Sunday, December 29, 2013

We Want Change

"He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it."

This time when we are looking to the new year brings hope for change.  A better year than last year.  Lose weight.  Stop those nagging addictions.  Exercise and eat healthy.  Be better organized.  Love better.  Hopefully, sin less.

I can tell you that I don't see true and lasting change come by making New Year's Resolutions. We start out with a bang and then the old patterns seep back in.  We get tired of trying harder to be better. We give up and give in.
 
The change that I see in my life comes through in several ways:

Time spent in the presence of the Lord ... Through prayer, meditation, and receiving His love for me. Letting His word be written on my heart. The ongoing communion, unbroken union, and reliance on the person of Christ and the Love of the Father, bring about a likeness.  Faith.  Trust.  A rest in Christ. A relationship like no other. A delighting and enjoying the Trinity.
 
Daily repentance ... It is a turning from independence to dependence on God. A dying to my will and pride and growing in desiring His will and humility.  It is like walking: repentance/faith, left foot/right foot. This can be a slow change or it can more quickly be life changing. I have a change of mind or heart through the work of the Spirit in me. What I believe affects everything I do.
 
Experiences ... Good experiences, but also through experiences of suffering. Suffering is a training. It brings wisdom, thankfulness, strength in weakness, joy and peace in all circumstances. A longing for Christ and not the things of this world. You tire of having your own way in your own strength. It breaks you, humbles you, gives you a contrite heart. It teaches you what is important in life and what is fleeting with the things to be left behind. You identify with Christ. Your life brings Glory to God.
 
Influence ... We not only influence others but others influence us. We see their example and make a conscious decision whether to be like them or not.
 
Living in the moment ... Not that I don't plan, but I don't want to waste today waiting for a tomorrow that never comes. Neither do I want to live in regret of a yesterday I can do nothing about.
 
The truth of the gospel in our everyday life ... Through Christ's life, death, and resurrection, we have the same power that raised Christ from the dead. He left His Spirit so that He might live His life through us.
 
There is always change for the worse or for the better. Because of God and His grace and faithfulness to us...we change for the better.

Friday, December 27, 2013

                                    Sharing some of our times together








Monday, December 23, 2013

Remembering a Christmas Past

"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love...These things I command you, that you love one another."  (John 15:9-10, 17)

Every Christmas until last year we had been together with our children. It was after the Thanksgiving holiday that I began to hear the plans of my family, one by one, most of them going in other directions instead of to our home. I knew all their plans were for the best, but I was expecting to fall apart and go through a major down spiral. You know, the poor-me that I can slide into. The one daughter and our grandson who would be there would be wonderful. But with the rest of the family away and with my husband's plans to be out of town some, I pretty much saw myself going through the holidays alone.

I started thinking what that might look like. Didn't feel like reading. No concentration. Couldn't seem to write. Computer problems. Had not bought any presents. The kids already had the things in mind they wanted to buy. Had not put up a tree. Didn't plan on cooking. My grandson was going to grill for us. So while my husband was away, I decided to do some things that would make the occasion special. Different, or unique. I spent time with great friends and family, and so enjoyed them, but also a lot of time alone. Wanting to be with some women whose family could not be with them on Christmas, I prayed, "Lord, tradition is great, but Christmas is really about you. I want to enter into rest in your presence. In your love."

Jesus tells us to abide in His love. That is to dwell. Live. Breathe. Move. Be nourished. To me it is like a little baby in its mother's womb. She provides the baby's every need. The two are as close as they can possibly be. The baby is inside the mother. She surrounds herself around the child. We are to be inside Jesus' love. He loves us as the Father loves Him. How utterly amazing!

I remember a special time I turned the lights down low. Lit the candles throughout the room. Placed the nativity figures just as I imagined they were on that glorious night. Made a warm fire with music softly playing to quiet my heart. God's presence was amazing. I pictured my Father letting me rest on His shoulder. My Savior, as I kneeled in front of Him to wash His feet with my tears, like a brother, reaching for me. Whispering His love for me in that still small voice. In His presence I experienced being loved, healed, strengthened, cleansed, renewed, and reassured. For it is there I am whole.

There is no happier place to be than trusting in the One who is Supreme and who controls everything. To know your life is in His hands. That He gives you rest in His gentle, meek, humble heart. That He lives in you and His love is in you. That you are in His love and nothing can separate you, ever.

After we have come into God's love, may we then go and give that love to others. Let's give it to a love-hungry world whether inside our homes, or beyond. When we are in the presence of God we are so full of joy and love, it has to go somewhere.

