Healing in my Heart

Last week, I wrote about a new Bible study I was starting. A study which talks about rejection and how God can fill those empty places caused by rejection if we would just let Him. “Let go and let God.” We’ve heard these words; we’ve seen these words written down, but do we really practice them? Like I said last week, I fail at practicing them a lot. They seem so simple, but they can be difficult in our Christian walk.

Something happened though as I was dealing with that difficult situation from last week, and I realized that, through it, God has already opened my heart for His healing to start pouring in. My open heart has made me more open to hearing His voice (through prayer and Scripture), to hearing the author of the Bible study as she imparts His truths, and to releasing any guilt I might be feeling for taking a step back. Keeping my eyes on Jesus and not on the world has been the best thing for me as I am listening for what He wants me to hear.

God has also met me with specific words about the situation I was dealing with, and this is where releasing guilt comes in. My Lord has given me many gifts, but dealing with preteen boys is not one of them. I could feel guilty about not doing my “part” at church to help out with them, but it is not my job to acknowledge and use gifts that God has given to other people. That’s between them and God.

I also had some other takeaways related to the Uninvited study. I’m not a popular person at church and won’t ever be the popular person at church. I’m not going to be close with everyone, but Jesus commands me to love everyone. (I’m still figuring out how that works.) Prayer is the most important thing we believers can do as we live out our lives here in this world. Making the effort in relationships is what God wants us to do even if it turns out badly. Pulling back for a season is ok too.

The previous paragraph is a hodgepodge of disparate thoughts, and one might wonder how they would work if a person is in an environment where they are experiencing continual rejection. One of these is covered in the Uninvited study. The session this week talked about going into a situation being filled by God as opposed to expecting to be filled by others. As I’ve studied Scripture and prayed, I have come to realize the truth of this statement. God is waiting to fill us. We only need to ask Him which I think, sadly, not a lot of us are doing these days.

I think the other thing though is a sad statement on all of us who are believers. We have all done our fair share of rejecting people–only seeing our differences and not seeing the things that are the same namely that we who are believers are brothers and sisters in Christ. Personally, if someone is in a church and experiencing continual rejection, I would question the salvation of those believers. Harsh words, yes. But, we all need to know the truth of what God wants from us. Rejecting others is a sin. He wants us to embrace our differences and our similarities as we live out our lives as one body.

It has been life changing and healing to be a part of this study so far. To have God’s healing grace moving in my life has helped me understand what He wants from me as a believer. I’m looking forward to what else He has to teach me through it.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

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Uninvited

This week I have started a Bible study with this title by Lysa TerKeurst. I’ve only read the first few chapters, and it has already blessed me. Because, you see, I have spent a lot of my life feeling like I was alone even after I accepted Jesus. I think that’s why God led me to the study. He wants me to settle, once and for all, the question of how much He loves me. This post is not going to be a review of the book or the study. Rather, I’m going to record my reactions to it and how God is working in my life through it.

The first three chapters were a litany of ‘Yeah, that’s me. Yeah, that’s me. Yeah, me too.’ As you can see, I have a lot of work I need to do in being absolutely certain of God’s love for me. There have been times I’ve done well with this concept. I’ve been able to minister to the people around me with Jesus’ love. I’ve kept a positive attitude and a positive emotional state and felt like I’ve done the things Jesus wanted me to do. In other words, I have felt His love and have been able to pour it back out to people.

But, as I read the first three chapters, I saw many quotes that reflected what I have felt at other times. Alone and left out, not as good as other people in the church. I have walked up to people and conversations have stopped. I have had people walk away from me. I have been rejected, and it has hurt me down to my core. I know some of you know what that feels like. I have fought the fight though especially during the last five years. I have studied Scripture and know the words of our Lord and Savior. Rejection doesn’t come from Him. It comes from our sin nature. It comes from us wanting to feel more important than other people. In fact, not loving someone because they are different from us, is not what Jesus calls us to do. He calls us to love everyone and not reject them.

