Look At All The Tiny Mirrors

kitten_lion_mirrorGod is not like us but we are like Him.
God is not like us, but we are made in His image.

I have often made the mistake of thinking that being like Him means I can look at Him and see myself. But this is not true. In fact, it is so incredibly NOT true, that the earth should shake with the weight of its falsehood. It’s a falsehood, and it’s weighty because so many of us have bought into it at one time or another.

We buy into it and then we make God small. We look at Him and think we see ourselves — our anger, our selfishness, our weaknesses. But God is not like us.

He does not get angry like we do. He is not selfish like we are. He is far from weak.

When we fail and fail and fail some more, He does not get frustrated, angry with surprise that we still haven’t gotten it right. He does not turn His head in disgust because His expectations of us are unmet. Frustration, surprise, disgust, unmet expectations – these are not characteristics of God, they are characteristics of US and He is not like us. We are like Him but He is nothing like us.

His desire to be worshiped and loved by us is not motivated by selfishness or conceit; it’s motivated by love of the strongest and purest kind, love that knows that our ultimate happiness will be found when we delight in Him — delight, which IS love and worship. He desires our love and worship because He desires our joy. He wants us to experience joy and He has created us to be most fulfilled in Him. But I have bought into the lie before, that God desires – no, demands – worship because He is the Ultimate Selfish Being. And I shudder that I have ever thought such an atrocity. The most beautiful thing is the way God has loved me DURING my own atrociousness. Is that selfish of Him, to love me when I am thinking the absolute worst of Him that I ever could? No, it’s love, it’s love, it’s love. He loves me selflessly even while I shake my fist and accuse Him of being selfish for wanting me to delight in Him…But He is not selfish and He is not conceited. He is not like us.

He is not weak like we are, incapable of changing this evil world, incapable of assuaging all pain. I look at Him sometimes and think I see myself; I think I see Him failing to overcome evil with good, failing to heal hurts and comfort the broken. But He is not failing at that, I’M failing at that. He is, every day, working good out of evil (who can do that??), turning Satan’s horrible acts into vessels of love and hope (really! Who can do that??) and He has even promised that, in the very end, He will make ALL THINGS RIGHT. Now, He is either the worst kind of liar or He is a majestically powerful Being who is capable of strength that could turn every last atom of my physical existence inside out. He could do that, but He doesn’t because He loves me. He makes it very clear in His word that He HATES sin, hates it and He will destroy His enemies with a vengeance, and EVEN THOUGH I have sinned terribly against Him, more than once, He doesn’t turn my atoms inside out — He loves me. Do you know what that’s called? Do you know what it’s called when strength is restrained? It’s called gentleness.

God is not like us. He is not sinful, He is not self-seeking, He is not condescending, He is not mean or cruel or hateful.
But we are like Him, made in His image, so that everywhere you look are little mirrors walking around, mirrors reflecting God’s Person.

His creativity, demonstrated through millions of painters, dancers, sculptors, and architects.
His physical strength and capabilities, demonstrated through base jumpers, breakdancers, gymnasts, and athletes.
His nurturing and compassion, demonstrated through nurses, mothers, pastors, and The Good Samaritans that pop up in every disaster.
His talent, demonstrated through musicians, vocalists, composers, and conductors.

We love because He loved first.

We love art and music because God loved art and music first.
We love creating things in groups and with our bodies because God loved creating things first.

God is not like us, but we are like Him. Look around you and see all the tiny mirrors, the laughing, the dancing, the practical jokes, the hugs, the romance, the reaching out, the creative expression. Look at all the tiny mirrors and see tiny reflections of God.

Tiny reflections of a powerful, larger-than-the-universe, creative Being who LOVES…

This God loves me.

He loves you, too.

I know this more fully than I know anything else and I do not know it fully enough.

