Friday, August 17, 2018

Loving the Imperfect

Holley Gerth's book, You're Loved no Matter What,  states right at the beginning the profound truth that we do not need to be perfect to be loved.  Considering that fact, I realize that the same is also true from a different perspective, which, by the way, I often forget:  Others do not need to be perfect in order to be loved by me...

I spend so much of my time wondering how to be lovable, and almost NO time trying to figure out how to be loving. 

Sigh...

If "love IS the answer,"  that means, it is the answer not just in an inward direction, but outward as well.  What I mean is, I cannot be so preoccupied with fixing my own insecurities and making sure I understand I am loved without making sure I love others well, regardless of their imperfections.  The same way God's love toward me is not performance-based; my love toward others cannot be performance-based either.

The problem is, that even though I say it is not, it sure seems as it is.  I am so quick to react to the actions of others with harsh words and violent behavior, that it is very hard for them to feel loved after they have failed to perform to my standards.  Yes, I'm talking about my kids...and my husband too, to tell you the truth...

Those whom I love the most have the hardest time perceiving the love I actually have for them.  And that makes me really sad.  The problem is that I have a hard time accepting the reality that the same way I am not perfect, others aren't either.  No matter how much I love my sons and how perfect I believe they are, they are not!  They are imperfect, messy sinners just like me.  They need God's Mercy just like I do.  They need Jesus' Saving Grace and Forgiveness just like I do.  They are the "neighbors" that I am supposed to love just like I love myself.

The first step on this road to figuring out the way to love others well is to assimilate the fact that I cannot expect others to be perfect.  I cannot expect perfection the same way I don't want others to expect perfection from me.

I pray the Holy Spirit guides me on this road.  I pray that, as I discover that I am, indeed, loved no matter what, that I can, also, love others no matter what...no expectations, no perfection...just as they are.  This doesn't mean that I will overlook their inappropriate actions and that I will quit trying to show them the way they should go, the narrow door, but that I will make sure they know I love them, despite their wrong choices and their mistakes, because my love for them is not based on their performance.  My love is an extension of the love Jesus demonstrated for us on the cross...no strings attached.





Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Perfect...

In my quest to conquer, or at least, to not to allow my insecurities to ruin my life, I have been realizing that all of them are deeply rooted in a sense of unloveliness...I'm not sure if that is a real word, but, what I'm trying to say is that my insecurities, which turn me into a time-bomb/Mommy Hulk-anger-machine emerge from me thinking I am not worthy of being loved.

There!

All this inner-exploration of the dark corners of my heart/mind and soul has brought me to the place where I am now:  Love is the answer.

I came across another book by one of my favorite Christian writers, Holley Gerth, called You're Loved No Matter What and of course I had to buy it!  I began to read it, and it starts with this sentence:

"Here's the scandalous truth: we can be loved, accepted, happy, and less stressed without being perfect."

Hmmm...

We don't need to be perfect to be loved...WOW...I mean, it sounds simple and common sense...but hearing this thought bounce in my brain feels like a most profound revelation to me!  I never knew it, but now that I have taken some time to let this thought sink in, I realize that I have strived for perfection my whole life.  I never considered myself a perfectionist.  But I have always wanted to BE perfect.  I always wanted to be the perfect daughter, the one that never gave my parents any trouble (I secretly boast to myself about that all the time...). I've always wanted to be the perfect teacher.  I've always wanted to be the perfect writer.  I've always wanted to be the perfect Christian.  I've always wanted to be the perfect friend.  I've always wanted to be the perfect counselor.  I've always wanted to be the perfect wife.  I've always wanted to be the perfect Mother...and I'm exhausted and frustrated because I've never been able to be, nor will I ever be any of these.

Hence, my constant sense of inadequacy and unloveliness...or unlovability...see? I can't even come up with the perfect word to describe my imperfections!

Sigh...

