Listening to the Right Voice

“[T]he real ‘work’ of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me. To gently push aside and silence the many voices that question my goodness and to trust that I will hear the voice of blessing– that demands real effort” (Henri J.M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World).

Maybe that’s why it’s so difficult for most of us to be still and silent for long. Perhaps the enemy knows that once we start listening to the voice of our Abba, and believing what He says about us, we will no longer be swayed by any temptation from the other side.

Sure, we have lots of voices telling us we’re no good, that we’re failures who are past all hope. We have other voices telling us that we’re as good as how well we perform and jump through hoops and wear the right labels and drive the right cars and so on and so forth.

Still, the voice that trumps all those other voices says that you are already enough because Abba made you. You are not your mistakes or your shortcomings or your weaknesses. You are your Abba’s beloved, and He is very fond of you.

“At issue here is the question: ‘To whom do I belong? God or to the world?’ Many of my daily preoccupations suggest that I belong more to the world than to God. A little criticism makes me angry, and a little rejection makes me depressed. A little praise raises my spirits, and a little success excites me. It takes very little to raise me up or thrust me down. Often I am like a small boat on the ocean, completely at the mercy of its waves. All the time and energy I spend in keeping some kind of balance and preventing myself from being tipped over and drowning shows that my life is mostly a struggle for survival: not a holy struggle, but an anxious struggle resulting from the mistaken idea that it is the world that defines me.

As long as I keep running about asking: ‘Do you love me? Do you really love me?’ I give all power to the voices of the world and put myself in bondage because the world is filled with ‘ifs.’ The world says: ‘Yes, I love you if you are good-looking, intelligent, and wealthy. I love you if you have a good education, a good job, and good connections. I love you if you produce much, sell much, and buy much.’ There are endless ‘ifs’ hidden in the world’s love. These ‘ifs’ enslave me, since it is impossible to respond adequately to all of them. The world’s love is and always will be conditional. As long as I keep looking for my true self in the world of conditional love, I will remain ‘hooked’ to the world-trying, failing,and trying again. It is a world that fosters addictions because what it offers cannot satisfy the deepest craving of my heart” (Henri J.M. Nouwen).

A Quote that Punched Me in the Face

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me” (Martin Niemöller).

Martin Niemöller was a German pastor during the Nazi regime. According to what I read, he spent the last seven years of their reign in concentration camps.

I found this quote when I was scrolling through the saved websites on my phone. It did almost feel like a punch to the face. It reminded me that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and silence in the face of injustice amounts to consent and approval of it.

I’m left asking the question: Who do I need to speak out for?

A better question is this: Who do I know that doesn’t have a voice that I’m not speaking out for?

Who will speak out for me if I don’t speak out for them?

 

 

Just Some Of My Own Thoughts

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I’ve been thinking a lot about some things and I thought I’d share some of these with you:

1) Loving someone doesn’t mean you automatically agree with all of their decisions and lifestyle choices. It doesn’t mean you endorse 100% of all that they say and do. In fact, love means wanting the very best for the other and that means you don’t want that person to make bad and/or unwise choices.

2) Disagreeing with someone isn’t  synonymous with disliking that person. Just because I don’t agree with a choice you make or your lifestyle does NOT mean that I disapprove of you as a person.

3) Because a majority of people hold an opinion doesn’t necessarily make it right. I am one of those old fashioned people who still believe  that if the Bible says it, that settles it. God doesn’t need my belief to validate that.

4) I don’t think voicing disapproval automatically constitutes hate speech. There is a way to speak the truth in love.

5) I can’t single out one sin that I don’t struggle with to make a crusade out of. We all struggle with something and we all have screwed up in one arena or another. We all need the grace of God.

You can take that and apply it any way you want. For me, it’s never been about popularity anyway. It’s been about me expressing what I believe and what I love and what irks me.

I hope you will make your decisions based not on emotion but on the truth as revealed in God’s word. I hope you will remember that famous verse about letting the one who is without sin cast the first stone. I hope you will remember most of all that what the Bible calls us to more than anything else is to love people, regardless of whether they choose Jesus or not.

Is that vague enough for you?