An Awful Lot of Scandal: Part II

via Google Image Search

via Google Image Search

I promised here that I would soon post some things that came to mind when I pondered on why God would use “scandalous people” to bring His Son into the world. A fellow blogger noted that it wasn’t possible for God to use anyone BUT scandalous people, given our sinful nature. And she’s right – we’re all scandalous because of the sin nature. But it still baffled me that God wouldn’t at least use “the best of the worst”, so to speak. There are people in the Bible who are mentioned specifically for their righteousness, like Enoch, who walked so closely with God that when he died, he was simply “taken by God”, with no physical remains!

In thinking about this over the last two weeks, lots of things have come to mind but two of them have stuck with me:

  • 1. In using people with scandalous pasts (as opposed to using the Enochs in the world), God paved the way for us to have faith that He can indeed use us, regardless of where — or what — we’ve come from.
  • 2. In declining to exclusively use moral and upright people in Christ’s lineage, God is showing us pretty clearly that our actions are irrelevant; He does not use us because we are “more worthy” than others! He uses us because is all-powerful and He simply CAN. Additionally, He uses us because He LOVES us and He WANTS TO BLESS US by allowing us to be instruments of His power! What love!

The second one was particularly freeing this week, as I realized that God doesn’t NEED me to do ANYTHING for Him — there is no burden on my shoulders to save the world, to bring people to Christ. Rather, these are all good works that God has prepared for me ahead of time and it’s up to me whether or not I will step up and reap the blessing of being used by Him. I am storing up treasure in Heaven by doing the good works God prepared for me; certainly there will be works I did not step up to and I’m sure I will learn of them at some point, whether in the hindsight of later years or in Heaven. While it makes me sad to think I’ve missed out on some awesome opportunities, at the same time it’s a relief to know that “the future of the world” does not depend on me or my “worth”.

All that is required of me is to believe in the Son of God and surrender my own agenda so that it can be replaced with His. Scandal or no, God loves me, and He doesn’t just love me, He LIKES me. He WANTS to include me in His masterful, intricate plan! It makes me giddy just thinking about it. :)

If you are like me and come from a scandalous past, or you just FEEL scandalous and worthless some days, I’m here to tell you that that’s not the case; you are very worthful to my Heavenly Father, even if you don’t believe in His existence yet. And I would encourage you, believer and non-believer alike, to get out there and discover Him. He’s everywhere. If you don’t know where to start, here are some suggestions:
1. I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek (book version or Kindle version)
2. YouTube videos like this one and this one that demonstrate the remarkable skill of God’s hands in the way He created human beings. He is amazing in His creation!
3. Testimonies like this one: text version or video version.
4. Take a walk in the woods and pay attention to things like leaves and trees and bugs and how intricate everything is. We have a Creator and He has not been subtle. ;)
5. Ask me about Jesus. I love to talk about Him and I have lots of real life experiences of Him that I would love to share with you.

May you grow to know Him and love Him even deeper than I have (and come back to tell me about it!).

An Awful Lot Of Scandal: Part I

Heartbroken by NanFe

Heartbroken by NanFe

I have a past that includes promiscuity and adultery. I believe this fact is one of the things that drives me to love Jesus so vehemently. Like He said to Simon the Pharisee, one who is forgiven much, loves much but one who is forgiven little, loves little.

Lately, though, my past has been driving me in another direction: performance-based faith. I’ve been subconsciously trying to “earn” God’s love or “pay Him back” for His gift of Jesus’ life, with my actions. All the while, in the back of my mind, is the belief that I’ll never be pleasing to God because of my past; I’ll never be worthy of His love; He’ll never be able to use me powerfully because I haven’t been able to walk the straight and narrow (like Joseph…or Daniel…). This has been a pretty crippling issue lately; it keeps me from reaching out to the people around me. It also keeps me from fully using the gifts and talents He’s given me to reflect His glory; I figure I’m not worthy, so why bother?

Well. Yesterday, I learned a very, very interesting thing about Jesus’ past.

