Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Our Battles

I have a confession to make:  I like Pepsi...I really like Pepsi...I LOVE Pepsi!!!  I have a hard time functioning without at least 1 Pepsi a day...

Sigh... it's out...

I know it's not healthy.  I know all the damage it causes.  I know I will be paying for my habit dearly.  I know I need to quit.  I can't make myself stop...

In regards to food addictions, this is my fiercest battle.  It wasn't always Pepsi.  It began with Coca Cola.  When I was a little girl, my parents used to get a case of Coca Cola bottles a week.  The Coca Cola truck actually delivered...just like the milk and the bread...they delivered Coca Cola to our neighborhood.  Now that I think about it, it was crazy!  My sister and I used to anxiously wait with the empty crate by the door for the old truck to show up so we can make the trip down the driveway to exchange our crate full of empty bottles for a new one, gleaming with the dark liquid and shiny red bottle caps.  Yes, they were glass bottles with bottle caps that we had to remove with a an actual bottle opener that we had installed in the kitchen.  

Ahhhh...the memories of the burn of the cold drink going down my throat in the hot days in Panama are unforgettable.  Perhaps, they are unforgettable due to the fact that the liquid is still going down my throat every day!

I have stopped for periods of time.  But it only takes one little, tiny sip for the chain to tighten around my neck again...ever so much stronger than before.

Like it happens with issues that bring us shame and make us uncomfortable, I avoid confronting it.  I feel guilty about it, so I see condemnation everywhere.  I actually experience a great deal of resentment when I'm forced to face the issue.  For example, I hate it when people point out to me the awful habit that it is for me to drink "that stuff."  I hate reading well-intentioned, health articles and books that talk about it.  I hate it when I perceived dirty looks as I enjoy my liquid poison.  I've never really written about this addiction to cola products for the same reason...denial.  But it's time.  I'm hoping that today is my first step toward allowing Christ to finally free me from this addiction and win the battle for good.

What prompted me to open up about this was, once again, the book You're Going to Be Okay, by Holley Gerth.  She talks about the need to connect the spiritual part of our being with the physical part.  We pray that God heals us, but often there is a disconnect as to how we see ourselves.  Sometimes, two things may happen:  on one hand, we could be overly spiritual and neglect our bodies...on the other, we could be just all about our bodies and neglect the spiritual.  The answer, as it usually seems to happen, is found in balance.  God is sovereign over both areas.  He created them and He watches over all of us, not just one aspect...and so should we.

Author Holley Gerth speaks about this disconnect.  She says how we tend to separate our spiritual and physical lives, but that in reality, we need to close that gap.  She recommends that we start doing this by asking God to be involved in taking care of our bodies just like He is in other parts of our lives.

That was the moment when my mind went straight to my bad habit of drinking cola products.  I need to close the gap!  I need to tap into the source of power that could break this habit and enlist God's help right away!  

Why haven't I done this before?  Well, because, deep inside of me, I don't want to quit!  I like my Pepsi and my Coca Cola too much!  I don't want to give it up!  And I know that once I take the step to get God involved, He will act and it will be bye, bye to my refreshing daily treats...

The thing is that, like with any addiction, it is an area that controls me...in other words, it is an area of my life that I have not surrendered to God because I want to be lord over it...

I have resisted giving this bad habit to My Heavenly Father, because I don't want Him to be in control over it.  I want to keep doing this...I like it to much...

Sigh...

Can you relate at any level to any of these?

Well, I will continue talking about this on the next post.  I have to go and do some soul searching now.  I hope to see you soon.

Monday, January 22, 2018

I'm Sorry

Me:                         "I'm sorry..."
People around me: "What for?"
Me:                         "I don't know? For whatever happens, I guess... it's all my fault anyway, so I'm                                       just giving a preemptive apology..."

This is is an expression of how I feel like pretty much all the time...for I know I will do something that I will regret because in my wrong-doing, I will inevitably hurt someone on the way.

Sigh...

Guilt has been a constant visitor in my life, and it's time that I kick it out of my house for its stay is long-over-extended!

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. John 3: 18


Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 
Romans 10: 9

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8: 3-4

I believe and I confess that Jesus IS the Christ who died for me as the One and Only truly acceptable sin offering, once and for all.  And as He takes up His Throne as the King and Lord of my life, guilt has no room in me as sin has no power over my soul.  I am a sinner, yes, but I am forgiven by the Blood of the Lamb.

