(L)earning the Freedom to Be Authentic

Just found out that another web site published another of my submissions!  :)  Hope you enjoy….

(L)earning the Freedom to Be Authentic.

When I See a Baby, I See an Invitation. Do You?

 

In thinking through what an amazing work God does when He creates a new human life, I was drawn to look back at the creation story. I was struck by the wording chosen to reflect God’s workings on the first five days. He essentially would say, “Let this new reality come into being…..” and it happened just as he said! When it came to creating the first man and woman, however, he had a significantly more intimate approach. As you read the verses below  from Genesis 2, I hope you’ll hear with me how He invests His very self in this work. Please also think with me how God carefully chose and constructed where the man, and later the woman, would live:

GENESIS 2:7-9, 21-22—>   7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. 8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

God’s intentional attention and focus are revealed in “formed,” and “breathed.”  The description of God’s preparation of Eden, again, shows that for this part of His creation, merely speaking the Word won’t reflect His heart rightly. Here, let’s see the personal “hands-on” work God chooses to use in creating the first woman:

21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

Again, these verses reveal that creating the first man and woman merits more focused attention than simply speaking His powerful Word for this new reality.  In light of how important creating the first man and woman was to God, I have to believe that somehow God continues to be intimately involved in every aspect of a baby’s beginnings: who the parents are; just which chromosomes will come together to make this whole new life; timing of conception; and somehow tailoring the personality, the very BEING, of the baby to be a blessing from the beginning.

I find that His hand in the beginning of life is easiest for me to grasp in Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV).

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Part of why I connect so strongly to these verses is because I like to knit, I’m sure! I see parallels between what I do when I knit, and what God does when He knits: I usually make baby blankets as gifts for people or families I know at least a little bit. So I carefully select a pattern, what color (or colors) to use, the type of yarn (it has to be very easy-care!), the needle size, all of which make each blanket look a little different. In Psalm 127:3, God says that children are a gift from Him. So I think it is safe to believe that He very carefully constructs each new little life to be a gift. His “yarn basket” and array of tools and designs far surpasses anything we can conceive! God carefully designs both the visible, touchable contours of the baby, and also the qualities that can’t yet be measured: the personality; the soul; strengths and weaknesses; areas the little one will be gifted in; his eventual height; the ways this baby will bring out the strengths of his parent; and the ways the parents will be challenged to yield more to God because of their weaknesses the baby exposes. Everything about the baby will invite us to see God’s design, His goodness, His desire for our best.

While I’m knitting, I both have delight in the act of creating, and an anticipation of the recipient’s enjoyment. Well, maybe the moms’ enjoyment, since the baby can’t show me for some time whether he even likes the blanket…..As the design continues to unfold, stitch by stitch, row by row, I delight in having the skill to make this article grow as I planned, and occasionally, I get a pleasant surprise when the blanket turns out looking even better than I had hoped. Unlike me, God doesn’t ever have to rip out a row or two because He’s made a mistake…and unlike me, I suspect He is never surprised at how well His workmanship turns out….As I knit, it is easy for me to imagine God’s pleasure in His work of creating a new life, stitch by stitch, row by row, in developing every aspect of the baby’s being. I believe He anticipates the delight the parents and family will have in the little one.

Equally as important, I believe God anticipates the delight the little one will have in the gift of life. Watching young children play, run, explore, and talk over their discoveries, I see this almost tangible delight in the gifts of life, and of a wonderful world to explore. I believe God allows us to see this capacity for delight in children, as an invitation for us to continue to delight in Him, and in the work He is doing in us, in a similar way.

So, could it be, that with each new baby’s life, God invites us to look anew at our own lives, to see the gift that He gave us, when He created us? In the areas where we don’t or can’t see reason to delight, I believe He waits for us to let Him redeem these tender areas. He is more than ready to allow us to experience His great compassion, care, and love in the redemption process.

Because we have an Enemy who comes to kill, steal, and destroy, it should come as no surprise that we will be challenged to experience and model consistently the incredible richness of the gift of life in Christ. This Enemy works to hide from us God’s true character, and our true identities, as men and women deeply loved by a generous, compassionate God who intentionally and intimately created every aspect of who we are, to delight in HIm and enjoy His presence. Our delight in, love for, and obedience to God glorifies Him, and helps reveal His goodness in a powerful way.

I find it easier to delight wholeheartedly in someone when I feel this “someone” at least likes me a little bit.  If I don’t know God’s true heart towards me, glorifying Him is more of a work than a joy.  How can I be SURE God delights in us? I return frequently and repeatedly to Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)—>

The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.

I pray that we will all KNOW from the depths of our being the truth of these words!

