Saturday, December 28, 2013

Liberation Doesn't Mean That I Am Not a Princess

I have one niece. She is all girl! She loves purple, pink, and pretty things. When I think of her I imagine all things sparkling and bright. She also loves sports. She is thrilled to go watch the local university's sporting events. She does well in school and loves to create. She is a pretty much a well-rounded child.

She is a princess!

Not because she loves Disney princesses, because she does, but because she is a daughter of the King. Before my brother starts to think I'm talking about him, I mean the King. No, not Elvis either. The King of Kings. The Lord. God. She is His daughter and that makes her a princess.

There is a movement, by women mostly, to push the idea of girls not being princesses. I understand it, but I completely disagree with it. Their idea is we are more than just Disney princesses, that we are powerful and strong. It is true I have never been a Disney princess, but when I think about them, many of them are powerful and strong. Yes, think about it, they are.

Look at this reference from Titus 3:1-8 first. "Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on theses things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.These things are excellent and profitable for people."

Cinderella lived in a horrible existence with an evil step-parent and haughty step-siblings. Even though she was abused, forced to spend her days in rags, and denied the riches of her late father, she was an example of verses 1 and 2 of Titus 3. Now, it is a Disney movie so I know God didn't come in and save her, but she was saved by a fairy-godmother. The fairy-godmother came to her, Cinderella didn't seek her out to make a dramatic change in her life, but the fairy-godmother sought her out and did change her life. As we know, Cinderella was given a new outfit, and prettified. She goes to the ball and the prince falls for her based on her beauty. Okay, here's where some people have their Disney princess issues. I get it, the focus on how she looks causes her get the prince. Let's leave that alone and remember that she was also beautiful on the inside. Unless he wanted to end up as one of those pathetic grooms on bridezillas, he better have made sure that was the case before the wedding day. The clock strikes midnight and her former condition is back. She goes back to rags and cleaning and being mistreated by her step-family. But then the prince shows up with the glass slipper and it fits! They marry and she becomes a princess in title.Yippee!

Now here's how I became a princess and got to be an heir to the King. I was more like verse 3, I was young but I was led astray, disobedient, hating others and being hated. Then I was invited to a Kid's Crusade meeting and a woman spoke about the God of verse 4. The one who, through His Son, showed His goodness and loving kindness, and offered me a way out. I accepted His salvation and became an heir of the King. Making me a princesses with a heavenly title. I hope that I am becoming the princess mentioned in verses 1 and 2. The one who is submissive to the authorities God has put in my life, regardless of who they may be or how they may act. A princess who does good work, watches what I say about others, and is gentle and courteous. Unlike the easily good and gracious Disney princess above, I am still working on being the person God wants me to be, the one mentioned in verse 8.

The Lord liberated me (see Luke 4:18) and by doing so he made me a princess. There is a women's lib movement that tells me being a princess is wrong and tries to tell me that I should be this or that kind of woman. I love the Mets, NASCAR, and the 49ers. I love purple, pretty things, and cuteness. I love being crafty, decorating my house, and making things that are pretty or cute. I love Madame Curie and Abigail Adams, but I also love Cinderella, and that's okay. I am free to be me, the woman He created, the princess He liberated.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Paths of Righteousness Do Not Detour Around the Valley of the Shadow of Death

A couple of days ago I read Psalm 23 for probably the billionth time, and this time something struck me. I have been able to stop thinking about it since.

"He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."
Psalm 23:3-4

I read the chapter, slower, to see if the thought I had made an sense. It did. We often break these two verse apart. In my Bible there is a space between them, a break in the stanzas, a separation in thought. I am not sure there should be though.

I always assumed paths of righteousness would be pleasant place, like the green pastures and still waters of verse 2. But the Bible also tells us none is righteous (Romans 3:10), so how can we even walk in paths of righteousness?

Well, we can't if He doesn't lead us. He takes us on these paths of righteousness, that we can't possibly be on, unless we become more like Christ. And how do we become more like Christ? By walking through the valley of the shadow of death. He takes us on these paths of righteousness, that lead right through this valley, and parts of us die.

We don't die. The parts of our heart that is guilty and sinful, those parts die. As those die we become more like Christ, more like His righteousness. How do I know the valley of shadow of death kills of those parts? Look at the rest of verse.

"...your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

The rod was used by shepherds to protect the sheep from predators, but was also used to correct an unruly sheep. The shepherd didn't beat the sheep to be cruel but to get it back on the right path to food, water, and safety. He has to use His rod on us, on me. I have felt it. He isn't being cruel, although sometimes it feels like it. He is using it to drive out of us what keeps us from being on the path of righteousness.