The guilt I feel is false-guilt, like author Holley Gerth points out in her book, You're Going to Be Okay.  This false-guilt we carry is for things that God never even asked of us in the first place.  It is a deception of the enemy who tries to put us back under the law...the law that Christ redeemed us from long ago!  The enemy knows that if he can succeed in placing the heavy yoke of the law back on our shoulders, we would walk away from the Lord because the guilt would be unbearable and it would make us feel terribly inadequate and unworthy of being in His presence.  And that's a lie!  Every time we find ourselves walking away from the presence of God we can bet all we've got that we are just falling for another of the enemy's schemes.  

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free! Galatians 5: 1 Remember?  And that freedom includes freedom from guilt.

Now, let's be clear, right?  I's not like okay, no guilt, let's do whatever.  That's not what a guilt-free life implies.  A guilt-free existence means that we don't have to be burdened by the guilt of unforgiven sin.  If we do, we deny the power of Christ's sacrifice.  If we continue to feel guilty for our sins, we doubt Christ's ability to forgive them when He died for us.

Like Holley Gerth says in her book, we don't have to bear guilt, what we do need is conviction. (102)  We have to obey the Lord's Commandment to 

“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" (Matthew 22: 37-38)

That is our marching order.  And if we live lives trying to fulfill this commandment, there is no guilt necessary.  Of course we will fail upon occasions, more often than not if you are like me...but we are covered by God's Grace and God's Love... and there is no fear in it! (1 John 4: 18)  So when the Spirit points out our wrongs, it is not so we quiet and go hide our light under a bushel.  On the contrary, it is to keep us humble and to make us speak out to all around about the wonders of God's love, who chooses to call His own, even someone as wretched as me.

Me:             "I'm sorry.  I'm a sinner and I will disappoint you and probably hurt you.  But, by God's grace I'm under the New Covenant that was sealed by the Blood of the Lamb.  So I am here to testify that even a sinner like me could be redeemed, and so can you."


Friday, January 19, 2018

We've Got to Laugh a Little

I'm a fool for melancholy.  I'm drawn to all things bittersweet.  I cry watching cartoons, for the love of Pete! Remember the movie Beaches with Bette Midler?  Wow, was that a tear jerker if I ever saw one...

Anyway...one of my favorite parts in the movie is when Bette Midler sings the song "The Glory of Love."  This song, in a way, reminds me of Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8... "There is a time for everything..."

Sigh...

The song says:
You've got to give a little, take a little
And let your poor heart break a little
That's the story of, that's the glory of love
You've got to laugh a little, cry a little
Before the clouds roll by a little
That's the story of, that's the glory of love

There IS, indeed, a time for everything under the sun.  That's the balance under which God's perfect design functions.  But I think, in my case, I forget the balance.  I let my life become lopsided...off kilter due to the heaviness of my worries and the perceived seriousness of the situations that surround me.  In other words, I cry A LOT and laugh, just a little.  

"You take yourself WAY too seriously," Dan always tells me.  Really, he has been telling me that since shortly after we met, over 26 years ago.  The funny thing is, he is right... yikes... don't tell him I said that :) 

I have a hard time laughing at myself and at my circumstances.  Everything is a crisis.  The smallest breeze becomes a hurricane.  Every little thing seems so life-altering from where I sit.

I'm exhausted...

Today, author Holley Gerth reminded me of all these.  In chapter 5 of her book You're Going to Be Okay, it says:  "signature insecurities tell us to take ourselves and our lives way too seriously.  Sometimes poking a bit of fun at them can be like popping a balloon." (100)

My signature insecurity, or at least one of them, is that I feel unlovable.  Why would anybody ever love me?  I'm the worst person in the world...I don't deserve to be loved...blah, blah, blah...right?  When my insecurity button gets pressed, all I do is confirm my own beliefs about myself.  I become the unlovable creature that I have fabricated in my mind.  Then, I want to run away.  It's life-shattering.  I don't want to be unlovable!  This is serious stuff!  I mean, how could I ever poke a bit of fun at this issue to deflate it like Tom Brady's footballs?  OOPS...sorry Patriots' fans all around! :)  

I don't know.  It's a matter of personality, I think.  Some are better than others in the art of self-deprecating humor.  If we could master it, though...the world could be ours!  Really, think about it! If you could beat everyone else to the punch line of your own life, nobody would ever be able to stay mad at you for too long.  

Comedic timing is not my forte, though...but, like most things, it might be possible to get better at it with practice.  It might be worth the try to regain the much needed balance in my day-to-day walk in this valley of tears.  

