Thursday, April 26, 2012

Prove It or Trust It

The light went on for me Monday morning as I sat with my friends listening to the speaker.

Scripture says, “… and people loved darkness rather than light because their works were evil.” John 3:19. I might finish the sentence this way …

I loved darkness rather than light because:
  • the light embarrassed me.
  • the light hurt too much.
  • the light touched my shame.
  • the light is not trustworthy.
  • the darkness was the only thing I knew.
Scripture also says, “… God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” I John 1:5. But I was walking in darkness; even though I didn’t know it. Good character qualities were twisted and warped. Not good.

I grew up believing that if I was going to feel significant, I needed a title to put on a business card that declared that significance; or I needed a uniform to wear that shouted to all around that I’m important. It never entered my thinking that the person who God created me to be was significant. That was where my worth was.

So I say to me, earn that title, create that significance. And I did—or I thought I did. I worked hard at climbing whatever ladder was in front of me. And I was successful—successful at climbing ladders, that is. By working hard, by climbing the ladders I got close to the top. My climbing ladder strategy confirmed the vow motivated by the lie that controlled my behavior.

Then came Monday and the light came on. I realized when I work hard to prove my worth, I am not trusting God with the worth He created in me. My worth, my value is God-dependent.

I am an initiator; I am a leader; I have a lot of ideas—all good qualities. But I walk in the darkness when I hijack the goodness of those qualities by climbing ladders instead of trusting God to use those qualities for His glory.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Prom Time

I was dressed, ready, and waiting for my date to arrive to escort me to our High School Junior Prom. Carl’s invitation came at the last minute—no problem; it was the invitation I needed to preserve my fragile 16 year old identity. I remember his question—probably a funny one for a boy to ask—“Do you have a dress to wear?” Yes, I had a dress; I was hopeful. The style was very similar to this picture*.

His late invitation, however, robbed me of the excitement and anticipation of this special night with my girl friends. That was minor compared to my future dilemma—seeing my friends the next evening at the prom—would bring unwelcome questions. Why didn’t I tell my friends about my date, my dress? Why didn’t I join in all the pre-prom excitement?  But I had a solution—a white lie. I wanted to surprise you. Admitting the truth took courage and was humiliating. The lie seemed like the easy answer to my dilemma.

I understood that a white lie is an ok lie because the intent is self-protection not leading another astray—a real lie.

Lies—white or otherwise—sabotage; they don’t protect.

Now years later as I ponder that piece of my journey, I realize there was something far more significant and devastating going on than allowing myself to lie. This was a small example of a real lie that I believed about myself. I am not good enough! I am not good enough to receive a prom invitation within an acceptable timeframe. I can heap on many other illustrations of this I’m not good enough lie.

It was three and a half decades later before I realized how that lie was defining me. It wasn’t just a little white lie, it was a monster that consumed me and separated me from all I loved.

Realizing the TRUTH of how that lie had sculpted my life was a huge breakthrough and the first step to freedom. I asked God what His truth was; how He felt about me. Did He think I wasn’t good enough? My loving heavenly Father who is never late with invitations spoke His truth to my heart. I heard. That started a new journey of believing God’s truth. I review that truth almost daily. I have to; I forget quickly.

I’m learning that replacing my lies (there are others) with truth is like peeling the layers of an onion. God graciously and gently continues to reveal areas where lies define me and opens new doors to new places to apply His truth. I bet it will be a life-long process

“and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:32.

* My friend, Melody Mead, painted this picture that stirred up the above story. It is an acrylic on watercolor paper. In her own words Melo says, “My background was in education and art and I have begun to paint again. This is something I have greatly missed and have had a hard time finding time to do. It is a joy however, to recommit this gift and talent to the Lord for his glory and pleasure. I am learning that as I live out of my unique gifting and design for Him, I find deep satisfaction and fulfillment; joy and pleasure.”


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Right and Wrong, or Different

My default is to right and wrong.
  • She is overly involved.
  • She is not involved enough.
  • She should have … I would have.
  • And the list goes on.
Eve’s conversation with the serpent in Genesis 3 lends understanding to my right and wrong judgments. The serpent says, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:5. There are several problems with the serpent’s promise: Eve already was like God—she was created in his image; Eve (along with Adam) was given dominion over every other living creature—including that serpent; and judgment—deciding between right and wrong, good and evil, is God’s responsibility. This is where I’m acting like Eve and submitting to the serpent. Ouch!

