Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dancing without the Shackles

There is no way to write what I'm going to write in order to convey the excitement I'm feeling, the liberation that came to me over the past few days. These words that I'm staring at as I type look pathetic to communicate what I'm feeling. Please just know that I have seldom been so able to breathe as a result of hearing anything.
If you've ever read my blog you'll quickly get a picture of a reasonably miserable woman, struggling in her own strength, trying to rely on Christ's power to live a better life. And writing again about how I've failed. I was living my life behind these constant prison bars of guilt. I was living as a Christian, but subjecting myself to the law. Every time I disappointed someone, or gossiped, or coveted, or was snippy (which is a nice way of saying I acted like the "b" word), I would put myself into this little cell, lock it through the bars and toss the keys outside and then cry, thinking how miserable it was to be locked up.
Lucky for me my Savior is the jailkeeper....and wants no one to be locked up.
I'll just pass on some quotes here:
"No sin can be crucified either in heart or life, unless it first be pardoned in conscience, because there will be want of faith to receive the strength of Jesus, by whom alone it can be crucified. If it be not mortified in its guilt, it cannot be subdued in its power." William Romaine, one of the leaders of the eighteenth-century revival in England wrote this. It was revolutionary to me to think that every sin I commit in this life as a believer, because I have accepted the only remedy for sin (Christ), has no penalty with it. That kind of deflates it huh?
I do not have to live with guilt anymore.
For someone who continually feels guilty, this is pretty remarkable.
See this verse: "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him." Romans 4:8
Did you catch that? Never? Like never....ever....ever!
And that's ME!!!!
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1
I was living as someone who was condemned and I was trying to allow fear, of disappointing God, of impending doom, of a death sentence when I get to heaven, to motivate me to be a better person.
Get this into your head......
fear is not a motivator for change.
Condmenation is not a motivator for change.
What is a motivator? Love. Freedom. Namely, the gospel. Christ's love is the motivator. And we find that "I love you" in the gospel.
Listen to this quote from Horatius Bonar, a 19th-century scottish pastor.
"Terror accomplishes no real obedience. Suspense brings forth no fruit unto holiness. No gloomy uncertainty as to God's favour can subdue one lust, or correct our crookedness of will. But the free pardon of the cross uproots sin, and withers all its branches. Only the certainty of love, forgiving love, can do this...."
This was revolutionary to me. A final verse, that will remain in my mind:
"For Christ's love compels us." 2 Corinthians 5:14
The author of the book I am reading, Jerry Bridges, said this:
"That is why we need to "preach the gospel to ourselves every day." It is in the gospel that we find those unsearchable riches of Christ that produce not only justification but also sanctification."
And there I will rest.

* Most of this blog was taken from the book "The Gospel for Real Life", by Jerry Bridges. A book I highly recommend, which has pointed me to verses in God's word that have revolutionized my view of the gospel and my salvation.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Kites, Strings, and God.

Here's my problem.....
let me re-phrase that....
Here's one of my many problems:
I like to look like I have my act together. In fact. I really like to look like I have my act together.
I like to be pretty, to have perfect hair, I like to be skinny, and look like I have self-control, I like people to think I'm disciplined and smart and funny and a good mom, I like to have my Christian "act" together too.
The problem lies in the fact that I'm not really any of those things.
I may be a little bit of some of them at times, but it's kind of like buying a new barbie in a shiny package at the toy store, only to get her home and realize she has cellulite, bags under her eyes, and borders on paranoia in many instances.
I've been in this weird funk in life where I'm feeling totally apathetic and stagnant, even in my relationship with God. I've been praying everyday that if there is something I need to do, something I need to know, something I need to change, God should let me know. I'm willing.
But nothing.
It even seemed like silence.
Then one morning, it started clicking.
Here's what I read:
"In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." Colossians 2:11-15
So let's play a above passage and notice one thing that is up to us to do.
You are correct! There are none.
I picture this like in the Jetsons where George is getting ready for work, and the machine is brushing his teeth, plopping him in the shower, brushing his hair, slipping him into his clothes, etc. God does it all.
In just these verses alone, we learn that He's the one who: circumcises our hearts, raises us from the dead, makes us alive, forgives our sins, cancels the written code, and disarms the powers that stand against us.
He does everything, He saves us, He keeps us, we are His and He does the work.
Do you know how refreshing, how liberating that was to me?
To know that it is not up to me to do great spiritual things, to be pretty, skinny, smart and holy and put together? To conjure up these great feelings of spiritual fervor? I get to just be...and be used by God.
Then he gave me the most perfect, beautiful object lesson later that day that brought it full circle for me.
Linc is really into kites. He always talks about flying one. So I decided we would make a kite together.
Now....I do not pretend to have any skills whatsoever in this area. I taped together some straws, and string, and a garbage bag, and Linc thought it was one of the blue angels.
The whole time I'm making it...I'm praying "Lord, if you could just make this pathetic thing fly, that would be great. It would just rock his world if you made this thing fly."
So Linc is out in the yard, running back and forth at full speed, dragging behind him a piece of thread with this mangled, heap of garbage bag and straws and tape on the ground and it dawns on me.
I've been doing that very thing for a week.
Running back and forth, on my own, dragging my sickly looking little garbage bag kite, wondering why it wouldn't fly....the whole time completely refusing to accept that it is the my case God...who makes it fly.
Without the wind....the kite is pathetic.
Without God working through me...I'm just this sorry excuse pretending to know what I'm doing and obsessing over my hair.
I was talking to John this morning about how "so and so" seem to have such a good marriage and have their act together and I told him "Honey, we're all in the same soup...some of us just fake it better than others."
It's true. I like to fake it, I like to try and work my way into this cookie mold of a wonderful Christian woman....but really I'm just running around like a fool dragging my kite on the ground.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mountains...Valleys....and plains.

