete.
If I can look at myself in a mirror and remember these things, I can actually love my neighbor well. Beth Moore writes in Believing God, “My obedience flowed directly from my faith to believe I was who God said I was even when I didn’t feel like it.”
There are times I don’t feel like I am who God says I am, but I choose to believe it because I want to obey his commands of loving him with everything that is within me and loving my neighbor as myself.
Loving myself doesn’t mean that I get to go buy the latest pair of shoes I have my eyes on, or the purse that’s simply amazing. It doesn’t mean being selfish with my “me” time. It doesn’t mean that I get what I want when I want it. Loving myself doesn’t mean I put my needs and wants above others.
Loving myself means embracing the truth of what God says about me so that God can use me to reveal himself to others.
Loving myself means allowing God to transform me into a truer reflection of himself and going smaller so that he can go bigger.
When I struggle with loving my neighbors, the struggle can usually be traced back to my thought-life about myself. When I’m rattle with insecurity, I’m ruled by fear in my relationships. When I’m overtaken by a tongue that throws sharp darts, it’s usually because my thought-life is filled with sharp and unkind words.
The struggle to love is true and real. It’s evidenced all around us in our world, our communities, and our homes. But what if we all determined to love God with our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies, and let him change us from the inside out and to love ourselves as he loves us–beloved children, made for a purpose that only we can fill, righteous, holy, and reflectors of him to this world. If we did, loving our neighbor as ourselves might become a little easier.
I have been pondering growth a lot lately. It is probably due to this conference I have been asked to participate in that has me thinking about soil and seeds and water and nutrients.
I watched my babies grow and celebrated each milestone and worried over each delayed milestone. In parenting I have felt the pressure that all children should be experiencing this or that by a certain age even though it is common knowledge that not one child is like the other and therefore have different rates of growth and achievement.
At times that’s been difficult to remember.
I am at a point in my parenting where I am, at times, anxiously waiting for the seeds that I planted into my kids’ hearts to take root and grow. When they were young I amended their heart’s soil by adding in the nutrients of unconditional love, which did what was best for them and not necessarily what they wanted.
I planted the seeds of kindness, selflessness, respect, responsibility, repentance, and forgiveness. I hopefully gave them the right tools to tend to the garden of their souls.
I watered it with gentle responses (at times not so gentle and thank God for their forgiving hearts). I watered it with showing them kindness and respect. I watered it with humbling apologizing for my own parenting failures. I water it with prayer.
Now I wait. I continue to plant those seeds, but now I wait.
I wait for God to give the growth. I can walk my kids through the steps of what selflessness looks like. Maybe it’s seeing trash on the floor and instead of walking by it, we go together to pick it up and throw it away. Or maybe it’s doing a sibling’s chore. And sometimes it’s walking with them through the repentance and forgiveness process for something they did wrong.
But I wait for God to cause those seeds to grow in their hearts. I cannot make them grow. I cannot force them grow. I want to though.
Especially when it’s hard to wait on God.
This is part of my rest. This is part of my desperation for God. It’s the waiting on him. It’s the stilling of my mind and soul and emotions to be still in his presence and whisper, ‘God? Here I am. I am a jumbled mess. But here I am.’ and then be quiet.
Being quiet in God’s presence takes practice. It takes discipline. It takes moments of failure to train our minds to be quiet. To be quiet of worry, but to be loud in pondering the nature of God:
The goodness of Him.
The love of God, the love so overwhelming that it drives out all fear.
The power of God that causes those seeds to grow.
You are a seed planter. Plant your seeds and wait on God to water them and grow them.
Resting is one of the most difficult thing for me to do. I usually have a book in hand, design articles to peruse, photography tutorials to practice, or talking to whoever is nearby. If I actually rest, where I close my eyes and still my body and quiet my mind, I last for about 30 minutes. I call it my power nap and it is really effective, but the kind of rest I am pondering for the new year is a different kind of rest.
It is the first week of 2016 and I am surrounded by resolutions and goals and I have decided to rest. Here I have a new year at my finger tips to accomplish goals and I choose to rest? Is it really a code name for ‘lazy’? Is it a cop-out?
Just as desperation is my resolve this year, rest is my means of feeding that desperation.
Isaiah 30:15a ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength’.
I believe that God is for me–he is for everyone who put their trust in him– and if I believe he is for me than I know that he says that I am an overcomer.
The thing is, when I hear the word ‘overcomer’ I don’t think of desperation and rest. I think of fighting and battling and not giving up. However, this verse talks to me of repentance and rest.
Repentance is one step to overcoming.
Repentance is turning from that which hinders my walk with Christ.
Rest is being confident that I cannot save myself, it is a gift of God.
Rest is a unencumbered trust in my Lord.
When I repent and rest in the Truth, I find my salvation. I find peace. I find that the everyday gunk of life is not insurmountable.
Rest is my strength.
I don’t feel strong after a session of worrying. I feel weak and hopeless. I don’t feel desperate for the Lord. I feel desperate to fix a situation that I have no way to fix. Worrying and fretting weakens the power of prayer and prayer becomes the last thing I resort to instead of being the first weapon I pick up.
It sounds a little like upside down thinking, but I have found that quieting my mind, will, emotions, and trusting God’s heart for me to be the greatest thing I can do to strengthen my soul.
