Monday, September 27, 2010

Backwards Thinking

We have been incredibly busy here in our household. We started our fall with home schooling for another year, attending my husband’s Ironman, fall baseball, sewing class, small group retreats…oh and all of us getting sick! The last month has been crazy trying to keep up with the additions to our schedule and maintain every day life. Chaos has been in abundance, and here’s a secret…I don’t handle chaos well. (Yes, that is an understatement.)

With all this non-stop running, I’ve been feeling like a failure. We’re not getting as much done as I’d like to with school. My house is in shambles. I have no groceries in my refrigerator, and what amounts to a mountain of clothes is on my laundry room floor. And my attempts at writing? Let’s put it this way, using the word ‘attempts’ is being generous. I can’t even apply that word to my quiet time with God. That has completely fallen by the wayside.

Apparently, in my conversations with friends and family, I am not alone in these feelings, either. Several people have spoken with me in the last week about how crazy-busy they are. They feel like life is spinning out of control, and they are going right along with it. It got me thinking, and today it got me taking pause. Is this how life is supposed to be? I just don’t think it is. So how do we stop it? As I put my screaming kids in their rooms then began to tackle the dishes and laundry, I put on some quiet praise music and began talking to God. I realized, or really God gave me the realization, that it’s time to do things opposite of the way I’ve been thinking. Backwards, if you will.

Allow me to elaborate. You’ve got time, right? (Just say yes) A year or so ago my best friend and I were on a mission to lose weight. And, for once, we decided to take it seriously. We began to watch our diets closely and counted all of our calories. At the same time we began an exercise routine, adding weights, squats and aerobic exercise into our daily routine. At first, the pounds began to come off. Then, as we began to get stronger and exercise longer, we hit a plateau. So, we did what any normal dieter does, we cut our calories even more. Within a week we started to gain weight. It was a complete mystery to us! I complained. She went to a nutritionist. Here’s what they told her: eat more.

Well, of course, I laughed at her. We’re supposed to lose weight by eating more? What kind of backwards thinking is that? Unless, of course, they meant by eating more chocolate, which I was totally on board with! They didn’t. We needed to take in more calories all right, but of healthy foods. Shaking my head, we tried it. And, guess what? It worked!

As God laid this memory on my mind, He attached an insight with it. I need to start thinking backwards in my attempts to tackle the chaos around me. Bear with me a moment as I explain.

You see, God never meant for us to attempt life on our own apart from Him. And, He never meant for us to live in chaos. We do all that to ourselves. Each time we think that if we just get our house in order and have our checklist all ticked off, we’ll be able to breathe. Like if everything was in order around us, we’d be able to smile and laugh and skip through life carefree. Sorry kids, that’s just not going to happen. Just like cutting more calories didn’t help me lose weight, getting my checklist done is not going to bring me happiness and peace. There is only One who can do that. Yet, when life gets frantic, my time with Him is always the first to go.

So here’s where the backwards idea comes in. We need to move contrary to what our mind is telling us. Rather than stealing time from God to pay towards finishing our list, let’s use that time to spend with Him. As I left some of my list undone today and did this, God led me over and over to His word showing me His plan and His faithfulness.

First, my heart was led to a verse that is often used to teach us about being a witness to others. Today though, God placed it in another light for me. In John 15 God tells us, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” Did you catch that? Nothing. When we decide to cut ourselves away from Him, sacrificing our time with God so that we can get more done, it will actually work against us. We believe this will give us the time to get more things done while what happens in reality is different. Our lives dissolve into chaos, anxiety and frustration. We may be able to check a few more items off our list, but we still don’t attain the peace we believe that effort will give us.

Some of us are in that spot right now. I know this past month has found me there, cutting myself off from where I need desperately to be. As I continued to talk with God today He reminded me of two more verses. First from Matthew 11:28 where God beckons us “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” If we find ourselves separated from Him in all our chaos, He reminds us to come back to Him. That’s where we’ll find our rest. God then paired that verse for me with one that He’s laid on my heart all month long. I’ve even added it to my stack of 3x5 cards. It’s from Isaiah 30:15. Here God tells us that “In repentance and rest is [our] salvation. In quietness and trust is [our] strength.” We need to press into the quiet moments. We need to trust that He has it all under control. Not you or me, but God. That is where we’ll find our strength to go on in the midst of the disorder that life seems to thrust on us.

Finally I came to one of the best known verses around, but one we don’t really read. Psalms 46:10 tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God.” Can you do that? Can you truly ‘be still’? Drop all the items on your list, and simply be still.

Now please don’t read into all this that I think you should throw your ‘to-do’ list out the window, quit your job, allow your home to dissolve into shambles, and don’t sign your child up for another extra-curricular activity. That’s not living the life that God created you for, but hiding from it. What I am saying is when you find yourself twirling in an endless circle, and you can’t remember which way is up anymore, chances are you’ve cut yourself off from the Vine. And you’re going to remain spinning until you do exactly the opposite of what you think you need to do. Stop moving and be still.