 

 

Easter, Part 2b – the Resurrection

I know, I know, two posts in the same day????  I’ve had a little revelation of how God wants to bless us, to free us, to live the lives He created us to live, and it really got me excited!  :)  

 Here goes….this little revelation all started while I was reading Stasi Eldredge’s book, “Becoming Myself,” while pondering how the resurrection is supposed to impact my life, personally.  Jesus talked frequently about the life He wants for His people.  Abundant life. No condemnation.  Set free by the truth.  Wearing His yoke, and light burden.  Newness of life.  Serving only one master (wholeheartedness?).  Equipped and able to love even our enemies well.  Forgiving without limit.  So what keeps His people from living this way?  I kept going back to “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).”  I wondered how well most people know the truth…about ourselves, and about God.   Then I came across four questions in Stasi’s book that transformed my thinking.  You see, I think most of us don’t truly know our own hearts, or God’s heart, very well.  These four questions helped me to see more clearly who I truly am and who God truly is.  Want to know the questions?  Wait for it….

What would I love to do, offer, experience, and create?

What do I want to be really good at?

What do I want to be known for?

What do I want with God?  What does He want with me?

I invite you to take some time and really ponder these questions.  Take off the expectations of others when you approach these questions.  Dare to dream big.  Dare to believe God gives you GOOD desires, and because He lives in you, that there is much that is good in your heart already.  Dare to be honest.  I was stunned by the beauty God has already put in my heart, that came out as I answered these questions.  And I was blown away by what He showed me He wants with and for me.  Listen to what He showed me about His desires for me, for us, really:

I want you to know My pleasure in you!

I want you to have a heart fully alive, trusting in Me.

I want you to know Me, not just about Me.

I want you to know yourself, and love yourself.  I think you’ll celebrate yourself more, when you see yourself as I do.

I want you to be free to enjoy abundant life.

I want you to walk in the joy of My presence.

I want you to give freely and without reservation what I show you to give.

I want you to be blessed as you use your gifts to bless others.

I want you to have the courage to be beautifully vulnerable.

I want you to enjoy wholehearted relationships.

I want you to love life, and invite others to more life.

I want you to delight in Me, because you KNOW what and Whom you’re delighting in.

 

So, do you see what I see?  I see that God’s heart towards us is only good, and that He wants our trust, love, obedience so that we can experience more of His goodness, more of His true character.  The result of our knowing Him rightly?  More joy.  More freedom. More goodness.  More LIFE!  Happy sigh….

How do these questions apply to resurrection?  I believe God is inviting us to die to that part of ourselves that has been misshapen and twisted by lies, so that we are freer to live from our true selves, in His power, and with His guiding help.  I believe this is at least part of the invitation Jesus gave us when He told us to take up our crosses to follow Him.  The work of confronting lies and fears to replace them with truth is incredibly hard.  Scary.  Heavy.  But oh, so worth it!

Let’s taste and see that the Lord is good, and celebrate the goodness He has already worked in us!

 

Easter, Part 2a – The Resurrection

Can any of us fully fathom the significance of Jesus’ resurrection?  He kept His promise that He would be raised from the dead.  He kept the most “impossible” of promises.  This means that all His other promises are completely trustworthy.  All of them.

He has gone ahead to prepare a forever home for us (John 14:1-3).

He sits at the right hand of God, and intercedes on our behalf (John 16:19).

He has fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5: 17-20).

His yoke is easy, and His burden light, when we cooperate with Him in our lives (Matt. 11:29).

He is the source of Living Water, as He told the woman at the well.  We need never thirst for Him again (John 4:13-14).

He gives us a way to be free of our old, sin-filled self:  to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him to LIFE (Matt. 16:24-26).  He came that we may have ABUNDANT life, to offset the Thief’s work of killing, stealing, and destroying (John 10:10).

He is coming again (Matt. 25:31).

He will never leave us (Matt. 28:20).

He tells us we need not fear man (Luke 12:4).

 

Easter…What Does it Really Mean? – Part 1, a Look at the Cross

I’ve been mulling over Easter for a few months now.  I truly believe I won’t completely comprehend what Jesus accomplished on my behalf on the Cross until Heaven.  That being said, I do want to acknowledge in my own limiting, limited words, some of what I know Jesus gave me (and all believers) as a result of His death on the Cross many, many years ago.

It is not an easy thing in our self-indulgent culture to rightly understand “sacrifice.”  But the Israelites lived it.  They saw and experienced, first-hand, the tangible cost of sin, in the form of sin offerings, the sacrifices of animals.  The Bible has at least one whole book detailing the sacrifices they were expected to make, in order to please the God they served (Leviticus, anyone?).  As far back as the Garden of Eden, sin was covered over by blood (remember the animal skins God gave Adam and Eve to replace the leaves they covered themselves with?).  When Jesus shed His blood on the Cross, it began a whole new era in how God invites mankind to relate to Him.  Rather than ever needing to shed innocent blood to atone for my sin, He invites me to receive the work of Jesus on the Cross.  

Even more amazing to me is knowing that in addition to allowing His Son’s sacrifice to atone for all my sins, God generously chooses to see me with the righteousness and holiness of Jesus Himself, once I acknowledged my need for a Savior, and invited Jesus into my life.  He gives me the identity of being His child, just as Jesus became the firstborn of His children.  I am His beloved, His sheep, and nothing can change that (Romans 8:28-39).  This New Covenant is an amazing display of grace, indeed.