2 Corinthians 1:9-10: ‘Indeed in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.’
If we ever question anything about our past or our circumstances, we merely need to read this passage. It is the universal answer to the question of ‘why?’. At one time I spent an inordinant amount of time asking pestering the Lord with my questions of ‘why?’. I was rather demanding. Then I grew petulant when all I heard was silence.
Most of my ‘why?’ questions have been about other people. For some strange reason (sin) we hurt each other. Some people hurt more easily and some people are quicker to throw the spear. I find it agonizing when it is a fellow believer. I find it heart wrenching when I realize I just threw the spear. I find it difficult when my heart runs straight to embracing an offense.
What a fine line we walk! People are given the amazing privilege of reflecting God to the world around us and yet we fail everyday. We are to look for ‘fruit’. We are to live at peace and in unity with each other. We put so much pressure on ourselves and each other.
I know this Christian life was meant to be lived out with people, but it is so hard and so distracting. For instance: People are way more visible than God. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t actually seen God, I see his people. Unfortunately, I don’t see them through the veil of the righteousness of Jesus—I see them through my own sin-scaled eyes that are slowing, painfully being made new. Oh, that I would have the eyes to see as clearly as he does. Unfortunately, I don’t. I really don’t. I think I see fruit. I think I see evidence of God working in someone’s life. But when tragedy comes, when betrayal comes, it is difficult to look at their lives and believe that I saw clearly.
‘But God? I ask, it’s people that prove that your plan works. It’s people committing their lives to you. It’s people growing in you. It’s people committing their time to their local church. It’s about the people, right?’
No. It’s about God and him fulfilling his purpose.
When I am hurt by people I can run to this verse in 2 Corinthians and transfer my hope in people to hope in him.
It’s about setting our hope on God. Setting my hope on God. He has said he will deliver us. Do I believe it? Do I look for it? Do I believe that he raises the dead—not just raised the dead, past tense, but raise the dead, present tense? Do I really believe that he is powerful to take any situation and make it into something that brings him glory?
I have to or I would throw in the towel of following where he leads and where he goes. It’s the only answer that makes sense–it’s the only answer that satisfies the perpetual ‘why?’.
It’s about God—setting my hope on him—the author of my faith and the finisher of my faith.
People disappointing me does not have to finish my faith. It only does if my hope is centered on people.
Our human nature is bent towards compensation. We screw up and try to fix things by doing more or giving more. Our kids are mad at us for a decision made and we try to ‘make’ it up to them through various ways–whether it’s a gift or privilege or event. We hurt our spouse and try to compensate by buying them something or taking them somewhere. We feel inadequate in our jobs or volunteer position so we work harder or volunteer more and longer. It becomes a continuous cycle of do more, try harder then repeat.
The Israelites were great at offering sacrifices. There were numerous sacrifices and the priests were busy day and night presenting the sacrifices of the people to the Lord. And somehow, we, along with the Israelites think that is all that is required of us.
But what if it isn’t?
What if we have it all wrong?
What if it isn’t in our serving, our giving, our support of missions, or our doing the ‘right’ things? These are so important, but can easily distract us and deceive us into believing we are giving God exactly what he desires.
What if we are missing the mark in understanding what God really wants?
Look at what the Lord says in Psalm 50:7-11:
“Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.”
Do you hear the Lord’s cry? He is not rejecting all that we give and do for him in his name, but he is calling us to something greater.
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
The three things He longs to receive from us are:
…fulfill your vows
…call upon Him
Thanksgiving. It seems too easy. It seems too hard. In the good times, thanksgiving doesn’t seem like it is ‘enough’, and in hard times, thanksgiving is too ‘hard’, so we think we need to ‘supplement’ thanksgiving by doing more and giving more and being more. To offer thanksgiving with a heart fully engaged does require sacrifice on our part. In the good times, we need to be satisfied that our thanks is enough and sacrifice our desire to do more on the altar of His acceptance. In the bad times, it is a sacrifice to give him our thanks because it hurts and giving and doing more doesn’t hurt as bad as standing before the Lord and telling him, ‘This is awful, I hate what is happening, but you are good and I thank you for your kindness and mercy and grace and greatness,’ and really mean it.
Vows. It seems as though vows don’t hold the same weight as they once did, it seems as though commitment is a choice based on the whim of the moment or what is best for ‘me’. But the Lord says to fulfill our vows to him. When we accept Christ’s redeeming and resurrecting work in our life, we enter into a covenantal relationship with the Lord to believe him, to be faithful to him, to trust him, to be made like him and to stand firm. That is fulfilling our vows to him.
Trouble. It follows us. We cannot escape it. What we do when trouble smacks us along side the head will show us where we place our trust. Do we ‘pull up our boot straps’ and dig in? Do we face it with a ‘stiff upper lip’? Do we try and deal with it in our own strength, which is so very feeble and inadequate? Do we call upon the Lord only when we have exhausted all other options? Look what the Psalmist tells us: ‘Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you’. The moment we run into trouble or trouble comes running into us our very first response should be to call upon the Lord. Do you? Do I?
Three things the Lord counts as sacrifices offered to him:
commitment to him,
and dependence on him.
In this we will honor him and isn’t that what we want to do? Isn’t that what this life surrendered wholly to him is all about?
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