The Real God

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Happy New Year! If you have been following this blog for a few years you know that this is my favorite time of year because of the opportunity of new beginnings.  I am a big fan of new beginnings, second, third, or fortieth chances.  But instead of writing about how you can set new goals in 2016, let go of things weighing you down from the past, or start brushing your teeth more, I wanted to share one simple thought.

What if you started this year with a right perception of God?  What if you woke up each morning and walked through your day in whatever unique way you do with the correct filter of how God sees you in every circumstance… wouldn’t that be amazing?

Think about it.  What happens between you and God when you mess up?  Say, loose your temper…again?  Or fall flat on your face with a struggle that you thought you had overcome?  Or drive by the homeless person whose frosty breath makes you thankful for your warm car–yet you keep on driving?  Or gossip or overindulge or judge or lie… just a little?

Shame. Guilt. Remorse. Defeat. Hopelessness.

And as a result you avoid facing your creator because of the label you have picked for Him in that circumstance:

Moody God, Judgmental God, Fickle God, Distant God, Prejudiced God, Unhappy God

Take a lot of those over the course of the year and you have turned your face away from God enough to give you whiplash.

But those are False Gods.  Fake. Made up by messy human hearts. And the whole time the real, true God is patiently waiting for you to put down your label maker and turn toward him.

You have a God who loves and LIKES you.  He is patient, kind, enduring, warm, close.  He is infinitely forgiving and pursuing of you REGARDLESS of your actions, words and thoughts.

“I have come to call not the self-righteous, but sinners.”  Matthew 9:13

My friend, we are all sinners.  We are all called by God.  Wooed by him, pursued.

“The men and women who are truly filled with the light are those who have gazed deeply into the darkness of their own imperfect selves.” Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

So back to 2016.  Can you walk into this year setting aside your false prejudices against God and yourself?  Can you be filled with the light because you realize the truth of your imperfections and still cling tightly to God’s mighty hand in your life?

Can you confess your sins to God and still look him in his loving eyes?

I think our year might just be amazing if we can figure this out.

To a new year and a real God,

xoxo,

Amy

 

Silencing The Most Critical Person In Your Life

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When you think of someone who tends to be the critical voice in your life, who comes to mind? Is it a friend, a parent, a child, or a boss? Who is that person who is never pleased with your efforts, who makes comments that sting and guilt?  That person you are thinking of…make an imaginary list and put them at the top.

Then, just bump that person in the number one spot down….way, way down.  And replace your name with theirs.

“What? No…there are other people who are way more critical of me–than me.”

Really?  How often are those people critical?  Once every couple of years, maybe a few times a year?

Probably peanuts compared to how often you criticize yourself–my guess is daily…even hourly.  Think about the voices in your head. Do they praise your efforts in parenting, cheer you on when you make a mistake, whisper words of encouragement on your housekeeping, cooking, marriage relationship,  job performance? Or, are they more like mine:

“Well that parenting moment didn’t go so well did it?  You didn’t keep calm–you let your emotions win over self-control and then there went the volume on your words.  Now your message was not received because your child is upset and angry.  Way to go.”

“Darn, you blew it with the communication with your husband again.  All those things you were going to try to do next time a hard subject came up–listen before speaking, don’t get angry, try to understand his position before making yours known–well, what happened there?  Will this ever get easier?”

“You didn’t make enough of a dent in your to-do list today– your house is messy, the laundry is not put away (again), and you didn’t get the grocery shopping done.  No toilet paper for everyone tonight!  Wait…do we have enough Kleenex?  You better do more tomorrow.”

Think about it.  There is no one in your life who will give you a running list of critical comments everyday on all subjects like your own self.

Lets take it one step farther. When we talk to ourselves this way, we live on an island of self-sufficiency.  There is no solution unless we change and do better.  Which often feels hopeless. Where does God fit into this picture of messy life?  Let me show you:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. ~John 14.27

 But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. ~ Isaiah 40:31

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  ~ 1 Corinthians 12-9-10    

In our barrage of self-deprecating remarks we completely cut God out of the equation. We limit him powerless to help us because our own voices muzzle his work in our lives. But look at His promises–to renew our strength, give us peace, His power in our weakness, to take away our fear.

What if we spoke different, better words to ourselves.

“Just because I have a less than perfect response to my child it doesn’t mean I have failed.  God has the power to give me patience and wisdom in my parenting journey–I just need to ask and invite him into this situation! I will remember that God loves me and my child and is bigger than my parenting flaws.”

“Lord, you know I struggle with wanting to be right. Forgive me for my pride and self-sufficiency in my marriage. Give me courage next time to defer my way. I know you love me and I’m a work in progress.”