Another truly incredible display of grace Jesus won for me is the reality that I am welcome in God’s presence at any time.  I can truly “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16).  The significance of the torn curtain after Jesus’ death can’t be overstated.  Before Jesus’ death, a single priest, decided by lot, before Jesus, could only enter the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum of God’s presence, once a year, and only after purification and cleansing rituals were observed.  He even had to tie a rope to his arm or leg, in case God smote him down while he served God in the inner sanctuary.  I have been challenged to grasp God’s holiness more truly as I piece together the way the Israelites related to God, per His instructions.  I believe that my appreciation for Jesus’ work on the Cross has only been deepened as I recognize the differences between the Old and New Covenants.

While on the Cross, Jesus had an amazing conversation with the criminal hanging near Him, recorded in Luke 23:39-43.   39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”   

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”   42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” NIV

My takeaway from this?  Salvation is not based on what I do.  Salvation is based on acknowledging 1) who Jesus is, and 2) my need for Him.  The criminal’s words reveal his understanding of these two things.  He didn’t have time to act on his newfound faith, and yet, Jesus essentially tells him he belongs in Jesus’ kingdom.  I’m not saying I think salvation means I can live my life as I want.  I am saying that my future is secure because of His faithfulness rather than mine.  My gratitude for what Jesus has done, and my desire to love Him well, mean that I desire to bring Him glory and delight in how I live this life, His gift to me.  More on this in a future post.

So, a summary of the personal impact of Jesus’ work on the Cross: 

1) Jesus took my sins fully on Himself, and paid the sacrifice-cost for me.  He died in my place, the death that I deserved to die for my sins.  Love too amazing for me to comprehend….

2) God chooses to look at those who seek Jesus as Saviour as being as righteous and love-worthy as Jesus Himself.  Breath-taking grace!  It will take my whole life for this truth to permeate my deepest being!

3) God welcomes me, through Jesus, into His Holy of Holies, His very presence, at any time, without need for formal cleansing and purification.  I am irrevocably a part of His family.  Happy, quiet, awed sigh here.

4)  My future after this life, like that of the criminal’s, is completely secure.  I don’t need to fear death.  His faithfulness blesses both blesses me in this life, and gives me assurance that after this life, it only gets better.

 

The End and the Beginning

I’m pretty excited!  I submitted a post to another web site, and it was accepted, and published today!  If you want to take a peek at what I submitted, here’s the link:

The End and the Beginning.

It’s a hard part of my story, so it’s not really “celebrating,” but it was a huge corner that I had to turn to get to where I am now.  I guess you could say there’s belated celebrating?

 

Bumps in the Road

I’m sure everyone knows that the journey towards any big goal, such as a black belt, is usually not a straight, easy path.  I’ve been finding that while my spirit is willing and excited about the progress I’ve made, my body has limits that “speak” loudly from time to time.  Two weeks ago, I wrenched my knee, I think while executing a roundhouse kick improperly.  I quickly figured out how to walk, stand, and sit so my knee didn’t hurt.  Stairs took a little longer.  Eventually, I discovered that my injured knee could bear weight while straight, but that it hurt to bend it with weight on.  So I moved like an elderly, fragile woman when it came to stairs (an exercise in humility…).  Bend the good knee, move the injured knee to the appropriate step, bend the good knee again…..

I also found “the proper form” to execute squats and lunges, as well as to hold a specific standing position, which made my knee feel stronger (thank you T Tapp!).  I chose to push my next testing date back, so I could concentrate on getting strong, and on having more time to practice, so I could show mastery of proper form during the test itself.

How to get back on track?  I had to do a couple of things.

First, I took time to reevaluate the goal.  To me, the goal of a black belt symbolizes a measurable way of getting more physically fit. I know the goal of being healthier and stronger is a good one!  Any worthwhile goal deserves my best effort, no matter how many challenges and setbacks I encounter.  Thank you Churchill for the simple words:  “Never, never, never give up.” 

Second, I found it important to try to figure out how I hit that bump (roundhouse kick), so I don’t have to make that mistake again. Proper form helps. Turn that grounded foot before throwing the kick! One very cool part of Tae Kwon Do lessons has been that I’ve been getting better acquainted with my body, and finding out that I can do more than I thought. I just need to challenge myself! And be careful to use proper technique and form…

Third, I had to modify my game plan a bit, to figure how to navigate around or through the soreness to prevent injuring the knee again, through trial and error.  I sought out ways to strengthen my knee.  I choose to spend several minutes a day doing those exercises that will help make the likelihood of injuring that knee again a bit smaller.

Finally, I realized there’s nothing wrong in being flexible in the timing of when the goal is completed. I’m not a rigid deadline person anyway, but I do sometimes need to let go of disappointment that my timetable needs to be pushed back.

I don’t want to be discouraged.  I don’t want to let this bump in the road stop me for keeps. In a way, I’m glad this incident happened, to help me think through the “why” and “how important” aspects of my black belt journey….