The good news is, I don't have to be perfect to be loved. 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3: 16

The condition is not "that whoever is perfect..."  The condition is "that whoever BELIEVES in HIM..."  The love of God pours over us since eternity.  It is not a love based on performance.  It's a love based on Grace:
  
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Ephesians 2: 8-9

And NOBODY deserves it:  

As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one..." Romans 3: 10

Whatever perfection is in us stems from Him, who is the ONLY Perfect One:


I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4: 13


Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Philippians 3: 12


And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  Philippians 1: 6

I am not going to be able to free myself of my perceived unlovability/unloveliness, but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, one day I will assimilate the truth, and the Truth will make me free!  Until then, let us press on and see what this book has to say on the subject.  Shall we?


Friday, August 10, 2018

Here's to Many, Many More!!!


Birthdays are something, aren't they?  If you're anything like me, arriving at my birthday is kind of chaotic.  My mind is usually twisted in tight nuts.  I'm a walking contradiction.  For instance, I don't like people making a big fuss about it, but I enjoy the attention of those who remember.  I want to celebrate, but I also want to keep it quiet.  My birthday makes me sad and happy at the same time.  Turning one more year is blessing, but it could also feel like a slap on the face...sigh...it's exhausting...

This year, however, I'm praying the Holy Spirit helps me just be at peace.

I want to feel the peace of Christ flowing through my heart, body and soul as I bask in thanksgiving for the gift of another year surrounded by my loved ones.  I'm going to leave behind the insecurities and celebrate the fact that I'm turning a new leave in my life...and I'm going to enjoy the new colors of that leave, even if it comes with an AARP card...sigh...because, just five years ago, today, I was digesting a cancer diagnosis that left me submerged in a pit of fear and shadows. 

I don't care what anybody says, receiving the news of malignancy residing in your body is an event that marks the receiver for the rest of his/her life.  Regardless of how good the prognosis might be...the moment you hear the words coming out of the mouth of the person who tells you, becomes tattooed into the walls of your brain in a way that not much else does...to the point that just recalling it makes you shudder...no matter how faint the memory might be...it always has the power to shake you deep inside...

All my life I've known Jesus, but I never, truly surrendered my days to Him as I have been doing since that fateful August 9th, 2013...I've never boasted in my weakness the way I've done it since that moment...I've never realized how my destiny is so completely in His hands...I've never trusted Him like I do now...I never truly knew what walking through the valley of the shadows of death meant until that day...I've never known true intimacy with Christ like I've known it since then.

For all these reasons and so many, many more I can't recall in here, I want to say Happy Birthday to me!  And a big, BIG thank you to all who have walked with me along this road full of bumps, valleys, meadows, beauty, joy, sorrow, loneliness, fear, peace, friendship and much, much love!

Here's to many, many more!!!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Immortality without a Soul?

Have you ever thought about how our culture pushes us into materialism?  And I'm not just talking about the idea of material acquisition.  What I'm thinking about today is how our culture pushes the pursuit of youth and physical pleasure as the keys to immortality...which is the only and most desirable goal worth pursuing. 

I know this may sound as a strange thought, springing out of nowhere.  But, what has made me think of these things is the fact that I just watched the last movie in the Twilight Saga last night...yes...I know, I know...and at the end, I was left with a really bad taste in my heart, if that is even possible.  This movie and the novel(s) it's based upon forward the idea of immortality as the ultimate goal because as an immortal, life truly becomes magnificent and youth and pleasure become a permanent reality...all these mascaraded behind a love story that pulls at the romantic sensibilities of our lonely hearts.

The thing is that, such culmination of the quest for eternal life in this world comes after the person surrenders his/her soul...not to Our Loving Father and Creator in an act of trust and faith; but to nothingness.  They surrender to a frozen life sustained by the blood of others who ceased to be brothers and sisters to become the next meal.

The paradox is, however, that the immortal life proclaimed is flawed.  How could anyone be immortal without a soul, when the soul is precisely what makes us immortal?