My insecurity is only in my head.  It's a tool of the enemy to try to separate me from My Heavenly Father.  I can't let the enemy win.  I am dearly loved.  So, as a strategy to dealing with my insecurity triggers, I'm going to try to turn it from serious to silly.  I have to get in touch with my inner fool so the melancholy fades as the silliness emerges.  When Dylan tells me that I'm mean, I would tell him: "Yes, I'm mean! and I'm going to tear you to pieces and eat you up, 'cause I love you so much!"

Then, he'll run away from me and call the Police or Child-Services...

There is a time to cry, but also a time to laugh...I pray I can get to laugh more than just a little, so my crying time gets back to the level I can manage in order to see my life be more balanced.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

"Signature Insecurities"

"Daddy told me to come upstairs to get ready for bed, and I did what I was told!!!" Dylan announced to me with arms raised in victory and a great sense of accomplishment last night as I sat on the floor watching a silly movie to unwind. 

"That is wonderful, Dylan!  See, you can do it!"  I said, half jokingly, half remembering he desperately needs to hear positive reinforcement coming from...me...

I am a horrible mother...I yell too much.  I'm too pushy.  I'm too harsh.  I snap too quick.  I can't control my tongue.  The list goes on and on and on... Dylan and I are constantly embattled.  We are too much alike, so the battle of the wills is endless between the two of us.  I demand obedience and he wants to show me I'm not boss.  It is a constant tug of war in that respect.  He complaints that I'm mean.  I complaint he doesn't listen.  I have told him like about a trillion times during his short life, that he should give obedience a try, because he will see how his life becomes so much better and easier.  He keeps refusing, choosing to label me unloving, instead.

Needless to say, I'm very insecure about my abilities to be a good and loving mother. 

When Dylan says that I'm mean...I take another step in my downward spiral staircase to the pit where horrible mothers dwell. 

Sigh...

I think, I'm dealing with what author Holley Gerth calls a "signature insecurity," in chapter 5 of her book You're Going to Be Okay.  She says that our insecurities sabotage our social interactions.  That, of course, makes total sense.  She goes deeply into discerning how our insecurities, particularly our "signature" insecurities are the ones that cause the most damage, because they are always related to the ways God uses us the most.

Let's think about that in light of my situation.

First, when I think about the last time I felt insecure because of my inadequacy as a mother, it had to do with me yelling at Dylan.

Second, when I think about my fear of what would happen after I yell, I fear he would grow up deeply scarred and feeling unloved...

Third, when I think about why that would matter to me if that does happen, I fear he is not going to love me because he thinks I am unlovable...

Sigh...

Now, remembering what the author says: "those insecurities are always tied to our gifts and God's calling on our lives," (96) how does that tied in for me?

What gift am I looking at in here?  All I see is selfishness.  I feel insecure in my ability to be a good mother because I am full of pride and I want everyone to see how awesome I am, and Dylan is blowing my cover.  All I see is someone seeking to be loved, but being unloving; therefore, becoming unlovable due to her self-seeking tendencies.

Could it be possible that in my case, my signature insecurity is tightly related not to my gift, but to my sin?

Double sigh...

What do insecurities tend to do in us?  They paralyze us with fear.  We don't want to do the thing, whatever it is, because we are afraid it may push the button that leads us deeper into the pit of our insecurity.  If the author is right, an our core insecurities are always tied to our gifts...it makes total sense.  The devil uses our insecurities to keep us from doing the thing we were made to do!

The enemy is seeking to devour us and he does that by trying to separate us from God.  If he could keep us away from our purpose and our destiny, he thinks he wins, because he thinks he is keeping us away from Our God too.

The good news is that nothing can separate us from the love of God!

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8: 38-39

The enemy is defeated and no matter what he does, he cannot change the fact that God's love for us is eternal and unbreakable!

The enemy is the father of lies and he deceives us into even thinking that our gift is our sin...

After doing this little exercise in the book, I realize that my insecurity is not tied to my sin of pride or selfishness...yes, I have those sins...it is actually tied to my desire to love and be loved, which is the freedom that we find in Christ!  I surprised myself when I realized I actually love people...and I want to express that by being loving...it's just that I am so insecure about my ability to love, that I just run the other way all the time.  I think I will harm instead of benefit, and then I will cause them to perceive me as unlovable...therefore, I act unlovingly...

Does that make any sense?

Of course it doesn't.  That's why insecurities are so hard to break free from.