The question I have struggled with though is how that works with other people. How can we love other people when the sting of rejection goes down to our core? How can we reflect what Jesus has given to us? I know what Jesus has given to me, and I believe that with all of my heart, but many times, I fail in the practice of it. I believe this study will help me as I read and listen and move forward with this journey called life, and I will feel more certain of God’s love for me.

Earlier, I wrote about the quotes I had read in the book that fit how I felt when I felt alone or left out. This is the quote from the book I would like to get to. “God’s love isn’t based on me. It’s simply placed on me. And it’s the place from which I should live…loved.” Seems easy enough, but it’s so hard to put in practice. Why, you ask? Well, after I finished my reading last week, I had a disaster of a day on Saturday. I volunteered for something I shouldn’t have. I ended up being the only adult with a group of children from kindergarten-preteen age. They didn’t know what to expect, and neither did I. It went from good to bad quickly. The preteens decided to see how far they could challenge me, and it was not pleasant. In fact, it was a truly awful experience. I went home with hands shaking and tears flowing down my face. I felt like a failure which is why I, at first, decided not to tell the parents of any of these children. It was my failure not theirs. I had the experience and decided I would never put myself in that situation again. I felt like all the experience I had with children in the past didn’t matter.

After I thought about it some more, I changed my mind and approached some of the parents the following day. (Did I mention confrontation is extremely difficult for me?) It took every ounce of courage for me to do so because I still felt like a failure though I knew I was only part of the equation. The conversations went well which I was happy about. I still need to have some conversations. I hope they go well, but if they don’t and I am rejected for what I have to say, I am praying I can remember the quote from the book and feel God’s love in the depth of my bones despite being rejected.

I know this post has been all over the place, but it’s where my thoughts have been going since starting the study. I don’t know where God is going to take me with this, but I’m looking forward to healing and learning how to “live…loved.”

God’s blessings on you all today!

 

The Honesty of Children

I had the choice of two titles for this post today. I chose this one because the other title had more than one meaning, and I didn’t want it to distract from what I was trying to say.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, children. The other day I kept the daughter of a friend of mine. She’s little (4), and I planned things to do I thought she would like. Since my sons are 20 and almost 18, it had been a long time since I had a young child in my home. My younger son and I went to get her in the morning and stopped at a local store before we went home. The first thing I noticed was that she could change her mind at lightning speed. She would tell me she wanted to do something, and then, seconds later, she would tell me she wanted to do the exact opposite. It was dizzying to keep up with.

After we arrived back home, I took her to see the lake at our apartment complex and then to the playground. It was fun to see things through the eyes of a child and to see her joy. I think we adults lose that sometimes.

Another thing we lose is our ability to be honest. Think about it. If a child doesn’t want to go to bed or eat his green beans, he will tell you in a heartbeat, right? And then, he will throw a tantrum if he doesn’t get his way. Now, some things are necessary even if a child doesn’t like them, and it’s our job as adults to show them what is important. But, that’s not my point. Children are honest about their likes, dislikes, fears, and joys. Their feelings can be seen on their faces. They haven’t learned to conceal them yet like adults have.

These thoughts continued to roll through my head as I watched her play a video game with my son, eat her lunch, and help me make chocolate cupcakes. She didn’t have to wonder if she was loved. She had a joy in living that I struggle to find sometimes. I remember, in particular, what she said when I gave her one of the cupcakes to eat. She wanted to watch my son play his game while she ate so I gave it to her in a little bowl and reminded her to eat it over the bowl so she wouldn’t spill crumbs. She looked up at me and said, “Mrs. Alisa, this is so much fun! Thank you!” Every part of her face and body radiated her joy. I told her I had enjoyed spending the day with her, and she proceeded to eat her cupcake.

Later on, I thought about what a good day we had. My family has a treasured relationship with this little girl and her family. Love is there and in a big way. It is not at all like my relationships with other adults. Not like when I look at my relationships and see the lack of them wondering what I’ve done. Not like when I stiffen up and find it hard to talk to people. Not like when I depend on regular gatherings to keep in contact with people and then they stop. It’s hard to know the answers to my questions because, as adults, we are trained to not be honest in our relationships. We are trained to be afraid of anything that is different from us. We are trained to not have joy.