As we see in these movies over and over again, the revered and sought after immortality it forwards, could, indeed, end, in an act of gross dismembering, finished by a torching that leaves nothing but ashes; a rather pathetic and hopeless ending to the glamour promised.  The only way to avoid it is by sticking to strict rules and to keep running, always on the move...since losing the material life means disappearing forever. 

The "forever" that is so prevalent in this example of a cultural product emerging from a society fixated on the material is, therefore, nothing more than an illusion.  Its fragility is disguised in a costume of physical strength and beauty that seduces the senses, but that, in the end, could still turn to dust.  The soul is disregarded as something of lesser value when compared to the lust and the longing for the things of this world.

This "forever" is a deception that blindly leads its victims to forfeiting the seed of true immortality that already lives in them: 

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8: 36

This movie and corresponding books are nothing more than false propaganda which, if not careful, might consume our minds and elevate lies to the place where only truth should stand. 

To live forever? in this world?  Why would I want that, if the truth states:  to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1: 21)

To forfeit our soul so we can have a body that does not know decay and death?  Why would I want that if the truth assures me that, regardless of my current suffering in this flesh and blood body, God has something perfect waiting for me:

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. 4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

6 So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. 7 For we live by believing and not by seeing. 8 Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. 2 Corinthians 5: 1-9

I am not trying to be legalistic here and condemn those of us who consume the products of our culture that forward lies and a blurred view of reality.  I'm just saying, mostly to myself, really, to be careful when we do, so we don't buy into the deception and become obsessed with the things of this world.  

I pray I don't feed on the ashes this world offers me.  I pray I don't fill my heart with a love for this world that leaves no room for the One and True Love that is in me.  I pray that I am not conformed to the patterns of this world, but that I'm transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12: 2).  I pray that My Heavenly Father protect me from the evil one who rules this realm, as I am not of this world, like Jesus is not of this world (John 17:14-16).  I pray for strength for this battle for my soul, because my "struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6: 12)  

Yes, our culture pushes us to the pursuit and worship of the things of this world.  However, this is not our home.  I pray we are always aware of the truth, as we host Him, Who is the Truth, in our hearts, in the Precious Name, Above All Names, the Name of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ who is in me and in you...the protector of our souls...the most valuable commodity we possess.



Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Who Can Tame the Untamable?

Well...it has taken me many days to get back to my meditations on how to exercise self-control, particularly of the tongue in order to begin a journey of loving others well.  The reason it has taken me so long is because I cannot figure out or find any convincing "5-EASY-Steps" program to achieve such a feat.  Trying to tame the tongue seems to me like trying to tame the sea. 

I mean, really...

This summer, we had the glorious blessing to be able to spend the most part of a week at a beach resort.  That is exactly my kind of vacation.  If anybody ever asks me about my happy place, I would inevitably reply anything oceanfront!  At any rate, it was perfect!  The only thing was that the darn red flag was up every day we were there.  The waves were way too rough and life guards didn't want to risk it.  This was in Panama, though, so, rules are more like...what shall I say...a suggestion.  Therefore, some people disregarded the red flag and ventured into the water all the same...at least for a little while...until the ocean convinced them it was too much.  One of those few people was me...and my family...yeah, I know. 

Sigh...

I thought I was so clever.  I thought I could outsmart the waves.  I thought I could figure out a way to control me not getting overpowered by the undertow.  I kept a watchful eye on the horizon so I could spot the waves even before they'd form and then I would get ready with a strategy:  either ride it or out-run it.  The thing with the ocean, you see, is that it is wildly unpredictable.  The thing with me is, that I'm careless and I get distracted easily.  Then, as it happened, I was carelessly distracted for a second, and when I looked to my left, I saw Grant getting ready for a hit as he said:  "Oh no!"  (see, when Grant says "Oh no..." you better prepare for the worst.)  And the worst it was... I took one look at the wave approaching and I knew, neither of my strategies was going to work.  But I tried to run anyway (I like to go down fighting)...but my legs couldn't move, so down I went.