The first step to break free is to realize the gift behind it.  I have the Holy Spirit in me.  He is the miracle.  He is the Gift!  He makes me a person that is capable of feeling great empathy.  I feel the pain of others as if it were mine.  That is an expression of the love of the Holy Spirit in me.  But my flesh and sinful nature make me selfish.  There is so much pain in the world, I don't want to feel it.  It's too much to bear.  So I cover myself in this blanket of lovelessness so I am not perceived as someone who feels the pain.  The enemy tucks me in, nice and tight under this cover.  And there I stay...removed from the pain...wasting my gift...

I'm totally sabotaging myself.  But, by becoming aware, I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide me and help me recognize what's happening.  By making Jesus King in my heart and soul, I should be able to claim His victory and His redemption.

It is for freedom that Christ has set me free! (Galatians 5: 1) I need to claim this freedom.  It's been unused for far too long.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Confessions of a Homebody

Earlier this morning I was "chatting" with my sister and the topic of how little adventure there is in our spirit came up.  Our parents were not campers or outdoor people at all.  They enjoyed being at home...and that's how they raised us.  Adventure was not part of our vocabulary. Therefore, now that we are grown up, we regret our roles as spectators...as homebodies...

My sister was commenting how her one childhood friend is really taking advantage of all the wonderful things going on in Panama now!  Hiking, surfing, climbing, swimming...you name it!  My sister wishes she could join her, but something inside of her keeps her from taking the step...that one necessary step to venture out.

I commented on how I don't want to be enslaved by my self-created ties.  The thing is that I long for adventure, but something inside of me sabotages my dreams.  I usually come up with excuses: work, kids, money, health, lack of physical shape...whatever...so when the time comes, I can say, "sorry, I can't." 

I said to her that we need to turn it around and look at it from a spiritual perspective.  We need to see opportunities to be outside in nature as opportunities to witness the miracle of creation, so we can experience Him and give Him the glory!

I don't want to miss out on being immersed into God's revelation to all mankind: the work of His hand! 

My sister said something that really hit me:  "we need to marvel and delight at God's creation rather than being obsessed with man's creation."

That's it!

I am obsessed with man's creations.  I spend hours looking at real estate websites.  I experience a sense of thrill when I go shopping.  I can't wait to go to the movies or watch my favorite ones at home.  I find enormous enjoyment when I think about decorating the house or daydreaming about potential remodelling.  I go to pinterest when I need to unwind.  All my spare time is spent amongst man's creation...

Wow... yeah... how's that for a revelation?

I need to seek Him first and above all else...

...instead, I seem to be seeking the things of this world...

I don't want to do that anymore.  I'm opening the door to the Holy Spirit so He can guide my path and direct my desires.  I want to enjoy His creation more, and ask of it what they know of the glory of Our Great God!

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, 
and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind. Job 12: 710

I pray, in this new year, to be able to find joy in the work of His Hands...not so much on the work of men...

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19: 1

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Literally

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11: 28-30

This Scripture has come back to me today.  The Word made flesh in Our Lord Jesus the Christ tells us this...why do I still feel burdened and weary?

Sigh...

I read a few passages in my morning devotionals that helped me to begin to sort out my issue.  However, the Holy Spirit moved my eyes back to the Words of Jesus as if telling me, the answer is in Him...look no further...

So I read Matthew 11: 28-30 again and saw a line, a few verses above, that said that this truth has been hidden from the wise and learned, and revealed to little children (Matthew 11: 25).  

Hmmm...

Isn't that how it always seems to work out with Our Great God?  He chooses the lowly, the simple, the plain, the insignifiant, the least of these, those who are like children, to do His work on this earth...to further His plan.  

What are children like?  A pain, a headache, the source of most of our worry... I mean... God's gifts... but really, when it comes to understanding, I believe Jesus is telling us that for us to truly get what He is saying, sometimes we need to be more like children.  For instance, Dylan, our 12-year-old is just now getting the concept of sarcasm.  Children typically do not have the capacity to understand when someone is not meaning what they say.  They are very "literal."  They take it all exactly as it is said, because they don't know there is any other way to understand things.  They don't know that sometimes people say things that they don't mean...or that there is hidden meaning between lines.

I believe that's exactly what Jesus is telling us here:  I mean this LITERALLY!!!!

Although He is using the metaphor of the "yoke" here, He means it.  He knows we do walk with a yoke around our shoulders.  He knows we carry heavy burdens and that we are just plain tired.  He knows what it is to have a human body.  He knows what it is to be poor.  He knows how much our sins weight because He carried them all on the Cross.