May you have an abundant love and joy this Christmas.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Shame, Guilt, and the Gospel (Excerpt from The Interview)

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2

When God created Adam and Eve, they were naked and felt no shame.  (Genesis 2:25)  They lived in freedom, joy, and perfect union with God.  But from the moment they sinned they were afraid and felt shame. They hid from God and wanted to cover themselves. Apart from living out of the gospel we are no different.

Brene' Brown describes shame this way:  Shame says you are no good. You are not worthy. You don't measure up.  You can't do anything right and you never will.  Shame can bring fear and anger.  Fear of man, wanting to gain peoples approval, trying to please God.  Also anger which can be outward, poured out on others or it can be turned inward and even manifest itself in depression.  Shame brings a tendency to say I cannot fail.  I must be perfect.  It says I cannot be vulnerable or honest about my failures or I might be judged.

"Funny how we as imperfect people think we can ever be perfect."  (Rose Marie Miller)

In this study on guilt and shame, I am amazed as I recognize the underlying feelings of shame I held deep inside.  Seeing this, I believe, is half the battle of being freed from living a life of guilt and shame.

This innate feeling of shame goes back into my younger years when I felt the need to enter beauty pageant one after another to prove my beauty.  The ones I lost said, “See you are not pretty enough, smart enough, or talented enough to win.  You will have to work harder.”  The ones I would win never felt satisfying.  I felt I had to have more confirmation, so I would try again.  I once read how beautiful women focus on the one flaw they have rather than knowing they are beautiful.  


I think of the things that happened while I was in psychosis. The being hauled off to a hospital in a police car, an ambulance.  Being locked behind a close door of a tiny room, with a little two-pane widow, holding my fingers in a cross on my forehead thinking it would keep anyone from hurting me.
When I had my first psychotic break I fell off the throne of certain peoples lives.  But they kept pushing me back up on the pedestal.  I had always been so strong, so capable, so together, holding everyone and everything together.  No one knew how to accept this weakness in me.

I still struggle, but I am learning that it is in my weakness that I am strong in Christ.  That His strength is manifest when mine is gone.

I think of the time I first told my story.  It was in church.  I was vulnerable about things that had happened.  A woman came up to me afterward, smiling, she said, “I will be praying for you.”  I thought, How sweet.  Then she said, “for the demons inside you.“  I was devastated then and have never forgotten since.

I think of an embarrassing thing I did 40 years ago.  You know.  You remember.  The thing you did in your past that was so shameful.  Satan will still bring it up so subtly, and remind you what a failure you are. 

We cannot avoid shame.  Our world is always shaming us in relationships, billboards, television advertisement, sports, even our own mirrors tell us we are gaining weight or getting older.  Shame brings death to our very souls.  It sucks the life out of it.  But recognizing it, by bringing it to the light is half the battle.  We can change how we respond to shame.  Share your shame with someone and the Lord.  Shame loves secrecy.  The gospel is the perfect antidote to shame. 

Guilt, on the other hand, does not define you, but says that you have done something wrong. I have been in a place where I thought more about what I did wrong than what Jesus did for me.  I was guilt-ridden.  I felt guilty even when I wasn't.  Always self examining. 

The gospel says that God intended for our guilt—that conviction of the Spirit, to drive us to Him.  To bring us to Him and remind us of what Jesus did on the cross for us, and of His love for us.  It is a means to bring change in us.  In confession to God, our sin helps lead us to repentance.  We stop running from God and fall into His merciful and forgiving arms.  Our sins are forgiven. We live out of that forgiveness and righteousness of Christ. 

We begin to take risks.  To love others with abandonment.  To think more of others than we do ourselves.  Our faith and trust in God with ourselves and our lives begin to flourish.  We live lives in a whole new way.  A selfless way.  We are more God-centered than we are self- centered.  We cannot do this, but because the Spirit lives in our hearts we are continually changing as the gospel is worked out in our everyday lives.  As God removes the lies and uses truth to transform us from the inside out.

Christ took our shame to the cross.  He died being shamed that we would not live in shame.  He covered our nakedness with His perfect life.  He took our sin, our shame and gave us value and worth and righteousness.  So we can be open and honest about our sin with Him and even others because our heart is to trust Him more, not building our own reputation, but being identified with Him. 

This is Christmas.  Christ came to live the life we could not live and die the death we should have died.  He came to bring us into intimacy with Him, Father, and Spirit.  He came to rescue us from ourselves, to give us life, to set us free from guilt and shame, to feel our pain, to give Himself to us.  If God chose not to remember our sin, then why should we?