The shepherd used the staff to guide the sheep. That sounds nicer, doesn't it. But the staff had a hook on the end of it for a reason. Sometimes he had to use it to pull a sheep for harm. He had to put the staff hook around the sheep's neck and bring it back or lift it out of the harm it fell into. He does that for us as well. He guides us with it, but He also has to use that hook on us. I have gone on my own path and fallen into enough dangers to have felt Him use the hook to pull me back.

He uses those tool shepherd's tools in the valley of the shadow of death. He uses them there because that's the parts of our journey where wonder away. It is scary, and we think if we set off on a different path we will get out of the valley. He needs to lead us back to the path, the one of righteousness, and He guide us through the valley.

On the other side of the valley we are free of the death that something was bringing to our lives. For me I know some of the deaths involved bad choices; selfishness; hanging on to hurts and fears; resentment; anger; jealousy; etc. I also know there is still way to much not righteous about my heart that I will see more valley of the shadow of death trips. I also know that on the other side of the valley the paths of righteousness continue. They go through valleys, but they don't stop in them. The journey continues, the He still leads us on.

I truly hope that this makes sense to at least some who read this. I don't feel that I've done a very good job exampling what I truly believe He has shown me about these two verses. Yet I know that He can take what He has given me and use it to speak to you as well. For me, knowing that I am walking on His path of righteousness, being lead on it by Him, and that it will go through the valleys, somehow makes the valley experience even more worth it.

I am in such a valley. Christmas time is a valley for me. I love the holiday and hate it all at the same time. It is a yearly reminder of the family that I long for and do not have. It is another chance for God to remove something from my heart, and make me more like Him. I have to see it that way. Otherwise it means that God is just a cruel God, beating me with that staff. I know He isn't. I know He is removing something bad from my heart, and replacing it with something good. I do not understand, but I do have His Word to know that the path of righteousness runs right through the valley, and I want Him to continue to lead me on it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Broken Wall Will Bring Healing, But It Isn't Always Easy

Three months ago I did an exercise where I had to tear down a wall. It was a large white box, not a cardboard box, but some sort of plastic box. It was duct taped together and, although I didn't know it, it was full of Styrofoam and paper. One side of this huge box was sectioned off into bricks. I was given a marker and I wrote down names, events, and fears that were part of my wall. At first, I thought I would only write a few things, but I almost ran out of room.

Then I was given a rubber mallet, and I went to town on that wall. I hit it and hit it, but all I did was leave behind black marks. Then I was given a claw hammer. It worked a bit better, at least it was making dents in the wall. Then I got the right tool for the job, a crowbar. That crowbar ripped that wall, but it wasn't enough. I put down the crowbar and I started ripping that wall apart with my hands. That worked well for awhile, but remember it was duct taped. I needed something to cut through the tape, and a friend handed me a pair of scissors. 

I completely destroyed that side of the wall, but that wasn't enough for me. I tore all that Styrofoam and paper out of there and cut apart the sides, the other side, and even the bottom and top. There was bits of wall and stuff all over the place! Then I picked myself up off the floor, and I stepped over that wall. 

After that I took three pieces of the box that had no writing on them, and wrote down the positives that tearing down the wall will make possible. It was a truly amazing experiences!

Since then I have had quite a few hard days, because I do not have a wall for protection anymore. There have been times that I wanted to resurrect that wall, but I haven't. 

There are two areas that I have asked God to heal and help me with since then. The first one is in the area of relationships. I have sucked at them! So I have asked Him to help me actually have them. That has been so much harder than I ever thought was possible. More about that, promise.

The other area I wrote about in my last post. I want to see me, know me, the way that He does. That has also been hard. Satan certainly doesn't want that to happen so he has been working hard to make sure I don't. Even though I know he doesn't want me to know that I know how God sees me, it doesn't change the fact that at times I believe the opposite he shows me. I believe the negatives and even hateful things he sends my way. He has tried to tell me that I am crazy because he has told me that my feelings are all messed up. He whispers in my ear and mind a lot, and never good things. The problem he faces, is that he isn't even trying to be sneaky. I know it isn't the Holy Spirit speaking to me, because he doesn't speak truth to wound, so it must be lies of satan to harm. Now, I wish that I didn't listen to the lies, and sometimes even believe them. I do however, know that they are lies, and I need to resist the devil so that he will flee. With God's help, I'm working on that.

As for the relationships, I asked God yesterday why I feel so tender much of the time. Why does it seem like almost every day something hurts me, in regards to relationships. Even when I am sure that I am overreacting by letting it hurt. So why then? He showed me a picture. 