That’s How You Know

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“When you wake up one morning surprised to see the world exists
And your eyes ain’t full of tears
Your heart ain’t full of bitterness

That’s how you know, that’s how you know
That’s how you know, that’s how you know

When you’re thankful that you ever knew a love this strong
When you finally find the courage to write this song

That’s how you know
That’s how you know
That’s how you know
You’re moving on………” (Lori McKenna)

Growth is hard to detect on a daily basis. That wound may not look like it’s healing on an hour-to-hour basis. But here is some of the evidence that I’ve started growing and healing:

1) When a friend seems to so silent on me, i.e. doesn’t comment on my posts nearly as much or quits responding to texts, I don’t freak out and assume the worst. I don’t automatically go to defcon-4 and wonder how I’ve horribly offended the person. I breathe deeply a few times and let it go and choose to believe the best.

2) Rejection doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it did even last year. I’ve learned to let it go and move on and appreciate the people who do want me around. It’s less tiring that way.

3) I don’t get caught up in rehearsing what I will say to this person or that person if I see them. I don’t obsess over what somebody meant by a throwaway phrase or something that hit me wrong. I try to focus on the present and all the blessings there.

4) I don’t feel the need to be appreciated or noticed all the time. I can simply enjoy the moment quietly. Also, I’ve decided that since I’ve stopped trying so hard to be witty and humorous, I’m a lot funnier. At least in my own head.

I heard something I like a lot: time doesn’t heal all wounds; only Jesus does that. Remember that the next time, but also remember He’s still the best Physician when it comes to broken hearts and lives.

 

Being the Best You Possible

If you’ve always been comfortable in your own skin and never had any doubts as to your identity, then this blog’s probably not for you. If you’ve always liked yourself and always been supremely confident in God’s design of you then you can skip the rest of this.

For the rest of us, we know what it’s like to feel like God made a mistake when He made us. We know what it’s like to wish with all our might that we could be someone else, if only for 24 hours.

We’ve tried to be what we thought everyone else wanted us to be. We tried to be popular and witty and sarcastic and occassionally mean if we thought certain people would like us more.

Here’s my word for you tonight: God not only loves you but He likes you.

He knew exactly what He was doing when He made you and He knew that the world needed you exactly as you are. He knows that when you finally come alive to who God made you to be, people will notice and be drawn to your Creator.

Maybe you wished with everything in you that you could just be normal for once, like everybody else. God didn’t make you to be normal or average or status quo. He made you to be extraordinary and to shine like only you can.

So be happy with you. Be thankful for all the gifts and talents you have. Even boast in your weaknesses, as the apostle Paul said, for in those very weaknesses Christ’s power is perfected in you.

Someone out there right now needs to see you being you. Someone out there needs to know that you are learning to be comfortable in the skin God gave you. Someone will find healing when they see the healing in you that only God could have done.

So go out there and be the best you that you can be.

Kairos Revisited

Tonight’s guest speaker, Pete Wilson from Crosspoint Church, spoke about idolatry in relation to the American culture.

We don’t have actual wooden and golden and stone idols that we physically bow down to, but we have idols, nonetheless. Our idols are internal, and are anything that we expect to give what only God can give.

Two of the biggest areas of idolatry are accomplishment and approval.

Accomplishment says that if you can get that raise or that promotion, you will find meaning. If you work more hours and earn more accolades through your job, you will have value.

Jesus says, “I give you meaning and value merely because you are Mine.”

Approval says that you spend your life trying to make other people like you and notice you. Approval dictates how you dress, look, speak, and live your life.

Jesus says, “I approve of you because you are My beloved and I have eternally set my affection on you.”

If you seek fulfillment in these idols, it’s like being on an endless treadmill where you’re always reaching and striving because nothing you do is ever quite good enough. It’s exhausting.

Jesus says, “Come to me, all who are weary and overburdened and who work to the point of exhaustion, and I will give you rest.”

I really liked his definition of authenticity. It’s the practice of letting go of who you think you should be and who everyone else thinks you should be in order to become who you really are.

Authenticity is rare, so rare that those who dare to be their true selves will stand out like colors in a greyscale world.

As a recovering approval-addict, I appreciated tonight’s message. If I were honest, I’d have to repent on almost a daily basis of idols I have let slip into my life and given my time and attention to rather than God.

I think I for one want to step off the treadmill and find rest in my Abba as my only true source of contentment and fulfillment. Will you?

 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6)

When I think of hungering and thirsting for righteousness, I don’t think of when I would like dessert after a good meal. I don’t even think about when I am late for a meal and how “hungry” I feel. I think of someone who is starving to death and the lengths they will go to get food. To hunger and thirst for righteousness means more than simply wanting to in right standing with God and to please Him; it means that everything in me longs and yearns to see God glorified by my life.