You know how the Bible calls Him the Lion of Judah? He’s called that because He was a descendant of the tribe of Judah. Do you know who Judah was? I didn’t. I mean, I’d read about Judah before but I never made the connection that 1.) he was Joseph’s brother and 2.) he’s the man that God chose to continue Christ’s lineage. So let me tell you about Judah.

1. He participated in the plan to murder his brother Joseph. (Genesis 37:18-28) Reuben suggested they spare him by throwing him into a pit, rather than killing him. Apparently, Reuben intended to return Joseph to his father later. It’s noted in my Bible’s commentary that Reuben may have been trying to get back in his father’s good graces after having slept with one of his father’s concubines. It seems that at some point, while Reuben was not around, Judah suggested they sell Joseph because “what is our gain if we kill him and cover his blood?” So Judah was the brain behind selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites for 20 pieces of silver. (That’s only ten pieces less than the price that Jesus was sold to the guards for, by Judas.)

2. Judah’s firstborn son was evil. In fact, he was so evil that God put him to death! (Genesis 38:7)

3. He was not a man of his word. It’s a long story, so I’ll let you read it for yourself, if you like (Genesis 38), but the short version is, he promised his daughter-in-law something and didn’t deliver.

4. He apparently visited the local prostitutes rather frequently; this is how his daughter-in-law was able to deceive him and manipulate him into keeping his word — which also resulted in illegitimate twins!

The Bible is very clear about God’s sovereignty; He does what He wants when He wants through whomever He wants. He is not bound by man’s choices. Knowing all of that, don’t you find it interesting that He *chose* to go through Judah’s line in order to bring Jesus into the world? And get this: not only did He choose to go through Judah, He chose to go through one of the illegitimate twins birthed between him and his daughter-in-law!

If you take a closer look at the lineage of Jesus, there are some other noteworthy characters:

1. “The wife of Uriah” – Bathsheba, the one that David committed adultery with.

2. David himself, an adulterer AND a murderer.

3. Guess who else? That’s right, Solomon, the son of Bathsheba and David!

God, despite being sovereign, did not choose to keep the lineage of Jesus free from scandal. Why is that? Since God is holy and righteous, and since He despises sin, wouldn’t it stand to reason that He would use the most moral and righteous people to bring His Son into the world?? People like Joseph, who despite being sold into slavery by his brothers, did not hold it against them? Why would God CHOOSE to use people like Judah, Bathsheba, Tamar, and David? People with pasts and pretty scandalous ones, at that.

This is the question I went to bed chewing on last night. And God gave me a few insights. But I’m not going to share them with you today because it’s a question worth chewing on and I want you to have a chance to see what God would have you discover through that question. For some of you, the insights seem obvious. I will tell you, there were obvious insights to me too, but God nudged me last night to go deeper and doing so eventually brought tears to my eyes. So I would encourage you not to settle for the obvious. Sit down with God and take it a little deeper.

Mind you, there is not ONE right insight. And you may or may not come up with the same ones that I did. But I *do* think you’ll come up with More Than The Obvious if you give God a chance to speak to you, and I’m positive it will be a joyful experience.

Later this week, I’ll share what I gleaned from chewing on this particular question. I think I’ll even take the opportunity to chew on it some more.

Feel free to comment on this post or send me a message sharing the insights that God gives you. (And let me know if you’d be okay with me sharing them in my next post.)

For now, I will leave you to your chewing. ;)

 

Runs To Meet Me

I’ve been overwhelmed, agitated, moody and mean.
Everything has been “going wrong”. Or it seems that way. Possibly it’s my attitude? But no really, things just keep going WRONG. Wrong = not the way I wanted them to go. They’re breaking or dropping or spilling or not coming out clean. The dog poops on the carpet, babyMan dumps his bowl of mac and cheese on the carpet, the toaster oven won’t toast, darling Bear got the wrong thing at the store…Oh dear, and I FORGOT….I forgot that Thing and it’s super important and holy whoa, now all the laundry and dishes and everything else will fall behind because I have to be on the phone for the next five hours in panic mode…