When a baby is born he has two soft spots on his head. (I am about to impress you with my knowledge, but I actually Googled it.) These spots are soft because they allow the skull to compress during labor so the baby can be born. About four months later the rear spot of the skull closes and becomes hard. The front spot takes a bit longer, usually around a year-old the baby's front skull spot hardens. The Lord showed me that my heart and mind are like a baby's soft spots. The wall that I had guarding me made it seem as if I was hard, but I wasn't. I didn't need to be, my wall was hard for me. Now that the wall is gone, my soft heart and mind are exposed. They feel tender, and although they can take some touch not too hard. 

Satan is poking at my soft spots and he is using relationships to do it. He twists innocent things said or done to poke me. Once again, I know it's him, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt anyway. Then there are the not so innocent things that have been said or done. Those really hurt! Some come from people I considered friends, some from acquaintances, and some from people I have no choice but to relate to. 

Now, this can be a post where I just focus on what satan is doing and the harm he has caused, but God always has to the final word. He is hardening, correctly, my heart and mind to the attacks of satan. I needed to have the soft spots so I could experience the labor of change in my life. He is also closing up my "skull" so that my heart and mind will be the correct hardness to the attacks of satan, but still soft enough for the love of family, friends, and God to speak Truth to me. Someday, I will see and know myself the way God sees and knows me, at least in part. I will probably never know fully in this life. I will continue to develop godly relationships as He helps me along the way. He will even help me with the relationships that I have to have because we all have those relationships too. 

God is showing me who I am in Him, and He is helping me not suck at relationships, hopefully to actual thrive. He always brings the victory! 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Who Does God Say I Am?

I confess that I tend to listen more intently to voices of others about who I am more than God's voice. I listen to my own voice about who I am more so than God's voice. I listen to satan's voice more than God's.

I also know that I am not alone.

In the last couple of weeks I have been asking God to show me who I am in Him. Each day, when I journal I focus on one positive thing that is true about me. Sometimes that comes from what I already believe about me and other times I believe that God tells me what it is. It has been one of the best parts of my day.

I can admit that at first it felt uncomfortable. It was hard to come up with something. It felt self-centered. As I have spend more time listening to Him tell me who I am it has become more of a joy. The other day He told me to make a list of positives about myself. At first it was hard, I used some of the previous things written to get me started. The list is a good length, not too short and not too long. Some of the things I would have not thought of myself so I know that they came from God. I now can use that list to write the daily thing that God says about me.

Not only can I write about it, but I can thank Him for making it true about me. If God says it is true about me then it is part of me because He made it so. If my focus become just about the positive truth about me then it will be easy for the focus to be on "me". That is not the point. I don't want to focus on who I think I am, but who He says I am, and thank Him for it.

Of course, that doesn't stop the other voices. It doesn't stop satan from speaking untruths to me or shouting the negatives about me so loudly that's all I hear. Yes, I know there are negatives, and I ask God to help me overcome those, and He will in the right time and way. I can focus on those negatives if I choose to listen to them. Sometimes I do listen. I start to feel down about myself. Then the realization comes that God's voice doesn't make me feel like that, even when He is dealing with a real problem area in me. With that realization I can take authority over satan's voice, in Jesus' name.

Sometimes it's easier to realize satan's voice than the other voices. One of those other voices are mine. I have talked to myself my whole life, and I haven't always said very nice things to me. Sometimes I have told myself that I am things, good things, that I am not. They may be things I want to be but trying to be something that I'm not is a lie. Living as someone that God hasn't created me to be is not what I want to do.

The other voices are from family, friends, co-workers, and just about anyone else. Sometimes the things that others say about me are true. Sometimes they aren't. Sometimes the things people say about me are really nice, and I would love for them to be true. As nice as those things may be, if they aren't true about the real me, the me God created, than I can't focus on them. There are many positive words that I may want to be, but I understand that not all of them are true about me. They can be, if God wants to develop them in me, but I can't force them to be true.

As bad as it is to believe a positive about me that isn't really me, it is far more damaging to believe a negative thing about me that isn't true. As a child we recited the rhyme "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me". That is one of the worst lies that has ever been spoken. Words can kill the real me. Words that are not true or even if true are, but not said in love, damage me. When words are spoken to me by others I have to take them to God, and ask Him if they are true. If they are negative, and yet still true, then I need to leave that at His feet and ask Him to work on me so they longer are true. He will, but it might not be time to do that. He knows exactly when it is time to work out the negatives and replace them with the positives.

I can try to live in a fantasy world where only positive words are true about me, but I live in the real world. I also live in the loving hands of God who helps me know and believe the positives about me. He also loves me enough to work on the negatives and to remove them and replace them with the positives of who He has created me to be. I am a work in progress. I am learning to give Him the negatives so He can transform me. I am also learning to focus on the positives of who God says that I am.