Down and upside-down!  There was so much force in that wave that I felt my body being tossed and turn like a leave in the wind.  I actually think I saw the tunnel with the light at the end...

Anyway, I lost my sunglasses (see, I was so cocky I could conquer the waves, that I even had my sunglasses still on when I got in the water), and I had so much sand in my hair, I think I still find some today, almost two months after this incident.

After that, with legs full of cuts and bruises, and a sprained ankle, I decided I was going to pay closer attention to the meaning of that red flag on the beach.

It's the same with my efforts to try to control my tongue.  I get cocky.  I think I've got it under control.  I think I can see it coming so I can trigger my tongue-taming-techniques to smoothly navigate the situation.  I ignore the red flag that indicates/warns how the tongue is out of my jurisdiction.  And in less than a second of carelessness and distraction, I'm eating buckets-full of sand. 

Sigh...

Controlling of the tongue is not my province.  I cannot rely on my own power to tame this wild beast!

James has really harsh words to say about the tongue in Chapter 3.  Reading the passages contained in verses 1-12 makes me shudder.  He uses a different analogy, but just as devastating to refer to the tongue: 

Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

These surely are sobering words.  And he continues by reiterating the futility of trying to tame such fire:  

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

So, what hope could I ever have to one day being able to keep my tongue under control?  

Well, just like all hope, we get it from the Source!  Hope is not a feeling or wishful thinking.  It does not spring from self-determination and resolve. Hope is a Person, and we go to Him, the Source of all Hope! (Romans 15: 13)

What we are dealing with here, self-control, love, patience, etc. is all part of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-23) and those are not grown by our own power, but by the work of the Holy Spirit Himself!  Just as I could not control the rough waves at that awesome beach a couple of months ago or EVER, I will never be able to mature the Fruit of the Spirit on my own.  I will never be able to love others in such a perfect way as to control what comes out of my mouth at all times unless the Holy Spirit finishes His work in me...which may or may not happen on this side of the sea.

So what do I do, then?  I trust.  I pray.  I trust that His Grace is sufficient and that it covers a multitude of sins.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will mature His Fruit in me so I can be made whole in the image of Christ.  I continue to be intentional as to how I speak to others, particularly to those whom I love the most.  I continue to watch myself.  And when I get caught in the undertow, I let go and find peace in the truth that His loving arms will rescue me...and tend to my bruises and cuts so I can try again...ever more mindful of that red flag that says, be careful: 

The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.
Proverbs 15: 4

Friday, August 3, 2018

Speak Life - Part 1

I don't know about you, but in my life, there is a great paradox in play:  the people I love the most are the ones I hurt the most.

I have a lot of patience and kindness for strangers.  For my sons? Not so much...and I don't know why that is...sigh...

As I continue to meditate on God's love for us and how, as His children, we have no reason to feel unloved, unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, insufficient...etc., etc., etc., I'm hearing the Holy Spirit prompting me to also take a look at the way I love others...starting with my very own beloved.

I'm thinking I need to device or hear the Holy Spirit guidance, rather, on practical ways to love others well.  The first step, I believe, at least in my case is, to improve the way I show/demonstrate my love for them.

Looking at my daily life, I have to admit that the person that I lose it with the most is my younger son Dylan.  There are days in which I only communicate with him in screams and grunts.  That needs to change.  Regardless of how infuriating the things Dylan does are, I must not let his behavior dictate the way I show him that I love him.  Therefore, the first step here is to pray for the fruit of self-control to become evident in me, please!

Self-control of my own tongue would be a good sign that I'm going in the right direction toward my goal of showing my love well to those around me.  Boy, is that difficult, though?