“Tomorrow I will give my to-do list to God in the morning. I will ask him to help me manage my time and keep me focused on his plan for my day. I will get done the housekeeping that I can, but I will have grace for myself when I don’t accomplish it all. My home and homemaking doesn’t need to look perfect–God cares much more about me having margin for joy and energy with my family than to be a ragged mom striving to keep up with imaginary Pinterest perfection.” 

When we change the way we speak to ourselves, we change how we invite God into our moments and struggles.

Here is a three step process to changing the voices in your head:

  1.  Confess your sin/issue/struggle to God
  2. Invite Him into the situation. Ask for wisdom, hope, guidance…whatever you need
  3. Resolve to move forward, even to do better, but not on our own–with God, and with kinder self-talk.

What kind of self-talk can you invite God into?  How might it look different?

Let’s silence the inner critic today 🙂

XOXO,

Amy

 

Figuring Out Brokenness

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For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

 ~Psalms 51:16-17

I do not like the idea of brokenness, in fact, I try all day every day to be the opposite of broken–in my parenting, in my marriage, in my friendships, even in my walk with God.  Being broken means my messy parts in all of these areas are exposed, which means I might have to admit I have messy parts.  And I don’t like to do that.

The irony is that in my trying to be a “good Christian/mom/wife/friend” I am actually pushing God away.  Of course he wants me to strive after righteousness, but when I become prideful or self-sufficient in my pursuit of Godliness or the other roles in my life, I fall completely short of His delight in me.  Look at the scripture above.  He does not delight in my material sacrifice–pleasing him with good deeds, striving for perfection, or looking good in my life.  He actually delights in my brokenness and a contrite heart (realizing my need for atonement).  When I stop ignoring or hiding my messy parts–the fight I just had with my husband, the impatient way I snapped at my child, the gossip that slipped from my tongue, the bag of chocolate Hershey eggs that I just frantically consumed, I truly feel the pain of my brokenness.

And I experience the desperate need for a Savior.

It is the place where pride and brokenness meet that God can work His great grace and love in our lives.  There is not room for both, and a broken heart for God must push into that space with greater force.

Sometimes the reality of our sin is overwhelming and impossible to ignore.  We feel crushed and almost hopelessly distant from the love of a good God.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. ~Psalm 34:18

Yet, these God-breathed words can wash over us during this time.  He is so near in our complete weakness, because we have no pride to consume all the air we need him to breathe into us.

If we want to experience a deep relationship with God, where we feel his presence, his love and his mercy, then we can rejoice in our brokenness, for it draws Him near to us.  How wonderful to be messy.

 

 

 

What Do You Long For?

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What is Your Long Labor?

Are you in a season of your life where a circumstance has you in for the long haul?  It might not necessarily be a season you wish away–just one that is not always easy.  A few examples come to mind.

Parenting. It is where we live with our heart beating in the open air, vulnerable to the highs and lows of the little lives we are raising. Parenting is a labor of love, endurance, continual trial and error, mistakes and triumphs, heart on the floor and then lifted to greatest heights as we weep and celebrate with our flesh and blood the events and circumstances of their lives.

It is a season that for me has lasted seventeen years as my oldest celebrated this year in her life a few months ago.  And from what I hear speaking to older, wiser mothers, the ride does not end when our child walks out the front door into adulthood–there is labor ahead, even if it is just the labor of my heart, while my hands rest from years of parent-work.

And it is long.

How do any of us get through it? How do we possibly live so vulnerably for so many years, with soft, pliable hearts that don’t harden just for self-protection and a moment of rest?

LOVE.

Love is what keeps us malleable, it is the hand that picks us up again and again as we strive to be the good parent to our children, when we truly don’t know what we are doing so much of the time. And, I believe it is the love of God that pours through us that allows us the shred of wisdom and forgiveness and grace for each day.

In Beth Moore’s latest study, “Children of the Day”, she speaks of Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus and their letter to the Thessalonian church with encouraging words:

“We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work of faith, labor of love, and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians1:3

Paul was speaking about the faith, labor and hope of the people of Thessolonica who were trying to be faithful in their day to day lives.

In her study, Beth changes the emphasis just a bit on these words:

FAITH CAN BE WORK

LOVE CAN BE LABOR

HOPE CAN GET LONG

Paul acknowledges that the people of Thessolonica who were trying mightly admidst much persecution to love and serve the Lord, were in it for the long haul.