It’s time for dinner and I don’t feel like cooking. I’ve yelled at my kids entirely too much today. I’m mad at myself for that and somehow, that just makes me yell more. I’m snapping. Snapping at my husband, snapping at the kids, snapping at the dog — whoa, did I just snap at God?? I think I did. :(

Night after night of struggling to sleep, struggling through anger, struggling through frustration, wrestling with anxiety, wrestling with control. Each night, hoping that the NEXT day will be The Beginning of Better…

Today, I woke up. The day was…a day. There was stress and anxiety. Errands to run and missions to accomplish. Discussions on Facebook adding to the steadily increasing sense of Being Overwhelmed. And then something broke. No, it popped.

A revelation in my brain: everything — all of this — can be traced back to my pride. My what? My pride? Really? My pride is that bad?

Like one of those do-it-yourself movie books, where you flip all the pages, my mind is flipping flipping flipping through all the Things and it links them all to one Thing, to pride…it happens lightning fast and That Feeling Of Being Overwhelmed spikes.

I have so far to go.
I’ll never get there.
This journey is so LONG…it’s BEEN long and it’s going to be LONGER…

I’m weary. I have nothing left. I’ve HAD nothing left, for days now. There was a bright spot the other night, while serving my church family but I have no doubt that was ALL Holy Spirit. I have no doubt because I spent the whole drive to church begging and begging, pleading with Him to work through me because

I had nothing.

 

 

I’m in the car and driving, tackling more tasks, eradicating more errands, watching the flip-movie in my mind. I cry out to God. My heart overflows into the confines of the van, a deluge of remorse, regret, repentance. And then…a song. A song plays on the radio and  my focus shifts off of me and onto Him…His creativity. His awesome Mind in creating music, creating human beings, creating voices…beautiful voices, thousands of sounds, millions of melodies…even when they’re just singing about the rain in Africa, they are so beautiful. He is so beautiful in His creation, His people. This is what I had forgotten — enjoying Him. Not stressing out, not snapping, not being overwhelmed — being in awe of Almighty Creative God. This is where my joy is.

And the flood in my van from my overflowing, over-burdened heart turns into a flood of joy-filled tears. My God is so amazing. And so mighty.  And He loves me! And there’s grace! And, and, and…

Suddenly, I realize the journey back wasn’t that long. “God!” I say out loud in my van. “You’re so quick to BE there! I take one step and wow….after these horrid, horrid days and my horrid attitude, I thought it would take at least as many days to retrace my steps and get back to where I’m supposed to be…but I’ve only taken one step and here I am, with You…”

A vision fills my mind, of the prodigal son trudging home. Such a long journey home…so far to go…the winding, dusty road stretches out ahead of him…

…but wait. His father…he’s running! To meet him! And just like that, the journey is over. The son is home, where he belongs.

 

I, too, thought I had this long, terrible trek ahead…by myself…long, winding, dusty…

But I take a step
with tears
with weariness
with full awareness that there is nothing good in me
with full awareness that all the good is in Him and He is beautiful…

…and He doesn’t wait. He doesn’t watch.

He runs.

He runs to meet me.

It’s so fast, that I’ve only realized it in retrospect; no time to have noticed it in The Happening, only time to realize that it happened.

My heart is brighter than the sun, with the revelation that He loves me enough to run. He wants me, enough to run.

I will be horrid again. My pride will rule again. But today my heart is shining.

He runs to meet me.

I will snap again. I will feel overwhelmed again. But I will turn, again…

And He will run…again.

The Cure for Anxiety – Part II

via Google image search

I have long used Psalm 4:8 to help quell anxiety at night, as I’m falling asleep (that seems to be when it hits the hardest).

I will both lie down and sleep in peace,
for You alone, Lord, make me live in safety.

It helped a lot of the time, but there were also a lot of times it didn’t help. This morning, in my Bible study, I learned that part of the reason it didn’t always help was due to a lack of context for Psalm 4:8.