The Message puts it this way: “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”

The question is: How badly do you want God? Not how badly do you want your prayers answered or how badly do you want gifts and blessings from God, but how badly do you long for God Himself? Honestly, I seek after many other things more than I seek after God, including but not limited to approval, attention, a dating life, and spiritual experiences. Is it any wonder that these things, whether I obtain them or not, will leave me empty and hollow? Only God can fill a God-shaped hole in my heart.

The hard part is that if you love and long for God, you will love and long for fellowship and community with His people. If you don’t love and long for His people, you don’t really long for God. Jesus says, If you love me, you will love my church (and that doesn’t mean you will love a building or a campus, it means you will love God’s people). If you are pulling away from God’s people, how can you say you are drawing near to God? I know there are seasons of solitude that God calls us to, but if we have no desire to pray for and support and encourage our brothers and sisters, we really are saying we have no desire for God.

Sometimes, when someone isn’t in a place where they can seek God and God’s people, we can rally around that person and pray God’s healing and restoration for him or her. A friend of mine said sometimes when you can only give 40%, I must be the one to give the 160% to make up the difference.

What does it mean to be filled? It means overflowing beyond your capacity to receive. It means God gives you so much that it runs over in you and spills into the lives of those around you. To be filled means to have life abundantly, or life to the full, that God will give beyond anything we could ever ask or expect or hope. As John Piper says, “God will not give up the glory of being the Giver.”

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Confessions of a Ragamuffin (inspired by good conversation tonight at Ben & Jerrys)

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My greatest fear is that people will find out who I really am deep down inside and will leave me and want nothing else to do with me. I project my own self-condemnation onto others and believe that they are angry with me or upset with me or have written me off when it is just me that is not liking me.

Most of the time, I feel the constant need to be approved, affirmed and admired by everyone and my biggest peeve is to be ignored (or to feel that I am ignored). I try to be all spiritual and come across as so very wise and super-saint, when many times the words coming out of my mouth feel like hay and rubble that will not stand the test of the fire. I say I trust in God, but I am almost always working on a backup plan in case God fails me and does not come through for me. I am a mess.

I am also beloved by the God who knows all this about me and more. He was not willing that I should perish, but that I should come to repentence and He will not ever stop loving me. I am blessed. I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies (so why do I still want more?). I am becoming who God has already declared me to be. I am constantly amazed just about every single day at the extreme lengths God will go to in order to prove Himself to me through friends, circumstances, reminders and (most importantly) through His Word.

Thank you to my friends who have inspired me by their honesty and willingness to be naked emotionally and spiritually. Your words and actions make me want to be more like my Jesus. You help pull me out of myself (notice how many “I”s are in this blog) and keep me wanting to live for a kingdom bigger than my own. You will never ever know how you have blessed me. I feel like I have given one tenth of what you have given me, but I want to do more.

So who am I? I am not my weaknesses or my strengths. My greatest strengths apart from God become my biggest weaknesses and the biggest obstacles to me being who God wants me to be. My greatest weaknesses in the hands of God will turn into His perfect strength working in and through me to impact the world around me. I am BELOVED, BLESSED and BECOMING LIKE JESUS. My Abba is very fond of me.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Disappointment with people

Head in Hands

I have to admit that sometimes I am disappointed in people in general. I feel like just about everyone I know (including me) has at one point let me down. I think I’m getting to know someone and build a camaraderie and then a wall goes up. People go absent and silent on me and I can’t get through to them. Then I had a discovery. The only times I am disappointed with people are the times they have become an idol in my life.

More specifically, my constant need for approval and attention becomes an idol. The problem is that my expectations of people are unrealistic. Only God can be 100% faithful and never waiver. People waiver because they are human and frail and fallible.

I know I have let people down many times. I have let myself down countless times. Unless I intentionally do something to break the cycle, I can become very bitter and cynical and withdrawn.

Jesus, You know what is in the hearts of people and You still love them unconditionally. Help me to see others the way You do. I can’t love at all, much less unconditionally, apart from Your love in me.

If no one reads this post, will I be embittered and disappointed? Apart from the grace of God, yes. It’s very hard to not put your trust in people who you can see and then place that trust in a God you can’t see. That’s why it’s called faith.

As always, I believe. Lord, help my unbelief.