I'm going to stop right here now, because I don't want to take this lightly.  I need to find some Scripture that will show me truth and pray for guidance and a strategy.  So, I'll see you soon.  Let me know if controlling your tongue is something you too, wrestle with...I'll feel better knowing I'm not the only one :(

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Love IS the Answer

"Most of mankind's misery stems from feeling unloved..." (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young)
I read this statement in one of my devotionals recently and it caused me to pause.  I have read it before, but it never spoke to me the way it did this time.  Perhaps it was because I've been feeling particularly unloving and unlovable lately.  Perhaps it was because I need a reminder of God's unfailing love...perhaps it was because I need to be reminded of the truth.

"In the midst of adverse circumstances, people tend to feel that love has been withdrawn and they have been forsaken.  This feeling of abandonment is often worse than the adversity itself."  I totally agree with this. Especially, when I begin to dig into my own life, I realize that my disappointments, hurts, fears and even my anger do emerge because I feel unloved and, if not yet abandoned, feeling that I will soon be.

I remember one of my last incidents, just a few days ago, when an argument about what to do for my upcoming birthday turned into a full-out battle...until, eventually, after an insane amount of drama, I stopped long enough to truly think and realized the root of my irrational overreaction (as if overreaction weren't innately irrational) was a sense of insecurity prompted by a a perception of a lack of love caused by my self-declared unlovability.

I don't feel lovable.  Therefore, I'm insecure.  Thus, I overread and overthink, which causes overreactions at the slightest real or more often than not, imagined indication of someone's disapproval or disinterest or carelessness regarding me.  In other words, I am a big self-centered, pain in the neck!

The thing is, my idea of love, regardless of how much I know intellectually, that it is not that, is still based upon performance.

Performance-based love is the kind of love that depends on just that, performance!  If I perform well, I am loved.  If I do not perform/behave/act/conduct myself well, then, I am not loved.  And, since my performance record is quite lacking, it is impossible for people to love me most of the time.  That's why I see the smallest mishap or hesitation on others toward me, as a demonstration that I'm not worthy of their love because of the way I've underperformed before...historically...since, in my mind, everyone keeps a record of my wrongs in their book...

I believe that what made this devotional reading so poignant this time around was the realization that I am not the only one who feels this way...

I'm not the only human who overreacts due to a real or imagined perception of unlovability.  I'm not the only person who fears abandonment because I'm unlovable.  I'm not the only person who is afraid others are not going to love her because she is a failure and a fraud...

Sigh...

One quick look at my sons confirm this idea.  Dylan, for instance, is constantly overreacting and acting out around me.  I dare say, he does that because he is not sure I love him fully.  As an adopted child, consciously or unconsciously he struggles with a perception of abandonment.  He fears that as it happened once, it could happen again.  He is not lovable, in his head.  Therefore, he feels insecure in my love for him.  He bases it on his performance.  But, at the same time, he is seeking that security by testing the limits of my declared love for him.  So he pushes my buttons as many times as possible to make sure, that no matter what, I will not abandon him.  Of course, in my short-temperedness and impatience, instead of reassuring him of my love, I overreact too, because I too feel unloved by him because of my perceived unlovability...so the cycle of yelling is never-ending.

I'm exhausted...

This reading, however, gave me a glimpse of a possible way to break this maddening cycle:  LOVE!

Love IS the answer...as the old song says.  A response of love is what I need to enact rather than my usual irrational overreactions.  I need to love those around me first.  I need to act in love.  I need to show them my love rather than my disappointment due to my own insecurities.  The problem is, I have no clue how to begin to do this.  It will imply a complete change of my defaults, inspired by more intense Bible reading.  

So, I'm going to embark on this journey to loving others well...I hope it is a journey that you can join or that at least can benefit those who witness it.  I do hope you come on aboard my little boat and help me row ...my arms are weak...I haven't exercised in ages, and that upcoming birthday is starting to feel pretty heavy...

May the Holy Spirit guide our steps and help us grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. (Ephesians 3:18)