Didn’t I mention earlier that context is everything? ;)

There’s a verse that comes before Psalm 4:8, that I was previously oblivious to:

You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and new wine abound.

Wow.

After the season we’ve come through (unemployed and living with my parents for 10 months with 95% of our belongings packed away in a storage unit during that time), I have a brand new understanding of joy. Despite the hardships we experienced over the last year, God literally poured joy into our lives the whole time. There was always something to be thankful for; numerous times that He displayed His powerful provision and gracious compassion. I spent a surprising amount of the past year filled with exuberance and gratitude! How weird, right? But it seems the tapestry of trials is God’s favorite backdrop for displaying the power of His joy. Coming out of this past year, I am more aware than ever before of the “tiny treasures” that He has peppered my life with:

  • hot water and showers
  • tea with cream and sugar
  • my bright and adorable children
  • internet access
  • a smartphone
  • video games
  • a comfy bed
  • more than 5 outfits to choose from
  • nail polish
  • the beautiful landscape of New England
  • the crisp and cheerful air of fall turning into winter
  • tv shows that make my husband and I belly laugh together
  • music
  • a variety of textures and flavors in food
  • books
  • sparkly things
  • and the list goes on!

Dwelling on these types of things on a daily basis has increased my joy such that, I don’t freak out when things go wrong (the check engine light is on in my van right now), and I’m more peaceful, calm, and content.

Despite the increased sense of peace and experiences of joy, however, I still suffer nights when my anxiety is extra-tenacious. Last night, it was fear of my children being taken from me while they sleep. I was exhausted after a long week of unpacking but that didn’t stop me from getting out of bed two different times to check the door locks and then to check the window in their bedroom. The second time I crawled back into bed, I breathed a fervent prayer to my Heavenly Father to “please quiet me with Your love”…I knew I wasn’t going to fall asleep without His help that particular night.

My time in God’s word today expounded on this issue for me, pulling two different areas of my life together — the joyful part and the anxious part — and sewing them together beautifully.

You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and new wine abound.
I will both lie down and sleep in peace,
for You alone, Lord, make me live in safety.

It’s not just focusing on the Lord that keeps me anxiety-free; it’s also soaking in the joy that He has graciously poured into my life! This is where the aspect of mental discipline comes into play — a pivotal part of managing anxiety. Trusting in my Heavenly Father’s goodness and sovereignty is a huge part of the battle, but the other part is taking ownership for what my thoughts are about.

Can I make an embarrassing confession? Last night’s anxiety was my own fault. My husband and I watched a show together that made a reference to a “classic” horror movie. Against wisdom and sound judgement (and mind you, the Holy Spirit definitely nudged me on this one but I ignored Him), I looked up this horror movie on Wikipedia. Right before bedtime. Really. And of course it involved sweet babies and helpless mothers. So you can make a very educated guess as to what my thoughts were about as I was trying fruitlessly to fall asleep!

Last night, Psalm 4:8 was not sufficient to bump my train of thought off the tracks and my JOY was derailed.

God’s compassion never ceases to amaze me; He didn’t let me suffer long. He answered my prayer last night and not only quieted me with His love before sleep, He continued the process in our time together this morning. “Here,” I could hear Him saying. “This part is important and it would have helped last night.”

It’s not the first time I’ve received the gold nugget of truth that my thoughts are a powerful component of anxiety but for some reason, it hit me anew this morning. God is merciful and ever so kind to me, teaching me this lesson over and over, in a myriad of different ways and I think this time, it’s going to stick.

I have a hunch tonight’s sleep will be even sweeter…

The Best News Ever!

I love it when I read a very familiar scripture and discover something new about it. Also, context is everything!!! Really. There are verses that are inspiring by themselves, but it’s amazing — and a little scary — how often a verse by itself gets misunderstood because the context around it is entirely ignored.