I find myself making those judgment calls most often when I am hurting. I have a personal stake in the decision I’m disagreeing with. Perhaps my knowledge or my character is being questioned; perhaps I want it to be different. But not always, sometimes my right and wrong, black and white tendencies come out when I just think I’m right! I am doing it better. I have a better idea. If she would just let me help her …

God built into me a warning system like the yellow lights that tell me a red is eminent. Mental arguments. My mental arguments slow my thinking and provide a second chance to evaluate my reaction or my decision. They help me ask myself and ask God why I’m struggling with the situation the way I am. For me, mental arguments are a gift from God.

When I make judgment calls—deciding right and wrong—based on anything other than the wisdom of God:
  • I elevate the right or wrong, good or evil situation beyond wisdom.
  • I allow the serpent to deceive me and make me discontent.
  • I live out of a character quality reserved for God—judgment.
  • I ignore my built in warning system.
  • I become the victim and am hurt my the decision of another.
When I heed my warning system and allow it to tutor me well:
  • I relax.
  • I give freedom and space to the other.
  • I am thankful.
  • I allow God to be God in their life.
  • I allow God to be God in my life.
Could it be that their different response is just that – different? Not right, not wrong. 

“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”
Genesis 18:25

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Hope

Grieving; it was the theme of the week. Jesus grieved in the garden of Gethsemane; he  grieved on the cross; Judas was so full of grief he committed suicide; the disciples, the women, indeed all his followers grieved. I believe even Pilate grieved his decision.

A few years ago I purchased the book When Your Friend Is Grieving. My friend’s husband had recently died and I wanted to encourage her. As I read, my eyes were opened; I realized I was grieving—not the death of a spouse—but the death of a hope. I read the book for me. The Easter hope (even though it wasn’t the Easter season) once again came alive in my heart.

Early on the first Easter morning, the women returned to the tomb where Jesus was buried and found it empty! They grieved; but not for long as “two men … in dazzling apparel” appeared to them with an amazing message, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you …” Luke 24:5 and 6. That was my key; I too need to remember.

“Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”
Psalm 33:20-22

Since the 1960s that Scripture has held a special place in my heart. Still life happens and I forget till I remind myself of its truths once again.

Remember God’s steadfast love for you, Sue. I John 3:1 anchors my hope in this area.
Remember wait on God; not certain circumstances. Jeremiah 29:11 creates hope.
Remember God is my shield. Psalm 23 steadies my heart and provides hope.
Remember to trust. Proverbs 3:5 and 6, two of the first verses I memorized, tell me that my hope is in God and not my own insights.
Remember the tomb is empty!

What keeps hope alive for you?

“He is not here, but has risen.”
Luke 24:6

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

We had Hoped

“Jesus himself drew near”, I love these words recorded in Luke 24:18. Jesus himself was close enough to Cleopas and his friend to invite himself into their conversation as they walked the
Emmaus Road
. I imagine there were many people on the road conversing as they walked so it didn’t seem strange that Jesus joined in asking what was on their minds.

Jesus’ question stopped them in their tracks and their disappointments spilled out:
  • Jesus of Nazareth was condemned to death.
  • Jesus was mighty in deed and word.
  • Jesus was crucified
  • We had hoped … (verse 21)
  • Besides all this … (verse 21)
  • Moreover ... (verse 22)
My guess is more poured from their lips as they candidly voiced their frustrations.

We know the next chapter; Cleopas and his friend were living in the reality of their current chapter. I identify. How easy it is to live with misplaced hope and dashed expectations because I’m living in the reality of my now. I quickly forget that God’s plans work themselves out in my yesterdays and in my tomorrows not only in my todays.

Other times my hopes are dashed because I’m sure I know the right solution. Surely God and I are on the same page. This must be God’s will. My prayers reflect my limited understanding and my selfish desires.

I quickly forget that “The secret things belong to the LORD our God…”  (Deuteronomy 29:29). Secrets usually lead to something good. I need to be willing to let God have secrets. He will reveal His good plan in His good time. My hope need to rest in God, not my changed circumstances.

Hard things are still hard. In the midst of the hard I need to remember:
  • “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you” Psalm 39:7
  • “… we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2 - Isn't this what I want?
  • “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5
Hope, rather than being something elusive, can be an anchor. In ancient times anchors, like those that hold the ships secure, were a metaphor picturing that which keeps my soul secure. Spera in Deo; hope in God are the words inscribed on this anchor that sits in a prominent spot on the campus of my alma mater, Hope College, where I began to learn about placing my hope in God. Psalm 42:5.

“But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:21-23