I wonder sometimes if God looks down at us and wonders why we are not coming to Him as little children do. Why we can’t be honest about our joy and our tears. Why we hide behind a shiny veneer of ‘Everything’s great. Everything is just fine.’ instead of allowing people to see our broken hearts and our broken spirits. My guess is that He sadly shakes His head.

I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to be the one who life has beaten down to the very nub. I want to be more like my little friend who shows her joy and her sadness, who shows her likes and her dislikes. I want to come to Jesus like a little child.

God’s blessings on you all today!

The Prosperity Gospel

What do you think of when you see these words? Are your thoughts positive, or are your thoughts negative? Does bile gather at the back of your throat as it does in mine, or do you think you’re hitting all the marks in your faith because you have a huge house, your kids go to a private school, and you’ve gone on a cruise this year?

People have strong opinions on this topic, and they are what have inspired my post today.

First, what exactly is the prosperity gospel? Wikipedia defines it as a “religious belief among some Christians, who hold that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth. The definition goes on to say that “if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity.”

I would dare to say that most everyone who claims Christ as Savior has encountered this philosophy if they haven’t embraced it at times. And why wouldn’t they if things were going well. Wouldn’t it be obvious to assume God is blessing a person if things are going well? Many of us have heard such examples from television evangelists or even from the pulpits of our own churches. I used to believe in it myself. It made sense to me that God would bless the people who believed in Him.

But then, life happened to me, in a big way. I lost grandparents, my in-laws, good friends; my husband had multiple surgeries which put a strain on us physically, financially, emotionally; we were betrayed by people in former churches which caused us to spend several years outside of the church; public school turned out to not be a good fit for my children, and we began homeschooling them. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

I’ve written before in this blog about how God brought our family back to Him and to the church. In the last five years, my faith and my relationship with God has come to mean more to me than it ever did before. Along with that growth, as you would expect, I’ve read and studied Scripture so I would know how to follow this God of mine. It has been an amazing journey. I’ve read through the complete Bible once, and I’m working on doing so again.

This past week I was in Proverbs, and I came across some of the same verses that people use to claim prosperity in God’s name. I thought about all the “wealth” that television evangelists and pastors I have known in the past had and how they used this wealth to beat down other people in God’s name. Literally, the whole concept of pretending that God thinks better of someone because they have money disgusts me to the core. That’s not my God! That’s not my Jesus!

How do I reconcile that with the verses in Proverbs though? Verses such as Proverbs 3:16-17. “Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace.”

What about Proverbs 8:18-21? “With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver. I walk in the ways of righteousness, along the paths of justice, bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasuries full.”

Wealth? I don’t have wealth in the traditional sense. How am I supposed to take these verses then? The Bible I’m reading right now is the NIV Life Application Study Bible (with lots of notes). I’ve been reading the notes as I’ve studied, and they’ve made things clearer to me. Here are what the study notes say for Proverbs 3:16-17. “Proverbs contains many strong statements about the benefits of wisdom, including long life, wealth, honor, and peace. If you aren’t experiencing them, does this mean you are short on wisdom? (I would add, are you not as good of a Christian?) Not necessarily. Instead of guarantees, these statements are general principles. In a perfect world, wise behavior would always lead to these benefits. Even in our troubled world, living wisely usually results in obvious blessings–but not always. Sometimes sin intervenes, and some blessings must be delayed until Jesus returns to establish his eternal kingdom. That is why we must ‘live by faith, not by sight’ (2 Corinthians 5:7). We can be sure that wisdom ultimately leads to blessing.”