Monday, December 9, 2013

The End of the Interview ~

When pondering the past and wanting to learn from it I am gaining new insights.  Things I even struggle with today began to form as far back as I can remember.  Thinking life was about being perfect because of a need to please people.  My friend, Rose Marie Miller, said that it is odd how imperfect people try so hard to be perfect because we have the righteousness of Christ.

This unquenchable thirst for approval continued in my first 20 years of marriage.  Then as I saw how very hard I had tried during those years to be the perfect wife and mother, and that I had failed, I had my first psychotic break. 

For the next, almost 20 years, I gave up trying.  I minimized my world most of the time to satisfy the illusion that I was still perfect and in control.  You cannot fail what you don't try was my rationale,  I guess.  Isolation, depression and my own illusions were the world I lived in the majority of those last 20 years except for this last year.

I began to get a vision for who I really was to God (being in Christ).  Of the love of the Father in sending His Son to rescue me from myself and evil.  I saw grace in the face of Jesus in a new way.  I began to live as I never had before.  I did not want to go back to the trying harder or the giving up.

Three months ago in writing my story I broke again.  I am just now coming out of that and entering life again.  These past few months I have been removed from my comforts of home, isolation, all electronics, reading, church, driving, and my friends during the first part of recovery.  I did have my family and the presence of God.  I was determined not to feel deprived but to love being with my family and grow in other areas.  I thought of it like a man with a broken left leg.  His right leg gets stronger.  My plan was, when I was allowed to have these restrictions back, I would have a broader life.  I focused on my grandson, daughters, being creative, and I began a new therapy which teaches you how to be more mindful of life, circumstances and people.  I am almost completely reintegrated now.

During the time I stayed with my daughter and grandson, she at first, had to give me 24 hour attention to keep me out of the hospital because my delusions and illusions were all consuming.  This was three moths ago.

A few days ago my daughter and I had an argument.  By the very one who had done so much for me, I was finding my feelings being hurt.  It is hard to have someone in your home all the time no matter how much you love them.  I ended up thanking her again for all she had done and asking her forgiveness for being accusatory and condemning.  For handling things all wrong.

Last night I made a post. It started out good but the more I wrote the more confused the post got, and I got.  I had sent and edited it several times. I felt like I had handled God's Word carelessly. I finally erased it all and wrote a few short lines.  The End of the Interview ~

When pondering the past and wanting to learn from it I am gaining new insights.  Things I even struggle with today began to form as far back as I can remember.  Thinking life was about being perfect because of a need to please people.  My friend, Rose Marie Miller, said that it is odd how imperfect people try so hard to be perfect.  Because the Lord is already pleased with us.

This unquenchable thirst for approval continued in my first 20 years of marriage.  Then as I saw how very hard I had tried during those years to be the perfect wife and mother, and that I had failed, I had my first psychotic break. 

For the next, almost 20 years, I gave up trying.  I minimized my world most of the time to satisfy the illusion that I was still perfect and in control.  You cannot fail what you don't try was my rationale,  I guess.  Isolation, depression and my own illusions were the world I lived in the majority of those last 20 years except for this last year.

I began to get a vision for who I really was to God (being in Christ).  Of the love of the Father in sending His Son to rescue me from myself and evil.  I saw grace in the face of Jesus in a new way.  I began to live as I never had before.  I did not want to go back to the trying harder or the giving up.

Three months ago in writing my story I broke again.  I am just now coming out of that and entering life again.  These past few months I have been removed from my comforts of home, isolation, all electronics, reading, church, driving, and my friends during the first part of recovery.  I did have my family and the presence of God.  I was determined not to feel deprived but to love being with my family and grow in other areas.  I thought of it like a man with a broken left leg.  His right leg gets stronger.  My plan was, when I was allowed to have these restrictions back, I would have a broader life.  I focused on my grandson, daughters, being creative, and I began a new therapy which teaches you how to be more mindful of life, circumstances and people.  I am almost completely reintegrated now.

During the time I stayed with my daughter and grandson, she at first, had to give me 24 hour attention to keep me out of the hospital because my delusions and illusions were all consuming.  This was three moths ago.

A few days ago my daughter and I had an argument.  By the very one who had done so much for me, I was finding my feelings being hurt.  It is hard to have someone in your home all the time no matter how much you love them.  I ended up thanking her again for all she had done and asking her forgiveness for being accusatory and condemning.  For handling things all wrong.

