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.

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ENOUGH.

The enemy likes to play this game with me: he chases me with legalism until I rebel and throw myself into the arms of permissiveness; and then he uses guilt to chase me back into legalism. Back and forth, like a poor little ping-pong ball.

Today, God said, “Enough.”

No matter where I am mentally and emotionally, Jesus is Enough.

No matter which side of the Should Fence I’m on, legalism or permissiveness, Jesus is Enough.

No matter how many flaws a sister-in-Christ has lovingly pointed out to me, Jesus is Enough.

No matter how oblivious I am to God’s Kingdom today because I’m too distracted by own agenda, Jesus is Enough.

It’s true that Christ’s death on the cross gives us the power to overcome sin and the flesh. But all too often, we forget that’s not all. That’s not all Jesus accomplished; how could it be? It wouldn’t be enough, since we continue to sin anyway.

No, Jesus’ sacrifice in taking all our sins upon Himself was not just about giving us the power to break away from them; it was also about giving us the freedom to fall.

I can fall down because of Jesus…and I can get up and go forward because of Him, too.

When I am walking upright, I am walking in the power of His death and resurrection—but especially His resurrection.

When I fall, I fall on the power of His death and resurrection—but especially His death.

Jesus is Enough.

The world will surround us with Shoulds when Jesus has poured out Enough. Embrace Him back today; His love is true and will be sweet to your soul.

Happy Valentine’s Day. ♥

I Needed This Reminder Today.

You are not a God
Created by human hands
You are not a God
Dependent on any mortal man
You are not a God
In need of anything we can give
By Your plan, that’s just the way it is

You are God alone
From before time began
You were on Your throne
You are God alone
And right now
In the good times and bad
You are on Your throne
You are God alone

You’re the only God
Whose power none can contend
You’re the only God
Whose name and praise will never end
You’re the only God
Who’s worthy of everything we can give
You are God
And that’s just the way it is

Unchangeable
Unshakable
Unstoppable
That’s what You are

You are on Your throne
You are God alone.

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??

I am broken. Always.

Broken Flame by Thien Bao

I remember attending a meeting at a church several years back and woman there making the comment, “We are all broken!” And in my heart, I rebelled against that statement. We are not broken, I thought. Jesus has healed us!  I was right in my thinking; but I found out this week that I was also wrong.

Jesus has healed us. But we are broken. Always. On this planet, in this flesh, we are broken.

It’s been a very long and difficult week. God, in His Sovereignty brought me face-to-face with the fact that being saved by His Son’s blood does not mean I can walk upright without falling. Yes, I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me, but do you know what I learned this week? There is always a little bit of something in me that is resistant to relying on Christ’s strength. Whether it’s a Rebellious Something, which wants to have its own way or a Proud Something, which wants to prove its ability or a Doubting Something, which thinks I’ve fallen on grace one too many times…

I am a broken gal this week. While I recognize (now) that I am forever in need of Christ’s rescuing from sin on this earth, the Proud Something in me is still kicking and screaming. But I WANT to be capable of pleasing You on my own! I can’t face You if I NEED You!!! It sounds silly to you, probably? It sounds silly to me. But so true, at the same time. I am not just painting a picture of a silly, rebellious child here; I am that child.

So why am I here today? What am I trying to say? This is definitely one of my lesser-prepared posts — okay, completely unprepared. A stream of consciousness, if you will.

I suppose I’m here today to let myself off the hook — and to let you off the hook too. I’m not perfect; I don’t have it all together; I love Jesus with all my heart but I still want to sin sometimes. A lot of the time. Several times a day, I want to sin. And I can not take ANY credit for the times I successfully resist sin, because even though I may be choosing to rely on Christ’s strength, I would FALL if He weren’t there. And I can claim no part whatsoever in ensuring that He is there for me; that is all Him.

So. Those of you who keep your distance because I paint too pretty a picture of myself, come closer. I am dirtier than you think, and quite possibly dirtier than you. If I have, in any way, led you to believe that there are trophies to achieve on this walk or leveling up to be done or successes to strive for, I apologize from the deepest depths of my heart. There is only one Trophy and that is Jesus. There is only one level you have to “pass” and that is embracing Him. There is only one success to be had, and it belongs to God. He successfully reconciled us to Him through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

If you don’t believe that I am all that dirty, I will humbly muddy up a private message for you. But it’s not about me, so be prepared for a diligent mopping up with the gospel of Jesus Christ and how He has forgiven me.

*sigh* I’m still sad, inside, at just how…incapable I am of doing the right thing every time. However, I’m also thankful and filled with peace. My Deliverer is coming, and until then, He is standing by. My Jesus is mine and I am His.

The Cure for Anxiety – Part I

“This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  (Matthew 6:25-34 HCSB)

You don’t have to be a follower of Jesus to benefit from the last part of this passage:

“Don’t worry about tomorrow…Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

If you are a follower of Jesus, there is even more benefit in this passage: Jesus tells us that our Father God takes care of sparrows and GRASS — how much more will He take care of us, in spite of our “little faith”, because we are worth more than many sparrows?

It is an incredible encouragement — one I’ve held onto tenaciously these last ten months, and one that has even been proven by God’s provision in our lives these last ten months.

Nevertheless, I want to focus on verse 34 today. There is something for everyone, in this verse,  and perhaps even enough that one who is not yet familiar with the friendship of God might be spurred forward toward it.

“Don’t worry about tomorrow…Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

If one were to treat this as a pill, prescribed by a well-known and trusted physician, how might it change one’s life?

Rather than hypothesize, I will tell you how it has changed mine.

The other night, I was sitting in a home school meeting, listening to the mothers discuss — what seemed like at the time — HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of things that their children had to do in order to finish high school. I began to feel overwhelmed…and then I began to feel anxious.

“I will never get all of this done!”  I thought. “It’s impossible! It’s too much! I must quit home schooling now!  (I’d only been doing it for three days, mind you.) Oh, but I  can’t quit! I am positive that God has told me to school my children at home! Whatever shall I do?!”

It is a true wonder that I did not throw myself to the floor with wails of despair. God is merciful in His sovereign interventions, is He not?

It must have been in just the moment I might have considered throwing myself to the ground with wails of despair that God spoke in my spirit.

“Fae,” He said, gentle and deep — He almost sounded amused. “Is all of this happening today?”

The wailing and spazzing in my brain immediately paused. “Well…no…”

“Then you don’t need to be thinking about it, do you?”

I gave a little laugh (internally, mind you). He was right. (He’s always right.) But just in case I had inclinations to doubt or disregard Him, He brought to mind Verse Thirty-Four.

Truthfully, that is not the first time we’ve had that conversation — and it undoubtedly will not be the last.

But it works. It nips anxiety in the bum and anxiety scurries off yipping every time.

As I said in the beginning of this post, you don’t have to be friends with Jesus (also known as The Great Physician) to benefit from His prescription. I like to call it Verse Thirty-Four.

And perhaps, when you’ve experienced His remedy for this particular malady in your own life, perhaps you might just be curious enough to find out more about this Man and what He wants with you.

Curiosity inevitably breeds bravery, and bravery will serve you well — for, as C. S. Lewis taught us through the “person” of Aslan,

The Great Physician is not safe –
but He is good.