So that’s it really. God doesn’t want us running around trying to accomplish everything on our own. Just remain in Him, trust in Him, find the quiet and be still. When was the last time you can remember doing that? Sitting still, listening in the quiet to hear His voice? The last time you let all the endless tasks fall to the wayside and simply spent a few moments with God? He’s waiting for you, patiently sitting there, waiting to calm your chaos if you’ll only let Him. Because life is full of unending lists that you’ll never be able to handle if you don’t put God at the very top of each one.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

IronPrincess

So I’m a little off tangent today. That can happen when you have copious amounts of time to sit and think coupled with little sleep. I was lucky enough to have those things this weekend when I went to cheer my husband on in his first ever Ironman.

I have watched him train all year long. While he got up early to run miles upon miles, I drank my coffee and took long, leisurely walks. While he practiced his open water swims, I rode in a boat next to him to make sure I could rescue him if he sank like a rock. For the hundreds of miles he had to log onto his bike, I got him a bracelet – though he refuses to call it one – to hold all his emergency information should someone find him along the side of the road, unconscious. I, as you can see, was more of moral support than a training partner, which was just fine by me!

The day of the race came and my son and I (our daughters stayed home) wore t-shirts I had made. Mine proudly proclaimed that I was an “Ironwife”, his cleverly said “Ironson.” We had my husband’s number on the back and would frantically call out to him, cheering him on. We wanted everyone to know he was ours and we were his.

As I sat and waited for him at the half-way mark on his run I began to think. I had done none of the training. I did not have to endure a 2.5 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run, but I did get to claim the “Iron” part of his title and put it on my shirt. Simply by my association with him, I got to be an Ironwife. And boy, was I proud of that, as witnessed by my screaming for him, following his course and progress all day, and trying to get a glimpse of him in a crowd 20,000 strong. Of course, there was also my t-shirt, which I wore the entire day (never mind that it was bright yellow and yellow is definitely NOT a color I should wear. But we matched him, and we were visible). All day I’d run into people who’d point at my ‘Ironwife’ letters and smile. I’d smile back, “Yep, #875, he’s mine”, or “Why yes, I am an Ironwife. My husband, he’s #875 and he’s doing the race.”

Here’s the thing though, he was just as proud to have us wear those shirts as we were to wear them. He didn’t say we hadn’t earned that title. He didn’t ask us to take them off. He loved that we were claiming him, making sure people knew who we belonged with. He loved that we were so proud to be his.

And, as I sat and thought, my mind drew a parallel. I didn’t have to endure the cross, but Christ did. And He did it just so I could be His. I get to proudly put on, everyday, the title of “Princess” because He’s the King. He’ll never tell me I didn’t earn it, because it’s not about what I did, but about what HE did. Now that’s something to cheer about! And He wants us to come running after Him, to wear His name, to seek Him out and to be excited, crazy even, in our pursuit of him. He wants us to let others know; I am His, and He is mine!

Of course, my mind didn't stop there, it just continued down it's rabbit hole. I began to really watch the racers. I watched them push on and persevere through pain and problems. Hebrews 12 came quickly to mind. It begins with "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." It goes on to talk about discipline and training, something each of those racers knows a lot about.

What we need to understand, though, is that we're all in a race. One that we need to train for, one that we need to persevere through. One that we need to not grow weary or lose heart in, but rather fix our eyes on Jesus and keep on pushing through. I watched so many racers fix their eyes on that finish line and push through when everything was working against them. It truly amazed me. And, again I was reminded of all that Christ endured so I could have life. The life of a princess. Redeemed, cleansed, beautiful and cherished. I wonder, if while He endured the cross, if His eyes were ever fixed on me. Surely, with all He gave, I can run the race marked out before me and persevere.

So maybe now I’ll make myself an “IronPrincess” t-shirt for the race I'm running in and Who I belong to. Only this one I’m making in pink.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Gettin' Ready

So it’s time for a little self-defense. I mean, if we’re going to start tearing down the ‘names’ we’ve believed about ourselves, we’ll need to prepare. You can’t go into combat unprepared, and we are definitely in a battle. Ephesians 6:12 tells us “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Now what do we do with that? I can hardly even defend myself against flesh and blood. I’ve always supposed when my Fight or Flight response kicked in, I’d have some amazing Kung Fu moves to take down any fleshly attacker that stood in my way. But the ‘powers of this dark world’ and ‘spiritual forces of evil’ that we can’t even see? Puh-leese! That’s like telling me to try my non-existent split kick on the wind! Thankfully, God left me with a manual that has nothing to do with my physical prowess or muscles.

If you keep reading in Ephesians 6, you’ll see a whole list of armor that needs to be put on each day. They are all important in our fight, but the piece I’m most interested in right now is our Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Hebrews tells us “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrew 4:12) Sounds pretty powerful and something we should learn how to yield.