So, they are “general principles” instead of “guarantees”. I’m thankful for the person who wrote those notes to make some of these proverbs clearer, and I take comfort in that as I seek to live in God’s will. I’m also thankful for more Scripture verses which state that worldly wealth shouldn’t matter to us and that serving God should matter more–all things I have learned as I have studied the Bible on a more consistent basis. I’m grateful, as well, to have them demonstrated in real life by a pastoral staff who consider the words of Jesus more important than any standard of worldly success. The gospel is “prosperous” in that it brings us closer to Jesus, the one who is the Savior of all of our sins, and not because we can get worldly things out of it. May we all become more “prosperous” today!

Bigger than Myself

With my younger son about to start his final year in our homeschool, I have been thinking more of what I want to do next. More of what kind of legacy I want to leave. For years, it has been what do my children or what does my husband need to the exclusion of what I need.

This has even been true in the church from the activities my children have participated in to the ministries my husband has been involved with. And if I express a need, well, it’s called selfish, if not out loud, then in my own head. So, I have buried my own longings of doing things I’m good at or having a chance to participate in something for Jesus.

People might think my expressing these longings have thrust me toward the feminist camp, or they might think that I’m more of a traditionalist because I’ve stayed at home all of these years, but I don’t think I’m totally either. I’m a daughter of God praying about and looking to see the next thing He wants me to do when this phase of my life is over. I don’t want to be pushed aside because I’m a woman or told to sacrifice something just because I am a woman.

I’ve been struggling with how to voice all of this especially since I don’t want to be selfish either. I want everyone in my family to be doing the work God wants them to do. I watched something earlier on one of my favorite TV shows that has given me a voice to express this longing. It wasn’t a Christian show, but it had a message God wanted to send me.

One of the main characters on this show had been imprisoned with his son, and they were facing death within the next day. This guy was one of the main bad guys, and there was no attempting to gloss over that fact. He was telling his son to kill him in their upcoming fight (which their captors had scheduled) so he would make it out. He wanted his son’s life to count more than his life ever did. I don’t know any parent that could argue with this. He was very convicted of the bad things he had done, but thought that, if his son lived, he could leave something bigger than himself behind. And that was the phrase that leaped out at me–in blinking neon lights. “Bigger than himself.”

That’s what I’m trying to find–something that would leave an impact bigger than myself. Something that would be meaningful to the Kingdom of God. Because, I don’t have that right now. People miss my husband if he’s not at church; they miss my kids if they’re not at church, but they don’t miss me. There are things I would like to be asked to do, but other people are selected over me. Sometimes I feel like I’m the quiet kid shunted over to the corner so people can get the talent the other kids bring–my husband’s ability with the media board, my sons’ youth. I do things to satisfy others, but never myself. I look at these words I just wrote and think to myself, ‘There I go again being selfish. Whatever I want should be at the bottom of the list. Isn’t that what being a good Christian wife and mother is supposed to be? Isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do?’

I’m not sure about the answer to the first question, but I know the unequivocal answer to the second is yes. I think a caveat needs to be added though. There are several verses in Scripture that talk about God’s plans.  Verses such as Proverbs 16:3. “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Then there is Proverbs 20:24 which says, “A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?”

“Directed by the Lord.” When a person’s heart and mind are centered on God in prayer, He can give us longings and desires. That might be considered by some to be a cop-out especially if it’s a woman wanting to make a difference for God, but hear me out. How does a person know they’re supposed to preach? How does someone know they want to develop their musical talent in order to lead worship? What about the person who wants to work with children or teenagers? What about the person who has a talent with numbers? These are all God-given desires that He wants us to act upon. So, how is that any different than someone who is trying to find a ministry focus or a new avenue to leave something of themselves behind? I don’t think it is, but there is an important thing to consider. Are we just doing it for ourselves, or are we wanting to do something that we have prayed about and that will bring glory to our Lord and Savior? If it’s the latter, may I suggest that it is a God-given desire we should do our best to act upon and not let Satan discourage us when he throws obstacles in our way.

And, there is the solution to my struggle. I’m told I do a good job of writing my way through problems to get to a solution. This was a God thing though. 🙂 Right down to the Scriptures I found earlier. So thankful for my God who has given me this writing talent. May we all keep our eyes on Jesus so we will know what He wants us to do!

God’s blessings on you all today!