Lest you think I am (or think myself to be) a "good Christian" (as if there were such an absurd thing)--this post will seek to smash all arguments to support this.
John and I have a little saying in our home, "mountains and valleys". Maybe we didn't think of this, but it makes me feel cooler and smarter to have thought up a phrase like I pretend it is unique.
For example, I called John the other day and recalled a story to him about how Lincoln had peed on the floor twice and then came up to me and told me he had to sit on the potty. John was excited, and I just smiled and said "mountains and valleys honey" to which he replied, "mountains and valleys".
So let's just say I had this day this week where it was abundantly, crystal, perfectly (like ocean on a summer day) clear that God was using me, interacting with me, right there engaging with my life. I felt so encouraged, I felt so uplifted, I felt so...important.
I read a line in a book I'm reading that really resonated with me, "God loves you the same whether you're being elegant or not. It feels much better when you are, but even when you can't fake it, God still listens to your prayers." (don't know how to properly "quote" said author in this blog....and can't find my writer's harbrace so......It was Anne Lamott who said a book).
So let's just say the next few days were less than thrilling.
I woke up the next morning, and it was like before I set my feet on the floor I was a boring day.
The whole day followed suit, and proved my point. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORING.
Potty training, staying at home, pee on the floor, mac and cheese, bad coffee from Walmart. It was just all-around a Walmart brand day.
And the next day the same.
It kept on till I finally started telling God I couldn't stand it. I can handle being spiritually high. I can even stomach the lows where I feel like the scum of the earth and I'm totally empty of myself, but I'm aware of God's love for me.
I cannot stomach the mediums.
And I was just medium. Plain-jane.
I've got to be passionate about something or my bones will dry up, my brain will melt right out of my ears. So here I was talking to God.
"Lord, I don't understand--one day things are great and I feel like you're near me, and we're going out and doing great things and I'm totally in love with you and excited, and the next...I'm walmart."
It was really hard for me. I can understand why God would allow the mountaintops, even the valleys....but the plains?
I basically pleaded with God to say something....anything...even..."yeah're boring...I agree."
Then this popped into my head:
"But when he asks he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." James 1:6
Yeah....that was me.
I had to stop and ask myself what I was doubting, and the result was a lot of dangerous lies that had seeped into my brain and were threatening to turning me into something awful and radioactive.
I was doubting God was still there with me.
The truth: "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8
I was doubting that Christ's power to save me was still enough for me even when I didn't feel like it was.
The truth: "He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy." Titus 3:5
So I realized that God is a God of the spaces. A God not only of the exclamation points. The question marks. The periods. But also a God that dwells over and in the moments where there is nothing.
He is a God of the mountains....a God of the valleys, and a God of the plains.
To believe anything less about my life is to believe less about Him.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

I need a hero....yeah...sing the song.

I'll keep it short. Cause I have to.
Recently, I was struggling and heartbroken over my response to a particular situation. You see I can coast along pretty well responding spiritually until something interrupts my comfort, and then it becomes increasingly harder and harder to respond in a way that is glorifying to God.
Well, as many of you know, my husband was out of town (and few things will press against your sensitive spots more than taking care of two children with no husband day in and out for a week).
Needless to say, I was not the most graceful, gentle, and kind person. I did and said some things that I will regret for the rest of my life.
I hurt someone.
Without dwelling too long on my failures, let's just say I was pretty heartbroken over it.
You know when you get to the point where it's easier to focus on yourself and how horrible you are than on the truth? I was there.
I was reading my Bible the next day, and began reading in Deuteronomy the list of curses. There it was, over and over pounding into my head and my soul, "cursed is....cursed is....cursed is..." and there was the specific one I had done. I was cursed. I was feeling that curse, that total separation from God because of my sin.
Let me just tell you...that felt miserable.
I was standing there, looking directly at a verse (I could have put my finger right on it) that said because of what I had done I was cursed.
In utter despair, I asked God, "Is it true? Am I under a curse? Am I cursed?" I asked Him to give me a verse of truth, a verse to speak to me that I could hold on to.
Guess what? He did!
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us." Galatians 3:13
And I realized all over again the wonder of my salvation, of my Savior.
Without the awareness that on our own we are completely and utterly futile....we can never have this salvation. And as we grow in our faith, we have the tendency to start thinking we are getting pretty good on our own and no longer need that message for our lives daily (though as good little Christians we don't like to admit to such apostasy outright-we begin to live as though we have accepted this).
Praise God for the realization that I still do need this. For the awareness once again of the truth that I lean on daily, that redeemed me from the curse.
And for the hero of a Savior I have....that became a curse for me.
I rejoice in anything that makes me look like a total fool so this truth can become more clear in my life.