One of these verses, for me personally, has been Isaiah 55:8-9. It reads:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
“For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

This verse is often used to respond to the hurt or confusion that can come from not understanding what God is doing in someone’s life. Something unpleasant or uncomfortable happens in a believer’s life and it’s said, “Well, God’s ways aren’t our ways, so we don’t always understand what He’s doing. His ways are higher than our ways, so what He’s doing must be better than what we wish would happen instead.” Sometimes it can come off as a kind of a shrug and “Oh well” in the face of someone’s pain.

It’s not that the above statement is false, because it isn’t. God’s wisdom and design IS beyond our capacity for understanding. But the above statement is not an accurate interpretation of Isaiah 55:8-9; it’s incomplete. There’s more to the story, and as is often the case, it’s the best part of the story!

Here is the whole chapter:

“Come, everyone who is thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you without money,
come, buy, and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost!
Why do you spend money on what is not food,
and your wages on what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.
Pay attention and come to Me;
listen, so that you will live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
the promises assured to David.
Since I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples,
so you will summon a nation you do not know,
and nations who do not know you will run to you.
For the Lord your God,
even the Holy One of Israel,
has glorified you.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
call to Him while He is near.
Let the wicked one abandon his way
and the sinful one his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord,
so He may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for He will freely forgive.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
“For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts.
For just as rain and snow fall from heaven
and do not return there
without saturating the earth
and making it germinate and sprout,
and providing seed to sow
and food to eat,
so My word that comes from My mouth
will not return to Me empty,
but it will accomplish what I please
and will prosper in what I send it to do.”

You will indeed go out with joy
and be peacefully guided;
the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush, a cypress will come up,
and instead of the brier, a myrtle will come up;
it will make a name for Yahweh
as an everlasting sign that will not be destroyed.

Did you see what I saw? Just before He explains that His ways are above our ways, what does He say?

Let the wicked one abandon his way
and the sinful one his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord,
so He may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for He will freely forgive.

He will freely forgive any ‘wicked one’ or ‘sinful one’ who abandons his way and returns to the Lord!

The reason He explains, in the very next paragraph, that His ways are higher than our ways is because we would not behave this way toward anyone who was wicked toward us! Would I? If someone murdered my son, would I ‘freely forgive’? Most definitely not. Even as followers of Christ, it takes a tremendous act of surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit before we can forgive something like that! And this is why God is telling us His ways are higher.

He’s not saying, “Now, now, I know better than you so just stop your complaining and deal with it.”

He’s not saying, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, so don’t even bother trying to figure them out.” *

He’s not saying, “Your pain is invalid because I know what I’m doing and if you knew what I was doing, it wouldn’t hurt.” **

This passage is not intended to be a slap in the face for questioning the works of God’s hand in our lives. This passage is comfort and reassurance. “You would not freely forgive the kind of atrocities that I forgive, but that is because My ways are higher than yours; my thoughts are kinder and more compassionate; long-suffering and peace-making.”

What I learn about God when I read this chapter, is that He is compassionate and tender toward our lack of understanding. Our pain is valid and it hurts Him too; His response to it is, “I know this hurts; I know this isn’t the way you would do things, but the way I’m doing it is even better — please trust Me because you will see…soon you will see…It is very good.” In short, we benefit from the fact that His thoughts are not our thoughts!

God tells us that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived the things that God has prepared for those who love Him — they are more wonderful than the most wonderful thing I could imagine. (Eek! That makes me so giddy!!!)

And if you’re not one who loves Him yet, the whole of Isaiah 55 is for YOU. So read it again. The promises at the end are for anyone who puts their trust in God’s saving power and chooses to love Him. See, it really is good news. :) The best, actually.

 

___
*There’s scripture that actually says the opposite! If we seek Him, we will find Him; He reveals great mysteries and hidden truths through His Spirit inside us! And more!

**People really think this! But don’t you know that Jesus knew FULL WELL what was happening on the cross, why it was necessary, and it STILL hurt like crazy??