Now please note that it’s called the ‘Sword of the Spirit’. This means that we need to have the spirit to begin to know how to use it. If you haven’t accepted Christ as your Savior yet, you’ll never understand how to use this sword. Corinthians tells us that once we’ve asked Christ into our hearts, we’ll have “…not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (I Corinthians 2:12, emphasis mine) There are a lot of things Christ freely gives us: forgiveness, freedom, joy, peace, an endless list of gifts. But for right now, as I mentioned, we’re interested in that sword! And we want to understand it. So if you haven’t done so already, ask his Spirit to live in you and then pick that sword up and come along. He’s only waiting for you to ask. (Yes, asking Him is that easy and it's THE single most important and amazing thing you'll ever do in your life! See Deuteronomy 4:29, Jeremiah 29:13, Matthew 7:8, Acts 17:27, and most definitely II Corinthians 5:17)

All right, the asking part is easy, and everything starts there. However, there’s so much more than just asking God to live in our hearts. Many of us ask God into our lives, and leave it at that. And God does hear us when we call. He cleanses us of all our sins and makes us new. That, in itself, is an amazing miracle and so much more than what we deserved. But God didn’t just want to make us new, he wanted to make us victorious. This is why he left us his Word, and why we need to learn how to use it.

Our Bibles are not just to use for decoration on our night stand. They’re not to simply carry with us so that we look more spiritual. John 1:1 tells us that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” His word has been around since the beginning of time. God is the Word and he’s already defeated death and the grave. He left us with his Holy Spirit to dwell in us, and his Word to carry, not just in our minds, but in our very hands! That word is powerful, ‘sharper than any double-edged sword’ remember, and it’s ours to use if God dwells in us. Luke 10:19 tells us that he has “…given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” We don’t need to take it from satan any longer. We never did!

So this is what I’m asking you to do. It’s a wonderful habit I learned years ago while taking a Beth Moore Bible Study. Some of you may know it, but do you follow it? If not, I challenge you to begin. Keep a 3x5 stack of cards by your Bible. When you read or hear a scripture that reaches out to you, write it down. Keep those cards someplace that you can get to easily. You can even clip them together with a little ring. Or, keep a notebook that you write your verses in. If it’s a verse that really speaks to something you’re struggling with at that moment, write it on a sticky note and stick it on your bathroom mirror. The idea here is placing God’s word into your mind so that as satan throws his lies at you, you can hit them back with the Word of Truth. Memorize this verse if you haven’t already: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (II Corinthians 10:5) That’s specifically what we want to do. Make our thoughts obedient to Christ, no one else.

Here’s what I want to end with today. Many of these names we’re going to start making obedient to Christ began with a hurt. They’ve become a stronghold that is keeping you back from who God created you to be. Remember, he created you with a plan and a purpose. I looked up the definition for stronghold and this is what I found. “Strongholds are walls or fortresses around beliefs and emotions to protect us from further pain.” I immediately pictured an old castle, built rock by rock, that towered between me and God. I wanted to break that tower down, and help others learn to do the same. As I was looking up scripture that showed me the power of God’s word, I came across this one that is going into my stack of cards. “Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29)


Yes, not just a sword, but a hammer! I love multi-purpose tools:) And I’m ready to pick up that hammer and start smashing those walls. Aren’t you?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Lies

So I talked early on about names we believe about ourselves, rather than the name our Father has for us. The problem with believing these names is that they are lies told to us. We begin to believe these lies, and some of us even use them as excuses to keep from doing what God created us to do.

However, as a Christian, we cannot rely on them for an excuse. Once we have accepted Christ as our Savior, once His spirit lives in us, we can no longer claim to not be good enough. By doing so, we minimize His strength, his creativity, and His redeeming power in our lives. He makes us good enough. That’s our testimony! We came from nothing, we were nothing, but in Him we are everything. Important, treasured, loved, forgiven, and He has a plan for us. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us this, “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God never would have made a plan for you if He thought you couldn’t achieve it.

Why, then, do we believe we’re not capable of achieving God’s plan for us? Satan. He’s ‘the accuser’ – he’s always willing to whisper in your ear that you’re not enough. And sometimes he uses those in our lives to do that whispering. A parent, friend, sibling, co-worker, and the list goes on. We’ve all had someone in our lives, be it on a daily basis or one comment that stays with you, who help stick on those labels we were never meant to wear.

We don’t have to believe them though, and we certainly don’t have to listen to them. Instead, listen to this: “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Col. 1:22, emphasis mine)

We are free from accusation! Be firm, hold onto the hope that God gave us through His word and believe it! Stop listening to the lies that, for whatever reason, you’re not enough. You are more than enough in God’s eyes, created with a purpose that He wants to see come to fulfillment in your life.

So over the next few posts, I hope to break up some of those lies we believe. Some we realize and hold to as a comfortable cloak we’ve been used to wearing. Others we may no even see in our lives. Either way, it’s time to stop listening to them and begin to truly see yourself through God’s eyes.