Last night I made a post. It started out good but the more I wrote, the more confused the post got, and I got.  I had sent and edited it several times.  I finally erased it all and wrote a few short lines.  It is a huge responsibility having  others read what you write, and I felt like I had handled God's Word carelessly.  I am trying to learn my limits.

Totally frustrated I came and sat down on the sofa, looked at a cross in the window pane and began to cry.  With tears streaming down my face, I said, "Lord I can't do this.  I want to crawl in a hole and hide.  I want to quit.  I don't want to do this.  It is too hard."  The only prayer I could pray was: "Lord, help, help, help.

I called my friend Brenda.  She talked to me about God's love for me and pleasure in me.  About performance, perfectionism, and pleasing people. That I was not a failure.  God saw me as perfect already.  Things I knew but needed so to hear again.  We have to make the gospel relevant in our day-to-day life.

I read an article by Rick Thomas about whether we are problem or grace centered.  How we are to be others focused and what the Spirit is teaching us, guiding us, and so much more, through our problems. Praying again, "Lord I don't know what you are teaching me here."  I knew the things I had mentioned but knew there was something more.  Something life changing and different.  The Spirit said to me, "I am teaching you how to live."

This love and conviction of the Spirit led me to repentance.  Lord please let me get off the throne of my life.  Repentance is looking into the eyes and face of grace and love, of God Himself.  Somehow I knew Satan would love to keep me in a defeated state of mind for the next 20 years (if I have that).  I saw God's faithfulness in not letting me stay there.  In not letting me go.  In not leaving me.  But I even saw His mercy in it all  He has set out to rescue me from me, and He has never given up.

The second Advent is Peace.  Peace has always been my idol.  My sin of perfectionism is one of the things that can rob me of my peace.  Perfect Peace is not in the absence of trouble, problems or conflict, even sickness.  But perfect Peace is the presence of Peace Himself in our hearts and minds.  I can live because Life Himself lives in me.

I am keenly aware that this battle for isolation when I fail and get tired may not be over, but I know the way to struggle to rest.  It is through trust.  Through the gospel. Even when I gave up, He did not give up on me.  He chased me down a long, lonely, isolated road to Calvary.  He came so He could die for me.  So I might have life.  All I have the words to say is "Thank you Jesus, Father and Spirit.  I love You."  I am trying to learn my limits.

Totally frustrated I came and sat down on the sofa, looked at a cross in the window pane and began to cry.  With tears streaming down my face, I said, "Lord I can't do this.  I want to crawl in a hole and hide.  I want to quit.  I don't want to do this.  It is too hard."  The only prayer I could pray was: "Lord, help, help, help.

I called my friend Brenda.  She talked to me about God's love for me and pleasure in me.  About performance, perfectionism, and pleasing people. That I was not a failure.  God saw me as perfect already.  Things I knew but needed so to hear again.  We have to make the gospel relevant in our day-to-day life.

I read an article by Rick Thomas about whether we are problem or grace centered.  How we are to be others-focused and what the Spirit is teaching us, guiding us, and so much more, through our problems. Praying again, "Lord I don't know what you are teaching me here."  I knew the two things, with my daughter and the post, but I also knew there was something else. The Spirit said to me, "I am teaching you how to live."

This love and conviction of the Spirit led me to repentance.  Repentance is looking into the eyes and face of grace and love, of God Himself.  Somehow I knew Satan would love to keep me in a defeated state of mind for the next 20 years (if I have that).  I saw God's faithfulness in not letting me stay there.  In not letting me go.  In not leaving me.  But I even saw His mercy in it all  He has set out to rescue me from me, and He has never given up.

The second Advent is Peace.  Peace has always been my idol.  My sin of perfectionism is one of the things that can rob me of my peace.  Perfect Peace is not in the absence of trouble, problems or conflict, even sickness.  But perfect Peace is the presence of Peace Himself in our hearts and minds.  I can live because Life Himself lives in me.

I am keenly aware that this battle for isolation when I fail and get tired may not be over, but I know the way to struggle to rest.  It is through trust.  Through the gospel. Even when I gave up, He did not give up on me.  He chased me down a long, lonely, isolated road to Calvary.  He came so He could die for me.  So I might have life.  All I have the words to say is "Thank you Jesus, Father and Spirit.  I love You."

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Interview ~ Continued

He Leads Me

Psalms 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd. I will have everything I need. 2 He lets me rest in fields of green grass. He leads me beside the quiet waters. 3 He makes me strong again. He leads me in the way of living right with Himself which brings honor to His name. 4 Yes, even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not be afraid of anything, because You are with me. You have a walking stick with which to guide and one with which to help. These comfort me. 5 You are making a table of food ready for me in front of those who hate me. You have poured oil on my head. I have everything I need. 6 For sure, You will give me goodness and loving-kindness all the days of my life. Then I will live with You in Your house forever.”