What else in your life is long-hoping, long laboring? What about marriage? When you know that God has your best interest in mind in the midst of a difficult marriage, you have a new perspective. You have to labor for your love. And hoping… it can get long. Hoping for change, for a new leaf to be turned, in yourself or your spouse. With no end in sight. How does one possibly hold on?

In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he certainly does not make light of long-suffering. Having been beaten, tourtured, flogged, left for dead, persecuted, run out of town, shipwrecked three times, he is intimate friends with wanting a season of better. Even in this, he encourages us to hang on. In life, whether it’s parenting, marriage, financial troubles, relational troubles, work difficulty, depression, or whatever you want to fill in here, sometimes it’s going to be long.

We hold on, we keep hoping because we trust God and his love for us.  He knows what we are going through.  As my friend prays, “Your arm, Lord,  is not too short to reach us in our struggle.”

For me, accepting that something is going to be long somehow makes it easier.  I can settle into the situation, find my reality in it instead of fighting the reality.

When we hold on to the hope that God is good, and will see the circumstances out in our life according to His will—not ours—we can see the situation for what it is, not something to constantly try to escape from. When I accept that raising my children will be a lifeLONG process of joy and heartache, I can embrace the lessons I am learning, and the ways God is growing me right now. I can trust that he will see me and my children through, and loosen my grip of control.

So what is your long labor? Keep fighting to live in the present, learn the lessons meant to be learned, grow as you were meant to grow, and hold tightly to God in the long—ness of it all.

As always, I appreciate your comments!  Thank you for being such faithful readers!

~Amy

 

How To Eat A Pie

This might surprise you, but there is more than one way to eat a pie.  I know, because this is what the current pie I am eating looks like:

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Why? Because it was my birthday yesterday and my dear friend Christine brings me a freshly baked (by her own hands) pie each year on this one day.  The pie comes with strict instructions: “DO NOT SHARE.” Which gives me great freedom to dig that fork in any which way I want.  I can just have a bite (ha!) or I can have a third of the creation all at once.

In my pursuit of slowing down and being grateful, this is finding extra meaning for me this year.  I am savoring the bites, and even flaunting them a bit in front of my children, who don’t really like apple pie (fortunately).  I am grateful, and I am living in the moment of the sugar and crust and delicious filling.

It’s nice having freedom for once to not conform to the “rules of the pie”–eight symmetrical slices to be shared and eaten politely on a plate.

It’s interesting that the rule my friend gave me actually gave me freedom.

Have you ever thought about that with the Christian life?

Too often we don’t see rules as leading to freedom, instead we see them as necessary evils that we either fight against or embrace legalistically:

“We shouldn’t wear this, we need to say that, we certainly don’t do those things, did you see what that person did?”  We tend to make it sound all judgy, with shouldn’ts and should haves. We heap expectations on others, while often ignoring our own misfires.

But God’s real plan for us is freedom.  How do we reconcile both?

Here are some thoughts:

God knew in his wisdom that some ways of doing life are better than others.  That is the key to understanding Jesus, and his tangible effort to connect us with his Father, followed by his death on the cross paying for our sin.  We have no laws anymore, no sacrifices to redeem us enough to be in God’s presence once again.  It is done.  We are connected through repentance and faith and belief.  We have freedom.

We also have choices to make every day, some good, some bad.  Our freedom to choose can sometimes be the very thing that imprisons us.  Adultery, murder (literally imprisons), dishonesty, gluttony, envy, idolatry,  just to name a few.

Back to the pie… what if I always ate a pie set before me this crazy, one-forked big-holed way?  What if I dug in to a delicious warm apple round at a party with my prongs, carving out the middle, going back in several times to get the best bites in front of a group of wide eyes.  Um, yuck.  My party days would be over.

God knows that some ways to live our life (eat our pie) are better than others, which is why in His Word he gives us instructions, guidelines, even commandments.  He knows that some “free” decisions in life lead to heartbreak, pain, suffering.

“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind.” 1 Peter 2:1.

Throughout the bible, God speaks of obedience and righteousness, and He also speaks of hope and grace and a future.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you , who through faith are shielded by God’s power…” 1 Peter 1: 3-5

God has an inheritance for us, a living hope and a new birth.  He is not all about rules, there is so much more!

Yet he knows that if we tank our life in sin, we get buried in the heap of mess, guilt, regret, and shame.  There is no freedom in that.

Which is why there is freedom in the word of God, with all its wisdom and guidelines.

We are to live a life of passion and love because of the great love God has for us, his children.   At the same time, let’s pursue righteousness–let’s serve and obey God because we want to out of our love for Him, and because we trust him with our best life.

This is the balancing act of the Christian life.

Blessings,

Amy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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