Yes, we are called to mature, and move up from the milk to the solid food of discernment (Hebrews 5: 13-14), but in our maturity and as we grow in our sensibility to distinguish good from evil, Jesus repeatedly calls us to come to Him as little children:  

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."  Matthew 9: 14

We are not supposed to lose that child-like ability to see things for what they are, exactly...literally.  Therefore, if He says, "come to me and I will give you rest because my yoke is not like the yoke of this world.  My yoke is light, and as you take it upon yourself as I do, in humility and gentleness, you will see that you will find rest for your soul," He means it!  And He wants us to get it, because He is not double talking or being sarcastic.  He is The Truth! So, trust! 

Some say that American's second language is sarcasm.  Well, that is hindering us from discerning what Jesus is trying to say to us.  We don't need to sort through and read between the lines with Jesus.  He is clear.  We just have to trust that there is such a person whom we can totally trust and take at His word...like we did before we became jaded by the world.

Holy Spirit, allow us to overcome our unbelief and trust the One Who is The Way, The Truth and The Life!


Monday, January 15, 2018

Freedom Isn't Easy

Yesterday at Church, our Pastor preached on one of my favorite statements, Galatians 5: 1a,

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

He presented an interesting approach.  He divided the sermon in two parts, the first one being an intriguing take on what freedom is not.  And one of the things he said, freedom is not, is "easy."

Freedom isn't easy...

I have to admit that the statement has stayed with me because I don't think I ever truly thought about this idea before.  Freedom is one of those abstract concepts that I've always been enamored with.  It is one of the pillars of this great nation of ours, and it is precisely that pillar which has attracted me to the United States like a powerful magnet.  I don't believe I'm alone in this sentiment.  As a matter of fact, how could anyone not be in love with the idea of freedom?  It would be absurd to think that people purposely seek to be enslaved. The mere thought of it is ridiculous.  Or is it?

When choosing paths, even if we would not want to admit it aloud, most people tend to choose the easy way.  Maybe it's just me.  I know, I'm lazy that way...

Therefore...

...saying that "freedom isn't easy" implies that given the choice, most people... I ... would choose the path of slavery.

I do not like saying this aloud one bit.

Sigh...

I'm afraid it's true, though.  "There is a battle raging inside of each and every one of us.  It is a battle between our sinful nature and the Holy Spirit within us," our Pastor said.  And He knows it's true in his life, we know it's true in our lives, and God knows it's true too.  We hear the echo of our own inner nature reflected in the inspired words of Paul:

Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7: 21-25)

Left on our own, we choose the yoke of slavery every time.  Without the Holy Spirit we do not have the means to make godly choices.  Without the Holy Spirit fighting for us, fighting for our souls, we are lost in the fog of sin.  Therefore, when facing the fork in the road, we, instinctively, walk toward the one that seems smoother.  We take the one with the less resistance.  We veer off course following our desire for pleasure, comfort, carelessness, ease, company, or whatever it is that we feel we desperately lack and desperately want.  

We take the road that our shattered emotions point us to, clouded by the current pain or desire not knowing that it is that very road the one that will take us away from the one thing we truly seek: His Presence.

Choosing freedom is not easy because it requires that we abandon the things that bring us that temporary and fleeting comfort and relief we so much long for.  But how often don't we realize, that after a few steps into the road of ease, our elation begins to deflate?  The satisfaction we thought we'd get with our quick fix becomes ever more elusive and out of reach...so we get deeper and deeper into the darkness of our wrong choices, only to find ourselves lost and without a way out.

Freedom is not easy.  It is much easier to give into our selfish and self-servient nature...our sin, whatever it is...  Who will deliver me from myself?  Who will deliver me from my sin?  On our own, we just can't.  We need a Savior.  And praised the Lord for we do have Him, and His Name is Jesus!  Without Him, I don't have the ability to defeat my flesh.  The freedom in Christ is the freedom that breaks the chain of sin, and allows the Holy Spirit to dwell in me.  

The reason there is a battle raging inside of us...the reason we feel the tension at the fork in the road...the reason there IS a fork in the road, is because we have the Holy Spirit fighting our battles for us inside our souls.  Without the Holy Spirit, there would be no battle, for we would not even think about it, and automatically would choose sin...

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! 
(Romans 7: 24-25)

Here in America we say: Freedom isn't Free!  I totally agree with this statement.  Freedom is paid by the blood of the Lamb.  Freedom isn't easy either.  It requires the Presence of the Holy Spirit and our surrendering to His will and His path for our lives.