As I flip through the pages and pages of my journal, I come here and feel I have nothing to say...

Wednesday a week ago, I was given permission to drive again after a few days of driving with someone. It was not what I had hoped, but maybe expected, praying all along the way, fighting fear and giving it all I had to stay focused. I was able, but it had been so long since I was behind the wheel.

I was also told I could be on the computer for 30 minutes at a time. That night I attempted that task. While I had been without my computer, a drink was spilled on it. So I began on an i-pad, foreign to me, with no passwords, and my fingers not fitting the keyboard. It was very slow and time slipped away.

My feelings then were something like a seven year old boy jingling a little change--a few pennies--in his pocket as he walks along a gravel road, kicking chosen rocks in from of him. Then he decides to save one in his pocket, adding to his collection. This is only a picture of the shambles I feel my life has been in during this time.

I couldn't read or concentrate that night. There was no way to write, plus, as I mentioned before, no words would come. I know I cannot hold my life together any longer, nor the people in it. Sometimes for change to take place, you have to let everything fall apart. I have tried to build my life, but in vain. Am I willing to trust God to lead me? Do I have the patience and strength to follow Him even now?

Just the first step is needed in a long walk down a gravel road. I fight the feeling that hope is deferred and choose life. As I have walked along the road, I stopped and looked behind me. The road I have walked has been in a dark valley, dusty, and hard. Just over a a hill in front of me, the road forks. The one to the left, the familiar one, dark and dusty and hard. The one to the right, the gravel is laid into a black-top road. It is smooth, curving beyond a mountain with a breath-taking view.

Somewhere along the way, I have chosen to take the road to the right. I have been on a path detour to life, but this is the way to my destination. I just have to get beyond the hill and on to the right road.

Please continue to pray for me. I can't go back and I can't continue in the wrong direction. Even though the hill will be hard to climb, I have the view in sight. It is a bit scary, curved into the mountain, but I know it is the way. The fork to the left goes straight up in the middle of fallen trees and seems to dead end. I know I cannot continue on that path.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pretty Is as Pretty Does

"Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. "  Psalms 45:11
Looking back, times were tough when I was a young girl. My sister and I never realized that because our parents would do without what they needed to give us the best they could. One thing we had plenty of was love. Our parents adored us. Even so they were fallen people because we live in a fallen world. We pass our dysfunctions from one generation to the next.
One particular day, starting out the door to school in my blue and white checked glasses, my ducktail haircut and my thick black and white oxfords, my mother said: "Pretty is as pretty does."  Somehow, for some reason, I hung on to that.  One thing I wanted was to please my parents.  It became a life ambition to gain their approval and keep it.  So I unwittingly decided to be a pretty girl and to show that I was by always doing the right thing.  I would perform to earn love and approval from those I cared for.
Someone said to me, "You are an unbelieving believer. You believe, but God help your unbelief.  You have not moved into the inheritance of God the Father as a child of the King.  You do not know the love of God."  I have to agree.  For years I focused on my relationship with Jesus.  I knew nothing about my relationship with God the Father.  Only this past year have I begun to experience my Father's love for me.  
I am 60+ years old.  I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face.  I have strived to be some kind of beauty queen and gain the approval of people all my life.  Why am I crying? Because I finally see I may never be any better.  The striving is over.  And you know what?  I see my Father fighting for me.  He is not passively sitting by, nor is He yelling and screaming. He sends the greatest, mightiest warrior-His very own Son-to come and get me.  To bring me to Him.  To protect me.  To love me.  To have personal relationship with me as I have never known.  And you know what?  It feels good.  To cry.  To rest.  To be loved by my Heavenly Father in such a way no human being on earth could ever love me.
Pretty is as pretty does?  My Savior thinks I am beautiful and He is the lover of my soul.  He fought for me, died for me, and won.  He has brought me to the arms of my Father to share in the love of the Family of God.  I boast in my weakness so you may see the power of God on display in me.
This Christmas we will be giving lots of presents, perhaps. But with God our Father we are to learn to receive.  It is a very humbling thing to receive a gift graciously.  To know there is nothing we can do to earn it.  Nothing we can do to lose it.  It is the gift of the Father's love through giving to us His only Son: Jesus.  We have so very much to celebrate.  Not just the birth of Jesus but the ultimate gift of God the Father--His love.